Playing Sticks

So the whole community got together on Saturday to listen to people play sticks.

This is how it went down… project partner says to community: “Hey guys, we’re going to have a Social Night on Saturday to talk about our field trip, eat food and play some sticks.” People oblige and forget all about it. I head up to my site and am told everything is ready – just need to go buy some food, get everything organized and make sure everyone knows what is going on. Right, so I have to do EVERYTHING. Fine. I’ve done it before and I guess I’ll do it again. Thus, I spent my Friday and Saturday rounding people up, frantically getting lists of materials that we needed and basically we just threw it all together Saturday night as people were showing up. Chaos. Disorganization. In the dark for the first hour. Fine. Then sticks were played, and all was well.

Amongst the chaos there were a few moments of joy and enlightenment, though. I threw together all of the pictures from the field trip to Los Naranjales from last Tuesday, along with various pictures with the community over the last 18 months (including the Santa photos) and showed them with the projector. It was amazing how the chaos turned to calm as the community stood bedazzled by the fancy technology and a glimpse into our past. They especially loved the candid pictures I’ve taken of random community members with funny faces or in their underwear. They were “unhappy” afterward but I couldn’t help myself, it was pretty funny. After enjoying 20 minutes of showing pictures in a pitch dark wooden shack of a schoolhouse packed with 100+ people, we entered chaos once again. The purpose of the event was to share what we learned and saw in the field trip with the rest of the community. Unfortunately, everyone had stick playing on their mind which is equivalent to ADHD times 100. We had a few people stand up and talk about the experience, which most people couldn’t hear, but what I could hear was very exciting and struck me to my bones. I heard a people who had a new sense of vision, who were starting to catch a glimpse of what it would take to make Las Barreras a place where people could live and be happy. I heard people who spend their entire lives working for themselves to earn a few bucks talking about unity and collaboration. It was pretty special.

Then the stick players came. And they played sticks. “Tocar palos” is what the community calls it. I’d call it playing drums… you might too. Its a bit more than that though. There is some strange ritual around playing sticks here in the DR. In order for the woman to loan us her “sticks” (drums), we had to light her a candle, heat up the drums before playing them, and turn in a bottle of rum to her when we finished. All part of the religious ritual that the woman is part of. And then the sticks start playing. Three men tie the drums to their waist, all with the same rope, vowing not to stop playing until some ambiguous time when they can stop. Other join in by chanting and making up words to the drum beat, while the majority joins in by dancing. They call it “dancing sticks”. For example, they might ask you: “do you know how to dance sticks?” I say, “no”, but I can make it up. And so I did. Its actually really fun, because its just a 1-2 beat, and it seems like you can do pretty much whatever you want. No rules. I saw one younger guy doing some sort of chicken dance, while another 20 year old guy stomped around like a crazy man. It was hilarious.

We ate foot. The stick playing ended all too soon (in my opinion). We drank tea. And the people went home around 1 AM. Success. Chaos, but success. Hopefully we’ll have another one when we finish the water system.

Much love.

P.S. I played hopscotch with some girls yesterday and fell flat on my face on my very first turn. Like literally sprawled out laying on the ground. I ended up winning though.

P.P.S Happy Thanksgiving!

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