Sunday, July 29, 2012

Final Concerts

July and December are both the craziest months at Qantu. We have all of our final concerts and they all tend to fall within a certain week. Poor Flor has to accompany practically everyone so she is the one who runs around the most crazed of anybody. Fortunately, everything went pretty smoothly all in all.

The first concert I was a part of was the violin concert on the 7th of July. I had one night back in Cusco before the concert. I was really hoping the concert would be scheduled for the following week but availability plays a huge part in when and where we have our concerts. The students did a great job and I was very proud of the work that my students did with Katie while I was away. The all seemed to be in good shape and ready to play. Of course, there are always nerves and little things here and there but I completely understand and I am super proud of all of them. We had a good time.

The chorus and orchestra concert went very well. The kids sang really well; better than they had been in practice on Saturday afternoons. They repertoire included traditional Andean pieces that they kids grow up playing. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of that concert.

Finally, I helped with the ensamble concert which included Early Stimulation, Cajon 1 and 2 and Sikuris. It was super fun and it was adorable watching the little itty bitty ones dance around with their mothers in Early Stimulation. They were dressed up in costumes. Two butterflies and a duck!
The last to go were the Sikuri players who did a great job. The group is divided into two groups and one group plays a certain type of sikuri (pan flute) and the other group plays the other type and together they can play all the notes they need to play. I only wish they didn't play in a circle because we say the backs of some of the students instead of their fronts.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

4th of July, Seeing people, and Making it Back to Peru

It was really great getting home from camp. I was fortunate enough to have my mother pick me up from camp and we had a nice ride down to Urbana Illinois to visit my cousin Kelsey who had been in a car accident the week before and had internal bleeding. She was doing much better but still in a lot of pain. Ugh, internal bleeding is no joke. It was really great to see her. I hadn't seen her in at least 5 years. It's really crazy how fast time flies.

The Skokie Sculpture Park Bike Path

During the 4 days I was home I managed to see lots of people including my friends Ben, Lynda, David, and Jessica. I even got to see a movie in a theater! It was Magic Mike, about a stripper played by Channing Tatum. It was fluff but super fun to see with a girlfriend. I mostly did a lot of running around buying things for Marco and myself and making sure that I had everything I needed to take back. Unfortunately, Spirit airlines only allows 40 pounds of luggage and only one checked bag so I ended up leaving a lot of things I would have liked to take along. I did get my other violin back and it has been wonderful not having to take combis with my violin anymore.

I had a great time on the 4th of July. I rode around on my bike running errands first and then I enjoyed the parade with my friend Jess. It was 101 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity and I loved it. I knew that I would be heading back to really cold nights and almost constant cold hands in Cusco so I was soaking it up as much as I could. I was well equipped with my camelbak and my sunscreen, shorts and a tank so I was not complaining! The people in the parade were drenched and the Cavaliers, a marching band that plays in the parade every year, was in the Underarmour without their jackets and plumed hats because of the heat. They had a fire hydrant open in one of the parks along Central Street.

That evening I made my way over to see my friend Lynda in Chicago before heading to a BBQ at a high school friend's parents' place. I saw the fireworks with my good friend David and his girlfriend Anya before finishing my final night with a great conversation with my really good high school friend Chanel. It felt so great chatting with her. She is such an amazing and interesting woman. I am always intrigued by everything she is involved in. She is slowly making her way through her childhood room this summer and cleaning it out which can be quite emotional. I remember going through my room the last time packing everything up before I left for Peru. I have always been good and getting rid of things but it was still a bit emotional not knowing what the future had in store and leaving things behind and getting rid of things that brought about memories. Such is life though no? We can't hold on to everything or there won't be any space for anything new.

The McGaw YMCA being represented in the parade

Love this family!

On the way to the airport in Chicago I was in a bit of a daze and sleep deprived from my late conversation the night before but my dad was trying to tell me in his way that he was going to miss me a lot. It didn't really sink in until I got home and found an email that really explained it all. I am beyond grateful that both of my parents want to support me and see me happy even if I am far away. I am so lucky and yet I definitely have that bit of guilt for being so far away. My mother tells me not to feel guilty because I have to live my own life and it would be selfish of her to think that I was going to stay around just for her. Still, they are my parents and they have given me so much and now I am super far away. Thank goodness for the internet though AND skype!

I arrived in Lima at 11pm at night and made way to Marco's cousin's for the night before getting up super early to take my flight to Cusco. Unfortunately, Marco wasn't able to pick me up from the airport due to work but I made my way to the house and greeted Pepe with a big hug. I arranged all the things I got for Marco from the States on the table and when he got home I made sure to give him a big hug and a kiss. It felt so nice being in his arms again and smelling him. Long distance relationships have got to be awful. We only had 7 weeks of being away. I can only imagine what my co-worker has to go through being here for the year and her boyfriend in Iowa. Needless to say, I was a happy camper and so glad to be home. I immediately started work that afternoon and our final concert for violins was the next day. I didn't feel too bad in terms of altitude but I did get a nasty cold a week or so after being back. I am not a huge fan of being cold all the time again (except when being scorched by the insane sun here). I am happy to have my job and my bands and be getting into a healthy routine again of going to the gym and eating lots of quinoa. Life is good and I can't complain!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Girls Trailblazers 2012

 The amazing ladies of Girls Trailblazers A 2012 ready to rock and roll!

Girls Trailblazers was amazing. I was a little nervous about the change from the Upper Peninsula to North Manitou Island and the Big Manistee but once I heard about how awesome both would be I was in. First off, the driving was cut by 2/3 from 900 to 300 miles. We had more time on the trip as opposed to two full days of driving taking two days from being in the wilderness. We also got to take a ferry from Leland Michigan to the island. The Island itself was safer than the backpacking portion of the old trip because the ranger knew where we were staying and the ranger station was never more than 3 miles from us.
We had amazing Bahamas-like beaches to stay on and the weather couldn't have been better. The girls were freaked out by ticks from a ranger on the mainland who obviously didn't know how to deal with 11 and 12 year old girls. Fortunately, none of them got any ticks. Graham got a pretty bad one though and I had to get its head out with a needle. We did that while they were all at the beach because that would've freaked them out more. It also helped that we had a super helpful ranger named Paul who calmed the ladies down a bit. He also helped us plan our route.

On our layover day we checked out an old cemetery that was pretty cool and also a little sad. There was a father and daughter buried together. North Manitou Island used to be a logging island as well as a hub for immigrants on their way into the States. I think the highest population was around 250 people in the late 1800s. There are multiple buildings on the island from the 1920s as well. There are a few privately owned buildings but other than that the island is entirely for backpacking. No cars allowed except for ATVs and a small fire engine.

We thoroughly enjoyed the beach and we also played some hydration games to make sure nobody got cranky. The girls were so content playing mafia most of the time. Graham and I had it so easy. They were a blast and we couldn't have been luckier to have a group of girls that all got along and wanted to hang out with each other. 

Our canoeing portion started out magnificently with a huge campsite at Chippewa Landing with a shelter. The bugs weren't too bad either. The other group said they were awful when they were there.
We made out way our to Sharon bridge to start our trip the following morning. We canoed all day and found a place along the river that was up a sand dune but turned out to be pretty nice other than a nasty pile of barbed wire that one of our girls got a bit cut up in. We let the girls swim a bit but the water was cold and one of them suffered from mild hypothermia. We quickly got her some warm clothes and hot water to drink. 

On the second day we were paddling along and all of a sudden a dragonfly landed on my shoulder with a fly in its mouth. He shook it really good and made sure that it was dead and that sucked its insides out. It then continued to munch away for ten minutes!! You can't see it too well in this picture but it was one of the coolest nature moments I have ever experienced. Honestly, I have never seen more wildlife on a river. We saw a deer with its two babies, lots of ducks, AND I saw a bald eagle!

We really couldn't have asked for better weather. We went through so much sunscreen but I would much rather have than then cold and wet campers in the rain. Our second night was supposed to be at a campsite but we missed it so we stayed on the side of the river again in a not too terribly bumpy place. The girls walked up the river and floated down a few times before we got them out to warm them up because that water was quite chilly. Unfortunately, we couldn't have a fire but we did have hot water and hot chocolate! The girls were content. 

When we got to the pull out at Chippewa Landing, the owner graciously allowed us to take tubes and play in the water. The girls made their way up the river and floated down twice. 45 minutes of trudging against the current for a few minutes floating down. They loved it. Later, they got Rick, the owner, and some of the guys who worked there to play mafia. I literally have never seen so many games of mafia played by a group of people in my life. Usually people get sick of it after a few rounds but they played it every day without fail at least 3 times. The girls are pictured above with their heads down waiting to wake up to see who has been killed and who they think the mafia is.

Overall, it was a FANTASTIC trip. I had such a blast with everyone and Graham and I had such a great time listening to the ridiculousness of adolescent girls. I am so glad that I was able to do this trip and be one of the pioneers for a new trailblazers trip that I am sure will be continued into the future. Other than tradition, there is really no reason not to keep the new itinerary as the official trailblazers trip for Camp Echo.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Training Recap

I had a wonderful 7 weeks in the States and I want to write about it all but I will make it a bit more organized by writing only about training right now, Girls Trailblazers and then about the rest of my time at home.

I headed to camp with my mother and wrote about family camp which was super fun and a great time that I spent with my mother in one of my favorite places ever.

After family camp finished I went straight into training mode. I have an entirely new respect for Jamie, P-nut, Andrew, and Meredith who have all lead teen staff training before. It is a ton of work and I never had down time because I was always running around trying to get things from the kitchen or asking someone a question or planning the next activity. Of course, like anything that is done for the first time, I felt like I could have done a much better job but I think overall it worked out well and that the crew felt ready to rock and roll this summer.

We had a week on camp and in the beginning trained with the teen staff that would be working in camp teen programs with trip guides. We went on the little Manistee river for one night and it was so cold. Fortunately, we rocked a nice wet fire and kept our spirits up. The following day we actually had really nice weather and Gabe and I enjoyed our some canoe time together to get to know each other. We also had fun watching the crew do an initiative on the water switching boats. Beckman later said that it was really just so he could get out of the somewhat busted boat he was it in. Nice motive.

A lot of teen staff training was playing games, brainstorming and sharing stories. I took everyone out to Birches on the first night we had everyone together and talked to them about the chakana, the southern cross symbol of the Incas and how we could all take it as a symbol of strength and balance which is what we all need throughout the summer. I gave them all their chakana keychains and we enjoyed taps and a campfire as the sun set over the lake. Symbols are an important part of our lives and that is what we talked about for taps, a question that is proposed to everyone at the end of the night so that we all get to know each other better. It was really interesting hearing what symbols meant to people. Taps has got to be one of the best things about camp. Many a tear has been shed and a smile cracked during taps as well as lessons learned and friendships and relationships tightened. It is a wonderful thing.

When regular staff training started and the teen staff headed off to join main camp staff, the trip guides and I started getting ready for our training trip. We had to pack food into gallon ziploc bags since the U-line 2 liters had not showed up to do the majority of food packing. It worked out well and we ended up having a great amount of food. I have never been so content with my food intake like I was on the training trip but I am sure it is because we measured more by gallon than by poundage. :) I also never remember being so comfortable with the weight of my pack. I think it's because the boys had a little something to prove with how much they could carry. Good for them, I definitely wasn't complaining!

Anyway, we were all set to go the upper peninsula and get going on the Big Two-Hearted River for the canoeing section and then hike 3 days on the North Country Trail. Unfortunately, (but really it worked out for the best) we were called my Meredith once we were in the U.P. who told us to make a left and head to the Porcupine Mountains for a 6 day backpacking trip since the East side of the U.P. had been affected by a huge forest fire. Rainbow Lodge, our outfitter, had burned down completely and there was no trip to be had there. We changed our route and headed to the West side of the U.P. to go on a wonderful backpacking trip. The funny part was that we were hauling a canoe trailer with 5 canoes. It was good driving practice for the new guides.

 We started our hike along Lake Superior for the first two nights before heading into the heart of the park. It was absolutely gorgeous along the lake and we only had a little bit of scattered showers. The sunsets were to die for though and I don't think anyone would argue with that. We did argue about whether the sunsets we saw were in our top 5 but eventually we decided you can't rate your sunsets, you just have to enjoy them as you see them and for what they are at the time of the set.

 Relaxing in Little Carp River after a grueling 4 mile day. :)
 Alex the Deer Whisperer
 The final shot from my camera before it fell 30 feet from the lookout tower to its sad.

I faked a grand maul seizure and dislocated shoulder during our day hike on our layover day and they all handled it really well. I definitely think I could have incorporated more Wilderness First Responder scenarios in the training. We went over lots of things such as blister care and taking care of Joey's wrist which was continually wrapped but scenarios were few. I, personally, had tons of fun with a blister and some cuts on my hands that didn't want to heal. Fortunately, most of them had just finished their course.

After 6 wonderful weather days in the Porkies we headed to Mackinaw City. We celebrated with a night out on the town which was super fun. Overall, I had a really great time and it was really awesome seeing the next generation of guides coming into their own and getting pumped for the summer. It's already the start of 4th sesssion now as I am writing this but from the pictures I have seen I know that the trippers have had an awesome time all due to these amazing guides.