Sunday, February 24, 2013


Friday night I had a bodas de plata misa (silver wedding mass) in Barranco. I played with a man named Raul who played guitar. He was very nice and very helpful with giving me the keys for each piece. There was also a singer who cracked me up. He was somewhat of a robust man and he wore all white. He sang a number of songs accompanied by karaoke-style music on his ipod. Every time he went to change to a different song the ipod clicked over the loudspeaker. Eek! How embarrassing! He sang well and made sure he was singing the correct lyrics with help from his iPad. Anyone who things that Apple hasn't infiltrated the "third world" needs to me this Peruvian. (I put third world in quotes because I don't really consider Peru to be third world) We finished up strong and I had the pleasure of having Marco take me to the mass and stay to take me home afterward. What a guy!

Yesterday (Saturday), I played in three weddings. I traveled from Chorrillos to Pueblo Libre, to Santa Anita and back to Barranco to finish. If you know anything about the geography of Lima you'll know that I spent a lot of time in transit. I was fortunate enough to have Marco accompany me to the first gig. We had lunch afterward and he dropped me off with the guys who I played with at the wedding in Santa Anita. I had to leave early from the Santa Anita wedding because I had to be in Barranco at a quarter to 7pm. Fortunately, there were many musicians to cover my departure. The wedding started 40 minutes after the indicated hour but whose fault is that? (The novia was late.) I picked up a combi and took an hour long ride to the metropolitano where I took another 20 minute ride to Barranco. I had just enough time to eat an ice cream outside of the church before heading in.

The first gig was with a "pianist" and two singers. I put pianist in quotations because all of the ones that I have played with don't actually play the piano most of the time or they have just started. (The guy who "played" the piano for the last wedding in Barranco told me that he started playing piano 3 years ago.) They all play electronic pianos. They record the songs and save them in the piano and then play them for the wedding. The "pianist" fakes that he is playing the music and the public doesn't know any better...or at least that is what they think. Unfortunately, most won't take any notice. It is somewhat embarrassing, as a musician, to play with a track. I understand now when Ernesto told me that many people don't play in weddings because they don't like playing with tracks. I am not going to complain too much though because while the pianist might be faking it, I am playing for real and that is what matter most to me.

The second gig in Santa Anita had 6 musicians; a singer, a "pianist", a violist, a flutist, and two violinists. We played Pachabell Canon and the wedding march but the majority of what we did was try and improvise to songs that the singer had on his ipod. No keys were given and we were left to figure out what key to play in. It was awful! I let the coordinator know that if she wants us to play in a group like that again, we should have practice because it is so embarrassing to play a wedding and not know what we are doing.

Another thing that I have realized is that no one does rehearsals for their weddings! At least it is not common. It is all set up ahead of time with the songs that are to be played but many time the priest will decide what songs will be played. It is super bizarre to me that there is no rehearsal. It doesn't surprise me though. I imagine that part of the cost that musicians charge in the States to do a wedding covers the rehearsal the night before.

I made my way to Barranco and set up to play along with the tracks. Fortunately, I was close to the piano so I was able to see in what key the song was going to be played in. The "pianist" obviously was no help. The mass lasted a really long time and after 10 minutes of debating whether or not to leave to their next gig, the group made the decision to pack up and go. The mother of the bride was desperate. I told her that I could play Ave Maria and Wagner's Wedding March to finish the ceremony with music. She was super grateful and wouldn't let me refuse her offer to give me 20 soles more. I made a mistake thinking that I needed to play the wedding march sooner than was called for but I saved it by going back in Ave Maria while the couple took pictures with the family. It felt good to play solo even though I was definitely nervous. I was even more nervous because I was playing in front of the military community which I will soon be more a part of when we move to the villa militar. I wanted to make a good impression. When the mother of the bride found out that I am married to an officer she was beyond happy. There was also another woman who came over and asked for my contact information for her daughter's wedding. Not a bad way to end the night!

I have to say that I am learning little things here and there as I have more gigs chiveando as they say here. I am a chivista in Lima now. I think that with more time and comfort in Lima I could start a quartet that plays weddings and events. I think that would be great. I have to get my foot in the door though and that is exactly what I am doing right now. I am happy to let others do the coordinating and show up where I need to be for a wedding or a funeral. They money's not bad and the exposure is great.

I really wish I had my camera with me during these gigs because some of the places are so pretty. The hacienda we played at in Santa Anita was gorgeous! Oh well, better to have one less thing to worry about losing while traveling all over Lima.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My First Violin Student in Lima and other musings

I started today off by getting up at 8am and taking Pepe out. I was a bit tired but I had some breakfast and hopped on my computer to work on a roofing article. I also made lesson plans for Olga with whom I had class today at 11am. It was a pretty good class. She was obviously really tired. She told me that she was studying all day. We worked on past tense.

After class I had a quick meeting with Amanda, my boss. She reassured me that if I took vacation that I would not be fired from my job. Fantastic! She even said that Vladimir, the owner, knows all about taking a good vacation because where he is from it is about having time to stay healthy and not go crazy being a work-a-holic. I am totally on board with that idea. I also made sure that I was doing everything correctly with the google docs and blogging. Apparently it is required that we do 2 short blogs a week and 2 longer 500 words or so blogs. We get raises if we get people to start classes from our blogs. Not bad! I am all for blogging it up. Also, Amanda told me that Vladimir said he was impressed with how pro-active I've been. I have definitely been trying to make a good impression and do the best I can because this job is the only steady thing I have right now and while it doesn't pay a lot right now, I am very likely to be getting more and more students as time goes on. I am also going to be getting pay raises as early as next week if all goes well.

In the afternoon I had a meeting with Maria de Pilar and her son Marco Antonio who is 15. They came over and we discussed methodology and what lessons would consist of. They found me via the store Home Music in Plaza Lima Sur shopping mall. I left my cards with them and I have gotten two referrals from them. The first lady just wanted me to see what I thought her violin could sell for but she was super nice and said she would pass the voice as they say in Spanish (pasa la voz = spread the word)

Young Marco Antonio is very excited to start taking lessons. (I think it's funny that he and my Marco are tocayos or name twins.) He seems like a really good kid too. He was so sweet with his little brother Matias (8 months). They bought the book and CD from me and we are all set for having our first class the first weekend of March. I can't wait! I am so pumped to actually have my first student. Maria was super nice too and very frank. She told me that if I ever had any problems, I should call her. She works for the press and has connections. "If anything bad happens, no matter what, I will do what I can to help you out." It was a nice gesture and I appreciate that she sees how me being a foreigner living in Chorrillos is a higher risk than the average Peruvian. Everyone here has to be careful though, whether you are Peruvian or a foreigner. That goes for any major city in the world. When you put more people together in one place, you are bound to have more crime.

The best part about the entire conversation was when I played Marco's violin and Matias got really quiet and just stared with his mouth open. It was wonderful. Maria said she had never seen him like that before. I told her she should start him with lessons in two years or so when he is a little over 3 years old. It also doesn't hurt that he will be hearing the CD when Marco plays it.
Finally,  I have had lots of gigs playing masses and they are only getting more frequent. I am going to be playing a silver wedding mass on Friday night and then two masses on Saturday. I believe both are weddings. Let the hallelujahs begin!

Here is a picture of a cat in a tree in Parque Kennedy from the other day.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Los Morunos and Lunch with Friends

I had a pretty awesome Valentine's Day and it wasn't just because I got to go out dancing with Marco. I played in a 15 piece orchestra for Los Morunos, a well-known trio from the 80s. They sing boleros and waltzes. I mentioned them in the post before this. Anyway, it went really well. I wasn't perfect but neither were most of the other members of the orchestra. Obviously, I want to be professional and not make mistakes but it is bound to happen occasionally. It was also my first really big gig so I had some nerves working there too. I am hoping that someone will eventually put a video up on youtube of the event. There were plenty of people recording the concert with their cameras and phones. The news was there too and they taped the entire thing. I am sure they did some type of presentation in their "Espectaculos" section last week.

After the concert we went out dancing in a bar in Barranco. I was starving so we ate pollo a la brasa first (at 11:45pm). I never got the name of the bar/disco we went to but it wasn't anything special. The cost of a small Cusqueña beer was 16 soles!! I couldn't believe that and neither could Marco. My rum and coke was 13. I tried the Cusqueña here in Lima and it is awful. It doesn't taste anything like the beer in Cusco. Granted, they use different water and elevation might have something to do with it. I am happy that my giving up beer is not really a loss since the best beer there was in Peru (Cusqueña) tastes like Pilsen (a cheaper lighter beer).

After playing tourist with my camera in Parque Kennedy, I went out to lunch with my friends Sabrina and Martine. (A fun little side note is that Parque Kennedy is full of stray cats that live in the trees and are fed by tourists and locals. I will put up a picture soon.) We had a delicious lunch at Papacho, a restaurant owned by Gaston Acurio. I ate the most delicious chimichunga. It was a bit expensive but it was worth it. We also saw Gaston Acurio on the second level trying food. I tried to slip in a casual photo of Sabrina with him on the side. It was a fun afternoon.

My friends Akhtiara and Jimmy left on Friday evening. We never got to have dinner together but it was wonderful having them stay with us.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lot's of Exciting News!

This Sunday Marco and I went for a run along the Malecon de Chorrillos. It is the road that runs along the Ocean. We ran a few weeks ago but this time we ran a little farther. We headed around a point and made our way to a restaurant on the rocks called El Salto de Fraile (The Friar's Jump). We got there just in time for the main attraction. Every day there is a man who dresses up as a friar and jumps 25 feet into very choppy water that is crashing against the rocks. He made us wait in a bit of anticipation but he finally made his splash. It reminded me of my diving days in high school and college. I hoped that the depth of the water was at least 15 feet but I highly doubt that it was.

My wonderful friends Akhtiara and Jimmy are staying with us this week. Akhtiara and I worked at Maximo Nivel together way back when in Cusco. She and Jimmy were just married in Cusco last week! They are here in Lima to visit family and for Jimmy's work. That means that Akhtiara has had time to hang out with me! We went to a beach in Barranco yesterday with our friend Sabrina (whom also worked at Maximo in Cusco). The weather was not pretty. The fog was thick and you could barely see 30 feet in front of you but the company was great. It was so great to chat with these ladies about everything. We have all lived in Peru for more than 2 years (Sabrina 5+ year) and it's nice to know that I am not alone in a lot of the experiences I have had and understandings of Peruvian culture. This outing was much needed. Unfortunately, Akhtiara goes back to Cusco on Friday and Sabrina heads to the States so this kind of outing will not be possible after this week. Thank goodness for skype!

Speaking of Skype! I got a job on Monday! I am not working as an English teacher for the company Overcome the Barrier. It was created by a Russian guy and it serves mostly students in Russia and Ukraine. The method they use is pretty cool. Unlike Open English which is set up for the very beginner language learner, Overcome the Barrier uses conversation and error correction in a google document. I type everything that my student says in once column and after 15 minutes or so I go over the sentences with him or her and correct the errors in the second column. My first class was today with a great student named Olga. She works for Adidas and she told me I was cool at the end of the class. I think she requested to have me as her teacher again next week because I am set up to have another class with her next Wednesday. I am super excited to be teaching online. It's a new platform for me and with this company I am free to come up with the lesson plan I want for each student. It might be a little bit more work but either way, it's rewarding.

In my final section of good news, I am playing in a concert for the trio Los Morunos. I am a part of a 15 piece orchestra that is backing up the trio in a Valentine's Day concert. It will take place in The Japanese Theater in Lima tomorrow night and I couldn't be more excited about it. I would never get a job like this in Chicago. We had two 2 and a half hour concerts and we are playing 10 songs. They are mostly boleros and waltzes. Check out the video that is linked to their name. It is the song "Motivos" that was really popular in the 80s. The only original member still in the group is the singer. He is a super nice guy and asked me if the boleros were treating me well. I had told him earlier that I enjoyed learning boleros because they were super pretty but I had never played them before.

The trio Los Morunos

Things are going really well and I am pumped about all the new opportunities!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Changes for those who want to Immigrate to Peru

I found a link to a blog post on the changes that Immigrations has put into place starting in January of this year. It looks as though mostly prices have gone up. Apparently there is a test in order to get citizenship as well. Peru is modeling after the States huh? This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone since Peru's economy is growing steadily and the government is trying it's darnedest to "improve" it's immigration system I am sure. I was on the Metropolitano today and I saw this sign:

I looked it up and it seems to be used for various things in the public sector like hospitals and education as well as in the embassy and government. They want to be better and they want to improve. More power to Peru! This also means that they will be cracking down on book, music, and movie piracy right?

Anyway, the information about the changes for applicants who want to change their migratory status is located here. Click on TUPA. It is in Spanish and a bit difficult to understand but on the right hand side it gives you the class of immigrant one is. Moving to the right from there includes the requirements, form code, the amount of money it costs, testing required, time for resolving any issues, where to start and where to finish the process.

So what would have applied to me? The costs for the forms have gone up a bit but not too much. I paid 14 soles more when I got to migraciones last week because I paid in December originally. There is also an x under the need for testing on page 24 under residency. It looks like it applies to everyone applying for residency but it is not clear. What is weird is that I see that there is an x under the word negative for testing to obtain double citizenship. It would make sense that there was a test for citizenship and not for residency. I also notice that it is 1,900 soles for the form for citizenship. I don't know what the price was before but woah! It costs less to get US citizenship at $680 or 1700 soles roughly. That's a nice chunk of change but once one has a Peruvian passport, traveling around South America is a breeze.

As the Sabor a Selva blog post explains, "the changes are live and confusion reigns". For now, I can sit tight. Next year is when I have to go back and renew my carnet. A simple letter of financial responsibility that is notarized will suffice at the time of renewal...for now.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Let the Gigging Begin!

I have been very fortunate this month. While I didn't get a job teaching English, I have been given lots of gigging work by my friend Tito. It is really great because this month I am getting lots of work from him and I couldn't be more grateful.

Today was quite the adventure. I had a wake to play at and I unfortunately didn't get there on time. I got up nice and early this morning to practice a bit before heading out to make a copy of the book of music that Jorge (the violinist I played with today) gave me to look at. He so kindly came over to our apartment last night after I got back from choir practice. (There is more to come about that in a bit.) We went over some music that I had and he left me his book of 300 pages of Peruvian songs and popular songs.

After waiting for half an hour I decided to take a taxi to La Molina. I didn't want to risk being late. I explained exactly where I needed to go to the taxi driver and he said he knew where it was. Wrong. We spent a good 20 minutes driving around La Molina looking for Avenida la Universidad and Calle Retama. After many calls to Jorge we finally met up and walked into the wake at 10 minutes past 1pm. Fortunately, the kind sir who was in charge of the event was very nice and served us water and sandwiches. I paid 30 soles for the cab though. Oh well, lesson learned.

We played for 2 hours straight. I sight read practically everything! It was great practice and fortunately, I did a decent job. Three people came up to us and asked us if we had cards. I gave out all the ones I had on me. I realize that I have a lot of work to do practicing songs that are well known here. We had quite a few requests and Jorge had to play because I didn't know any of them. Phew.

In the end it was a successful gig. We didn't have much in the way of duets but Jorge was great at playing an octave above me. I think I am going to enjoy playing weddings and bridal showers much more than funerals. What funeral is fun? I also have noticed that it is much more common to see people who are very dramatic in their way of expressing their sorrow. It's completely understandable but it still takes me aback when a señora starts wailing. I guess it is just customary to be more reserved in the way we grieve at funerals and wakes in the States. No one should hold back their emotions though. I think showing more emotion could be a good thing as a whole for people in the States.

I am not just playing gigs these days. I am also singing in a choir for a friend who I met during my Kodaly class at the Suzuki Festival. She is a student at the National Conservatory here in Lima and she has her thesis to present in March. She is directing a 20 person choir and 15 person orchestra. We are singing Vivaldi's Kyrie. It has a ton of 16th notes in it and it was quite a piece to sight read. We have time. There will be practice on Mondays. I am so excited to be singing in a choir again. I haven't sung in a traditional choir since high school. It felt good to be using my diaphragm to it's full extent.

I am also excited because there is a possibility that I might join an actual women's choir that does gigging. The one mentioned above is only for the presentation of Mayeli's thesis. This one, however, would be a professional choir. I am going to see them perform this Monday and get introduced to the ladies. I hope it all goes well!

Other than all this fun musical activity, I am slowly but surely getting things done for the wedding. It is 8 and a half months away but I have to get save the dates out soon and get the website all ready to go. I need to have hotel and tour information and cost estimates for people. I am beyond excited to actually be doing all of it. I never thought too much of my dream wedding when I was a little girl like many do. However, now that I am actually in the process of planning one, I am getting more and more excited. I think the realness of it is sinking in now. I also can't wait to have my friends and family in Peru! They are going to have a blast!