Biblioworks Wk #8 - Puppets in Presto

Trip Start Dec 06, 2010
Trip End Mar 31, 2011

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Where I stayed
No Name Hotel

Flag of Bolivia  , Chuquisaca,
Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Presto is 95 km east of Sucre. I am guessing that there are about 1000 people living there, but it is hard to know. Once again, the only information that I could find about Presto comes from the Biblioworks Volunteer Handbook:

"When the people in Morado K'asa began building their library, the mayor of the tiny town of Presto became interested. He approached Megan (the Peace Corps volunteer who started the libraries) to discuss the possibilities of implementing a library in his town.

Presto has the advantage of being a municipal capital and while Megan was interested in working there, she didn't know how to fund it. Again, enter brother Brendan who with the Board of Directors of decided to officially establish Biblio Charitable Works Inc. in order to implement the library in Presto.

Currently the library in Presto is still functioning and is in an enormous perfect space on the main plaza of the beautiful town of Presto."

It was a clear, sunny day when we started out to Presto. Being up so high in the mountains, we had terrific views of the countryside as well as the impending black storm clouds. There were shepherds with their flocks, women walking home from the market with big bundles on their backs, men plowing their fields with oxen and people mounding potato plants.  For the first hour and a half, the road was good and then we turned onto a cobblestone road that we took for another 1 1/2 hours. It was a bumpy and noisy ride but the views were magnificent. Passing landslides and fallen boulders, and driving through newly formed streams that crossed the road, we finally reached the town of Presto.

Matt had told us that the library was housed in a wonderful large building, next to a very old church. The library had gone through several librarians since it opened, but the current librarian enjoys his job there and the Biblioworks' staff are trying hard to support him as he learns how to run a library. Training new librarians is a big job and Presto is far away from Sucre.

Presto is an isolated town in a pretty valley. The well-kept central park was green and a good meeting place for people who just wanted to sit and talk. The concrete roads were narrow and the adobe houses close together. When we arrived it started to rain and the streets which sloped down to the river became ankle deep streams of flowing water

Upon arriving, Roxana immediately looked for a place for us to stay. There were no signs indicating hotels, but Roxana asked around and we ended up getting 2 rooms - one for Roxana and one for the 4 of us. Our room was pretty sparsely furnished with 4 single, sagging beds and a light bulb. That's all. Later on, when it started to rain harder, we had to move Chris' bed and add a piece of furniture to our room - a plastic water bottle to catch the falling drips from the ceiling... 

We went off to the library to quickly set up the theatre in preparation for our show.

Ever since Beve Matson, a fellow teacher, introduced me to the world of puppetry, I have had a deep respect for the power that these little figures have in igniting the imaginations of children, as well as adults. No where else have we seen such pure joy and creativity than in the little village of Presto, Bolivia. 
Once our puppet show, The Armadillo's Song, began, the library full of kids was turned into  a magical  world of talking animals by a tottery, old grandmother who entered the room and asked the kids if they wanted a story read to them. Following a resounding, 'Si',  the story and the puppet show began.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Hidden behind the theatre's curtains, we could hear the delighted giggles of little children as the puppet Frogs twisted to Rock Around the Clock, and the Rooster and his girlfriend Duck danced the Macarena. We heard sad sounds of sympathy as the poor armadillo who wanted to sing was mocked by the animals that could sing. And at the end of the play, when the armadillo finally realizes his dream and has turned into a charrango, happy applause. Gail, who plays the live music, is seated out front,  has the best seat in the house when it comes to seeing the kid's reactions. Good for us, as she also can take photos when she is not playing.   She is the lucky one who sees the sparks in the totally-engaged kids' eyes.
A puppet show is a wonderful and entertaining art form, but children can do a lot more with puppetry, rather than just observing other peoples' efforts. For that reason, we added the puppet building workshop to our little program. Twenty four children from the village, 8 to 12 years old, are chosen by their teachers to take part in this workshop. We use lots of materials, many of which are very  new to the kids and teachers. Imagine having never seen or used pipe cleaners! Crayola markers and Model Magic (an air drying clay) are novelties.  The children in Presto were amazing! The respect for the materials, as well as for us, was wonderful.  And the creativity? Wow!  Just check out the photos, below.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Something that we don't have time for, but hope that the teachers or librarians can do following our program, is to have the kids make up and perform little puppet plays of their own. This is where language, reading and comprehension skills come together as meaningful learning, in hands-on learning and practical skill application.  It was only in Presto that we saw this happen.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Following the workshop, 5 keen little girls and Roxana, took their puppets and made up a puppet play, using the edge of a table as their theatre. We could hear a shaman's voice as well as see a boyfriend and girlfriend who were discussing their problems. Already, the girls were looking for alternative theatres in the library - an open bookshelf, an empty box, a computer cover.  Ideas for stories from library books were being discussed. Those Presto kids were on to something!

In the meantime, Pat and Chris found time to do some of the repair jobs that needed to be attended to. Top priority was to add more light to the library. There were no lights over the bookshelves or the librarian's desk and the library was open in the late afternoon and evening. Imagine using a library with limited lights. The guys did the best that they could in the time that they had and without a ladder! Tables on top of tables got them high enough to work on the lights ...(The 'ladder training' course that we had to take when we were teaching wouldn't have been necessary here.) Then they added the reading glasses shelf and the coat/backpack rack

After lunch and a little walk to the replenished river, our private combi van was waiting to take us back to Sucre. Things had dried up a bit and the sun was out. As we drove home, Chris had to hop out of the van a few times to move a few of the larger, fallen rocks from the road. The rains really do a number to the roads in Bolivia!

Once again, we came home to our appreciated comforts - firm mattress, bedside lamps, internet (and Leaf scores), dry bedroom with hardwood floors and plenty of hot water in the shower.

On Sunday, if the weather permits and there are no lingering transportation strikes, we are going to Biblioworks' 6th library in Sopachuey (soap-a-choo-ey) which is a 6 hour bus ride away.





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ana sydney on

How wonderful!! Thank you so much for sharing this great experience with us!! All the best for the rest of your stay,

Mike Maurice on

I love what you do to the kids. Maybe we should call you the MAGICIANS instead of Lady and the Tramp.

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