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.

Beats and Rests

During the last cycle of programs, Voices of Youth was also being brought to a neighboring community called Oasis. In an effort to strengthen our relationship with the kids who participated in Voices of Youth, this summer we have started doing other workshops as well. Every day (except for Sunday) there is a workshop. In the past, I rarely went to Oasis due to conflicts in schedules, but with the new summer programming I’ve been going a couple of times a week. Said conflict was the fact that I had music in La Encantada while Voices of Youth in Oasis ran at the same time. That still holds true today, but now I get to go to Oasis on Fridays for their music workshop.

Last Friday was the first class of this summer and it went really well. Emily, Niko and me were there as well as the twenty-seven kids who came. It was a big group, especially compared to the groups in La Encantada of usually no more than ten. We split into three groups, guitar, cajon and violin. The violin group  consisted of older kids who specifically asked for violin, and the rest of the group was divided between Niko and I, for cajon and guitar, respectively. It went pretty smooth and everyone enjoyed that week’s lesson about how to read music.

This week was a little different. With Emily traveling on business and Niko having left to continue with his travels, I thought it was going to be just me. But luckily, Andy, who has been teaching guitar in La Encantada was available to help out. Even after doing a myriad of workshops with Interact, class presentations in school and even more recently, helping a little with lesson plans for Voices of Youth, I had never doing anything like write a lesson plan essentially from scratch for this two-hour class. It was challenging, but I found a lot of help from reflecting on what types of activities I did in school. For example, one review activity I had the kids do was inspired by a game my Calculus teacher taught me last year.

Today’s lesson was about beats and rests. The main activity was a make-your-own song type thing. Each small group got a long strip of poster paper with a music staff that had five measures on it. With the small packet of cut out notes and rests, each team had to create their own song so that each measure had the correct number of beats in each one. Each correct measure was five points and each error was minus one. I even threw in some bonus points for having a title for their song and or if they could play it! These kids love competition therefore, the game was automatically more interesting. One mistake I had made was not practicing what it sounds like for each different type of note (whole note, half note, quarter note, etc) for enough time, so the lesson might not have sunk in as well as it could have. Nonetheless, the kids caught on and they had a good time.

The past few weeks have consisted of many days that started early in the morning and ended late at night and sometimes work was brought home (i.e. music in Oasis). But even so, I think that they have been some of the most successful weeks of programming that I’ve participated in since I arrived. It may sound really self-indulgent, but really honestly every night on the short bus ride home, I think about how much I really enjoy what I’m doing and how much I will rue the day I have to go home. More often than not, that train of thought segues into something that makes me stressed out in the end because I’ve been here for almost five months and I just know that the next five will pass by even faster and how am I supposed to encourage genuine community building when I know I have to leave at some point and I don’t know if I’ll be able to visit again and then I get so caught up that I end up having to walk half a block more because I forgot to get off at the right place.

In summary, things are most definitely in full swing these days and I am trying not think about when I have to go home. (Although for curious minds, I will be coming back before the second week of June. More explanation to come soon.)

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My posts have been lacking in photos lately, so I figured I’d add this one. Yesterday, Voices of Youth went on a small visit to EcoRec, a local green house/recycling organization that is helping us plant vegetables in our garden. Fun fact: EcoRec is right across the street from my house! Really, I can see almost all their plants from outside my window.