A Very Special Education

I’m dancing with a really pretty girl. Her hands in my hands we are doing turns around each other to the tune of the Mexican Hat Dance. One two three, clap, clap, clap, around and four, snap, snap, snap, turn around again. Her lovely face is looking up at me with dark eyes, and my pride is warmed by the admiration emanating from her big white smile. She is moving her slender body with grace and exuberant enjoyment. Her very slender body that is in fact, in a very sad fact. Her lower limbs are not much more than skin pulled tightly over bone and her slim and long arms reach up to me from the floor, where she is condemned to sit for the rest of her life, I’m pretty sure of that. Her two clenched feet are turned out at a very odd angle, making upright walking impossible for her, this gait that, as we humans are so convinced, separates us from the animal world. When we had arrived at the school less than half an hour ago, I had fist seen my girl, dragging her body along with her bare hands and arms, while wielding a long hand broom and diligently cleaning the classroom floor, getting it ready for the dance demonstration. She did that with the same wide smile on her pretty face.

Separated also, and with the same irrational logic, are all the eighteen kids of the Special Ed School Beatriz and I came to visit this sunny afternoon. They are tucked into a small derelict building at a corner of the main school, where all the normal kids sport their brightly colored uniforms and shiny school bags. Some come and peer through the barred windows while Beatriz is teaching the class another simple dance, this one from her home country Colombia. Most of the kids here on the inside are not as bad of as my little friend and can move their arms and feet enough to blend into an almost normality. Looking around from behind the counter, where I now took over the roll of disc jockey, turning the music on and off whenever needed, I suspect that three or four of the girls who pick up every little nuance of Beatriz’ moves, are here not because they underperform in some significant way, but because they are too bright, too independent, too wild and healthy for the drill of standard education.

Camera Camera Camera Camera Camera Camera Camera CameraThe four adult teachers who look after this little enchanting bunch of humanity are of the admirable kind, promoting encouragement and support and quite clearly having themselves a blast with this break in their normal routine in the realm of abnormality. Maria, the headmaster, is moving her brown arms and fingers with delicate grace, her face stenciled with stern dedication and focused attention. Andrea, the Australian intern who is here under the auspices of her governent, has taken over my place at the longing hands of the girl condemned to sit on the floor. Her disturbingly white skin apparently has refused to bend to the furious pigmentation under the tropical sun, in spite of having lived on the island for almost a year, but she makes up for that with her outgoing charm and her open mind, that allows for many more colors than even the rainbow can count. The only male teacher in the school is hugging his pupil friend in delight while doing the required turns for the Colombian dance, while Sita, whose rounder face reveals her ancestor’s origin from the Kiribati Islands further to the North, closes her pulled back eyes in a moment of delicate bliss. Her island homeland had literally been dug up from under their feet by the phosphate-mining corporations of the previously mighty British Empire. Once that greedy deed was done her entire community was relocated to Rabi Island here in Fiji, where they have had to make their new home ever since.

Camera Camera Camera Camera Camera Camera Camera CameraAfter a small break where everybody had rolled around on the floor smiling and giggling, we’re now on the final stretch, and Beatriz dishes up the ever-popular and quite domesticated version of the more contemporary world dance, where most commonly the rapping tales of a disenchanted youth in the USA have been gobbled up by the commercial enterprise of the biggest scale ever seen. Ice Cream and Cake is Eminem’s gift to the still innocent little citizens of the world, not yet distorted enough to be fed Gangsta’ Rap, where they can lick imaginary cones of sweet stickiness to the fiery rhythms of Hip Hop and squirm about with a series of other distinctively cool moves. Loud and hearty laughter is now fused to just as sweet exhaustion, physical weariness that lingers once the mind has bathed in happiness outside the social norm. The kids settle down on the floor and Maria with her motherly authority summons cool and calculated order after that much excitement. We are gifted a heart wrenching thank you from the kids, whose eyes have followed our every move and breath the short hour or so we were standing in their midst. Two girls in the back giggle some more and go on humming the Hip Hop tune in an infinite loop of bliss.

specedand1 specedand2 specedand3 specedand4 specedand5 specedand6Walking along the dusty road back into town a little while later we wonder why we are not able to this kind of work more often. There is, of course, the ever-present lack of support from the government and organizational side for cultural workers of our kind, even if that is only a small part of the excuse. We do our teaching missions with whatever means we can spare from our own scarce resources and those of you who have followed this blog for a couple years must by now remember that it is always precisely at this delicate moment in my storytelling when I come to muster up enough courage to ask you, dear reader, for your support. If you happen to think that these kind of activities are worth their while, and if you have a couple coins to spare towards bringing art and culture to the underprivileged in the dusty corners of this world, please do not hesitate to use the PayPal button to the right to make a generous donation. It would help us to continue providing these kinds of services to the communities along the winding paths of our wondrous wanderings, and they and we would thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

 

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