“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” — Oprah Winfrey
A psychologist by profession, Hajra Khatoon has been through such a journey these past few years as she has been rediscovering her passion with gusto.
Acting would come full circle for Jose Miguel Vasquez, a devout family man who initially gave up his passion for what he felt was the safer route. Sometimes, life itself reminds us what we’re destined for.
For the “Living with Gusto” series, we may not find a better visual example than Rob Adelphia’s bungee jumping video. Blogging at Today Has Power and The Four the Road Family, Rob has gone through more than his share of challenges but is the epitome of how we can overcome anything when we put our mind to it. If you need a jumpstart in your life, pick up his eBook, “How to Get Anything You Want Out of Life…And More!”
“Work? I never worked a day in my life. I always loved what I was doing, had a passion for it.” — Ernie Banks
In this first post of the “Living with Gusto” series, I’m excited to introduce you to poet, writer, and editor A. D. (Sweepyjean) Joyce who is the author of the eBooks, “30 Poems, 30 Days: Inside a Poet’s Mind” and “Like. Love. Hate.” She also hosts the highly successful Third Sunday Blog Carnival. Catch her more creative and personal writing at Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World.
Living in Peru has taught me to live life with gusto and I mean that in both the English and Spanish sense.
In English, this translates to “hearty or keen enjoyment.” I’m imagining taking a bite out of something intensely delicious and eating with gusto for example.
“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:
“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.
One of Rik’s projects here is a youth drop-in centre (JPC) for the so-called “thugs” of Huancayo – those who are not necessarily thieves or hooligans, but are nevertheless looked down upon in society because they are different. Most are break dancers, rappers, graffiti artists. All are kind, welcoming, and open.
Ruth, a young dance teacher from The Netherlands, has been teaching modern dance classes three days a week at JPC and it’s amazing to see the raw talent in these guys shine. They communicate with their bodies, imitating, improvising, expressing themselves – their anger, their strength, their playfulness, their creativity. It’s hard to imagine that these same guys need to work 7 days a week just to pay for food and rent, and could barely afford the 5 soles (less than $2) fee for the field trip to Huaytapallana (one of the most famous peaks in the Central Andes, reaching past 5000m with snow, glaciers, and all that jazz).
The other night, we went to support BTU’s break dancing show at the discoteca. Their show went without a hitch and they were so proud of the shirts they had designed and bought for themselves, the BTU crew, with their individual names stitched on the bottom right of each shirt.
It’s interesting to think how much kindness, personality, and talent many people in Peru are missing simply because they discriminate against these youth. And how much more would these guys thrive if they did have more support from their own community? Despite the odds, they have taken initiative to spend their free time practicing, to seek out opportunities to perform, to write meaningful lyrics, to make music videos with what little they have. Why don’t I have a passion? Why don’t I put more effort into the things that I love when I already have so much love and support from others?