Manuel is the patriarch of our new family compound, and he warned us before we signed the lease that we should just let him know if his weekend music bothers us. "Some friends come, and we play music in the garage." The garage attached to our house, actually.
Today was our first show. We arrived in the evening after long day out shopping for finishing details for our place. Understand what this now means for us. It's a 10-minute walk to catch the bus, then hop off to transfer to another bus. On weekdays this bus runs every five to seven minutes. It's Sunday, so we waited 40 minutes. We got off where I thought the store we wanted was. Must just be a few blocks farther down, just around that corner. After two more false summit corners I could see we weren't in walking distance, so I had to buy some ice cream for the kids to get change for another bus and to keep their eyeballs from rolling every time I looked at them.
We finally got there and it seems the Christmas elves were in heavy buy mode. It is times like these that I give thanks for being a tall person in a country of short people, as I could at least keep my head above water in the seething ocean of shoppy people. Losing time, and each other, our only way to know it was time to go was to finish off the list. But we got less than half through it before our internal humanity meters were pegging red.
After a 20-minute process to pay, our meters had sprung, but luckily several of our bus options picked up right outside. Climbing onto the bus with a laundry basket full of home survival supplies, though, perhaps I looked like a terrorist because the driver was waving me back: "Cono se masto paraga men seppo me centro."
"Daso pla fango si ocha. Telestra fecho pono sten."
We had come to the point of blank stares. Di asked what he said, as I got off.
But another bus option was right behind. "Come on, family." Duncan saw a little lap dog, though, that had just the cutest Pet Me look on its face. Turns out in Spanish that look actually, "Stick it in my face and lose it, kid." So Duncan pulled back a bloody wrist from the misunderstanding while I was about to get on the next bus. But when I looked back the family was where I had left them. "Come ON, family!"
We made it on the bus with Duncan still in tears and bleeding. But it was only 15 minutes to the next bus stop to transfer onto the one that would take us almost to our door. But not this time.
Me in Spanish (as best I can manage): "Why aren't you going to the end of the route?"
Driver's reply (as far as I can make out): "Sometimes it goes all the way up, sometimes it doesn't. I don't know."
Right. Gracias. I have got to learn this language.
So it was another 15 minute walk back to the house carrying our burden.
But just as we enter the compound, there they are--the Quinta Floripes Social Club. Five old guys playing guitar, accordion, and flute, and singing Andean folk music and drinking local firewater with a splash of Coca Cola. Immediately the past four hours dissolved away to remind me why we are here. They waved us in, but Di took one for the team and brought the kids down for a palliative bath after the harrowing shopping day.
They do this every weekend. Manuel offered an explanation. "There is life and everything, so you need to have music and smile and laugh." Instantly I felt not just musically retarded but living impaired. I tried to sing along and even tried the Andean flute thingy (like pan pipes), but ultimately I just clapped along stupidly and...smiled and laughed.
And that's all I needed to do. In just four more songs we were done (which was good for me, since each song has a firewater chaser), and they all hugged me and said something certainly deep as they patted their hearts, and Manuel promised to take me to buy a guitar and teach me to play.
And we will have another week of life, and next weekend we'll bring the kids with things to shake and bang to play music, laugh, and smile.