Monday, July 29, 2013

Felices Fiestas Patrias!

We have had a very nice relaxing holiday weekend. Marco has today and tomorrow off from school/work and we were able to watch the military parade from the comfort of our couch. He is lucky he didn't have to march. However, it is not uncommon for those in Material de Guerra not to march after the reach higher ranks. How convenient!

I was trying to think if there were any military parades in the States for the 4th of July. I am sure there are but the only parades I remember are community ones that have all sorts of fun acts and bands. I wrote about it last year actually.

This afternoon our niece C joined us for some tequeños (cheese wrapped inside wantan and fried with guacamole) and tea. She is 17 and is studying to enter university next year. She wants to study civil engineering. Not bad! She is super sweet and I look forward to seeing her again. Roxana, Marco's cousin whom I visited while in Buenos Aires, passed along our number to C and she called us this morning to see if she could come over and hang for a bit. She lives in Puente Piedra which is quite a ways from Chorrillos but thanks to the metropolitano she got here in 40 minutes. I love family gatherings no matter how small. There will definitely be more to come!

Marco and I are off to take an afternoon run. I leave you with some photos of our new dining room table!

Marco bought me a covered wagon. Super sweet. We are planning on decorating our place with more Americana and I am very excited to do so.

Monday, July 22, 2013

De Rompe Y Raja

Marco and I went to a Peña restaurant on Saturday night called De Rompe Y Raje. Peñas are known for their live music and dance shows. This peña used to be the house of a classmate of Marco's. They rented it out a while ago and the owners of De Rompe y Raja made it into one of the best peñas in town. It is located in Barranco a few blocks from the Bulevar Metropolitano stop. In Cusco peñas are filled with traditional Andean music and dance. In Lima, they are known for hosting the best criollo singers. We were going to see Bartola but she didn't come out until almost 1am and by that time we had already left. It's OK though. We had a great time and we would have stayed but we were tired. We did see an Afro-Peruvian dance group do some festejo (a typical afro-peruvian dance). The rhythm to festejo is super fun and it makes you want to stomp your feet and get up and dance.

It turns out we were lucky to find ourselves a seat because the majority of the place was filled with reservations. People like to celebrate birthdays, go out with co-workers, or go out in big groups to hear the likes of Bartola, Eva Allyon and Lucia de la Cruz. Most audience members share bottles of liquor (whiskey is a favorite) and criollo music live is always accompanied by audience members singing along whole-heartedly  in the background enjoying themselves. I remember when we were in Cusco we went to see a criollo singer at Frogs and EVERYONE was singing along to her songs. I have to learn some of the standards so I can sing along eventually too!

Earlier, Marco and I went to a gathering at the apartment of his promo. We celebrated the baptism of his two sons. It was really nice and I chatted for a while with C the wife of another one of Marco's promos. Her daughter is going to take violin lessons with me in a few more months. C wants her to be a little bit older (almost 4 years old). That's fine by me. I will take them on as young as 3 but if they start at 4 there is no harm done. I didn't start 'til I was 6 and. We also chatted with R who told us all about his time in Haiti. I had just finished reading Wyclef Jean's memoir. He is a well-known rapper who was in the group The Fugees in the late 90s and he is originally from Haiti. Among other things, he talks about the state of his home country. It was interesting to hear R's perspective as someone who lived their for 6 months helping out. Point of view is what makes conversation interesting. Overall, it was really nice to hang out with Marco's friends and experience a gathering that will eventually take place at our place when we had kids.

I had a gig playing at a 25th anniversary wedding so I had to get going early. I have to say that I am looking forward to having more gigs singing in weddings with Coro Arpegio than playing my violin. When I take out transportation costs I make very little for the amount of time I spend. I like having the opportunity to play in public more with my violin so I don't see it as a complete waste of time. Also, since I don't practice with the groups that I play my violin with, they obviously don't see the need to pay very much for my service. The better I get, the more leverage I will have and that goes for any job or profession.

I leave you with some videos of Bartola and festejo dancing.

This video of Bartola is from the same peña we were at and it would have been our view as well.


Thursday, July 18, 2013


I feel like I should write more about the random things that I notice throughout the days. There are things that put a smile on my face or make me think. Sometimes things surprise me and sometimes things make me frustrated. I try and stay alert while I am out and about not only because it is a safety precaution to have one's wits about him or her but because I find that the more pensive and stuck in my head I am, the less I see and and the less I enjoy about my daily life. Lima has been more of a struggle for me in terms of feeling completely comfortable. We have talked about eventually living in the mountains but for right now I am keeping my mind open and taking advantage of all that I can while I am here.

I have found that I have struggled with wanting to fit in and just be another resident but I know that I will never be anonymous completely and I like that. I have lots to offer and while there are things that I have become accustomed to and things that I have adapted to since moving to Peru, I am and always will be an American first. I have a perspective that is different and that is OK. I am Amy first and foremost. Honestly, at the core of every human we are love and light but we live in a world and with minds that necessitate defining ourselves with different groups, cultures, countries etc. I believe we are all constantly evolving and learning from our experiences and defining who we are on a daily basis.

Now, for some random anecdotes.

I was on the bus coming home from a meeting with Cristina about music education things. I got on a bus to take me home and was fortunate to find a seat. I pulled out my book and I started reading. I was reading Bel Canto at the moment. It is a very good book. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good thought provoking and emotional book. A few minutes later the seat next to me opened up and an adolescent girl sat down next to me. She eyed my book and quickly decided to pull out a hard bound original copy of "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins. (Seeing people read original books is always exciting to me since they are not common. For a great article on the publishing industry in Peru check out this article) It put a smile on my face because every few minutes she would look over at my book. I could feel her want to be recognized that she was reading a book in English. She was excited and it was really obvious. I didn't say anything to her during the ride but when I got up and she let me pass I said thank you in English and she smiled at me. It made me wonder where she got the book and if it was for pleasure or for a class. Part of me really wishes that I had said something to her. Next time something like this happens I will say something. I have been much more reserved when it comes to talking to random people since moving to Lima which isn't necessarily a bad thing because in a city of 9 million, one has to be careful. However, chatting with a teenage girl who is reading the Hunger Games is not likely to get me into much trouble and it may have made her day to have some practice speaking in English. You never know what you might miss out on if you don't speak up some times.

Yesterday I was on my way to give a violin lesson and there was a guy in a mini truck who stopped and asked a couple next to me where the via expresa was. The kids didn't know. I chimed in with directions. The guy was thankful and off he went to find the via. I like feeling like I can help out. He didn't expect me to know since I am a gringa. I like that I have an element of surprise but most of all I like feeling like I can do something useful to make someone else's day or experience better.

I was on a bus on Javier Prado not too long ago and a male and female hopped on with a boombox. The guy pressed play and started rapping. The girl picked up with a 24 bar rhyme or so. They spoke about their situation and Peruvian life. It was actually quite good. I handed them a sol I had in my pocket. I have nothing but respect for people who get out there and try and utilize the talent they have to make a sol or two. That is something I see here all over the place. Due to the lack of formality when it comes to selling things, you will see all types of people on the street selling everything from candy to maps of Peru. I actually bought a Peru wall map from a guy roaming the lanes when we were on our way to Chosica for a day trip. Marco told me that the guy who owns the restaurant just outside the villa started as a vendor on the street selling bread and empanadas. He eventually opened up his own restaurant and is doing quite well for himself. Anyone can open up a restaurant that sells menus from their home. You run some health risks by eating at these places but you also get to eat a delicious Peruvian dish for a very economic price. There are days when informality frustrates the hell out of me and then there are days when I see how it allows for more opportunities for people including myself. Heck, I probably wouldn't have been able to have my first job teaching English in Cusco if it hadn't been for informality. There is an important balance to be found and I am still working out how I feel about all of it. I will keep writing about it as things come up.

I am off to combat the gray skies of Lima winter with a run to the beach. I hope everyone has a day full of observations and appreciation!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


This Saturday was fantastic! Marco and I went to the Material de Guerra gala. I went to the salon for the first time and got my hair and nails done. I stressed a little bit about making sure I was well put together but after seeing how everyone came dressed to the event, I know that next time I can relax a bit more. However, it's kind of fun to get all fancy every once in a while. It's a perk to being a girl! A friend of mine, whom I met while singing in the choir for my other friend's thesis, came over to do my make-up. She also acted as photographer for us. Marco was a bit worried that we were going to be late but as someone who has lived in Peru long enough to know how time works here, I wasn't too stressed. As it turns out, we were the first couple to arrive at 8pm sharp. When did the evening actually start? 10pm!!! The general made a speech to start the night and he commented on how it is disrespectful to come into a gala so late even if the wives and significant others say that the salon took a while. I think it is kind of funny how Marco is always on time to things and makes sure to be punctual even though he knows how people are here even with army events. You have got to admire integrity! 

We had a delicious dinner of chicken and rice with a mashed potato and ham salad to start. There was a bottle of wine and whiskey on every table and every event starts out with a toast with a pisco sour. Needless to say, we enjoyed ourselves to the fullest. It was great to meet other promos of Marco's and dance the night away. There was a live band and during dinner there was a dance group that performed 4 different Peruvian dances. At 1am there was la hora loca or crazy hour in which balloons and hats are passed out and people come out dressed in costumes. I know I have mentioned it before in a different post but there is nothing quite like it in the states. The dance floor turns into a night club and it is super fun. People just let loose! We ended up running into the señora with whom I danced with at the tea on Wednesday. She apparently told her husband that she danced with a Russian and was very excited about it. There are a few Russian wives so it isn't surprising that she thought I was Russian as well. Her husband is a retired colonel and they go to all the events every year and dance up a storm.

La señora y la Rusa
Marco told me later that a colleague of his asked why we were conversing with the retired colonel and his wife when there is no gain work-wise by doing so. Marco was put off by the comment. Why not chat and have a good time with everyone? Who cares if it doesn't help you move up the ranks. That is not what the night is about. This colleague definitely has his interests in other places. I am so glad Marco isn't like that. We are both firm believers in respecting everyone because who knows what opportunities may come from a friendly conversation.

It was a great night and I look forward to more events like this one!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Té de Señoras

This month is Material de Guerra's month of celebration. Every specialty in the Peruvian army has a month when activities are coordinated and officers of said specialty get to celebrate their area of work. It takes form in lunches, reunions, ceremonies, and a gala. Last week I received a very nice formal invitation to the Tea for the wives of officers who specialize in Material de Guerra or War Materials. Ordinance is what it is called in US Army terms. I, of course, was very excited because this would be a great way to meet other army wives. We are living on the villa now which means I am living in a neighborhood of army wives and families but it is hard to meet people when there isn't a specific event. 

I called K who I met at the Black and White party and we made plans to meet up at L's apartment, another wife of a promo (graduating classmate from the military school) of Marco's. I met L's girls and I found out that the eldest has a violin and wants to learn how to play. Her dad said that she hadn't started because they didn't know who could give her lessons. Well it's funny you mention that... :) J brought out her violin to show me and I measured it for her. It's a 3/4 size and she is 8 so it is a bit too large for her. I have a 1/4 size that would be perfect for her though. I gave them my info and with any luck I will have a new student very soon!

When K showed up we headed over to the Circulo Militar where the tea was held in the Gran Comedor. Marco and I are having our reception in the Circulo and it was nice to see what the table dressings would look like. I didn't remember to bring my camera so the pictures I have are from the even photographer. 

As we walked in we were greeted by wives who gave us each a cupcake and a chocolate lollipop. One of the coordinators asked me if I was an officer. I thought she asked me who my husband was which is one of the most common questions I will receive at any military function other than where are you from. I told her and she had a surprised look on her face when she said "Oh you are a major from what country?" I clarified that I was a wife, not an officer to which she explained that there are occasionally female officers that visit. I am not entirely surprised that she thought I was an officer considering I decided to wear my hair up in a low bun. I definitely had the female officer look going.

We found out seats and another wife of a fellow promo of Marco's joined us as well as two other ladies. We were served pisco sours for a cheers made after a speech from the coordinator. She thanked the other women who helped coordinate which is standard for any speech made by a coordinator of a function and then she went into how we should be proud to material de guerra and a part of the family etc. etc. It makes sense because we are all married to officers who are in the field of material de guerra but none of us is really part of that specialty. I am proud of my husband though and what he does. It is nice to feel part the group.

We enjoyed a salad and chicken filled with jam with a side of fried rice. We were served wine and soda and our meals were topped off with a delicious custard dessert. While we ate dinner a Mariachi band played and made jokes. I had to go to the bathroom and when I was walking back this happened...

He just started following me and all I could do was motion that I had my table to get back to. Haha! They were a good group to listen to and they were pretty funny too. I had some trouble getting all of the jokes since the sound had a lot of reverb but overall it was really enjoyable. It is also pretty funny in general when a Mariachi band is trying to sing love songs to a group of married women. 

After the band finished there was a group of two female singers in skin tight short black dressed with high heals who sang various cumbia and popular songs as well as disco songs at one point. They weren't bad but the "piano player" was like many who I have played with in weddings who act like they play the piano but really put on a track and let the keyboard do the work. I don't think it is a big deal for an event like this but at a wedding I think it is a huge rip-off.

In between songs raffle tickets were chosen and one by one wives received prizes ranging from Renzo Costa wallets to microwaves and sandwich presses. More music played and we danced. More names were called and more prizes were claimed. We danced some more! I really enjoy the fact that there is dancing at these types of events and everyone does it. There is not shame nor shyness. 

Finally, it came down to the last three prizes and everyone at our table had won a prize. I gave my ticket to K so she could give me good luck. She wins things all the time at these kinds of events. Her husband won a car at one. Low and behold it worked! I won a blu-ray player! Not bad! I would never have bought a blu-ray player for myself but we are definitely going to use it.

I had a great time overall and we ended up staying 'til the last song finished and there were only a handful of us dancing. It was 10pm when we left! The tea started at 5pm but we weren't served until after 6pm. Still, that is a decently long tea if you ask me. 

I didn't really have any idea what to expect tonight but it was super fun and I am really glad I went. I am looking forward to having more interaction with some of the ladies I met.

I forgot to mention that there was a señora who had to have been in her 60s who was tearing it up on the dance floor. I am going to be just like her when I am in my 60s.

Saturday, July 6, 2013


I am finding it very difficult to grade my music students. I think effort is the biggest thing. Whether or not every kid can sing sol and mi perfectly is not my biggest concern. I want everyone to be learning of course, but I also don't want to be a tyrant. They only have music class once a week and it should be a fun experience. As a new music teacher I have also found that this semester was a learning experience for me and I plan on improving a lot of things for next semester, including how I lesson plan. I have three weeks off in July and I am going to maximize those weeks with research and planning. I am excited to give my kids a better experience and be on top of things better than I was this semester.

I just spent the last 4 hours working on portfolios. We have to go through and write a blurb for every student. It is quite time consuming. I hope the parents actually read them. There is so much extra work that goes into being a teacher. I think many people don't realize how time consuming the job is. It does not end when we come home. We need to prepare for the following class and make sure that grades get done and that activities get planned out well. I am in awe of my co-worker Pierina who works full time teaching 3rd graders though high schoolers. That would never happen in the States. You either teacher elementary school, middle school, or high school. (I guess you could teach k-8 if you were at a magnet school.)

I think that music education in general here in Peru lacks a lot. I realize that I am not the most qualified music teacher but I am learning and I definitely want to improve. That is the most important thing. I am sure there would be more music educators in schools as opposed to privately teaching if there were more programs available. Right now the best music education program out there is at the National Conservatory and it is a five year course that differs only slightly from a performance major with five classes. There are no masters options as of yet. There very well could be in the future though.

Something that is wonderful is that every year in Lima there is an International Suzuki Festival and there are always classes on Early Stimulation and Kodaly. I took a Kodaly class this past January and it was great. It was just an introductory course but I plan on taking the next level next year if possible.

There is so much untapped potential when it comes to music and musical opportunities for kids and adults in Lima. Education is key.