May 1, 2000
This story was written by Ralf Bindels, from Port Elgin, New Brunswick. This is Ralf's second year at the Community Academic Program (CASP) in Port Elgin. He started English as a second language in January 1999, a few months after having moved from Germany with his wife, Corinna, and several pets. It wasn't easy because his vocabulary level was very low at the time. He remembers reading his first book in English. In almost every sentence, was a word for which he needed the dictionary. He found it very exhausting and reading was not what it should have been. Ralf has continued his learning of the English language through a summer course at Mount Allison University, watching TV and having conversations. It's still a long run, but Ralf now finds he is satisfied with his language skills.
At several locations around the world, there is a very old custom to ward off the winter and its bad ghosts. In Switzerland as well as in the southern part of Germany, people in frightening costumes with torches celebrate this at night sometime in February. They move from house to house, starting the ceremony at every place or maybe the whole thing is like a street parade.
The actors mostly wear patch work clothes, a lot of bells and very ugly masks, so that they cant be recognized by the bad winter ghosts. A very unique performing art group, which impressed me a lot, seems to be inspired by this custom and their masks remind me of the carnival masks in Venice/Italy.
This Swiss pantomime group is called Mummenschanz. They wear simple black dresses to focus the attention on their masks. The masks are really something. Those are malleable and the actors can change their faces and characters and they mime with fast hand moves.
Due to the fact that the masks are lit up by some stage lights, you can perhaps imagine what is going on and what it is all about: they are talking to each other by changing their facial apperance. I saw them a few times and they were really amazing every time.
I am not sure if Mummenschanz still exists, but if you get the chance to see them, go for it. And if you would, please let me know where theyll be performing. I would appreciate it.
[This story was taken from The Learning Times, December 1999, published by the Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick.]