All at once. A second magic club. A magic show with Gustavo Lorgia. Featured on national TV two times in one week. Taking 50 people to Cirque du Soleil for the first time in their lives. A small vacation to the Eje Cafetero. Dreaming up what my life will bring next year. All at what feels like, at once.
Second Magic Club
Thanks to the hard work and persistence of Carlos, we have started up a second magic club! For three weeks now, we have been teaching the art of magic to a group of nine girls who live together at an orphanage called Findesin. They are a group of what appears to be very promising, young female magicians. Last week, we were practicing a new routine learning a difficult technique and we had some behavioral interruptions when they were practicing one by one in front of the group. We explained that it is important to respect the performer as they would want to be respected because when they are up there, it can be very nerve-wracking. At the end of the two hour class, one girl, Diana, stood up and apologized to us on behalf of all of the girls for the disruption. The rest nodded in agreement and promised it would not happen again. These girls, although orphans, are very fortunate; they have been taught how to participate in a collaborative community and they appear to be building a supportive family for one another. They are a dream to work with. We are hopeful to see big things from them in the coming months.
African American History Month Receptoin at the U.S. Ambassador’s House
About a month ago, us Fulbrighters in Bogotá were invited to a reception at the Ambassador’s house celebrating the month of African American History. I have repeatedly heard that his house is touted as the nicest house in Bogotá- I would not doubt it either. It is very White House- esque. The invitation said that the event would last from 7pm to 9pm. Leave it to us Fulbrighters to stick around until 11:30 pm drinking fine whiskey and wine while dancing with the Ambassador (Michael McKinley) and his wife.
U.S. Embassy Funding
Early this month, we received the good news that the U.S. Embassy Cultural Affairs Department in Colombia is awarding Magicians Without Borders with a $1,000 grant to carry out our weekend-long Magic and Theatre camp with our Bella Flor Magic Club. We wrote up a grant proposal that was also looking for support to sustain our 2nd magic club, but unfortunately the State Department is in dire economic times at the moment. We are honored that they saw enough value in our work to give us the $1,000 at this time. We are truly grateful.
Weekend- Long Intensive Magic and Theatre Camp
Carlos and I had been working very hard for well over a month to plan a Magic and Theatre Camp for a weekend during Tom’s visit this March (we were very disappointed that Janet, aka La Fleur could not make it this time). We held the camp on the weekend of March 16th and 17th, just two weekends ago. The camp was a mixture of playing theatre games, juggling, learning new magic, working on storytelling, and working on one trick to perfect and present in a show at the close of camp. The camp went really well, there was a lot of laughter, play, and learning that took place. It was touching to see the kids practicing juggling and magic during their snack breaks and lunch time. Some of them were even begging to go outside and do magic for passersby. 8 months ago, that would have never even been an idea within their realm of reality. Now they are eager to give the gift of magic back.
The Big Show: Florece la Magia de Ciudad Bolivar (The Budding Magic of Ciudad Bolivar)
As typical in Colombia, an audience finally began to gather about thirty minutes after the show was about to start. The goal of this show was to showcase what the kids have been learning and to help us put emphasis on the art of performing during the weekend camp. We ended up gathering a crowd of about 65-75 people. It was a little less than I was personally hoping for, as we publicized it quite heavily. Despite this, it turned into an unforgettable and incredibly meaningful show. One of my favorite magic students, Edwin, has always suffered from serious nerves and shyness when performing magic. He was tensing up big time just before the show. Tom and Jorge (A talented magician from Ciudad Bolivar who has become a regular teacher and hospital performer) worked with him independently not an hour before the show. Jorge taught Edwin how to make the crow laugh. When it was Edwin’s turn to do a multiplying sponge rabbit routine, he captivated the audience with every word. He made them laugh by grabbing a volunteer’s hand, shaking it, and jokingly scolding her to keep it still. He made magic. Rosabla Martinez, Bella Flor’s head coordinator who works directly with the children every day was overjoyed with surprise at the profound changes that have evidently been taking place in our young magician.
Amidst our supportive audience was our good friend and Colombia’s premier magician, Gustavo Lorgia. He closed our show doing three very impressive magic tricks. Then, he called each child individually on stage and gave them a box of special cookies He continued with an invitation for our young budding magicians to perform with him in an upcoming show in Ciudad Bolivar, a part of town where Gustavo has never before performed. That show will be coming up in about three weeks and we are in the process of arranging the details. To have Gustavo be a part of our show meant the world to these children who have grown up watching him on television. Amongst all present, there was an energy of excitement and honor to be sharing an experience as unique and special as this with these children.
After the show, Rosalba from Bella Flor stated, “Since these children have been studying magic they attend the program more regularly, coming two or three times a week to practice their magic. They are more responsible and punctual. They are becoming leaders with the other children.” Rosalba ends by saying, “If we had it our way, all 160 Bella Flor children would be in the Magicians Without Borders Magic Club.”
Cirque du Soleil
Carlos is the man. Through his foundation, Connecting Smiles, he applied to Cirque du Soleil (currently in Bogotá), for a donation of tickets to take children to one of the shows. He had applied to this once before, about three years ago, and never got a response. This year, however, he did get a response, Connecting Smiles was gifted 30 tickets! As if this was not enough, Cirque du Soleil called him a week after he was first notified, and announced that they were able to find 20 more tickets to donate, totaling a gift of 50 tickets! On March 23, 2013, we were able to bring 41 children and 9 foundation chaperones to see the absolute perfection of one of the best shows on earth, Cirque du Soleil. For all of these 50 people, it was their first time to see any kind of high end show as this. It might in fact be the only time, but it was definitely unforgettable for all.
On Tom’s first day on the ground in Colombia, we were accompanied by T.V. camera’s from one of Colombia’s two biggest television networks, RCN. RCN hosts Colombia’s most watched morning show, Muy Buenos Días. They contacted Carlos soon after a huge article was released about him and his foundation, Connecting Smiles, on Colombia’s most widely read online newspaper, El Tiempo (click link for article). As they learned more about Carlos, his foundation, and his work with Magicians Without Borders (MWB), they also asked to do a story on MWB. Two days later, they aired the story on Carlos and Connecting Smiles. The following day, to our surprise, they aired the story on MWB- I am still trying to get my hands on it as I have only been told about it. Then, the following Monday, they invited us for a live in-studio interview for that Wednesday’s show, the same day as Cirque du Soleil, and the day before Tom was returning to the States. They asked for 15 minutes on air with us, and that’s about what it turned out to be. We had a great time laughing, sharing about MWB, and doing some magic on air. Before the interview, I was chatting a bit with a woman whom I later learned is one of Colombia’s most famous singers, Marbel. She had her assistant take my phone number as she wanted me to help her with English… we will see about that one.
Here is the interview…Enjoy!
Only minutes after our piece aired, Carlos’ smartphone was blowing up with messages, emails, tweets, and all of the sort. We have ended up getting an enormous response from the piece. It feels as if a lot of good as materializing.
Behind the scenes magic with the hostess’ of Muy Buenos Días
You have to watch this clip…Carlos’s graceful studio exit that interrupted the show host’s live Chocolate advertisement on national television!
All of this happened during Tom’s visit, which was only over the span of 10 days!
Semana Santa Getwaway
I just returned from a 5-day vacation with Johanna to the Coffee region of Colombia, Eje Cafetero. Among other things, our favorites were hiking through Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley, Colombia’s famous high mountain palm forest), being adopted parents for our driver’s 6-year-old son who joined the two of us at the butterfly gardens for two hours, and soaking in some hot springs under a full moon at the foot of an incredible waterfall. It was a well needed play and rest break for the both of us. It was her first time away from work since she started nearly two months ago. We thoroughly enjoyed our time together.
My Next Steps
Over these past few months, my thoughts have often been consumed by brainstorming creative ways to spend my coming year. After some serious discernment during my senior year at Gonzaga, I decided to take two full years after graduation and before resuming my studies yet again.
During Tom’s visit we further explored the possibility of me dedicating my coming year to Magicians Without Borders. We both came to a consensus that this would be a positive option for both myself and MWB. So, that is what I am planning on doing next year and I am completely excited about it!
Here is what we have in mind so far:
I will probably be leaving Colombia around early June. I will spend the summer in the States preparing my medical school applications. Then, I will likely return to Colombia to check in on everything in late August or early September. Immediately after this, I will accompany Tom and Janet to India in early or mid-September. The twist to this is that I will not be returning with them until after their visit three months later in December. We are planning on having me spend about 3 months in India working with the two magic clubs that are there. Each club consists of about ten adolescent girls who are children of sex-workers in Mumbai. Tom feels it would be valuable to have someone on the ground there for more than just two weeks. I have always wanted to visit India. Now I have a reason to not only go, but to do something meaningful with my time there. Then, in early January, I am hoping to help facilitate a magic camp with a large group of children in El Salvador. It sure would be wonderful to return there after 3 years since my study abroad there.
As a part of this process, we are putting together a proposal for an award called the Fulbright New Leaders Group Award that goes toward supporting a current Fulbright project. Please keep your fingers crossed for us! This would allow us to take our work here in Colombia to a whole new level. Additionally, we are planning another fundraising push to support my upcoming work in India. Fortunately for us, India is not as expensive as Colombia.
At this point, there is so much happening all at once. It is exciting and empowering. With each of Tom’s two visits over the last four months, it has felt as if there were strong forces working with us. He has a kind of magical energy about him. It was great to have him here (we missed Janet though) and once again, Bogotá received him with wide open arms. I feel like I continually say this, but I am truly excited to see what comes next. There is magic in the air.