Week six...

February 23, 2014

I'm thoroughly settled into my apartment in OSJ.  El dueño (the landlord) finally got the shower fixed after bathing with bowls (a process mastered in the hot springs in Japan) for a week.  The roof still leaks and honestly, I'm just going to proceed as if it will always leak.  Maybe that's just how it is.  The landlord's buddy has been out three times and worked on it and there's no change.  I thought about getting all huffy and insisting I pay less, but you have to pick your battles and I really appreciate the relationship I have with the landlord.  I call him tio and he calls me sobrino.  (Uncle and nephew)

The pandoras classes are cool.  I'm now way ahead of the other two students.  They certainly have more plena in their blood than I do, but I'm pretty much a professional music student and can pick things up really quickly.  The teacher is using me to keep time on the middle drum while he works with the other guys.  It's good, but every time I'm up there I drool over the cuatros (little Puerto Rican guitar) and wonder if I should be doing that.  I know for certain I would be doing the same thing back at the panderos if I had gone that route.  Plus the cuatros are expensive.  I'm where I'm supposed to be.

The piano study has more or less stalled.  I basically don't have a place to practice.  Luis at the conservatory said I could use the pianos there, but there are just a couple practice rooms and sometimes I can't get a room.  And I'm not a paying student and shouldn't take practice time away from the students there.  It also takes me approximately 45 minutes to get there and it's not worth it if I end up getting skunked. 

The little conservatory in OSJ are simply unreliable.  I know they mean well, but they just aren't coming through with the times I can use the piano.  They're really nice guys, but I think they're overloaded and it's easy to just give me an optimistic response and then basically forget about me.  So, my approach has had to shift.  I've let go of getting any real work done on the piano, but I haven't let go of gathering information.  I have a lead on two other teachers.  If I can get video of two other piano lessons I'll have tons to practice when I get back.  The good news is I still have two months of sabbatical when I get back and I can do the actual piano work there.

Within the shift then is recognizing what I can only do here.  Spanish study is at the top of that list.  I'm studying every day and doing what I can to have conversations.  Usually they are short, but every couple days I'll actually engage with someone and get to use what I know.  I'm continuing lessons at the school once a week for two hours.  I really have learned a lot and can hang for those two hours strictly in Spanish.  The immersion approach paid off.

Quite honestly, I've had some up and downs.  I've been pretty isolated since leaving the Spanish school.  I have to push myself out the door sometimes.  I'm always glad when I do.  The piano stuff has been a big let down.  It's tough for the thing that was going to be the primary focus move all the way down to the bottom of the list.  And apart from the pandero lessons, I'm not actually making any music with anyone.  My visions of being in a scene of players and getting opportunities to participate were simply off base.

But I'm making the best of it and using my time to study Spanish and music.  I'm combining the two and translating lyrics of my favorite salsa tunes.  I finished an Ismael Rivera song today.  I'm also writing.  I'm working on charts for ensembles at a festival in Mexico in March.  I'm meeting David Blink from Yakima Valley CC there.  I'll play accordion and piano in a few groups and probably do some teaching.  That will be great.  I won't have any chops, but I think stylistically I will have grown.  My sister Maria will also be there with a film documentary crew shooting a doc on the sister city relationship between Yakima and Morelia.  It will be awesome to see her.

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