Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Let's hit the winding road

After a week and a half of mask making, prop making and rehearsing the play was ready to go.

In a last minute change to plans we hired a bus and headed to the opening of a community centre on a cooperative 1.5 hours away along a steep and rocky road. As we rolled down hills and got stuck in river beds some of the previously shy and subdued children were literally howling with excitement.

The community were all gathered under gazebos to witness probably the most important event since the last wedding. It was the perfect opportunity to try out the play in front of the audience it was intended for; fellow coffee producers.

Before taking to the stage though we needed to sit through the entertainment. First - as is customary in Nicaragua - were the long speeches as community members thanked the local government, the European Union and the charity Christian Aid for contributing to the building which will probably serve as a classroom, a clinic, an internet cafe, a post office and a talking shop, to name a few purposes. In a place where it’s always raining anything with a roof on is always in use.

After the speeches was the variety show; the adults played the music and the kids performed the dance routines to traditional music. Meanwhile plates of local food and sweetened coffee were handed out. And at these events it doesn’t matter if you only ate a few hours ago – the plate is forced into your hand. That day the community must have fed about 50 people.

And finally, 1.5 hours later, the children took to the stage for the first performance of Mother Earth. And to every one's relief, it was a success. There were a few missed lines and a few nerves here and there but on the whole it went well; the adults in the audience nodded in agreement and the kids were transfixed. For many it was probably the first piece of theatre they'd ever seen.

The play highlighted the dangers of pesticides, herbicides and the thousands of artificial food products on the market – Coca Cola being just one on a long list. All of these products, if not dealt with carefully, will damage their livelihoods and beyond.

It will take more than a play to make the adults change their practices but if the message gets through to enough children the next generation may have a wholly different approach to their relationship with the land.

After several pats on the back we got on to the village dance floor for half an hour of dancing. Nobody needs much of an excuse here or any dutch courage, everyone was busting the moves stone cold sober. Finally, as the sun was setting, we boarded the bus for the bumpy trip back to town. The kids howled all the way.

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