It was a big deal because it was Seba's release party for his second CD, Palimay. I haven't gotten nervous in a few years before performing but my first show with Seba I did get nervous. So in addition to a lot of yoga, I said a little prayer before going on stage that my singing would help bring about a world of social justice and peace.
Keeping my eye on the prize helped a lot, and I just had a blast. Friday in the newspaper, the review of the overall concert was positive, but it said, "le puso un toque de simpatía Stephen Coger," and I wasn't sure if it meant that it was sympathy that brought me to the stage or if I brought a sort of charisma/friendliness to the stage. Fortunately it was a compliment, as my sister Lorena and my brother Kevin later confirmed. Ha!
We played a show again on Friday, a bar show, intimate and small, compared to the Wednesday arts center, 200+ people show. We got home after 2am that night and then on Saturday morning I headed alone to teach music at Vilelas. Fortunately the literature teacher showed up and then Seba and Lorena came once their son (my nephew) Yamil finished a gymnastics show at his elementary school.
On this night in Vilelas we were holding a concert for the students' parents, and so after rehearsing all of our tunes we decided to end the music workshop early. Upon informing the students that we were ending a half hour early, one of them pulled out a cell phone, checked the time, and said, "No, profe, son las 11 y treinta. Ustedes están acá hasta las doce." "No, professor, it's 11:30. Ya'll are here until twelve." And so it was, and so we were. He wasn't combative; he just said the truth, and that was all it took. Ha! So they held a sort of drum circle for thirty minutes more and I was moved to join them on the trumpet. It's a humbling and joyous feeling to share music with people and see how drastic of an improvement can be made over just four months. Without any direction these kids changed rhythms, gelling in and out, transitioning clean and transitioning together like the fine brustles of two combs passing just next to each other, amongst and between each other in perfect synchronicity. I was totally impressed, and joyous to be playing music with them.
But how can I share with you the fun, good work that we did that day? We taught music in the morning, played a children's music show in the afternoon, and then put on a show for the parents of the music workshop kids in the evening. It was beautiful. I shared with them their fortune at living next to one of the world's most important rivers, of having successfully struggled for universal health care, and of having successfully struggled for universal education. I told them that 45,000 people die in my country every year for lack of health care, and we talked about music and I thanked them... and after the show and during the good-byes, just as we were about to pull away, Facundo, one of the older kids, started to tear up, and I thought, "If we don't leave now, this is it! I'm gonna cry!" And so it was. ha! It was a beautiful goodbye, sitting in the back part of a pick-up bouncing away down the gravel from Vilelas, thanking Seba for inviting me all those Saturdays ago and crying.
In India they talk about "rising in love" as opposed to "falling in love," and I think it applies not only to romantic love, but also to friendships like those my friends and I made in Argentina. A sort of constructive love that sets free and isn't codependent but rather interdependent towards mutual growth. That's what all of my Argentina friends and most of my students and I did. We had just a little bit of time, and yet we really formed strong bonds in that short time.
And because the musicians that play with Seba had been here all week from Buenos Aires, we'd spent every night awake until 2 or 3am eating, visiting, swimming, and playing music... tonight I slept.
Sunday I played with my Taiwanese friends while the rain poured outside, and then that night played with Seba, Lorena, and Yamil in the park. Yamil learned to skate tonight (Nov. 15, 2009). I began to pack.
Monday I practiced yoga with Seba and recorded a video journal while cooking dhal. Tuesday was my last day at San Fernando Rey, the college whereat I teach, and I printed off four certificates for my two most improved students and my two best speakers. Wednesday was another love-filled goodbye; it was my last day at Escuela Normal Sarmiento, my high school. You know what? I'm just going to include my journal entry from this day. It was a big day.
This morning I got nearly EVERYTHING for our Thanksgiving dinner at my beloved butcher shop (which has everything one could need hidden amongst its few shelves), then hunted down the last few ingredients in the centro. Lorena (my sister) beat me home and we cooked together, and Nico (my brother) came over and helped. We had lunch together outside the oven-heated sauna of my casita (little house), then went together to my favorite class. We ate ice cream, visited, and shared about things beyond English. I asked them not to smoke, and they shared their thoughts, danced, and Lorena and Claudia (the professor and my dear friend) spoke, too. I reminded them that they live in a beautiful place and that they are fortunate to live here. I reminded them that Claudia is a great English teacher that speaks English perfectly, that we have a choice when it comes to our emotions and when it comes to what we enjoy, and that it’s better to hang out solo than be mal acompañado, than to hang out with bad company.
Nico and Lorena told them about San Fernando Rey. Then we took a picture together, Nico helped me prepare envelopes for Kevin (my youngest brother), then my Argentine family--Lorena, Nico, and Kevin--and I took a picture together, then one with Claudia.
Lorena wrote her contact info down for Kevin, then I wrote a quick note telling his parents that another adoptive sibling (Lorena) had agreed to get him up to speed on his English free of charge. I also invited them to my Thanksgiving dinner tonight.
Then Lorena and I walked back home, crying a little, and then I helped her with her English homework and we went to swimming lessons! Yamil and Nahuel can swim wonderfully, and while Magalí and Lara know HOW to swim, they haven't let me let go of them, and when I do they sink like a stone. So today I didn’t let go of them at all though at one point Magalí was swimming with such speed that I wasn’t supporting her at all. Ha!
Then I came home and practiced yoga, and my 9:15 dinner started when Seba and Lorena showed up at that time, though we didn’t begin to eat until Steven Washington (a former Harlem Globetrotter from Chicago, he now resides in Resistencia and teaches basketball at the university where I taught swimming) showed up around 10, and the party got started really when Kevin and his family showed up shortly thereafter, and it was a total blast when Vanessa (whom I met meandering around Resistencia) and her son, Segundo, showed up shortly thereafter. I think everyone had gone home by 2am, after empanadas, sweet potato pie, chocolate cake, pizza, and ice cream. haha! Empanadas and sweet potato pie…
The sort of running joke of the day was that I had to get back after the ice cream at high school and “brush the sugar off my teeth.” It’s funny because it’s mostly not a joke. ha!
On Thursday, I had my final swimming lesson. AND I'M SO HAPPY!! MAGALI SWAM! She swam and she swam and she swam! This is my favorite Going to Arkansas Present. Then we had pizza at my friend David's house. He's a great sculptor. And maker of pizza.
On Friday, I said goodbye to some friends from Taiwan, said goodbye to the Britoses, and they took home the stuff that they had loaned me all those months ago: a sauce pan, forks, etc. Seba came over and helped me finish up, and then we called a remise. I headed to Seba, Lorena and Yamil's while Seba rode that way on his bike. We shared one more afternoon of playing and tereré, that wonderful, yummy, cold version of yerba maté that Argentinians, Paraguayans, and some Brazilians drink in the summer.
My friend Luis and I performed Ben Harper's Waiting on an Angel for Seba, Lorena, Yamil, and a couple of friends of theirs, and then Seba and I played a few of the tunes we'd played together over the months. After that Yamil skated a bit.
Then the remise, which as far as I can tell is the same thing as a taxi, came to get us and take us to the bus terminal. We had to get dropped off before the terminal actually because of a demonstration that had blocked the road. I remember walking toward the terminal, flanked by and following my friends who were helping carry and roll my things, thinking, "SWEET! The buses can't run! One more night in Resistencia!"
As it happened, the buses were running, just behind schedule. And so my friends from Taiwan managed to make their way to the terminal, too, and we all visited. Seba and I visited about the benefits of our friendship, and Yamil and I performed a version of the "I'm Bad" Michael Jackson music video. If you can come over to my house I'll show this to you because it is hilarious and Seba videotaped the whole 1.5 minute show. ha! Also, the Calvin and Hobbes vibe of me and Yamil's friendship is crystal clear and tangible in the video.
They are, from left to right: Guido, Mauro, Seba, Esteban (the producer;
he's playing the drums), and then a lovely, lovely guy
(muy buena onda) on the
Lorena, Myrian, Seba, and I in one of the classrooms
not-so-bright idea of bringing the food out just as we began to
play, so after this picture was taken nearly
all of our audience disappeared. ha!
the university where I worked and played, I spent the most time
with this class of sophomores. Teresa is a great teacher,
always listening to her students; she's in
white to my left, and she is also a Fulbright scholar. She worked
as a Spanish teacher in Washington on her Fulbright scholarship,
and she encourages her students to think critically while
learning English. I really like that, and I suspect that
the context it provides helps what they learn stick.
And it was delicious. This was another late night, after
a farewell get together in Laguna Argüello, the same
place I had my wonderful birthday party. In the park, I had my
last torta parrilla (flat bread, al estilo Argentino) for a while.
They started out as students, then became friends, and then
sister and brothers.
That's all, ya'll. Some how or another the eight plus months of my Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship have ended. I made great friends, and they made me. And I achieved my goal--mentioned in my second blog entry--of verifying that no automatic trajectory is mine. My path is mine and is not determined by society, by my beloved parents, by where I'm from... but by all of these things and by me and by more. Mmm-hmm.
I learned to cook well on a fairly consistent basis! I played Kilómetro 11 with my great friends, ate queso cremoso, taught swimming lessons, helped teach a music workshop, taught English, played pool with my high school students, ate pizza and danced with my college students... I became a vegetarian and began to develop in other ways that facilitate the social justice that I want to see in the world. And I resolved never to drive in Danville again; if Seba and Lorena can bicycle around Resistencia, a city of 400,000 folks, I can ride my bike all up and down Danville, my hometown of 2,000 folks. ha!
Aright friends and family. Thank you again for following my blog. As we wade through life's water together may we relax and leave behind the unnecessary and hurtful: the Coca-Cola, house decorations, lawn watering, and more. And as some of us changing see some of us not changing, may we remember that honey attracts more bees than vinegar and be genuinely human. May our art accelerate and make efficient the process of our slow, simple discovery of our common humanness.
PS On the flight home, the plane ride included the super interesting screen that tells things like the altitude and speed and other stuff. Here are a few screen shots, followed by one of me at home in my back yard in front of the bradford pear tree.
the sun has risen, where it's setting, where
night is falling, and where the sun is rising.
And I know McDonald's to be a place of poison, so I got my food elsewhere so that Dad and I could continue the tradition of eating and reading. Y yo sé que McDonald's es un lugar de veneno, por eso yo compré mi comida en otro parte para que Papá y yo podríamos seguir con la tradición de comer y leer.
And here is a video that I made for my beloved Argentine family, the Ibarras. They took me to so many of their sacred places that I wanted to show them mine; and so this is the first of several videos which will certainly include Spring Lake--at sunset--and Long Pool.
A big huge thanks to Krishna at Espacio Thai in Buenos Aires for allowing me to feel so welcome there. My final two nights in Argentina were passed there, even though no one else was there. Another big huge thanks to all my friends and family and teachers that stayed in touch while I was in Argentina, those that are physically with us and those that aren't.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.