I am cycling to raise money for the fantastic UK based chaity Macmillan Cancer Support. Big thanks to everyone who has sponsored me so far! Justgiving is a quick, easy and secure way to donate online. See my other fundraising page, specific to the Macmillan organized part of the trip

Thursday, 20 May 2010

...and settling further...magic at los Cobanos

So to continue with the tales of the Cobanos days... it feels like the last weeks have really been one long explosion of creativity... apart from all the drawing and the mural and the jewellry making, in Kali I have met I think the first ever person whose rubbish-collecting-for-recyled-craft-projects enthusiasm actually outweighs mine! Her collections of plastic and glass rubbish generated by the hostel guests puts my Willesden Green days of walls of colour coded bags of rubbish to shame, whoever could´ve thought that possible? (eh Joe, Mike, Fish?!) One of my favourites is the can-top-thead ring design I came up with after struggling to work with the main body of a can, and Kali´s oyster shell necklace wins hands down on the sleek and wearable-for-fashion-front - it´s really beautiful, while I am dripping in Saint Patrick´s tears (the seed of the Lagrima´s de San Pedro river plant) threaded into jewellry and my hair by José, I´ve even started on the mini book mission again, using a matchbook and recycled painted newspaper for my first reminder attempt.

Perhaps it all started that afternoon of the not-camping in Mizata, where with the help of Sydneys´s drill and a beach sadly full of rubbish I was finally able to satisy my bottlecap recycling urge by combining them with coloured straws to make earrings... after a little persuasion Vanessa began to help and by the end of the afternoon we had a fair collection, though the wire needs replacing with wearable jewellry wire before they can be worn properly through the ear... Vanessa modelled them by hanging them off her studs and mum Idalia seemed keen to try them on too!

Kali got on the wall-painting-wagon fairly early on too, asking me to chalk up the Kalindigo logo for her in the hostel carpark, a strong design by a friend of Kali´s which I managed with the help of Ladina, a ladder and a length of string. Kali did a fantastic job of painting it, so for a week the whole hostel felt like an open air studio, with José and I working long days, punctuated by bathing in the sea and pool and getting our little helpers involved...

In fact that´s been one of the most enjoyable parts of painting the mural, the little kids who come along at random times to help. There is 12 year old Wilbur, the youngest of 15 kids (!?!) who has a real natural talent for drawing- Kali showed me a schoolbook of his with some brilliant observational drawing- he´s been helping with the palm tree and lanches. Then there is another Wilbur, the older brother of Lazaro and Jeremias (of the stone-traced footprints), who´s painted a shell and some lanches while the littler ones have been painting shells and drawing on recyled newspaper. They´re a real delight to have around, and José seems to be a natural teacher as well as painter, bopth of us showing them how to hold a brush and different ways of using it to get different strokes.

We´ve had another helper in the form of Kelly, the oldest daughter of neighbour Dora. We´ve had a few different folk from the community admiring the progress as we go, it´s a real warm feeling to get good feedback about the painting and word seems to be spreading...apparently a lady with a shop down the road wants us to paint for her too. Kelly had been watching from afar for a while, but after a bit of hesitation got involved and has been doing a great job on the lanches and rooftops. And as well as through the painting we got to know each other a lot better when she and Dora took over the hostel kitchen for the weekend of the magicians...

Magicians without borders came to stay & play last weekend... two professional magicians from the US, 6 (so named because of an extra finger on his left hand) and bilingual Devante, led classes in how to perform magic tricks for a group of 10 teenagers from Santa Ana. It was a real priviledge to be able to listen in on the classes, Devante was a really strong teacher who got results from even the shyest of students and Six´s tips on details you can add to a performance to aid audience understanding and characterisation linked back to character animation for me.

Part of their stay that we had been so excited about were the two performances they put on at the local park, both the official pro´s and the kids, who were pretty pro themselves. In our preparation for the weekend I´d drawn up characters (with a lot of influence of Mia´s illustration, thanks Mia!) that Kali painted on her posters advertising the events, so we got a good crowd out both days. After the first couple of audience volunteers, José and Wilbur, the initial hesitation to participate melted away and the kids and adults alike were loving the show... there were some astonishing tricks, disappearing ketchup, bags appearing from empty bags, torn up newspaper putting itself back together and little Lazaro couldn´t stop giggling throughout 6´s disappearing water trick... fantastic stuff... think my favourite was the jumping card trick Devante played on us in the last minute private show back at the hostel, the 6 of clubs Dora had signed was in my hands and the next second in his mouth.. no way... wicked!

One of the lovliest things was that as they left each of the kids and the staff hugged each other, then all of us individually before leaving.. so I was glad that I´d painted a reminder of them into the mural, a little version of 6 and Devante surrounded by the symbols of the playing cards swimming in Cobanos bay... should really hasve each of the young magicians in there as well, seeing as they are what the wortkshiop was all about. As I understood it they are kids whose lives have been affected by gangs and these workshops provide an alternative interest for them, an alternative future than that offered by the gangs. Some of them are really interested in the performance and magic side, like Peter who was incredibly enigmatic on stage, and for others it is less about aiming to become a magician than building confidence and self esteem. A fantastic project and I really admire 6 and Devante for putting their time into the NGO, since when you work in entertainment like magic, or animation like me, sharing your skill and talent to give other folk inspiration and new-found interests is perhaps a way to make an otherwise gratuitous job socially useful. I took some details from America, one of the group leaders, with the hope that perhaps I could help out with her artisan projects at some point in the future.

One of Kali´s fantastic ideas is to take an old bus, the same old US school buses that are used for chiocken buses, but one that is just a shell, and to convert it into a cinema in her back yard... wicked.. we were chatting about planting grass and flowers on the roof as a natural insulation against heat, and painting it with hidden glow in the dark imagery on the outside, and perhaps UV hidden imagery on the inside (after Caeser´s and Luis´chat about using lights on our mural)...Not only is Kali full of awesome idea like that, she is also a massivly talented muisician... she only moved to Los Cobanos last year, before that she was a city girl living in the capital and involved in Opera performances and bands, José was happily star struck when she mentioned the band she´s sung ska with, Groovy Times.
I think perhaps coming to a halt here was meant to be for all sorts of reasons, but perhaps one of them was to be in the company of such good friends as José and Kali have so quickly become to hear the really sad news of my grandmother´s death. At 89 Nanna had been frail for a while and a recent operation led to her passing away this week. Again, as with Auntie Jem, it is strange and disorientating to hear such sad news when you are so far away from family, especially amidst all the excitement and joy of the magicians stay... I am just glad that Nanna will be at peace and not suffering now. And it somehow seems appropriate that seeing as the artistic part of me comes through Mum from Nanna that I am in such a whirlwind of creative productivity at this time, a soprt of homage perhaps to my wonderful grandmother.

Another benifit of spending all this time with José and Kali is the Salvadoreño influence on my cooking and language... After sharing in-hostel home cooking with Alex in Juayúa I´d carried the habit over to los Cobnanos and with José around have been introducing more local ingredients... platano, frijoles, tortillas and probably more than my year´s quota of eggs...I was impressed at José`s knowledge of cooking seeing as how in Mizata the chores seem to be divided pretty firmly along tradtional male/female roles, Vanessa helping her Mum with the cooking and washing dishes and clothes, and the boys collecting firewood and food, coming back with fish, crabs and shellfish. José´s obviously been paying attention though, since he´s more than competent in the kitchen, and more than willing to help too. He´s a fascinating character, a keen surfer whose in the sea every day, so that I get the impression sometimes that he is half fish half man.. so having a house that is literally on the sands of Mizata beach is perfect for him, and his eyes were honestly glowing with pleasure and satisfaction when he showed me how you step out his front door to the sea, and said ¨What more could you want from life¨... he´s certainly at one with his environment and very much at peace, which is perhaps why he is such an inspiration painting wise... Know amongst his friends and family at Rocco or Rasta, I find it interesting that for him his 6-year-long dreadlocks are a symbol of putting behind him all the excesses and bad behavious of his teen years.

On the language side, Kali is bilingual after years working in bilingual jobs, but José knows less English than my Spanish so between the three of us we speak Spanish with the caliche tang of El Salvador, finally the `El Salvadorenean slang`box in the guidebook is making sense! ¨¿Qué ondas?¨Suave... How`s it going? Chilled (roughly translted- directly meansd ´soft´!) is one of my favourites, though I realise just how patient they both are with my limited understanding when other friends pop by, talking at normal pace, and it all flies totally over my head... same story at the Tanchis performance in the communal hall the other night... a drag queen reminiscent of pantomime drag characters back home, dressed as a market woman and apparently talking all kinds of filth and ridiculousness that had the whole crowd laughing and me feeling perplexed until the multiple underlayer strip show that surpassed all language barriers and got me giggling too!

So, the mural is progressing slowly, I´m not really sure if you could say steadily, it´s been so long that I´ve had to renew my 90 day visa in the capital, with Kali as my witness (thanks chuckadee!)... I´ve been taking Peggy out for the odd hour or so stint to stop her feeling totally rejected and to stop her and my legs rusting up completely... I know it will be hard to eventually get back on her, but I know when the time comes the excitemtent of the random encounters and the unkown will override the aching muscles and sore bum! Also, I am excited to take all this painting practise to the El Nahual Community in Xela in Guatemala which is the only specific destination I have when I leave and that I´m really excited about getting to...

But for now it´s back to Los Cobanos, back to my brushes and my muse and lazy evenings in the pool and hammocks... delici-lovely!

Peace and big love xxx

1 comment:

  1. Hey Kim

    Went on a little bike ride on Monday and thought of you. I love the mural (and the rest of your drawings in your blog). I love, love, love it.

    Good to see everything going so well.

    Siobhan xxx
    PS Hi to Peggy x