Monday, July 16th
Well, the confusion continues. Today I arrived at Sinamune and there were no students. They said the students weren’t coming today. However, there was orchestra rehearsal. Apparently there is another girl who plays piano sometimes and she has the partituras but she wasn’t there today, so I just listened and watched again. I tried to write down a few chords to make some lead sheets for some of the songs but there were so many and they were so fast that I didn’t accomplish much. (Aural Skills IV failed me – but also I almost failed Aural Skills IV.) They told me that they would give me the sheet music tomorrow. We shall see.
After the rehearsal, they told Cosette, Meghan, and I that we would teach 45-minute private lessons to the three little girls there for summer camp (flute, violin, and piano, respectively). We were quite amused that they thought a 5-year-old was going to sit through three 45-minute instrument lessons. However, I went to the piano room and Rosita brought me the first girl. Except at the same time, Sandra arrived with one of the Sinamune students. Rosita said that I was teaching piano and Sandra said of course not because I was going to do “music therapy” sessions with some of the Sinamune students. Apparently there was some sort of miscommunication. Ultimately, Rosita took the piano girl away and remade the lesson schedule for the three little girls, and they told me I would do “music therapy.” They brought me the first student, along with his mother, and left me to it. I still don’t know what kind of black magic they think music therapy is, but I was pretty stressed. I had never met this student; I didn’t know his diagnosis, much less his name! I explained to the mother that nobody told me that I was even doing this today, that I wasn’t a licensed music therapist yet, and that I was not told anything about the objectives for her son. She was understanding and patient. But, I made up some activities, because we weren’t just going to sit there for 30 minutes! I sang a hello song in Spanish, we did some instrument exploration, musical conversations with drums, and then a game with drums and guitar. All things considered, it was pretty successful. Then came three more students in succession, each with very different abilities and needs. I made it up as I went and somehow finished all four sessions. I don’t know how to explain to them that music therapy is not what they think it is without delegitimizing the excellent work they are doing, especially with the language barrier…
Also, I asked Rosita if there was any sort of schedule for the rest of the week. She showed us a schedule for the whole month of July! It showed which days students came and which days they didn’t, which days were which excursions to where, which days the orchestra rehearsed and which days they performed for tourists. This would have been so helpful to have from the start! Oh well, at least we have it now!
After Sinamune, Paige and I took the bus into the city center to get lunch and find a coffee shop to work on our laptops. We found the BEST empanada place for lunch, called “Los Empanadas del Negro.” They sell empanadas for only 50 cents each, and huge cups of fresh-squeezed juice for $1. The best part was they had about 12 different fruits to choose from! (Most places just offer one specific fruit every day.) I ordered a strawberry juice and watched them make it with fresh strawberries on the spot. It was so delicious. We will definitely be coming back.
Next, we found a coffee shop called Quito Coffee and Art. It was a quiet and cozy place and we got a lot of work done. When I returned home to my house, I ate dinner and warm brownies that Pilar had prepared. Hasta mañana!
Tuesday, July 17th
Thanks to the schedule I asked to see yesterday, I knew that today we were going to “Happy Farm.” However, first I had orchestra rehearsal and then a performance for tourists. Except unfortunately the girl who was supposed to bring the partituras forgot them. So I just listened to the rehearsal again, until her sister dropped them off right before the performance. I was not about to sight read fifteen pieces on the spot and mess up the performance, but I also didn’t have time to get off the stage, so I just turned my keyboard off and marked the whole time, lol. Most of the songs aren’t too difficult, other than the fact that they play everything at rocket-on-steroids tempo. I can sight-read basic piano music slowly, but it is going to take me a while to get everything up to tempo. Now I have a notebook filled with about one hundred pages of piano music to learn; thank goodness my host family has a piano at home! I almost feel like I’m back in college again!
After the performance, we loaded up the buses for Happy Farm! It was about an hour outside Quito. It was a farm for children with various activities, and the students had the best time. There was a lemonade making station, seed-planting station, petting zoo, horse-riding, duck-feeding, playgrounds, and a trampoline. When we got there, all the students stormed the trampoline, and they had a hard time understanding that there could only be four at a time. Cosette and I were somehow put in charge of the trampoline while we waited to eat a picnic lunch of salchichas and papas fritas.
After lunch, we split into groups to go to the different parts of the farm. My group went first to the lemonade station. We started cutting lemons in half to juice them, and next thing I knew half of the students were just eating the lemon halves plain all by themselves, without showing any sign they were sour! I was astounded and at first I thought maybe they weren’t lemons, but I asked a teacher and she said they were. She said they are delicious plain and everybody grows up eating them so they don’t think they are sour. She offered me one and I tried to take a bite and almost choked, it was so sour! Fortunately, there was sugar to add, which helped a lot.
We were running late at the farm so one of the teachers who had driven there instead of taking the bus kindly drove us back to Quito early and dropped us off near the Spanish school so we wouldn’t be late. This week I have a different Spanish teacher, named Arturo, but he is very nice as well.
After Spanish, I stopped by the grocery store on the way home and the nicest thing happened. I was checking out with only a few items, and the cashier had already started to ring them up. The couple behind me interrupted and asked if I had a discount card (of course I didn’t). They told the cashier to use theirs. The cashier said that he would have to get the manager to cancel the transaction and do it over again using the card. The couple said it was no problem and they didn’t mind waiting. They did this even though they didn’t have to and they had to wait longer at a busy time of night. It was such a little thing, but when you are in a foreign country, the smallest acts of kindness from strangers go such a long way. It warmed my heart and was the highlight of my whole day.
Wednesday, July 18th
Today I arrived at Sinamune and rehearsed with the orchestra. There was no performance for tourists today, so we went down to the second level to await instructions. Finally someone told us that we would be teaching lessons today. I taught my student A piano again, which went well. Then they told me I was going to do “music therapy” and I had about four different students back-to-back. I managed to come up with a translation of Down on Grampa’s Farm as well as Rainbow Round Me, and all of the students seemed to love them. I wasn’t sure if they would like them because they are children’s songs and almost all the students are adults, but because of their developmental level they seemed to enjoy learning them. It also helped me gauge where they were at cognitively. When we were leaving Sinamune, they told us that we didn’t have to come tomorrow because there was no orchestra rehearsal and the students weren’t coming, so I have the day off tomorrow.
After Sinamune, I went to Spanish and then home. Buenas noches!
Thursday, July 19th
Since I did not have to go to Sinamune today, I slept in until 10:00! A little while later, I had lunch cooked by Anita (who is the housekeeper). It was delicious as usual. After lunch, I headed over to the Mariscal area where the Spanish school is located to find a coffee shop to work on my blog. I searched for a coffee shop in the area on Maps.Me and found one close by called Isveglio. I walked to where it was located on the map and there was a nice coffee shop there but it was actually called Serendipity. It was a fancy coffee shop with US-like drinks (and US-like prices unfortunately). It was a little pricy, but it reminded me of some of my Nashville coffee shops. I ordered an iced Nutella latte, which was delicious. The server was very friendly and after my latte was almost gone, he came over and told me that the manager would like to offer me another drink for free! He asked what I would like, and I said anything was fine. He brought me over a fancy layered iced coffee drink and told me it was called “café dulce.” It was delicious; I think it may have been some sort of latte made with sweetened condensed milk. He was very patient with my Spanish, which is always helpful. I told him that the café was very close to my Spanish classes and I would definitely be back. He said they would look forward to seeing me.
I walked to Spanish class, then took the bus home, had dinner, and went to bed. I think I am finally starting to settle in here. Tomorrow I will go to Sinamune and then afterwards I am going to Baños for the weekend with some of the other volunteers. Hasta luego!