When it comes to taking a photograph I graduated from the school that believes it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission when clicking a shutter. A snapshot can be taken so quickly and extremely close to a subject if you don’t hesitate. Click, and move along – almost always nothing too scary happens.
So when Sara and I were tooling about Bali on our motorbike and I saw a group of middle school girls practicing some sort of a traditional dance in the courtyard outside of their school I quick turned around and figured I’d grab a picture or two and we’d be on our way.
This sort of stuff happens to us all the time when we are out and about on our adventures. People are – for the most part, really friendly and proud of their work – especially if that work is with youth and they are more than willing to show it off. Such was the case at this particular middle school outside of Ubud.
It seems they were preparing for a visit from a delegation of 50 multi-national representatives of the United Nation’s Asia Convention of the Rights of the Child and their whole school was involved. Traditional dance, art, calligraphy, and their studies were going to be on display. The representatives would be greeted by a monkey-masked dancer flanked by Rama and Sita resplendent in costume – then ushered through a phalanx of the whole student body who would cheer them on as they took their seats of honor to witness a pageant of Balinese culture. All the kids needed now were some stunt delegates – some stand-ins to whom they could direct all their preparation during this dry run.
Enter two crackpot poets from Cleveland Ohio! Tada – Sara and I became the focus of a spectacular extravaganza orchestrated by the staff and the entire 900 members of the student body. We were led in to cheers, fed delicacies and test-drove those seats of honor as the kids ran through their routines. Then we were ushered through the various stations scattered across campus highlighting different arts, crafts and studies. All in English to boot – the kids were eager to show us what they were up to and we loved being treated like Grand Pooh-Bahs. The admin and teachers asked us how the students English was (excellent) and if we enjoyed what we were seeing (we sure did!) There was so much hard work evident but everyone was all smiles the whole while.
After an hour and a half of this we bid farewell to all our new friends and were humbled to be invited back the next day when they were going to perform in earnest. We of course took them up on the offer and we were so proud of the kids, all decked out in costume hitting their marks and smiling at us like we had a secret (which we kind of did.)
We knew how much hard work had gone into their presentation just from witnessing their day before rehearsal. And even though we really didn’t do anything ourselves to get them ready – it still felt like they were a little bit our kids when they shined for their visitors. And that kind of is the point isn’t it? They are all our kids and I can’t think of a better cause than advocating for children’s rights in the world.