Volunteer Teaching in Chicaque: “Getting Dramatic”

The third and final week at UBHA

And so we come to the final week of volunteering at UBHA school, our final week in Chicaque Natural Park, and our final week (ish) in Colombia.

Students reenacting an impromptu version of “Little Red Riding Hood”

It was great fun for all of us — there were some students with real theatrical potential here. We made a slide show of these presentations, and screened them on our laptop for the kids to watch, and they got quite a kick out of it.

Celebrating World Theatre Day

This week, the focus was on coaching the students to perform some theatrical pieces in observance of World Theatre Day, which is celebrated on the 27th of March every year. Following our example, they presented “The Silly Boy”, “Red Riding Hood”, and other stories. They also made a commemorative poster for the 60th anniversary of the event.

And we guided them in some improv skits, which we dubbed “Restaurant of the Absurd”. The setting is a restaurant, with the patrons making outrageous demands and wild orders, and the staff also engaging in unorthodox behavior. The order is wrong, the bill is too high, the customers don’t know how to sit on a chair, the waiter is rude, the customer is overcome with joy when the food is delivered, the cook throws the food, a cow is milked – those are just some of the scenarios that were improvised. Oh and as we practiced using our limited Spanish, they practiced English and we all met somewhere in the middle.

Other than that, we taught some of the kids how to do the “Thriller” dance. And we resurrected yet another of our popular stories to perform for the kids: “Tops and Bottoms”.

One day was also cleanup day. The little one-room schoolhouse got a scrubbing from top to bottom, all done by the students themselves. There was no janitorial staff here at all. They take great pride in doing all of the organizing and cleaning, pausing every now and then for a break to play.

Also during this week, the students crafted pizzas from scratch. Not just little personal size snack pizzas, but each one made one large enough to feed a family of about four. And they gave one of them to us. Some of these pizzas were baked in the ovens in our house; and while we were waiting, some of the boys brought in a little snake they’d found to show off. It was rather tasty — the pizza, not the snake.

The students frequently came to our house during these three weeks for one reason or another. Usually it was to romp on the piano (though sometimes it was to borrow a spoon or a video). At least a couple of them showed some considerable musical aptitude, though they had a decidedly limited repertoire. Dennis tried his best to resurrect his own long dormant musical prowess and teach them a thing or two.

All too soon, Friday came. Our final day on the job. On this morning, while Kimberly began the day playing football (soccer) and hunting for pirate treasures with the early arrivals, Dennis had the task of hiking up the hill and bringing the students down. As he did so, he reminded them that it was his last day with them. One boy replied sheepishly, “remember me”. He was a kid who had bonded with Dennis despite seeming to be rather shy. He liked to play Spiderman, climbing in the schoolhouse rafters while wearing his cap that pulled down over his face and had eyeholes. Don’t worry, Spidey. We’ll never forget any of you.

And then Friday afternoon came, and we said goodbye not only to the students and teachers, but to Ruth. She and her family were going away for the weekend, and wouldn’t be on hand to see us off when we departed.

At the end of the school day, Kimberly walked some of the other students to their homes at the bottom of the mountain. Gingerly minding her step and trying not to lose her balance down the steep incline and loose gravel. Totally in awe of the seven-year-old student who did the same hike with shorter legs while carrying a full-sized pizza and a backpack.

On Saturday, we had one more day of exploring the park. The path we took this time was to El Roquedal, which is an extension of the path to Pico del Aguila. In other words, another peak with a lot of interesting rock formations and vegetation, and a rather strenuous workout. And in the evening we gave the monkeys one more chance to encounter us. There are night monkeys and sloths living in this park, and you’re supposed to be able sight them in certain places (including near our house) and at certain times — just after twilight for the simians. But alas, we struck out, and never got a glimpse of either elusive critter. They’ll have to wait until the next time we come here to meet us. And we do hope there is a next time.

The Bottom is for the Birds

March 22-26, 2022

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