Tuesday, June 1, 2010

2010 Summer Tour: Vallejuelo and Rio Arriba

Rebecca Trupin '11 describes an epic YGC day in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. Photos: Josh Schoenfield '10

Yesterday, Jeff told us: Great work today, guys, in handling the unexpected. For sure there will be some kind of surprise tomorrow.

Never were truer words spoken. The day began smoothly enough with glorious sunshine and delicious oatmeal (there was fruit as well but the oatmeal earned rhapsodic praise from all who tasted it). We climbed aboard our buses at our hotel and set off for our second day in the remote town of Vallejuelo.

There, we separated into Film Team, Dance Team, Theater Team, Writing Team, and Quilting Team to lead creative arts workshops with children from the nearby villages. I’m sure I speak for most of the Dance Team when I say we got well exercised when, at the end of our workshop, the kids taught us salsa, merengue, and reggaeton.

After lunch, several Glee Clubbers began spontaneously singing on a balcony. Old beloveds such as “Ride the Chariot” and “This Little Light of Mine” soared over sunny fields of white and yellow butterflies while newer pieces such as “Ye Shall Have a Song” gave voice to our awe of the shadowy mountains rising over the valley.

With clouds gathering for the daily afternoon thunderstorms we boarded our flat bed trucks and drove off to do outreach and a concert at the village of Rio Arriba. As we approached, we began to grasp the true meaning of “remote.” We left the paved road and climbed higher into the mountains on bumpy stones and gravel. To the left – a sheer hill where the road was cleft into the mountainside; to the right – a steep gorge down to a brown river, and a steep rise again up jungle-coated heights. Everywhere was green and breathtakingly beautiful. Think Congo, or perhaps, Peru.

We disembarked and were so distracted by Nature’s glory that we almost failed to notice why the trucks had stopped. There was a river before us crossing over the path. A fast-flowing rain-swollen brown muddy river dividing us from our destination (Glee Clubbers naturally and helpfully resorted to singing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” at the sight of our impasse). A few of the older children we brought staggered in and were quickly swallowed up to the waist, though they made it across without trouble. Jeff commented that in all his training to direct choirs there was nothing about crossing rivers. And there we were.

Thus began an epic saga. We stood on the bank for more than an hour debating various solutions. Cross farther up at a narrower point…nope, just as bad as down below. Use our trucks…no, the drivers refused. Use a horse…a villager brought one, but it was very skittish. Turn back…no one liked this idea. Give a concert from the river bank…less than satisfactory. Wade across? Some Glee Clubbers began removing their shoes in preparation, but not everyone was willing nor did it seem particularly safe (what if it rained and the river grew larger, trapping us on the other side?).

We eventually decided to wait for a while and see if the water would sink. And what better to do but sing while we waited. A group of villagers had gathered on the opposite bank to witness the progress of this odd bunch of foreigners. We serenaded them with “Gaudeamus” and “Guayacanal.” In the meantime, the water had sunk a great deal and little girls were crossing back and forth. In the words of several Glee Clubbers, we were being “shown up.”

Our intrepid leaders Jeff and Sean finally managed to negotiate a deal with a truck-owning villager who agreed to ferry those Glee Clubbers who didn’t want to cross on foot. The truck revved its engine and took the river full steam ahead. The rest of us rid ourselves of socks and shoes (or not) and plunged in.

We marched triumphantly up the hill to the village and were overcome again by its beauty. Little pieces of land with cinder-block houses, subsistence plots, donkeys, banana trees, and luscious vegetation spread on either side of the dirt road. Never has the Yale Glee Club performed in such a faraway location.

After an enthusiastically-received concert in the one room, cement-floored church, we bid a hasty farewell and rushed down the mountain before the rain made the road impassable. With the clouds at our heels we jostled over bone-rattling rocks and, eventually, became rain-sodden for the second day in a row.

We are now returned safe and sound to hotel rooms and showers. But the memories of this day will be harder to remove than the stains from our socks. Most of all, I will picture the old woman who swayed beside me singing “Guayacanal,” a song she remembers from long ago. Though she may never have seen a concert in her life she sang beside us – the Yale Glee Club, of all people.

Song of the day: “Bandolero”