Sunday, October 3, 2010

The 1,000 Drums That Brought Tears to My Eyes

It has been awhile since my last post and I've definitely been out and about.  Last weekend I took a trip to Maintencillo, a sleepy beach town about 2 hours north of Valpo, with some volunteer amigas and stayed at the highly recommended, Cabanas Hermansen.  We ate fresh seafood, drank wine and went horseback riding on the beach.  It was the perfect getaway to relax and check out the beautiful coastline.  I also took my English Taller (English elective class with Sophmores) on a boat tour around the Valpo Harbor this week - a highlight of my teaching experiences here.  I really got the chance to talk with my students and with only a few months left of my trip, I'm already feeling sad about having to say goodbye.  My favorite quote of the field trip was, "I don't like you (long pause).  I love you!"  Life has been moving along at a fun pace and there's so  much to share but I wanted to focus my post on a cultural event this weekend in Valpo, Mil Tambores.

Mil Tambores or 1,000 drums is annual event that kicked off with a parade in the hills on Friday.  Performers from all walks of life march through the hills of Cerro Allegre.   My friend Lauren and I hiked up the artsy hill of Cerro Allegre, grabbed a delish scoop of homemade cherry ice cream, and went to check out what all of the buzz or drums were about.  I have to say that the hippies were out in full force and there was a happy mood among the mucho gente.  The crowd ranged from dreadlocked drum circles, naked girls painted with murals on their bodies, children on stilts, giant puppets and of course a giant parachute.  It was completely bizarre but fully charged with creativity and free-spirited fun.  The drums were soothing and music filled the air.  It was a wild parade but I wouldn't expect anything less from Valpo. 

Afterward I went home to relax and decided to meet up with some friends in town later for a drink.  The streets were bustling, since many people came into town for the weekend-long event.  Of course one drink turned into a long night of dancing fun and we left at the wee hours of the morning.  Us Valpo girls stuck together since theft can be problem here and planned on getting to the area were we could take collectivos (shared taxis) to our homes.  As the lights cast a orange glow on the streets it started to look hazy and before we knew it people were running quickly at us.  In an instant my eyes and throat started burning and somehow I quickly yelled "Tear gas.  Run!"  It felt like it was out of a movie where we were running down the street in slow motion not sure what to do.  This is when a kind soul stepped into to help us.  His name was Mauricio and I clearly remember his green, Peruvian sweater that I imagine was a big hit among his peace loving amigos.  He quickly said "I speak English.  Go this way," and guided us to another street.  Unfortunately, this street also had rioters as bottles were being thrown and garbage was being lit on fire.  Throughout this experience we were more afraid of the police who were freely spraying tear gas.  We made it to a safe street and Mauricio negotiated with a cab driver to give us a ride to the hills, since none of them wanted to drive through the rowdy streets.  I ended up staying at Steph's house since I couldn't get a ride to my house in the centro. 

Perhaps it was because of the Ron and Cokes but throughout the experience, I knew we would be ok.  It was a good reminder to not get too comfortable in my new surroundings.  I was also touched at the kindness from a stranger who went way out of his way to help us out of a dangerous situation. 

And knowing now that everything turned out ok, it will make for a great story for years to come.  The day when 1,000 drums brought me to tears from tear gas.  Here are a few photos from the vivid parade:

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