Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ethiopia 8/19/08

Today is my last day in Ethiopia and to be honest I don't want to head home. Life here has been more exciting and then I ever would have imagined. On Saturday our tour culminated in a theater performance at the Hager Fikir Theater. 700 people attended the packed show in Addia Ababa. Before performing in the capitol city we performed throughout southern Ethiopia. We used a generator to perform at some really remote places. Our tour included Awassa, Comsol, Kaka, Jinka at the market, Jinka on the airport runway in the center of town, Gaza, New York, and finally Addis Ababa. All in all in one weeks time we performed for over 11,000 people traveled 43 hours in a pretty small Izuzu bus.

Journal Entry 8/11/08

"Time to get up, time to get up the
time is 11:30". That's what John's alarm clock announces in a computer voice. So after a 10 hour bus ride- knees at my chest the entire way and a show performed in Comsol directly after the bus ride in the evening you would think that sleeping in until 11:30 would be a good thing… It would but I wrote Amharic time. I really love this about Ethiopia. When the sun rises its 12 o'clock and when it sets its 12 o'clock. There is a 6 hour difference from western time. This means that yep, I just had to wake up at 5:30am. Today is going to be a really long day… At first we head up into the mountains. At the top we all peer down, eyes wide open, and catch our first glimpse of the Ohma valley, home of one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Its bright green way off in the distance and a spot of sunlight is illuminating a section right in the middle. I realize at this moment that everyone in the bus including the 35 Ethiopian artists are foreigners. This is going to be a new experience for all of us… Many hours later we pull into Kaka and perform at the market that only happens twice a week. The town is high on a hill and people from many different tribes come to sell eggs, grain, baskets, etc. When I get out of the bus I am faced with people laughing and pointing at me. This is a first, children are really afraid of me… I sucked it up and put by best foot forward… The other circus artists stick up for me, give me handshake hugs, the tension lessens. We set up our stage and I could feel the audience fall in love with us being more and more as they watched our back flips and heard our live music. By the end of the show kids were giving me high fives and we were thanked again and again. One of the officials in town exclaimed "you brought us something that was more amazing then anything then I have ever seen on Television. More incredible is that I got to see it with my own eyes."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ethiopia 8/6/08

Today we are taking our new show on tour and traveling throughout southern Ethiopia. "A Child's Eyes", inspired by the youngest member of the circus, Baby. The show was written with a current situation in mind. Southern Ethiopia is dealing with the hardships of a green famine. In the summer months of February there normally is some rain that produces a small summer crop. For the entire summer there was no rain. For the last two weeks Ethiopia has been blessed with rain and the landscape now is lush and green. The green landscape is deceiving, the crops are growing but its too early to harvest them and people are still starving. Some of the villages we will be performing at include Jinca, Arba, Mincha, Komso, and Karafer. Baby told me that he wanted to perform a show that would bring happiness to the villages. To sum it up in one sentence "A Child's Eyes" is a story based around how quickly children have to grow up here in Ethiopia. In the story the main character is effected by circus and they get to take back some of their childhood.. I hate to give this example but I think that it will paint a picture, some of our audience will consist of topless women that national geographic is know for photographing. It will be really interesting to see how this tour goes.

Journal Entry 8/6/08
I'm standing next to John the director of the circus and he receives a phone call from his wife Maggie. A few days ago he picked up a rooster for 25 burr at the market. Two dollars and fifty cents. Tomorrow Maggie will be fasting for the next couple of days, before the fast she would like to eat chicken. In traditional Ethiopian society women are not allowed to kill animals. Every other day here in Ethiopia the government shuts off the water. Today is a water day and even more of a reason to get it done. As a westerner I am removed from some important steps in making chicken. I'm even more removed from making coffee. For coffee Maggie buys the bean, then roasts them herself stirring it constantly. She smashes the beans with a huge mortar and pestle. Finally she makes coffee out of it. Back to the chicken. The bird legs are untied and a curved knife is used to cut off its head. Within an hour we are eating one of the best meals I have ever eaten in my life, one that I am really thankful for. As I travel through southern Africa there will be no way to send e-mail or check the internet. My mobile number here in Ethiopia is 091-318-3415. Ben

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ethiopia 8/3/08

I arrived in Addis Ababa at 4am on August 1st. Its winter here and the elevation of Addis Ababa is over 8,000 feet; higher then Denver's elevation. Everyone at the airport was bundled up in her or his jackets, blankets, and wearing hats with flaps that cover their ears. A quick aside but the good thing about the high elevation is that Mosquitoes that carry malaria can't survive; I won't need mosquito nets for a couple of days! The capitol city, Addis Ababa, is pulsing with music and has wonderful flavor. Every little store has a boom box playing Teddy Afro tunes. Teddy Afro is the Bob Dylan of Ethiopia. A couple of months ago he got thrown in Jail. Many people think that the repressive government charged him with false allegations... His court date keeps getting postponed and it currently is causing quite a bit of talk in the country.

Journal Entry for 8/3/08

Today is my first day teaching the kids in Awassa E
thiopia. I use the term kids loosely; the circus artists are from seven to twenty five years old. Many of them have been training for the last ten years and they diffidently are very accomplished circus artists. I have been asked to write and direct a show that we will tour throughout southern Ethiopia. The best part of the project is that I also get to perform in the show along side the Ethiopian circus artists! The Awassa Youth Campus, our training facility, has a feeling of the lost boys hangout from Neverland. Kids are doing back flips, riding unicycles, and writing some pretty good music in a small sound studio. Last night I walked out of an Ethiopian Restaurant and a street kid with one eye asked me for money. Today, I spent a good bit of today teaching him circus skills. My artist residency is with Awassa's One Love Theater and Addis Ababa's Faucalt Circus. I have one week to write and direct an original show using the talents of the two separate circuses... I'm nervous but also really excited about the opportunity. -- Ben