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Argentina – Shane Porter

October 22, 2012

We’re back from Argentina, where the cultural buffoonery continued! After spending months in a foreign country, we once again had the opportunity to enter the haze of different customs and languages. I spent several years studying Spanish, and it was funny how much of it came back.  It’s also funny how much of it didn’t.  The difference between conversing with somebody in Spanish and studying that language in a classroom is like the difference between sky diving and looking at a picture of somebody skydiving.  Still, many could understand Portuguese because of the country’s proximity to Brazil. It was listening to their responses that were the real trick.

It was a reminder of how similar and different the two languages are.  While I could understand much of what was written down, the sounds of the two languages created barriers. If the sound of Portuguese were a circle, then Spanish would be more like an octagon; it was sharper and more angular to listen to. This was kind of reflected in the general attitude of the people we met. The typical Argentinean we encountered was friendly and polite, but lacked the easy-going demeanor and enthusiastic warmth of the typical Brazilians we meet. Nonetheless, I met some great people there and had a great time playing at the La Plata Jazz Festival.

The Festival took place in a very beautiful and old-looking theater, were there was coincidentally a tattoo convention going on. I could make some creative connection between traditional American music and poking ink into your skin, but frankly I’m too lazy for that. It was just funny seeing a large group of people wearing large amounts of leather twitching while getting a Japanese symbol etched into their shin, while a small but enthusiastic group of people in suits and long dresses shuffle upstairs to see the Unicamp Jazz Sextet.

It was us three Americans and three Brazilians, living in a one room together for the duration of the trip. Being the youngest by a large margin, I had an opportunity to play with some truly great musicians in a small group setting. Guillerme Marques is probably the best drummer I’ve ever played with, and Raphael’s tenor sax playing was, well, intimidating, but it’s was one those things that gives me a benchmark, an idea of where I’d like to be as a musician when I myself am twenty-nine.  It was a forty minute set of fairly challenging music, and the rehearsals and concert were great.  We spent the rest of the time wandering around a country that was foreign to all of us.  Buenos Aires is much different than Campinas or Brasilia, and the architecture is much like that of the theater; old and beautiful. The weather is also much cooler, reminding me of New York during autumn. We could eat at two different restaurants virtually for free, being part of the festival, so for five days we ate like kings, often dining on Argentinean barbeque, which is nothing short of excellent.

There’s not much else to say about it the trip. It was too brief to get a large look at the country. But the change in scenery was refreshing, and the musical experience alone made it worth it.

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