Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Contour of the Mountains

Wow, it's only day 2 of interviews and I already have so much. These students are so articulate! Every single one talked about how it was a social program AND explained what that meant WITHOUT prompting. I have some pretty transformative stories of differences in behavior, but today I want to share the context of where I was: San Cristobal. Each morning, Julian picks me up on his scooter and off we go-the past two days up and down hills, like a roller coaster of sorts (don't worry, I'm wearing a helmet and going a max of 40k). Anyway, today was a 30 minute ride and up up up we went. It was beautiful, up in the mountains where they grow some of the flowers for the feria, and the city has made library parks. This particular one had an infamous, rotund Botero statue of a cat (see my Facebook) and an incredible 5 year old building with A/C (too much in my opinion!) and tinted windows. BEAUTIFUL space. But this was a neighborhood where violence was still very much a reality.
Three years ago, Walter, an 18 yr old flutist in La Red for 8 years, left the school and was approached by some of the combos as they call them. They pressured him to join their drug trade and also wanted his knowledge from being from another barrio. He refused to join so they brought him elsewhere and killed him. An 18 year old that had a future ahead of him, that was being resilient, that was on a new path. Gone.

As you can imagine, there was some serious grief after this incident and one of the staff interviews talked about how they had a workshop on grief to deal with it. It is instances like these that use reflection as a real life application, not just a "what did we do today" pedantic question. This really hit home as while I haven't had to deal with this exact situation there are many times where I too have frozen not knowing what to do with an abusive family relationship or a youth who doesn't feel safe going home.

Multiple times today, I saw youth from outside trying to peer in the tinted windows. It was pretty impressionable to see youth outside consuming substances (I won't make assumptions as to what) juxtaposed with youth preparing diligently on the inside of the A/C, wood floor building for the concert this evening.
But what's been amazing is while I've consistently heard that La Red is a social program about growing people, not musicians, I haven't heard the evangelical pitch of music saving lives, and yet, the anecdotes I've heard, couldn't be more clear, that it has. So much so that Walter gave his life for it-he felt that strongly.

I wrote the following poem as I watched the beginning band with the backdrop of these youth from the street outside: :

Kids working hard, playing music, and the window behind them
The sun shining, street kids consuming
Peering in the tinted windows
Looking to see what was happening
Me looking back at them, the rest unphased, continuing to strive, to express themselves.
A maximum of 12 years old, these youth on the outside had potential too,
Locked inside of them, yearning to be discovered. But instead,
psychologically altered,
prioritizing immediate gratification. The drugs. Hit. Hard.
How can this be? They already murdered Walter when he refused to be
One of Them. But lost that battle.
Lost his life and his possibility of another life-a trajectory
that had flutes instead of guns, music instead of drugs, friends instead of gangs.
The green mountains and agriculture creating the beautiful sillateros a la vez cultivating the coca and other substances. Providing the good and the bad.
Inside, a beautiful A/C building with its own statues, art gallery, and sounds of youth
practicing with esfuerzo for the concert hosted in the private theater that evening. Red velvet seats, and youth presenting on the stage
A mix of ages
Matching uniforms.
La red-a network of musicians, dreamers, youth who can truly change the world because they've changed their paths, had the possibility
to live, not just survive.
To dream, to unlock their potential
A refuge
spirtually, musically, socially, atop that mountain daily
freeing themselves from the ignorance, the conflict, the tumult of San Cristobal.

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