Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Holiday Weekend

Hello! We're having a nice, quiet Labor Day weekend here, so I went out and about and took some pictures around the neighborhood. What do you think?

In other news, Jake has joined a rugby team, which has been a lot of fun. The team's one of the best here, and they seem happy to have Jake playing with them. I'm still practicing a bunch for my upcoming concerts and trying to stay motivated! I suppose that's all for now. Until next time . . .

Friday, April 20, 2012

Keep on keepin' on

Hey, all!

I know it's been a while, but honestly it's just because things have been pleasantly uneventful lately. :) I'm still practicing a ton, Jake is still being very studious about the Spanish, and we're still just doing a lot of hanging out, which has been pretty darn nice.

An old friend from high school was here visiting last week - not visiting me, but visiting someone else from our high school who has been living here for a few years doing work with the Peace Corps. Small world, huh? We haven't seen each other in over ten years, so it was kind of a trip to meet up in Asuncion.

Other than that . . . well, it's just been chill.

I should take some more pictures or something . . . we'll see what the weekend brings!

Friday, March 30, 2012

up and running


So, after a month of being here (again), I have FINALLY gotten the computer up and running! The adapters that I had been using last year didn't fit in the outlets at the new apartment, and it took some trial and error to find a workaround. One of the fun/irritating things about Paraguay is that there really is no fast way to do anything. If I want to find, for example, an electronic item, I can ask somebody where to find it . . . but in the end, looking for anything usually goes something like this:
1) Wander around downtown looking for stores that might have what I want
2) Go into a store, look around, don't see what I want
3) Ask employee if they have it
4) Try to describe it, draw pictures, mime, et cetera, when the employee doesn't understand what I'm looking for either because I don't know the right word in Spanish or because whatever it is doesn't exist here
5) Find out they don't have it, ask they have any suggestions on where to look
6) Wait a minute while employees discuss amongst themselves
7) Listen to their suggestions of where to look, understand about half of what they're saying, and head off in the general direction that was indicated until I happen upon someplace else that looks promising.
8) Repeat

It's kind of a process, but I can't say I really mind . . . usually. It's all part of learning not to be in so much of a hurry, I guess! :)

So, since we've been here -
Jake took a two-week Spanish class (3 hrs a day!) and is off to a good start. Since then he's been studying a lot at home and working a couple of times a week with a friend of mine. It's slow going, but he's really improved a lot in the short time we've been here and is able to get around a bit by himself.

We had one concert at the orchestra, so far - an operetta by Franz Lehar called The Merry Widow. It's not great music really, but it's light and fun with some pretty songs. Since our next concert program consists entirely of works for string orchestra, I've had a TOOOOOON of time to practice - which is fantastic, since I have big plans for this year! On the agenda so far are:
- July - CPE Bach Concerto in D Minor with the Orquesta de Camera Municipal de Asuncion
- July - Recital of American Music in Rosario, Argentina, with the lovely Silvia Galeano
- August - Repeat of American Music recital in Asuncion. The program is going to be Copland Duo, Muczynski Sonata, and Liebermann Sonata. Flutists, am I crazy??
- I'm also hoping to talk Jordana into a flute/bassoon recital in October-ish . . . hehehe. :)
- Oh, yeah, and there will be orchestra concerts, too.

Needless to say, I'm practicing my fingers off, and it's fantastic. :) I'm really excited about these concerts. The concert with OCMA will be my first solo concerto and is such a gorgeous piece (go listen to the second movement RIGHT NOW if you haven't heard it!! Israel's Eyal Ein-Habar has a fantastic performance on YouTube). The American concert is especially important to me, because while these three pieces are super-standard for flutists in the States, they'll be brand-new down here. I really wanted to pick pieces that are important parts of our repertoire, because I think it's a cool opportunity to share that with my friends and colleagues here.

So there you have it - things are rolling along down here, and now that the whole computer/power outlet situation is resolved, I promise to fill you in much more frequently.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Year 2

Hey, everybody!

In the last few months, I have gone on a six-week u.s. tour with the NTC Producions' A Christmas Carol, spent time visiting family in Colorado and Oklahoma, and enjoyed my summer vacation.

Tomorrow night, Jake and I will be heading back down to Paraguay together for the rest of 2012. Stay tuned. :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Blog - 1, Ali - 0

So, clearly I am just about the worst blogger ever. Ask any English teacher I had from grades 6-11, and if they could remember who I am, they would tell you that I am bad at journaling.

But, we persevere. :)

Sooooooo - waaaaaaaay back when I left you, I was just coming home from Buenos Aires and my family was about to visit. So here we go -

My parents were here for about two weeks, and it was great fun. I think they're a lot less worried now that they see that I do not in fact live in the middle of a third-world jungle. I was busy working while they went to see a lot of the country, which was sad, but I'm glad they had the opportunity to check the place out a bit. My dad was rocking his traveler's Spanish, and my mom bought lots of pretty stuff. :) Yay! Photo op at the futball game:

During their visit, I had a crime-fighting adventure. So, I'm on the bus, writing a text message, when some guy (early twenties, maybe, and about 5'8" or so?) grabs the phone OUT OF MY HAND and jumps off the MOVING bus. Well, I'm sick with a cold, I'm tired, and this just plain pisses me off. So, naturally, I throw my bag over my shoulder, run to the front of the bus and jump off after him.

That's right - I jumped off of a moving bus. Brilliant, I know.

Now, since I am not accustomed to jumping off of moving buses, I ate it. Like, I full-on rolled head-over-heels into the gutter. But whatever. From my crumpled heap position, I see the dude running across the four-to-six lanes of traffic (there are no lines on the road, lanes are fuzzy here) to the other side of the street. Well, I hadn't jumped off of the bus for nothing, so I likewise run into the traffic to chase him down. Brilliant, again. I saw him getting on another bus going the opposite way, and started to get on after him. When he saw me getting on behind him, he spun around, threw the phone at me, and ran away. I should mention that this whole time I've been screaming and cussing at him and probably seemed basically insane.

So, anyway, I got it back. Yay. There were some scrapes and bruises from throwing myself off the bus (let's not kid ourselves, "jumping" is too elegant a term for what I did!), but no major damage.

Now, I know, I know, not worth it for a cheap phone. But the cheap phone was not the point. Just because I'm a girl and I'm small and I'm alone doesn't mean that you can walk up and take whatever you want from me. I swear that during the split second I was standing face-to-face with the guy, I just wanted to swat him on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper and say "NO".

This whole ordeal left me standing on the sidewalk, phone in hand, shaking from adrenaline, and not knowing what to do with myself. I stopped by the house to clean myself up and vent to my roommates, and was only a little late to teach that afternoon.

So, that was exciting.

My parents finished their visit, and it was good. The day after they left, we began performances of the ballet Raymonda, which they were able to see a dress rehearsal of. It's killer hard (at least my part) and we were a little unprepared, but it came off ok. At the last minute I had needed to ask one of my students to come and play the piccolo part with us, and we worked so hard on it together - it was his first time playing in an orchestra, his first time playing piccolo, and he had less than a week to get it together. But he worked his butt off and did an AWESOME job - I was so proud of him!! The maestro, who is normally very quiet and doesn't talk to me much, even went out of his way to tell me that my student plays very well. Quite a compliment to all his hard work. Although I felt terrible putting him in such a stressful situation, sometimes that happens in music, and he really pulled through. Props to Diego. :)

The next couple of months were really busy and really blurry - we performed Norma, which was great fun (Casta Diva, yay!).

Oh, and we moved to a new apartment. Now it's me, my friend from the States, and two Paraguayans (a couple). Everybody's super-chill and we are a happy little family!

Just after the move, my boyfriend, Jake, came to visit:

It's tough having him so far away, and I was thrilled that he was able to come down for three whole weeks. He and I and my friends here all had an awesome time hanging out together, even though we weren't able to travel and see much because of my work. But we had such an awesome time, in fact, that he has decided to move down here with me for the next season! I am SO EXCITED for that adventure! I am so lucky to have such a supportive love in my life. xoxo

After Jake's visit, I had to leave the country because my visa was about to expire, so I figured I would take a quick little weekend trip to a border town in Argentina.


The police at the border said that I would be allowed to pass, but he wasn't going to stamp my passport because I wasn't going to be gone for more than five days. However, if I were to only pay a small fee, he would talk to his boss and maybe they could extend my visa . . .

Bullshit. (Oh, yeah . . . I live in South America . . . right . . .)

So I hopped on the bus back to Asuncion, told the maestro that I had to miss a couple of days of rehearsal, called my teacher, and the next weekend I went down to Buenos Aires to take another couple of lessons. And of course they were amazing! Claudio Barile, you rock my socks. I also got to see a great performance of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde by the orchestra of La Plata thanks to a friend who plays viola there. All in all, things worked out for the best even though the border cops were a pain on my first attempt to travel.

Let's see, what else . . .

Oh. The new apartment is only a few blocks away from a large and beautiful park:

(Oh, yeah, and my parents brought my camera down from the States. Aren't you glad? :))

Now, this park happens to have a 5k running trail, so Jordana have decided to get our butts in shape with the Couch-to-5k running plan coupled with some pilates videos courtesy of YouTube. So far, so good! We're kind of pathetic at the moment, but it feels really good to be working on it. We're only a little bit of the way in, but there's been some progress already. And now that EVERYBODY knows we're doing it, we really can't flake out, ha.

That's all I've got time for right now, but I PROMISE to write more often. Like, within the next week. If I don't, please do give me hell, thanks.

Chau! :)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Buenos Aires

As soon as the Bicentenario concerts and festivities were over, a friend and I went to spend a week in Buenos Aires.

Let me just say, I LOVE that city. Different parts of it remind me of Paris or Madrid or New York, all with a cool South American twist. It's beautiful and fun, and only a short hop away. Doesn't get much better than that!

Now, this was no vacation, but it was absolutely magic! Both my friend and I got a ton of stuff accomplished, and it was great to spend time focusing on my flute after all the hectic-ness of the previous three weeks. Here's what I did:

- Got a giant dent in my flute's headjoint repaired by an AMAZING technician! I wish that I had had the time/money to have him work on the rest of the instrument (they key work very sorely needs a tune-up) . . . hopefully next time.

- Had a great lesson with CLAUDIO BARILE! He was so great and so generous with his time, I feel very lucky to have gotten to know him a little bit. (He was also responsible for putting me in touch with the aforementioned amazing repair guy.) Flute friends, he's going to be the guest artist at the NFA convention this year - go say hello, and be sure to catch his recital! It's going to be a little while longer before I can go back for another lesson, but I got a ton of stuff to work on/think about and am really looking forward to the next time.

- Saw the Buenos Aires Opera Lirica perform Wagner's Der Freischutz (with Claudio playing principal) at the Teatro Avenida. The cast and orchestra were lovely, especially the soprano who sang Agathe (I really wish I knew her name! Alas, concert programs are not free in these parts), and it was fun grabbing coffee with Claudio before the show. The theater itself is beautiful. I bought a cheap seat waaaaaaay up at the top, which I actually like for operas because I can see down into the orchestra pit. :) Also, the old theaters tend to have beautiful, intricately-decorated ceilings which are amazing to see up close. In a surprise twist that seems like it would be unusual in anybody's life but mine, I found myself sitting next to two guys from California who had wandered in to get out of the rain. After the show the new guys, my friend, and I all grabbed a couple of drinks, and it was fun to make some new friends.

- Saw the Orquesta Filharmonica de Buenos Aires perform Mahler's First Symphony at the Teatro Colon. There was also a xylophone concerto, but as I didn't have a program at this concert, either, I have no idea what it was. It was short and xylophone-y. But the Mahler . . . the MAHLER. Now, I was sitting way up at the top again, and at the Colon that means I couldn't see much. But this piece has so many unbelievable quiet and delicate moments that the orchestra played so well - there were times when the winds were making such soft, pure sounds that you couldn't tell where they were coming from, or that the strings were playing so lightly that you weren't sure that you actually heard the sound or just imagined it. People always remember the huge pieces, the finale moments when an orchestra is roaring and the audience is on the verge of cheering the whole time. But at this performance, the sound was so quiet and ethereal that it seemed that the entire audience stopped breathing to keep from overshadowing it. It was absolutely incredible.

This is not to mention that the theater itself is exquisite. The recently-restored Colon is so beautiful - definitely one of the most amazing theaters I've been to. And it's huge!

And if you think sitting next to a couple of Americans at the opera was an unusual coincidence, check this out:

When I had gone to buy my ticket earlier in the day, there were only two seats left in my preferred section of cheap (actually, at orchestra concerts, the cheap seats often tend to be some of the best for listening, but not seeing, as the acoustics at the back of the hall are different). I bought one, and didn't think anything of it. When I was waiting for the show to start, a girl who looked vaguely familiar was lurking around my section looking for her seat, and was staring at me. I couldn't figure out why until she came up and asked if I was the flutist from Uninorte.

That's right, people. I'm famous.


Just kidding. Turns out she's a singer/musician from Asuncion who works in the Uninorte chorus, and had also come down to Buenos Aires to study for the week. It also turns out that she had bought the seat right next to mine. We spent some time hanging out that night and the next day, and it was so much fun getting to know her! She was so sweet, and I really hope we see more of each other back in Asuncion.

- The next morning, I went to a rehearsal of Argentina's National Symphony, where my Maestro from Asuncion was conducting his new piece from the Bicentenario, and some other musicians from Asuncion had come to sing and play some more traditional Paraguayan music with the orchestra. I had to head back to Paraguay before the concert, but it was cool to see the rehearsal and also to hang out as part of what felt like a sort of Paraguayan artistic contingency in Buenos Aires for the week.

- Oh, and did I mention that Argentina's Independence Day just so happened to be that week, too? After our evening study session at the hostel, my friend and I headed to the Casa Rosada just in time to catch the end of a huge concert and a gigantic fireworks display. The plaza in front of the Casa Rosada had a giant stage in front of it, and the whole square was packed with people. For the grand finale, huge fireworks were set off from the roofs of the buildings around all four sides of the square - it was so loud you could feel the explosions in your chest, and everybody was cheering and excited . . .

Sometimes I swear I really am the luckiest person in the world. Despite having no real concrete plan when I showed up to Buenos Aires, everything went so perfectly. The hostels I stayed in were great, I met amazing people, my flute repair guy was magic, my teacher was generous and warm, I made great changes in my lesson, I heard fantastic concerts, I got to see the Independence Day celebration. The traffic practically stopped every time I wanted to cross the street (seriously), the whole week was so unreal. All this plus getting to spend a bunch of time with one of my best friends from Asuncion made for a pretty incredible trip.

This week, it also felt so good to connect to a bigger musical community again. After grad school, I really gave up a lot to make sure that I was in a position to hear great orchestras and chamber music almost every week of the concert year. And it was worth it - listening to the Cleveland Orchestra or the Pittsburgh or Philadelphia or National Symphonies or the Metropolitan Opera or the Takacs Quartet or the Pennsylvania Ballet or the Tokyo Quartet or any of the other world-class groups or soloists that I've been fortunate enough to see LIVE almost EVERY SINGLE WEEK for the last two and a half years has functioned both as my inspiration to practice, my motivation to continue in what can be a dishearteningly difficult field, and as an invaluable education. I learned so, so much from listening to these musicians live and often. While I do love my life in Asuncion, it is sometimes difficult to be so far removed from the more international community, hard to stay inspired to continue raising my standards for myself when the best musicians in the country are considered to be my peers. Recordings aren't the same - there's something really magical about listening to the world's best musicians live in some of the world's greatest halls that is impossible to replicate. And while it's fun to be really respected for my playing here, I know that I have a long way to go to be my best, and going to truly great concerts has so far been the best way I've found to keep my attention where it needs to be. One of the biggest challenges about living in Asuncion is how isolated it is, and this week was a much-needed break from the bubble, even though I didn't realize beforehand how much I needed it.

I came back to Asuncion all inspired and motivated, flying back on a Friday night, just in time for my parents' arrival on Saturday morning. That's right, the Gioscias hit the PGY . . . stories and pictures coming soon!

Thursday, June 16, 2011



So after a long month without internet, it's time to catch you all up!

May was pretty special and awesome, due to it being Paraguay's bicentenary. Technically the independence day was May 14th and 15th, but this year it was definitely a celebration all month long. (In fact, there are still lots of decorations up all over town.) All of the buildings are draped in red, white, and blue banners, there are stickers and buttons and signs all over everything. It was like a whole month of the Fourth of July, except that people were genuinely excited about their country and not just about the beer and fireworks. ;)

As musicians, we were kept busy with a ton of extra concerts. It was really fun to get to play Paraguayan folk music so much. I hadn't really been exposed to much of it before this month - for my musician friends, the melodies are generally happy, syncopated, and in 6/8, with walking-like bass lines in 3/4. We also did an extra concert of famous opera arias, and a concert that featured Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture (complete with cannons borrowed from one of the military branches) and the premiere of a new work by our conductor that celebrates an important figure in Paraguay's history. It was a crazy busy month, but so much fun!

On the actual independence days (there are always two here), all the roads downtown were closed and the streets flooded with people. There were all kinds of shows and concerts and lights and fireworks and the whole nine yards - it was quite a sight in a downtown that's generally pretty sleepy at night!

As a member of the orchestra, playing for a lot of these events, it was really cool to experience all of the bicentenary celebrations from the inside. Not just watching the speakers, but sitting behind them on stage while they spoke to the crowds. Not just attending the celebration, but contributing to it. Not just watching the Paraguayans celebrate their country, but celebrating it myself at the same time and falling in love with it right along with everyone else. It was so easy to get caught up in the excitement of it all - everyone seemed so genuinely proud of their country, and it was so special to be a part of that.

Two days after our last bicentenario concert, I headed to Buenos Aires with a friend . . . and that is what I'll tell you about next time.

To conclude, here are some bicentenario pictures that I have stolen from other people on the internet: