On the Road Again

Reporting live from Oaxaca, Mexico:

FaceTime and Skype have increased the bearability factor of touring by an untold amount. You wake up in a strange city, where people speak a language you don’t speak, you gird your loins for a hard day at work, but first … you spend 10 or 15 minutes in the company of your family, watching them eat breakfast at your kitchen table. Dorothy was right: there really is no place like home, and the joys of being away can be increased that much more when you can see life at home spooling out just as it should.

I’m in Oaxaca teaching horn at a band festival for students 10-21 years old. The days start with horn class from 9:30-2:00. No, my students don’t speak English. Yes, I am teaching 4 to 4 and a half hours a day in Spanish, which I don’t speak. Well, I speak it better from day to day. “Again” is otra vez. “More air” is mas aere (not sure about the spelling). “Beautiful” is bonito (I always think of the tuna). Anyway, my legion of readers will recall that I get great satisfaction from teaching, and doing it in Spanish, when it works, gives a real feeling of accomplishment. The hard part is trying to impart a year’s worth of learning in a week – many of these kids don’t have lessons at all. Their instruments are dent-ridden leaky pieces of junk. But music is thick in the culture here, especially wind music. Oaxaca is densely populated with bandas, wind bands that play (in satisfyingly blaring fashion) the local folk style, which would be instantly recognizable to any of you as Mexican music (think of the Frito Bandito minus the kitsch).

Best of all, while my friends are melting in the heat of the Midwest, I’m waking up to 68 degrees, and it rises by maybe 10 before the thunderstorms hit. The tortillas are delicious (and gluten free), Oaxaca is the center of the world for mole, and the local choice for gluttony is the tlayuda, which is a large corn tortilla smeared with pork fat, stuffed with meat and cheese and vegetables, and grilled until crispy. That plus FaceTime makes life good!

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