Stringing my Life Together: Purishpa takini, takishpa purini.


Los Angelespi Ña Tikramurkani…
2010/08/13, 09:52
Filed under: Ecuador, Fieldwork, food, Kichwa, Los Angeles, Moving, Otavalo, Research, Thoughts, Travel

My apologies friends and family for not updating this (practically at all) while in Ecuador. Not having a laptop, the long hours of classes, and making it home in time for the meals and before the buses stopped running really made it difficult to sit down and write a quality entry. The night of my last post I went to a party in the community…ate too much, drank a bit, and learned how well the indígenas can party and dance. Unfortunately, the next morning I woke up with an allergic reaction to bug bites, most likely from the pitikunka that were at the part of the village where the party was (pitikunka look like a cross between an ant and a flea).The next day I watched Spain’s glorious win in the World Cup finals, and won 3 litres of soda from a bet made with Segundo, Patricio’s brother, who was rooting for Holland.

Despite my failure to update while abroad, I do, however, plan to post pictures soon, and with those, short snippets to go along and catch you all up!

In the end, the program was a success and the host family was more than I could have ever hoped for. I left Ecuador being able to spend the majority of the last few days speaking Kichwa with Patricio (my teacher…though it would be about simple topics, such as about my family, buying fruit, etc. Technical conversations get to be pretty tough, especially since so much of the vocabulary has to be interpreted on your own to express ideas or things that historically weren’t a part of the culture). My reading and writing, and to some extent my listening, improved a great deal due to Patricio and I spending hours analyzing grammar, morphemes, and occasionally…well, frequently… wanting to rip our hair out.

Leaving was definitely the hardest part. The last day was spent at the Equatorial line with the family, balancing eggs on nails and other crazy experiments. Four of us were able to balance the egg!!

Certified Music Teacher and Egg Balancer!

When I got back, we had some hearty kinwa (quinua) soup followed by the cinnamon bundt cake I made the night before. Later, the sisters tried to teach me how to put the anaku on, though I was a absolutely terrible at it! (My homework while in the states is to figure out putting the anaku on, and also keep practicing the flute pieces and sanjuanes/sanjuanitos they taught me). We then spent the evening drinking to toast the trip, our friendship, and my despedida (licor de azaray, I think, though I can’t remember the name of the fruit very well).  This was followed by a long night of playing Screw Your Neighbor (see this website, though my family has a few house rules we play by, such as the King as a blocker, and playing on your honor…my grandma Polly will be so proud!), listening to the songs I recorded with Lauro (brother-in-law of Patricio) and some of Lauro’s sister’s family. When most of the family had to go home or go to sleep, there were hugs made that left tears left on each others’ shoulders. At 2:15am, I left Otavalo by taxi with Patricio’s parents and Segundo. We had some coffee at the airport before saying goodbye. It was the first time I cried at an airport.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of what I came back with, but basically I couldn’t help myself and purchased a few instruments and did most of my Christmas shopping in Ecuador. The trip back had an added charango in my backpack and a giant box with the gifts, most of my clothes, and a drum 🙂 Incredibly nerve-wrecking, but thankfully American Airlines did not let me down.

I’m realizing that my travels and studies are making life really complicated, but in a good way, since I now have family (or friends close enough to call family) all over the place. Though, no matter where I go, I am missing someone and someplace; the jokes, the hugs, the soccer, the smells, the food, the music. What really gets to me is realizing how hard it is for other people to travel and be able to visit me here in the states, whether in Los Angeles or in New York. Ever read the non-immigrant tourist visa requirements? Damn. I wish it were easier to have my friends and family make it here to visit from Mexico or Ecuador for example, and to be able to share my life with them as they have so generously shared theirs with me.

Back in Los Angeles, the apartment hunt is on. It appears I found the almost perfect apartment (perfect except for being INCREDIBLY small!!!) It is going to be totally worth it though. Time is being spent reminiscing about Ecuador, unpacking, mariachi rehearsals, and catching up with the handful of friends who are still in town for the summer. I will hopefully squeeze in a trip to NY, and then head back for year three of graduate study…officially a PhD student now 🙂

Ashta kashkaman!

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Kay tutamantapi Los Angelesman llukshini…
2010/06/28, 01:31
Filed under: Ecuador, Kichwa, Los Angeles, Moving, Otavalo, Travel

I have been exhausted since I got up this morning. The academic year and the summer camp have completely depleted my energy. I slept like a rock last night but it still wasn’t enough.

I leave for the airport in two hours. ~17 hours later, I will be arriving in Quito, and sometime within 21 hours, I will be arriving at my new temporary home.

Don’t sleep in Jessie!!

The next six weeks of my life, stuffed into a small suitcase, my violin, and a backpack.



Ishkay punchakarinllami… (Only two more days…)
2010/06/26, 00:40
Filed under: Ecuador, Los Angeles, Soccer/Fútbol, Thoughts, Travel

That’s right. Two more days until I hop on a plane and go farther south than I have ever been before. This last week has been enjoyable but exhausting working for the summer camp.

On Monday, we were late for our field trip to Lomita due to the 405-S being extremely backed up (even more than its usual congestion at rush hour). The culprit? A boat. A boat was stranded on the highway. It must have fallen off someone’s trailer. I swear, life in Los Angeles is completely surreal. Only in California do these kinds of things seem to happen! The other field trips were great, and the students have been working hard for the concert tomorrow. I’m excited for it, but a little worried about making sure things run smoothly. Last year we got caught in traffic in Westwood following the announcement that Michael Jackson’s body arrived to campus.

In my free time before the camp has begun each morning, and during lunch time, I have been watching the World Cup. Donovan’s goal was definitely a high point so far, and like many of those in that youtube “viral” video, I was elated, cheering and jumping up and down when it happened. I almost fell over, sending my computer chair in the office back into some filing cabinets.

So I still haven’t been able to begin packing due to the camp schedule and my exhaustion; however, I have been a pro at packing for an entire semester (for Spain and for Potsdam) the night before. My goal is to at least get half of it done tomorrow. We’ll see about that…



Translator’s Blog

I stumbled upon this today… http://mox.ingenierotraductor.com/

Seems pretty funny, and since I am off for a language immersion program in my fourth language, I found it quite fitting. (Korean would technically be my third; however, my knowledge of it is still at a very basic level…I’m addicted to footnotes after my thesis…is there a way to footnote on wordpress?!? 😉 )

As of tonight, I have one week until I’m off to Ecuador. Wow. I found out that I will be staying in the village of Cotama, just north of Otavalo, though I will travel into Otavalo for school/classes. If you haven’t noticed, I changed the title of my blog too. I figured I’d put “ethnomusicology” into the title so that my take on life and music in this blog was a little clearer. I also am preparing for my transition into writing more often in Kichwa. “Purishpa takini, takishpa purinimi” translates roughly to “Singing (making music), I travel, traveling, I sing (make music).” It’s a lot more poetic in Kichwa, I think. I guess it’s one way I could translate my original title “The Musical Adventures of Jessie.”

The excitement and nerves about the trip are going to finally hit me this week, though, I still need to begin packing ASAP. This next week will be wicked (to use a colloquial term from back home) busy! I have been swamped with work for the summer camp I am working at due to the previous administrative coordinator not leaving anything behind. A job can be really frustrating when you have all the responsibility, vague duties, zero power, and feel like you are reinventing the wheel 10x over. However, now that I’m finally to the week where I get to work with students, it should be 1000x more enjoyable!

Anyways, time for bed so I can be up early for soccer games and heading to work. Spain plays tomorrow…I’m crossing my fingers and praying they win. I’m sad to have seen such poor results from Australia, but at least Mexico and USA are playing well!

If only there were something like wearing PJs inside out that would bring good luck to Spain (for those of you who are not from places where it snows regularly, when you are hoping for a snow day, you tend to wear your pajamas inside out when going to bed. Some people also swear by placing cotton balls beneath your pillow. I have to admit, the last thing I want under my pillow tonight would be my crappy shinguard).

Que viva España…



World Cup & Grunions!
2010/06/16, 13:54
Filed under: Los Angeles, Thoughts, Travel | Tags: , , , ,

Wow, it’s 5:41am and I have been up for an hour. Normally, if I see this time of day, it’s because I am just nodding off to sleep. Today, however, I am wide awake, watching the Honduras vs. Chile game and anxiously awaiting breakfast with my cousin and watching Spain vs. Switzerland (Spain is my favorite for the 2010 World Cup). Chile is playing well, and although I’m not necessarily rooting for Chile or Honduras, I am happy to see that Chile has a strong presence on the field and had a fantastic goal. Beautiful. Some exciting shots on goal too. Honduras has an amazing goalie!

Aside from the World Cup, I finally went to a grunion run with a group of friends and my cousin on Monday night. “Grunions,” you say, “what the hell is a grunion?!” Well. Let me tell you! Basically, they are a small, skinny, wriggly fish that only lives on the Pacific coast of North America. Supposedly their name comes from the Spanish verb, “gruñir (to grunt),” although the aquarium staff wasn’t sure as to why they were given that name. The reason why all sorts of beaches and aquariums have these “grunion runs,” as they’re called, is because their spawning habits are unique and unlike any other fish species known to man. Basically, at certain points in the spring and summer months, in accordance with the moon cycle (near a full moon, or just after a new moon), and the tides (just as the high tide begins to recede), these fish wash up ashore. Once on the beach, the females use their tails to dig a vertical hole in the sand. Two inches beneath the sand, they lay their eggs, but only if a male is nearby to release its “milt” along her side to fertilize the eggs. Once they do this, they let themselves wash away with one of the next waves. The eggs will hatch several days later, but only once the waves expose the eggs and swirls them around, activating or “awakening” the baby fish and causing it to hatch out of their egg.

The crazy part of this whole ordeal is how all these people go with their kids (in California, if you are 15 and under, you do not need a fishing license to catch fish), wait along the shore, and will be released by the aquarium staff to go see or catch the fish with their bare hands (only on special occasions when it’s okay to catch the fish). Everyone essentially goes nuts and runs down, rushing the fish, and frantically grabbing at the fish as they are bombarded with ocean waves.

By far, one of the highlights of the entire experience was the 1950s film made by a UCLA Zoologist that was shown during the orientation and informational presentation about grunions. That and the zany questions asked by all the little kids. Overall, a great experience.

A lot of easterners cringe when I tell them I am living in Los Angeles, and plenty of people complain about how they believe the city is ugly, fake, etc. Granted, there’s definitely a plastic element to the city, but what I have come to really love about living here are opportunities, like the grunion run, that are interesting, relatively cheap, and something completely different than what you can see anywhere else in the world.

Another thing on my list of what I love about Los Angeles, for the very same reasons, is mariachi karaoke with a live trio/band (of all women, no less! Check out Trio Ellas here and here).

So, the Spain vs. Switzerland game is only 40 minutes away. I leave you with some pictures from the Cabrillo grunion run and aquarium.

Shuk pachakamanmi 😉 Chunka ishkay punchalla Otavalokamanmi purinata charini.

Countdown to Otavalo: 12 days.

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Some of these pictures were taken by M. Iyanaga.



More travels and new horizons
2010/06/14, 07:31
Filed under: Music, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Ah, the quarter and academic school year have finally come to an end. Since the protest, life has been hectic; I performed in multiple mariachi, jiagnan sizhu (Chinese silk and bamboo music), and bluegrass performances. The rest of the time was spent sitting in front of the computer working on my thesis and final papers, writing and editing ad nauseam. Many a night have I spent, staring at the computer with glazed eyes after not having left the confines of my apartment for the last day or two.

However, in the midst of all of that, I did have a fabulous spring break trip back to Spain. Sierra and I hit two soccer games (Valencia vs. Almería, and Atlético Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao), three Mediterranean beaches, four cities, four fútbol stadiums, and pounds of café con leche, jamón serrano, and chocolate in just a mere 9 days! The best part, by far, was meeting up with old friends from my study abroad days four years ago. I was even able to show up and surprise most of them who had no idea that I was even coming! Sierra and I also stumbled across some new friends who stayed in the hostels with us.

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Unfortunately I had to come back to reality in Los Angeles. I finished my M.A. paper just a few weeks ago and as of yesterday, graduated with an M.A. in ethnomusicology! It wasn’t until later in the evening, when I was celebrating with friends over Salvadoran tamales, hotdogs, and strawberries that I realized how special it was that I am the first person in my immediate family who has graduated with a masters. Glad I am making the family proud 🙂

Looking forward, my summer travels will send me to the land of sanjuanitos and the Inti Raymi, where I will study Kichwa in Otavalo, Ecuador. Although the Andes and the summer abroad seem so far away, I have moments when my nerves and excitement remind me that I will board a plane headed to South America in just a few weeks. I’m nervous about the home stay, since the family I stayed with in Spain was less than friendly. The idea of eating kuy freaks me out because I’ve always had cute furry rodents for pets, and when I tried to watch the Bizarre Foods episode about roasted kuy, I began sobbing and had to change the channel, even though normally, I am open about trying new foods. In Mexico, I have eaten menudo, tacos de tripa (tripe tacos) and patitas (pigs feet) without a single wince! Tune in later to find out if I build up the courage to try it!

In general, though, I am feeling positive and am highly anticipating this trip. Ever since I was in high school I have been listening to sanjuanitos and have dreamt about going to South America one day. Where I grew up in central New York (state that is!), there are barely any mountains, just rolling, green hills and flat land. The mountains in Los Angeles never cease to place me in a stupor of amazement. I quickly got over the ubiquitous palm trees out here, but every day I see the mountains I can’t stop staring at them, studying all of their fine details, like someone would for a Picasso painting. I can only imagine the awesomeness of the Andes mountains. This trip is also important to me because I will be working on developing fluency in a third language! Here’s to hoping that I will be functional in spoken Kichwa by the time I come back! I haven’t decided on how many languages I want to try to be fluent in, but I know I will be one step closer to reaching one of my lifetime goals of being multilingual!

In the interest of using as little English or Spanish as possible (myself and the members of the Kichwa class have perfected the art of Spankichwinglish), I plan to at least try to write most of my posts in Kichwa. Don’t worry though, I will include pictures whenever possible! 🙂

Kutin punchakamanmi mashikuna! Kikinkunaka sumak sumak intipachata, puriykunatapashmi charipaychik!

(Until next time everyone! Have a wonderful summer and safe travels!)



It’s that time of the quarter…
2009/02/07, 10:47
Filed under: Los Angeles, Travel

Yep,  just like last quarter when I went MIA for a couple weeks, despite many interesting things to chat about.  Again, I will have to postpone writing about (in no particular order) the mariachi and Chinese ensemble concerts, some teaching and musical insights I have gained from these ensembles, posting photos from my birthday, the destruction of my left knee while hurrying to the bus, and the hike I did with Tara in the Santa Monica Mountains!!  So….most of January.

What I hope to update about sometime tomorrow or Sunday is my galavanting around Los Angeles with Lauren (a best friend since 5th grade!!!) who came out to see me (and brought rain with her, which is great for Los Angeles, though not so great for touring Los Angeles by foot and bus).  But we’re upstate NY girls…we tough it out in weeks straight of rain, snow, sleet, etc., so I have faith we can withstand the craziness that will ensue later today (okay okay, so I’m not so great at going to bed early…it really only started when the school schedule got crazy…I WILL go back to earlier bed times and yoga, once the knee is healed) (it is possible this trek will become a ComicLife edition!!)

Anyways, a preview of what I will be doing following just a wee-bit of sleep (Lauren is already started on her jetlag).

Mission:  The Laurenster and the Jessinator trek L.A. in a DAY (battling threatening rain, thunderstorms, and the metro bus in the name of tacky tourism!)

Itinerary (subject to change):

1. Wachovia/CVS

2. UCLA and Schoenberg music building (viewing the Bad News Bear field on the way, while riding the Green Monster: Culver City Bus #6).

3. Conquering dragons in Chinatown, via Metro#2 (the Orange Beast).

4. Off with the Red Hellion, Metro#84, to El Mercado for some mariachi sonic pleasures, guacamole, and tamales!!

5. A possible stop at Griffith Park/Observatory, with a brief confrontation with the Unhinged LADOT Griffith Shuttle.

6. Onwards to Hollywood and Grauman’s Chinese Theater after our second trip on the Orange Beast Metro #2.

7. If time and energy permit, the Westside Pavillion (because we both were big fans of clueless), after fighting off the Orange Beast and reaching the Blue Devil Boss of Santa Monica BBB #8 or #12.

Home to hang out with Tara and rest up for a Sunday in San Diego 🙂

Estimated Cost of this trip (excluding food and souvenirs): $6.85 for Lauren and $5.50 for me.  Boo-yah.  Talk about tourism on a budget 🙂