Thursday, December 14, 2017

Thesis process and music reflection continued

I wish I could have a more creative title, but the thesis has suppressed my creative writing so forgive the lack of creativity!

It's always interesting to read your thoughts-even a month ago. I am seriously a new person now that this thesis is behind me and as of this morning I PASSED!!! So I'm now Master Zanussi :) That process taught me so much. How I can truly be present in every moment and frankly, who my true friends are, who I miss seeing, and frankly, who I don't. It also was wonderful to know those hours didn't go to waste as they're already resulting in one international conference (if not two) come 2018. I don't say this to be boastful, but rather to show that hard work almost always pays off. There's not really a secret to doing something except working really hard. I had a nonprofit breakfast with Kate Barr, CEO of now Propel Nonprofits who essentially said just that and I couldn't agree more. There's no magical skill or technique I do except to keep doing, even when it gets rough. Now that I'm behind it, I can say there were multiple moments this fall where I truthfully felt I couldn't do it, that I truthfully was doomed (optimistic I know). But here we are, on the other side. The "secret"? Faith, determination, and persistence.

I wanted to respond to my last post and how my thoughts on choir and being a musician continue to evolve. I'm singing with a professional chamber group this week and the director truly knows his stuff! He not only can tell you every single word, but how the music aligns with the text, and then we get to do that!!! After doing a paper that talked about how important context is, it's been wonderful to walk the walk and not just writing about/observing it, but fully experiencing it! I've been writing about the impact music has on people without having that presence in my life so this week has been such a wonderful reignition how important that is for me! The project I'm singing with is definitely not community music, but the musical excellence has been such a necessity and refresher of my musical soul I haven't had for years. I've sang concerts, but this time I am so excited and want everyone and their mom and aunt and nephew to come see because we've worked hard and the music is so rarely performed I want people to learn about it!!

But are we focusing on community? No, but it's still rewarding. I think what I'm realizing is, in contrast to my last post, I don't know if it has to be an either/or. Sometimes I think I'd like to do projects like this one where we focus on the musical excellence and sometimes I'd really like to focus on the community aspect. But I think the difference I'm realizing is that a musician DOES NOT have to choose between the two! In music schools we're only taught the former and I am striving to find a balance between both (with my professional 100% focused on the latter). So I AM still a musician, and even a classical one at that, at times, but I don't have to stay in that box-I can be a classical musician who is meticulous with notes, rhythms, phrasing, diction, dynamics, AND I can be a potluck jamming improv musician AND I can be a musician that focuses on building community, inclusion, social goals, etc. etc. Only I can define what musicianship means for me!

Community with a Capital "C"

Another thing I've struggled with this month (I'm not even going to try to hide it with a word like navigate or grapple) is my identity as a musician. Ever since coming back to MN, I haven't felt like an authentic musician and the more I think about it, even in college, I resented having to go into rehearse/practice when it was a beautiful, sunny day. It felt like a constraint of freedom and for what purpose-to make music together, to perform, to be disciplined after I have been disciplined all day and then some, most nights. Now that a potential physical ailment is again occurring as a barrier to my vocal development, perhaps this is a sign that I really should accept the opportunity to close this chapter and open a new one. To be artful and creative in other ways like dance-the activity that makes me smile regardless of my stress level. Sure, I could do vocal therapy or voice lessons, but is that really how I want to spend my free time, perfecting something that only needs perfecting according to someone's definition? My voice is my voice and that will never change-even if that means I'm no longer a classical musician-I can accept that. That was never my goal. My goal was to make Art with a capital A and for a long time I thought that meant you had to be proficient in music literacy and ear training. Now,  I want to make Art with a capital A and Community with a C. One of my staff said something at staff training over a month ago that has really stuck with me. Do we want to be an intentional community that communes by singing or a singing group that implies a community? I'll be fully transparent. None of my closest friends have ever been musicians, have ever been from that so-called community. What music ensemble experiences have consisted of for me is a lot of "you're not good enough," "your schedule doesn't allow you to do x so you can't do y", "you need to switch studios [for the fourth time in four years]", "we're not going to make music to accommodate others," "your voice doesn't blend," "your voice," etc. etc. etc. Is this really how I want to fill my free time? The wholehearted answer is NO! Does this mean I can't be a "musician"? Absolutely not! Just not in the way I have done for so long-but with the closing of a chapter, comes an opening, and I'm excited to see what that is come 2018. I've debated community choirs that only learn music by ear, that sing for the message, even some church choirs (though I don't think I want that regular commitment). I'm done trying to be humble, prideful, or hide my feelings regarding this. Classical musician out-until I want to/if I want to-then that can be there for me-but I have to understand the tremendous work, discipline, patience, and time that would require. And at this point, that's not what I need.

I need activities that let me be me, embrace me wholeheartedly, accept and love me for who I am, unconditionally. That build community with a C-women's circles, non-technique dancing, running without a timer, hiking without a mission. Unplanned time is certainly a goal of mine for 2018, but for now I am officially closing up shop as a classical musician and just as I acknowledge in my thesis,  am accepting my limitations, now both physical, mental, and frankly spiritual at this point. I'm done denying myself because I don't fit someone else's standards. That's not transformative or life-giving. Quite the opposite. Of course I will go support others and when I am accepted as I am, join. But I'm done desiring to be on the stage as an audience member, of saying if only I would practice, etc. etc. I chose a different path and that is more than okay.  My path is to create Community through Music. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

New Moon, New Me

Well, my intention was to journal after being back a month, but obviously that didn't help. Frankly, I've had zero time to process since I've landed. The first week back was definitely a transition, quite emotional, and a whirlwind. Since then, it's been non-stop at work with challenges, unknowns, new projects and staff, and yes, some celebrations! It hasn't been easy-whoever said the hard work goes away after the first two years is completely false, at least according to my own experience. Maybe founders experience the same feeling mothers do after childbirth where they forget the extreme pain (or stress) that was required to birth the baby (or organization), but this year has felt like the hardest yet. Trying to find traction beyond our comfort zone of wonderful, but small circle of supporters, it's required boldness, something I've certainly grappled with in the past. But now, I'm not afraid to be bold, I know what needs to be done, and thanks to my music training from way back when, it instilled a discipline and persistence in me, that is immutable. I won't claim I'm indefatigable because it hasn't been without breakdowns, tears, doubt, and hard conversations, but I feel like we're almost out the other side and as the Lady Gaga song goes, "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger."

The Judd Fellowship presentation went EXTREMELY well! I felt extremely supported by the various people who came: donors, family, friends, neighbors, classmates, mentors, and advisers. It was the first time in a long while I felt like I truly excelled at something and was 100% proud of the result. Never mind my poster somehow got crinkled and the fonts were too small on the poster, I owned my speech with passion, belief, and enthusiasm and stole the crowd. I commanded the room with my presence and was bold. Something I struggle to do as a musician, a student in class, a nonprofit director, a friend, and a daughter. There are very few things I feel wholly true and the argument I make in my thesis is one of those-music can transform lives by developing character skills. This isn't meant to be a recap of my thesis so I'll leave it there, but that presentation proved to myself I can be bold when it's the right fit.

See here for my poster and some pics! If only the paper could go as well. I continue to receive significant critique for revision of my now seven chapter thesis. The good news is most of it is drafted, the bad news is I have significant work to do with transitions, flow, not to mention citations. But I finally have a date-Nov 6-to turn the final draft into my advisor. So these next three weeks will be hard, but the end is in sight and with that I can do anything. So with that, here are my affirmations for the new moon.

Affirmations for the New Moon
I do vow I will continue to care for myself taking one night off a week, not sacrificing sleep or exercise, meditation, or reflection such as this, though a lot more of it has been internal. But as this new moon comes in Libra, the sign of balance, I will accept that the imbalance I will feel the next three weeks is only temporary. That relationships will still be there after T-Day and acknowledge the challenge and hard work that it is! I will not sabotage myself for mistakes, limitations, or other self-criticisms. I will only practice self-love and name when I am not showing that to myself. And for these next three weeks, I will put myself first, whether that be a mental health day, a day to work remotely, or cancelling non-obligatory volunteer activities. I will not apologize for putting myself first, for tears that are shed, or for saying no. I will persist and not give up. Sí se puede!!!

I am not going to share this post on social media, but for those of you who are reading, this is for accountability and a reference point for me come Nov 3 of the full moon and the last weekend I will have the draft in hand!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Amazonian Adventures

The Amazon was really hard to put into words or pictures, because it was about the experience more than anything. I saw some awesome pink dolphins, but walking in the middle of the jungle with nothing but a flashlight and a machete, or coming back to your mosquito netted hammock to find a tarantula on the netting, or catching a fish with nothing but nylon and a cricket, these were the experiences. And more than the experiences, I had the opportunity to stay with an indigenous community. I learned there are 35 million people living in the Amazon basin with only 3.5 million indigenous people, only 10%! I saw them preparing coca leaves, drying cassava, making the largest tortilla I've ever seen. Their houses were simple, made from wood, with hammocks, or maybe a bed, and an open fire for cooking. Very much reminded me of the Maasai in Tanzania, but in the middle of a jungle! My guide was absolutely incredible! A Couchsurfing friend who connected me with various indigenous communities. I introduced a kid to his first carrot and played cards by candlelight. The bathroom was a toilet basin, but one you had to pour water down to flush, and the shower was tributaries of the Amazon river! One day (see Facebook) we did a mud spa in the river, which I also learned helps keep the bugs away! The only time I dare be in a bikini in mosquito territory! They also had two potions against bugs: one was a pill that translates as Thiamin that you took daily and helped you sweat something that repelled bugs and the other was a soap you put onto wet skin and then didn't wash off. I still got plenty of bugs and can't imagine going during the wet season when it's mosquito season, but they helped somewhat :) Of course the indigenous people used nothing!

The guide for the community and jungle walks had some INCREDIBLE stories. I won't try to recount them detail per detail because I won't do them justice and I learned the power of oral storytelling. Whenever it rained, or we were tired and needed a break from trekking, someone would tell a story or start singing a song or doing something to interact with one another. No phones, tvs, etc. etc. Though at the community I stayed they did manage to have on demand tv in one of the houses. I learned so much from them and when I say I'm on life 7, Jairo must be on life 27! He's been tracked by pirates (just last year!), forced to go with the guerrilla, lost in a jungle for 4 days, not eating for 9 days, survival stories you only read about or see in the movies. He said them so casually. One of my favorite things is the stories would be told in pieces. He would start telling one and then we would be interrupted by cooking or something and then Eliceo (my CS friend) would say "Y entonces (and then?)" and he would continue. I learned the best woods for building a house are quinilla and X. I learned when it's a clear night as it was when we camped in the jungle that many animals don't appear because being nocturnal they think it's daylight. I learned some differences between grey and pink dolphins (pink dolphins have more of a scalar fin and much longer noses to fish out of orifices, in addition to being a different color, of course!) and some theories as to why they're pink (something to do with helping them regulate circulation as they exercise). But in addition, I learned the stories of these people. My CS friend studied tourism in Texas, grew up in the jungle, and being indigenous himself, tries to support those communities, which I was happy to do. I HIGHLY recommend him, Colombian Remote Adventures, if anyone is interested. It was so much more than seeing the flora and fauna of the land. It was about truly conociendo the people. It's really amazing how traveling works. You end up being with people for five days that you've never met before and getting along swimmingly almost always!

Fortunately, I was in charge of the menu, and you can bet we had at least one fresh vegetable at each meal, not to mention fresh fish, and no rice or bread!! And pineapple and coconut right out of the jungle! We definitely ate wel! and it is a trip I will remember for a long time. It was equal parts adventure, culture-sharing, and experience. Transport there is old wooden boats that they then put a motor on that reverberates off the river banks. We were sporting high rubber boots, equally good for mosquitoes as mud/water, and machetes. The things you never thought you'd do...

I arrived to Puerto Narino, which is still quite remote, but a village with hostels and a real shower. Sleeping in a hammock was so easy, and it almost felt weird to sleep in a bed after 5 nights in a hammock. If anyone has debated trying hammock camping, I highly recommend it! Of course our guide slept on the jungle floor on a tarp but with the tarantulas, ants, beetles, flies, etc.etc. etc Insects like I've never seen on anything left out to dry so I can only imagine what sleeping on the ground would be like! I also got quite accustomed to going to bed before 10 and getting up with the rooster! Doubt it will last, but one can hope right? (Perhaps that's why I was able to get up at 4 today so easily!). It was a vacation unlike any other and I'm incredibly grateful for the experience, though definitely not for everyone (if you need a toilet, shower, or don't like bugs, don't do it).

I left this morning after spending yesterday buying regalitos and giving mini-workshops to youth who made me feel like a celebrity wanting my signature and bombarding me with questions after working with me for less than <30 minutes. It also reaffirmed my choral expertise, which I am going to work on owning more, even when other choral professionals are present. I'm saying this publicly so you can hold me accountable and to be fully transparent. I helped notes become phrases, I helped phrases become stories, and I helped the youth go from singing words on a page to thinking about what they were singing. This site (I'll leave the name out) had the least amount of social focus and thus questions that required thinking didn't go over well. It was much more a teacher/student atmosphere and go figure was run by a formal orchestra and selected the "best voices of the school." I did bring back a really fun piece for CMC though and the kids made it worthwhile!

Perhaps it was the two hours of sleep, or the reflecting, but on the plane, I began to cry, weep. I've never cried for leaving a country before, only the people. But I really started to realize how much I was going to miss not just the people, but the place, the atmosphere, the $2 lunches, the familial feeling everywhere with everyone, the food (though I did try to bring some of my favorites back), But I know I"ll be back. I've never been so certain of returning to a country before. I want to bring that familial feeling to our country and extend it to foreigners, especially in these times. I want others to feel just as welcome in MN as I felt in Colombia, where after a night I already feel like they're family, where they want to help in any way they can to ensure my trip is the best. I want to change Minnesotan culture to be a warm, welcoming place, including to a MInnesotan's house. So if I can ever help you to know MN better or host you, PLEASE tell me! I will gladly do so.

All in all, I am far more impressed by Colombia than any other country I have visited in regards to community music programs. The social aspect has been far more apparent and consistent. I'll say more once I've analyzed the surveys fully, but there are definitely trends across all programs and the level of self-determination is significant. I couldn't have picked a better country if I tried and really had very few negative parts of my travels. I didn't get sick except for a stomachache yesterday, I didn't ever get frustrated with cultural differences, I was able to fully embrace my blonde hair and womanhood (the brunette thing failed miserably!), and I truly have a part of me in Colombia now.

As I return back, please bear with me. Reverse cultural shock is almost always more difficult and I am trying to do what I do when I go somewhere-have no expectations and just let what I feel happen and process accordingly. I feel incredibly blessed to have had this opportunity and will be forever grateful for being a Judd Fellow and receiving C Charles Jackson Foundation funds to make this trip possible. Thanks to all who followed me and if anyone has any questions, I am more than happy to answer. And if you want to travel to Colombia, here's my list:

1) 4 days in Bogota area: 1 day: Gold Museum, Candelaria, and the parks if you want; one day Zipaquira and Laguna Guatavita; one day Villa de Gleyvi (Didn't make it here, but it's on the list for next time), and one day of travel (there's a lot of traffic!)
2) Medellin: Electric stairs in San Javier, Grafitti tour. Parque Arvi, the Ciclovia for biking, but it's just a great city to explore!
3) Salento (3 days): Valle de Cocora 1 day, hot springs 1.5 hours from Pereira (didn't make it here, next time!), and one day just giving yourself a retreat in the beauty
4) Santa Marta: 4 days. 2 days Tayrona National Park-but book your tix ahead of time online and your mirador hammock too! One night Palomino, one day Minca (didn't make it to either this trip either) and if the Lost City Hike is of interest, this is the place to do that too! You could also take a bus and go to Cartagena, but I didn't make it there
5) Cali: Dance. Eat. Repeat. If you're not a huge dancer, it's not a must see, but I really enjoyed it. Popoayan was a cute city for a night too.
6) Amazon: 4 days Leticia->Puerto Narino and go to parks nearby. Keep in mind now is the dry season, less bugs, but less water so fewer animals.

Well there ya go folks! Just landed!



Yes, I know it's been a bit since I've written. My time in Bogota was pretty uneventful. I saw two programs. One was Batuta, funded majorly by a program called Music for Reconciliation, and only works with victims' families. A social worker does a class once a week that uses either the telling of a story, something they call cineforo where they watch a movie and then discuss a theme, or have a workshop and/or discussion on a certain theme. THe point is to engage the youth in their lives through whatever the theme is. I would love to bring this aspect to CMC, especially for Crescendo!

I saw a class that was geared toward special needs humans, not just children. They were mostly cognitive needs, but regardless, had a really cool partnership where they partnered with occupational therapy students at a university who did activities with them and served as teaching assistants. When I was there, they colored and provided individual assistance as needed. The students were taking turns playing the drum and most of them were quite on beat. You could tell it was a highlight of their week. Especially because as in other parts of South America, students who are labeled as descapaz (literally uncapable) cannot attend a traditional school and there are no laws about discrimination of ability there so very few handicapped adults are able to work. To see them so happy during this class at least gave my heart a lot of joy.

Batuta is far more extensive starting at age 2 until 18, only stopping at that age because the Music for Reconciliation programs require that. It is far more inspired by El Sistema in the structure, though I found it interesting. There was symphony orchestra (basically a replica of EL Sistema, but mostly with paying students on a sliding scale in representative groups) and then there was everything else under Education. This included choir, music introduction (which seemed to be a theme at all three sites I visited), and the social classes I talked about earlier. So the orchestra students did not have these social classes-which furthers Geoff Baker's point in his book of the hegemony that exists of the symphony orchestra. THey were exempt from the "educational" classes,

The program was gigantic serving 32,000 a year! I commend such a major foundation 26 years old being run by a woman too. This is a theme that I haven't expounded upon, but I Have been amazed in the best way possible how easy, for lack of a better word, it is to be a woman here. No cat calls, no machismo, and a woman can be herself. Perhaps I saw a fachada (facade) but talking to many women it sounds like this is true. I got "hello" or "que bonito" in the streets in Bogota, but more because I was foreigner, than a woman. This surprised me because with Chile being "the most developed" I would have thought that would have had the least machismo, but not so, at all. IN some cases, the woman was the head of house, staying at home, taking care of the kids, but also in charge of any household decisions, traditionally a male role in the US. And in many cases, especially our generation, women were working and being respected or bosses of men! Was really empowering to see a woman in charge of such a huge organization! And until recently, due to politics, La Red was also run by a woman for four years.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Every Child Can

Forgive the political nature of the name of the post, but I can't exclaim enough how much I've seen "kids be kids" regardless of background. You give them the ball, they play with it. Boys roughhousing with each other, girls whispering to each other, all ravaging for the candy from the pinata, and proud of their accomplishments. This includes kids from the lowest strata, which they call 1 here. One school was even side by side with strata 6, the wealthiest class. I was impressed how many encouraging words there were about reaching your dreams, hard work, and one school even had every student's name on the desk with a reason of why they matter.
Yet, I will never forget the ride to a school in San Miguel, a rural "suburb" if you will of the Buenos Aires neighborhood. This used to be a conflict zone and all of the youth they were working with had either been displaced or suffered from sexual abuse or maltreatment at home. All of the youth were from African descent, which was a VERY different Colombia than I had been exposed to the past two weeks at La Red. The views to get there were by our standards, gorgeous! Mountains, open fields, but of course this meant minimal development, and more importantly, no access to water. The little shops only sold pop and energy drinks, not water. We stopped at the teacher's house to use the bathroom as that was the last bathroom we were going to have-there was no bathroom at the school. With no water and no bathroom, I can't imagine trying to learn how to read, how to do my best, etc. without water or a bathroom, especially as a girl.

This just goes to further my belief that every child can learn, take these music programs as just one example. But they can only do so with the basic Maslow needs. We can't expect them to read or score well on a test if we haven't addressed their physical needs, step one. But step 2, is we need to address their social and emotional needs. What has struck me about the programs in Cauca is that there was always a social worker and/or psychologist present, whether she (in this case) happened to be giving the instruction or in the room helping in whatever way needed. This is a  position I hope to add to CMC in time as I've seen the power that has come from having someone involved in the evaluation, in the teaching, in the program's administration. But in development, we have to stop trying to have our goal be that youth score at X level or can read at X level, and ask ourselves, are children's needs being provided for? Physical needs and classroom supplies (like having desks, and non-broken chairs) is a start, but especially when working with youth from traumatic, vulnerable, backgrounds, we have to stop assuming that youth can learn without addressing these needs first.
I heard a harrowing story about two women fighting with machetes and chopping the other's fingers off. If that is my mom, how can I expect to care about school when my mom's life is endangered, or maybe my own? If we took this approach to MSP's achievement gap, would we see different results? I can't help but say yes, when Colombia's most dangerous neighborhoods have evolved into lively spaces available for every child to learn. If we acknowledged the trauma that came from the Rondo neighborhood's destruction, or the fact that 1/5 Black men are/have been in prison (and thus most likely are black youth's family members), would we teach differently? How would we measure success differently? At the end of the day, should literacy be our end goal? Absolutely, every youth should be able to read, but not before making sure there other needs are provided for. We cannot expect academic results to change without an investment in the physical, social, and emotional needs of these children. Every child can learn, but needs the supports to do so. We can't expect resilience, music, or any other magic silver bullet to change these kids lives or help them or even impact them minimally if we don't give them the foundation. It's like expecting them to build a house, but only giving them supplies for a roof.
Tomorrow begins my final research chapter in Bogota. I'm curious to see the differences and the similarities, but I challenge GenNext to instead of measure reading levels and invest in literacy programs, to invest in more SEL resources, social workers, etc. and then see the changes. Maybe this has to happen through CMC. You can bet your money this is getting added to the list of things I'm telling the new Mayor!


I want to pinch myself. Scored a glamping tent overlooking the Cocora Valley, wow. For $28 a night! Not too shabby! Hearing the birds cackling and a mist in the mountains with the palms below. Definitely a change in climate-very thankful I brought the smart wool and a jacket! This is just unreal. If this isn't a meditation corner, I'm really not sure what is. And tomorrow I'm splurging and getting a massage after hiking. It's a shame there are clouds because I would have a perfect sunset view. But this ecohostel is incredible!!

Siloe was a far more complex project than I realized. The foundation funds various projects including sports and I also had a wonderful interview with one of the coordinators of the soccer for pecae program. Too bad they didn't have participants over 18 as that would have been a very interesting comparison. The big difference I noticed was youth in that program only participate for 2 years maximum whereas music the average was 5 years and some as many as nine years. I haven't tallied the results yet to say how they would compare to La Red in terms of responses, but they have social workers on staff who teach a class called "psicosocial" where they pick a theme and play games to address it. THis year's theme is Gender reconcilation-no shallow stuff here! I have to read all the documents sent about this to elaborate but each youth in the orchestra program has this class once/week and the orchestra program is 5x/week, each day with individual practice, sectional, and ensemble. Choir is only for the youngest singers with music literacy, but their music literacy class was also very singing-based. They were working on Pirates of the Caribbean and Mozart, so not as much Colombian music as La Red. HOwever, all of their sectional teachers they called monitores and were volunteer former students now in the chamber orchestra and attending the conservatory.

The tambores de siloe program was by far the highlight. These kids were a maximum of 11 (I didn't get to see the older kids because it was dark and not safe to leave at night) as well as a month and a half strike that occurred among teachers, making students have significantly more work to complete. But even though the kids I saw were younger, did not mean I was not impressed (see videos on Facebook). It seemed they learned all the songs by ear and 80% were written by the teacher who himself was self-taught. There were three levels. You started with the equivalent of a bass drum, except it was made out of half a plastic trash can; then you moved to the pvc pipe vibraphone which you hit with a foam rectangle, and lastly you progressed to the marimba, whose keys were wood, but amplified by plastic bottles placed over a bucket! Talk about innovation. These kids did not tire from practicing and entertained themselves when the teacher was rehearsing with another group. The tambores group didn't seem to receive the same intensity (only 2x/week) or comprehensiveness (no psicosocial or music literacy class) as the orchestra, which saddened me, particularly because most of the music was representing the Pacific and was far more "folk" than traditional classical music.

I think what amazed me was how remote/"dangerous" these sites were, though I only saw children playing on the park outside and people running around in flip flops or moving a wheelbarrow or a family of 4 on a moto-I was only in there in daylight though. Taxis did not go there so I had to arrive by moto raton (which literally translates as motor rat, but is what they call motor taxes, piki piki for those who know Swahili). I don't think cars could go where we went even if they weren't afraid. We went over broken roads, people's front ledges (can hardly call them porches), super narrow, and super steep. And to know that music was happening inside these places 2x/week that took places in libraries, and that there were libraries even in the most difficult to reach, "dangerous" neighborhoods. There were also gondolas in these neighborhoods, but the parts of the neighborhood I went to were not served by them. Yesterday, Karen, the 19 year old teacher, left the site on foot, so I had no choice but to be accompanied by her down the mountain (you only go with moto ratons you know and obviously I didn't know any). Walking down in sandals as a gringa was pretty...interesting in that many were shocked I was there, but at the same time, it was completely uneventful. Salsa music was playing from people's houses, kids were playing outside, people were talking or laboriously working. Nothing happened (of course I was accompanied by a local), but it's so interesting how these neighborhoods where people don't dare go get perceived. I spent probably more time in Siloe than Cali, or at least as much, since that's where all the sites I visited were. Kids were kids (more on this in the next blog post), people continued to welcome me, and once again, carrying an instrument was a sign of peace, so these teachers were like the local celebrity and the kids could pass the invisible borders without problem.

These invisible borders are quite prevalent in Colombia and the huge source of most danger in the neighborhoods. But of course because they are invisible I didn't see them. Borders are such an interesting concept since they're arbitrary lines to begin with, visible or not. Yet the power of who owns that land is decides everything. Take the US as one example, (especially in this era!). It was great to see such an emphasis on Pacific music and learn more about the non-mestizo populations of Colombia. I will definitely return to Cali. It's certainly a city, but a city with so much heart. That's really the only way I can explain it.