Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cartoon 7: La Sema

La sema= El semáforo= The Traffic Light.

Tuesday morning I earned money jumping rope in front of five lanes of traffic as they waited for the light to change.  (I hurt my shoulder a little bit the day before so I couldn't do my usually speciality: acrobalance) My traveling partner Joaquín has been earning money doing circus in traffic lights for about five years and this week, I was inaugurated...

Here's how it went... Joaquín, Daniel and I went out at about 7 a.m. to a traffic light that takes a little while to change.  We warmed up a bit and then we were off. As soon as the light turned red, I would run out into the cross walk and spin and twirl and try to make eye contact with each person in their car. Then I would throw the focus to Joaquín and Daniel who would enter juggling.  Next we would all dance around a bit, each of them juggling and me jumping rope until we found ourselves in a triangle formation.  Then they would start passing the clubs back and forth and I would run through the middle of the flying clubs without messing up the pattern (Okay well sometimes I messed up the pattern).  Then I would run into the middle of the pattern and stop and they would juggle around me.  Then I would run out and pose and they would do some big finale trick and TADA!  Then you walk through the cars and see if anyone feels inspired to give you a peso or two.  Rinse and Repeat for three hours.   And don't forget to smile!  Who would have ever thunk that I would get paid to jump rope??

Okay lets go a little deeper...
As we worked, underneath my skin was a roller coaster of adrenaline, sadness, frustration, excitement, disappointment, determination, and enthusiasm.  The sun beats down and you inhale so much contamination that your boogars are gray afterward.  And thoughts and questions flew through my mind: I bared my soul (performance is always that type of experience for me) for 2 pesos? Whatt?!! What am I doing? I have too much to loose to mess around and get hit by a car.  My heart was filled looking into the eyes of Joaquín and Daniel as we faced this monster of a city on its own territory, baring our teeth in the form of a smile...                     

Immediately after we finished our days work I basically collapsed into the van in tears.  Joaquín and Daniel enveloped me in their arms and we sat.  I cried because I have other options for work but so many people don't. I cried because the people in traffic avert their eyes, they play telephone call, they won't look or laugh with you so they don't have to give you a peso when really even just a friendly face would have been enough for me.  I cried because I have averted my own eyes so many times. 

But mostly I cried because I felt like I was risking so much.  So many people who have poured their love and support in me.  So many people who are sharing this trip with me.  So many people who have invested their hard work and creativity into this trip.  I do not forget this as I make my decisions.  I will not waste that on taking unwise risks.  Don't worry mama luna, working in the traffic lights is not something I plan on doing often... 

P.S. Next week I will be in the Lacandona Jungle in Chiapas (the home of the Zapatista Movement) giving our first workshops to youth in a clown convention!! Unfortunately this means I will not have access to the internet so my next cartoon will have to wait a just bit...

P.S.S. A huge huge thanks to Faithy, Kay, and Donald whose super thoughtful and generous financial collaboration is putting gas in the van to take us to the workshops in Chiapas!! Thank you so so so much! You guys made it possible for us to spend less time in la Sema this week and focus on preparing really powerful workshops for the yoots [youth ;)]!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cartoon 6: Amazing Things in Mexico Part Three

As I was drawing these, I worried a bit that folks would see them and feel sadness or pity for the people pictured.  After getting over the first moment of shock at seeing a blind man sing for pesos as he navigates a moving metro car, a man with no legs begging as he rolls himself across the floor, and a woman nursing her baby as she calls out over and over the prices of the sweets that she sells, I was filled with deep inspiration.  It seemed like this is just these peoples' reality and they are just living it, no complaints, just determination.  Of course I have no way of knowing how they understand their challenges but I was left in total amazement at their resilience.

Picture one... You guys might remember this character from the previous cartoon 'The Metro Whoa!' I often see blind people out and about in the city, they seem to move around relatively independently. Everybody kind of pitches in to help to let them know what metro stop they are at or to warn them of any looming puddles (there are many of those since its now rainy season here).  They navigate the streets and metros with amazing confidence (as mentioned in Part One of this series, not the easiest thing to do :P).  Maybe as an act of solidarity, I like to close my eyes amongst all of the chaos here and try to feel my surroundings with my other senses. Sometimes my friends and I guide each other around the city for hours with our eyes closed, I haven't decided if the experience is more or less intense without the visual input... 

Picture two... The look on this man's face was one of absolute determination, he was not looking for pity.  Just a common understanding of his circumstances; he seemed to have an attitude of 'If you can give great if not okay, I'm gonna keep going'... I think if I had the chance to look at him straight into his eyes I could have absorbed chapters of wisdom on the subject of self worth.    

Picture three...  Like I mentioned before folks are out in the streets selling everything from joke books to these super yummy colorful rice snacks.  From what I have learned, the underemployment rate here is 25% and the minimum wage is 5 pesos per hour (~50¢)...  So people get amazingly creative.   This woman in particular touched me because somehow she was able to soothe her child into resting peacefully and while at the same time commanding the attention of passersby with her booming voice. 

So I hope to share this feeling of inspiration with each of you to carry you through the rest of your week, your month, your life... I would be happy with your next couple of breathes though :)

PS Sorry this image is a little small, I have messing with the for days tryin to get it to grow and it just don want to.  I decided to just go ahead and share it cuz I already have so many other things to tell you guys about and my hand is itchin to draw!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cartoon 5: Amazing Things in Mexico Part Two

So now everyone go home and try it and let me know how it goes!! The only extra thing I want to share about this cartoon is that in the last frame the two characters exclaim 'Super!' cuz that's a common slang here amongst people who have some access to the English language.   For instance here, a 'super amiga' is like a best friend. Or you could say 'Como estas?' and the reply could be 'Super!' It makes me giggle when folks say it cuz its a word that we almost never use these days.  I hear English words pop up often within the Spanish spoken here in Mexico City. I just learned a new slang last night- the adjective 'Forever'.  From what I understand it's used to describe people who never finish anything; who have a million projects and ideas but when it comes down to it they get forever stuck in procrastination or disorganization. I.e. 'I think I have been a forever person lots of times in my life.' :S  Also, I took a Zumba class and the teacher kept saying 'Yeah' to pump everybody up. But it's pronounced like 'Yeeeeh Uh' with lots of emphasis all over the place :) So hope everyone is Super and not having a Forever week, Yeeeeh Uh!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cartoon 4: Amazing Things in Mexico Part One

So this drawing shows one day when I was in the metro and, like I mentioned in the last cartoon, there are lots and lots and LOTS of people. At rush hour when the doors open at each station, if you want to get off you basically have to put your football pads on and sprint full force forward. If you hesitate even for a second, the wave of people getting on the train will literally carry you backward and deposit you in the middle of a sea of people far far away from your desired exit. The first time I encountered this wave, I was totally unprepared. I had never experienced being physically overpowered by anything and I was stunned. Then, I guess my fight/flight response took over and I hunkered down and started throwin' bows (pushing people out of my way) and I was able to get off the train. But then I realized that the wave of people had taken my yoga mat! I turned around to find that amazingly, the people on the train were crowd surfing my mat back to me, A guy handed it to me with a smile before the doors closed and the train rushed off.  My body buzzed, touched by my encounter with my survival instinct, and my heart soared at being so well taken care of by these strangers.

This cartoon is the first of three of beautiful/crazy/intense things that I've seen or have happened to me since I've been in Mexico so stay tuned ;)