Monday, August 21, 2017


I want to pinch myself. Scored a glamping tent overlooking the Cocora Valley, wow. For $28 a night! Not too shabby! Hearing the birds cackling and a mist in the mountains with the palms below. Definitely a change in climate-very thankful I brought the smart wool and a jacket! This is just unreal. If this isn't a meditation corner, I'm really not sure what is. And tomorrow I'm splurging and getting a massage after hiking. It's a shame there are clouds because I would have a perfect sunset view. But this ecohostel is incredible!!

Siloe was a far more complex project than I realized. The foundation funds various projects including sports and I also had a wonderful interview with one of the coordinators of the soccer for pecae program. Too bad they didn't have participants over 18 as that would have been a very interesting comparison. The big difference I noticed was youth in that program only participate for 2 years maximum whereas music the average was 5 years and some as many as nine years. I haven't tallied the results yet to say how they would compare to La Red in terms of responses, but they have social workers on staff who teach a class called "psicosocial" where they pick a theme and play games to address it. THis year's theme is Gender reconcilation-no shallow stuff here! I have to read all the documents sent about this to elaborate but each youth in the orchestra program has this class once/week and the orchestra program is 5x/week, each day with individual practice, sectional, and ensemble. Choir is only for the youngest singers with music literacy, but their music literacy class was also very singing-based. They were working on Pirates of the Caribbean and Mozart, so not as much Colombian music as La Red. HOwever, all of their sectional teachers they called monitores and were volunteer former students now in the chamber orchestra and attending the conservatory.

The tambores de siloe program was by far the highlight. These kids were a maximum of 11 (I didn't get to see the older kids because it was dark and not safe to leave at night) as well as a month and a half strike that occurred among teachers, making students have significantly more work to complete. But even though the kids I saw were younger, did not mean I was not impressed (see videos on Facebook). It seemed they learned all the songs by ear and 80% were written by the teacher who himself was self-taught. There were three levels. You started with the equivalent of a bass drum, except it was made out of half a plastic trash can; then you moved to the pvc pipe vibraphone which you hit with a foam rectangle, and lastly you progressed to the marimba, whose keys were wood, but amplified by plastic bottles placed over a bucket! Talk about innovation. These kids did not tire from practicing and entertained themselves when the teacher was rehearsing with another group. The tambores group didn't seem to receive the same intensity (only 2x/week) or comprehensiveness (no psicosocial or music literacy class) as the orchestra, which saddened me, particularly because most of the music was representing the Pacific and was far more "folk" than traditional classical music.

I think what amazed me was how remote/"dangerous" these sites were, though I only saw children playing on the park outside and people running around in flip flops or moving a wheelbarrow or a family of 4 on a moto-I was only in there in daylight though. Taxis did not go there so I had to arrive by moto raton (which literally translates as motor rat, but is what they call motor taxes, piki piki for those who know Swahili). I don't think cars could go where we went even if they weren't afraid. We went over broken roads, people's front ledges (can hardly call them porches), super narrow, and super steep. And to know that music was happening inside these places 2x/week that took places in libraries, and that there were libraries even in the most difficult to reach, "dangerous" neighborhoods. There were also gondolas in these neighborhoods, but the parts of the neighborhood I went to were not served by them. Yesterday, Karen, the 19 year old teacher, left the site on foot, so I had no choice but to be accompanied by her down the mountain (you only go with moto ratons you know and obviously I didn't know any). Walking down in sandals as a gringa was pretty...interesting in that many were shocked I was there, but at the same time, it was completely uneventful. Salsa music was playing from people's houses, kids were playing outside, people were talking or laboriously working. Nothing happened (of course I was accompanied by a local), but it's so interesting how these neighborhoods where people don't dare go get perceived. I spent probably more time in Siloe than Cali, or at least as much, since that's where all the sites I visited were. Kids were kids (more on this in the next blog post), people continued to welcome me, and once again, carrying an instrument was a sign of peace, so these teachers were like the local celebrity and the kids could pass the invisible borders without problem.

These invisible borders are quite prevalent in Colombia and the huge source of most danger in the neighborhoods. But of course because they are invisible I didn't see them. Borders are such an interesting concept since they're arbitrary lines to begin with, visible or not. Yet the power of who owns that land is decides everything. Take the US as one example, (especially in this era!). It was great to see such an emphasis on Pacific music and learn more about the non-mestizo populations of Colombia. I will definitely return to Cali. It's certainly a city, but a city with so much heart. That's really the only way I can explain it. 

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