Friday, November 16, 2012

The circus in Adaba


15 November 2012

After a week of mostly meetings and proposal writing I was looking forward to an environmental club meeting at the high school. I wrote a lesson plan and collected tree leaves around town so we could do some rubbings and identification. I called my colleagues at the school to confirm the time. But what I didn’t prepare for was that a one man circus act would triumph the spotlight and leave me as a dumbfounded spectator.

I had actually met this gentleman at the primary school the day before. He is the new P.E. teacher and introduced me, not with his name, but by telling me that he was from Addis Ababa. All I saw was that his v-neck t-shirt was more revealing than anything I would dare to wear here and I turned my attention elsewhere. So yes I was surprised that the circus had not come to town, but it lived here, and was employed by one of the schools I work with. Needless to say, my eagerness surpassed that which I felt during hand washing day.

Hundreds of students each paid 2 Birr and formed a large circle in the school’s open lawn. The show went on for about 90 minutes, there was a decent amount of crowd participation, his dramatic acting portrayed him as a nutball whose legs had a mind of their own. He was a contortionist, forming his body into different numbers 2 thru 8 and impressing us with his flexibility and strength. What was most shocking was not that he could rest his legs behind his neck or jump through his arms, but what he made his crowd participants do with him.

I’ve never seen a professional contortionist and there are plenty of dirty jokes that go along with them, but this guys act was pretty lewd and perverse without much imagination. I’m not sure that I was laughing at the same things as the audience but watching it made me blush. Afterwards one of the teachers asked me what I thought and his comment was that the entertainment was fun for the students, but is culturally very foreign and thereby threatening. Again, I don’t know if we were seeing the same things during the performance, but I understood his perspective.

“Well what about television? Most of the students see things outside of their culture on television don’t they?” I asked.

“True, but you know we didn’t have television or cell phones before four years ago, so even that is a new phenomenon.” He responded.

----my mind was blown-----

In 4 years, my sweet rural town of Adaba has gone from relative solitude to phallacio-filled circus acts and WWF wrestling trash. With all this classy entertainment I hope my environment students can appreciate some old fashion nature walks with me.

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