Thursday, September 23, 2010

pianos and penance

Today we had our third dance class at ISA. (We now go Monday, Wednesday, Thursday). It went really well--we had a different professor because our usual one couldn't make it, and he took extra time after class to teach all the foreign students the steps and movements in detail. He even spoke English!

By the way, it's been interesting taking dance in Spanish. I'm finally beginning to mentally sort out the difference between front and back, which I always get confused. Also, the names of various body parts are becoming more familiar. But most importantly, you don't really need to talk to dance. You can just watch, and learn. Which is what a lot of our class is. The teacher does the step, we learn it as fast as we can, then we go across the floor doing it. If it's complicated and people don't get it on the first try, maybe she'll slow it down and demonstrate the steps. But mostly it's fast and there's just enough time to figure something out before it's your turn. The other students are really good, so it's best to watch them practicing. Or sometimes they'll be really sweet and explain it to me. Over all, I feel really supported--which is no small feat considering this is the first time I've ever taken African dance. So it's all new--language, movements, people.

After class I went over to the music building and finally, FINALLY, played a piano. It was the first time since early-mid August and BOY was it about time. Most of the practice rooms have those work-horse Yamaha upright pianos, and most of them are kind of newish looking i.e. shiny--but you wouldn't call them new once you've heard them. I tried a few different ones. Most have their share of problems--sticking notes, notes so out of tune they sounded like the next note up, things like that. One piano didn't have any hammers. I started pressing keys and to my surprise, none of them worked. Upon opening the thing up I realized that there were no hammers striking the strings. Maybe getting new ones? Regardless, for all the complaining I've done, a piano is a piano is a piano. And it's nice to finally play one again.

There was a huge storm while I was at ISA, and it didn't stop raining for maybe an hour. And it was raining HARD, raining buckets. They have free wifi for the students down in the main lobby area. Which, by the way, is totally open, no doors. There's this huge L-shaped terrace out back where people hang out and practice their instruments outside. Or people are huddled over their laptops using the wifi. I tried it out, but you have to sign up for it or something, and the guy who does that wasn't there. Go figure. Whenever you need someone in Cuba, they've already left or didn't come in today. You can count on it. So when you do get what you're looking for, it's a real accomplishment!

The cab ride home was funny. First I met a guy from Miami while we were both trying to hail a taxi. Finally we found one going to Vedado (we were on the wrong side of the road apparently, even though I caught one yesterday going the other dirrection). I was sitting up front and center, right next to the driver. My knee kept bumping into the shift lever. Remember that old cars had bench seats in front, 3 folks in front! Anyway, he started talking to me and when I told him I was from the states he said "The enemy! I should leave you here!" and he started pulling over. Very funny. Everyone was laughing. So then he launched into his US talking points, which I couldn't really follow because his accent was really thick. Cab guys are usually hard to understand, in general. He said I was the reason he was driving this piece of shit car from 1954 and then declared that the only good thing from the US is the movies. By the way, his piece of shit car: a 1954 Buick with a "British engine by Peking, a Russian transmission, and a rear differential from a tractor." Nice. So that's how they get them to run! Swapping parts from tractors and random cars. How they get it to all work together, I'm amazed. Anyway, I will remember the ride for the many jokes he made at my expense. They all laughed. But I couldn't understand, so...I smiled knowingly. I suppose I'm just doing penance for a couple hundred years worth of US sin.

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