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Entry 2 – Chris Grzech

October 24, 2012

We just got back from playing the La Plata Jazz Festival in Argentina.  It was an awesome experience and a true honor to play with the Brazilian musicians that we played with.  We got to explore Buenos Aires a little bit and ate some really amazing Argentinean cuisine too.  I must say, it is nice to be back in Brazil speaking Portuguese again.  My Portañol only goes so far.

I had begun teaching English in Campinas.  There is a high demand and few native speakers so it seemed like a logical thing to do.  Today I met with two new students.  They study engineering and have to read lots of English, but are not comfortable with the spoken language.  As for my Portuguese, I think that I could consider myself fluent and will take the Brazilian national test in April when it is next offered.  This test is called CELPE-BRAS.  I am reading a lot in Portuguese everyday.  Joey and Shane’s landlady has a subscription to the principal newspaper of São Paulo “Folha de São Paulo”, which I read every day to stay informed.  I have read Dostoyevsky’s “the Gambler”,  Oscar Wilde’s “Picture of Dorian Gray”, “Mensagens” by the classic Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa, and “Conversations with the Dalai Lama”, all in Portuguese.  I am currently reading a book on health, another Fernando Pessoa book, and a book by Machado de Assis.  The Brazilian author Machado de Assis is by far the hardest author I’ve read so far, surprisingly more so than Dostoyevsky.

Since I last wrote, I got to experience some interesting things.  I went with Nancy (Joey and Shane’s landlady) to São Paulo one day for her daughters birthday.  Her daughter works at one of the big banks on Avenida Paulista.  We went out to dinner at one of the fanciest, most expensive restaurants I have ever been to with her daughter’s millionaire boss and botoxed co-worker.  The food was absolutely incredible.  I felt a little out of place, but I enjoyed myself.  I hope I will be able to go back to São Paulo soon.  I also went to a party at UNICAMP thrown by the college radio station.  There where thousands of people there, I forget the exact estimate.  It occurred in the very center of campus.  They were selling all kinds of alcohol and food.  People were smoking marijuana all over the place.  There were rock bands playing all night until 7 AM.  It is laughable to imagine this happening at the University of Louisville.

Speaking of the University of Louisville, there are some things that I do miss.  The abundance of pianos and the music library at UofL are extremely valuable resources.  I can rarely find space to practice at UNICAMP.  I am borrowing a keyboard of very poor quality which I can pretty much only transcribe on.  There is an acoustic guitar at the house we live, so I have been learning chord progressions, João Gilberto-esque comping patterns, and singing in Portuguese.  I miss my jobs in Louisville.  I had been playing at Amici Café in Old Louisville every Friday and Saturday for three hours a night for the last year and it was my favorite part of every week.  I played solo piano and composed ragtimes to play there as well.  It was a pipe dream sustaining myself with just the piano and I look forward to returning to Amici Café.  I loved playing solo piano gigs because I never felt limited as far as style is concerned.  If I wanted to play Chopin or Debussy, I played Chopin and Debussy.  If I wanted to play jazz, I played jazz.  If I wanted to play 50’s Rock n’ roll, country, pop, movie themes, video game themes, original pieces…..you get the idea.  I have played some pretty suave places here, but none of them have payed the groups.  This is one reason I started teaching English for an extra buck (other reasons are I enjoy it, it’s gratifying to see progress in students, and it’s a marketable skill).  However, it’s a nice change-up for me to play with groups and interact with great musicians outside of academia here.  Maybe I’ll play in more groups when I get back.  There are definitely some great musicians in Louisville at the University that I’d like to play jazz with outside of school.

I am enjoying classes at UNICAMP, though they are cancelled with frequency and everyone’s late to them, even professors.  It’s funny, because in the United States many times I feel like things are too thoroughly structured, regulated, and processed to the point of being anti-productive and/or detrimental to true education.  My favorite class is Portuguese, which is also the most organized class.  I am the only “Estadounidense” (Literally something like “United Statesanese”) in the class.  Calling myself an “American” clearly isn’t fair as there are people from Uruguay, Argentina, and Colombia in the class.  Other nationalities present in the class are French, Dutch, and Japanese.  We learn a lot from each other.  Everyone in the class is more or less fluent.

That’s all that comes to mind for today,  until next time!

Christopher Paul Grzech

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