Yet again, I haven’t reached out to you in a long time and this is one of the reasons why. We are in the hot phase of preparing the tour of the “Orquesta Latinoamericana” to Luxembourg and Germany. I am keeping myself busy with arranging the pieces, working with the students and coordinating this great project with Luxembourg. First I had doubts about coming back to Luxembourg, because I actually signed up for an entire year abroad and I was attached to the symbolic value of this year. Opinions of ex-volunteers, of my “preparation team” and of friends and family were divided. Although I will only be able to confirm this afterwards, I get the feeling that I took the right decision. At least in terms of integrating myself quickly here in the EPA, it was the right choice. From experiences with all kinds of orchestra and music camps, I knew being part of this project and coming back to Luxembourg and Germany for two weeks would be the perfect stepping stone to have smooth start in my new working environment. It turned out to be the right thinking. I’m really looking forward to share some memorable moments with everyone participating in this intercultural exchange and to underline once again that great things can happen when people work together, show solidarity and commit themselves to do some good !
Now we are getting to the part where everyone should take out their calendar, their iPhone 12345678X or a post-it to write this dates down and make sure that they put at least one in there schedule.
First of all, I must apologize for the late resurfacing! It was busy around here since my last post and there sometimes evil things like “fiestas” and “cerveza” who keep you from doing what you should. Shitty excuse, I know !
However besides those things, which I should perfectly be able to control, there is something I have just recently noticed. The constant cold, that you feel everywhere and the abrupt change of your daily routine decrease your productivity.
It is more or less easy for me to get up in the morning, because I have my -15 degrees sleeping bag. By the time of my first cup of tea however, the warmth has gone and the internal heat provided by the tea only lasts for 15 minutes. It is unimaginable how “las Tomas” (people living illegally without running water, “official” electricity and canalization in their barracks, mostly far up the hills of Viña and Valparaíso) are not frozen to death after a night of 5 degrees. Compared to them, my problem of wanting to stay all day in my sleeping bag is microscopic. Despite my high quality clothes, the cold gets to me everywhere and it is affecting me more than I first realized. With the unusual meal and working times it is not easy to find your new own rhythm, but I am very aware of the fact that this is what I signed up for. I just did not expect I would care so much
about being productive and having a rhythm. Actually this should not be surprising because I just left behind a stage of my life with an imposed daily routine, school and I quit, temporarily at least, a society where everything aspires towards performance and productivity. I’m on my own this year and I get to make the calls without being bounded by an highly influential framework, which I like very much. I can sort out the values and principles that I just adopted because I had to and find new ones within this one-year-experience. This is a liberty that I value really much !
In my first post, I said “the work of integrating oneself, of gaining trust and getting to know one’s environment should be done by myself ” and I’m right in the middle of doing this, enjoying every bit of it. It is so much fun when I meet new people, simply already because of the level of my Spanish. You don’t get their jokes, but you’re laughing anyway, which they think is very funny, because they know you did not even get one word. The conversation once started, you need 2 minutes and the online dictionary to express yourself, they react in 30 secs, which gives the conversation a very funny rhythm. After I told them that I’m from Luxembourg, explained that it is only 82km long and 57km large and is situated between France and Germany, they need exactly 5 minutes to call me “aleman” (German) again. When I reminded them of my actual nationality, they start to call me “aleman falso”, which is likely to become my nickname.
As a complete stranger and knowing that I am going to stay for a year, I feel the need to start again using the little word “my”. I want to be able to say “my people” and “my places” again. Music, arts and sports are extremely powerful catalyst in this process, because musicians, artist and people who are devoting a bit of their time and energy to preserve all kinds of aspects of their culture, have a common mindset. They are open, welcoming and eager to exchange ideas and energy. They are proud of their “thing” and curious to find out more about the “thing” of other people, from another place.
The “El Surco Centro Cultural” is a perfect example. It’s a small neighborhood library (one room), which on weekends is transformed into an all-kinds-of-event-hosting hotspot. The last four Fridays they organized a series of jazz evenings with fantastic musicians and awesome jam sessions, which I was so happy to play in. Rap, Funk, Jazz, Salsa, Cumbia, Vals Peruano, every type of music was accepted and we played as many as we could. They cooked great things, they had “cerveza artesanal” and the “ambiente” was unique. It was the music that pulled us all in, even me “the stranger”, sometimes until 5 o’clock in the morning. Culture, in all its aspects, is something we should be proud of, eager to share and not trying to defend it against foreigners . As long as there are people like the ones of “El Surco”, you don’t need a “Front National” or an “AfD” to protect your culture against the evil strange forces, because by exchanging, showing and sharing nothing will become “extinct” or get destroyed.
I try to be as present as I can here on this blog to share my experiences and in the future perhaps some of individuals I encountered along the way. Please do not hesitate to contact me to get more information, to suggest things that I can write about, to exchange stories and experiences from where ever in the world you are !
A week ago, I sat in the “Exki” at the Paris Airport and wrote my first post “Ready, but for what”. Well, thank God I was ready for the sneaky cold here. My mom urged me to buy this “Jack Wolfskin” jacket and my dad to buy an -15 degree sleeping bag. At the time I thought this was really not necessary, but now, as I’m sometimes using the “Jack Wolfskin” fleece and the sleeping bag combined, the contrary is definitely proven.
At the airport in Santiago, the EPA’s sound technician Jaime picked me up and dropped off Theresa, who just had finished her 1-year voluntary service in the EPA and was now leaving teary-eyed. Leaving the mountains behind, we headed for Achupallas, Viña del Mar. In my new home I was welcomed by Sra. Carmen with a full meal at 2 o’clock, which I figured later is the usual lunch time here. After my first night (in my sleeping bag wearing a fleece), I went to take a look at my new working place where I got a fantastic and warm welcome. The luck on my side, that evening was held the second part of the “Conciertos de Invierno” (winter concerts) and I was surprised by all the talent that I could witness. Later Alexis, the school’s coordinator invited me to participate in a band rehearsal and after three days of abstention I could make some music again. On Saturday then, third part of the “Conciertos de Invierno”. The school’s bigband playing traditional chilean music and the percussion ensemble grooving its way through latin rhythms were fantastic moments of that day. Again I was very lucky because a young ex-volunteer Becci was introduced to me and after four days of communicating in my very bad Spanish and trying to understand this very fast spoken dialect, in which I think every second letter isn’t pronounced, I could speak German again. Knowing that it’s sometimes hard at the beginning to get in touch with the new culture and the people, Becci immediately took me out to show me some great places and to introduce me to some of her friends. First we went to Viña to attend a great chamber music concert in the “Teatro Municipal” and later to “La Isla de la Phantasia” in Valparaíso, where we danced to “Cumbia” and I learnt a bit of the Chilean national dance “Cueca”. With a walk to the “playa” of Viña on Sunday the first four days in Chile were almost over and I was very eager to see what the new week would offer.
On Monday the process of getting settled in the EPA started and I’m now working on finding my spot in the school. By including me in meetings and giving me the chance to observe and participate in lessons of the professors, the team of the EPA helps me a lot to do that. With Alexis taking me to a rehearsal of a professional bigband in Valparaiso and today to a jazz event, I get to know the local music scene.
For all those who had the wildest imaginations about what would happen to me here (especially my old class mates), well this was my first week, let’s see what happens next !
About a year and a half ago, I decided to not continue on the usual path of a Luxembourgish high school graduate, which I became in June. The very protected and predetermined environment in school and the routine that inevitably came with it, started to bother me. It actually annoyed me to the point that I decided to not immediately enter the next preset framework, university. I felt the need to take the “famous” gap year. However instead of traveling, I really wanted to become a part of something, of a community and/or a project. This time though, the work of integrating oneself, of gaining trust and getting to know one’s environment should be done by myself and not by my parents (not that they haven’t done a great job so far), not by a school system and its teachers. I need to do something on my very own and what better way to achieve this new goal of mine than with a voluntary service. The idea of contributing to better world was always very important to me. The taste of going abroad came with my first “solo” trip to New York City to participate in a Drum Workshop. This unique experience boosted my will to leave Luxembourg, my little home country.
With my mom and dad working for the NGO “Niños de la Tierra” for as long as I can remember, I was in the right place to find a project that would fit perfectly for my voluntary year. And I found it: the “Escuela Popular de Artes” (EPA on Facebook) in Viña del Mar, Chile. Starting at the age of six, making music became my passion and it has filled up my life since then. As I wanted to be able to share as much as possible during this one year, the EPA is the right place for me to do my voluntary service or at least I think so right now.
Waiting right now here in Paris to board the plane to Santiago de Chile, I think I’m ready, but for what ? Well, tomorrow I will start to find out and I’ll share as much about it as I can with you !