Monday, August 14, 2017

Power of youth

Today I visited San Javier-a neighborhood I thought was incredibly unsafe, that turned out to be nothing but lush green and actually one of the middle class neighborhoods La Red works with in comparison).The director had been changed from a poorer neighborhood so that was her perspective anyway. The sede was in an old house and like every other site, students were practicing. I went into a practice room with four students to take the survey. But one in particular, Jorge, really struck me. He asked in what context many of the questions were, thinking of the social parameters, providing option C not listed, and of course it was him who did the interview. His story is incredible. I will try to do it as much justice as I can and what I've learned is these students LOVE to share and be heard. I've learned through these interviews they have been empowering to the youth and/or a method for them to internally reflect. When I thought my gift was the American chocolate I gave them, it turned out for most of them, it was the gift to be heard and hear their story. WIth this in mind, I will keep Jorge's true name to share his authentic story with y'all. All the teachers told me he was unique, but that's one of the words like "special," or "interesting" that I didn't know how to interpret. Jorge, 22, was dressed in a yellow shirt and baggy cargo pants, long wavy black hair, a gap between his two front teeth, and a huge, relentless smile with a cello between his legs. It was like his accessory-instead of a necklack around his neck he had a cello upon his chest. He even lifted his shirt at one point in the interview to show me the mark that the cello had made on him physically so that it literally had become a part of him. He described the sound of the cello and the harmonics as something spiritual. From the minute he began, I understood what the teachers meant by unique. He had a self-awareness unlike any other-he began talking about how he had the love of his family, health, and the things he needed and that even sometimes he could go out to do something special.

His dad was a unique artesan who had accepted he couldn't make his entire living through his plastic art so was an "obrero" (laborer). His family, very Catholic and "close-minded." He assured me had their support and love and accepted him for who he was, but that they didn't understand him. He did say the routine La Red had established helped them somewhatHis short-term goal was to finish his degree in the equivalent of music technology and his long term goal was to have a tool to share his music, to be able to record it, be a professor, hopefully in a "vulnerable area" to help those without access,.and sustain himself both physically and socially (more on this later). He talked about before cello he played guitar and about how once you strum the strings they're done. Whereas the reason he had acquired patience, discipline, concentration, and this grand profundity of spirituality was through the elongated sound one must have using a bow. And then he said cello was what helped him find the light.

It was then that I learned Jorge used to be suicidal, for 2 years, and incredibly depressed. He treated school as an obligatioin, slept through classes and did not use his time wisely. . Jorge told me how when he first came to La Red, particularly in the class of expresion corporal (body expression) he was incredibly resistant. He didn't understand why he had to go, but now admits it was fundamental. His first lesson with his cello teacher was the beginning of a grand transition in his life. It was there that he felt equality between him and her, despite her being the professor, that he sparked "feeling like a child again with a new experience.

He told me expresion corporal ended up having an incredible influence on him because it was there he developed self-awareness, not only how we define it academically, but also things like how to carry oneself with balance and what happens when one does not do so. Frankly it sounds like everyone, myself included, should take this class!  It was there he began this truthfully spiritual transformation where he learned how to respond to people different than him, that there was more than one way to perceive something, and that there was more than one accepted way to do something. In this regard, Jorge began to advance, expressing his entire self through cello, and the cello truthfully becoming part of his identity..He claimed it was the interaction with others that changed his spirit and opened him to everything (science, music, "the amalgam of everything"), His self-esteem "increased to the clouds" when he showed himself self-love, stopped comparing himself to others, and accepted that we are all different from each other and how to be respectful towards others. He said one has to balance feeling good with sharing with another person.

It was also through cello, that he realized he needed to do well in school, to be curious about everything, and apply himself. Cello was the first time he studied something because he wanted to, and now with a major in music technology, he is learning physics through the music. He ended up turning this "youthful rebellion" into graduating from a baccheralaureate program by night being at La Red from 8-12 and 2-6 every day! His philosophy was with all activities one had to mediatate and reflect on what one was doing and that it was a process (like I said an incredible, unique student!).

One of my questions was about if and how La Red has helped you make "good" decisions. Jorge's response was again quite philosophical. La  Red has given him the awareness and confidence to make finite decisions. One has to confront problems. "When one ignores reality,or wants to ignore reality, problems increase. La Red has helped him make decisions with the focus/contet he has now.  He doesn't drink in excess, because in addition to alcoholism in his family, he knows the consequences-it means he can't study cello. Though he did admit that even though he knows the brain damage substances can do, you have to live a little! .He brought up a very interesting point-nothing is inherently bad-it's not the alcohol or marijuana or sex that is bad. It's the actions people do ("fighting, non-consensual sex,and being hungover") ,and the lack of finality when these become habits-for example being tostor (Colombian word for hungover)..He also talked about how one has to interact with one's self to know one's self, a self-"socialization" if you will. If you have a plan, you have to be able to distinguish good from bad.  Have I said how wise this chico was?

As a side tangent, this was an incredible difference I noticed here-no one said practice, or attending La Red, everyone referred to it as studying, which in itself I think is notable in measuring determination.

 I would have never guessed Jorge had a darker past, he was nothing but smiles, laughing various times throughout the interview, his yellow shirt reflecting his capricious demeanor. He spoke for over an hour (so I won't write down all of his responses), but I again want to restate how articulate these youth are. He articulated his process of learning as enjoying, learning, transmitting/sharing. Almost all of the youth have mentioned this last step-how it's not about them, but rather how they interact with others. He gave an example of how he interacted with different people, like me.

Another thing that left me pensive was how he thinks of time. It reminded me a little bit of the way indigenous tribes and Tanzanians view it-circular rather than linear. He drew me a picture of a circle representing the sun, showing me where on the circle the sun rose and set, with time left for sleep. He talked about how he does everything fragmented with studying being the continued variable.

He then asked if he could show me something on his cello. Of course I agreed. He started to play various strings at once in various intervals 4ths, and fifths, and said that this was how people would ideally interact, with the maximum tension possible in a respectful way, because we are all different and we need to show all our colors (again, paraphrasing/interpreting). We have to not be afraid to be radical or challenge injustice (tension), but do so in a respectful way. In addition, in this context I believe, had to do with passion, with the maximum exertion of one's self. That together two notes make a chord-accord. The fact that he was able to articulate this was beyond anything I ever anticipated. Let the deep conversations continue! Power and wisdom of youth continues to amaze me! .

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