Happy New Year everyone!
I started my year on the rooftop of a hotel in Santiago, Chile. It was kind of a strange experience in that, unbeknownst to me, Chilean folks don’t really start their New Year’s party until about 2 AM on New Year’s Day. At midnight the streets were as quiet as a regular Sunday morning. Restaurants were all closed, and you could walk down the middle of the busiest street because they were all void of any vehicles. I later learned that most Chileans spend the time up through midnight at home with their families. Then, after ringing in the New Year, Mom and Dad go to bed and the young people sneak off to a government-sponsored party on the plaza in front of the main government building. The next morning I heard that there were 600,000 people at the party and I missed the whole thing! I spent some fun hours instead with a couple of young Australians on their honeymoon – as equally baffled by the quiet as me. We had a memorable time anyway and I hope I see them again someday. In the cab to the airport the next morning I witnessed the remains of the official party and not just a few folks that continued to revel. Looking out the window I was kind of glad I missed it, if you get my drift.
From Santiago, I flew up to the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. It’s the driest place on Earth! Yes, even drier than California the past few years. It’s an incredibly exotic and remote part of the planet. However, in the van ride from the airport to the hotel I rode with two folks who were dear friends of the one and only Freddie the Frog, and of course his creator, Sharon Burch. So either the Atacama Desert is not that remote, or Freddie has finally become the international star he so deserves to be.
I spent about four days hiking and biking in the Atacama and then went somewhere even more remote. (I didn’t know it was possible until I met Freddie’s friends!) I crossed the border from Chile into Bolivia. I wanted to see the Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats). This is a huge expanse of land that is covered with bright white salt. You see, Bolivia has no outlet to the sea. So all the water that falls just seeps down and leaves this amazing layer of salt. Neil Armstrong saw it from space and said “when I land I want to go there.” He landed and he did go there, and so, so did I. It was amazing, but not an easy slog to get too. It was a four day adventure in a truck. Had to sleep at 16,000 feet one night. And this is my idea of vacation!
(Look! I’m wearing my Show Choir Camps of America hoodie above the Bolivian Salt Flats! Thanks Dwight and Sue!)
After Bolivia it was back to Valparaiso on the coast of Chile for some recuperation. Then I joined some members of my family in Lima, Peru to wrap things up. My brother is the superintendent of schools for the Roosevelt American School in Lima. It’s always wonderful to visit an “American” school overseas. They are generally filled with a combination of the children of ex-pats living there for one reason or another, (business, USAID, embassy workers and so on) and local people, which give these schools a marvelous energy and stimulating learning environment. I’ve been lucky to visit them in such places as Japan, Taiwan, China, Germany, Italy, Thailand, and few others and now, Lima , Peru! I consider it all research for our Musical Planet series, not that I ever need an excuse to go exploring either here in the States or overseas. I think to keep growing you have to keep going and doing, meeting new people, trying new foods, listening to new music and learning new dances. At least, it seems important for me. Look at these new friends I met in Peru.
I have to share one more little video clip with you because, like the Freddie the Frog story it proves again how small this beautiful planet really is. I had the cutest, smartest tour guide for a day in the Atacama Desert and a driver who spoke little, if any English. After an entire day together they somehow wrangled out of me the story of Double Dream Hands. Of course, they HAD to immediately look it up on their I-Phones (yes, even in the remote desert.) Here is their reaction as they watched some of the versions people have posted over the years on You Tube. Ya gotta love the way it made them smile:)
Okay , enough. I’m home now…actually on my way to exotic Peoria and the Illinois Music Educators’ Conference! How much better can it get?