T-24 … nooooo

I can’t and I don’t want to believe it! First of all, we’re July 1st which means I got exactly 24 days left here in Chile. After an 9-months uninterrupted stay here in Latin America and one year in total, I can’t really imagine leaving this place in 24 days. Too normal has it all become. Walking the same routes to the music school, taking the 205 to get down to Viña and Valpo, Alexis dropping me off at home after a long day of work, all this has become, perhaps too much of, a routine.  I don’t know! I wanted an adventure and at some points I got one, but I sometimes think it was too easy. I adapted well and fast, got to know a lot of really great people and it was simply a wonderful year. Should there have been more obstacle or challenging situations? I don’t know, but perhaps it was not that tough because I came well-equipped and by that I don’t mean my  Jack Wolfskin fleece, I was talking about in my very first post. By the way, they robbed me that one in February. What I mean are the skills to interact with people, to make music, to change and adapt, etc. You learn these from your parents, at school or from experience. Last week while sipping a beer together, a 32-year-old friend of mine said: “You have experienced more in your life then we all together in ours!”. My reflex was to deny this, which I did. Mostly because I think, the fact that they were all at least 10 years older, made it impossible for me to affirm her statement. It got me thinking, though. I had loads of opportunities in my life where I learned great things. Many of those opportunities were so common in the society were I’ve grown up, that I didn’t perceive them as such. Here in Chile, where a great deal of the population is failed by a savage neo-liberalistic system that robs them of opportunities, I reconsidered! For example, I came again to the conclusion, that I took the right decision when I accepted my university offer for Development Studies. It’s a great opportunity and I am willing to follow that path all the way to the end, where I hope I will have learnt something to help some people. I would never stop making music, but it’ll be more in the background now.

In 24 days my voluntary service is going to come to an end and it will probably become the richest experience I’ve had in my life. I’m very grateful to everybody who has been a part of this. It is the end to my 9-month uninterrupted stay here in Latin America, it is the end to my year as a volunteer in the wonderful “Escuela Popular de Artes”, but it is definitely not going to be the end of the many great friendships I have here in Chile. I will come back as soon as possible! I can assure you, that is a way more solid promise than the one I made to you about keeping up the work here on my blog. Alexis, my great friend always says: “Yo prometo hasta que cumplo!”. “I promise as long as it needs me too fulfil those promises” would be a translation. So as I said in the January, February, March and the future post, I’m going to write for sure some more posts about my time here in Chile and I would love you to read them.

Un abrazo,
David

January

With a view of the fireworks in the bays of Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, Reñaca and Concon and a half bottle champagne poured over my head by some crazy, I started the new year here in Chile. Coming home later that day, I was invited to Limache, where we finished the day with a nice “asado” (BBQ). While lying at the pool, once more I was undecided whether I would prefer a hot Christmas and New Year or the cold one I was used to in Luxembourg. My general conclusion is that the first time celebrating Christmas and the New Year in this very different setting felt a little strange.

The start of the new year also meant that I had exactly 15 days left to submit my application for university. I did not think that writing 48 lines and being happy with it would be so difficult. Laurent Peckels, a good friend and fellow musician from Luxembourg, arrived just in time in Chile to give me some great feedback. While exploring the surroundings of San Pedro de Atacama, we found here and there some time to make this personal statement a winner. You don’t need somebody to do the work for you, but rather someone who challenges you to go beyond your own thinking. Not only Laurent, but my family and a bunch of friends did a great job at this. And indeed my statement was a winner, more than I ever could have imagined. I got 4 offers out of 5 choices, which left me in a dilemma at the end, but also with the feeling that my work and my decisions paid off. My place at Manchester University is now confirmed and I think the coming years will be full of great people, inspiration and new ideas. Although I’m really looking forward to it, it will not make my leave in July any easier.

Laurent did not just come down to Chile to give me hand with my personal statement, we also travelled together and we did a 3-days workshop in the EPA. When I told Laurent I would go to Chile, he immediately said he would come visit me and he kept his promise. We flew together to the Atacama Desert and explored its marvellous landscapes. Surrounded by desert, the town of San Pedro de Atacama is the starting point for some unbelievable exploration into Chile’s natural diversity. On our first day, we went sandboarding on the dunes of the “Valle de la Muerte”, a martian-like valley. It was quite fun despite both of my crashes where I swallowed at least a kilo of sand. Laurent was simply not fast enough to crash! We witnessed the sunset in the “Valle de la Luna” and couple other amazing sceneries (cf pictures). Our full-day tour to the altiplanic lagoons with a stop at the Atacama Salt Flats among others was one of the highlights too. Laurent reintroduced me to the restaurants culture, which I almost had forgotten living in the “población”. Here and there I sometimes pickup some more exceptional food, but going to a restaurant was something I hadn’t done in a long time. Eating out is something for really special occasions only, mainly because, and I agree on that, a good BBQ is a lot cheaper and it is A LOT. When you are used to household portions here in Chile, you might leave hungry in a standard restaurant.
Back at the EPA, we started preparing a three-days workshop on Ableton Live, a music software. I want to give a huge THANK YOU to Laurent, who did an extraordinary job and furthermore donated 4 MIDI Keyboards to the EPA! I’m now using the software and the devices in a music creation and harmony course with the most advanced students.
Through Laurent and a still secret filming project, we were also able to welcome Lance Duehrfard, an american filmmaker. At the end, he was so generous to not only film scenes for his project with Laurent, but also some for a short clip about the EPA. Thank you very much, Lance! By clicking the following link you can read a note published by the EPA about the stay of both artist.

All this happened within the summer school program of EPA. Those four weeks stuffed with workshops, ensemble rehearsal and activities were incredibly intense, but never before I had seen a music school so filled with life and energy. I had seven marimba students, who wanted to try out the EPA’s newest acquisition. After just four individual lessons, we presented together some little pieces – pieces I played almost 15 years ago when my musical journey started. Opening that xylophone book, my first teacher Boris gave me so long ago, let me slip into some nostalgia. The handwritten dates on the pages, the filled circle meaning “left hand” and the empty one meaning “right hand”, woke up some memories of the time where I had to step on a wooden box to even reach the xylophone.

Well, that was what I more or less did in January. February comes next and it was an entirely distinct vibe. The details on that will be in my next post!

Un abrazo,
DAVID

January, February, March and the future

Via this post I’m resurfacing after three months of absence and I don’t really have an excuse for that. Though there are some general reasons why it doesn’t just take me 5 minutes to write a post here. When I’m writing for my blog, I want to do it thoroughly. Why that? Why just not write a little something about what I’m doing here, 12,000 kilometres from home to keep you entertained? Although there are some very powerful people putting whatever they want on the Internet (actually I’m thinking of that person with the strange haircut), I want to be more cautious. Everybody who is writing for an audience should put some thought and energy in it. Another reason is me using this platform to improve me written English because I wanted to and I’m going to study in England. After submitting my application on January 15th, I was fortunate to receive offers from Aberdeen, St Andrews, Sussex and Manchester. The courses I applied for are all related to development issues. Those four offers left me with a difficult decision to take as I never had expected to get to chose between all those great universities. A week ago though, I confirmed my place at the University of Manchester on the Development Studies course. So for those who had there doubts of me making it out of Chile can be relieved now. Having this new adventure set up makes leaving the current one in July not easier, but it gives me a new challenge that I’m willing to embrace with all my energy.

Four months I was absent here on my blog, more than the time I have left here in Chile. My flight to Luxembourg is on July 24th giving me exactly three more months. Be assured I will make them count. I don’t want to look back yet, but I’ll make an exception for you, at least for the three month I let you in the dark. I will publish three separate posts for January, February and March, because there was a lot going on (I said I was busy). In January, my dear friend and fellow musician Laurent Peckels paid me a visit during which we travelled to San Pedro de Atacama and realised a great workshop within the EPA’s summer school program. My dad and his friend Claude found their way to Chile in February. We visited the marvellous south of Chile and mastered some unforgettable adventures. At the end of that month I travelled with Antonia, one of the three German friends I met on my first flight to Chile, to Bolivia where we were confronted with a really different vibe. Between these two trips I was deprived of all my documents because of a robbery in Santiago, but I got lucky because 24 hours later, a very generous woman found them and gave them back to me.
So you see there was some stuff going on in this period of the dark ages here on my blog. As mentioned, I will fill those blanks with three separate posts and I assure you, you don’t have to be as patient as before.

See you very soon!
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My Christmas present

While it is snowing or raining in my hometown, we enter the summer down here. My first birthday in shorts and celebrated with a barbecue, Christmas and New Year’s Eve on the beach, everything is very new. I am still not in a Christmas mood and I don’t know if I get there in time. 19 years being accustomed to a cold and at best a snowy December and January is a lot and therefore I am a little confused right now. When I walked over the campus of the “Universidad Católica” in Santiago, I saw Jesus break sweat in his crib at 35 degrees temperature. You don’t believe me?  Here is the picture. Wait…Where is Jesus? I think some students saved the poor guy.

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Obviously for the people here a warm Christmas is normal, so they have no problem in buying Santa Clauses and all the other snowy decoration stuff while transpiring like marathon runners. The malls are overrun and consumerism is at its pike. At least this seems to be something that everyone can agree on. Well, we have to reach concordance on some much more urgent matters too. “The door to reach two degrees is about to close. In 2017 it will be closed forever.” The chief economist of the International Energy Agency is talking about the possibility to maintain global warming at 2 degrees Celsius. Many scientist already consider this increase in temperature as an extinction level event for many species. I was overwhelmed when I read this for the first time. While I’m applying to university, possibilities to initiate a change of course are already slipping away. So is it going to be too late when I leave university? I don’t know, perhaps I should study space engineering. Naomi Klein, author of the book “This Changes Everything”, makes a very promising proposition: “The urgency of the climate crisis could form the basis of a powerful mass movement, one that would weave all these seemingly disparate issues into a coherent narrative about how to protect humanity from the ravages of both a savagely unjust economic system and a destabilised climatic system.” Even if you want to contribute to saving the environment by changing your buying habits for example, perfectly executed marketing strategies often do not give you much room for this. The difference in price between mass-produced and local artisanal goods stands as one of the biggest obstacles. Furthermore, with corporations like Heinz and Monsanto owning great parts of the bio industry, you often support the monsters without being aware of it.

Deregulated capitalism, our current economic system, allows the global players to block our attempts such as law suits and legal changes with billions and billions of dollars. Naomi Klein came up with the idea to use the weight of the climate crisis to fight for a social and economic change too. I think this is material to think about if we want to continue celebrating Christmas on Earth. I invite you to read Klein’s book, because it proposes some very feasible solutions. We have to act now and together!

I wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and a great start into 2018 ! 
Let’s not be responsible for the closing of more doors ! 

David 

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from us all! 

The marimba arrived !

On the 6th of December, right in time with the Luxembourgish “Kleeschen”, the marimba arrived in the EPA after almost four month of waiting time. I want to shortly summarise this project for those who are reading about it for the first time. When I knew that I was going to do a voluntary service in the EPA, I thought about something that I could donate to the school. Finding out that they had no melodic percussion instruments, I was sure that I could do something about that and I set up “The Marimba Project” , a Facebook page to call for donations. In August we had already exceeded the needed amount of money and immediately when I arrived we finalised the order of the Adams MSPV43 Marimba here in Chile. I want to thank at this point each and everyone who made it possible with their generous decisions to buy such a wonderful instrument. We will start in January with a “Iniciación a la marimba”, an introduction course within the framework of the summer school/workshops. The instrument allows me to work with two students at the same time, which accelerates the process of establishing this instrument in the school. I already played the instrument at the end-of-the-year presentation as you can see in the picture below. On the 28th December we are organising a “Conversatorio”, an event where I will present the instrument and play the marimba in some different musical contexts.

I can’t thank you enough ! Keep supporting causes like this !

David

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The ultimate step of the assembling: adjusting the bars
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The little ones are already advancing to the 4-mallets-technique !

What an unforgettable experience!

It was confirmed multiple times! The decision to become part of the Orquesta Latinoamericana and travel back to Europe with them was the right one. We had an amazing time, we played great concerts and the most important thing, we became good friends! Les quiero mucho chiquillos y chiquillas !

After a wonderful concert in the KulturWerkWissen, we finished the week in Germany with a day in an indoor-waterpark, which under this form does not exist in Chile. Many cannot afford the journey and the entrance to outdoor-waterparks here in Chile. This is one of the many details that are still forming the difference between the most developed Latin-American country and the west-european ones. Arriving in Luxembourg, the “youth hostel” in Echternach with a 14-meter climbing wall and a huge sports hall stressed this contrast once more. Only 18 positions are between Chile and Luxembourg in the “Human Development Index”
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Human_Development_Index) and yet, as Chile’s public sector is largely privatized, a youth hostel chain (like in Luxembourg) supported by state funding is unimaginable. Therefore I had to laugh very hard of the funny reaction of one of the parents, who sent a picture of a shelter in Patagonia, built with loose stones, saying that this is how a “youth hostel” looks in Chile.

It was time to see my family again and by chance we arrived the exact same Sunday where my grandfather celebrated his 80th birthday. My brother, who came to pick me up, was the first family member I saw. In the three months I was on the other side of the globe, he did not just declare my room for himself (on the 2nd day I was gone), he also became an adult with a driving license. After always driving with him in the passenger seat, the other way around was a funny experience. Then came the family reunion, where my “huge” beard that I let grow became subject to major discussions leading to a haircut appointment in the following week.

Instead of writing down all the great experiences, I will upload some photos and additionally you can get a lot of nice pics and live videos by clicking this links: https://www.facebook.com/pg/ERMVE/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1821252721499656 & https://www.facebook.com/pg/ERMVE/videos/?ref=page_internal

Two intense weeks came to an end with what all participants deserved, an audience of almost 600 people on their feet. The day before the final concert I had posted on Facebook, that we would blow off the roof of the Trifolion and we did exactly that. Standing ovation for the Orquesta Latinoamericana, standing ovation when we played the last three songs together with the “Symphonic Youth Orchestra of the Conservatoire du Nord“ and the percussion and dance departments of the “Ecole Regional de Musique Echternach” and a room full of people dancing to Tito Puente’s famous “Oye Como Va”.  It was without a doubt one of the most emotional concert I have ever played in my life. I am so proud of the 10 boys and girls! By mobilizing their last bits of energy, they made that audience go crazy !

I want to thank first of all Evelyn, Belén, Gabriela, Francisca, Aaron, Thomas, Lucas Y., Lucas B., Giordano and Camilo, who let me in and made me feel welcome, who treat me like one of their own and who I had a hell of a lot fun with! Another huge thank you goes to Alexis Castañeda and Antonio Vargas, the two music teachers of the EPA. They are simply two wonderful human beings, who worked very hard to make this happen and burdened themselves with an awful lot of responsibility.

My “Mama” deserves in my eyes the biggest thank you. It was the dream of a lot of people that one day a delegation of the EPA comes to Luxembourg, but my mom took three years ago the decision to realize what was also her dream. She drafted the project, planned the budget and went to find partners, with the help and the know-how of my father, who also put a lot of energy and time into to this. Both of them, as long as I can think of it, were fully dedicated to whatever social causes there were and they do not only get a infinitely big thank you for their involvement in this project, but also for being such great role models. My not so little brother anymore, far from being a role model ;-), has always been my partner in crime and one of the major helping-hands in this project. Muchas gracias for that, man !

There are to many people, who deserve to be thanked for their help, their support, their work and their commitment, that I could mention them all here. Everybody should be very very proud of their involvement and more than satisfied by the outcome. I will never forget these two weeks, neither will the 10 students and their professors and I hope that you too have a strong memory of this.

A special thank you goes to all these people:

All my friends and family
Michaela Weyand and Eduardo Cisternas, the founders of the EPA
The “EPA equipo” with their director Christian Aguilar
The whole crew of “Niños de la Tierra” and especially my Volo-group
Marc Demuth
Marc Juncker
All the involved music teachers and the team of the EME
Marc Jacoby and his team of the Conservatoire du Nord
All the involved music teachers and the team of the CdN
Georges Wagner

Nadine Bichler, who had put energy, time and a lot of commitment in this project as the future director of the EME, but could not attend to watch the result of her work because of a terrible illness. Sadly she passed away only recently leaving us all in a huge shock. Rest in peace Nadine!

All the involved of the Lycee Classique Echternach
Jemp Origer
George Letellier and his film team
All the translators and helping-hands
Crews of the venues we played in
Sponsors and  everyone who supported this under whatever form

Keep supporting, guys !!!

We’re on the way to Luxembourg !

Here we are ! We almost completed the first week of our two weeks tour here in Europe with the “Orquesta Latinoamericana de la Escuela Popular de Artes” from Achupallas, Viña del Mar. We played a fantastic concert in the KulturWerkWissen and we’re ready to bring the latin flow and groove to Luxembourg !

Evelyn, Gabriela, Francisca, Belén, Tomas, Lucas B., Giordano, Lucas Y., Aaron and Camilo are the ten students representing the mesmerizing project of the EPA. The musical direction of the orchestra lies in the hands of Alexis Castañeda y Antonio Vargas and I’m the lucky bastard who’s got the chance to be part of this amazing two weeks tour in Germany and Luxembourg. I helped arranging the musical themes, working on them with the ten “chiquillos y chiquillas” and preparing them in all possible ways for this great journey. Furthermore I coordinated and helped organize the tour from Chile with Luxembourg and Germany. There are many more hands involved in this and they all deserve a big “THANK YOU”! Christian, the director of the EPA and the rest of the EPA’s team, Nazareth, Sole, Gabi, Conny and Marcela have invested a lot of time and energy so that this can become a great experience for the 10 students. In Luxembourg and Germany too, are a lot of people who have got my highest admiration for their indispensable work on this tour.

As in my last blog post, I urge you to come see, listen to and support this great orchestra representing the “Escuela Popular de Artes” from Achupallas, Viña del Mar. Below you will find all the exact dates !

Luxembourg

22. October 2017 – 18:00   Welcome-Party (+Jam Session) @Youth Hostel Echternach

24. October 2017 – 17:00   After Work Concert @Conservatoire de Nord Ettelbruck

25. October 2017 – 19:50   Concert @Chateau de Bettembourg

28. October 2017 – 19:00   Final Concert @Trifolion Echternach

 

BE THERE ! Hasta luego David !