Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lima so far...

So I checked out Happyland...LAME. It has a Swing ride, a mini train ride that has seen better days and is only 2 loops, a small jungle gym, video games, and bicycle like roller-coaster where you peddle yourself on its track. There was no admission fee, luckily, just a pay as your ride type thing.

Something I love about Lima is that almost everything is relatively cheap. $2 to go into churches with guided tours, $0.35 for 16.9 OZ of soda in a bottle, $8 bottles of "High Quality" wine, $3 combos at fast food restaurants. I do hate that anything under 10 Nuevo Soles (about $3.50 in US Dollars) is a coin, and my coins never add up to 10 Nuevo Soles so I have to carry around lots of coins which is annoying.

Anyways, my first in Lima I went with 3 friends around the majority of the city. We went to a lot of the churches and plazas. It was really cool! In the Church of Saint Francis, we had an English tour (lucky) which took us around the church. The most interesting part of the tour were the catacombs directly below the church. Here THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of bones were organized and laying in stacks. It's a sort of a mass grave for citizens of Lima who wanted to be buried as close to the church as possible. It has vents where about 2 feet above your head is the floor to the main sanctuary of the church. I can't imagine the service after a new body got put in the catacombs. Eww. There are over 75,000 people buried here and there bones are just laying around either stacked by type of bone, or arranged in bizarre geometric patterns. We were also walking on a dirt (ish) path in the catacombs that they said covers more bones underneath. Um creepy, I'd had to be the one that unearthed a new bone just because I dragged my foot on the dirt too much. Also in the church was a GORGEOUS roof, made out of wood with the most amazing pattern. So gorgeous. Lots of murals on the walls that were painted over that they continue to discover more and more every year. A lot of the previous leader figures' heads were scratched out once new leaders took power. Very interesting.

We also saw the changing of the guard at the Governmental Palace. It was super cool. I knew it was legit after seeing snipers on the roof. The guards walked SO SLOW with their high kicks that were synchronized. I accidentally deleted the video I took of it. Maybe I'll go back again so I can video it.

Since arriving in Lima, I've spent a lot of time relaxing and being "on vacation". A lot of people planned trips to Manchu Pichu, the US, home, or wherever but I didn't have time to do that. Instead I've stayed in Lima relaxing myself. I realized that this is the first time in 5 years where I've had more than a couple days to myself to do absolutely nothing. I haven't been setting alarms or had lists of things to do. It's so relaxing to have nothing to do, but I've noticed that I just sit around and watch TV, movies, and talk to family/friends from home. Regardless, it's a well deserved vacation!

On one of my days exploring the city, I found a quaint park called the Exposition Park. Here they have an Art Museum and its a gated park. It's my favorite place in the city so far. In a mini-amphitheater, it has small rooms, each for teaching karate, music, singing, dance, and other art forms. Lots of children go here to learn about the arts. There's even a board that says all the different classes they offer, what they are, who they are geared towards, and when they are. I think more cities should have this easily available to the public. Elsewhere in the park there are lots of old-fashioned buildings with little purpose but to look interesting I think. There's a lot of construction going on so I'm not totally positive. There's also a Puppet Island, aka a small amphitheater that puts on puppet shows for children. There's also lots of gardens (Japanese and Chinese) to walk through, feed the ducks and what not. In the park, there are a few small carnival rides like a train, bumper cars, etc and lots of small restaurants located under the largest amphitheater's seating. This is a huge theatre. You can tell they put on some amazing shows here based on its size. I wish I could see a show there but their sign doesn't say when their next show is. My favorite part of the park is actually in the center of the park around a big fountain. Here, lots of different artists come to showcase their art, sell it, or just entertain people for hopes of tips. I've seen many different types of art forms like spray painting pictures, mime, full band, chalk painters, face painters, break dancers....everything! It's super cool and changes all the time.

I've been making a small list of things I've researched that I would like to check out while in Lima. We'll see how much I actually get to do!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Catching up...

It's been a while...and I still need to catch up on this....
So.....here we go.

Santiago, Chile
After arriving at my hotel in Santiago, I begin to meet bits and pieces of the crew. First off is Mandy, the current Backstage Manager. She and I went to Starbucks just down the street from the hotel and talked for almost 2 hours. Wow, what a wealth of information she is! I'm so glad I'm learning the show from her! After that we go to a Thai restaurant for a late dinner. And I pass out afterwards to catch up on my sleep. I meet Fabrice, the Artistic Director, the next day at lunch at a local cafe. I had the most amazing crab/potato cake thingy....YUM. I then start my work week at Quidam watching/learning the show. It's a very dark show, but in the past week, it's warn off on me and I really enjoy it!  It's so interesting to see what all is the same from when I worked on Believe in Vegas and also from the Saltimbanco tour I did last summer. But the biggest change for me were the cities I was visiting spoke Spanish as well as the tent. Now, when you think of a tent, you think of a camping tent that has like 2 poles and has 4 stakes in the ground.  Not this tent, it's HUGEEEE. It's literally a mobile city. All it needs from the site is telecommunications and sewage/water hookup.

Anyways, I watch the show on Tuesday from center center in the house with Fabrice. And then the first show on Wednesday in the booth with Roland, the General Stage Manager. I'm starting to get a feel for the show now. The second show on Wednesday I shadow Mandy on the backstage track. If I can just make it through the first 3 minutes of the show, I'll be fine! Thursday both shows I shadow her backstage and begin running pieces. By Friday and Saturday, I'm picking it up and running the backstage track myself.

Teardown comes along on Sunday and its similar, yet different to that of Saltimbanco's teardown. Before the last show even begins, pieces of backstage and the artistic tent have already been taken down and packed away, just like Saltimbanco. We also pack things up as they are finished being used during the last show. What's different is the entire tent, stage, etc is still up when I leave the site about 30 minutes after the show comes down. There is a team of 200 people that stays late that night and works a full next day taking down the tent and everything else. Like I said, it's huge, so it takes a long time and lots of man hours!

Saturday morning I had to send a bag to Lima, Peru on the baggage truck. The truck left Santiago August 14 and I wont get my bag until about August 25. It travels with all the show equipment etc. So for about 2 weeks I'm living out of one suitcase and a carry-on....I'll eventually figure this out better.

Monday, is my day off so I spent it exploring Santiago a bit. I get lunch at Burger King about 5 blocks away in Downtown Santiago. Food here is very different. Everything has smaller portions, which I love. It's also very inexpensive as a whole. I got a Whopper combo (With cheese and bacon), for about $3.50 American Dollars....WOO HOO! I continue walking around downtown Santiago and see lots of street vendors, tiny shops, and stuff.

Tuesday, I flew with the entire company to our next city, Lima, Peru. It was a little hectic traveling with 150 people in two busses with an entire extra truck for our carry-on luggage. We arrived at the airport and grabbed our luggage from the airport luggage truck...mass chaos ensues. After that we wait in line for the ticket counter. I get on the plane, which is one of four planes in this Airline's fleet and off to Lima...not. On the way we had a stop for "refueling" at the Chilean Military base...aka Tattooine. I kid you not, there were no trees, no houses, no roads, NOTHING for miles. A locked suitcase is sent out the backdoor of the plane to apparently "pay for the fuel". I think it was some sort of cargo drop off myself. Regardless the rest of the flight was good. It's so gorgeous to fly along the coastline of South America and literally see the ocean waves crest on the coast. We also got fed TWICE on the flight. Once was an interesting meat ravioli with tiramisu. Then after our stop in Tattooine, we got a warm brownie chocolate thing. But on such a short flight, I wasn't hungry again so I didn't eat any. We finally get to Lima's airport where the weather is about 65 but hazy. Go through Immigration, Customs, Baggage pickup and what not. I go to the money exchange to change my Chilean Pesos into Peruvian Nuevo Sols. They refuse to transfer a 1,000 and 10,000 bills because one is taped together and the other has markings on it...peace out $20. Also, they wouldn't exchange any coins at all...bye $5. Oh well. We get on the bus to the hotel and check in to the hotel in Lima. I have a newly refurbished room on the 8th floor with a great view of the city and "Happyland" right below my window. Happyland is a mini amusement park at best. It has the Swings, a small track ride like from Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom but much ghetto-er and no story line, and a few other things. I will likely check this out soon during my 2 weeks of vacation in this city.

That's all for today. Hopefully I'll post about Lima, Peru tomorrow to fully catch up.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Starting the South American Tour

Ok, so my posts are going to be very random, disjointed, and who knows how often I will actually write. Just saying. Thought I would be honest upfront. I thought I would blog about my different adventures after graduation. The first big adventure is the Quidam South American tour with Cirque du Soleil. What an amazing opportunity to say the least!

So traveling to Santiago, Chile where I met up with Quidam was very interesting to say the least. Everything was packed and I arrived at the airport to fly on Air Canada. I couldn't find their ticket counter anywhere! This should have been my first sign of what was to come. I finally ask US Airways where Air Canada was (awkward) and they sent me to United. Apparently Air Canada only has one (ish) flight leaving Richmond airport every day and everything else is operated by United Airlines. Weird. So I check in and they say, "Oh you are one of the sixteen.". Then I say, "I'm sorry? Sixteen what?". "Sixteen passengers on the plane. It's just sixteen passengers, a captain and co-captain." Um WHAT! So I get to the plane and there are 8 rows, with one seat on both sides of the aisle. I could spit (almost) on the captain I was so close to him. Not to mention I couldn't hear my music on my iPOD the entire time I was flying due to the LOOOOUUUUUDDDD noise of the planes propellers twirling outside my window.

Ok. Ok. SO I get to Toronto in one piece...I just wish I had earplugs for the first flight. I walk down a million hallways (at least a mile for sure) until I get to customs and what not to pass through Canada. Things go smoothly. I get to my next terminal early and relax. I get on the plane where we wait about half an hour for a connecting flight. We finally are in the air with nearly 300 passengers this time. So I'm in the middle of the plane on the aisle (1 of 3 seats). To my left, an aisle, to my right, a 4 year old Chinese boy and his mother (I think) to his right on the other aisle. I look around my seat for my blanket and can't find it anywhere. The mother sees I'm looking for my blanket and speaks Chinese to me and hands me a blanket. Um what? I ask "Is this mine?" and she nods her head with more Chinese conversation. Ok whatever. I have dinner on the plane which is not amazing to say the least. I chose to have chicken with a weird noodle and sauce and a brownie (which was good). Meh. So I fiddle around for a bit, watch Diary of a Wimpy Kid on the inflight entertainment and then try to fall asleep. I get a total of 4 hours of sleep maybe 5. During this and even after I wake up and watch Shrek Ever After I am being kicked by the kid beside me as he tosses and turns. And I mean KICKING me in my thigh and waist because he is sprawled out on his seat and across his mother's lap. Rediculous.

Anyways, we arrive in Santiago.... I get off the plane and get my bags. While I waited for my bags, I see several bags entirely wrapped in saran wrap with lots of drug dogs running around the airport....Wow, um this is ensuring.  I stop at AFEX to exchange American Dollars for Chilean Pesos. This marks my first conversation in only Spanish. Lord help me.... I go through immigration, customs, and another screening. I get a taxi (another Spanish conversation) and hop in a taxi to go to my hotel, about 15 minutes away. The entire time during the taxi ride, I'm ensuring that the driver is following the correct directions based on my directions I got from the hotel's website. I didn't want to be taken on a random exit and taken to some random slaughterhouse...It just wasn't on my agenda, at all. During the 15 minute taxi ride, I am talking to my driver in only Spanish for the entire time. I arrive at the hotel and feel very accomplished that I had a conversation in Spanish, yes it was hard to understand and the driver had to repeat a lot to help me understand, but regardless I was impressed. Thank God for Middle School and High School years of Spanish class. I arrive at the hotel (where they all speak English!) and check into my hotel.

More to come later on my adventure...I just got tired of writing today.