We woke up in a church in some boarder town in Thailand. It’s Sunday and the only Sunday in my life that I have been in church. Jesus and the King looking down upon me sleeping through a faintly moon lit single stilted shack. My alarm was set for 5:30 and I rolled around in my dreams until I finally pull my numb body off the floor. I roll my sleeping bag and pack for the hundredth time. Within an hour we were packed into the trucks once again, clearing out like we were never there, except the dust storm trail that our vehicles leave behind.
We meet a man who drives a flatbed with 20 children in it, he will lead the way. The three trucks turn down a dirt road and we enter what looks like Mars. The land is scorched with black marks from the recent fires. The road is red and dry. The horizon includes jutting rocky cliffs, almost misplaced for the flat barren land that surrounds them. These rocks hold the only signs of life, covered in green palm trees in the flat spaces they could find. Everyone is still groggy and have cloth masks on their face as they try to sing songs with the ukelele. We reach a check point. It’s barely discernible from any other buildings except its existence in this barren land. There are no guards; there is no one except us. We continue on through the open gates without hesitation.
It takes approximately an hour for us to reach the village. It is only 8am and the sun can just be seen over the trees that surround this place. I take a photo. I am quite amused by the piglets on the hill with their mama. We get out and stretch and wait for the two trucks to catch up. There is a sense of confusion in the air, no one knows what is happening, or where we are. Apparently our presence was a surprise to most of this village. We all get together and allow Jo to lead the way winding through the road framed by stilt houses. We take photos of the goats and chickens we pass, as they flock to the villagers like puppies. They stare. We stare back with smiles and waves. “Naylagay” is the word we use to say good day. We are lead into a house, unlike the others, this one touches the ground. We are lead up the stairs to some singing children and others sitting in a circle. I find a spot in the back corner, Ariel and Jonny join me as the other Sparkles find their way around the 10 X 10 room and find a space on the bamboo floor.
They speak Karen here, as this is specifically and Karen village. They speak in turns, sometimes singing. We are all confused as to what is happening, until, of course, she states in English for us “let us pray together”. Of course, I am in Sunday mass. Now, I have never really been into sermons, but ones in languages I don’t understand are even more difficult to consider. I am patient, the others are not. We endure (and probably embarrass) ourselves for an hour. Then they cook a meal for us, served in the same room as the sermon. Fish paste and rice with deep fried chick pea brittle is our meal. They give it graciously; I eat what I can forcefully and with a smile. I finish off most of my food, and they hand us pamphlets in Burmese to convert us to Christianity.
We begin our trek back towards the vehicles. We rummage for props, Jo tries to decide on a stage. We find an empty house that is perfect. The “shave and a haircut” call is made; we are all on one page. The show begins….
There are only those who saw us unload our trucks whom are with us to watch the show. There are maybe 100 people, but more hear the music and start coming around. We all try to disperse through the crowd as we normally do. I look up to see sayings above our heads, most of which I cannot understand, but one in English stands out. The paper is brown with age, almost like it’s been on fire and reads “Tide and time wait for no man”. I wonder what it means to me in this moment, here in a Karen Village, and I wonder what it means to them.
Garret and I MC off the top to get them excited while last minute ideas are shared among the team. The set list is stuck up and Curly is on. His magic act is so cute and has so many silly jokes in it. The formula is classic, but he pulls it off with style and confidence. They love him. He emits this air of “the cool guy”. He makes the magic cube appear with his volunteer and he’s off. Jo goes on with her super energetic sticky hoops act (I can’t get it off, oh no, get this thing off me!) and the room begins to feel smaller. People keep coming in, making our front row closer and closer. It is a good thing the hoop act was at the beginning! People start hanging off the rafters and completely closing the door by sitting in the entrance. I make a call out to everyone, we all have to come in to stand on stage the whole show or we wouldn’t get on stage. Anna-Lena and Thomas do their partner poi act. They begin with the chase to get the hat, and then steal each others swinging poi. They eventually have two pairs and and rocking it side by side. Andrea is sitting among the audience and is getting really upset. As our audience encroaches on our space it is difficult to gage how much space one has. Thomas was a millimeter away from them!
This tight space brings the energy of the room up a notch. Everyone is dying to see now and is pushing into every last spot of the room. Floor to ceiling there are people and more out the doors, then more at the windows in the back. They laugh at all our jokes, they are with us all the way! As shy as these people are, they have caught the excitement in the room and are with our every step. The whole sparkle crew is in the back clapping hands, blowing bubbles or holding puppets. The love every move, and, oh I have to get my things, I am on!
I am a little shakey off the bat, as my hat distracts me as it falls off with my head throw. I still got it, but I have to keep my energy up! I enjoy the flow of my act. I have done this so many times this month that it feels just like something I do. I start my 2 ball sequence. This is a bunch of isolation’s with stage balls, and for once, the crowd gets it! The clap and cheer, they think it’s hilarious! Wow! Great! Then to 3 and 4, and I do my joke hesitations for the end 5 ball trick. The scary part is I don’t always land it. This one I DO! YAY. It was totally fun and exciting. I felt the love when the clapped. The spotlight is passed to Ariel and her heart hoops. Wow, she is uber cute. Giving away her hearts until she is too sad and needs them back (but can’t get them!)
We end off our show with the usual, Americano choreography and everyone is so excited! Thunderous applause was followed with a dance party (getting everyone up and dancing). Of course, this is the difficult part as people are so scared of play in these regions. The super shy “get me out of here” face when they are forced to have fun is a juxtaposition to my theory of life.
We pack up and begin to drive again. This time we are going to our second show of the day, but we are tired. After the second show we take a long drive back to our guesthouse in Mae Sot. We take a long awaited luke warm shower (a luxury!) and return again to eat at Casa Mia. It is like a home away from home at this point, and I was quite happy for the day of rest that followed.