Sunday, October 20, 2013

bus ride with the clowns

the next day me and Qutaybah took off as early as 9.00 am to Amman. I only found out later that another arrangement has been made in Irbid for us to be with the clowns. However, it was a good thing that I went with Mr. Q (as all the clowns call him) that I get to be with them in the bus, because clowns in action and clowns in real life is two different story.


I noticed this from the previous day when Steve has multiple notepads in hand and he wrote down the ideas, and questions he needs clarifying. He owns a smartphone, a tablet and a macbook he carries around with him but he still wrote with pen and paper. And on the next day, Lars were asking around if anyone has a notebook with them as he needs it as his journal. "You're just like your father, aren't you, everything must be hand-written!". In the bus, Tyehimba "from the capital of the capital" sat next to me. Just as we took off and our fellow clowns begin to sing, he opens his notebook and start asking me for phrases to use with the kids. "I'm gonna write this in my journal, learning arabic phrases with Atiqah". He jots down the phrases, and if he's not asking me question, he would be writing about his encounter on that particular day.


"Knat T and Valeria"

doing our opening song

Chris dancing to a local song

Clay Mazing and his rope

We then arrived at the stadium in Zarqa'. I thought it was the Syrian kids we're clowning for, turns out they are just local kids. Well who cares, they seems to be needing some TLC too.[ CorrectionI was informed later that these kids are from Palestinian refugees family].I went from clown to clown helping them to interact with limited arabic I have. When it was time to perform Zuhr prayer, Patch asked me if it's okay for him to join the men to perform the prayer. I was okay with the idea, and told him to lower his pants and checked with a local if it's okay for them. He was hesitant at first, but then he told Patch yea he can join them.

as I go through my phone gallery I noticed someone took Yahou's picture as he learnt how to pray as well

After an hour and a half in the stadium we packed to leave. Some kids begged for us to stay longer or come again tomorrow, or next eid. Some went home frustrated as we ran out of baloons. We had to go because we reached "the peak". Before the excitement wears off the clowns have to leave, and as we leave, kids waved at us, we waved back, saying I love you.. Some of us goes with their newly found vocabulary of "ana behebbek". A kid actually sends us off with a middle finger. LOL.


Before we got off the bus in Zarqa', Tyehimba told me the story of his clown character, Knat T, after Nat Turner - he told me the story, but you are gonna have to do the search yourself. He has a degree in Ethnic study, a master in something else and planning to do a PhD. Only on our way back to Irbid I found out that he is 50 something (he stopped counting his age when he was 30) years old. Explains everything he has to say about everything. He opened our eyes that dreadlocks should be called locks instead, and how his locks formed by itself without having him to pay someone a dime to get his hair done.

As we took off from the stadium, he said children will be children no matter where they are. Lars lost his hair to an adult who ran off with it. Clay and Yahou got shot with toy guns. I asked Tyehimba if he was shot, he told me "Yea, those kids pulled out some guns and tell me 'Hey you give me money' and I was like, 'You give me money?' acting like I don't get what they are trying to do, then I just told them off that's not nice man, that's not nice. I know it's a toy gun but very realistic looking, I mean if we're in the alley, you wouldn't question it." In a conversation later, he added that if he have the language and not in his clown suit, he would have had a serious talk with those kids explaining what they did was wrong.

"I'm gonna write my encounter with these kids in my journal. I wonder to what extend 'my people' has to do to influence these kids to be like this." I told Tyehimba we have kids behaving like this in my country too, I think it's because of the gangster movies we have. I felt amazed that Tyehimba thinks "his people" have anything to do with this. In our country, sadly, I don't think the film-makers would feel a tiny sense of regret when they see kids talking in this manner, behaving like a gangster and what not.

We stoped for lunch and clown will forever be clowns, start entertaining people in the restaurant, dancing to the arabic music. Patch took out his huge underpants and later had me explaining to the ladies what are we doing there. I myself have no idea what to tell them, and thank God they seems cool with it.


During lunch, I talked to Yahou and learnt that he's only a year older than me. He has a degree in Psychology and master in clowning. I was surprised when he told me he started clowning before he went to college, and it was the clowning money that paid for his education. I guess if you take anything seriously, you will get something out of it. He has his own clowning company based in Canada and he's enjoying everything as he's doing something that he loves so much.


We then arrived in Irbid and waited for a group of kids to be entertained. We line danced and Patch played the underwear games with the volunteers. I went upstairs and saw 3 sister who are secluding themselves from the others. Fungus and his wife Miss Skete were there, I am so lucky to see how they deal with the girls. To see Salma, who was initially crying to go home, starting to hold the toys Miss Skete gave her, and finally ends up with us downstairs painting and strumming Valeria's guitar. I saw Salma's sister drawing Syrian flag, my heart was touched that this girl must have missed her home so much. 

After the painting session, the kids were brought outside and given pack of food. I heard a few boys plotting to hide their food and 'stealing' some plain water we have in the boxes. I asked them if they have eaten and they told me they are not going to eat it, they want to hide it and take it with them. It breaks my heart that this kids are feeling that way, it hurts me so bad that these kids look just like my nephews and I couldn't bear the thought of my nephews having to be in this state of deprivation.

Social networking and smartphones

One thing I noticed no one was really attached to their smartphones in this trip. I kept mine in the bag most of the time. I noticed everyone around me that day are so lively actually TALKING to each other, sharing their stories of countries they've been in, philosophy, and what not. Some are playing puppets and props with each other, or singing.. The only time smartphones are in use is just to take pictures. No one was checking their facebook, twitter or email (well probably because they don't have the internet connections!) but I then learnt that they are not heavy social networker (is this even a word?) anyway. Being with them makes the virtual networking so meaningless, I wish to communicate more with people around me after this.

Saying our goodbyes

We had to say our goodbyes as I can no longer be with them after that. I have exams I needed to study for. I wish I could have come along with them every day, but I guess these are all the memories I could cherish for the moment. As we say our goodbyes, I am amazed by the love these group have in them. I nearly cried when Vanina tells me "I love you", and we've only been together for few hours! We waved goodbyes and I watched the bus took off and I say my thanks to Qutayba for everything.

This is one of the best gift God has given me, the opportunity to learn from these people. I am still figuring out how do I bring this back to my country, or in my medical practice. How do I clown during my rotations? Or am I gonna do it as an extracurricular activity? I don't know just yet, but I'ma work on it. These clowns had touched so many heart, including mine as well. For the time being, I'll keep my clown nose within reach.

Friday, October 18, 2013

an evening with the clowns

It was the day after Eid, I went to Amman to attend this meeting with Patch Adams before we actually join him and his team to visit the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan. I nearly gave up on attending this meeting after not being able to find a company to go with me. Long story shot, I managed to get someone to go with who turns out to be the person in charge of the visiting programs, and I ended up having lunch with speakers for the transgenerational trauma and the founder of the Common Bond Institute and I was like, uhmm this is just crazy, but then it gets crazier!

I then left the discussion (I was there simply because I don't have anywhere else to be, and I recalled Qutaybah told me, "If you come earlier to a meeting, you will have better chance at meeting new people", yea, tested and proven!) and headed to one of the meeting rooms for volunteers who are going to join Patch's team to visit the camps.

There I was, with a bunch of medical students and 3-4 clowns, sitting in a circle, just like an AA meeting. 
Few minutes later, we did a nose transplant, and I got my first clown nose. What hit me during the session is that this crowd is no where near being judgmental. There's no way you would feel bad about yourself when you're among these amazing people. They are so humble and supportive. Ginevra, from Italy proposed that we introduced ourselves and do some opening gestures and picked a clown name. Everybody did it, the sillier the better and I wasn't a bit self-conscious or worry of what others might think of me. We were all there to be silly.

We are living in this stressful judgmental world where we think too much of what people think off us. We fear making fool out of ourselves. But when I look at the clowns, who purposely make a fool out of themselves, just to make other people happy. How is that not honorable? 

Then a larger group of clowns arrived, and Patch as well. He took a chair, and sat next to me. I was about to pinch myself to see if this is really happening. Then we talked about why are we there and the other clowns were to tell us what are they doing / bringing with them. I can hear in their sentences, the sense of humility, of how small they think their contributions are. 

There's Guillaume who studied Psychology to be a clown, and did his masters in Clowing. There's Merry Jerry who have 5 earned degrees, writes books and what not. And then there's Carl, a Yale-trained psychiatrist, journalist,Clay and Valeria who does music, more authors, artist, and etc. I wonder what makes them do this. What makes them do clowning.

When I listened to their stories, I was inspired to clown too. We were told to unscrew our head and put it aside to clown. To use our heart and not our head. When it was my turn, I told the group that when I first came, it was merely for the experience. But now that I've heard so much from you clowns, I wanted to be one too. I met unhappy kids in my life on daily-basis, those on the streets and in the hospital. I want to make them happy. 

I ended my day asking, was it really the sad people who needed the clowns to be happy, or was it the clowns who are in need to entertain and carve a smile on a sad face? 

..and I realized the next day, I was the one who needed both the clowns, and the kids, to remind me of the greater things in life other than all I've been thinking and focusing about. To find the best of myself and to realize the worst of myself.