Saturday, March 12, 2011

What a week!

Sorry for the long silence, but it's been a crazy week! Time to fill you in. :)

Last Tuesday was my first time teaching at the university, and what a long day it was. Left the house at 7, walked an hour to rehearsal (we were at the concert venue this week, which is about half as far as our normal rehearsal space). 2-hr practice, 2.5-hr rehearsal, then I booked it out to San Lorenzo via two buses, where I ran in just in time for my first student.

I have six students at the university. The first one walked in and started playing Doppler's Hungarian Pastoral Fantasie (a piece I played in college, for the non-flute-playing peeps who read this) from memory - then told me this was his very first flute lesson. ?!?!?! Ok - this is going to be fun. His sound is great, he's very musical, he has a real love for the flute and works very hard. If he got this far listening to recordings on his own, I imagine we're going to be able to do some great stuff this semester. Also, surprise, he's one of the students who attended my masterclass when I was here last summer(US)/winter (PY) in another town, so that was kind of fun.

After that, it became apparent that they have scheduled my students for me in descending order of ability, and by the time I got to the last one, she had never even opened the flute case before. We spent the lesson trying to get consistent at making a sound on the headjoint and talked about how to put the instrument together.

So, my six students are at six clearly different levels of playing. It's fun, but kind of exhausting! Plus, of course I forgot my dictionary that day, and only one of my students speaks any English - argh! I'm sure it will be a little easier to explain things when I have some more words to pick from. Still, I feel like I got a good start with everybody, and they're all really eager and open. This is only the second year that they've had flute students at the school, so everything's really new - only one of my students has ever had another teacher.

One more note about the lessons - since I didn't have my dictionary, sometimes I would get a little frustrated with not being able to remember a word. They were all very patient, but in particular one of them would always just laugh a little bit and say, "Tranquila, Profe!," which always just make me laugh. They all call me Profe, short for Profesora, and "tranquila" is a word they use to describe lots of aspects of life here - basically "chill" or "calm".

Anyway. Lessons are over, I leave the schools - mind you, at this point I've been running non-stop for nine hours, I haven't had time to eat anything, and my brain is fried from four hours of teaching very disparate students in a language I'm not good at. What happens next?

I get on the wrong bus.

There are a lot of different varieties of colors of buses here. In the last month, I've only ever seen one green one - 56. Well, it turns out that there are actually at least two green buses. To get home from San Lorenzo, I need to take the 26 or the 56. Now, the first time I went to the school, I took the 26 home, so when the bus that I thought was the 56 started to take a different route, I didn't worry at first. After an hour, I realized that we were in quite a different place than we should be - then I caught the reflection of the bus in a store window as we sat in some traffic and realized what was up. I hopped on the bus, and fortunately we were in an area where I recognized some street names. So I started off in the general direction of my house, and after another 2.5 hours of walking finally made it back home! So, Tuesday: 4 hours of teaching, 3.5 hours of walking, 2.5 hours of rehearsal, 2 hours of practice, 2 hours of bus time, 0 time for relaxing or eating. Ack! At least it didn't rain on me. Still, it was a good day, and I had a great time meeting my students. Next week, when rehearsal gets out at a normal time from the normal place, I remember my dictionary, and I take the right bus home, things should go much more smoothly.

As I was leaving rehearsal on Wednesday, one of the violinists came up and said that she had a job interview coming up and that she would like to practice her English. Of course I was happy to help, and since I didn't have any plans that afternoon, I headed off to lunch with her and one of her friends, another violinist. Well, we actually had a blast and the three of us ended up sitting around talking for seven hours! It was so much fun, and I was so happy to really get to know some people here outside of my house and my job. We talked about all sorts of things, and sort of switched back and forth between English practice for them and Spanish tutoring for me (although we did speak more English, since my Spanish is much worse than their English). We were always in the dictionary teaching each other words and telling stories - it was awesome. They're such sweet girls and we were all just laughing and laughing. It was a great unexpected day.

Then Thursday flew by in the blink of an eye, and Friday was our first concert! Well, our first "real" concert - in the theater, in Asuncion, with serious music, etc. The little run-out tour from a few weeks ago doesn't count. :) It went really well - definitely not perfect, but one of the orchestra's best run-throughs by a long shot. With everybody concentrating, a lot of the problems magically disappeared. (Ok, guys - just do that all the time and imagine how good we could be!!!) But anyway, I was happy with our performance and enjoyed playing. And I couldn't see the dancers, obviously, but the audience seemed to enjoy it.

After the concert, I left with one of my friends from the other day - her aunt had come to the concert and lives pretty close to me, so they offered me a ride home since the buses don't run late. As we were leaving, the Maestro's assistant came running out of the theater to catch up with us. I didn't understand everything he said, but he gave me a rose from the Maestro - the only rose from the mixed bunch of flowers that he had received after the performance. The Maestro is sort of shy and we haven't talked much except when I had some musical questions, so I was really surprised. It was such a sweet gesture! Lovely end to a great night.

We play the ballet again tonight and Sunday afternoon, then start rehearsing Wagner's opera Lohengrin on Monday! The music is a lot more complicated and the show is a lot longer, but my part is much less exposed - Giselle, the ballet, seems like it has a big flute solo every other page, whereas in Lohengrin I mostly get to just blend into the texture and enjoy the ride.

What a long and crazy and awesome week it's been!


  1. Ali, I am enjoying reading about your wonderful adventures so much. I am so proud of you and admire you so much for taking this wonderful opportunity. Love you, Aunt Janet

  2. Wow, Ali, sounds like quite the week! So glad you're having fun - what an amazing experience. I think I would've lost it with the bus... :) Love you!

  3. Wow Ali. Sounds like you are enjoying the adventure. At first I thought your students were saying tequila profel. haha Love reading your blog. You are an amazing writer along with every other talent you have. Love and miss you. mom