BB4: surprise success

Note: This is an incredibly long post (a record 5500+ words), and includes a LOT of personal musings on top of my workshop account, so here’s the workshop report should you decide you want to read that instead!

For a list of the improvisation prompts, click here.

Rain makes for drama. There was a great deal of rain this session, and there was a great deal of drama, although I will cede that some of that drama was in my head. The drama that was not in my head was delightful, and has been captured unskilfully with my trusty Canon S95 point-and-shoot. The drama in my head was half-delightful, a quarter pensive, and a quarter ridiculous, and bits and pieces filter into this post.

I got back from uni at 12.30pm, and I was tempted not to finish the children’s files and take them with me, feeling I didn’t have enough time, but I fought myself and got them done. I’m glad I did, not least because the Chiraddikulam children deserve to have them by now! It’s also just nice to not have a lot of unfiled papers lying around my desk, and paper fasteners and bull-dog clips begging to be used in the name of Order and Method a la Hercule Poirot. I also made two great decisions: seeing the sky grow ominously darker, I called Sonit Cab and asked them to send a driver a little earlier than usual. I also decided to take my time and eat lunch, forfeiting a visit to the bank and to the grocery to buy tiramisu cookies. It gave me time to not only say goodbye to my aunt and uncle who have been visiting for three weeks, and pick out which Sybil Wettasinghe books to take with me for play inspirations, but also the time to feel calm. Why is it that grabbing things on your way to things just seems to make you more stressed out while not really saving very much time at all? And so the taxi arrived on time and I left on time and arrived at the station on time, even though the sky got greyer and rain began to sniffle over the taxi. I had a good feeling about this visit.

I alighted the train with only one small mishap – apparently I have to take my ExpoRail printout to the ticket counter and get a real ticket (but I’ve not done that for the past several weeks and I’ve had my printout approved!). Oh well, next time.

One thing I learned from last week’s episode is to keep things simple. The children don’t get my more ridiculous artsy ideas about drama, and those ideas are no fun. What’s fun is riotous games of Fruit Bowl and Making Shapes. So the final performance, I think, will be a Tamil adaptation of two of the rare Sinhala books I read as a child (I grew up almost entirely on a diet of British children’s literature). Sybil Wettasinghe writes delightful, simple stories about multicultural communities that are always learning more about each other as they work together, and I loved both the stories and the illustrations as I was growing up. There’s also something definitely building-bridge-y about translating Sinhala stories to English to be enacted in Tamil. So on the train ride to Vavuniya, I started writing simple 2-3 page plays based on the stories, that could easily be adapted, improvised on, and remembered. Unfortunately, I also started googling. These days my googling tends to be in the direction of social entrepreneurship. I’m not sure why. I like order, I like rigidity, I’m not as flexible and open and risk-taking as I would like. In short, given my (harsh, I know) assessment of my personality, I would be desperately unhappy as an entrepreneur, even of the social variety. But social entrepreneurship is what all the cool kids are doing right now, and yes, they are kids, so double whammy. I’m sometimes envious of all these young people (it’s easy to not feel young when you are 24 and the person you are reading about has what feels like an empire at 20, even though really, logically, that 4 years is negligible) and I want to be cool. That was the nice thing about Princeton – it felt so full of awkward people that I felt cool amongst them. Not necessarily cooler-than-them, but cool-like-them, somehow. It was a relief. And now I’m back here and my friends here still think I’m cool (I have enough money to go teaching drama in the wilderness for a year, how exotic!) but I want to be ‘cooler’, even though that is really not the word I’m looking for. I want to be like those social entrepreneurs who somehow project this image of knowing exactly where they’re going, though if you’re an entrepreneur who is forging your own path, that seems a bit of a paradox. I want to find ways to control my chaos – be open to new things but also have sort-of-kind-of general idea of where I’m heading, at least with Building Bridges.

And then I did some more internetting – the Princeton homepage is still my default homepage, too. I can’t get rid of it, even though my old SCI computer conked a few days before I went for Reunions so having it on my new computer is wilful, not there-out-of-laziness. So I discovered the Performing Architecture symposium that would take place just as I would be getting to Thai Hotel. I’ve attended far too few lectures at Princeton, and maybe if I were there I would have a studio project due on Monday so I wouldn’t have attended anyway, but being here and missing those things makes me feel I definitely would have gone. So I made lists of the people who will be attending, and will eventually send some of them politely enquiring emails.

It started to pour as I worked, and there’s something about listening to the likes of Hall and Oates (covered by the Bird and the Bee, I admit), Chicago, and Talking Heads in rapid succession that makes it feel like you’re hurtling through some strange film about destinations. The trouble with having a lot on my mind is that I seldom choose the wise route of dealing with each piece one by one; I usually choose to do something completely different. I struggled to keep at the translating, so the second play was much worse than the first and still needed work when the train finally pulled into Vavuniya, six hours after we left Fort. Unfortunately, I called Mr Premadasa before we’d left Medawachchiya and he had to wait for me for half an hour at the station.

I was freezing when I got off the train, and no warm waves of air smacked me in the face as I descended. Instead, I had to dodge the light rain that was falling, and felt ruefully that it was Nature’s way of telling me it’s time to start wrapping this session up before the monsoon makes the road to Kakkaiyankulam and Chiraddikulam impassable. All I need is three more weekends, Mother Nature. Just hold off till then. It felt strange, tugging at my little orange suitcase, which kept getting stuck in the mud. For the five minutes it took to cross over and exit the station, it felt like I was back in the USA and all alone. My bags were heavier than usual, I was colder than usual, and I was more tired and pensive than usual. I felt the way I did after travelling 30 hours from SL to Princeton and arrive on campus in the dark and had to superwomanfully lug my two suitcases and hand-luggage to my dorm. For a fleeting moment I remembered how I hated it, the struggle of being alone, and how that dislike turned – eventually – into a sort of hard triumph, a sort of look-at-me-I-can-do-this-on-my-own-despite-being-a-cossetted-South-Asian-girl. But, like I said, it was a fleeting feeling, because being in Vavuniya is the epitome of being Cossetted South Asian Girl. Partly because everyone is so raised-eyebrow at my coming in alone week after week, I have this incredible network of people who have stepped into my life all with the seeming goal of saving me from myself. And sure enough, I stepped outside the station and looked up, and Mr Premadasa was there as usual, warm, welcoming, familiar, slightly old and stooped,  taking my bag, giving me an umbrella, settling me into the tuk-tuk, asking me if I’d had dinner. I’m a lucky girl. I’ll never have that alone-ness here, not doing this project. Not even if I wanted it (and I don’t). When I got to Thai, I found that I’d never been so excited about pyjamas, and cotton had never felt so warm. Favouring the fan over the air-conditioning on this unusually cold night, I fell fast asleep.

I woke late, and dressed quickly, only to discover the van had not arrived. Jegan was at the reception, a little worried, asking me if I’d booked the van through Mr Kamal (manager). I said yes, but fortunately I now have Kamal (driver’s) number, and I’d called him earlier this week. Jegan looked even more worried, and said that Kamal was in Colombo (it’s only now that I realise he was talking about Kamal-manager and not Kamal-driver), and I said as cheerfully as I could, “Okay, well, let’s see who we can find now!” But there was no need to find anyone new, because just then driver-Kamal turned in to the hotel, and I have never been so pleased to see his round face. And after the usual detours (petrol and bakery – Kamal never seems to eat any breakfast before he arrives and also never acknowledges this fact until I ask him) we were off.

After finalising my schedule for the workshop, I started practising two pages of instructions for improvisation exercises I got a friend (thank you so much, Sushmitha!) to translate for me. Kamal listened as I tried to decipher the Tamil in English and inevitably mispronounced the words meant to be written in a phonetic language. I had difficulty with some of the words, but Kamal said my accent was not bad overall, and I was quite pleased. However, as I started assigning kids to each activity (I couldn’t think of enough different scenarios for 40 kids and decided it would be best to have two versions of one activity, so we could get different takes on a single scene) I started having doubts. Would they freak out having two or three kids to a scene or should I make it 5-6? In which case, my translated Tamil would be useless. I panicked, but decided that the good thing about having translated the instructions is that Kamal knew what I wanted to do, and that even if I didn’t get to say each thing in Tamil, that it was a good exercise.

We got held up at Chiraddikulam a little – there wasn’t anyone with the children, and so I wrote their names in Tamil and gave the list to a mother who happened to be hanging around in the background. (I wish they interacted more with me – like in Kakkaiyankulam – or came to see what I’m doing with their kids – it’s quite possibly just disinterest in their children, but with my experience of my parents I find it mind-boggling and difficult to believe. Maybe they feel they shouldn’t interfere in what feels like an army-me interaction, but that’s missing the point of what I’m trying to do. I have told the army several times to tell parents they can sit in on the workshops, but the only time one came in was last Wednesday for Disaster Workshop, and tried to help me by giving contradictory instructions. I can’t blame her, though, no one (perhaps including me) understood what I was trying to achieve)  I called Major Edirisinghe, who said he would send someone to collect a list in Sinhala. That took a while, and then I had to give a list of names at a checkpoint further ahead. The army is a little erratic in its procedures – I’ve never done this before, and it never ceases to amaze me how they scrawl all this ‘vital’ information along the sides of little notebooks, not even in neat lines – how can they expect to access it later? The answer seems to be that don’t expect to, and this is just protocol that they don’t even really believe in anymore.

We got to Kakkaiyankulam by 10.30, half an hour later than I’d hoped, and happened to pick up Akkar on the way. When we got to the school, I was mildly dumbfounded, because there were no children waiting for us. Usually the children pour out of the school like ants. My first thought was that they’d got tired of waiting and had gone home. The Chiraddikulam children, meanwhile, discovered the swings, see-saws and slides in the playground and began to climb all over them. For a moment, my OCD side took over and I thought, no no this is workshop time! And then I looked at them and remembered that they were only children and that what I’d wanted was to give them a good time. So I let them play while I tried to sort things out.

I called the principal, Mr Farhan, who was in Puttalam. He said he’d told the children to come, and he’d make a few calls to check that they’d be coming. Nothing happened. I called him again and he promised to make sure the kids came over. After that, his phone was switched off.

Meanwhile, Faasil, Aasir, Asna and Sahir were brought on a scooter by another slightly older boy I’d seen before at the cricket workshops – I only discovered that these four are siblings last week (explains Faasil’s patience with Sahir’s walking difficulties) and, well, wow. Five in a family, assuming scooter-driver-boy is yet another older brother. Digression: there are lots of siblings in my workshops: Fathima and Aska, Nusra and Nusair, Vinodh and Sarujan, Thihalvannan and Thihalnila, as well as these four. It’s quite nice, really. Anyway, Faasil and Aasir disappeared, and I hoped they were going to bring more kids, but they returned with only Fausan, who greeted me with his cheeky/endearing grin when he arrived. He can be caution, and I often threaten to give him smacks (I’ve never followed through), but I definitely have a soft spot for him. All the naughtiest boys from Kakkaiyankulam probably know that my threats to leave them at home if they make people cry or don’t listen to me, are empty ones, because they are also my most enthusiastic volunteers to make shapes or play games, and they make my workshops that much more interesting. Hafrath (another imp) also appeared, sporting a recent cut on his cheek, and proceeded to show the Chiraddikulam kids how to get mangoes from the big tree in the schoolyard by throwing sticks at the tree. Sticks rained down around me for a while, and the quieter amongst the kids sat munching unripe mangoes under the protection of a tin-roofed children’s summerhouse-item as sticks thwacked intermittently on the roof. I politely declined Thibadharshini’s offer of a green mango, whereupon she pounded it open on the concrete and gave the two split pieces to Sahir and Asna.

Was this an example of “building bridges”? Maybe. I wonder if (and if so, how) these kids have come out of this war curiously unscathed by the horrors of racism. I’ve been thinking about colour and race and belonging ever since I was four, as a child in an Australian pre-school with no friends because of my colour, desperately scrubbing myself in the shower even though I knew no water could make me whiter. But I’ve always been an over-thinker. Meanwhile, these children, who have families evicted from their home because they are Muslims, or older sisters recruited to the LTTE because they are Tamil, have none of the thoughts that have pre-occupied me since I was a child. I feel as though if I were with a strange Sinhalese girl, the space between us would have a significantly different quality from that between me and a strange Tamil girl, which would be more careful, more studied, more fraught with eggshells, fewer strands of the familiar. And yet these Kakkaiyankulam boys shove the Chiraddikulam boys (and vice versa, although the Chiraddikulam boys are slightly better-behaved) with the same abandon with which they shove each other. They also have no concerns about space. “You’re in my playground? I’m in your school? My space, your space – definitely a foreign idea. Your mangoes? I’m eating them, offering them to you. My mangoes, you’re offering them to me, I’m eating them, it hasn’t occurred to me to think about it.” In short, I can’t get over this. I don’t know how to deal with it. Is it ignorance? Should I aspire to the kind of ignorance that doesn’t ask those questions? Of course, it’s far too late to be ignorant now. (I think it’s this same unthinking insouciance that contributes to the way they cheerfully litter the school until I sternly shake cardboard boxes at them that I’ve allocated as dustbins, so I’m hesitant with my conclusion-forming.) Racism is certainly born in ignorance, and so I’m curious. Do these kids’ parents simply not discuss their pasts with them? By the time I was six, I’d heard so many stories, or leaving, of my father’s friends who died in the Air Force, of the time before the war, of the island’s closed-economy era of 1970-1977, the rice-rations and lines to buy cloth. Our school history books peter out after 1948 and Independence, so the 60’s forward existed for me almost entirely in stories until I started reading more at Princeton, from books that aren’t sold in Sri Lankan bookstores (too controversial?) So what, really, do these children know? What’s in their heads? Or do they see the world in the uncomplicated terms of this-stick-will-get-me-that-mango? There’s no point telling me they’re ‘only’ ten years old. At ten, my biggest fantasy was to one day meet the leader of the terrorist LTTE so I could have a conversation with him and figure out how his mind worked. I wanted to know what his moment was. Mine was my fifth birthday, alone near the climbing frame, with a “I’m Five!” pin stuck to my new dress, teased unmercifully by kids who (I realise now) weren’t as lucky as I was. I was a threat, although I didn’t know it at the time, and I was singled out for it. What, Mr Pirapaharan, was your moment? When you were singled out and you never stopped feeling bitter? At ten, I was a prolific talker-to-self, holding long conversations with myself about peace-making methods. At ten, these kids can climb trees like monkeys, and munch on the fruit they find like so many William Browns. And it’s because these children are like William Brown and not Nushelle de Silva that I don’t need to work incredibly hard at building bridges. They’re built over throwing sticks at mangoes. I’m not sure mine would be so easily constructed, and yet I also feel that once constructed, mine are less likely to fall down. And yes, this particular part of the post is a means for me to Hold This Thought.

When the three musketeers (Faasil, Aasir, and Fausan) returned, I sent them wheeling off on their bikes again to round up the other children, and started playing relay races to settle the kids into the workshop. It was an hour later than I’d hoped to begin the workshops, I had only five kids from Kakkaiyankulam, but somehow I felt things were going to be all right. As more children joined in, I slotted them into teams, and then moved inside to play really quick games of Fruit Bowl, Walk-Group (still a failure – the girls and boys are still incredibly shy about making groups even though they’re less shy of making shapes with each other?!) and Walk-Stop-Clap.

By this time, I had eleven kids from Kakkaiyankulam (a record low) but probably not so bad given that half their clan appears to be in Puttalam  this weekend (why thank you, Mr Farhan, for not letting me know!), but I won’t pretend I wasn’t thankful to have one Building Bridges workshop with a manageable number of children. Why is it that 26 children are infinitely more manageable than 34? Probably because 15 of those kids were docile Chiraddikulam-ites. We then stopped for Milo and biscuits and sweets, and then Improvisation Game.

Because I had changed the numbers and instructions of the improvisation game in my head, I was now hesitant to read it all out in my atrocious Tamil, but Kamal refused to translate for me, encouraging me to read it out with the assurance that he would simply clear up moments of confusion. He did the right thing. My kids were quieter than usual as I butchered their language, sometimes mystified by my mispronunciations but definitely listening. Kamal filled in the gaps, and when I stopped midway to see how many of them were laughing at me or thoroughly confused, Aasir gave me a quick thumbs-up and told me my Tamil was ‘nalla’ (good). I was simultaneously gratified and ashamed. I still use a translator as a crutch instead of doing the difficult thing of scripting my workshop each week in English, having it translated, and practising reading the translation. I admit, it’s hard to get friends to help me translate each week, and efforts to take an intermediate Tamil class did not fare well. I have finally found a friend (Sushmitha, who wrote the translations I read) who has agreed to tutor me, and I’m starting this Wednesday. Too late for this workshop series though, but hopefully just in time for the ones in 2013. I’m sorry, Kakkaiyankulam and Chiraddikulam, that I’m still a foreigner wrestling to grasp your language, but thank you for all your encouragement and enthusiasm, always.

Having fewer kids meant that I was able to group them with relative ease, and after giving each group their prompts, I did a round with Kamal because some groups clearly had some issues. For a list of the prompts, see here.

Most had difficulty getting organised, and I decided I would do them the favour of suggesting conversation to them. In some cases, it worked really well – all that the group needed was a small push – in other cases, it meant a kind of rote-speaking.  Given that none of my 26 kids are actors, though, I thought the whole exercise was generally successful.

Here are a few of my thoughts on each group:

Vanoja/Thibadharshini/Aska/Farvin (puppy-prompt): Not a bad attempt at improvisation. Vanoja is an earnest child, and although I didn’t understand everything she said, I realised she was repeating (slightly tonelessly!) all the conversation suggestions I gave her. I’m still proud of her, though – she didn’t stop or get stage fright or think about what she would say next. Aska is less comfortable without Fathima, and I should group them together in future, since I think she has ability beyond what she showed in the piece. Farvin didn’t work too well in a group, and seemed bored/restless. She didn’t make much of an effort to contribute, which is a pity, since she’s expressive and confident, but clearly unable to translate that into being a leader (like Fathima). Thibadharshini has the most potential, coupled with Vanoja’s willingness to work, although I felt she would have been more comfortable with a little more coaching.

Aasir/Mayuran/Prasadh/Sarmeehan/Sarujan/Sathurjan (cricket-prompt): Less successful than I would have hoped. Aasir is a leader, to be sure, and would be at ease with a lead role, but I realise now that I coupled him with five boys from Chiraddikulam who are not very vocal. Mayuran and Sathurjan were also quite involved in the piece, while Sarmeehan, Prasadh, and little Sarujan was mostly silent. It also didn’t develop as well as I’d hoped in terms of reaching a satisfactory conclusion. Might actually have worked much better with four boys as originally planned.

Faasil/Thihalvannan/Vinodh (grandparents/kids prompt): I should’ve switched out Thihalvannan with an older kid – none of the three could really take initiative on this (I assumed Faasil might, but he’s actually not as dynamic in that way as Aasir is).  Also, maybe these kids don’t have involved conversations with their grandparents? Either way, even with considerable help with conversation, the three didn’t put across much of a performance, but I think if they’d been in a play as supporting roles with someone else as leader, both Faasil and Thihalvannan would have fared better. Vinodh (like Sarmeehan) is much less involved and invested in the workshops in general, and tends to stand around awkwardly when I’m not looking during exercises like the Mirror Game and Colombian Hypnosis, which contrasts interestingly with the way most of the others grab the opportunity to explore what they can do.

Thuraichchelvan/Akkar/Fausan (ghost-prompt): I was quite proud of this one. Thuraichchelvan is one of my more expressive kids from Chiraddikulam, while Akkar and Fausan are two of my naughtiest (but also most enthusiastic) kids from Kakkaiyankulam. The combination worked incredibly well, and they put a lot of feeling into the piece. The ending was slightly weak, but the beginning started out with two of the boys talking, and a third joining, which made for a nice little build-up. A thoughtful piece of work, especially from two of my (usually) most unrestrained children.

Pavithra/Yalini/Nirmala/Fathima (dance-prompt): Not a bad piece, everyone definitely joined in. The ending was not as well-thought-out as I would have hoped (without much argument or conversation they took one group’s side over the other). Fathima’s tendency to lead was apparent, in a different way from Aasir. Everyone had a part, but it was Fathima who did the conceding at the end. I suspect she didn’t get a whole lot of input from the other three, although I feel that if Pavithra had been assigned a different group, with younger people, she might have taken a leadership role. It’s hard to say, though.

Thihalnila/Asna/Ijas (mother+son-prompt): I definitely made a mistake on this one. Thihalnila and Asna are quiet, and I think I expected Ijas to take the lead – he always jumps at the chance to volunteer during the physical activities. They had a lot of difficulty acting the scene, though, and a curious thing happened – Ijas got stage fright! When I told him it was all right not to act it out if he didn’t want to, he didn’t get off the stage, either. He just stood there, mute, for a good two minutes. I’ve never seen anything like it from him, and I felt sorry for him, but I decided to let him stick it out. Eventually, he managed to cobble together some sentences, and their scene ended quite quickly. A curious issue, and the kids laughed (not unkindly) and encouraged them to continue. The scene itself was a flop, I admit, but I’m definitely impressed that Ijas stood his ground (albeit soundlessly) and then came up with something to say instead of just completely giving up.

Loheswari/Hafrath/Sahir (teacher-prompt): This was definitely an unexpected and unmitigated success. If I could give Loheswari some sort of award, I would. She’s one of my quieter ones, but she shone as that stern maths teacher – completely different! What a find! And she had incredible (and comic) support from Sahir and Hafrath, two students who valiantly played up their ignorance. Sahir is the one who has a limp, but always joins in all the games, while Hafrath is another of my scamps who surprisingly got quite into the scene without wandering off to do something else. The children were definitely in giggles by the end of their scene, and I’m so pleased we ended on this note.

We were late to go home, but I made sure to ask the children if they would be free the next weekend. Good thing I did – turns out the Chiraddikulam children have an exam on Saturday morning and a poojava on Sunday morning. So the workshops are scheduled for 2pm next week on both Saturday and Sunday, but with the monsoon looming overhead, I would definitely appreciate any prayers for keeping the rains at bay until the children are back home again.

It threatened to rain as we hurtled towards Chiraddikulam, and Thihalvannan and I exchanged words in Sinhala and Tamil on the way. I also made sure to call both Thavaneswari and Major E, just to make sure everyone knew where the children were. It spattered a bit as we drew closer, but cleared up temporarily. I took that opportunity to give the kids their files (I forgot to do it in Kakkaiyankulam, but perhaps it was just as well – this way I knew each one would be taking his/her file home!) and took a picture of the girls and boys with their completed files. So that’s done!

The drive back to Vavuniya was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I’ve never seen such huge, blue-grey rainclouds hovering so heavily on the edge of the horizon. Each one looked like it held a sea-ful of rainwater. I felt like I was part of some indie nature documentary (with some kind of blasé name, like “Before the Storm”, but crazy cinematography, definitely not a sedate David Attenborough documentary) and it was amazing. On Wednesday, I may have tried to tell me children, “You want to see drama? Just look at the full-scale performance in this upcoming thunderstorm! Suspense thriller! Lightning action! Bad puns by Nushelle!” Now I know better than to befuddle them in this way, but I hugged the experience with glee, with all the excitement – and more – that I get from seeing a performance at the McCarter for free. Definitely one of the best dramas I’ve seen – thanks, Mother Nature.

We tried to hurry, but I secretly hoped we wouldn’t make it before the storm broke. And we didn’t. We stopped only once when an army guy flagged us down to be dropped at the Mundumurippu junction, and five minutes later, sheets and sheets of torrential rain crashed down on us. I’ve always been smug about being in a car during rainstorms, (“Yeah, yeah, the car will just act as a Faraday cage, y’know”) but it occurred to me that I should google that and make sure I was as I thought I was. (The answer is yes, although it may not be an entirely pleasant experience.) Seeing that rain, and seeing line after line of lighting split the sky, though, I somehow knew I didn’t need to care about Faraday cages. It was the best end to a dramatic workshop  ever.

The rain began to clear, and as we turned on to the Mannar Road, and drew closer to the town, we realised that Vavuniya had not been invited to this monsoon party. Just as well, since I needed to step in to the bank (Cargills is under renovations, and I’m definitely not a fan of Co-op City). And then we were zooming towards Thai, and suddenly I could see, under that dark, heavy-lidded cumulonimbus layer, a patch of clear sky replete with a ridiculously puffy, cotton-woolly, flamboyantly extravagant cumulus cloud. It was so happy and white and beckoning and I felt that all I needed to do was go towards it. And when I got there, it would be amazing. Of course, nothing spectacular happened. It loomed larger, however, just as I turned into Umar Maheswaran road, and I thought, I’m here! I’m at that place! I’m at the end of the road and it’s beautiful!  Really, I was just back at Thai Hotel, but it felt good and light and musical to be back.

The hotel internet held up incredibly well, and I frittered three hours just swimming in it. It may have been a mistake, being I felt a lot less light and musical at the end of it. I did a lot of swimming-through-the-internet; I watched the movie trailer to Pitch Perfect (probably not something I will watch in its entirety voluntarily) and Anna Kendrick’s cup song. I also googled her – when you don’t watch Twilight, you apparently miss out on things. I watched bits of her on the David Letterman Show before transferring my attention to other things, and read one of Marina Keegan’s pieces, published in the New Yorker for the first time. It was poignant and sad and raw and made her death seem to suspend in the air a little longer, a little sharper. I read an article on Dr Seuss’ little-known adult book on the Lady (Ladies?) Godiva. I checked Facebook and Twitter and Facebook again, and the reason I write this is that while I’m glad I read Marina’s piece, it coloured everything else I did in that three hours. It made me wish I’d had dinner in front of the hotel TV instead of my computer – I like Jegan and Kodis and wish my interactions with them were not limited to profuse thank you’s for carrying my bags or bringing my meals. So I starting writing this week’s post in an attempt to re-capture the elation I felt before I started reading about death, and musing on how short my life is and how much of it I spend online.

I stopped midway to skype with Kate Miller, and we exchanged stories (teaching drama in the jungles and teaching high school physics in Brooklyn, grad school in planning and grad school in education, my hopes and dreams and fears and suspicions and unanswered questions that have been zipping through my mind this past year and have somehow culminated in this weekend.

I slept soon after, only to be woken twice in the middle of the night by friendly mosquitoes, and I took my tuk to the station with no drama. I spent all of the train ride blogging, but couldn’t quite get to the end of it, so after an eventful morning spent at Town Hall and the Public Library fruitlessly searching for some documents for class (yay sort-of-grad-school?) and an afternoon bidding goodbye to more cousins visiting from the land down under, and of playing ball with Dusty, I’ve finally gotten down to finishing my most epically long blog post yet, as videos from the improvisation session upload all-too-slowly on to Vimeo. Now on to readings for studio and translations – as soon as one workshop ends, it’s time to prepare for the next!

NB: The dearth of photos related to the workshop is in part because all the important parts of the workshop are captured in HD video.  Vimeo (the free version) is a little stingy with upload limits (500 MB!), so the entire sequence will be uploaded over the next few weeks

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