Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Well Hello there Buenos Aires

All right! I made it safe and sound! Yesterday I saw the 4th Pirates of the Caribbean movie which was quite entertaining. Gotta love Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, even if it is dubbed in Spanish. Whoever the guy was who dubbed him was good too. I also indulged in a donut that was absolutely delicious. It´s probably a good thing they don´t have them all over Cusco. I would be super fat. I mentioned in an earlier post that I wanted to find a pair of jeans. Well, I went to a store at the Shopping Norte mall and the only ones that fit me were high waisted and 360 bolivianos which is roughly 60 dollar. No thanks. I went outside and around the corner and found a nice store that was going out of business and everything was 50% to 70% off. I, thankfully, found a pair of jeans that fit me as well as a shirt for Marco that I think he will like. It pays hommage to the Wright Brothers with design pictures of planes. He works with war materials, some of which include planes, close enough right? Haha. After buying them I realized that there were some cute clothes on the rack and since the jeans and the shirt only cost 175 bolivianos (25 dollars) maybe I would find some other good stuff. I definitely did. Three shirts later and another 120 bolivianos later I left the store a happy girl. I really dislike shopping for jeans because it takes forever to find a pair that fits me. I don´t even remember the last time I went clothes shopping. It was probably at Target last year some time. Sometimes, especially when your jeans rip, it´s a necessary evil to undertake.

I called Jorge who was just about to head out the door to spend the night with his girlfriend. I am glad I caught him. I headed over to his place and met his two temporary roommates, Melissa (from France) and Gonzalo (from Lima Peru). Melissa is working with an NGO and Gonzalo is there for the ride taking some French classes in the meantime. They met last year when they went to school together in Lima. Super cute couple. We had dinner together at a German cafe that I just so happened to have visited on my last trip to La Paz, go figure. During dinner I realized that I had forgotton my pack towel at the hostel so I called them and sure enough, they had it. I made my way back to pick up but totally forgot that I left my patagonia cap 3 shirt that I like to sleep in as well. Oh well. Things are things. Everything goes eventually (Thank you wonderful buddism book that I am reading right now called Stumbling Toward Enlightenment by Geri Larken).

Continuing on my trip, I woke up nice and early this morning and took a private cab ride to the airport where I proceeded to solve 13 sudoku puzzles while waiting for my flight to arrive. Everything went smoothly and we made it to Santa Cruz without a hitch. When I went through immigration the officer took a while looking at my passport and my visa. Why? I have no idea but he eventually let me leave the country. On the flight to BA I met a nice guy named Percy who is Bolivian and works for Avon. (Yup, Avon, the cosmetic company.) He was super nice and told me about Buenos Aires and places I should eat if I get the chance. I definitely have to try out the pizza here and the meat. Mmmm meat.

Once I landed I headed to the Manuel Tienda Leon bus counter and bought a ticket to take me directly to my friend´s apartment. It was great service with a coach bus to their station and then a private taxi to the apartment. The one thing that struck me when I was on the bus was how much the landscape reminded me of Illinois with the different types of trees and prairie. I was immediately in a good mood. I knew Argentina would be awesome and this just makes it feel like home. Don´t get me wrong, I am so ready for the difference in culture. I am having more culture shock from living in Cusco and coming to Buenos Aires than anything. First of all, I miss the llamada ladies who stand around with neon green cloth and let you dial anyone you need to. Fortunately, I found a payphone and after 15 minutes and was able to call Gabi. She let me know that the bell boy had the key for me so I was able to get in and now I am writing my entry! Que vacan or here they say Que barabaro! I love it.

Well, Gabi just walked in the door so I am off for now! Until the next post!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

En Ruta

Happy day! I made it to La Paz last night after two days in a row on a bus. My itinerary was as follows:

Cusco - Arequipa 10 hours 50 soles (with cockroaches..ick...don´t take San Cristobal del Sur)
Arequipa - Tacna 4 and a half hours 20 soles (had two seats to myself..sweet deal!)
Tacna - Arica 2 hours including immigration 10 soles (had a good convo with a Peruvian guy sitting next to me)
Arica - La Paz 10 hours 8000 Chilean Pesos or 50 soles or 17 dollars depending on how you want to look at it

On the bus to La Paz I met a really nice woman named Veronica who sat next to me and warned me about the possibility that we might not make it through the border if we didn´t get there by a quarter to 8pm. Thank goodness we got there ten minutes before it closed. It was not nearly as cold as the winters in Chicago but MAN, I forgot how cold cold can be. The Andes mountains are no joke when it comes to cold. If we had had to stay the night at the border, which happened to Veronica before, we would´ve frozen our tushes off. I had enough time to eat some dinner too but not without a little run after the bus to let me on. The driver was detained for a little while due to paper issues and what not so we took the time to sit down and eat. We were going to have soup but the bus honked and starting backing away! Nothing like a little panic to add to a trip! I made it though...phew!

I did make the smart decision to reserve a room at a hostel called Bash n Crash in La Paz. I found internet in Arica and made my 10 percent deposit of .50 cents USD. One night cost me 35 bolivianos which is roughly 5 USD. Gotta love cheap prices in Bolivia!

Now, I have the day in La Paz to hang out and see a movie. I have to take advantage of the cinema since there are none in Cusco. I also need to find a pair of jeans since mine ripped while on the bus ride. La Paz is the place to shop! Cheap prices and decent stuff. I am not expecting crazy good quality jeans but something that will work for a while.

My flight to La Paz is tomorrow morning and my awesome friend Gabi, whom I am staying with in BA, gave me all the details for the bus that I need to take that will only cost me around 17 USD as opposed to the 40 a taxi would cost. Let the frugality continue! :)

I do need to send a shout out to the rents for making this trip possible for me! You guys are the best!

Corpus Christi and Inti Raymi

*Written on Sunday, June 26th, 2011*
Festivities this week have been quite amusing and somewhat annoying at the same time. Desfiles (parades) are fun for a little while but they got old pretty quick and traffic due to the plaza being closed is also a pain in the butt. I did enjoy going to see the floats of the saints during Corpus Christi. It’s cool how Inca and Catholic customs are mixed for this holiday. The saints are paraded around the plaza just as the mummies of the great Incas were paraded around. When the Incans converted to Catholocism, they just replaced mummies with saints. Some people have a problem with it because it is like idolizing saints which is a sin according to Catholicism. Nothing should be worshipped or idolized except God. It doesn’t matter to me what they idolize but, I will say, it is interesting how Incan ceremonies such as Inti Raymi take place in front of two Catholic Churches. It’s ironic. Corpus at least has something to do with Catholicism. The mixture of indigenous culture and religion with Catholicism has always been something that has intrigued me. I find it interesting how they justify their Incan ceremonies being the Catholics that they claim to be. It seems to be a little bit like how people in the states say they are Christian but never go to church or practice the religion. Maybe it is just a way to identify themselves even though they aren’t all practicing Catholics here in Cusco. I will post pictures as soon as I get back from Buenos Aires in a few weeks.

I didn’t get any pictures of Inti Raymi (The Sun ceremony) but I did see some of the ceremony in the plaza and the unveiling of the Inca statue on top of the fountain that had been turned into a giant rock. Check it out on Google. I am sure there are pictures if you put in “Inti Raymi Cusco 2011”. I was wondering why they had the fountain covered up for so long during June, which is festival month. It all made sense after seeing it. Marco had a fun time pointing out military guys in the group of actors and dancers. I didn’t make it up to Sacsayhuaman to see the entire ceremony but instead, I moved into my new house. I now live within 5 minutes of both of my jobs. Pretty awesome if you ask me. I also have a double bed! Finally, a large bed. It´s my first large bed ever in my life! All I have to do now is by sheets for it. I am also going to buy a comoda (dresser) with three cajones (drawers). The plaza Tupac Amaru has all sorts of wooden things so when I get back I can check it out.

I am so grateful for Marco having a car and being able to help me move without using a taxi. He was even going to pick up the dresser for me on Saturday but I had other things to worry about and he was in inamovilidad (code for lockdown on the base) because of all the issues in Puno. They sent a few troops over there to lay down the law so to speak, and he was able to leave the base by the afternoon.

For now, I can’t think about much else than going to Buenos Aires. I need to get packed! I will try and update in Buenos Aires but we will see how much time I have!

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

What a day. This morning I woke up to a phone call from Flor, the director at Qantu, telling me that things in Puno have gotten worse and people have been killed. She and Elena, the secretary had talked and agreed that they would help pay for part of my flight from Cusco to La Paz. So this morning for three hours I ran myself around Cusco searching for flights and bus tickets and ATMs that didn’t have a line half a block long. (Thank you Banco de la Nacion for costing me another taxi ride.) So this was my morning:

1st: I went to Aero Sur to see if there was a flight open on Sunday. Nope. Booked full. There was the possibility (but only the possibility) of a flight opening up on Tuesday to La Paz but she wouldn’t know until tomorrow.

2nd: I went to LAN to see what their prices were. I should have known better. It was 585 bucks one way form Cusco to La Paz. Not happening.

3rd: I left and headed back to Aero Sur where I made my reservation for a flight back to Cusco from La Paz for $216.95.

4th: I made my way to the bus terminal (Thank you Jacob for lending me 5 soles since I only had large bills). I bought a ticket to Arquipa for tonight at 8pm. It will bring me to Arequipa in the morning and then I will hop on a bus to Tacna which is another 4 hours from Arequipa. From there I will take a combi across the border of Chile to Arica. I will most likely be spending the night in Arica before taking a bus on Tuesday morning direct from Arica to La Paz. It is going to be two days of travel to La Paz but I will make my flight on Wednesday to Buenos Aires.

5th: Went home to get my passport and violin because I had students after work at Pasta Mama.

6th: Went to Banco de la Nacion to withdrawl money from Marco’s account (because he rocks and is lending me money for the return flight) but the line was half a block long. Instead of being smart and just walking to the other cajero down the street near the post office, I thought it would be better to go to the one near my old house. Another taxi and a little wait in line later, I withdrew the money I needed and headed back to Aero Sur to buy my return flight.

7th: I walked to Pasta Mama to work the afternoon.

8th: I gave one student a lesson and proceeded to call the rest of my Monday students to let them know that there wouldn’t be any classes on Monday and to see if any of them could recuperate classes tomorrow. Fortunately, 2 of them can. I am going to have a bunch of classes to recuperate when I get back but it’s doable and while it will be hectic, I HAVE to get to Buenos Aires, no matter how broke it makes me! I will survive and I know it will be worth it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Help My Brother Win a Recording Contract!

My brother and his partner of Good Hood Hip Hop are in a contest in Washington DC to win a recording contract. If you can help them out by submitting one vote a day until the 21st of June that would be awesome!!! Just copy and past the following link. You can listen to a song of theirs called ¨Rock Steady¨

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Concert and Festivities

I went to a concert put on by Sergio and Flor last night with Marco. Sergio plays the cello and Flor, the piano. It was wonderful and absolutely what I have been missing in Cusco. Two nights before I played in a concert for the Wanchaq Municipality workers with the youth orchestra we have and I got to hear the Cusco Symphony Orchestra play a bit, but other than that it's been mostly huayno (music of the area that gets tiring after one of two songs and is only slightly remedied by being played on instruments without any voice) or disco music. Anyway, Sergio played Vivaldi's Sonata V, J.S. Bach's Suite II, and Sonata in G Major as well as a few traditional Andean songs to round it off. We are in Peru so why not? It was great and I am glad that Marco enjoyed it too. I asked him if he was bored at all and he said no. He takes it as an opportunity to learn about something he has absolutely no previous knowledge in. What a guy! Talk to most men (not just Peruvians) and they would tell you they would rather watch TV than go to a classical music concert. Needless to say, it made me incredibly happy to hear that. I don't expect him to fall in love with classical music but it's nice to know he shows interest in what I am interested in.

After the concert we headed down to the plaza to find tons of groups practicing and dancing in the street. There is something every day here and there isn't a single day this month that has gone by without groups practicing outside of my front door. The month of June is festival time in Cusco and there is something to watch and enjoy every day. Inti Raymi is the most well known celebration and the most ridiculous according to Marco. Last year he could barely get through the main plaza because it was so packed with people and most of them were drunk. Can't wait!! Haha, I will be helping Marissa out by selling some tasty treats from the restaurant and handing out flyers during Inti Raymi. I might head up to the ceremony in Sacsayhauman too if it isn't too crazy. There is no way I am paying for a ticket though. They range from 70 - 110 dollars. I will watch from the side, thanks. The following pictures are a few of the groups practicing and looking like they are having a grand old time! Gotta love Cusco for how much everyone wants to take part in all the festivities and dance! (The excessive drinking gets a bit old though)

Friday, June 10, 2011


Happy birthday Marissa! Well, it was really on Wednesday but we had a surprise birthday for her. It was all Humberto's doing and I think she was really excited and happy to get such a loving crowd of people screaming and banging pots and pans for her. I love this picture of her. It was a well deserved party after a hectic crazy day the day before. Marissa is an amazing baker, friend, entrepreneur and person. She deserves all the happiness in the world and I hope that she enjoyed everything on Wednesday! Today we put up a few things in the restaurant and made some peppermint patty pie. We also experimented with donuts which ended up more as cakes. They are delicious and we are going to sell them in the mornings with coffee. If you are around and want a tasty morning treat, stop by!

In other news, I bought my plane tickets to Buenos Aires!!! I am going to take a bus from Cusco to La Paz, spend the night, and then head to Buenos Aires on Wednesday the 29th. I am going to be there for a week to take the suzuku philosophy course, which I believe I mentioned in my last post. I will also have 4 extra days to enjoy the city and meet up with friends! I am so excited. I am also extremely grateful for my father who loaned me some money for the trip. It will make things a lot less stressful. The only thing that makes me nervous is the volcano that erupted in Chile and has spread ash all the way over to Buenos Aires causing plane cancellations. I am going to keep my fingers crossed for my flight in two weeks.

I was expecting to move to our new place today but I found out on Wednesday that we are going to have to wait a little bit longer due to the lease of the previous renter not being up until the 15th. This means another months rent might have to be paid to the current land lady of our place right now. That would not be fun. I am so anxious to move but I'm not stressing because packing for me is easy and I am halfway there since I started before I found out we were going to be waiting a bit longer. All I have to do is throw my toiletries and clothes in my bags and off I go!

I have two new students who start next week. One is around 17 years old and wants to learn to read as well as play. We are going to take a more modified suzuki approach to his lessons since he really wants theory. I am definitely going to be using the book "I can Read Music". It's excellent for rhythm and pitch eventually (after we get his position and posture right of course!) The other student is a 5 year old named Luna who is going to be a private house call student because mom can't afford Qantu right now. I am pumped because in exchange for lessons at a discounted price, I am going to get a monthly massage from her mother Elizabeth. Not a bad deal at all!

I am headed out to see Amaru Pumaq Kuntur tonight at Ukukus with Akhtiara, Marissa, and Julia (an awesome new girl at the restaurant). It should be fun to have a girls night. I haven't had one in so long!

A quick side note, I have put up new pictures and a few videos on the side bar.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Voilá, My Violin Returns!

Every time I put my violin down for some time it somehow manages to come back to me. The last time I decided that I wasn't going to play violin was when I went to college. I was diving and I knew I wouldn't have any time to practice or play so I thought it was better to leave it at home. I figured some day I would pick it up again but probably not while I was in college. A year went by and after joining three more activities I realized that there was no time for diving. I found time to be a radio DJ, a tour guide, and a member of an all female a capella group though. Around November of 2006 a few of my girlfriends from LNO (Ladies' Night Out, the a capella group) were talking about how singing in bluegrass ensemble was a lot of fun. I thought it sounded great so I decided to see what it was all about, thinking that I would sing in a band. Of course, Andy Carlson, the director, had a different idea of what I would be doing in the ensemble.

I had met Andy two years before during a workshop at my high school with his group BassFiddle. He was buddies with my high school orchestra director and they had a fun fiddle workshop. I had already found out that I was accepted to Denison when Andy came so we chatted a bit. I explained that I probably wouldn't have time to fiddle at Denison as I would be diving but he insisted that I try and join the ensemble because he often sees great musicians who are athletes get lost in their athletics and miss out on the chance to play. Well, I spent my freshman year diving but sophomore year when I was sitting in the rehearsal room being introduced to everyone Dr. Carlson asked the group to give me a warm welcome and asked them if I should play the fiddle since he knew I played violin. Everyone whooped and hollered and there was no acquiecing the request. I didn't have my violin so I borrowed a friends crappy one until I returned home for break to get my own. I spent the next two years in bluegrass ensemble and some pretty fun stuff came from it and I loved being part of such a big (and growing) musical family but most of all I fell in love with music again.

Flash forward. A little over a year after graduating I made the decision to head to South America. I decided on Cusco, Peru because there were English teaching jobs and possible guiding jobs. I let my violin because there was no way I was going to be able to fit it on a plane without having to pay for extra bags. I re-packed twice to get everything down to the essentials. I made my way to Peru and taught English for 6 months. I did, however, join a band in October. I also met Angela, one of my bandmate's daughters when I first got to Peru and we chatted about violin because she taught violin at a music school near San Blas. I thought it was cool but didn't give it much thought. We would occasionally see each other when she came to gigs the band would play but other than that she stayed pretty busy and I did my thing with teaching and then moving to a hostel for a few months while in transition. About 3 weeks ago, I was randomly looking on the Expatriate in Peru facebook page and saw an advertisement for a violin teacher in Cusco. It looked familiar because I had gone to a Qantu concert before to see Angela and support her in December. I didn't give it much thought but I did think it would be kind of cool to teach if I could. The universe had to have been listening because the following day Angela called me and asked if I would like to teach for Qantu. She knew that I studied Suzuki and if I was interested I could come to group class and then play a bit for them. I was a little hesitant because I was still waiting on the Experiment in International Living Abroad job (which I didn't get, or I assume I didn't get because they never got back to me. It's all good because it is for the better!). I decided to check it out. After figuring out where they were located I hung out and participated in the Camerata which is their orchestra. Afterward, I had a meeting with Elena, the secretary and Flor, the director, who both showed me so much enthusiasm (and a bit of desperation) that I couldn't say no. I told them I would think about it and sleep on it before accepting because at that point I wasn't sure if I would be leaving the country for the summer job. The following day I got an email from a violin student's parents who practically begged me to come teach. She explained (an reiterated what Elena and Flor told me) that Melissa was leaving soon for Holland and that Angela would soon be leaving for the conservatory in Lima and there are almost 50 violin students who desperately need teachers. I was more than flattered that everyone had so much interest in me especially since I am not certified to teach Suzuki which is important. I do, however, have the experience of taking classes til I was 16 in the Suzuki method so I guess I have that going for me. I am always flattered that they have faith in me to be a good teacher. Lord knows I am going to do everything I can to become a great violin teacher even if it means taking a 4 day bus ride to Buenos Aires.

In order to get certified to teach Suzuki violin classes I need to take a philosophy class first before I get certified in each book of music. Every January there is a Suzuki Festival where teachers can take certification classes and there is no jumping around. Philosophy first, book 1, book 2, etc. Unfortunately, one can only take two classes during the festival so that means if I don't get a philosophy class in first, I will only be able to get certified in book 1 at the festival next January. To advance faster, I am heading to Buenos Aires Argentina for their annual Suzuki festival and to get my philosophy class in. I am SUPER excited! I have wanted to go to BA since I got to South America and this is a great reason! Granted, I will be spending about a week on a bus in total but I will make sure to spend a few extra days there before or after the course so I don't make the trip just to be in a class. I want to explore a bit! I also need to see if I can stay with someone. I have a few porteño friends that I made while at Yamanya and a former co worker from Maximo who might host me. I would be delighted to stay with friends over staying in a hostel.

So now I have 9 students with my youngest being 3 and my oldest 18. It's quite a range but it's awesome and I am beyond excited to be working with kids again and it such a different and awesome way. I never EVER thought I would be teaching violin because I thought all violin teachers had to be professional players and have a major in music. Of course, it is quite helpful and I definitely want to take more classes and learn more about general music theory, but not necessary. The universe has a way of telling me that I am supposed to be doing things and this was definitely a sign that I am in the right place right now. Peru is perfect for me at this moment in my life and I am going to aprovechar (Spanish for take advantage of).

My most difficult task right now is learning all the music langauge in Spanish. A few fun things I have learned:

negra - quarter note
blanca - half note
redondo - whole note
corchea - eighth note
semicorchea - sixteenth note
anacruza - pick up note
tonalidad - key signature
compass - measure

I would say that recuperating the classes that students missed in May has been a bit of a hassle too but not terrible. Thank goodness I only have 9 students right now. I got all the students of a teacher who lives in Colla which is two hours from Cusco. She decided to stop teaching so I immediately started with 9. Not bad! I really want to do well and give them good advice and help in their quest to learn to play the violin.

This is an opportunity I would never have had in the States. I am going to take full advantage of it and continue in my own studies and practice and who knows, if things go really well, I may even go back to school for music! Wouldn't that be awesome? Oh, the possibilities!

On a final note regarding possibilities, a man came into the restaurant yesterday and asked for the girl who plays violin. His name is Abel and he is the director of a chorus in town and he also plays in a quartet and they need a violinist. The group plays weddings and gigs around town and the Sacred Valley. I went to his studio to practice tonight and after sight reading through Judas Macabbeus, Pachabel Canon, and the Wedding March, he asked if I could play a wedding in Ollantaytambo next Saturday. I told him sure! I would love to! The pay isn't that much but I think it would be a great experience and we will see what happens!

Life is good and I am so excited for what is to come including my trip to Buenos Aires! Oh! I almost forgot. I played in a concert that Qantu put on last Tuesday. It was a teacher's concert and we all shared a piece. I played the Ashoken Farewell written by Jay Unger and best known for being in a movie called The Civil War. It was really fun and I felt like a part of the Qantu family. They are really great.

I guess the next step is to change my profile for this blog saying that I was a former English teacher who is now teaching Suzuki violin in Cusco! I will try and get some pictures up soon of the institute and where I am working now.

Let the adventures in Cusco continue!!!!

This photo was taken to put in the next brochure for Qantu. Yay for violin teachers. Angela is in the middle and Melissa in on the right.