Monday, June 10, 2013

I am a wandering traveler, but certainly am not alone.

June 6, 2013. (Posted late, I am currently in Rome.)

Today marks my first complete week in Europe. It is fortunate that I have a 10-day break scheduled in Italy, because I'm not sure how long I could maintain this pace.

I arrived on Thursday in Zurich with approximately 1.5 hours of sleep in the past 36 hours. My body was all kinds of confused. Turns out that if you bum-rush your systems, sometimes you can keep it staggered for long enough to make it through the journey. The weather started off sunny, long enough for me the enjoy the lushness of the city.

 Yes, the tram (light rail) runs through beds of wildflowers. WILD. FLOWERS. Portland, take note -- Zurich just threw down the gauntlet.

Friday was, mercifully, free of teaching responsibilities. I slept, ate, did a little work on the computer, and slept some more. Finished up the lectures for my Java class (woo!). I just need to complete one assignment, finish the AI for Yahtzee (a personal project), and I'll be ready to jump into C++.

Saturday and Sunday were packed. 4.5 hours of teaching on Saturday in Zurich. The Bluesli workshop had an excellent turnout. I was so happy to see that many eager students learning the blues. They were equal parts focused and playful. I was so flattered by the positive feedback that came back. Many students coming up, expressing their gratitude, their appreciation of my methodical and calm teaching style, lauding my energy and presentation, and saying they never had so much fun working on foundational concepts. Teaching in Bern went much the same way. 5 hours of teaching (1 private + 4 hrs group). I don't think I have ever been so overwhelmed with joyful energy and gratitude from students. I couldn't stop smiling. Life felt so, so good.

 The wonderful students of the Zurich Bluesli class, proclaiming, "How fascinating!"

And it just kept getting better.

Monday was a relaxed day free of responsibilities. Good thing, because I slept for ~13 hours until noon. Apparently my body was ready for rest. Did some necessary body maintenance, i.e. yoga practice.

Tuesday I was back in action. Traveled to Lucerne via train. I feel much more comfortable with the process of changing bases (i.e. "home base," where I'm staying at the moment), traveling to new locations. Yes, there are transaction costs, but they are not as severe as before. I can rally to be productive with my time before, during, and after a base transition. Once arrived in Lucerne, I had a brief time to relax and process some work before I was off to teach Judith's Blues 2 class. More beaming faces, more students eager to learn, more excitement. One came up to me after class and said she was suddenly unburdened with all her woes and worries that she brought into class. After class, Judith, me, and another student named Emel went to a bar for drinks. We were soon joined by Thomas, Judith's beau. What a delightful group it was! Emel has a M.S. in Sociology, Thomas is finishing his Ph.D. in biophysics, and Judith was a former nurse and damn smart woman. The conversation was stimulating, diverse, relaxed, respectful, and enlightening. We're talking about the riots in Turkey one minute, and the art of DJing soul music off first-press vinyl the next. By the end we were discussing the challenges of knowledge transfer, what it would be like if we could pass knowledge instantenously (a la Vulcan mind meld), and whether people would still be able to form novel ideas. We enjoyed delicious beers and cordonbleu, a Swiss standard of breaded and fried ham with cheese (oh so good).

Wednesday was full, but not always with work. It began with a relaxed morning/afternoon with Judith and Thomas over tea and coffee. Made time for yoga, refueled myself, then it was off to the local dance venue Sousol for two hours of privates and two hours of group classes. The privates were all kinds of wonderful, and the group classes were a true delight. I saw familiar and new faces. I am so impressed by the work Judith has done in Lucerne to cultivate good, quality Blues dancing. I tip my hat to her. It was an honor to come in and give new perspective and inspiration. Stopped by for some fantastic pizza, then it was to home and bed. I was wiped out.

Thursday began early in the morning, about 8am. (It was early because I was still waking up around 10 or 11am, my body not yet adjusted to the jet lag.) A private lesson at noon, then it's off to Lausanne where I'm teaching for another two hours tonight. I look forward to seeing Vera and an entirely new community. I am presently sitting on a train, listening to some sick funk music that came out of Lagos, Nigeria in the 70s. (For those interested: check out Nigeria 70. Definitely worth the listen.)

A common view of the bucolic Swiss countryside.

I owe tremendous gratitude to the organizers of Switzerland: Nadja, Judith, Andreas, Vera -- you are all so amazing. You own the logistics and rock at coordinating. You have collectively made this tour in Shweiz (Switzerland) a smashing success.

When I first arrived in Switzerland, I was a little disappointed at the lack of interest in private lessons. Creating the space energetically to encourage private lessons is tricky. There's only so much you can do, and then you leave it up to the universe to give (or not). I discovered that bookings are more likely to come after a class or workshop, once they have a chance to see your style and gauge they sync with you. Many people were not aware that I was available for privates. I am finding that just creating space for privates is a good way to make them happen. If the slots don't get filled, that's fine, but I've been amazed by what falls into place if I say, "On X day I will be teaching privates in X city."

I think there's a common assumption of dance teachers that we're always booked 100% solid, constantly traveling and being intrepid and rockin' it solo, but it's not true. I have downtime and freetime, I like to enjoy the company of others, and I'm always happy to make a new connection. A person just has to reach out and offer. I'm also trying to do that as well. It's hard to get over my inner shyness.

I have not been doing as much reading, programming, contemplating over a cup of tea, or exploring as I would like. But such is the challenge of our existence: we have a mere 24 hours in the day. I am so grateful that the universe has filled to the brim my last week with teaching, joyful students, and so much love. I would not trade that time to read a book. But I wouldn't mind somehow magically fitting that into my day as well. I suspect my time in Italy will be a balancing act. I will have ample space to meander, to think, to play. I should definitely continue to build a week-long break of no teaching for every two weeks of touring. It will keep me sane.

I cannot speak highly enough for the dancers in Switzerland. They are all such cheerful, humble, friendly, energetic, kind, and accommodating people. Some of the best folks I've met. I can't get over how many take the time to give love and praise, both to me and their peers. I am not used to receiving such thoughtful messages of praise on Facebook. Almost every day I wake up to see a new message awaiting in my inbox that will brighten my day. Surrounding yourself with dance, music, and lovely people: it's a high better than any drug in existence.

Switzerland, you're making it hard to leave. Your promise (and delivery) of good times even outshines the exotic southern lands of Italy. My 10 days in your country is not nearly enough. I will certainly look forward to returning again. Perhaps I need to find myself a nice Swiss woman to marry.

Just kidding. Or am I?

There is not time enough to fully express my gratitude and joy to everyone that accompanied me on my journey, be it for a lesson, dinner, train ride, or adventure. Reflecting upon my time in Switzerland warms my heart and fills me with an ineffable and radiant love. 

No comments: