Not Just Clowning Around

"I'm growing," Meriweather's voice bounced, "I'm shaking right now, but I'm doing this, because I know I'm growing...I'm a little flower, and I like the water." An INFP barefoot: laying it all out on the floor for her peers at clown class. Meriweather Bean is one of 14 Ko'ox Boon camp counselors. Her small body dances in the place of singing, when there's nothing else to say. She, like all of us, has been tasked with the incredibly ambiguous and nearly alien chore of showing vulnerability. That's what clowns do. They allow themselves to be vulnerable in front of an audience.

Ko'ox Boon Counselors have to be clowns every day. Waking up and standing in the freckled sunrise of the Kaxil Kiuic mist to plan foolproof activities for making a million children feel special for at least an instant every day. It's a desperate fight against the winding wheel of a weary ship navigating the burnt landscape of a daunting TWO new languages. The Spanish sings. The Maya dances. Language plays around us; we prepare a chair for each of them--the children and the languages, "Sit down, stay awhile."

Each day at 3:30 in the afternoon, we pile into the back of Arsenio's white pick-up truck and arrive at a Camp that somebody else made up. When we try to figure out how our idea went from mural to summer camp, we settle on the fact that the children themselves demanded their own art camp. Maybe not directly, but with the way that they shake their hips at you when you walk down the street alone. Grabbing your hand and climbing up your side bodies with their reckless abandon, "Can we paint today?"

What do you mean you don't understand? PAINT! Not Crayons. Kerry watches a chorus of tiny mouths as they release sounds toward her. What do they want? She will give it all to them. I remember Kerry telling me that she wanted to come to Mexico this summer. It sounds so simple like that, "Hey! I want to come to Mexico too!"

Now they're all here, and being in Mexico is less bikinis and rum than reckoning with privilege and hammock sleep. The bleak part of this blog post is not tiredness and privilege--the two things that we battle with personally every day. But the real, personal weight of bad health care. The ceaseless beating of Coca Cola, Salbritas, Chokis and whatever other series of letters that facelessly keeps us in our places. Subsistence farming hurts backs and living in a jobless economy sucks--especially when your kid gets sick.  

Bridging the gap between privilege and oppression requires understanding the labor in making a perfect, round, salty, hot tortilla over the heat of an outdoor wood-burning stove. Skipping forks and pushing fingers into a mound of fresh shredded chicken, makes us laugh so hard with gratefulness. IT TAKES SO LONG TO SHRED A CHICKEN. But this is the moment that Samantha, Chelsey and I have waited our whole lives for. One shadeless light on dirt floors coaxes us to stand next to Mamá and stick our greasy fingers into the bones of a cold chicken and pull. Shred. Make it little. Honor Mamá by being patient, even 30 minutes in, because that's the zen of it all.  

It was Thursday night when we had dinner with my Yucatecan family. I've known Don Ana and Mamá for five years now. Slowly, I've brought my friends into their home. Phillip. Allie. Brandon. The home became their home. They tell us, "Siempre, estamos aquí, cualquier hora." Liz takes pictures of Orlando and Ulises dancing with all of the girls, trading flowers and feathers, growing taller. They turn and melt into one another with tickles. We all celebrate one another, with no cell phone service, a day's thickness of dried sweat. Parker and Allie cry when they have to leave. 

That night, no one said anything about any obvious hygiene issues. No running water for hand washing, a bucket will do. Underneath it all, we all know that we'd endure anything for closeness. A life with open doors only. 

Each day when we get back to Kaxil Kiuic, we feel the centripetal force (a term we learned from Disney) of our feelings coming in and out of one another. We spend two, three hours, ripping through one another's experiences each night. Rose and thorn is a group exercise which brings us all together at the end of a long day: one highlight, and the low of the day. We sit around a table and pick out the brightest one or two or three petals of our never-ending roses, and look hard for a thorn that isn't petty. Or, like clown class for Shaun, which was a thorn that became a rose. 

This week, we realized that our problems are not our problems anymore, but we feel the problems of the world. Our celebrations are never lonely, but always in the arms of many. My favorite part of every day is being back at Kaxil Kiuic, feeling the heavy hearts of my friends as they chatter incessantly about the things they learned, the kisses the kids gave them, and that's my rose. The people around me, thriving. I look back on a year of growth and I giggle nervously, thinking about how I got them all to come. And I realize, through it all I've been a clown, but only now does it seem obvious.