These past few weeks have been busy! Tired out would be one word for it…but, inspired another!
For the past few months I have been leading a team to put the programming together for the national leadership camp we had from January 9-12 and simultaneously working as the co-coordinator of programming for our national Creativity and Art camp ImaginARTE from January 17-19. I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off since approximately December 26th prepping. It was definitely all worth it.
The highlights of leadership camp for me were when the youth worked in their teams to complete six separate community service projects: a mural painting at the camp we were at, a book donation to kids living in an orphanage, a recycled art workshop with youth from the same orphanage that resulted in a chess board, a tree planting, a Google Mapmaker project and a visit to a home for older people with no remaining family.
One of the youth I brought to the camp has an incredible voice and plays the guitar, so I purposely stacked her on the team that was visiting the home. Most of the abuelitos were confined to their chairs and were barely communicative. All of our jovenes walked in and happily gave every one hugs and kisses. The grandmas were thrilled to have their nails painted and the grandpas were serenaded by Vivi.
One grandpa was sitting in his chair hunched over and staring at the ground. He didn’t make a move when we walked in and didn’t look up once while Vivi sang her first song. During the second song she sang, a polka in Guarani, this same grandpa mustered all of his strength to clap along as she played. I watched him come back to life as he turned his body positioning his one good ear closest to her guitar, a big smile creeping across his face. While I made out a few Guarani words maximum from this song, he seemed to hear thousands more than the rest of us. It was a beautiful sight to see!
Through a brainstorm with my super guapa and design-genius volunteer groupmate, Amy, we also turned out a pretty sweet design for a mural at the camp!
Then we decided we wanted to one-up ourselves by inviting Oz Montania, a famous Paraguayan graffiti artist, to do a mural with the kids at ImaginARTE camp.
He was super awesome to donate his time and art, the kids loved it, and I’m sure the city of Aregua will continue to enjoy it for years to come!
Some other pretty cool things came out of ImaginARTE– such as all of the kids painting their own pair of sneakers (instead of doing a camp tshirt) and then filming our own version of the Footloose intro: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152432747325646&set=vb.260034184071153&type=2&theater
Really cool Paraguayan artists came to present to the youth, including a movie actor (from the recent and first ever Paraguayan blockbuster 7 Cajas), a stage actor, a photography collective, a graffiti artist, and organizers of an art fair, as well as having artists open up their working spaces and galleries to the youth to visit in Aregua.
If you’re dedicated to watching this 14 minute slideshow you’ll be able to see pictures of my feet in my decorated shoes, me bumping hips with the famous movie actor that I mentioned (it was part of a dance move), the decorations that I made with some help at a week long craft/planning retreat at my friend Vicky’s house (the circles/rectangles with words that have the white lights with them), lots of kids working hard and having fun, and me with my mouth flailing open, surely yelling directions into the crowd.
Or you can watch this shorter, quicker version of the slideshow here: http://vimeo.com/57854263
Speaking of yelling directions…it must be hard to be a parent! At the end of two weeks I have to say I’m absolutely exhausted from having had to play bad cop at both camps as one of the people in charge. On one hand you’re giving orders to your peers to try and make sure everything runs smoothly and on another hand you’re trying to enforce ground rules with the youth to make sure things stay safe and productive. As we’re a group of volunteers who haven’t been parents yet and most without extensive experience working in schools, no one particularly wants to play bad cop nor is that good at being a bad cop.
The last night of art camp a girl saw me coming down the hall at bed time and seemed to shake at the sight of me. She quickly scurried into her room and I felt bad about how scared she was of me, ha! I went into her room and gave her a hug and told her we have to enforce the rules since there are no parents here. She gave me a big smile and said, “I know.”
Apparently she didn’t tell her comrades to all be scared of me, too.
The mural painting was a great success, however the man who has a food cart restaurant on the property (but not the owner of the property) was not happy that we were around, even though we had formal permission from the owner. He had already called the cops once while we were painting the background color, so in the hopes of mending bridges I knew we needed to be the cleanest little painters the world ever did see.
The artist was filming for a pilot episode of an art documentary and they also set up a camera that I later found out was taking time lapse photos every 10 seconds. I don’t want to know how many times I’m on camera, mouth flailing open, halfway through saying things like: “No, you absolutely cannot write your name in aerosol on that other wall,” “Painting the sidewalk to get paint off your brush doesn’t count as cleaning it,” or “No drips! NO DRIPS!!!”
By the end of it I was so exhausted I got home and laid around for 24 hours. Luckily, in my inbox I had this this quote that Carybeth kindly sent back to me after I originally sent it to her a few months ago. It actually is talking about parenting, but I said it reminds me a lot of my Peace Corps service.
“I think parenting young children [the Peace Corps] is a little like climbing Mount Everest. Brave, adventurous souls try it because they’ve heard there’s magic in the climb. They try because they believe that finishing, or even attempting the climb are impressive accomplishments. They try because during the climb, if they allow themselves to pause and lift their eyes and minds from the pain and drudgery, the views are breathtaking. They try because even though it hurts and it’s hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard. These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. Even though any climber will tell you that most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.”
That last sentence makes me laugh out loud, because I think it rings a little too true. But, by golly there has definitely been, and there will continue to be, magic in the climb.