I broke my promise...I know. BUT you have to have to have to give me credit...because it's only been 2 weeks (and 2 days)....finals are coming up...what can I say. I tried to do it last Sunday but I couldn't.
I needed to feel inspired and I am now.
So, Rio is my FAVORITE CITY IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD. Those of you who know me can attest to the fact that when I went to Rio for the first time I was smitten...SO in love. When left I cried. Tears were streaming down my face like I was leaving home to never return. And after I was gone I thought about Rio every-single-day for at least a year. No joke. And after that year it was still frequent...like maybe a couple times a week. That's how it is even now.
I should probably give a brief explanation of this obsession. Growing up, I was immersed in art...much of it was Brazilian. Milton Nascimento, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Djavan, etc. etc. were constantly playing in my house. I would go to their concerts with my parents even as a little girl. I would watch this video for preschoolers about a lion and I still remember the song "Leão! Leão! Leão! És o rei da criação!" (mama encontre el video!!! Te lo mando). And then my parents introduced me to really traumatic Brazilian films at a really young age...Black Orpheus, Bye Bye Brazil, Central Station...and instead of doing ballet like most little girls, I did Capoeira. By the time I was a teen all I wanted was Brazil. On my own I signed up for Portuguese lessons (I think I was in 8th or 9th grade) so after school (in Chile) I would take a bus and go to the Brazilian embassy for classes. And I signed up for Portuguese again in college. Ok, you get the picture.
Back to the TOUR.
We took the bus, actually four for the entire group. At this point I assume you know how many of us are traveling together...about 100. Less than in Colombia but still a lot. We left Araraquara in the morning and were told the bus ride ahead of us was about 10 hours, which it was. We stopped for lunch in a mall in Campinas, which happens to be the largest shopping mall in all of South America. (Everything is BIG in Brazil). At this point I already had a knot in my stomach because I knew it was a matter of hours. You'll see a picture of me looking out the window and Ana Gabriela knocked out next to me....Emma was laughing because she said every time she woke up she saw me glued to the window, staring. I didn't sleep one second out of the entire trip! I just munched on steak flavored chips (they have chicken flavor too....true life) and just stared. And waited.
When we were arriving it was night time but I could tell we were there. The road went from flat to curvy and we were descending. The ocean fog was there. We were there. It was so cool to drive in, as opposed to flying in because it was more gradual, more anticipation. And I got to see more things.
It was Saturday night. We arrived at Hotel Regina...quaint little hotel near Praia Flamengo (Flamingo Beach)...kind of a central location in Rio. It's not Copacabana, Leblon, Ipanema or Tijuca, more chic neighborhoods. It's closer to the city center, but I really liked it.
That night a group of us walked around and had some beers. We noticed it wasn't touristy at ALL and that we were in RIO proper. And there were many many many homeless people which was upsetting. Not a glamorous outing a all.
The next day was the day of the concert. And the day after that almost all musicians and staff were leaving (the 16th). I was lucky to be leaving on the 17th....but still....3 days in Rio? Really??? And I knew I wouldn't have time to do much because it would be hectic with departures and all. So that Sunday, day after we had arrived, some people went to the Cristo Redentor (Christ Redeemer)...but I wanted to do something I hadn't done. I kind of rebelled a little. I went out for a walk...and arrived after I should have...and I definitely came back with an attitude (David sorry if you are reading this. You know I didn't mean to). I guess many of us were really tired and cranky and running out of steam at this point. The tour was almost over and I was over it. And, at the same time, I was in my favorite city in the world.
So I walked, took the metro to Rua Uruguaiana (Uruguay Street) which is supposed to be a super busy shopping district in the city center.....CLOSED. Yup, EVERYTHING shuts down in Rio on Sundays. I was so sad :( So I took pictures of the empty streets, the homeless people....and walked away. Then I remembered when I was in Rio last time we had gone to a fair in Ipanema on a Sunday. So I took the train allll the way across town and went to Ipanema. And it was open. And I got what I wanted :) I felt really proud of myself for navigating the streets and metro system all by myself. I had never even been on the Rio metro.
So I came back, met with David and then we went to the last rehearsal/sound check. The Municipal Theater in Rio is GORGEOUS!!!! Very regal, very European. Amazing. Unfortunately, Emma got some bad news so we talked about that for a while. Then I was sent to run some really random errands. Then some weird and annoying things that I won't mention here happened...and then me and Emma went to a little rehearsal room, stuffed our faces with chocolate cookies, drank like a gallon of coffee and bonded. It was very necessary.
It was the last concert. The theater was packed and the audience was conservative, which surprised me bc I always felt Cariocas (ppl from Rio) were more laid back. Maybe it goes back to the elite vs. free concerts thing. For every concert the signature encore Tico Tico, a samba song that's very catchy and so all the musicians form a conga line and get people to dance. This time people weren't having it. Me and Emma were literally in people's faces and nothing! But it was still fun. And it was, musically, the best concert. At this point the orchestra is beyond phenomenal. I will never forget David saying "they played like Gods"...and I started crying. That's when the emotion hit me. It was over. This entire tour was over. Everything we all worked so hard for was done. Mission accomplished. I felt so proud. The sadness hit me hard there for a minute, but it would hit me harder much later.
We went back to the hotel, changed, and took a bus to the good bye party. We went to this little restaurant/bar in a really boho chic neighborhood called Lapa. Live music, food, and loooooootsssssss of drinks. Sam broke his ankle when accepting his award :( But other than that it was so much fun! Talk about going out with a bang. We had the YOA awards (random things like, biggest loudmouth, best shopper, best section, cutest couple, etc.) and then danced and danced and took pictures, and hugged, and made confessions, and hugged, and said (almost) good bye. It was nice and endearing. We were all in a very kissy mood, as you can see. Oh and there was a slideshow montage of pictures from the tour!!! So many laughs and goosebumps all at the same time.
The next morning people were crying...sobbing. One of them was me. I almost died when Ana Gabriela Delgado left me. Oh my God!!!! My partner in crime!!! My roomie!!!! One of three musketeers. I still miss you like crazy to this day.
That day was so busy. Buses back and forth. Making sure people made it on time to their flights and their buses. Emma and David spent most of the day at the airport and came back for lunch. David went right back to the airport and
me and Emma stayed behind to take the last bus. We had like an hour to kill, so we FINALLY got a chance to go to the actual Flamengo beach. It was so breathtaking. Another bonding moment for us. I remember we bought some cookies for David bc we knew he's appreciate them after a whole day at the airport.
There was drama that day. Our beloved Tuba player got his backpack stolen....with his wallet, laptop, cell phone, EVERYTHING (Victor if you're reading this te mando un abrazo!!!) Most importantly, his passport. F&*%. So that was horrible. He couldn't fly that day and had to get his passport early the next day.
I said more good byes at the airport. My girl Monika!!!!!! I love you!!! Honestly, I was sad, but not too much because I had a feeling we would stay in touch and see each other soon. And I was right!
In spite of the drama, we had a nice last night. Cathy (Harp and AMAZING girl) stayed with me....most everyone is gone at this point. A group of us went to a nice buffet dinner and had some beers. And then I had a nice personal and important talk with David. Such a mentor. And then I hung out with Victor and Cathy for a while, which was nice. And then it was good night. And then it was the last day.
Ok I know this is long but it's Rio. Sorry.
Emma and I went to drop Sam off at the airport (he had a cast and couldn't walk). And Cathy was there!!! She couldn't fly out till the next day!!! So we scooped her and went to Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf Mountain) which I had never been to. GORGEOUS (you will see). Then we packed really quickly and checked out. We had lunch together, and I said bye to David which was DEVASTATING. By far the saddest good bye.
We had the whole afternoon off so the three of us (Emma, Cathy, me) went to Rua Uruguaiana. This time it was open and PACKED. It's like a big market with little kiosks and stores. Blocks and blocks. We got presents for ourselves and for others. And saw soooo many people. And it was PERFECT. A great way to say good bye.
I couldn't think. I was excited to FINALLY go home....I wanted to see my parents, my dogs, my cousin Camila who would join me. Lay on the Dominican beach. Get spoiled. Not do ANYTHING. But at the same time it was so unreal for it to be all over. All these people I shared my life with on such an intimate level. Gone. It felt like someone was about to pull a plug. An important one.
More drama with Victor because the airlines are JERKS, but we finally got him on his flight.
And then it was us. The same four that were the first to arrive and flew together from Dulles airport to Bogota via Miami. Nina, Mark, Emma, Stella. 2 months later. I knocked out on the plane. And when we got to Miami I felt so relaxed. I said good bye to them...they were going back to DC and I was going to DR for a week. I remember the moment I saw my mom standing there I started sobbing. The biggest sense of relief and happiness I had felt in a long time. I felt so happy to be home. And so proud of what I accomplished. I slept for 3 days almost non-stop.
I am so thankful for the staff I got to work with. What amazing people and what an incredible opportunity they gave me. We really bonded and some of you are my close friends. So many memories. And to the musicians, whom I adore, I am so thankful to have met you. Some of you I know already will be friends of mine for years to come. What an inspirational and talented group of musicians! :)
And a special thank you to Ana Gabriela and Emma...my companions!!! And Emma thanks for some great pictures.
This is anticlimactic, I know. I have decided this will not be the last post. It's important to tell the story of what it is like AFTER the tour. Because that's when its whole significance becomes palpable.
I love you guys and thank you for coming with me on this journey. You were with me all along. Each and all of you.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Ok...I know it's been MONTHS. No excuse. Can we say I just needed time to digest everything?
If you are a REAL follower you will have remained faithful...that's why you're reading right now, right?
Ok..where did we leave off....
Poços de Caldas, Ribeirão Preto and Araraquara are the small cities we visited after SP. What was interesting to me is that, although the distance between them was not great (they were about a 3 hour drive apart) each city was COMPLETELY unique.
Poços de Caldas is in the state of Minas Gerais, and it was by far my favorite of the small cities we visited. We got to Poços and it was like a scene from a movie...old small town, quaint with a lot of history. Tall trees, OLD hotel. The hotel was really interesting. It looked like an old ski resort, like the one in "The Shining" complete with labyrinth hallways, 19th century furniture, rotary phones, marble and statues and CREEPY noises.
We arrived, had lunch and had the afternoon off, which was nice. Suuuch good food in Brazil, always. We were pretty tired as usual. A group went to the "teleferico" (cable car at the top of the mountain) but Emma and I weren't too interested, so we went to explore the town. The hotel was right on the central town square...as soon as we walked out we saw a bunch of people drunk on the street, yelling, dancing, blasting music...at 3 PM on a Wednesday. What???? We were so confused and excited at the same time. As we continued we saw what we soon learned was a fashion trend in Brazil (or at least the cities we visited): belly shirts. Yes, exposed midriffs. And these weren't super-model bellies. In fact, most of them were older women with a gut. True life.
We went into a small department store to look around and heard chanting, which was strange. We walked over and found a senior citizens chorus. So precarious and so cute! And the audience of like 5 people was listening so attentively! There was one part that was hilarious...they started in the wrong key and went waaaaay to high so the choirmaster had to stop them and start over. I recorded it. You have to see it when I post it.
Then we walked around some more and saw the most random combination of shops, a sex shop next to a place that sold instruments, next to a restaurant that sold pizza cones (ice cream cones filled with pizza), next to a place that sold scary dolls. And then we saw a train, maybe 3 or 4 cars long, that was sitting on a track that was a little longer than the train. What? And it was elevated so it wasn't part of an exhibit or anything. WEIRD!
All I know is Emma and I laughed the entire afternoon. This place was so all over the place and different, unpredictable. Then we stopped to get ice cream and almost DIED when we saw it was
a SELF SERVE PARLOR....PARADISE!!!! All kinds of flavors, all kinds of toppings (ie condensed milk) and charged by weight. Amazing.
On the way back to the hotel it was around 8 and we saw that the party had REALLY started....and we spotted some of our boy musicians talking to local girls. We realized the party had to do with some college initiation thing. Whatever.
That night i could barely sleep. I had the worst most vivid nightmares. I kept hearing voices, seeing rats and pigeons and at one point, I was awake, and felt the weight of a body over me that would not let me breathe. And when I felt like I was going to pass out it was gone. Some of my friends say it's called "el muerto". Whatever it
was scared the hell out of me. I think that place was haunted.
The concert the next day was fantastic. I think that was the last time the orchestra played Shostakovich 9, my favorite. This is when I realized the tour was wrapping up soon. I really didn't expect much of a crowd but it was pretty full and the crowd was really responsive. Great success in the middle of nowhere....says a lot, but I'll get back to that.
The next day we were off to Ribeirão Preto, which is kind of a blur because I got sick. I remember we got there, then Ana, Emma and I (3 musketeers) went for a walk. This city looked totally different. I can't really explain how, but it did. Different architecture (more modern, taller buildings) and vibe (more quiet and sober). It was nice. Then we changed, went to the theater, which was an old theater, GORGEOUS! Then we walked around the plaza for a while and I started feeling funny. When we got back to the hall I sat on a chair and passed out...they sent me back to the hotel which was nice. I crawled into bed and slept uninterrupted for 13 hours.
We left right the next day and I was feeling a lot better. Araraquara was also different. Part of it was that we stayed in a hotel in the outskirts of the city...it was a comfort inn or days inn, something like that, and it was like on a highway...we couldn't really walk around. As soon as we arrived Juliana (part of the Brazilian team) and I had to scramble to collect and photocopy passports and Brazil visas because, apparently, the police needed to see this if they randomly pulled us over. SUCH a hassle!!! A complete waste of time because we didn't even get pulled over...but...better safe than sorry!
The concert was impressive. We saw a line that went out of the theater and around the block. Amazing. And in Araraquara of all places???? Who would think???? And that's one of the great lessons this trip taught me. I expected to see crowds of screaming fans in the big cities (ok maybe not screaming fans but long lines) and expected a low turnout in small towns. I mean, smalled towns means working class or rural populations, which means no exposure to music, which means no interest. FALSE. At least the interest part. They were very excited. Maybe it was the publicity, or maybe it was the first international act to visit their town. Maybe they wanted to see something different, or maybe it was word of mouth. All I know is these people gave us much more support than any of the big city elite audiences. Not to sound cliche or corny, but it really made me feel like we were accomplishing the mission: to reach out to people who hadn't been reached out to. To bring classical music to people who hadn't been exposed to it. It was a great feeling for everyone and it made me feel like it was all worth it.
The next day we left for Rio....which we all know is my favorite part of the story...and I love saving the best for last. But this time, I am making a promise: I WILL PUBLISH THE LAST POST, RIO DE JANEIRO, BY THE END OF THIS WEEK. Signed, sealed, delivered, no ifs or buts.
Love you all and thanks for being patient. Hope you enjoyed the comeback :)