8 Jan 2005 : Clowning at SK Tanjung Bungah, Penang
We arrived in Penang on Saturday afternoon. Since we arrived a little bit early we managed to visit some of the affected houses near the seaside before headed to the relief centre at SK Tanjung Bungah.
Tanjung Bungah: one of the house that had been washed away by the Dec 26's tsunami
After reporting to the relief center’s coordinator, we quickly prepare for the clown show at the canteen cum stage. Apparently most of the evacuees had returned to their houses (to clean up the mess) however words has gone by that clowns would come that afternoon to the relief centre.
Not long after that, throng of kids and parents started to fill up the canteen. Some curious kids circled around me while I am applying my make-up. As a my way of befriended the children the kid who sit the nearest to me will definitely gets his face accidentally ‘stamped’ with my powder puff as I puffed my face (to set the makeup cream).
SK Kuala Muda: Make-up session
As we prepared for the show, Sam a.k.a Uncle Button asked me to do the warm-up games with the children before he proceeded with his routine. Man! I never have the courage to be on the stage. It always makes the butterflies in my stomach go haywire! I am the timid and shy Dr Bubbles who usually prefer one-to-one interaction such as blowing bubbles with a child. Sam on the other hand is an experienced clown instructor at the Clown Camp® University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. For the record he is the only Malaysian ever inducted as the staff member of the Clown Camp®, the largest and the oldest clown training in the world. I have a great respect on him. I know somehow he wants to polish the ‘Joey’ in me to become a better one. So I took up the challenge. Luckily my volunteer teaching experience did help. So when the show kicked off, I managed to conduct the warm-up game - getting bunch of kids blowing the balloons and the team who blow the biggest balloons win. It was fun! It became funnier when they got the chance to choose the stuffed toys they wanted. “Ambil yang itu!” “Bukan yang itu!” you could hear the mothers shouted from the back and the kids duly obliged and picked the right toys for the smiling mothers. Haha! It was not the kids who wanted to play the game.
Anyway, I got my ‘revenge’ in the next game where the kids had to grab the mums to the stage and wore them the red noses. And cheekily the audience picked the funniest clown mum! Yes, now the mums had the chance to pick their own favourite teddy bears. And now the fathers shouted, “Ambil yang itu, Pah!”…hehe…
The show went on with Uncle Button displayed his routines. He juggled and invited the children to participate. It was hilarious. His wonderful and grand finale routine was to build the balloon house. He twisted here and there and Wallah! There’s the balloon house complete with ‘love’! It delivered a very simple yet powerful message to the evacuees,
“Let’s rebuild our life again.”
Tg. Bungah,Penang: Uncle Button building his 'house'.
Tg Bungah,Penang: a child with a red nose; a small triumph for us
We left Penang for Sungai Petani late in the evening. We stayed at the Park Avenue Hotel in Sungai Petani. Tired after a long journey we retired early. By the way we managed to get a glimpse of Mr. Eric Chia. Hmm…that’s another story.
9 Jan 2005: Kota Kuala Muda, the next morning
We went to Kota Kuala Muda as early as 8.30 a.m. after we were told by Mejar Anuar, our Mercy contact in Kedah, that the traffic would be ‘heavy’ in that sleepy village of Kota Kuala Muda with the presence of VIPs (later we did met some of them – Rafidah Aziz, Shahrizat Jalil, Chang Kong Choy and The US Assistant Secretary of State) and volunteers who came from all over to help with the cleaning up the area that day.
SK Kuala Muda: morning bath
We made our way to SK Kota Kuala Muda and set up the stage for our show. The canteen floor was filthy and the surrounding wasn’t so clean. You can see rubbish everywhere. Hmm…. . Anyway legion of MPSP cleaners soon came in to clean up the school compound. They sprayed disinfectant in the drainage, floors and toilets. Not surprisingly the compound soon crowded with people waiting for the VIP entourages to come at 10.30 a.m. We just kept busy setting the stage after all we were there not to greet the VIP. We got more important things to do that morning.
I started the show with the same routine. But soon I found out the kids and the audience wasn’t so receptive to our show compared to the group in Penang. Judging the situation, I quickly cut short my skit and handed over the show to Sam. After all, he’s the expert in stage show. I quickly step down .Later we found out the reason why. Apparently, there were big groups of clowns from Penang came to the school the day before and did some walk around. The problem with ‘Joey’ (newborn) clowns, they still lack of experience and skills. So they just give away balloons sculptures to the kids. It wasn’t a wise move. You will create queues and ‘gimme-gimme’ syndrome with the kids. To the kids, clowns just came to give away gifts. Hey, this is not what we are here for! We are here to make heart-to-heart connection. Anyway, after Sam did all his routines and finally wanted to wrap-up the show, he was talking to the audience on our wish to give away the stuffed toys we brought along. He didn’t even had the chance to finish his words, when all by sudden the kids swarmed the stage and cleared the stuffed toys within seconds.
DR Bubbles, my clown character do give away stickers and balloons to children. But only through experience you would know when to give and not to. On Kuala Muda visit, wisely he did not. People coming from all over came to give things to the victims and it creates the ‘giving away’ spree. Clowns supposed to be there to cheer up people. Very simple.
SK Kota Kuala Muda: Spinning my plates.
Anyway after the show we did walk around visiting the tents. I took the opportunity to hone up my improvisation; it also gave me the chance to polish up my clown character. After all, we clowns must see things differently.
Kota Kuala Muda: Uncle Button telling stories with balloons
As I walk around blowing away my smiles to the people and sometime spin my plates, I tried to see the ‘moment’ where I could sneaked in and ‘play’. Aha! From far, I see a family was walking along the pavement. The man, with skull cap was holding his daughters hand on the right and his wife was following him from behind.
I quickly and quietly sneaked in on his left and held his hand and there we go, a clown kid, a father a sister hand in hand just walking merrily towards the school entrance. We are the happy family in our own ‘imaginary’ space. The family just played along with a clown. That’s what the heart-to-heart connection I am looking for as a clown.
As we walked suddenly in the spirit of play, my cheeky clown mind thought of a new scenario. Now the man became the groom parading before a wedding. Aha! My yellow clown plate now became the ‘kipas pengantin’ covering his face. As we walked, I improvised further by shouting, “ Mana kompang? mana kompang?” , “Pengantin sudah sampai”, to the chuckled of the people around.
The man suddenly quipped, “ Jangan bagi NTV7 nampak sudah!”…Haha! That was funny!
Kota Kuala Muda: spinning my red cap.
We retired around noon. After lunch, we headed to the Kota Kuala Muda beach and managed to see the affected areas. I met some friends from Yayasan Salam Malaysia as they were helping to clean up the mess with other hundreds of volunteers who came that weekend.
Kota Kuala Muda: basuh rumah
We left for KL at about 5.30 pm and arrived home at 10.00 pm. I bunked myself that night tired but somehow satisfied.