Today was a scorcher: clear, sunny, and quite warm indeed.
We returned to OPAL higher secondary school to play with the classes we didn’t have a chance to meet on our last (rained out) visit. We arrived early in the day and watched the children do their morning exercises, standing in straight lines in the courtyard and reciting the Nepali National Anthem as well as practicing some marching and standing to attention at the Principal’s commands. We couldn’t help recognizing what a fun contrast our playshops would be!
Jennifer ran her first PLAYshop today and it was fantastic. The 8-9 year olds that joined us had a real treat with the innocent, curious and joyful way Jennifer set about exploring the group. It’s been a real joy to watch everyone develop their own style and come alive in the unique experience of inhabiting the middle of the circle. Deneen ran the second one under an increasingly hot sun, again proving herself queen of the Boo!/Aaaaah!!! Then a surprise guest volunteered to run the third playshop: Anju!
Anju courageously stepped into the circle as the third group joined us in their playground. The kids loved her and it was particularly special to have a native Nepali at the helm. Another sweet surprise was a particularly silly laughing, panting, howling-dog moment.
We took a break to escape the heat of the midday sun during which Deneen had some really sweet playtime with some toddlers in the playground and Anju and Jennifer relaxed on the couch in the Principal’s office. We returned after lunch for a fourth and final group effort in which Deneen and Jennifer shared a playshop with some enthusiastic, one might even say rowdy, boys.
Jonah here: I finished the day feeling extremely proud of the team for their courage, vulnerability and hard work. It takes a lot to do this work: to move into the unknown, to facilitate emotional expression, to allow groups to grow and move and make noise and to hold a space for chaos and harmony all under a hot sun in an unknown land. My proverbial hat is off to my team today for incredible growth and accomplishment. I’m even more inspired to continue training locals as I can see it’s really possible to empower others to carry on this hard work of play.
Jennifer here: In addition to doing the playshop, it really was rewarding to have the respect and thanks of the administrator and teachers. It was notable that in the first groups we work with, teachers joined and observed the students and as the day progressed, they just sent them in to play with us. We suppose it was a combination of their trust in us and their taking advantage of an opportunity to take a rest. We’re happy for both.
Anju here: I felt alive. And at some point I felt like I was a part of the children. I didn’t feel like I was making them do things. I felt like I was with them and we were doing things together. And I liked the howling and how they let out everything that was inside them with that noise. I loved seeing them laugh and smile and be themselves. I loved how they played - like they were supposed to. And I enjoyed being a part of something that I learned - and I am very grateful for it. Thank you, everyone, for making this possible.