Monday, December 5, 2011

Two Great Events to Start December

To kick of December, Nolan and I travelled to Teguz for what I’d like to call the piéce de résistance of my service, the artisan fair. This year, both Nolan and I brought artisans and I was the “coordinator,” in charge of getting things organized, sending out communication and answering questions. Luckily, I had a great team of BZ (business volunteers) folks to help me out with the catalog, charla, setup, greetings and tear down which made my job as coordinator sort of a piece of cake. Still, I like to think that I was a crucial part of making this big event happen which benefitted artisans from all over Honduras.

This year’s artisan fair was a success. Although we had four groups cancel in the last week, those who did show up were excited and enthusiastic and it was a beautiful day at the Embassy. It felt like there was less foot traffic this year from Embassy folks and there were also fewer PCV’s due to a recent security restriction on “large gatherings,” all of which meant fewer buyers for the products. We also had a different mix of artisans this year, fewer pottery items and a lot more paintings. It turned out the paintings were incredibly hard to sell, not a single of the three artisans sold anything, but it was a learning opportunity I suppose. Despite these setbacks, participants were positive, buyers were complimentary of the products and logistics went smoothly.

My own artisan didn’t do that well in sales, but she at least covered her costs of attending and got a chance to travel to Teguz and interact with some interesting clients. While I never think about the community where we live as having a distinct ethnic identity when we’re at home, when we travel, it becomes very clear that the people in our area are not quite like other Hondurans. The people here not only have a different appearance (shorter, darker, different facial features), they also have different personality/cultural characteristics. My artisan was the only woman wearing a long colored skirt, the vestige of traditional Lenca dress here. She was the only woman who wore her hair loosely tied back and slightly disheveled, probably more related to socio-economic status than ethnicity (although the two are linked). She was quiet, timid, and reserved, choosing to sit serenely at her table while others flitted about, chatting with others, yet another result of the cultural reality in my site where women have no voice. She looked so small and isolated among the artisans, I almost wondered if she regretted coming. But I feel like whether she said so or not, the trip was a good experience for her, to show her that she did deserve a table at the event because her art was just as important and beautiful as anyone else’s there.

After returning home from the fair, we attended what may have been one of the most interesting concerts of our lives. Our local bar/restaurant hosted a Beatles tribute band from San Pedro Sula called La Revolución. Apparently these guys are somewhat of a big deal (they are the only Beatles tribute band in Honduras so, you know…) because we had to put a deposit on a table in advance for L. 500 ($25) to get a seat. Plus we had to pay a L.100 ($5) cover, which is double what the normal cover is for musical acts at the bar. I’m not sure quite what we were expecting, Beatles look-alikes? Songs in Spanish? Whatever it was, the band was all that and more.

They band strolled in about an hour after the scheduled start time and we couldn’t really decide what to make of them. My personal feeling is that a Beatles tribute band should only have four members, naturally, but this one had five. I was okay with that. They were all wearing nice little matching black suits and vests, very reminiscent of the early Beatles wardrobe. Impressive. But one look at their faces and we were, well, intrigued. The rhythm guitarist/pianist/harmonica-ist looked Caucasian with a curly blondish little-too-long-to-be-a-mop-top hairdo and a nose that was almost Lennon-like. The bassist was clearly more Latino looking, but had decided to go for the Ringo-in-the-“Help!”-period look with a long cut dark bob and sunglasses that looked a little like Ozzy. The lead guitarist was slightly pudgy, almost American Indian looking, with long curly hair down to his chest parted straight down the middle. The lead singer/tambourine man also looked Caucasian (and with a name like Steve Atkinson, who could say otherwise) with a tightly pulled back ponytail and full beard. The drummer also had a wide face (maybe the brother of the lead guitarist?) and long hair. So much for look-alikes.

The bang began with a bang, or should I say a shout, Twist and Shout to be exact. They sounded about as good as you might expect a Honduran-born Beatles tribute band to sound, in other words, mediocre. The rhythm and sound was overall pretty good, but the Beatles simple chord structures made that part easy. The intonation was a little rocky, especially the harmonized parts where it sounded really off, and they even missed several key lyrics. But they made up for some of that by having creatively invented some Spanish verses for a few songs. The lead singer had a very strange voice, like Lennon in his later years, a little more high pitched and whiny, which didn’t really work well for the earlier tunes, but sounded perfect on Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and Strawberry Fields. The lead guitar wasn’t turned up loud enough so some of the key solos that give Beatles songs their uniqueness were drowned out. It was ironically obvious when they let him sing With a Little Help from my Friends, that his singing was way out of tune, but we didn’t walk out on him. I don’t think the bassist had anything lacking, but also didn’t really have much to offer. The drummer was quite convincing though and the rhythm guitar guy was probably the most talented of them all. He sang in an eerily-Paul-like voice with almost a hint of a British accent in there somewhere and killed on the piano ballads like Hey Jude and Let it Be. His guitar was consistent and at least one of his harmonica solos was pretty spot on (the other sounding like a cat in an accordion sort of).

Were they perfect? No. We’re they entertaining? Absolutely! They were quirky and fun in the same way the Beatles were, cracking jokes, dancing around and just being silly. They even did some great effects like in Yellow Submarine doing all the background voices and noises. The crowd really enjoyed themselves, singing along, doing call and response and dancing up a storm, including the old guy sitting in front of us who must have previously been a drummer because he was beating the table and stomping his foot like an old pro. The crowd was the crème de la crème of La Esperanza, the rich old men and some of their rich, college fraternity-like offspring. I think we were the only table that didn’t order a bottle or two of rum or vodka delivered with a bucket of ice and mixers. (I thought that was something that only wealthy rappers did at NYC clubs….) And with the high price tag of entrance, we were sure these people weren’t scraping by on subsistence farming. We ended the night dancing as the band finished their fifth encore, after busting out some Elvis and Stand By Me. This was probably the biggest group our bar has ever hosted, and it was by far our favorite. December couldn’t have gotten off to a better start.

1 comment: