Wednesday, May 28, 2014

'Cebra for a day' - Gio's Reflection

Working alongside the group of late teens to early twenty year olds that is ‘The Cebras’ is a fascinating experience.  Their enthusiasm and commitment seems superhuman, so when offered the chance to experience the lifestyle through the tri-monthly event ‘Cebra por un Dia’, we simply couldn’t refuse.  It was an experience that would be shared not only by Joey and I from Team Zebra, but the entire ICS cohort, including some of the braver Cooperantes Tecnicos.

The morning of Friday the ninth was typical for La Paz with a light, chompa-demanding brittleness in the air.  This wouldn’t last.  In the 15 minutes from hailing a bus in Sopocachi to the rendezvous in picturesque Camacho square, the rising sun over Illiamani and her cascading sisters had begun to bite at the back of one’s neck.  In the middle of the plaza, early as always, were the Cebras.
Warm-ups consisted of singing, dancing and acting, studded with motivational speeches in a sort of ultra condensed training session (usually hopefuls endure at least two months before earning their stripes).  The mystical and revered ‘Mama Cebra’ was away on business so the responsibility had fallen to the charismatic and second in command Amanda, aided by a pair of senior Cebras, those whom have clocked up countless hours on the street and no longer wear the skin.  Now it was our turn.
The suitably loose volunteers were helped into fleece body-suits, a far cry from the single, monochrome, pantomime horse Mama Cebra originally took to the streets in, almost 14 years ago.  To call the head claustrophobic would be an understatement.  Anyone with a remote distaste for enclosed spaces would find discomfort in the wire mesh and duo of baseball caps required to keep the mouth (and sole viewpoint) open.  How this is maintained on the regular four hour shifts in the heat of the city is certainly a feat of endurance and commitment; one that should not be taken lightly. Twenty-five minutes was enough for many of the volunteers.

For others, the positivity of the work and powerful feeling of making a difference pushed thoughts of claustrophobia and heat to the back of the mind.  Some groups ventured onto El Prado and worked on the little respected Zebra crossings; helping Pace
ños and tourists to the other side, while entertaining cars stopped at junctions.  Others waltzed the streets, spreading motivational messages, stopping for photos with visitors and increasing public knowledge about our city, the problems we face and what we can do to work towards a better LaPaz. 
One of the most stirring observations for me was the reaction of the city’s children.  Most adults we came across returned a positive attitude, understanding the Cebras’ work and happy to have them as nationwide symbols of a modern La Paz, however, the joy and admiration evident in almost every child’s reaction to the Cebras was truly inspiring.  These are the niños and niñas that will grow into the next generation of Paceños, taking on board the message and spirit of the Cebras and carrying it forth. 
Five weeks into the placement and our fascination with the Cebras is still growing.  The spirit of progression is young, healthy and spreading like wildfire.
Written by: Giorgio Murru

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Gio! Hopefully we can all participate as Cebras por un Dia again! :-)