I write this letter feeling emotional.
I write this story with my brother’s advice in the back of my head. ’Give more details for the people who are following your travels. Less emotion and more facts’.
This is South America. It is important to listen to Astor Piazzola’s Tango music to understand. It is important to read Chilean poet Pablo Neruda to understand. It is important to know that potential political parties here think it appropriate to offer one shoe to voters before they vote, and then receive the other shoe upon completion of their vote.
How does someone write of Latin America without some emotion and without some passion?
I will try.
On Sunday morning I was picked up by a teacher from St Ethnea and her husband. Josh and I carried 9 guitars to the car.
We arrived at Comedor Angel at 11.20am and were greeted by 8 children whose age ranged from 8-16 years. None spoke English. I arranged the guitars on the grimy, tiled area outside of the small, dishevelled one-classroom school. The small kindergarten chairs were set up in a semi-circle with the warmth of the morning sun on our faces.
A light, cool breeze washed over the barbed wire compound.
Gustavo, an old toothless helper at the community centre, locked the entrance gate with a heavy chain. I really don’t like to think too much of the danger in what we are doing. Twice since being here, I have had my amigos say, ‘don’t speak English in the streets.’
My friend Eduardo told me reassuringly, ‘It’s not that bad. In 47 years I have had only two cars stolen at gunpoint and only once been approached by a youth with a gun in the street. Oh yes, and there were two times in my factory I was held down at gunpoint’.
I’m glad Gustavo locks the gate when we are in the barrios. I love Josh and I love the guitars!!!
I started teaching the shabbily dressed, runny-nosed, brown-eyed children the bass guitar as well as the acoustic guitar which were donated by SAC families and friends. Eleanor Rigby -The Beatles. Within 10 minutes the children were laughing and playing music.
A few bystanders were dumbfounded watching these children play in the tiny courtyard. The three or four thin, bedraggled dogs wandering the streets were also a little in awe.
I asked the teacher’s husband, Lalo, to take a few pictures. He snapped off 33 shots!! His words were, ‘They looked so miserable and sad when they started but within ten minutes I saw their eyes change. They were sparkling. They were sparkling with happiness’.
I concluded the lesson with a performance, introducing my class to the watching adults and babies in arms. ’My barrios music class would now like to perform Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles. They have had one lesson on the electric bass guitar’.
Not a word was understood by my class but as I whispered the 4 beat count-in they rose to the occasion. For about 1 minute in their minds, they were rock stars, (well that’s what I was thinking) and they were transported to a musical stage.
On a sunny Sunday morning in the barrios, we quietly packed up our guitars. I asked each child to carry a guitar in its case to the back of the station wagon.
As I waved goodbye that day I knew that this was not just another ‘gig’.
I have played in many concert halls in the world. I have played in the Australian Youth Orchestra in front of 8,000 people in the Albert Hall Proms in London.
I liked this concert with these 8 children in the barrios. It is a career highlight.
I can’t wait for next week. Another gig in the barrios. We’re gonna Rock that place before we leave!!!
Maybe Nirvana’s ‘About a Girl’ next!!!
Sorry. In my mind I was daydreaming.
Te mando un beso,
Sorry Daryl, I tried.