US Wait Team Visits Austria for Week-Long Training

Report by Kate Tsubata

Tarik Muhammad and I arrived safe and sound in Vienna after a stopover in Amsterdam, tired, but safe. We stayed at the CARP center for a few hours to rest and do some errands and preparations, then traveled to Gaflenz to stay there almost the whole week. Mikula Beutl picked us up--the car was packed with the four people and equipment.

Sunday, the arrival day, was crazy. Mikula had to go and pick up several people: Cathlene Bell, Dominique Dumas, Eun Hwa Mouada, and Christella Hardman was picked up by another sister. So Tarik and I did various things: welcomed people, got them registered. Then I found out no parents were staying! So, while they were there, I immediately did a parent's training, in about 30 minutes. Then, Tarik led us all in breakdance practice. We had dinner, and showed the 5 dances Mie Smith put on a video for us. After dinner, we sang "Save Yourself," and we could see that they all have great voices and musical ability. The other trainers arrived later that day--it was so good to see them all.

The next morning, we started with dance stretches led by Christella. Then breakfast, and the WAIT rules, shared by all the trainers (including Dominique who did a fabulous job!) Then, we did the powerpoint, in English and German. The adults came and listened and were really paying attention. Then, we had lunch (it was served early, but...) and we did the WAIT performance, followed by skit training. Afterwards, we taught Desert Rose, which went very well, and then we did song practice with Hero. It was amazing: several girls are really proficient musicians. One played cello and the other violin and Eun Hwa began playing keyboard, while another did was so haunting and beautiful. I started crying, because for years i have longed to hear cello and violin in that song, and there it was. Then, we had dinner, did some fun things, and then closed.

After practicing until 11:30 the night before, we woke up at 6:30 to get ready for our first two performances as the Austrian WAIT team. We broke up into two cars and a train group (those with railpasses) and traveled for 2 hours to Linz. There, we unloaded, and set up under a shady spot on a paved alley that seemed like an outdoor mall, but was something between an alley and a street. We had a generator and one speaker, an ipod and an ancient piece of linoleum--think 1950s.

We set things up, hoping no one would drive over our stage. I was pretty sure no one would stop in such an inhospitable spot. However, about 16 people came to watch: parents, friends, etc. So, we began. The intros were by Austrian members, or one American with one Austrian. They did a great job. The songs were beautiful, and the dances--even Desert Rose, which they learned the day before, were quite good. I ran out of tape right in the middle of the skit, and had to buy another after the performance.

The families were very impressed, but one man was heckling from the crowd, and asked to speak to them after, saying he was moved by them, but that he didn't support abstinence. A girl in the crowd defended the team. I acted as the mediator, just saying that the important thing is that we are all serious about AIDS although we might differ on the best methods. Later, I found out he was really a wonderful musician, had come from a Nazi family, deliberately immersed himself in Jewish music and culture, did a lot of musical work with Israelis and Palestinians, and really felt the heart of what the kids were doing.

Then, we went to another hill and had a picnic lunch. After, we went to the main plaza and took some photos and had ice cream. After that, we walked for a long distance to the next performing place in a park, to perform for a bigger audience. We set up in the crosswalk of several walkways, under a tree.

About 100 or more people gathered to see us. The group was a lot more urban and multicultural. Some girls were there who were really acting out, trying to shout things, act cool, make fun of the team, etc. However, everyone else was really becoming totally fascinated, and a bigger and bigger crowd gathered. The girls couldn't leave, which was good, because they were the exact target for our message. They were acting out in very sexual ways, smoking, tossing their cigarettes towards the stage, etc. I was so proud of the team. They totally kept the focus, didn't react negatively, and even made effort to engage them, giving them candy when they answered questions, etc.

As the girls kept trying to be noticed, the boys actually started moving away to have a better view of the stage. The team was really giving more and more, investing so much. Beauty from Pain and Rose were so powerful. The dancers danced out and came right up to the girls as if to say "We're here, and we love you."

Then, after Desert Rose, we did the "Can't hurry Love" act, and invited people to dance. One Turkish young man came and did some great breakdance moves. Then, even the acting out girls came and danced, and some little children came out and all the parents and elderly people were all so moved. When we had to turn off the music, the girls were the ones complaining!

We had a 2 hour drive home, and we were all exhausted But it was really a great feeling, having had successful performances. When we got back, we watched "Soul Search" and they were again really moved, especially since I was telling them how perfectly suited Austria was for filming.

The next morning, we woke late and ate, then met. We shared our responses to the experience during the performances the day before. There was a lot of joy and tears. Then today we started talking about money and how WAIT deal with money and decisionmaking. It was a bit of a surprise for them, but they got really inspired too. We brainstormed ways for them to raise funds that would be acceptable here (not typical fundraising, because it's illegal in Austria, but benefit concerts, internet fundraising, etc.) We spoke about the internal things, about using the 10 guidelines, and about tasks to accomplish. It was decided to copy all tapes, photos etc. and to share them, and to teach "Beauty from Pain." We also made the lunch, made the dinner, and taught and traded lots of documents (bookkeeping, etc.) Then late this afternoon they wrote a new song, in German. It was very beautiful.

After finishing up the copying and preparations to leave, we left Austria at 3 a.m. Thank you to everyone who invested and made this trip possible!