“Our original guiding stars are struggle and hope. But there is no such thing as a lone struggle, no such thing as a lone hope. In every human being are combined the most distant epochs, passivity, mistakes, sufferings, the pressing urgencies of our own time, the pace of history.” – Pablo Neruda in his Nobel Lecture
This past year has been a journey of connection for me – just as every cell in the body is separate and simultaneously part of a whole, so too are we as human beings individuals that are intimately interconnected. It’s what I come back to when I feel lost, and I believe it’s what underlies healing: the realization that everything we do (eat, breathe, say, etc.) and experience affects the whole, then harnessing this knowledge for growth in any area.
There has always been a certain magic about the Andes – it’s a world where the Incans achieved the impossible with their architecture, where tourists are moved speechless by the energy of Machu Picchu, where tradition, dreams, and rituals are revered, where sacred shamans and commoners alike communicate with spirits, and where people from all over the world come to be transformed by ancient healing drugs.
“There is a story within every illness and something to be learned from listening to it…Much of our pain is rooted in our deafness to spirit. We remain in an ongoing struggle to break free from the illusions of who we think we’re supposed to be so that we may live the life we are called to live and become the person we were born to be.” – Life Is Your Best Medicine, Dr. Tieraona Low Dog
“Ahora sé que el tiempo es la única manera que tenemos para comprar nuestros sueños.” — Lucho Quequezana (link in Spanish) [I now know that time is the only means we have to buy our dreams.]
Lucho Quequezana’s life changed when he moved from Lima to Huancayo at 11 years of age and found that his new schoolmates didn’t play soccer in their spare time; they played the Peruvian pan pipes instead. As he too learned to play the pan pipes, he slowly fell in love with his country and its music. Lucho would eventually travel all over Peru to immerse himself in regional music and master various Peruvian instruments from the charango (a small lute originating from the newly conquered Spanish Peru) to the quena (a traditional Andean flute).
Lucho’s parents forced him to bury his dream of becoming a musician, so he filled his life with his studies instead. In Lima, he studied Communications and ended up teaching at one of the best universities in the country, the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. It was a comfortable life, but his love for creating traditional Peruvian music continued simmering in his heart, seeking a revival.
It was a day like any other that Lucho decided to dedicate his life to his passion. The first step was winning the UNESCO Aschberg Bursary for Artists to organize a musical project in Montreal, Canada. Though he lacked the language, Lucho was still able to somehow express his big heart and his big dream to share and teach Peruvian music to musicians around the world, fusing cultures, sounds and rhythms. He eventually united artists from Turkey, Canada, Venezuela, Vietnam, China and Colombia to form the group, Sonidos Vivos (Living Sounds). Their first concert in Canada was a sold-out event and lauded as the best performance and best project of cultural fusion in the history of the UNESCO. Sonidos Vivos has since toured worldwide, acclaimed by music critics and winning not only awards, but also the hearts of people all over the planet, people who are now eager to play Peruvian instruments and hear more Peruvian tunes.
Lucho continues to tour with Sonidos Vivos and teach Peruvian music internationally. He has shared extracts of his compositions with Cirque du Soleil and has also produced a documentary of his group’s story and journey. Meet the multicultural members of the band and get a taste of Peruvian fusion music in this short promo clip of Sonidos Vivos’ world tour last year:
When and how have you valued time over money? How has music played a role in your life?
Yesterday, Nestle Milo hosted their annual five-kilometer race through the city — the Milothon. Out of the near 10,000 youth that participated in the event, the winner, in my eyes, was a 17-year-old in crutches who finished the race strong.
I had the chance to meet Christian because he wanted to take a picture with one of the dance groups that performed for the event, but he didn’t have a camera. Needless to say, I was happy to take some pictures for him and send them to his email address.
What instantly captivated me about Christian was his cheerfulness and warmth, even as he told me about the naysayers along the route. He kept on keeping on despite those who pitied and ridiculed him along the path. They told him that this race wasn’t for people like him. Little did they know that the Milothon hasn’t been his only event. He also finished the Andes Marathon — yes, the full 26.2 miles — even though it took him double the time that it takes a typical runner.
Physical disability is common and open here in Huancayo because most people with disabilities resort to begging in the streets. I have a feeling that Christian’s not going to be one of them. It was his social worker who told me that his parents can’t afford the physical therapy sessions he needs; his father drives a taxi and his mother washes others’ laundry. The social worker also mentioned that he has had this problem with his legs since birth; I didn’t ask, but I suspect it’s polio.
Nevertheless, you don’t see Christian asking for pity. He says that he wants to study medicine and I think Huancayo needs more doctors who have his strength, compassion and humility.
Feel Christian’s warmth yourself in this short message he wanted to share with all of you:
How have you shown enthusiasm and perseverance against a recent obstacle in your life?
No one knew that he was dead. He sat upright against the wall for support, his head hanging forward in a resting position. He had been robbed of everything after exiting a nightclub in Huancayo and they left him there, probably imagining that he’d wake up from his drunken stupor. He didn’t. Instead, he died of hypothermia from a cold Andes night.
No one helped because it looked like he was just sleeping and it’s not uncommon to find a sleeping, drunk man on a street of Huancayo. We have become desensitized to the sight.
The “bystander effect” states that we are less likely to help someone in trouble if we’re part of a larger crowd. “I’m sure that the other guy will help,” we tend to think. Then, no one does. There are victims.
What have you become desensitized to? Please inspire us by sharing about someone you recently helped who may have been ignored by society.
“El tiempo me ha enseñado que la felicidad sólo es verdadera cuando haces lo que quieres con la gente que quieres.” – Vania Masías Málaga [Time has taught me that happiness is only real when you do what you want with the people you love.]
Vania Masías was named prima ballerina by the Municipal Ballet in Lima. From the ripe young age of 8, she built her dance career to worldwide superstardom, dancing in Cuba, Spain, Italy and Germany among many other countries. Her first principal role was in the Nutcracker and by age 23, she was hired as Senior Soloist with the Irish National Ballet. At the height of her career, she beat out 300 other international dancers after a gruelling three-day audition in London to reach one of two final spots in Cirque du Soleil’s production, “Love” in Las Vegas.
Ventanilla is the other face of Peru’s capital city — a district on a sandy hill, haphazardly established long ago by poor, squatting families who couldn’t afford living in the city center. The instability of the houses constructed on sand mirrors the unpredictability of lives in poverty. At least one advantage of living on a sandy hill is that the environment is favorable for practicing flips and acrobatic tricks. As such, a group of boys from the neighborhood banded together to form “The Sand Angels.”
Vania’s chance meeting with these angels changed the direction of her life.
On her way through the daily grind and the busy streets of Lima, Vania waited at a typical stoplight where she witnessed street kids flipping and leaping through the air. They were doing acrobatics to beg for change. It was this two-minute display of talent that inspired Vania to take action. She left behind her success and reputation in the international dance world and held auditions in Ventanilla to start the D1 dance company with many of “The Sand Angels” as part of her first group of students.
Her professional dance studio in a more wealthy part of town funds free classes for impoverished yet talented dancers. Now, one of her graduates is a professional dancer in Finland, several others are hired by her dance studio and still others have found employment across Peru through their experience with her dance company.
What is your true passion and how have you followed it to places you never imagined?
Our toilet usually makes an annoying, sporadic dripping or trickling sound. There have also been a few times, before the rooster on the fourth floor wakes up to crow, that the toilet will make an explosive racket, gurgling and spitting up convulsively. The first time we woke up to the auditory chaos, we thought the washroom had flooded. It turns out, this happens when the enormous water tank on the roof is suddenly switched on after being empty for hours. As it fills, the extremely high water pressure quite literally shoots water down to all the apartments below.
And then there are days when the toilet makes no sound at all. These are the days we worry because it often means that there’s no water at all.
Today, the toilet was quiet and the landlady knocked on our door at eight in the morning to advise us to collect as much water as we could. I was prepared. These days, I fill any available empty bottles with water. We can at least use this water to flush the toilet. The most valuable water is the pitcher of boiled, potable water we keep in our fridge. This gets rationed out to ourselves and to Fénix the kitty because we’re never sure how long the water famine will last.
Desperate times call for ingenuity and resourcefulness. We were ecstatic when we thought of bringing down rain water that had collected in buckets near the laundry station on the roof. It was a good thing we woke up early because the early bird catches the worm and wins the precious water. This morning, I had the clever idea of trying to empty any existing water that might have collected in our shower tank. Unfortunately, there were only 10 drops.
But we value what we have.
Have you ever experienced not having a key resource when you needed it? How did you approach the situation?