2013_05_26 Escueal de PalabrasIt has been a week of constant, rapid motion, daily performances and digging deep to pull from that reserve of energy fueled by passion for one’s purpose. One of the issues of being a professional speaker, musician and performer is that there is “never” a moment that you can place your performance on cruise control. Every organization or individual that patronizes your services expects to receive the highest caliber presentation they can and your task as presenters is to “exceed” their expectations. I strive to do this, but when the weekend comes it is time to recharge. In this way I can ensure bringing the best that I can to all the audiences I encounter.

To say that I was tired by the end of this particular week would be an understatement. The last thing I wanted to do was plan more activities for the weekend, but… I had been invited by my “brother-in-spokenword,” Wayqui, to visit his school, La Escuela de las Palabras (School of Words). There was no way that I was going to miss an opportunity to commune with other storytellers here in Lima. So I pushed the “I will sleep tomorrow button” on in my mind and prepared for a day of more movement and activity.

One of the brothers from the school, Renato, was kind enough to go out of his way and pick me up to make sure I made it to the gathering. He is a kind gentle soul who, by all appearances, is a very soft-spoken man; that is until he takes a stage to tell stories. His ability to command the stage was not only impressive, but equally entertaining. It was a joy to watch him do his thing later that evening along with other tellers from the school.

When we arrived to la Escuela de Palabras, they were already in session, seated in a circle on the floor of one of the main rooms upstairs. Two candles sat in the center of the circle. It was one of the warmest, most inviting environments I have ever entered. I felt welcomed immediately the moment I crossed the threshold.

It would take a while to detail all that occurred, but suffice it to say that I was immersed in the love of words by some very beautiful souls. One of the highlights of my afternoon was being enchanted by a fantastic storyteller, Rosario Rivadeneya Ortiz, re-telling a tale I had written many, many years ago. It is such a feeling of accomplishment witnessing someone else, not only perform, but enjoy material you’ve created.

Probably the “most” powerful moment for me occurred when the shy, somewhat demure Doris Layme Almonte raised her hand to volunteer to share a story. Earlier I had chided Doris for her shyness and tried to encourage her to tell a tale, but she retreated even further within. I don’t know if this ever occurs with any of you but, you look into another person’s eyes and what they display to the world, externally, is not a tenth of who they are internally. I could see something in her and I wanted to just hear her tell a tale. Near the end of the session, Doris raised her hand and the entire room sounded off in excitement and anticipation.

In no way was I prepared for the strength, power and force of telling that emanated from this young woman. She began telling a very complex Andean Myth that would have challenged even the most seasoned of wordsmiths. Her eyes lit up and her facial expression became that of a person possessed of their passion. It was a thrilling experience.

You know I have to throw in my clumsy moments as well. I have to be honest if you guys are going to continue reading this journal.

Since I’ve been in Lima, my Spanish speaking abilities have soared. I’ve sat with strangers on the street, in restaurants and held full-on conversations. When I’m with my brother Wayqui, there is “never,” I mean “never” any English spoken. I’m really proud of how my fluency continues to increase (in spite of age). Well, the clumsy moment. When I was being introduced to everyone and they were saying who they are and what they do, one of the tellers, Sylvia Box, said that she’s a Spanish Teacher.

Damn!

That’s all I could think. Here I was cruising through the culture and language like a champ and now I was going to be judged by someone who teaches the language. Damn!

Initially, I stumbled quite a bit while addressing the students. My nervousness at being in the presence of an actual Spanish Teacher got the best of me. Sylvia’s delicate demeanor and gentle guidance actually helped set me back on my comfortable path of fluency. She only corrected me when I begged for help and often nodded in affirmation letting me know she was understanding everything I was saying. I even got the greatest compliment from her near the end of the session when she told me that I had an excellent command of the Spanish Language. Can you see my big, big smile?

I had planned to finish the session at Escuela de las Palabras and then head back to my flat in Miraflores for some much needed rest. They were having an evening activity following the session where some of the students were going to take the stage at the Peruvian-Japanese Cultural Center in the Jesús María District of Lima for a show entitled “Encuento Amateur de Cuentacuentos y Monólogs: Tengo la Palabra.”

I later learned that this is a show that Wayqui has been coordinating with the Peruvian-Japanese Cultural Center for quite some time. The show is free and draws huge audiences. Amateur storytellers open the show and then, sometimes, two or three professional storytellers will close. Wayqui has found a way to put into practice what many only talk about. His students are challenged to grow in their storytelling by actually performing in front of large audiences.

Well… like I was saying, I had planned to depart and head back to my flat after the gathering at the school, but they had all been so welcoming and warm that I felt I would have been remiss if I did not show my support for those students taking the stage that evening. When I told Wayqui that I would go with them to the evening’s performance and he announced it to the students, they erupted in cheer and applause. That made it all worth it. I was, quite literally, being inundated with love, appreciation and respect. Who could walk away from that?

When we arrived at the cultural center, I was made an honored guest and invited to partake of everything offered in the green room. Wow! Everywhere I turned I was being affirmed in my decisions.

The crowd was almost all adults, maybe a little between 80 to 100 people at any given time. It was extraordinary to watch this audience rapt in the tales of the tellers and responding with enthusiasm.

I didn’t make it back to my flat until 11:30 that evening and, for those who know me, you know that is well past my bedtime.

Sunday will definitely be a day of rest but, I’m also quite sure I will spend time reflecting on the incredible day I had with my new family at la Escuela de las Palabras.

STORYTELLING as TECHNOLOGY

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