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A Day at the Circus

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The circus came to Palena (and blasted advertisements from a minibus).  I knew I had to go, if only because I had no idea what it would be like, and there are very few things I can say that about at this point.  On Friday afternoon the woman who teaches a weaving class here in the office/ my house (I am enrolled!) asked me as she was leaving, “Are you going to the circus?”

“I don’t know, probably.”

“Do you want us to come get you on our way?”


If kids could vote and I were running for office, I would rock the primaries, because the 4 PM show (started at 4:35) was a gold mine of my elementary students.  Today students greeted me in one of the approximately four ways I’ve learned to classify:

1) “Wow, is that really her?!  Look, Mom, it’s the English teacher!  Hola, Tía!” 

2) “Oh, it’s you again, I see you all the time because we’re neighbors/ you run by my house.  Hola, Tía.”

3) “I am going to show off my English!  Hello!  Good morning teacher! ”  [there is one first grader who always greets me this way, regardless of time of day]

4) “Oh, this is a little bit weird, let me play with my phone and look up at the last second: Hola, Tía/profe.” [especially popular amongst high schoolers]

As for me, I like to scan over the crowds, practicing names of students out of uniform and out of order, often discovering sibling sets I hadn’t previously realized.  And of course I love greeting my “golden” students– the quick, the curious, and the just plain adorable– but really the best is when I run into alumnos desordenaditos (that’s disruptive/”problem” kids). It’s such a great opportunity to smile, greet them by name, and affirm: I know you, I like you, I’m not mad at you, we are both human beings, and I hope you have a great weekend.

But back to the circus: for the most part, it wasn’t that different than circuses I’ve seen in the US, except extremely small-scale and low-budget, with the added twist of the occasional dog or toddler wandering onto the “stage”.  The spectacle was in the town gym, and the same clowns and announcer and hulu-hoop girl also served churros and sweet popcorn before and after the show.  I was most struck by the fact that the kids loved the circus, and the adults seemed to really like it, too.  I have to say, my own standards for diversion have changed after four months in Palena, and I have to imagine that for people here, given that nothing new ever happens, this was kind of a big deal.  Some of the balancing acts were impressive, I haven’t had churros since Mexico, and though I thought the clowns were boring and I was freezing (sitting in unheated gym), I definitely enjoyed myself.

After intermission (aka “run n’ slide on gym floor”), the cast emerged in giant costumes as Toy Story characters.  First of all, Toy Story hasn’t been a big deal in the US for several years, but that’s the typical American-popculture-export-delay I’ve come to get used to (Pearl Jam is still cool).  But what did the Toy Story characters do?  They danced reggaeton, specifically “Danza kuduro“, the song I named a post after a few weeks ago.  Everyone laughed, but boy, did I laugh the hardest.  No matter how close I get to people here, no one in Palena will ever see what I see (and vice versa).  That thought could make me feel lonely, but today, it made me feel special.  Sometimes I just go along with my little routine here like anyone else (which is an accomplishment in and of itself), but today, as I watched Woody and Buzz Lightyear doing “las manos arriba, cintura sola, I thought, “Wow, Margaret, you’re really doing something here.”  As thoughts about next year are beginning to creep up, it’s good to remember that this year, at least, is just about just right.

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