Little Reminders

As mentioned in previous posts, a continual goal of mine is to always be aware. That can be sort of broad, but it’s the bare bones of the idea. Essentially, I want to do my best to find ways of challenging myself and continually think about how to efficiently and effectively do the best work I can. However, trying to continually think critically about how to improve programming or even find the time to be in the moment, is difficult. Nevertheless, sometimes the most random moments provide the best reminders of being in said moments. One came this afternoon, as I carried four guitars and a violin across Villa el Salvador.

This is not the first time I’ve done this. (Well, first time with a violin added to the mix.) In the past, I’ve had the help of one or two other people, but many a time I have made the grand pilgrimage from the Center for Development with Dignity (CEDED) to the location in the neighboring community of Oasis, to enlighten the youth with the power of music. I love going to Oasis and working with the kids there – it’s honestly one of my favorite workshops to do. But as I walked (or trudged) up the sandy hill to catch a moto taxi, with two full sized guitars, two little guitars and a violin, I had to take a moment and think, “You are hauling five instruments across Villa el Salvador.” Across Villa el Salvador is somewhat of a hyperbole, but I guess I was feeling a little dramatic and in need of an NBC camera on my side to capture the blank stare on my face that everyone was supposed to know translated to what I said above. Nevertheless, my 5-seconds of being Jim Halpert were over very quickly. I got a grip (literally and figuratively, the guitars started slipping) and realized that yes, carry this instruments I will because I really love doing this workshop, no matter how inconspicuous I may look doing it.

What I think is significant about the little reminder I just shared is that I hadn’t really taken a pause like that for almost the entire summer – let alone, a pause that wasn’t involving any sort of worry. The workshop that took place this afternoon was the seventh one and being a weekly class, it also marks the seventh week of music this summer. When I became the in charge of the program, I was scared. My anxiety was the motivator for overly-elaborate lesson plans and overall self doubt. However, as time went by and I learned more about what worked and what didn’t, I got more comfortable. Now leading the workshop by myself harbors no anxieties as it in the past and coming to that realization was pretty revelational. My summer has been hallmarked by my involvement with the music program and now I take a lot of pride in that.

My mission of being in the moment while also thinking ahead is a continuing challenge and it can also be said that it will be for long after I leave Peru. But as I think about how this goal will affect me in the future, I also really have to eat dinner right now. Gotta stay in the moment.

Guitar Time

To anyone who is unaware, I am currently experiencing the opposite seasonal changes to those in the US. Summer has finally come to Lima and it has it’s pros and cons. The combination of clouds, chill and humidity that I arrived to in Lima stayed for a while and spring never really showed itself except for maybe one week. Personally, I enjoy a nice cool, maybe even chilly day. Now, I believe we are amidst summer and the heat is something to get used to. As well as the combination of the heat and humidity. It’s nice to see the sun, but I forgot how exhausting it can be when it beats down on you for a couple of hours. Nonetheless, I should stop complaining and continue onto more interesting developments.

Clearly, I’ve been very lax with my postings lately. As always, with 100% honesty I will say that it’s been because I just haven’t had the time and I’ve had a difficult time reminding myself. At the community center, we’ve been wrapping up this year’s programming and even though programs like Horas Públicas have been very quiet, I’ve been busy coordinating the transport and participation of people to go to a chocolatada this Sunday. Although I’ve never been to one and can’t speak to specifics, a chocolatada is an event during which children receive free gifts, panetón, hot chocolate and participate in various other festive activities. Building Dignity has hosted them in the past, but because of various reasons, it didn’t pan out this year. Instead, we have accepted the invitation from another organization called Red Joven Sur, to participate and help with their chocolatada. The Voices of Youth kids wrapped little gifts that will be donated to the event and a group of them will be going to volunteer on the day of as well. It’ll be a nice way to celebrate the holidays and I’m looking forward to inviting the kids.

In other news, I bought a guitar. Despite the purchase’s original purpose, it’s become quite the distraction from the various other things that are going on right now i.e. submitting college applications, looking for scholarships, sleeping.  I bought the guitar because it was challenging to basically only be able to practice the day of music class and none of my past music teachers would agree that a system like that would correlate to any sort of meaningful development/skills – especially those that are needed to teach others. So the clear answer was to buy myself a guitar and donate it to Building Dignity once I go back to the US.

Buying the guitar was a little adventure in itself. Even though the guitars that currently reside in the community center are evidence enough to know that the one I will donate later won’t be perfect forever, I like to think that it’s better to start of with something nice instead of something sub-par. When I first went into the store, I saw the guitar I first bought, gave it a good look over and asked if I could try playing the one behind it. The man in the store said the one in front was better for students (I had told him the reason for why I was buying the guitar) and after giving this new one a good look over, I decided to get it. Once I got home and gave it a play, I realized that maybe I should have been more thorough. The strings were aligned not very well, there as the annoying buzz on one of the strings and an abundance of scratches on the body that I hadn’t noticed before. I decided to call the store and ask if I could come back and exchange the guitar for one of the same value. To my surprise, the man was really kind about the whole situation and said the equivalent of “Come on back!”.

Once I did, he showed me the same model but in a bit nicer shape. Instead of immediately doing the switch, my eyes started lingering on other acoustics that lined the walls and deep down I realized that I wouldn’t be taking the guitar I originally sought to exchange, home. After I practiced with a few and figured out prices, I decided to buy a completely different guitar, albeit a bit more expensive than the first one. I’m not a guitar expert, but I’m pretty confident that the extra money was worth it. My new guitar is (what I believe to be) a 3/4 size guitar, acoustic with nylon strings and has a cutaway. I do confess that one of the rationalizations that went through my head (and my mouth) when deciding on buying the guitar was that the neck was smoother and a little slimmer, therefore, playing it would be easier for the children’s small hands. Always for the children. The new guitar is really quite solid for the price (about $70) and I’m very happy with it.

Last Saturday was the last music class for this year and before our summer programming that will start in January. I’m hoping that this little vacation will provide an opportune time to practice up before music starts up again. As many a music teacher told me, “Practice, practice, practice and practice some more.”