March 27, 2015
MOSQUITO BITE COUNT:
Thinking, thinking, thinking. Should I tell you the Flamenco story or the story about the dog? Some of you were asking about how dance went so Flamenco it is ….
The day had finally arrived. I opened my eyes bright and early … to the sound of Billy’s screams and whining, of course. I silently let out a sigh and grumbled to myself. More than anything I needed peace in the morning. Nerves were starting to kick in. I was scheduled to teach Flamenco two times today. Some of the girls and Teresa as well, had approached me earlier in the week explaining how excited they were about the classes. “They must think I’m some professional,” I nervously thought. I wondered how much of a disappointment I might be given that I’ve only been dancing for a little over a year. Some of the girls I dance with have been doing it since they were 4. Trust me, I’m amateur hour. I was desperate to just have some peace and quiet in the morning to gather my thoughts. To the shower I went, my personal sanctuary, where noises get drowned out and troubles seem to get washed away.
I got ready for the day and made sure to pack my dance clothes and shoes. I tried to get ready quick enough to allow me some time to review my lesson plan. Did I remember the small choreography for the end? What was the second group supposed to do during the activity? Wait, 4 beats instead of 3 … 3 palmas and one golpe, right? Questions danced through my mind. The anxiousness picked up again so I prayed. Then I literally shrugged my shoulders and decided that more than likely the kids wouldn’t have seen the dance before. As Brad mentioned, “just show them any hokey pokey and they won’t know the difference. It’ll all be fun for them.” So true!
There I was standing by the front door waiting for Pincho to pick me up at the time we agreed to – 9:30. Knowing that it would only take 10 minutes to drive to the club I felt comfortable with this pickup time. It would give me some time to get things organized when I arrived. 9:32, 9:35, 9:40 … no Pincho and my heart began to race again. By 9:45 I became worried and wondered if everything was alright with him. So, I called and quickly explained that he was on his way. “Oh no! What time are we going to get there?” I wondered. He finally arrived at 9:52 and I began to feel a little nauseous. There apparently was a roadblock on his street, which caused a lot of traffic. Either way, it gave me less time to get ready and comfortable. I felt so unsettled.
After picking up Teresa, we finally arrived at the club at 9:15. Some of the kids took the liberty of making fun of our tardiness by chanting “tortugas” when we walked in the classroom. At that moment, my mind rejected every single notion of teaching the “lions” but then Teresa cheerfully announced that the Flamenco class would begin soon. I walked out of the room sulking (hopefully nobody saw) to find Oto (the director) so that he could help me set up the speaker. Once the setup was complete I went to the washroom, got changed, and zoned out. I couldn’t afford to have my brain on at the cost of having my heart broken.
Stretching was the first part and went by pretty smoothly. I had everyone’s attention and seemed like all 21 of the kids were physically and mentally warming up to the idea of Flamenco. And then I went to work. I gave it my absolute all. 20 minutes into the class many of the older girls decided to just sit down. Several of the younger ones followed. But why?! I had just formed groups and taught each group the different steps they’d do. With all of the “sit-downs”, there were gaping holes in all of my groups. I desperately tried to encourage the girls to continue participating, even politely tugging on some of their arms. They wouldn’t budge and it was all falling to pieces. I asked why they wouldn’t rejoin the group and the answer was a resounding, “because I’m tired”.
I realized very quickly that these kids can be very lazy at times. I was dumbfounded. I absolutely didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t possibly try to teach and encourage the others to get back in. Why wasn’t Teresa helping me? Oh, because she was happily participating in my class with a wide-toothed grin. Ay! *smacks forehead*. I decided to switch the routine to accommodate the few students I still had. Something a little easier so that the kids the remained would hopefully do it right until the end.
As the lesson began to wind down I started to feel throbbing pains in the pit of my stomach and nausea crept up on me again. There’s been a bad flu going around that causes people to have a fever, vomit, diarrhea. I wondered if that was what was happening to me and why that flu would decide to strike at such a terrible moment. After the lesson I went to the washroom to get changed. Sweat began to drip down my face and legs and I doubled over from the pain in my stomach. I finally got changed and went outside with a smile on my face.
For lunch, I went home and sat there staring at my food. It looked delicious but the thought of food made me want to run to the toilet. I forced myself to eat a spoonful or two of the food and left the rest outside for Gordo, Freddie’s dog. Then I crawled into bed and shut my eyes in pain. Room was spinning. Energy was draining from my body. All I could think was, “how am I going to make it to teach the afternoon class?” 1:30pm came around in what seemed like a blink of the eye and I gave everything in my being to get out of bed and into the van with Pincho, all the while, having a smile on my face so that nobody would know. With the little energy I had, I prayed and asked God to fix the situation. Surprisingly, by the time I reached the club, I felt a lot better. I went straight into the classroom to setup the music and then off to the washroom to get changed into my sweaty dance clothes. I stood there in the stall for a moment wondering how the afternoon session would turn out.
One by one, the girls began streaming into the classroom for a total of 18. Some of them proudly pointed to their closed toe shoes and therefore their readiness for the lesson. Another little one walked in with a big flower pin in her hair. Teresa then whispered to me, “I think it would be better if you dance for all of us first so that we can see what it looks like.” Oh no! Teresa seemed completely unaware of my inability. I’m at the beginning of the beginner level. I don’t even know the first few steps of any choreography. My heart raced and my mind quickly searched for a response that would get me out of it. “Oh, I’ll dance at the end,” I mentioned, hoping that Teresa would forget.
…Then Teresa announced, “Okay, sit down everyone. Quest is going to dance for us now!” Ooooooooooooooooooooooo no! The kids then quickly flocked to the walls of the room and the song started. There I stood in the center of the room looking down, trying to gather my thoughts. “What am I going to do? How am I going to do this? Which movements should I make?” I thought to myself. I allowed a few beats to pass and then I began to just move. Thinking back to it now, I can exactly remember what I did. I just released all inhibitions, all worries, all doubt and just moved. I finally ended my “routine” after what seemed like an eternity and the whole class stood up and excited applauded me as I took a bow. I even heard some people say “wow”, “so beautiful”, and Teresa ran up to me with a big smile saying, “another applause for Quest, the professional Flamenco dancer.” OMGSH what just happened?
That’s what you call fake it ‘till you make it.
When I was done a small group of girls, some of which barely reached the height of my hips, swarmed around me and grabbed onto my legs and skirt. They thanked me repeatedly and told me how much they loved the class. These girls refused to let go of my legs and even slid along the floor as I tried to make my way to the laptop to pack objects up. In the rush of things I couldn’t even process what was happening but thinking back, it brings tears to my eyes.
If I ever questioned or doubted my impact on those girls, now I know that whether big or small, they’ve learned something from me and it was positive.
• Waking up to Billy’s thundering tantrum. Oye vey. Martina later told me that in the midst of all that, she began to pray and tears streamed down her face. It’s hard enough for me to handle the tantrums from a distance. I can’t even imagine how Martina gets though without losing it.
• Maintaining the children’s’ interest in the lesson
• Being flexible enough to teach even though nothing went according to plan
• The afternoon heat wave, yikes!
• My solo dance. Enough said. And it was recorded too. I don’t think I’ll ever have the courage to watch the recording.
• Given the heat in the afternoon and me really giving it my all during the second dance lesson, you can only imagine how much I was sweating. I was sweating in every single possible known and unknown place on my body. When I went to the washroom to change, I realized that my undergarments were drenched in smelly sweat. Yes, I went commando for the rest of the day ☺
• After my full day of lessons, I was on cloud 9! Though I was really tired, I thought I should reward myself with a walk to Jose Luis and if I was up for it, maybe even a walk up the hill towards the mountain as well. I set out for my visit to Jose Luis with garbage in hand to be dropped off and there trailing behind me was Gordo. Sometimes he follows me out and often he’ll take off when he finds something more interesting. So, there I was walking along and every few steps telling Gordo to “shoo!”. I didn’t have a leash for him and didn’t want to risk the increasing possibility of him getting hit by a car. I happily did my walk to JL while listening to loud music, to ward off the human mosquitoes of course. By the time I entered the supermarket Gordo was no longer at my feet and I figured he had sent off for something else along the way. By the time I came home at 6pm, I was too tired for my hill walk so I just settled in bed and started reading a book. When Freddie came home a few hours later she called out for Gordo who didn’t respond. He hadn’t returned home and was nowhere to be found. Panic ensued. Freddie settled Billy into bed and asked me to watch over him while she drove around looking for Gordo at 10pm. She returned with sadness in her eyes and explained that she couldn’t find him. My heart fluttered and as I sat there in my room alone, I wondered if he was okay and if I would be blamed for any of it. I became so anxious at the thought of blame coming my way that I wanted to cry. I began to pray asking God for Gordo’s safe return and eventually drifted off to sleep. I had dream after dream about Gordo and at some point in the very early morning I was woken up by strange sounds. It sounded like every dog in the neighborhood was howling as though they heard the terrible news about Gordo and began singing a sad tune for their lost friend. It was late and I was very tired. I drifted off again to the unsettling sound and wondered if Gordo, who had never done anything like this before, would return.
• I realized that I have less than a week left here in the DR. Time, it’s a friend and a foe. For the majority of this trip, I had been wishing that the time would run away from me. On many occasions, I desperately wanted to return back home. But in these past weeks I found a routine, a rhythm, a pattern. Yes, there certainly are things about the DR and my experience here that I don’t like, but all in all, my schedule has given me certainty. Without a job and a regular schedule back home in Toronto, all that certainty is lost and there are many unknowns. The thought of the cold weather there seems so restrictive and here I am, saddened and thinking about the oddity of how much freedom will be lost when I return home. Time, I know I asked you to zip by, but please just slow down. Won’t you stay a while?
THINGS I LEARNED TODAY:
• The sugar cane that Teresa gave me 5 years ago is bad, I think. It’s now pink. That means it’s bad, right?!
• The kids either tire really quickly or get lazy. What a shame. No motivation to do anything.
• Some of the kids actually learned something new today
• It really is possible to fake it in dance. I think it comes down to conviction. If you believe it yourself, others might too!
WHAT I’M GRATEFUL FOR:
• As scary as today was, I’m just grateful for the opportunity to teach girls … Flamenco … in the Dominican Republic!! So much to be grateful for!
• Getting over my sickness so quickly
• Being well received in the afternoon class
• How excited some of the girls were when I gave them my handmade flower clips and pins. They looked at them and said, “que bonita!” and were even more excited to learn that I made them myself.
Father, my heart is frantic. Please help Gordo return quickly and safely. I fear that if he doesn’t return there might be tensions at home during my last few days. If he’s okay just give me peace. Also, please ensure that Brad’s flights arrive safely. I expect to see him in one piece and healthy in a week.
• Do dogs know how to get back home even if they’ve gone somewhere they haven’t been before?
• Do all dogs go to heaven?