Friday, February 27, 2009

A Cup of Insanity

Copa de la Amistad
This week, for one reason or another, was insane. In hindsight, I guess, it ended appropriately enough.

Friday was the annual Copa de la Amistad, or the soccer match against Colegio Bolívar's rival school, Colegio Colombo Britanico (CCB). I would liken the spectacle to a North American Homecoming game. Except the focus is the competition. I loved homecoming in high school, just not for the actual football game. If I'm being honest, the Roseville Raider football team's record during the late 90's left something to be desired. I know for a fact we didn't win any of our homecoming games - and aren't you supposed to schedule those against teams you might have a chance at beating? (Those were the only football games I recall going to in high school. Sadly, I'm not alone.)

Part of the reason homecoming week was so fun was the spirit days and activities leading up to it, the dressing up in whatever black and silver attire we could find, and painting your class numbers on your face - and some poor unlucky under-classmen's as well. ("Double O! Double O! Double double double double double O!") Reflective fire blankets made great capes, by the way.
One major difference between my North American homecoming football experience and the Bolívar students' "Friendship Cup" futbol experience is that theirs happens during the school day. To be precise, two and a half class periods into the school day. Also, attendance is mandatory.

First hour was fine. Some of them were still waking up and wondering how they succeeded in remembering to dress themselves in school colors in the first place. By second period the excitement was building. I was able to keep my class on task because they were behind the other classes, they could not afford to get further behind, and they knew it. Then break time hit and all semblance of a working school day vanished. When break time had last ten minutes longer than it should have, I wandered to the other side of the science balcony, which overlooks the high school quad and was treated to a bird's eye view of a chaotic sea of blue and white. It seems going back to class had become optional.

I got the attention of a few of the students who should have been in their seats for ten minutes already and had them round up their other classmates and hightail it to biology. Thankfully, they did as they were asked. Other teachers were not so fortunate. After acquiring about 75% of my class and succeeding in getting and keeping their attention (no small feat on regular days) another severely tardy girl walked in and innocently asked if she can go paint her face. I believe the court reporter would have written this:

"Paint your face. You want to go and paint your face during class time? Class time that you are already 15 minutes late to? Class time where you just had almost 45 minutes to find a bathroom mirror and paint your face 5 times if you wanted. Please have a seat.
"Let me explain to you all why this is frustrating to me. I realize this is an exciting day. I get that. I realize that [as ninth graders] this is your first year going to the Copa. I understand. And I know that this class is only 45 minutes long. That is why I was not planning on have a 'regular' class today. That is why I wrote some simple instructions on the board and that is why I was planning on playing a game with you today. But when I have to find you to come to class, fight to get your attention, and then have to deal with people who want to paint their faces because they didn't have enough time in an extended break to do it...well, I get a little upset.
"I should bust out some genetics problems and have us work through those for the next 20 minutes. I'm really tempted to do that. But we're not. You are going to read the instructions on the board, you're going to follow them, we are going to sit in a circle on the floor, and WE'RE GOING TO HAVE SOME FUN, DAMN IT!"

And we did. Then we all boarded busses adorned with blue and white flags, thundering with various types of drums, whistles, and horns, and headed all the way around the block to CCB. Once at the game the kids could finally let loose. And they did - the school song, streamers, and flags were everywhere. The best part was when the ninth graders ran out of steam; their lack of fan endurance was sad, really. But I suppose starting your engine four hours before you back out of the driveway will affect how far down the street you make it.

Appropriately the "Friendship Cup" ended as a tie and, in the spirit of Amistad, it was agreed that it would stay a tie. I do love how much the Colombians love their soccer...even to insane levels!

Monday, February 23, 2009

All Shook Up: Part II

In high school, as part of the pit orchestra, I dreaded the all-day dress/tech rehearsal. Somehow while others in the production got breaks because they weren't in the scene, or another scene was being run again, or the directors were discussing something and the action was paused, we musicians were forgotten.

Play that again, once more, and one last time. Okay let's move on to the next song. Heat rises right? It should be cool down there. Throw them some food in that hole; they'll be fine.

Being out of the pit is so much more fun!

On Friday, when the rest of school was off, the cast, crew, musicians (who are not stuck under the stage), dancers, and choir, spent the day together running through the show twice and then practicing the lighting scenarios. This took almost twelve hours. By the end of the day, my eyes were burning, my stomach empty, and my voice raspy...but my face hurt from smiling, my abs were sore from laughing, and I couldn't have been more elated!

There were issues with the company the school hired to run the sound system. (We need one since the genius who designed the auditorium decided a hexagon was a good shape for not bouncing sound all over creation.) There were also some tears from some of the kids after being offered construction criticism from some outside acting opinions. But all in all it was a very positive experience. I felt like I got to bond a little with some of the students I didn't know very well because they were never in my class and I learned that much more about the insanity of putting on a stage production.

The highlight (no pun intended) was watching the principle actors, from up in the lighting box, run through the whole musical while coaching the students who were running the lights. They did the entire show as quickly as possible in this comical Spanglish fast-forward mode. I guess you had to be there...

I'll report on how it goes; we have a special preview performance for the school workers and their families on Sunday.

(To Be Continued)

Friday, February 13, 2009

All Shook Up: Part I

One of the best things, for me, as a teacher, is getting the opportunity to know a bunch of people who have the potential to do great things for the world. (I sometimes feel that this is especially true here at Colegio Bolivar where most of the kids already have a proverbial leg up, socially and economically, on much of the population.) While I get to interact and know students in my classroom, anyone who was in an extra-curricular activity or sport outside of the school day knows that the interactions there are on a different level.

Simply put: I miss coaching. Schools in North America are really the only ones with credible school teams. In other parts of the world, Colombia included, while a school may have a team, most kids consider their real team to be their club organization. Bolivar has an elementary swimming team but they "train" minimally and have a couple meets (two maybe?). Kids who get seriously into the sport end up joining a club and that is the end of it. The same goes for soccer, tennis, and golf. There is a basketball and baseball program but it seems as limited as the swimming one.

Back to the topic of missing being involved in extra-curriculars, I have been assisting with the school's musical production that takes place every other year. I was never involved with drama in high school myself, however did serve as a violinist in the pit orchestra for several shows. I don't act, I don't choreograph, I have little choir experience, although I pretend to be able to sing. Somehow I've been allowed to assist with this year's production of "All Shook Up." My official title is Assistant to the Director but none of us really know what that means.

The show is a reinterpretation of Shakespeare's play "12 Night" but set in the 1960's and consisting entirely of songs originally sung by Elvis Presley. The cast and other directors are great and I've had a blast working with and learning from them the last few months. We open on March 5th but we are surprisingly on schedule and relatively calm, although the energy is palpable.

I am also loving the diverse group of kids that are involved in the production. Obviously, there are a few "theatre kids" - you know the ones I'm talking about! But there are also many who have no stage experience, or just started singing for this production. Also, just about half of the male dancers are on the varsity soccer team! (It helps when one of the star player's girlfriend is also a dancer and he cajoles his teammates to help him out.)

We had our official cast photo taken recently. Here is the cast, directors, musicians, dancers, and choir:

This last one is the of the directors:

L-R: Me, Patricia (Pato) - choreographer, Juliana - producer, Moraima (Mori) - musical director, Josh - dramatic director.

Mori and I will be the only ones at the first full technical rehearsal next Friday. I've been trying to soak up as much wisdom from everyone else so that when that monster of a day comes I won't be, well, all shook up.

(To Be Continued...)