Monday, May 23, 2011

The Big Top hits Tongatapu!

We bought tickets for The Magic Circus of Samoa in the afternoon for the 7 pm performance.  VIP seating costs TOP$15.00, regular seating TOP$10.00.  The VIP gets you seats right in front of the stage area although I think most seating is good.  The tent is quite large inside, well maintained and bright with primary colors.  At 6 pm, the concession tent opened and you were allowed more than ample time to get you supplies of popcorn, candy, fruit punch flavored lemonade and Batman inflatable toys.  Why Batman?  Not sure, other than his popularity with the kids.  The reason for ample time is that you could only get into the concession area.  We weren't admitted to the big tent until about 6:30.  Bruno is a merchandiser.  (And a sailor, I learned, as the big tent and all travel by boat.)

"Ladies and Gentlemen and children of all ages.  Welcome to Tongatapu and Bruno's Magic Circus of Samoa.  Sit back and be amazed by the greatest circus performers ever assembled under the Big Top.  Are you ready for the show?   Are you ready to be entertained?" 

The crowd went wild with applause, cheering, whistling, stamping of feet as the lights went out, the tent was enveloped in darkness and theatre smoke set upon us from the stage.  At that point, we were indeed children of all ages.

Cue spotlight.  The ringmaster, Tupai Bruno Royale, enters center stage - larger than life.  A big man, big stomach and big, colorful Aloha shirt.  And, as the show went on, we learned he liked to change those shirts - a lot.  Almost as many costume changes as Cher at the Colosseum.

Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take any pictures.  I mean, with death defying feats being performed, one doesn't want flashes going off and disrupting an artist in the midst of displaying his/her bravado.

First up, the Polynesian beauties of Samoa on the balancing globes.  Two very pretty young ladies from Samoa balancing on exercise balls - round and round they go, up the ramps, down the ramps.  Great exercise for the thighs and buttocks, to be sure.  As were most of the performers, they were assisted by two shirtless Samoan beauties, Tasi and Tine, of the male gender and six pacs and all too ready to assist with the rings, hoops and other equipment being tossed about.

Then we got introduced to Toetu!  A Samoan midget of Asian descent, clown and mime and with his partner, Coconut, a very entertaining comic duo.  Ever met a buxom bombshell from Bogata?  Well, we did and she is famous for her trapeze head-stand feats.  Smiling the whole time.  Incredible.  And, of course, the lavalava wrapped Samoans were there to help, also smiling the whole time and throwing her rings to twirl on her appendages while balancing on her headstand perch.  Then, we met Ms. Rita from Nepal - what? - doing quite an amazing foot balancing act with smaller exercise balls and competently attended to by Tasi and his six pac.  Next up, Gipetto on the slack wire.  I only assume he is from Italy, which makes sense since we have an international show, and of course, he is assisted by Tine.  I'm exhausted at this point, as are Tasi and Tine, so we take a break.  Lemonade anyone?

First up after intermission are the absolutely incredible Hip Hop Boys on a Pole.  Jinnet nailed it, when upon viewing the setup before the lights came up, said. "looks like we're going to have some pole dancing".  Wait, isn't that Tasi?  isn't that Tine?  And isn't that Gipetto?  Where were the other two hiding in the first act?  Holy crap...these guys are everywhere.  Bruno requires multitasking in his performers.  But I digress...These guys were amazing, climbing that pole like a coconut palm, balancing of each other's arms, hanging horizontally from the pole with no support other than their shoulders - they pump serious iron in their training routines, me thinks.  Next up Rico, the juggler and winner of the 2010 Circus Performer Of the Year Award (in Madrid).  He's assisted by the Bogota Bombshell, still smiling, dancing and pantomiming to the Spanish music being played.  No wonder Rico won the award - he can juggle a lot of things at the same time and it doesn't look easy.  Altho, friend Jinnet nonchalantly whispers to me...'did you know juggling is done in Tonga?'  huh?  (This is not to say it originated in Tonga, and I have yet to see a juggler on the streets, here as explained in the link.)  We also had Ms. Hula Hoop from Holland (who doubled as the photographer for pictures in a key chain one could purchase as a souvenir) and must have spun at least 25 hoops around her ample Dutch curves.  Thanks Tasi for assisting.

After a less than memorable 4 legged illusionist/magician from somewhere, direct from Parguay comes Roberto and the flying trapeze.  This time the boys have to assist by pulling the rope that controls Roberto's trapeze height in the arena and they are busy - up/down, back/ forth while Roberto performs feats of daring including the giant swings back and forth and then dropping from the trapeze only to end up inches from the floor and certain death. Whew!

How about a little trampolene?  Here's Gipetto, Roberto, the Bogata Bombshell, Tasi, and Tine, again.  Tine had also performed a trick bike routine with his cross dressing friend Gina.  How many times can I say it?  This show delivers!

So, let's slow it down with a little audience participation with Toetu.  And who should get picked?  None other than Mark and Elena, fellow Peace Corps volunteers and neighbors and two more fun loving adventurers could not have been selected.  They were teased unmercifully by Toetu and Mark was not about to leave Elena alone on the stage with that little clown turned comic sex maniac.  

By this time, Bruno is in his 13th shirt of the night and not to be outdone by any of his competent cast.  He is, after all, a reformed magician, so he does a little audience participation of his own and has each successive audience member fearful of what embarrassing sleight of hand might befall them.  We laugh, they kind of laugh.  It was circus shtick.  All leading up to the big finale - the Samoan Fire Dance.  By now, you know and we knew that Tasi and Tine would be involved in some manner and Bruno again does not disappoint.  

The next time you find yourself in the South Pacific and see a poster for Bruno's Magic Circus of Samoa, please do not hesitate to go.  I'm sure the acts change, different equipment gets used and even cast members may alternate.  But I'm sure you'll always find Bruno, his shirts, his shiny tent and Samoan beauties, female and male, ready to give you a great show.  Thanks Bruno - well done and happy sailing.

Note:  Some names may not be used correctly, due to memory problems, hearing problems or in the interests of possible identity theft.


Friday, May 20, 2011

The sun will come out tomorrow…

or, maybe not.  It started yesterday – the rain, that is.  During the night, I was awakened by a bright light and I thought, “Oh, oh.  The aliens have found us or The Rapture has commenced.”  It was followed by my house almost shaking from what I think is the loudest peal of thunder I have ever heard.  That low-pressure system must have been just hovering over Tongatapu, specifically over my house, awaiting its chance to demonstrate the power of Ms. Nature.  Now wide awake, I was aware that Nana Nature was dumping buckets of rain on us and I knew they were the supersized pellets of dense rainwater that explode upon meeting the earth.  There were several more lightning/thunder episodes, but each one seemed to move a little farther away, and eventually peace was restored to my little corner of the world.  Contentedly, I returned to sleep with a gentle rain falling.

By morning, it had stopped.  It’s now Friday morning, my day off, and I’m excited for my morning coffee, a nice cold shower, and biking off to my morning language tutoring with Ofa.  I’m so lucky/happy to be working with her again (she was our language/culture teacher during training) and she’s just one of those bright spots of my life here.  She recently gave me an old, weathered, seen better days bookcase/storage cabinet sans doors.  I thought it was perfect for my storage enhancement purpose and just needed a little paint and voila.  So, today was going to be a little DIY, run a few errands, maybe go to the Ministry of Agriculture for a project I’m doing with a local microfinance business. You know, just a femo’uekina kind of day (busy doing a lot of things).  And then, the rain began…again.  No thunder this time, but lots and lots of rain.  Called Ofa and said I wouldn’t be riding my bike, or walking, to her house but would see her tomorrow.  “Okay, have a nice weekend”, she said.  “No, I will see you tomorrow”, I replied.  “Oh yeah”, she laughed.  And just as quickly as the lightning struck last night, I thought, this day has taken a turn…and I think I’m going to like it!  So, I aero pressed another cup of coffee and waited for the rain to subside, thinking, “Just take your time.  I’m in no hurry.”

The rain did subside, so I headed over to the local hardware store.  Another bright spot is having PTH on the next block.  It’s not Lowes, by any stretch, but most days you can find what you need, or come close to it.  They had (some) paint and the biggest decision was to get Vivid White or Brilliant White.  As usual, a customer service person was there to help – yes, that’s really true – and he explained the Vivid White was more of an off white.  Perfect.  Now, to the brushes – “Wow”, I thought, “That’s a whole lot of display for brushes”.  Unfortunately, there were a lot of empty pegs and only two sizes – large or small.  (Had to go large or I’d still be painting.)  Got the first coat of paint on while it rained again and during another lull, biked over to the Peace Corps office to pick up my coffee order (Kingdom Koffie now delivers to PC for us…a nice perc.)

Checked my mail slot, and was delighted to have received letters from my pen-pal class in Las Vegas.  And then I noticed the postmark.  What?  It was mailed November 1, 2010!  The Post Office here stamped it received 18 May, 2011.  There was no stamp saying ‘misrouted to New Zealand’ so I can only assume it was misrouted to Kiribati or Bangkok or more likely, it was sitting in a bin or mail bag waiting for the holidays to conclude and daylight savings to go into effect.  Oiaue.

Anyway, got home and applied a second coat of paint and that old Charlie Brown cabinet IS perfect.  Tell Mikey I like it.  Spent a couple of hours getting things sorted, organized, re-organized, folded, refolded, thrown out, whatever.  And, you know what?  It rained the whole time. 
I remember a Peace Corps recruiter telling someone once…The Peace Corps is not all about you.  Really?  Well, not on a very rainy day in Tonga.  It was all about me and I loved it!

The sun will come out tomorrow.  And, if it not, Bruno’s Samoan Circus performs under a tent, so we will be just fine.

(P.S. It is now Saturday morning and, in true Tongan fashion, the sun is shining again.)