Going Home

by Webmaster 31. January 2015 20:12


It’s been tough to write anything about going home, simply because it hasn’t felt real. Essentially, I have not wanted to write this page because I don’t want it to end and it feels impossible to sum up. Truth is, so much of my heart goes into clowning, locally and globally. While I love my job and the people around me; it can never compare to the love and fulfillment that I feel in being a clown. The only thing that truly feels right is to say that I know that this isn’t finished. I know that there are more trips, more clowns, and more stories yet to come. All I can do is be obedient to Jesus and His calling.

Team video highlights by Mark Holmquist is available at https://vimeo.com/121801391


A couple of the “good-bye” pictures with the team:



Mazatlan: January 22 - Day 5

by Rebecca 22. January 2015 23:32

Stone Island

To get to Stone Island, you have to take a tiny boat and in total it's about 45 minutes to an hour, to arrive.


Jorge brought two clowns, one of them had participated in our recent clown class and Jorge wanted them to get some "on the job training." They didn't dress as clowns but we reviewed skits upon arrival at the colonial and then they reviewed balloons animals and watched the face painting.


After reviewing the skits and magic quickly, I assisted in communicating our arrival to the neighborhood.

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One of our stops brought us to a house with a little boy who was about 1 years old and absolutely fascinated with my nose. He attempted several times to jump out of his mother's arms and grab on to my nose. I did see him later on, with his family, they arrived at the colonial when the food truck arrived for burgers. Each time that I saw him though, his whole face lit up.

When I finished participating in communicating the team's arrival, I walked through the medical clinic and heard a boy attempt to get my attention. Apparently, he didn't see me when I first walked through. He did have special needs but it seemed that he had managed to steal the hearts of every individual in the community. He would walk up for face painting and immediately be allowed to cut in front of the line. He would walk towards the children and they would invite him to join their game of "Duck, duck, goose."

Additionally, there was a little boy in a wheel chair. Every time I saw him, he wore the biggest smile. One of my favorite moments was watching a team member help him participate in the various games. They would play "Duck, duck, goose" and the team member would push the wheelchair around the circle to enable him to participate in all of the fun.


There was a little boy whose mother wanted his face painted like a lion. However, he initially seemed to afraid so they settled on a frog painted on his arm. However, as I would paint various individuals faces he would watch me, absolutely memorized. After several minutes, his mother decided that he could totally handle getting his face painted. By that time, he had decided he was intrigued enough to allow me to paint his face like a tiger.


There was a little girl who was absolutely adorable. She told one of the other volunteers that she wanted to be picked up. The volunteer felt extra special, only to immediately be told that she really wanted to see the clown. But the volunteer could not walk directly to me, he had to walk all the way around so she could muster up the courage to talk with me. She did let me hold her only to immediately ask for her face to be painted (by that time all of my sponges and paint brushes had fallen into the dirt and were so disgusting, I had to put the paints away in favor of other activities). I apologized and told her that I could make her a flower balloon instead. She pouted and did her best to make me feel absolutely guilty before finally agreeing. Upon receiving the flower, she immediately used it to hit anyone nearby but she was so excited by it. She stayed close to me as long as possible until she was called in to see the doctor. However, she kept escaping to run and see the clown. Upon one of her escapes, she tripped and fell - not only scraping her knees but getting bitten by fire ants. At that point she did go see the doctor, crying the whole way. Not long following, I had to go in as I had managed to find a fire ant or two myself and needed some kind of cream. After I was given hydrocortisone cream, I looked over to see my friend. Upon seeing me, she started crying and pointed to her various band-aides. I showed her my medicine and began putting it on my hands (honestly, way, WAY too much medicine which only made it more comical). Through broken Spanish stated that it was ok and the clown had to take her medicine too. At that point, it seemed to calm her down. As if, "everyone has to take their medicine, even the clown."

Just before the clown show began, the last clown that I knew would be performing with us arrived. He, Irroberto, had stated he would be leaving work at 4 and would arrive as quickly as possible. So, I was impressed that he arrived at 3:50 pm. We did a very hurried job in painting his face and then threw him into the show.


He had never seen the magic tricks or skits, but he jumped in. I was so happy to see how excited he was to be a part of the clown team. Additionally, I handed over the reigns to the Mazatlan clown team for the entire show. They ran it and played all of the major parts - aside from explaining things hurriedly to Irroberto.

Following the clown show, there was a little boy whom I had painted his face earlier in the day who stopped to give me a hug. I hugged him back and from that moment on for the rest of the evening, he would go out of his way, sometimes passing me 3-4 times (unnecessarily) just to receive a hug.

Finally, there was a little girl who ran up to me as I was handing out candy before leaving. She showed me her cell phone which had a picture from 2 years ago (the last time I was at Stone Island). In the picture, I was holding a baby. The little girl exclaimed, "She is here! She is here! The baby is here!" So I walked with the little girl to her family and greeted the mother and the baby. We attempted to take several photos with the picture and she actually smiled in several. However, after several times, I felt bad and I had a large group of kids that were then surrounding us, all asking for candy. So, I apologized and thanked them for showing me the picture and for letting me see them (well, as best as I could. I may have just said "Gracias" a thousand times). Anyway, the mother was determined to enable me to have a picture. So not 2-3 minutes after I moved closer to the colonial for better light (it was now after 6 pm), she appeared. She had us retake the picture, hiding behind the baby because by then the baby girl decided that she did not like me anymore and began to cry. So, about the only way we could take the picture was for the mother to hold the baby, hide her face (which I would have loved to have the mother in the picture but she was determined), and for me to stand close to them. But it worked.

It was wonderful to see how a moment from 2 years ago, still meant so much to that family. So much so, that they wanted me to have a picture of their baby girl to remember. Each moment that we take for granted in a day, has the potential to immensely affect the people around us. It was a powerful reminder to me to not take moments like that for granted.

Mazatlan: January 21 - Day 4

by Rebecca 21. January 2015 22:13

The Colonial

Today was the first day that Grandma Kay was able to join us out in the field. We had been told earlier in the day that Estero, The Colonial, would have more rough kids. All of us were more concerned with clowns. The last couple clown events Grandma has participated in were "Hope Fests" and she usually participated for about 90 minutes. So, Uncle Andy and I told the team that she needed a "body guard" or someone to be with her. Help her get out before she became tired and to help protect her from any rambunctious kids. However, once we started, Lolli kicked in & Grandma was a bundle of energy. At one point, her body guard (Lou) stated that he couldn't keep up with her. In fact, she didn't really need someone with her because she seemed fully able to take care of herself.



Again, I went with a team to help announce the free medical clinic would be starting shortly. Daniel, our new clown team member, seemed to have a lot of energy and he had clowned previously (not with us but in years past). So, he went with one team and I went with another. Most of my neighborhood was construction shops so very few kids. However, it was amusing to see the men in their machine shops walk out scowling and smile upon seeing a clown or receiving a smiley face sticker. On our way back, a white truck stopped to see the clown. I gave each passenger, an older couple, a couple stickers each. The driver had me watch as he placed his stickers carefully on his car and then he walked with us back to the Colonial.

Photo Notes: Jorge (on the left in the above photo) was inspired by "Pop" to become a clown years ago and is an active part of the clown ministry here (his team has grown to 6 or 7 clowns). Daniel (on the right) was a clown years ago, (I think he said about 15 years ago), but he was humble & impressed Grandma w/ his kindness. He is the pastor of Renato Vega.

Upon returning, Daniel worked with Grandma to learn balloon animals and I painted faces.


Grandma had the opportunity to brighten so many people's faces. It was precious and wonderful to be united with my teacher. At one point there was a little old lady who walked in and as soon as she saw Grandma, immediately hugged Grandma tightly. Saying over and over in Spanish how precious Grandma was to her.

Photo Notes: This sweet woman saw "Lolli" and immediately hugged her; blessing Lolli and calling her precious.

One of today's precious moments for me was a little boy who refused to smile. Absolutely and completely. He was brought in by an older sibling and I don't think anyone was able to give us a clear name and we don't know where his parents were. Originally he only wanted to look apathetically (almost angrily) at everyone. However, as the day progressed, I noticed he was extremely entranced with the clowns...as long as he thought no one was looking for him. So, my goal became to get him to smile. At one point, I looked over and he was turned away from me but his baby cheeks were big like he was grinning from ear to ear. I called out to a team member and asked them if he was smiling and they exclaimed that he was. So, I immediately gave them my camera to get a quick shot. (I don't think we ever found out his name or where his parents were...)

Another precious moment for me was a little boy whom I had just finished painting started talking to me and pointing to his arm. I had been telling kids for the past ten minutes that two was the maximum for face painting. So, I kept saying he could only have 2 as a response not understanding him. Finally, I got a translator and it turns out what he had been trying to say was not that he wanted another one but that he loved the lizard that I painted. That he thought it was absolutely beautiful and he wanted to make sure that I knew that. His picture is below:


Ulises, the newer clown from the day before, called everyone he knew as soon as his school was over, excitedly trying to clown for the afternoon. He was able to find a ride out to the colonial and apparently when he arrived his face paint wasn't done yet. However, he refused to leave the car because his face paint wasn't done. Apparently, something Grandma had said during Monday training about not going into public until your face being done, stuck out to him. So, he was terrified of breaking the rule, I guess Grandma had really put the fear of God into him (LOL). So, his driver (Pastor Dave) told him to hide behind a truck to finish the face painting. As soon as it was complete, he walked up.


About that time we had just started the show and just finished the "Chicken Dance." I saw him standing in the back and immediately had him begin the first "silly skit." In total, we had 5 performers today and each were amazing. I had recruited "Troy" an American from another team, Ulises (who had several parts throughout the show after watching everything once - yesterday), Daniel (who learned everything, essentially on the fly and with broken English and explanations from translators who had not seen the show), Jorge (the clown I mentioned earlier and I had trained the show on Monday), and myself. It was a fun show.


The feedback that we got from the free haircuts stated that the kids couldn't sit still. They all wanted to watch the show, so at one point they gave up and told the kids to watch the show and come back. The medical team stated that it was perfectly timed because we started the show right as a huge flood of people arrived wanting to check in and get in line for the clinic. I loved it, because aside from explaining the different parts, I wasn't needed. It was all of the reasons we came - to tell kids they are special, to entertain while they wait to be served through haircuts and free medical check-ups, and to train clowns to continue on without me.

Today had the outlook of being a rough day - while it was not an easy day...it was an amazing day.

Mazatlan: January 20 - Day 3

by Rebecca 20. January 2015 20:54

San Antonio Colonia

Uncle Andy "Paco" the clown, Ulises (one of the new clowns) and I went to San Antonio Colonia with the team today. San Antonio is a colonial where roughly a 100 families moved to escape the drug wars. It’s essentially a small town of refugees. Several of the kids had previously been sponsored by several of the team members so several team members were excitedly looking forward to meeting the kids that they sponsored. When we arrived at San Antonio, I was not aware of the situation of each family. So, it amazed me to see that each house is creatively put together with found things as people do their best to create a livelihood out of things they can reuse for other functional purposes. An example would be old wooden wheels were included as part of a fence.


As soon as the clowns disembarked the vans, kids started pouring over to the Colonial (essentially a blue tarp with folding tables and plastic chairs under it) and became excited to see the clowns. One of the little girls that us when we arrived stuck to me like glue for most of the day. As I was reviewing pictures after the day, you can see her in almost all of my pictures.


Another little boy in a red shirt was pointed out to me by the American doctor. He is 2 or 3 years old but lost his mother suddenly due to an illness that took her in less than a day. He watched the clowns in a kind of awe, almost suspicious, but he was definitely interested in the clowns.


Anyway, part of the team went through the streets to help advertise the free medical clinics and the activities. The food truck was due later in the day so we did not announce that to people. Ulises went with me to hand out stickers and to invite people to the clowns and clinic. As we would go through various streets, kids would pour out from all over to see the clowns. I would look across the street to see kids watching the clowns pass by. A couple of the families that stuck out were a group of little boys clear on the other side of the street who were waving at the clowns. I did a silly clown run down the street (making other people watching laugh) and then gave both little boys and their mother a smiley face sticker. As the translators explained what was occurring I was about to run over to the next house to distribute stickers when the kids called me back to say good-by. I said good-bye and blew them a kiss which one of the little boys reciprocated. So cute. So, when he arrived at the colonial, he would call out "Payaso, Payaso!" and come over to me to have a mustache painted on our touched up before engaging in other activities. But every time he would call out "Payaso, Payaso" I would return the greeting with "Mi Amigo!" (My Friend). His picture is below:


Anyway, another of the kids that stood out as we were inviting people, was a house we stopped by with an open door. The translators were shouting at the house (at the invitation of the neighbors who stated they would like clowns). A little boy answered and saw the clown. He immediately shouted "Aaah" while smiling....clearly pretending to be afraid of clowns (and possibly surprised by seeing a clown outside the front gate). So, I shouted that I had a sticker for him. He responded by saying "Oh" before doing his most "cool walk" down the lane to get his sticker. The rest of my time on the street, he would shout to get my attention and to wave at me. The other family that stood out is a bit more humorous in that we were walking as a group when our translator realized that he was turned around and forgot to take a turn. So, we had to turn around as we were walking towards a dead end. However, as the group turned around a couple kids came up and wanted stickers. So, the clowns and a team mate provided the stickers and then walked over to find their parents & invite them. The American team mate & myself can speak enough Spanish to be dangerous. So we said a lot of words - no idea if it was the right one. Apparently, Ulises thought it was close enough because the only thing he added was "It starts at 11 am" in Spanish. As we turned to join the group, we realized that we had lost the group and it was just the 2 Americans who can barely speak English and my "clown-in-training" who can understand some English but couldn't really communicate with me. We decided to keep walking straight & luckily Danae realized we were lost and came and found us. But it did make me laugh.

When we returned back to the Colonial, I painted several kids' faces. Unfortunately, I left a mirror for the kids to see their faces at the hotel. So, I had to resort to taking pictures of every kids face and letting them see it on my camera. Good news is, I got a picture of almost every kid that I met today. We did a bit of balloons and face painting before starting our show. The kids got into the clown magic tricks but not so much into the "Chicken Dance."

Following the show, the clowns left with a group to visit a gas station for a bathroom break. While I was in the bathroom, I had managed to get my wig caught on a screw which, luckily, only cost a couple strands. However, a later bathroom group visited the same gas station. About every person came to tell me that their bathroom visit took a bit long because everyone wanted to see where Isabella accidentally left a couple strands of wig hair in the bathroom.

When we arrived back from the bathroom break, we pulled up to the Colonial to see a giant crowd of kids and as we piled out, the kids all began to cheer for “Paco” the clown. It was pretty cute to see Uncle Andy’s fan club. We finished the rest of the day with face painting and balloons. At one point, my shadow, the first girl I had mentioned, called to me from a house literally right next to the Colonial. Turns out that's where she lived. I missed getting a picture of her waving at me from the window - but it was super cute. Instead, I was able to catch this picture where she is standing in front of her house, sticking her tongue out at the camera. :-P

girl behind fense San Antonio

Mazatlan: January 19 - Day 2

by Rebecca 19. January 2015 23:07

Clown Training

Day 2 began completing that last bit of prepping for the week - combining the stickers, balloons, & pumps Grandma had brought and adding them to the various bags in preparation for the classes, the week ahead, and which would be left in country after we leave on Friday. The character bags under the table were filled with supplies for clowns during the week. The boxes filled with make-up kits. And the rest of the table is filled with odds and ends necessary for the class.

Once finally completed, went out with part of the team to "El Centro." Instead of shopping like the other tour, we essentially bounced in the back of Dave (main local contact)'s truck from one local street taco shop to the next. Essentially, I had cow intestine tacos, pork tacos, and chicken tacos. Nothing beats Mexican tacos...although it was a little unnerving to have pigeons eating the sewage under your feet as you try to focus on eating your taco. That happened today.


Anyway, at one point we noticed that Dave seemed to be driving in large circles and essentially giving us a tour of Mazatlan (without having to deal with all of the tourists). So, we asked Rego, our translator sitting in the bed of the truck with us, if we were indeed going in circles. Turns out that we were indeed driving in circles as Dave was killing time before bringing Krishna, a team mate, to a surprise party. She had lived with them and volunteered with the local partners and they wanted to welcome her back with a surprise taco party. The nice thing about that is that since we were killing time anyway, I was able to ask to run to a Wal-Mart to get the couple things that Grandma and I needed for the clowns that we either forgot or broke in transit. Which also enabled me to get a couple funny pictures of Lou on a four-wheeler outside of Wal-Mart.


So, we finally dropped Krishna off to meet someone before driving to the nearby colonial, under the guise of the guys needed to look at the scaffolding they would be fixing. We walked in prior to her arrival to then take pictures of her as she walked in.


The humorous thing is when you are a gringo with a digital camera, you are instantly popular with the kids. I had a little boy who kept shouting "Foto, foto!" as he rode around on his bike wanting me to take his picture. His older brother also wanted his picture taken, wearing his sister's belt around his head like a ninja. The oldest of the three siblings, gave me a hug soon after I arrived and essentially adopted me for the rest of the time that I was there. At one point, I was sitting near the team and she took my hand and pulled me to the other side of the room prior to giving me tacos and juice. What was even more amusing is she would sit with me, talk in extremely fast Spanish to where I couldn't understand, and then skip off. Then she would skip back and sit with me for a couple minutes before skipping away again. It was endearing to say the least.




We arrived back at the hotel with just enough time to get the clown supplies and go to the class. The intermediate clowns had all arrived but not all of Grandma's beginner clowns had arrived. So, I distributed the clown books and clown make-up kits to the beginners and Grandma had the beginner clowns start drawing ideas for their faces while waiting for the class to start. I then gave the intermediates their books but their kits I had designed a little different. Each of their boxes had more of the 3 main clown colors and then I left them pick which additional colors they would like. Two of the intermediates had been trained by Felix (from my first trip, two years ago). The third intermediate was a clown who had met Grandpa T (Deedah) 5-6 years ago and was inspired to become a clown. So, he essentially taught himself initially but has been kind enough to participate in our classes and be a clown with us last year & this year. Which is especially impressive because he took some of the team on a jungle tour that started at 8 am this morning and lasted all day until arriving for the clown class. Anyway, as I showed the clowns Felix had taught their color choices, they were like kids in a candy shop. They were so sweet and excited to have options. They had been using whatever was donated to the church over the past couple years but didn't have their own. Aside from giving the intermediates their books and make-up kits, we didn't spend any time with make-up. We spent our entire 90 minutes focused on magic and skits. They picked up quickly and now have roughly a 15-20 minute show.

Early on in our practicing, Grandma ran over to me a bit worried. It seems that instead of 6 beginner clowns, 8 of them showed up (I think that it may have actually been 9 as I had another guy who realized there wasn't any clown make-up kits or books available to him, so he decided to join the intermediate class and learn skits and magic). Apparently, clowning sounds lame until the day it starts when several will unexpectedly show up. It happened in Romania and now in Mexico. I find it interesting but it feels accurate. It is such a beautiful thing to bring joy and it's contagious. Anyway, Grandma was a little worried. However, she said that my reply helped her calm down & then get through the class. Unsure why really. What I said was, "Do the best you can, because that's all you can do" before shrugging. Anyway, I checked in on the clowns as she progressed but she did fine. They ended up needing the full two hours but considering it was a full group with one teacher, that's impressive. Grandma was a little nervous in that she had not taught in a while but it came back to her pretty quick.

A highlight early on the evening for Grandma was when Jorge came over to give her a big hug. Grandpa T was so special and inspirational to Jorge. So, he seems to always go out of his way to hug Grandma and to show his appreciation to her.

As we ended the class a few moments occurred that meant a lot to us. The intermediate clowns ended a half hour early as we didn't have the ability to go into the balloons and at first we were hoping to review the basic balloons with the beginners. However, the beginners needed that extra half hour to work on their faces (which is totally fine). Anyway, as the clowns went to leave, I was able to shake their hands and while they couldn't communicate - the excitement and joy that I saw in their eyes and in their handshake was encouraging. I love seeing people light up about their passion and I saw it in their eyes. For Grandma, she was talking with one of her "beginner" clowns who turned out to not only have clowned previously but was also the pastor of Renato Vega and he does a lot of stuff with children's education. Not to mention that he assists a lot with a local free charity hospital, including taking a group of kids to brighten up a local hospital two weeks ago. However, he was kind enough to patiently go thru Grandma's beginner class instead of insisting that he join the intermediate class. Plus, it helped Grandma to have an example to show off to the other clowns.

Finally finished with the day, I was re-organizing and getting prepped for the week (yes, again - that's a clown leader's life sometimes is all of the prep work before and after any &every event lol) when a miraculous thing happened. Before leaving Jorge asked if he could have a clown nose, one made out of the squishy material that isn't a glue on or use a string (suddenly can't remember what the material is called). Anyway, I told him that I would bring one next time. However, when I was reorganizing, I opened a spare costume I had brought and inside was the exact nose he had described. So excited to give him the nose tomorrow as it was something I had not intended to pack but it arrived as it needed to be here.

At this moment, I might have 2-3 recently trained clowns tomorrow. However, we know that Uncle Andy will be a clown and I recruited another team member to participate in "You Are Special."

Mazatlan: January 18 - Day 1

by Rebecca 18. January 2015 23:53

Travelling to Mazatlan

I arrived in Phoenix at 1 am, and in my sleepy haze believed United to be the same as US Airways, which ended up being a good thing as there is a lot more room in United's terminal. Anyway, went to sleep alone in the terminal and woke up around 4:30 am with roughly 20 people in the general vicinity. Each face looking a little irritated that I had managed to hog 4 chairs. Feeling slightly awkward and quite groggy, I decided it best to get up & get ready for the day. During that process, I realized that I was in the wrong terminal.

Still quite dazed, as I am not really a morning person, I went to a TSA representative as I could not figure out how to get to the correct terminal without having to leave the secure area of the airport. The TSA representative informed me that I did indeed have to leave the secure area, walk around the airport, get on a tram, go through security (again) and then I would get to my correct area. Flabbergasted by what seemed a bizarre system and still quite sleepy, I asked him several times to confirm the fact that I did have to go through security again. At my third time questioning the madness of the system, the TSA individual stated "Are you on dope or something? That's the third time you asked me if you have to go through security!" At that, I turned to leave and he yelled, "You're welcome!" after me. Unsure why I should be grateful for being belittled, I did not reply.

I did make it to the correct gate around 6:30 am, still plenty of time for my 9:45 am flight to Mazatlan. So, I went to get coffee. In the process, the staff at the coffee shop helped me laugh and find the amusement in the event. Then they did the extra thing of writing a smiley face on my breakfast sandwich wrapper. That moment was a great way to start the morning and the trip.


Note from baristas

Grandma and I made it safely to Mazatlan a couple hours before the team. We have a team of 36 individuals, which made loading the team, luggage (filled with medicines, glasses, shoes, and clown supplies... not to mention personal effects), into a couple vans amusing and team building.

What impressed me was how the team opened up and welcomed us back in. Like we had never left the team. Their sweet natures and kind hearts are wonderful. I am always amazed how I feel like I truly belong with this team, not like the "outsider from Seattle." That's a rare gift for a team to have. I felt it most at dinner as we laughed, watched cheese get lit on fire, and excitedly talked about the skills that each person would be sharing in the week ahead. I am so excited to be here and to be a part of this team.

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Why Clowns?

Whether it is in a hospital, memory care facility, at a charity event, or walking down the street, that moment when most individuals see a clown they smile, regardless of age or culture. Clowns almost universally help create smiles. There is something about the gift of a smile and laughter that helps improve our spirits, relieve tension, and can inspire us to hope.

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