As soon as I returned to my apartment here in Candelaria I had to sit down and write about my experience today. I had one of the most unbelievable experiences in my career today. I took a cab to a school called San Tarsicio here in Bogota early this morning and when I arrived there were children off-loading from a bus.
I heard cheers and yells of, “Es Baba, Baba esta aqui, Mire…es Baba! (It’s Baba, Baba is here, Look its Baba!) from all over the campus. It was unsettling at first because I couldn’t believe they were yelling for me. The children followed me to the office in Pied-Piper fashion and filled the small space to its capacity. There were children filling the office, standing outside of the doorway, in the windows pressing their faces against the glass. It was surreal. My mind was having issues trying to wrap itself around a clear understanding of what was going on.
My contact, a woman named Roxanna, entered the office not too long after me with the brightest most cheerful smile a person could possess. She grabbed me and hugged me like we were friends who had been separated by distance and time. I literally melted under the adoration, praise and affection of my surroundings, and… I HADN’T EVEN PERFORMED YET!
The children formed themselves in to a line from the office to outside of the office doors and down a long hallway in order to get autographs from me. I’m definitely not in Kansas, I’m in Colombia! I signed autographs, answered questions, shook hands and hugged, at least, 30 to 40 people before the bell rang and the children had to go to class. The children had to be forced to go to class. It was jaw dropping to watch.
I hadn’t even performed yet!
I wasn’t prepared for what would happen when Roxanna escorted me to the auditorium. The entire auditorium was decorated with images of me, greetings and signs from children, posters with quotes from some of my writings and stories. I stood in the aisle of the auditorium and just shook my head. I, a storyteller, was at a loss for words.
I asked Roxanna how all of this came about and she explained how the staff, teachers and students had all visited my website, watched my videos on YouTube and did as much research on me as they could. Roxanna explained that the excitement was because of me and my music and stories (my head still unable to fathom the depth of what was happening to me).
I savored every second of the warmth this school was giving me. They made me want to give them the best I had to offer, and I sincerely hope they felt that I did.
I had four performances during the day. The first performance was for children ages 6, 7 and 8. That performance went really well as I attempted to navigate their language and apprehension skills with methods gained from working with “Dual-Immersion” schools in Southern California. The second session was with students who were 9, 10 and 11 years old.
Prior to the second session I was approached by two kindergarten teachers who explained that their children had not been made a part of the schedule due to funding.
Ya’ll know me right?
Well, I had a break at 11:30 am for about half an hour between sessions. I told the kindergarten teachers to return at 11:30 and bring their children and I would do something special for them.
Hey, it’s my break and I can do what I want with it! Right?
Anyway, the kindergarten teachers return with about 40 to 50 students (none of them spoke any English). I had them sit around me in a semi-circle where I could make eye contact with each and every one of them. I sat on the floor with them at their eye level and began talking to them “rhythmically” in Spanish. I taught the 4 and 5 year olds a song and played my Kora while we sang together. They were an eager and extremely attentive group of 4 and 5 year olds. I mixed a simple tale into the middle of our singing, chanting and call/response. I allowed one of them to close the tale out with his suggestion of its ending. It was a great success! Those children were hugging and thanking me as they exited the auditorium. That was such a magical moment for me that words will never do it justice. To look into the eyes of 40 to 50 kindergarteners and not feel a second of inattentiveness is miraculous.
Since it was an all boy’s school, I shared stories of development, decision making and manhood. With the older group I even delved into the use of storytelling by popular media to affect their choices (or what they had believed to be their choices before I finished with them).
At every corner I turned at San Tarsicio I was greeted with smiles and open arms. By the end of the day I felt energized, not tired from presenting. The staff and students at San Tarsicio definitely gave me more than I could possibly ever return to them. One of the students even created a video to commemorate my trip to Colombia and their school.
If I am to truly show my gratitude and appreciation for the level of hospitality that they demonstrated then I will need to continue writing for the next couple of days non-stop. I hope that I’ve conveyed my appreciation effectively because these are children that I never wish to disappoint.
Thank you staff and students of San Tarsicio you are an absolutely amazing group of people!
Here is a link to the video the school prepared for my visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOeCtMcDjxk