The past few weeks have been busy ones. Work has picked up, and an increasingly large amount of students have been showing up to my classes. I have also been getting an increased number of requests to teach English, guitar, and theater in various locations. In addition, I have been busy with personal projects, such as training for the semi- marathon in Marrakesh, which I plan on running in late January.
Theater in my site has proved to be much more of a challenge than I had anticipated. The largest obstacle is in the demographics of my students. Thus far the vast majority of them have been girls, all between the ages of 15-20, and all very conservative (not the most receptive group of participants for the performing arts). Thus, on top of the language barrier (in most classes I have had to do all the translating of complex game/scene instructions myself) I have the barrier of getting them to break outside of the conservative, non-creative box that many of them seem to be trapped in.
I start each class with a few warm-up exercises, such as "the ball of energy". This particular exercise(compliments of Peace Corps skills transfer) involves creating an imaginary "ball of energy", and passing it around in a circle from person to person. When played correctly, each person in the circle does something unique with the fake energy, and passes it along to someone else. As easy as it may sound to pretend to have a fake energy filled ball, it is an very, very difficult task when presented to the conservative Muslim women in my community. As a result I begin this activity, as I do many of them, with stressing the importance of acting fishkil(weird) or hummak(crazy) in order to be good at acting. To illustrate my point, I act over the top when doing these activities (ie- running around the room like a maniac with the fake ball of energy, or pretending to eat it and have it shake around in my head before spitting it out and passing it along). This example setting, when repeated, seems to gradually work with getting them to be more and more creative and silly (although some of them or undoubtedly freaked out by such behavior).
Now that I have had 4 class sessions full of theater games focusing on different acting skills(improvisation, acting of emotions, and trust games) I feel that we are ready to start planning some plays. Our next big project is to create several skits about human rights (human rights day is coming up) and have a competition for members of the community to come watch. Planning of this will begin this Saturday, so only time can tell how it will turn out.
On a completely different, non-work related note, I got a puppy! I understand that this could have been very bad decision, yet after finding her there was just no way I could have not taken her in. I found her curled up under a rock by herself while biking with a friend this past weekend in the Ziz Valley. She looks clean and healthy, and could very well be the cutest thing that has ever come out of Morocco. After spending a good 20 minutes struggling with my cognitive dissonance, I made the decision to take her, put her in my backpack, and ride away. After consulting with a friend for a name, I've decided on Ziz(zeez), from where I found her. I have had her for 3 days now, and am still torn as to whether or not this was a good idea. I suppose only time will tell, although I am already feeling better about having a friend living with me here.
I must now go and practice for the marathon that awaits. I have the entire desert in my backyard as training grounds, and am happy about finally having the time and space to train for such a thing, and put in my personal best. Until next time...