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Monday, May 6, 2013

Music Experiences

Day 1:
One day early this school year, I was in history class and a girl came and pulled me out of class to take me to a thing called gifted and talented (G&T). Every term there is a different topic for G&T, and they just started it this year, so no one really knew what it was. When we got there, I found out that it was for music. There were five people there: two other girls and two boys. There was one person for each category; me for melody, a boy on the piano for harmony, the other boy for rhythm on the drums, a girl dancing, and a girl (the one who came to get me) who was good with words. They were all older than me, so I didn't really know any of other words, I was very shy. We had to think of ideas for a 'presentation', but I am not very creative and couldn't think of any. We only had less than ten classes to make the 20 minute presentation before the concert—which wasn't good because we didn't even have ideas. Eventually we were dismissed, and they said not to tell anyone about it. All weekend I worried about coming up with ideas (which was our homework) for the presentation, and could not think of one.

Paige dancing in the middle, the musicians around her.
Day 2:
We had a meeting for about five or ten minutes a few days later. He told us what we were going to do: the earth from an extraterrestrial's point of view. I was happy with that plan as long as I didn't have to come up with ideas! He told us Paige would also be dancing in part of the show (Paige is really good) and said there was a surprise about what we were to be wearing.

Day 3:
The girl read her script for us, and she did a really good job—I could see why they had picked her! There were some parts in the script when we all had to say "shame on you humans". The teacher made each of us stand up alone and say the line while pointing a pen light at the everyone else. I went last. I was super nervous and embarrassed, and it showed. I said 'shame' fine, and after that I just sounded like I was trying to get it over with (which I was). Thankfully, he didn't make me do it again, although every class afterwards I worried that he would. He also told us that one of the teachers, an Indian, was going to help us too. He would translate the part of the script where the aliens speak into Hindi so that it would sound better because it is an actual language, as opposed to us making up a random alien language. Finally he revealed what we were going to wear. We would tape long strips of light to our clothes; in the dark theater it would show up really well. It sounded pretty cool.

Day 4:
We started to practice the song where the dancer 'creates' the universe. It went well, but I didn't have my flute so I had to play the notes on a piano instead.

Day 5:
We added a guitar player and had all the musicians there to practice. We played through Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring a few times. We also went through another song that for me was mostly an improvisation (I don't like improvising—last year I had an improvised solo in music class). At first I was hesitant to play on both songs, but I got used to it a bit and ended up sounding fine. It wasn't a very exciting class, but I prefer that to something embarrassing happening!

Day 6:
We practiced the beginning of the show. First the narrator said her part, then the dancer came out and we played Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. We decided the piano player and I were going to be woken up by the dancer after the narrator said her part, then we would play the song. The first time it went well. But the second time, I didn't realize that the narrator had only said the last line, so I stayed 'asleep' even when the dancer 'woke' me (she didn't touch us, so we kind of had to guess when we were woken). After a few seconds I realized no one was doing anything and they were just waiting for me to wake up! I was really embarrassed, but we just laughed and did it again, and the dancer touched me every time after that.
I am the middle person, wearing red EL wires.
Near the end of the G&T class, the teacher told me that the next day he had a surprise for me. I wasn't so sure I wanted a surprise because I wasn't sure if their idea of something great (like playing solo on stage, for example) was the same as mine (because I get nervous in solos). The next day Mr. Lawrence, my English teacher, told me to go to Ms. Fleming's office at break. I was a bit confused, but at break I went there. To my pleasant surprise, Jessica, a girl in Elena's year who I knew a little was also there. I was very glad for that, because then I wasn't alone. We went in a conference room; Ms. Fleming, Mr. Lawrence, and my G&T teacher were all there. They told us that we had been picked to represent CGB in Mexico in a special orchestra for a week. Every year this happened and two different people went each year. I was so excited! This was definitely a good surprise! I missed playing in the concert band in Michigan, and this would be similar—except in Mexico City! They said we would each stay with a host family and go touring as well as practice with the orchestra. The orchestra would be made up of students from different English schools in South America. It was for something called the LAHC, Latin American Heads Conference, and CGB had only been part of it for a few years. Once a year they get together to have a conference, so while the heads of the schools are in the country we do a concert for them. Over the next few months, they sent us the different pieces to practice.

Day 7:
We met on a Saturday for a little extra practice. The teacher showed us the recording of the 'alien' speaking. It sounded really cool. He also showed us something that projected blue dots on the walls for the 'stars'. The rest of the time we just practiced.

Day 8:
Only the piano player, the teacher, and I were there, but we practiced Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. I had to play it from memory, so sometimes I messed up. The piano player told me "shut your eyes," so I shut my eyes for a second, thinking: 'what in the world?' I opened them again. "No, shut your eyes" I shut them again, very confused. I opened them again, and suddenly realized that he meant while I was playing! Luckily it was near the end of the class, because I was very embarrassed.

There were a few more practices before the show, but they were all pretty uneventful.

The Show
We had about 45 minutes to get ready before hand. They suddenly decided to give me a pink twisty flashlight with princesses on it instead of the flashlight I had brought, and it was hard to turn on with one hand. I had to practice a bit with it. We didn't do too much rehearsing, mostly just getting ready. Years 10-12, some teachers, and some parents got to see the show. Before us, there was a short Christmas drama production. Then we went on. It was dark behind the curtain. Dressed all in black, we sat with our heads between our knees while the narrator introduced the fact that it was two hundred years in the future and humans had contacted an alien civilization called the Laktinians. Then she accused the humans of being bad. This was the part where we shouted 'shame on you humans' (and I had to use my difficult and uncool-looking flashlight). Then the narrator described the Laktinians. She also 'translated' what a 'wise Laktinian' said in the 'alien language', about how the world was created from a dot by a dancer. Then the dancer woke up the musicians, because we were sleeping on the floor. (She touched me so I didn't oversleep again!) We started Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. Just before the show they had told me to go out more near the middle of the stage so the audience could see me better. I was shaking a bit from nervousness, which made my tone bad, which did not help my overall confidence. When I was repeating it the second time, I suddenly forgot all of the notes of the song, and I stood there awkwardly trying to remember my place, but my mind was blank! Everyone just kept playing and dancing while I stood struggling to find my place in the song. After what felt like decades, I found my place near the end of the song and played. It sounded to me like the musicians ended together, but who knows if I really was in the right place. I stayed more in the shadows after that bad experience. Then the dancer 'created' the world by projecting stars (lights) from a special pen light onto the walls. We played again during this part, but I did an improvisation, so as long as I played one of about five notes, I sounded fine. Afterwards we all rushed to get our EL wires on (I forgot to at first). Paige had a lot of EL wires (each was a couple yards long) and danced while we played in 'celebration'. Over all, it went well except when I messed up.

LAHC, Mexico
Day 1
Sunday Jessica and I flew to Mexico. We had been waiting and practicing for months in anticipation of this week. We went all alone, so we were excited and a little nervous. We got to sit next to each other and it was a direct flight, which was good. We discovered that the three Colombians from the other school were sitting a few rows in front of us—we could tell because one of them had a cello. We were picked up by our host families at our host school, Edron. My family was really nice. There were two girls; Regina was my age, and Tina was three years younger. They lived quite a ways from the school in a region called Coyoacan. Coyoacan means coyotes because coyotes used to live there. They took me to an Italian restaurant where I met their aunt, uncle, and cousin. The food was really good. Afterwards, we went to the house. I got my own room, which was very nice of them because Regina had had to move into Tina's room for that. Then we walked to the main park. There was a fountain of coyotes there—apparently there were a lot of coyote statues around Coyoacan. We got ice cream at a little shop; there were many weird flavors, even a spicy one, which I didn't risk—I just got chocolate. It was more icy than normal, but it was good. We sat at a cafe with some of their friends that we happened to run into.

Day 2
Monday we rode the bus to the Edron, Regina's school. There were only six people with the Edron as their host school. Some of them, including Jessica, were already there. Finally all of us arrived—the three other Colombians, Jessica, and a Japanese girl who lived in Brazil—but the bus was a half hour late. At last it came and took us to a place called Ollin Yoliztli, a big music theater. Luckily the orchestra hadn't started practicing yet. I sat next to a nice flute player named Antonella. For a couple of hours we practiced two of the four songs, the Hungarian Dance and Danzon. Both turned out to be a lot faster than I had practiced them, and I knew I had to practice that night. In the orchestra, there were about 40 people. There were a few adults playing with us and some students had played in the orchestra the previous year as well. There were 7 other flutes. I got to be a first flute (we had no chairs, just first and second flutes). Next we got on buses and transferred to the Lancaster school, the main school that was organizing the orchestra. They served us a nice lunch, then we went into sections to practice. All the woodwinds were together, and we practiced Finlandia and Melodic Estructure. Melodic Estructure was written by a pair of twins that were in the orchestra with us. In Finlandia I had to learn some new trills and some weird looking notes that I had never seen before that turned out to be more trills. In Melodic Estructure all of the flutes were a little confused about when we were supposed to enter, but both songs went well overall. I ate dinner with my host family. They asked how big my meals normally were, and discovered I usually had big dinners—so they decided I needed to have a big dinner, even though I told them that we had had a late lunch. They asked how late, and I told them around 1:30, and they informed me that that was not late. In Mexico they eat a small breakfast, a normal lunch around eleven, a big meal around three, and a small dinner around eight. So that night we had chicken, noodles with some kind of sauce, and tomatoes. I commented on the chicken, and found out they had used coconut oil to fry it in. It made it have a really nice flavor, and I thought it very interesting because I had never heard about frying chicken in coconut oil before. Regina asked if I had had a traditional Mexican taco before, and I said I wasn't sure, but we did eat tacos at our house sometimes. She asked if they had hard shells, and when I said yes, she told me that that is actually the American version of a taco, and Mexican tacos were in soft tortillas. She recommended I try them because they were good. From that night on I kept hoping we would have tacos so I could try them.

Day 3
Tuesday we got a tour of the Edron, which was a lot bigger than it looked, while waiting for the bus. Then we visited the Olympic Stadium; the Olympics were held in Mexico City in 1968. The stadium was stone with a big carving on the outside. On the inside, all the seats were stone benches, which I thought was very interesting. They weren't very comfortable. It could seat 80,000 people. In the middle there was a soccer field, a track around the outside of the soccer field, and long strip of turf with sandboxes on either end for long jump. Mexico's Olympic team was jogging around the track. Afterwards, we drove around awhile, trying to figure out where the entrance to the pyramid next to Ollin Yoliztli was. I was surprised to find out there was a pyramid right there because I hadn't seen it the day before. When we found it, we went in a small museum with artifacts from the area, then walked to the top of the pyramid. It wasn't very big, but it was interesting. We practiced at Ollin Yoliztli again for a couple of hours, and it went slightly better. Everything was in Spanish, but the conductor didn't talk to the flutes much, and made a lot of gestures and sounds to emphasize his point, so I understood fine. When I got back to the house they figured I wanted a big dinner, even though I didn't really. They gave me mashed potatoes and a huge slab of fish. The rest of the family had really good looking grilled sandwiches. The fish and potatoes tasted good, but I would have rather had one of the sandwiches. I had gotten home late that night, but I still talked to Regina for quite a while, so it was around 10 when I went to bed.

Day 4
Wednesday one of the ladies at the Edron who always checked on us decided that we were too cold and needed something hot to drink, so we went down to the canteen and warmed up a bit with hot chocolate. We got on the bus and went to the Coyoacan area. Since it was kind of far, I was able to sleep on the bus. We visited Leon Trotsky's house. First we had to sit in a dark theater and watch a very long and boring movie that could have been summed up in about ten minutes. At one point, we all thought the movie had ended and we everyone sighed with relief, but it turned out there was a part two, and everyone groaned. Many times during it I almost fell asleep, and some people didn't even bother trying to stay awake. Next we were able to walk around his house, but it was just a bunch of pictures (not even original or painted pictures) of him and a couple of rooms of furniture. Afterwards we went to a little market, but we didn't spend much time there, then walked around the Coyoacan square I had visited the first day. We were supped to see Casa Azul, but apparently dryers wasn't time. We went to Ollin Yoliztli and practiced, and the flutes finally figured out the timing better. At the end we got our shirts that we were to wear for our concert. I was kind of concerned about how they would look because I knew that the previous year they were blue polo shirts, and they didn't look good in my imagination. They turned out to be bright pink polo shirts with LAHC Mexico 2013 in the corner. Not as bad as I had imagined, but I still wasn't sure we were going to look okay. That night Regina, Tina, all the people that had Edron as a host school, and some of the kids from their host families went to a movie at the mall. We saw Olympus Has Fallen; it was about the president being held hostage, and it was pretty good. Afterwards, Regina, Tina, Denise (a celloist), Nao (the Brazilian pianist), a boy from one of the host families, and I went to a taco place. We all split a drink called agua de horchata. It was milky white, and apparently made of rice and water. It was kind of sweet and turned out to be really good. Regina suggested to me to get a traditional taco called a pastor taco. All the tacos were in small tortillas. The pastor taco had chicken with some kind of sauce, a slice of pineapple, and a little cilantro and onion on it. It was really good and an interesting mix of flavors. Me, Denise, and Noa all had trouble eating our tacos. The three Mexicans at our table said "you're obviously not Mexican!" Then picked those tacos up and ate them like it was nothing!

Day 5
On Thursday our bus arrived a bit late and we got to the Lancaster school only a few minutes before we were to play a concert there. I already had my black pants and shoes on, and of course my bright pink shirt. The shirts looked good, and I was relieved. The concert went pretty well and I think I played better than in the rehearsals, even though I didn't get to practice before hand like the people who weren't late. After the concert we sat around for a little bit before lunch was served (sandwiches) and then we went to Ollin Yoliztli. There we practiced for an hour or two. At the end, the conductor told us to put down our instruments. We were playing Finlandia. He made different sections play their parts in different ways, some had to say 'shh', some had to sing. It sounded cool. When he got a lot of people to clap, he bowed and we all laughed. Before the concert we sat around for a really long time doing whatever we wanted. I think we were supposed to see a real orchestra warm up and practice, but I don't know why we didn't see them, which was a disappointment. At long last we all got together and warmed up and tuned. I got to say hello to my mom before the concert, but I didn't see my host family. The concert went really good and I played quite well. At the end, the audience wanted an encore, so we replayed the Hungarian Dance. Everyone seemed to enjoy the concert. After I put my stuff away I went to see my mom, and to my surprise Ms. Fleming, the director of our school, was there too. My host family came and gave me some really pretty lilies, which was really sweet. For dinner, the whole orchestra went out to eat at a restaurant called Arroyo, which was pretty far away. At the restaurant I got the agua de horchata drink again, and I also tried a pinkish-red drink made out of flowers, which was also yummy. The food was a taco buffet, which made me happy because I had discovered the night before that I liked Mexican tacos. There were different fillings. There were beans, vegetables in a creamy sauce, slightly spicy chicken and vegetables, shredded meat covered in molé sauce, and a few others. Molé is a mixture of chocolate and chili. It has a very interesting flavor—a little sweet, then you can taste the chili a little bit. I didn't know what it was until after a few bites in. I didn't particularly like it. I really liked the slightly spicy chicken and vegetables taco, even though it was so messy I had to eat it with a fork. At the end they gave each of us a little basket of Mexican candy. I tried a bite of each the next day, and most of it was not something I would not normally eat, but it was fun to try. I got back super late and went to bed around twelve.

Day 6
On Friday, since the concert was over, we went to a place far away called Teotihuanaca. The ride was about two hours, but that was alright because it let everyone catch up on some sleep. First we went in a museum, it had a lot of painted things from the pyramids and ruins. Most of the other kids just took out their cameras and phones and took pictures to read and look at later. Then we went out and were able to walk around. I had my hat, but I didn't want to be in the sun a lot and get really hot, so I was hoping we would walk up the moon pyramid and not the sun one because the moon pyramid was smaller. Unfortunately, everyone wanted to do the sun pyramid, so we had to walk all the way over there and then walk over quite a few ruins before we actually got to the base. We started climbing, and it was quite tiring, and sometimes the steps were very steep. Luckily, the steps were in sections, so it wasn't all at once, and the sun was behind clouds for some of the time. From the top, you could much more easily imagine what the area looked like when it was built. It was really cool, and worth the extra stairs and walking. One of the Peruvians was talking to me and asked 'do you climb and hike much?' I told them we had done the four day Inca trail. Immediately they said "Oh! This is nothing compared to that!" I definitely agreed, though I forgot they were Peruvians for a moment and was wondering how they knew how hard that hike was. Afterwards we waited around for a while while the rest of our group finished climbing the pyramid, then we went to lunch. It was a buffet. There was rice, beans, chicken, spaghetti with a creamy sauce, and beef with peppers. I didn't get everything, but what I did try was good. They put little tortillas on our tables and we made tacos out of what we got at the buffet, so after that I was getting a little tired of tacos even though they were good. To drink there was the pink drink and the agua de horchata. They served us vanilla ice cream for dessert. I slept again on the way back. Outside of Ollin Yoliztli when we returned, there was a show going on of traditional Mexican dances, so I watched that while I waited for my host family. I went with Regina and her dad to get 'dinner', which was iced coffee and churros. Both were really good. When we got back, we were talking in the kitchen and I mentioned tamales. To my surprise, she said they had some, and out of the freezer she pulled two bags of small tamales. They were all different kinds. I had no idea there was more than one kind, even though it made perfect sense. There was a chocolate one, a chicken one, an apple one, and many more, but we didn't eat any. Afterwards, I played my flute for her a bit, then we watched a movie. We talked a lot during the movie, but neither of us minded. After the movie, she showed me some of her dances from ballet shows and school musicals. I enjoyed them. It was around twelve again when we actually got to bed.

Day 7
Saturday was my last day. They took me downtown and we went to a big, beautiful, and old hotel to eat breakfast. Unfortunately, it wasn't open yet so we went to the Holiday Inn and ate at a buffet there. I even tried a tamale with a corn outside and meat inside which was very good, even though it was breakfast. We then went to my mom's hotel and we said goodbye. My mom and I walked around and looked at lots of churches. They were very pretty, and mom knew some interesting things about one of them from a tour she had done. We were walking along a street when we saw her tour guide from the day before, so we got a tour, and he told us about some huge murals by Diego Riviera. We walked around some more, down to Bellas Arts. It was beautiful. We went back to the hotel afterwards and went to the airport. I was so glad my mom could come to Mexico with me, and that I could see her more than just at the concert and on the plane. I met many nice people and had a good time. I would definitely do it again if the chance arose!