Thursday, May 1, 2014

April Adventures: An Orchestra Concert, A Surprise Birthday Party, a Despedida, and the New Job

As I sit down to write this, I can hardly believe a month has gone by without updating.  Today is a national holiday, specifically Día del Trabajador (Day of the worker).  Most people are off from work, and I am very fortunate to have received a "sandwich day".  Sometimes holidays fall on a Tuesday or Thursday, and in that case a few things might happen:

1. The government might move the holiday to a Monday or Friday to give people a long weekend.
2. If the holiday isn't moved, workers can ask for the Monday or Friday off to have a long weekend.

I asked my boss about having Friday off, fully assuming that it wouldn't be a possibility.  She surprised me in saying that it would most likely be possible.  She checked my schedule of classes on Fridays and then gave me the day off!

Yesterday I headed to the bus station right after work, and I got a bus to El Quisco.  I know I've written about it before, but it's just so quiet and peaceful.  I also enjoy getting out of Santiago.  I'll be here today and Friday, so it's just enough time to enjoy the peace and quiet but not long enough to get bored.

So, what happened last month?

I went to an orchestra concert in Santiago.  The Santiago Philharmonic was playing Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, which is also known as the Pastorale Symphony.  It's a piece of music that he wrote around Easter, and he wrote it to bring to life the idea of spring's arrival, flowers awaking, and it creates images of peasants holding hands and dancing around in circles in the fields to celebrate the arrival of spring.  At least that's what I remember from music history class, and I totally hear it in the music.

I posted on Facebook asking who would be interested in going to the concert, and Emma responded.  She's from New York, and we know each other from working at Eclass.  Prior to this we hadn't really gotten to know each other, but it was a really nice event. 

Traffic held us up a bit, but we made it to the concert after the first piece had started.  I was able to get us seats in the third row from the front, and it was nice being so close to the front. The building is old and beautiful, with marble pillars and architecture that made me feel like I had stepped back in time.  The performance was really interesting to me too because of a few details.  The conductor didn't stand on a podium.  It made me wonder how all of the musicians could see him.  Additionally, he didn't use a baton.  How do those musicians know exactly where the beat is?  Last but not least, he didn't have use a score to follow along.  I only conducted a few times, and I would probably know the music well enough not to need it, but I would still prefer to have it in front of me just in case!

Listening to the music brought me back in time to when I had performed the same piece of music over 15 years ago.  As a freshman in high school I somehow got in contact with a church that was preparing an Easter concert, and so some classmates and began rehearsing with other people.  We performed the same symphony and a few other pieces of music.

When the concert was over I was able to chat with one of my friends that actually played in the concert.  We don't see each other very often, but it was so nice being at the concert and seeing her perform.  We also snapped some pictures.

The concert was also a very special event for me.  In addition to Beethoven's 6th being a beautiful piece of music, it reminds me of my mom.  She died around Easter 7 years ago, and since I had started playing bass in 6th grade she had only missed about four concerts I had played in.  One was when I was an exchange student in Germany (but she and my dad came to the other one), another was when I was a freshman in college in Los Angeles, and a few when I was living in California after I had graduated and performed with community orchestras.  

She was my biggest music supporter.  She drove me to and from music lessons, around the state for orchestra auditions and rehearsals, and attended my concerts.  She put up with me hauling around an instrument that was bigger than me when I started playing it, took me to recording sessions when I wrote pieces of music, and did everything she could to help me become a better musician.  Having lost her around Easter makes the holiday a bit of a difficult time for me, and I wanted to go to the concert not only to enjoy the music but to celebrate her life and remember her.

Another event from April was a surprise birthday party.  My friend Rodrigo's birthday is in April, and so a few of us organized a the party at Insert Coin Bar, the video game bar near my apartment.  He was surprised, and there was a really interesting mix of people that came.  Not everyone was into the videogames, but there were bar tables where people could sit around and talk over drinks and snacks.  It was a success and great time, and it was actually the first surprise party I had ever been to.

Just as it's important to celebrate birthdays, I also had a despedida (farewell party) for one of my friends.  Leanne came to Chile at the same time as me with TeachingChile, and we actually stayed at the same hostel in Rio de Janiero before we arrived in Santiago.  We weren't that close, but I enjoyed talking with her and having drinks at parties when we got to see each other.  She decided to embark on an adventure doing some volunteering with organic farming in Brazil for a month, and after that she's back to Canada.  She's a really positive person and is always trying new things, and I'm so glad that I met her.  I hope that our paths will cross again at one point or another.

Last but not least, I am finally feeling settled into my new job.  In March I accepted a teaching job at Servicios de Impuestos Internos, which is the equivalent of the Chlean IRS.  It's a small office with 4 other teachers and my boss, and I love the small office atmosphere.  I love having a computer, printer, and copier at my disposal.  I love that I can store my teaching resources there and that I don't have to take them with me wherever I go.  And I love that almost all of my classes are in the same building.  I have 25 hours of classes a week with individuals or small groups.  While that doesn't sound like a lot (I have taught up to 33 hours a week at times), I am teaching 11 different levels.  The amount of planning has been overwhelming at times, but now that I am getting a good feel of the students and the books we are using it is becoming easier.  It's also quite interesting, as the office is located in a building right next to the presidential palace La Moneda.  A few days a week I'll hear fanfares of the arrival of important dignitaries or for the changing of the guards.  I've heard both the Chilean and US National Anthems played while running errands or working in the office.  Sometimes I can look out the window and see a procession going by with horses and a marching band performing.

After having worked for institutes and piecing together work to have a full schedule, it is certainly a nice and welcome change to have steady classes, coworkers to collaborate with, and a steady paycheck.  It's a new challenge with the amount of planning, and I'm using textbooks that I've never used before.  I am so grateful that this opportunity came my way, and I feel like my strong work ethic and perseverance with teaching has paid off.

I would be remiss not to mention the fires in Valparaiso.  Fires broke out on April 12th, destroying close to 3,000 homes and killing 15 people.  The fires are being called one of the worst in the city's history, and there are many people that are in dire need of help.  During the long Easter weekend (Good Friday was a holiday here), many people flocked to Valpo to help in any way possible.  I considered doing the same, but given my meager abilities to build the simplest of pieces of furniture or to barely be able to change a light bulb I decided that it wouldn't be the best way to help.  I instead did some grocery shopping and passed along some bags of groceries to people that I know will be going directly to Valpo to volunteer.  Call me cynical, but seeing so many organizations popping up accepting donations to help victims of the fire leaves me a bit wary.  I'm not sure what organizations I can trust, so I prefer doing what I can to be sure that help gets directly to people without an organizational middleman.  

I unfortunately don't know how you can make donations from outside of Chile.  The country is definitely hurting between the earthquake in Iquique last month (they also experienced lots of aftershocks and rolling blackouts while trying to get back on their feet) and the fire, so please keep the country and people in your thoughts and prayers.

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