One day I got an email from Sonia Zivkovic, saying (my wording) "Do you want to come to China through my company, Pana Wakke, and perform for children?" The answer was, of course, YES!
Several friends had done this tour with Sonia, or were going to, and had a great time in China and with Sonia. One of them had recommended me, so it was not a complete surprise. And boy oh boy oh! This sounded like fun, and of course I wanted to accept the invitation. But what was Pana Wakke?
Pana Wakke means, in one of the indigenous languages of Sonia's native country, Argentina, Brother Sister. It is a company formed by Sonia and her brother to bring American storytellers to China and other countries as an artistic and educational supplement to the schools.
Sonia is a great believer in and a strong advocate for the power of storytelling in education. As a former teacher and school leader, she knows how the musicality, the physicality, the vocabulary and the fun of storytelling help English language learners become more secure in their grasp of a second or third language. In every school, she is not only a contractor but a partner as well, offering performances as well as storytelling workshops for staff and parents, making sure the needs of the school are met.
She is also a lover of storytellers. Sonia watches over every detail - how the mics are working, how the audience is situated, how much water the storyteller has, how cold the auditoriums and stages are, what the timing of the shows are, if the children are all in their seats, how the teller gets introduced, when lunch comes ...I admit, it took me a little while to get used to the fact that I did not need to help out - except to perform. How lovely that is!
She is also a magnificent tour guide. She sees it as part of her "job." We walked and walked and walked. Through parks, down hutongs and lanes, into and out of stores and malls and by buildings old and knew. Sonia could almost always give me the lowdown on the history, the reason, the She showed me places I would not think about going to, and had knowledge of different sites, theater, and restaurants not in the tourist guides. Plus our cooking class at The Hutong ranks as one of the best things we did in Beijing!
The schools love Pana Wakke, the book fair people love Pana Wakke, the kids love Pana Wakke (and some recognize Sonia as the bringer of storytellers!) and I love Pana Wakke - and Sonia too, who is the heart and soul of the company.
Want to learn more? Check out the website Pana Wakke yourself.
Sonia is blogging with me on China at writtenselfie.blogspot.com