Back to the Past

teatro guiñol

The number of proposals for events that people have been bringing to La Colmena is by far larger than I expected it to be. We have had people asking about book readings, concerts, dance premiers, theatre shows, and even a fundraiser for an independent film production. And just as many or perhaps more proposals we keep receiving for other activities to host at the space: from theatre rehearsals to free medical and psychological orientation sessions.

Despite often feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work that putting all these ideas into practice would mean, talking to people who are looking for a home for the projects make me feel like the space is in fact fulfilling (or trying to fulfill) an important role in the community. There are many creative projects incubating in the a city as big as Mexico City, but it seems like the opportunities they have to grow and make themselves known are more rare, or at least made difficult to access by fees not all can pay, links with the government not everyone wants to accept, or even bureaucracy traps no one wants to deal with.

We don’t have as much time and space to support as many of these proposals as we would like to, but we have had a fair number of them come true in these past couple months. The last weekend of July we had three different events–a colloquium on the Cuban revolution, a puppet show, and the first performance of a theatre group that has been rehearsing at La Colmena. Plus we had the workshops we have every week, including the “Talks for sustainable lifestyles” which this time was about water rockets!

Cohetes Colmena

But the weekend before was particularly moving. Many of our friends from Mexico who are part of La Colmena are very active in the slam poetry community of the city, and Fiesco, a good friend of this community, had been in the hospital until around the time we opened the space. Although he was much better when he got out of the hospital, the treatment he had to follow was very expensive, creating a big struggle for his family. The slam poetry community then decided to organize an event to help his raise money for the treatment. The performances of that night were particularly inspiring, and the entire evening we share a very positive atmosphere. But we were all extremely surprised and shocked when Fiesco himself showed up. Only the friend who drove him here knew he was coming,  because he couldn’t leave his house very often. With tears in his eyes, Fiesco told us how grateful he felt for being there with us, for having us be there with him, and for being able to walk again, read again, speak again.

Slam Colmena        Fiesco Colmena

Back to the Future

Septiembre Calendario Colmena

Before I go back to the past to make up for the past few weeks of not writing on this blog, here’s the September calendar of La Colmena, to take us to what seems like is going to be a very Zen and musical month.

And here is a the first flower that blossomed in our hydroponic strawberry plant, and which hopefully foretells lots of delicious berries for everyone.

Flor Colmena

Map Making at Macalester

I have returned to Macalester and am using the library computers with ArcGIS software to make my maps. While this was supposed to be the easy part – access to reliable computers and far from Nepal monsoon weather- I’ve run into one challenge of the compatibility of Professor Sokal-Gutierrez’s research statistics with my own data. I was hoping to use her data and statistics from the past 3 years regarding average number of tooth decay, malnourished children, tooth brushing and nutrition practices, etc for each individual campsite in Nepal (5 in urban Kathmandu and 5 in rural Sindhupalchok). These numbers could easily be imported to my maps and compared with the distribution of junk food stores around each school/campsite (the data I collected while in Nepal). However, when I had another meeting with Professor Sokal-Gutierrez and her students after returning home in early August, I learned that all of their statistics have been grouping the Kathamndu sites and Sindhupalchok sites, only testing overall differences between urban and rural tooth decay and oral health related practices. Therefore, I have to wait for them to calculate statistics between each individual campsite, which may take days or weeks. For the rest of the summer I will be working on reference maps for Professor Sokal-Gutirrez’s various presentations to government and non-governmental organizations. We both feel that maps are a key way to visually display the often unexpected large distribution of western-style junk food in both urban and rural Nepal. I am also excited to make a map showing both the elevation of Sindhupalchok, distribution of stores, and eventually large percent of tooth decay in this area. After personally experiencing the difficulties of walking through this extremely hilly region and the surprising amount of stores selling candy, soda and chips, I feel a map is the best way to get the message of the decaying oral health epidemic across to potential funders of this project or policy makers.


ReferenceMap SD

My Home Town: Week 2 of Teaching


Everyone in motion, creating our final scenes in Roseau.

For my week in Roseau, I really felt that I got the hang of the material. I was able to structure the workshop in a way that eased everyone into it. I still had a range of experience levels, but I didn’t feel like I lost anyone. My group was smaller in Roseau than it had been in Plainview, but I was able to really get to know everyone better and talk to them more individually.

I took much of the material that I had worked with in Plainview, but adapted it further. I created several games out of the more “serious” ideas that I was sharing. For example, we worked on making characters out of animal movement, and I added a game that I called “Noah’s Ark.” Each student drew a random animal (for which there was a pair in each set). They had to find their partner, communicating through movement and action. It was great to see how much the students found more playfulness in these games than they would have had otherwise.

At Roseau, as well as at Plainview, it made the students a bit uncomfortable when I suggested that we make small pieces to share with their families (a part of my proposal). With only fifteen hours in total, it placed a sudden pressure on them that I wasn’t interested in. When we decided to just explore together, the students were able to relax and thereby get more out of the material.

In Plainview, I had started making a habit of checking in frequently with the students about what we had just done. In Belgrade in a professional setting, this was never a part of our routine. But it became apparent to me that the students needed that space to put together the things that we had done (and I needed that space to hear what they had learned from it). I continued this in Roseau, and though it wasn’t always earth-shattering for them to talk through what we had learned, I could see them learning from themselves and each other in those moments.

And I had my share of happy teacher moments. The students really had a lot of fun, and I could tell. They created several scenes that I was very proud of. This made always want to have more time. Whereas three hours felt like a lot of time to fill on my first day, I found myself always wanting more time with the students. Three hours was suddenly never enough.

Always more to say, but next comes my final group in Farmington, MN!


P.S. More pictures!Image

Rehearsing short group scenes.

Group photo on our last day.

(Something I meant to post a couple weeks ago but couldn’t finish and now it’s too late so I’m going to start a new post)


We are almost on the last week of July, which means that we’ve had to spend a fair amount of time figuring out our plans for August at La Colmena. The constant movement of people who live in the house, and the way we have been organizing and promoting our workshops and activities in a monthly basis all mean that we have had to create new calendars and even ideas for how to live and work together every month. Agost seems like is going to be a really fun, busy and hectic month. Three of us are leaving Mexico City to go back to the US, and that means having to say some difficult goodbyes, but we also have some friends coming in to live with us, and that means I’m crazy excited at the same time. We have needed some extra time at our Sunday meetings to work out details like, who will live in which room now? and who’ll lead the English workshop once Em and Chlo leave? But I believe that the continuous change that we see at La Colmena is a thing that has made us learn more about who we are and what we want to do while remaining willing to rethink the ways we do things here.

Colmena anuncio