More kids, clowns and pieces of things part 2

I realize that these kids have a pretty strong incentive to lie and say that their mothers gave permission even if they didn’t.  So I decided to walk to see the mothers and make sure.  They were pretty shocked that I was willing to take their kids to the circus, but I think that they were also a little unsure as to whether or not they should let me.  One mother agreed pretty quickly and sent her kids along with me.  I say to her, “Uhm, do you want my phone number or something, just in case?”  “Oh yes, that’s a good idea.”  “Uhm, do you want to give me your phone number of something, just in case?”  “Oh yes, that’s a good idea.”  Damn, lady.  I should kidnap your kids just to teach you a lesson.

To be fair we weren’t going very far, just a little over a half-mile down the road.  But the show was starting at 7pm and the parents don’t know me all that well.  So while I think that they were justifiably a little nervous, they really didn’t want to spoil the chance for their kids.  I also somehow ended up with a group of 4 kids instead of 2, but that’s how these things go.  So once every got their permission, we all pile into a pedi-cab and head up-town.  The kids were all very excited and during the ride we were talking about what we hope to see and all that good stuff.  Their eyes widen as the point of the circus tent comes into view and they start rushing out of the tricycle towards the entrance.  This is the first moment I start to get worried that I’ll have trouble keeping 4 over energized kids in check.  We go up, buy our tickets and walk in. 

The place is completely empty.  0 people are in this tent, excluding the sound guy.  I go back to the ticket taker.  “Hey, what time does the show start?”  “8 o’clock.  Sharp.”

Eight o’clock.  Not seven.  Not even seven thirty.  And thus began the longest hour of my life.  Maybe I should say the longest hora Nica of my life, because it most certainly did not start at 8 sharp. 

We all settle up on a high part of one of the rafters and the sound guy indulges me with some music to entertain us while we wait.  This will obviously not suffice.  I start getting worried, I need to entertain these kids for an hour or it’ll get ugly.  I didn’t bring anything with me, because why would I?  I struggle to think up games we can play.  First we play telephone, which is a hit.  That peters out.  Uhm…..I spy!  This was a hit for a second until I realized these kids can’t spell to save their life.

“I spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter ‘que’”.  What?  ‘Que’ isn’t even a letter.  Do you mean ‘q’?  No ‘que’ as in ‘queso’.  Fine whatever.  No one could get it, because, seriously very few words begin with ‘q’.  I even guessed ‘quetzal’, just to guess something.  We give up.  “Computadora!”  Ok, we’re done with I spy.

I check my watch.  7:10.  Jesus Christ.  Uhm…uhm…damn what did I do as a kid? I start texting my friends for examples of possible games.  I get back Out of State License Plate, Punch Buggy, etc.  Perfect.  The other tough part of these games is that one kid is 5 while the others are 9-10, so it was hard to keep them all entertained with same game.  Anything I came up with would be boring for some or too complicated for the other.  To make matters worse the engineering of the circus tent wasn’t going to win any awards.  If you stepped on the wood plank of our row it would lift on the other side.  There wasn’t even a guard rail on the other end of the stands.  And this for some god awful reason attracted the 5 year old who decided to try and go up and down the stands at this edge. 

I decide to get them some popcorn. At least eating will distract them for a little.  I go down to the little popcorn stand.  I ask the shady circus guy, “How much for a bag of popcorn?”  “20 cords.”  “No, no.  Just one bag, please.”  “20 cords.”  Now, I won’t embarrass myself by saying how much 20 cords is in dollars, but it’s suffice to say that a bag of popcorn on the streets costs 2-3 cords a bag.  Fortunately there was only one bag ready, so I just bought the one.  They can learn to share, because I’ll be damned if I buy more than one of those.  Here’s an image of the littlest one when he realized he wouldn’t get his own bag of popcorn.

 

 

Hanging on the ledge no less! 

Before things got completely out of control, the show finally starts, albeit late.  And in the true fashion of a child they manage to go from completely discontent and downtrodden to ecstatic in seconds (remember Stalin was on the point of a complete breakdown just a few hours earlier than night while apologizing to me.  Being a child must be an emotional rollercoaster). 

The circus is pretty standard fare.  There is a juggler, a balancing act, a girl hanging from a dangling metal ring.  The exotic dancing was a bit of a unique touch, but hey, that’s Nicaragua.  And of course, what circus would be complete without clowns.  The other shows weren’t that impressive, but I didn’t really expect it to wow me.  The clowns, however, were actually quite good.  It’s obviously targeted towards kids and the humor is slapstick combined with butt and fart jokes.  Very low brow stuff.  They even played Benny Hill music to bring them on and off the stage.  But that’s OK.   I appreciated their showmanship and was seriously impressed by their craft. 

Things were going well and the kids were enjoying themselves up until intermission.  And thus began the longest 15 minutes of my life.  The music stopped, the show is paused and the kids go berserk.  I thought the usury had stopped with the popcorn, but these circus folk are professional sadists.  Suddenly these kids realize they need ice cream, food, light up swords and all sorts of other trash.  During the show I was stricken by how much this circus resembled what I imagined a circus to be 50 years ago.  I was pleased by how it the whole thing felt so traditional and, well, very American.  But I had forgotten a part of the American tradition of the circus that had also been adopted.  Circuses don’t sell tickets, circus folk trade in children’s tears. 

This circus has modernized its extortion techniques somewhat.  Now, some depressed looking circ-underling walks around at the start of the show and snaps a picture of each kid with his digital camera.  During the show they print out a little picture and make a keychain out of it.  Fortunately they didn’t try too hard to sell me on this one.  Remember these kids looked like I had just told them I disemboweled Santa before the show started.  So when they came around to offer me the keychain I think the guy realized no one wanted a bunch of pictures of crying kids.  In retrospect I think I would have liked one of these, it would have been kind of funny.

I’m really not such a cheap person, but I’ve been pretty poor in Peace Corps.  I’ve depleted my savings over the 2 years in order to travel in Nicaragua, make my life easier with projects and eat more than rice beans and vegetables three times a day.  I had already set aside the money I had left for a going away party for my friends in the community.  They’ve treated me to so much food that I wanted to pay for them to all come and eat and drink at a pool in town.  Going to the circus alone was already outside that budget, much less 4 kids, even worse 4 kids who want a lot of overpriced garbage. 

I’m also really stubborn.  I realized it wouldn’t have been so excessive to buy them each one ice-cream or something at some point, but I had already said no and I wasn’t going to be pushed around.  As I was often quoted saying in high school, ‘it’s the principle of the matter’.  But so far, so good, I was fending off the attacks and firmly holding my ground.  But then they sent in the clowns.  Those daffy-laffy clowns. 

Clowns are supposed to be loud, eccentric and ridiculous.  I get it.  It’s part of the act.  But these guys were selling this garbage by screaming, “¡Paleta! ¡Paleta! ¡Paleta!” all around.  These clowns are no amateurs either.  They spotted a gringo in the audience with 4 kids and heard a big old cash register ring.  I still have to say, I respect the craft.  One clown came and stood next to me in such a way that his box of paletas dangled precipitously over the kids like it was the Sword of Damocles.  But like I said, I’m stubborn.  These things look tasty, but they’re actually really gross and I won’t be bullied by clowns or children into buying some marshmallow crap.  To hell with you clown!  Finally, the two minute warning comes over the PA and the show is going to resume.  Just then I get a call from an unknown number on my phone.  “The kids come home.  Now!”  Jesus. Alright, lady.  It turned out to be the aunt of one of the kids, who I guess wasn’t keen on them being out this late with me.  It was almost 9:30 and I was planning on taking them back early, but I wanted to get at least one act in for having suffered through intermission, but her tone told me otherwise.

The kids put up less of a fight than I thought when we left.  I think they were tired and were ready to go.  Honestly, who starts a circus show at 8pm?  Riding back on the pedi-cab I asked them, “So what did you like most?”  “The clowns were funny”  “Yeah, I liked the clowns.”  “Yeah, the clowns were my favorite.”  The girl didn’t say anything; she’s too cool for that already.  “Ha, yeah.  Me too.  I liked the clowns.”

I dropped the kids off.  No one really thanked me, and we all went home to go to sleep.  I lied down exhausted and tried to think what I thought of that experience.  Was that worth it?  Was that worth it for me?  Was it worth it for the kids?  I think they enjoyed it, but like I said, kids are fickle and they may not even remember that a few weeks later.  So there I am lying down thinking about all that and realize I’ve been doing the same thing practically this whole month with regard to my service in general.  I’ve been asking the same questions about whether or not I think Peace Corps was worth it and have been trying to put the whole two years in perspective. 

And I’ll save what I’ve decided for part three.

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5 Responses to More kids, clowns and pieces of things part 2

  1. Richard DeMaria says:

    This arrived on my computer after the time I should go to bed. I fought the temptation to read it for awhile, but finally gave in. I was really looking forward to this, and I wasn’t disappointed. I figured last week that your anger earlier in the day and this event were really just a way of working out something bigger. I’m really looking forward to part three. Do you know already what you will write or do you have to wait to see what you write to know what you think? UD

    • i wrote the first two parts in one go and have the third sketched out. i was going to write it but didnt get the time. today is my last day in Corinto and i´m glad i didnt finish the post yet, ill need to include my experience today in the last one. ill probably post it on my last day here

  2. Mike says:

    Great stuff. Is there supposed to be a picture? I can’t see it if there is.

  3. johno16 says:

    I’m late reading this due to being so busy at work and then getting myself ready for the shore, but again – a powerful story. This one i felt in my gut. I could feel you as you lay in bed trying to make sense of so much — of this day, of your anger, of your frustration — and yet at some level realizing the sense of what you have gained. Yes – the Peace Corps was worth it – but worth it in such a dramatically different way than you originally conceptualized. Your future anayses will continue to give you perspective. You are stronger, wiser, more self-sufficient, a bit more jaded, but a bit more appreciative of so many things. I look forward to Part 3 and then years of sequels to come! love, Mom

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