Chilpancingo, Guerrero 

I took the 7:40 a.m. bus from Mexico City’s south Terminal here. I was carrying two acoustic guitars in a garbage bag, a backpack full of music books and records, and this feeling that I have no idea what I am doing, ever. The guitars and books are for students I met a couple months ago that attend the “normal” teacher’s school in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. They have a group that sings traditional songs at their school but didn’t have enough instruments, or material, for the interest of the kids who want to participate. 
I question mentioning Ayotzinapa because this is not for grandstanding. It is, I hope, sharing that you can go here and meet people and do things like make music. Divisions are weak are largely illusory. This could be any school, and it has been on other occasions. When you visit schools, and young people, and you grew up where I did and had opportunities I have and you see what others have, and you see these students are you, the same interests, the same crippling doubts, the same wonder they find in song, when you see this and feel it, you fall in love and you keep in touch and you go back, not just to give, but because you get life from it.
I get to Chilpancingo and have only slept a couple hours and am being attacked by ideas. The curse of the idea! I want to make a record of this, or that, and I’m worried if anybody likes this or that or the other and is what Im doing mattering, even to me. This happens often. 
I find a hotel for about 16 dollars a couple blocks from the bus station. I’ve come to really like visiting Guerrero. I never see anyone that looks like me. I love the art, dignity in the faces of the people, food. There is a lot of life, hurt, triumph, a lot of song, everywhere.
I buy my return bus ticket for Sunday upon arrival. The cashier at the bus station says, “You are not Mexican are you?”. No, I am not. He asks me if I have any American coins because he collects them. I reach into my wallet and I have no American cents, but I have some Thai coins, Costa Rican colons, and Japanese Yen. He is very impressed. I give him what I have and he looks very happy.
I have been texting with my friends Rodolfo and Rodrigo, the students I came to visit, and had planned to take the collective van to the school. They tell me its not a great time to travel alone between school and Chilpancingo and they will find a car and come for me, lunch on them. They take care of me. 
I wait for a bit where we are supposed to meet and think maybe they aren’t coming and start to walk up the street back to the hotel. One of them runs up behind me and says, “hey”. They are in a white car, humble, that they borrowed from someone at school to come get me. It doesn’t work very well, the car, but they insist on taking me to lunch and giving me a ride to the center of town where I am going to meet my friend Gopi, the very generous person who arranged my first visits here for a clinic/culture exchange with students.
I give them the guitars and books and records and I think we are both unsure of how to react but are well aware they are gifting me just as much as I am gifting them.
On the short car ride we talk about what they are recording, that one of them is in his student-teacher study right now, traveling to small mountain towns for a week to give classes. He wants to be an elementary school teacher in his home state, but also considers moving to Mexico City to be teach. They talk about making a recording, ask me about mixing and mastering and if I have to do that for my records too. Yes, I know, its a lot. I tell them I think being a teacher is very noble and I did it for a few years but it was hard. I get the sense that although the two of them are grateful for the guitars and the rest, they are happier yet to know that I keep coming back and we have something to talk about, that they might get to make more music because we are friends.
They drop me off and I meet my friend Sarai in the central plaza of town, still home to protesters, the photographs of some of the missing boys from Ayotzinapa hanging from a tree. It is impossibly sad and I feel angry seeing their photographs and knowing the truth is still purposefully hidden. 
Sarai takes me to a different “normal” school, the “Normal del Estado” or state teacher’s school where she is performing in a dance ceremony to celebrate the school’s anniversary. The dances are amazing and the kids at school are bright and funny. I look at them and recall my high school moments, watching the way they interact, the uncertainty, the laughter. I have a lot of music I want to write and walk back to the hotel. 

Thanks to all who support Music Mission for helping us out. I realize each time we go somewhere and get to know new people, I’m the greatest beneficiary of it all.

 

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