Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Well, the little tour we did last weekend went well and was a lot of fun! First stop was a town called Pedro Juan Caballero, over on the Brazilian border. The ride over on the bus was amazing - the country here is gorgeous! It was looking a little bit like something out of Lost, and then these huge mountains came up out of nowhere -

(These are not my pictures, by the way. My camera will be coming with my parents in May. Turns out, I was an idiot and it will work after all. Meanwhile, thank you, Internet.)

But I digress. So, amazing scenery on the bus. My friends assure me there are monkeys on top of the mountain in that first picture.

The next day we played in San Bernardino (San Ber, if you want to sound local). It's a resort town by a big lake, and it's beautiful. Apparently it's THE vacation spot around here. We had a few hours to kill while we waited for some rain to stop, and so we ended up hanging around the Hotel del Lago. It was built in 1888, and is right on the lake.

If you walk behind the building, there's a huge balcony overlooking a little lagoon-pool area overlooking the lake. Completely gorgeous. A friend from the orchestra was walking around with me, and he showed me how you can just pick coconuts up off the ground, smash them with a rock, and eat them. Very paradisical.While we were waiting to play, some of the orchestra members rented a room so that we would all have a place to change and get ready (the one room we were supposed to share with the singers was just ridiculously crowded). I went and put on my black clothes and started to leave the room, but the other orchestra girls weren't having it. Before I knew it, they sat me down on a bed, one started doing a fancy braid in my hair and another doing my makeup while a bunch of them asked me about my boyfriend. It was like a scene from some silly chick flick, really, ha! But it really was so sweet. They've made me feel so welcome here!

We played our concert of happy, catchy Paraguayan folk-type stuff, and all went well. One of the coolest things came next, though. As an encore, a dancer did a traditional "Bottle Dance." Apparently it's popular at celebrations and festivals and stuff. Here's how it works:

Girl in festive traditional dress puts a wine bottle on her head and dances around. She bows (with bottle still on head), everybody claps. Then she walks over to a guy on a ladder, who adds another bottle. Dips, spins, dances, bows, claps. Back to the dude for a third bottle. Etc. Apparently they go up to twenty bottles, but because we had ended up playing inside due to the aforementioned rain, this girl only did five or so to avoid hitting the ceiling. Yawn, right? Here's what it looks like:

(Above, you can see the guy in the background loading up another girl while this one bows. And below, someone farther along.)

So, yeah. Danza de los botellas. Very cool. They do it to a sort of polka-y music and everybody claps. I didn't catch much of what the emcee said at the concert so I'm not sure what we were celebrating, but there were fireworks after the show and it was a really fun end to a long and exhausting trip!

I'm really glad that this mini-tour happened right at the beginning of my time here. Trips like these are always a great way to get to know people, and I got to make friends with a lot of the other musicians and singers while we were on the road. However, I was very happy to get back to Giselle at rehearsal today! Love, love, love the music we're playing. :)

Oh, and most of you have heard my good news on Facebook, but for anyone who hasn't, I got another job! In addition to my orchestra gig, I'm going to be the flute teacher at the Universidad Evangelica del Paraguay. I'll have six undergrad music majors there - two flute majors, and four beginning flute as a secondary instrument. Playing opera/ballet and teaching a small college studio? Perfect. Completely perfect.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

One-Week Par-aversary

Ok, so it's actually been a week and a day, but I didn't get around to this yesterday, so -

I really can't believe it's only been a week - Colorado feels so distant, like it was forever ago! I honestly can't get over how nice everyone's been here. Various people at home and at work, without my having to ask, have been drawing me maps to help with taking the buses, walking me to places I haven't been, helping me buy a phone, checking to make sure I understand when there's a change in rehearsal time, etc. It's been so amazing to be surrounded by people who are so willing to help me out, and also very humbling to be in a position to need so much help. As most of you reading this know, I am not usually a person who needs somebody to show me how to do things or take care of things for me, so that's been a whole other kind of adjusting that needs to be done beyond the obvious stuff to get used to.

Progress in week 1: I'm getting pretty proficient at taking the bus to and from work - soon I may even get brave and try to take it somewhere else. :) My trips to the grocery store are getting quicker and involving less dictionary time. And even though I have a long, LONG way to go, I can tell that my Spanish is improving a little already.

Well, kids, it's way past my bedtime. The orchestra and opera chorus are going on a little tour for a couple of days and we're leaving at the crack of dawn tomorrow! We're going to be doing excerpts from an opera they did last year. It was written by a local composer and is based on traditional Guarani songs. It's really easy music, but I'm excited to play my first concerts with the orchestra and see some other towns.

Hasta luego, friends!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Here I am . . .

Well, here I am!!! After six months of waiting, four plane rides, and thirty hours of transit - here I am. It's only been a few days, but so far, so good! I'm living in a huge, beautiful house with three Paraguayans and another American, and they've all been so sweet and helpful as I get my bearings. It's been an overwhelming couple of days - I'm meeting tons of people and everything is so different!

My first day with the orchestra went well last week. Everybody's just learning their music and the maestro is out of town for a few months, but my colleagues couldn't have been more welcoming. (One of them even accompanied me home from rehearsal as I'm just learning to use the buses here.)

So far I've had tons of free time and I'm doing a lot of practicing and studying (Spanish mostly, and a little music history). I just can't get over how beautiful this place is and how friendly the people are. Hopefully I'll be able to buy a camera soon and get you all some pictures. I'll check in with some more coherent thoughts once I figure things out a little better, but for now I'll leave you with this:

The Paraguayans might be the most hospitable people in the world.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

It's almost time to go!

Well, after months of waiting, it's finally time to make the big move! The last two months in Colorado have flown by unbelievably fast, but I'm so glad I was able to spend so much time with my family and friends before I go. I'm going to miss you all so much!

I leave in two days, and the amount of little tiny things that still need to get done before I go seems never-ending. It feels like every time I cross something off, I remember two more things that need to happen. Hopefully everything will come together - wish me luck!

I'm so excited to start my job, nervous about the language, sad to leave my friends and family here, happy to see all my friends in Paraguay again, and generally overwhelmed by it all! I've moved around a lot in the last few years, but this one is just SO much bigger. It's snowing outside, and I'm trying to prepare to jump into the middle of a tropical summer. And no doubt that in a few days I'm going to really wish I had spent more time studying Spanish in the last few months!

The first few pieces we're doing in orchestra are Giselle (a ballet) in March and Lohengrin (an opera) in April. I'm so excited for this music, but nervous, too! Giselle especially has a lot of exposed solos, and I really want to make a good first impression.

Anyway, I hope this blog makes it easier to stay in touch with everybody back in the US. I'm going to miss you guys!!