Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fifth Week in Mexico - Hermosillo-Cultural Awareness

On September 15, the cast and I reached Hermosillo. Thousands of Mexican citizens filled the streets of the city celebrating the day of Mexico's independence. Shortly after getting off the bus, the other students and I were blown away when we heard of the opportunity that lay before us. Viva La Gente had been invited to spend the evening at the Palace de Gobierno (Governor's Palace). We were told that we would be meeting the Governor of Sonora and would be given the ability to watch an annual Independence Day celebration from the front lawn of the palace.

The palace was gorgeous with the colors of the Mexican flag projected upon the white walls. As we walked to the entrance, we were surrounded by soldiers that stood in formation all around us. I entered the building in disbelief; I could not believe the opportunity that I had been given. The ceiling of the palace was open and filled with the night air. Large plants surrounded pillars that held a covered walkway that ran the perimeter of the building. The cast an I climbed a large white staircase that led to the second floor. Gorgeous murals and intricate designs covered the walls and as we entered the upper level I was filled with honor and patriotism. I was soon informed that the Viva La Gente students would be the first to greet the governor that evening. The cast and I were taken to the grand ballroom and divided into two rows. We were told to create an aisle for the governor and his wife to walk down as they entered the palace. Earlier that evening I had seen pictures of the governor on nearby banners, so I assured myself that I would be able to recognize him as he entered the building. Many well-dressed individuals passed by us, but none matched the individual that I had seen pictured in political advertisements. As soon as I began to worry that we had missed him, a loud thunder of drums came from the front lawn of the palace. Soon the governor and his wife entered followed by soldiers and news crews. I noticed that he was randomly shaking students hands, so I quietly stood alongside all the others and hoped that he would speak to me. As he walked past, he thanked us for attending and reached his hand out to me. He thanked me for attending and asked me where I was from. When I told him that I was from Baltimore, Maryland USA, he paused, smiled and said, " I remember it being cold. Thank you for coming such a long way." As the governor passed I felt very honored to have represented Maryland in such an important international event. I had never before represented so many people with a single handshake. It was a wonderful feeling to know that because of me, the state of Maryland was able to take part in such an important event. After greeting the governor, the cast and I stood on the front lawn of the palace and listened to a speech given by the governor. We were then able to enjoy a 45 minute fireworks celebration. If you like fireworks, go to Mexico because they don't mess around! I have never seen a longer fireworks display in my life. My experience at the Palace de Gobierno was filled with cultural awareness and allowed me to witness another country's appreciation of their own independence.

My host family from Hermosillo was incredible. They more than adequately fit the ideal of a Mexican family. My mama and papa were hard-working, generous, and loving while my two host brothers were very welcoming and friendly. On my first CI or Community Impact day, the cast and I found ourselves at the Children's Hospital of Hermosillo dressed in clown noses. On my previous visits to children's hospitals I have always felt very connected to the importance of medicine and the strength of a child, but Mexico allowed a children's hospital to speak to me with words of culture. The connections within the Mexican families were incredibly magnified. Every children's visit to the hospital seemed to be filled with family. With the help of an Up With People student from Mexico, I was able to speak with a mother about her child and she informed me that her husband and his parents had come to stay with their child during his or her experience at the hospital. The child's grandmother held a container of warm food and thanked us for our presence. My experience at the hospital allowed me to see through cultural differences among American and Mexican families and allowed me to witness the instincts of a family under stress. I saw that the support of a Mexican family was the same as an American family.

Up With People has allowed me to reach the areas of Mexico that are sometimes overlooked by the common international traveler. My hospital experience allowed me to catch another large glimpse of the hearts of the Mexican people. I spent our second CI day repainting a basketball court with a few members of the cast, but my medical issues that began in Culiacan, made my week in Hermosillo a test of mental and physical stamina. As I drifted in and out of the hospital, my host family stayed beside me everyday and got me ready for show day. Our concert facility in Hermosillo was incredible! We were able to use The Expo Forum's outdoor sound system so our tech team was able to run sixteen, 15-inch suspended speakers and eight, 18-inch subwoofers. This sound system made our performance in Hermosillo our best sounding show in Mexico.

On Tuesday, the cast and I were given the chance to travel to Guaymas. Guaymas is a small fishing town two hours outside of Hermosillo and looks like a scene from a novel. if you have ever been sitting in someone else's home and seen a picture of Mexico hanging in a bathroom, it is very likely that you're looking at a picture of Guaymas. Because of the city's simple beauty and gorgeous view of the water, it is no wonder that it would stay in the mind of the painter. As I walked down small streets and gazed at mountains on the other side of a gorgeous bay, I decided that I had come to the most peaceful place in Mexico. Very little traffic filled the streets of Guaymas and its bay was free of boat traffic. We were given the chance to tour a cathedral in the center of the city and after seeing a number of people kneeling and praying on a Monday afternoon, I was able to see the extreme amount of faith that is held within the Mexican culture. Guaymas was an excellent place of reflection and was the perfect destination for me to travel to during my fifth and last week in Mexico. I was able to witness Mexico's true beauty and reflect upon my feelings of the last five weeks.

On host family day in Hermosillo was fantastic. I was able to experience a Mexican family fiesta and see some of the biggest frogs and tarantulas that I have ever seen in my life. I was also able to check out the famous hand made cowboy boots of Hermosillo! The boots produced in this area of Mexico are some of the finest handcrafted pieces of footwear in North America. Personally my feet are not worth 3,000 pesos so I will not probably own a pair, but that is all right because I took plenty of pictures so that my "russreitter.com blog followers" can see what they looked like and imagine my feet being colorful.

I'll see you in Arizona! until next time I'm Russ Reitter!

If my Loco Tio Enrique from Hermosillo his reading this right now... You are the MAN!! Look after Papa!!

Fourth Week in Mexico - Culiacan

At 7:00 AM on September 8, I climbed into the back of my host family's pickup truck and headed for the bus that would take the cast and I from Tepic to Culiacan. My host dad was very sad to see me go. He told me that if I ever wanted to return to Mexico, he would gladly open up his home to me and give me a job in his family's business. After being in Mexico for three weeks, my host father in Tepic made me feel like there was a piece of Mexican culture inside of me. Having him offer me a job was a great honor. I felt like an equal member of Mexico's society. The day before I had had some young Mexican men call me a "Blonco" or "Whitey". I was not offended, but I felt a large void between Mexican culture and myself. My host father allowed me to feel the strength of cultural acceptance.

Our cast's trip to Culiacan took 12 hours. Our bus, traveled through beautiful deserts lined with mountains that decorated the horizon. Freight trains sped by like snakes in the distance. The mountains between Tepic and Culiacan are very defined; nothing stands between the desert and the steep sides of each incline. We were frequently stopped by military checkpoints along the highway. Students were sometimes asked to show their passport, but for the most part these checkpoints are used as a way of raising awareness. The transportation of drugs is a large concern in Mexico, but other items such as fruit cannot be taken from city to city and are commonly transported by tourists by mistake. The city of Culiacan has been fighting a war against drugs for many years. The sight of an army vehicle filled with soldiers is not uncommon to see driving by, but the city of Culiacan holds no danger to individuals that did not get involved in the wrong activity.

During my community impact days in Culiacan, I was given the opportunity to visit one of the most incredible places in Mexico. Myself and eight other male cast members signed up to visit a drug rehab center in downtown Culiacan. The center was started on March 21, 1995 by a woman called Mama Ilda. It originated in a small house with an eight member group. It was born by the needs of the people. Originally, it started out as a home for young men that had recently been released from prison. It started to grow as homeless individuals came seeking refuge from the harsh elements of street life. Everyone that has lived at the center since 1995 has voluntarily asked for help and a place to live. The men are required to stay at the facility for six months, but they are given food and a place to sleep. Residents are taught to self reflect and are shown many different trades such as carpentry, cooking and farming. Five days a week every each individual works in the facility's bakery. The gentleman cook breads and pastries that are sold in the local markets. The bakery goods they make are a main source of income for the rehabilitation center.

The facility is filled with laughter and compassion because the residents are allowed to converse and have a good time, but they are encourage to follow the rules of love and respect. I was extremely moved by my visit. I have never witnessed such a strong sense of brotherhood among men of such age differences. I could not figure out why everyone was so closely connected until I spoke to Mama Ilda. She told me that the secret was soccer. Every Saturday, men of all ages get together to play a game that they all took very seriously. Ilda told me that the men's soccer game was their purpose for making it through another week. Rain or shine, Saturday was game day and no one missed it. Some members that become attached to Mama Ilda's center stay for many years and coach other individuals in need. Residents are able to earn college degrees and find apprenticeships with the assistance of teachers who were at one point struggling with drugs as well.

Up With People is a nonreligious organization, but I have never felt closer to God than I did during my visit to Mama Ilda's rehabilitation center. As I sat in a circle of men in a small church, It was as if I could feel the silence of the setting throughout my whole body. The room was very still. The heat of the building seemed to match the warmth of my body and it was as if the barrier of my skin did not separate my soul from the air around me. The men around me sat in silence as Ilda's translator spoke and I felt the strength of a higher power all around me. A translator helped me to speak to some of the men around me and the elements of our conversations allowed me to better understand their culture and leverage our diversity. Whether or not you believe in religion, there is a higher sense of connection that holds all people together regardless of culture. We must all understand our differences, but I feel as if I have traveled to a place that has allowed me to look into the eyes of another without noticing their differences.

Towards the middle of the week, I became very sick and was taken to a clinic/hospital in downtown Culiacan. Blood work indicated that I had somehow caught in intestinal disease called typhus. I had to stay in bed for the next few days, but I was able to make it through our Thursday and Friday night shows and it was worth it. Our cast performed for over 2500 citizens of Culiacan and provided a sign of hope in a city that commonly wages a war against drugs. Before we reached Culiacan I was told that we where going to a city that was extremely hot and sometimes violent, but the city of Culiacan is gorgeous, clean and enjoyable. Let's hope that the city of Hermosillo is a little cooler.

Tepic - Host family Experience

Standing on a street in Mexico is like standing on the inside of a painting. Everything exists in Mexico: ATVs pass by holding eight passengers, men on horses are selling licorice and I'm drinking Coca-Cola out of a plastic bag with a straw. Sometimes, it is hard to analyze a picture when you are inside of it, but the most incredible thing about studying abroad is that you are inside the picture and you are a pigment of the masterpiece. As I live in Mexico, I am able to self reflect and improve my color as a person. I am not a tourist. I am an artist of the presence. Living with a host family allows a student to witness absolute cultural education.

Today is Sunday, September 7 and the cast and I are in Tepic, Mexico. I have truly enjoyed this week of our Mexican tour because of my loving host family. My Papa is a jolly Pesquero Captain(shrimp boat captain). My Mama is a loving mother that works alongside of Papa in the family shrimp business. My three loving host sisters and their cousin are in their 20's; they are an excellent example of Mexican youth. I have found Tepic to be saturated with cultural education. My host siblings have taken me deep within Mexico's pop-culture. Two of my sisters Jazmin and Maria speak excellent English and have taught me much about Mexican music, recreation, and home life. But, they have all shown me the importance of balance in their lives.

I have noticed that the girls in my host family do an excellent job of balancing their time between family, education, and free time. Many people, even Mexicans, will joke that Mexicans are always late, but I have come to realize that this is not true in every case. My sisters are never late to school and still have time to do everything Mama and Papa ask them to do as they are on their way out the door. After working hard in school everyday and spending time with friends and doing homework in the evenings, my three sisters and their cousin work in the family fish store on Sundays. The four of them work a long day and collect no pay because it is there way of giving back to the family.

If you want to really know how something is done talk to the Captain. Spending time with Papa has given me a chance to learn a lot about traditional shrimp fishing. Papa no longer catches shrimp, he has retired, and now teaches nautical navigation at a local university. The shrimp he sells today are purchased each morning at local docks, but there was a time when he owned and operated a 60 foot fishing boat. With my host sister Jazmin's help as a translator, Papa taught me that his 60 foot fishing boat has a crew of six and traditionally leaves the marina for 24-hour periods. He says that when his boat leaves the dock it is important to have two mechanics on board, one general fisherman, a cook and of course the captain. I asked Papa, "How does the Captain know where the shrimp are?" He told me that a fisherman must pay attention to the size of the moon and the time of day. The best catch can be found when there is little to no moon at all. When there is a full moon, the shrimp can see very well in the water and spread out, but when the moonlight is dim, the shrimp cluster together for safety because visibility becomes slim. During the day, the shrimp migrate towards shallow water so the best fishing is closer to the beach. During Papa's years of being Captain, he was respected by his crew, but no one is liked as much as the cook. I believe he said that a shrimp boat could hold up to 400 pounds of shrimp, but I think our conversion of the metric system or his language translation could have been a bit off. Papa says, "Put faith in your crew and pray for a good sea and the shrimp will be good to you." What did I eat when I lived in Tepic? Shrimp! Where did I work in Tepic? Shrimp shop! Did I have a good time? Who doesn't like shrimp!

Reaching the Mexican consumer is a unique process that is sometimes more creative than the product itself. A Mexican producer or sales person must pay taxes to the government if he or she owns a permanent business. Put wheels on the establishment and it is just you and your product. My host Mama and Papa own three strip trucks, a mobile fish taco stand, and a small fish store. The trucks roll every Sunday and commonly stop at regular customer's houses. The fish store and taco stand are open during the week selling shrimp and ceviche tacos. Riding in the shrimp truck is quite a colorful experience. The back is filled with coolers and the persons inside advertise fresco Camaron(fresh shrimp) over a megaphone. Street vendors are very successful in Mexico because they are able to bring the product directly to the consumer. Bicycle carts, umbrella stands, and all sorts of pickup trucks fill the streets of Mexico especially in Tepic and stay open until all hours of the morning. Being in Mexico is almost like stepping back in time. Values of family and work ethics stand out through small family businesses. This element is almost gone in the USA due to large commercial businesses.

I miss my home country, but my host family experience in Tepic has shown me the ways in which the people of Mexico work together and coexist. The people of Mexico are like one large family. They are finally, generous and filled with faith. Mexico is an incredible place to see the similarities between families and city life. When you live within a host family you live within their culture.

Third Week in Mexico - Tepic

On Monday night, the cast and I reached city of Tepic. We were greeted by a local drumming performance that had been organized just for us. The performance was held in a mall. Several hundred people, excited to see Vila La Gente return to Mexico, came to see our arrival. The cast and I were given costumes and our new attire helped our host families locate us in the crowd. Our trip to Tepic included a six-hour ferry ride and eight hours on the bus. Personally, I was exhausted, but a good host family has a way of waking me up.

We spent Tuesday working at a sea turtle hatchery. The beaches within driving distance of Tepic are very popular to tourists and have many resorts. The turtle hatchery occupies a section of beach that can not be purchased by developers. Hatchery workers say that only 3% of the turtles make it to the sea, so the work of the hatchery is very beneficial to the local sea turtle population. Half of our cast was given the opportunity to pull hundreds of newborns out of the sand while the rest of the cast helped clean out old nests and clear the beach for "turtle departure day." The turtles that are fresh from the sand are out of their nests, but are motionless because they are still in a sleep-like state. The babies are taken from the earth at this point so that they can all be collected. It does not heart the turtle to take it from the earth before its biological clock tells it to emerge, so the workers place the little turtles in a large baby pools. The animals slowly wake and are kept cool and moist as they are monitored. The turtles are given time to build their strength and are then released.

Wednesday was all about people! Viva La Gente took part in a large culture fair that was held in the same park as our Tepic performance. Local colleges and Viva La Gente sponsors set up booths with educational activities that called visitors together through cultural trades and traditions.

On Thursday, the band and I performed in our first BTS - our backing track show. The BTS is promotional and normally performed a day or two before the official Viva La Gente show of the week. These promotional shows are our main source of ticket sales and help educate the public about our arrival. That night my host sisters took me to a local Mexican hang out. Everyone insisted on hearing English music hits, so I got to perform!!!

Show day in Tepic was fantastic. Our stage was underneath a large decorative sound sheet that eventually protected our equipment from a small amount of rainfall that delayed the second half of the show. Our show in Tepic has been our best. Our audience was fantastic and demanded more. Performing an encore after a two-hour show is quite an exhilarating experience. The only people that enjoy our performances more than our audience is the cast. The energy of a great show really sticks with us and really intensifies the attitude of the group. On Monday, September 8 we are departing for Culiacan and will perform a BTS and a full show on Thursday and on Friday.

What's next!!?

Second week in Mexico - Los Cabos

Our travel day to Los Cabos was quite exciting. I saw the Hotel California! The one from the song! Los Cabos is only around three hours from La Paz so we were able to leave in the morning and still have time that day to spend in our new destination. As we reached the city, we were given police escorts. The streets of Los Cabos are very busy and narrow, so our vans and buses needed to be assisted at each intersection. Eventually, our buses reached Teatro de la Ciudad, a theater in nearby San Jose. Many members of the cast attended a press conference while the rest of us attended a speech given by the governor of Los Cabos. Since we are such a large group and will be in Mexico for such a long time, our organization is fully recognized by the Mexican government. This allows Viva La Gente to have many opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable. We are allowed to use city-owned buildings as meeting places, promote in areas that are closed to advertising and most Importantly we are able to take part in some of the Governor’s time. After meeting with the press and the Governor, the cast and I were able to see a once-in-a-lifetime performance provided by students from Cuba, Mexico and Argentina. This performance was a demonstration of Mexican culture. It featured traditional styles of dance and movement that are performed during mariachi, salsa and flamenco song selections. The students in this performance had rehearsed for weeks and choreographed an incredible show just for the arrival of Viva La Gente.

Our first full day in the Los Cabos area was filled with regional learning. We started off the morning with a bus tour that took us through the streets of downtown San Jose. The cast and I were able to see many homes and businesses that are sometimes overlooked by tourists. San Jose and Los Cabos are gorgeous areas, both cities are located on the tip of the Baja Peninsula. The many tourists provide an excellent economy for these small cities. Members of society who work in tourism are living very well, but other citizens are not as lucky. A large problem in this area of Mexico are the hundreds of families that have no land to build a home. Illegally, these families build houses in dried out riverbeds. This has become a large problem for the Mexican government. Substantial rainfall takes place in these areas annually and can become devastating to many families that refuse to leave the land in the river beds. The Mexican citizens and the government have fought over this issue for years. Citizens say they will protest government land laws until they are given the rights to live in safe places, yet the government can hardly keep up with growing populations and the need to keep its citizens safe. After visiting local neighborhoods and seeing substantial building projects in the river beds, the cast and I took an hour-long bus ride into the country. We were told that we would visit a traditional Mexican ranch.

Personally, I was livid when I realized that I had forgotten my boots and hat, but the day got better when I ate the best piece of fruit I have ever eaten in my life. When we reached the ranch I was given a large orange-ish yellow fruit and I was able to taste why the farmers of Mexico are such, "Jolly Ranchers". It is all in the mango! The mango is an incredible fruit. I'm sure that in some countries it is the reason why monkeys are able to climb so fast, but in Mexico I soon found out that it is the reason why people are happy. I believe that the only reason why people drink in Mexico is because they are waiting for the mango to grow. God bless the mango! God bless Mexico! Viva Mexico!

That evening, the cast and I were given the gift of dinner on a boat in the harbor. One of the best cover bands I have ever seen was the Mexican group that played on our dinner cruise. Mexico is always even prettier from the water. The cast and I were able to see 40 to 50 seals sunning on the rocks near the harbor. An hour or so later, a small number of the cast and I, happened to be standing in the right place on the boat to see two Dolphins jump out of the water. I never thought that I would come to a place this insane during my lifetime. Traveling has never been a large priority of mine because I have always looked for incredible things with out seeing them. My parents were right when they taught me to concentrate on the people around me and wonderful things will come to me to be seen.

Show day in San Jose was on thursday and went excellently. I was placed on the show set up crew and helped our tech team get ready for the show. Around 2,000 people came to the San Jose baseball stadium that evening. Mexico has taught me that there is a large difference between musical performance and entertainment. It does not matter how I feel about my guitar playing in a show, the people of Mexico want a message and are looking for entertainment. Viva La Gente has shown me that a show is only as powerful as a group makes it.

After the show, I worked with another student conducting an interview. After each show, a portion of the cast interviews potential students for the Viva La Gente program. I interviewed a local boy named Samuel. Samuel lives in San Jose and is an excellent candidate for our group. Student interviewing sessions are the most important part of my week. Up With People/Viva La Gente is only as strong as its student body, so I love interviewing new students for the program because it is sometimes like meeting a future cast.

Our Friday night show was a bit larger that the night before. We performed in a stadium in Los Cabos. The cast was very tired but pulled though! The next day we boarded the ferry to Tepic! Who knows what is next!!?

First week in Mexico - La Paz

Today is August 23, ’08. It is Saturday and the cast and I have just finished our third, Up With People or in Spanish Viva La Gente show. We are still in La Paz, Mexico and it has been well over 100 degrees each day this week. I have been able to post many photos, but have been an unable to connect to the internet since then. In my last blog entry I had posted photographs from our outdoor set up in the La Paz Baseball Stadium. I have experienced a lot of excitement since then.

I spent all day Wednesday as a Community Impact Crew Leader, leading 50 UWP students and staff through a day of heat and satisfaction. The students and I painted the outside walls of the La Paz Baseball Stadium for the Ray Thompson Foundation. For many years this stadium has been a community symbol of family and recreation, but overtime it is fallen victim to years of graffiti vandalism. Fifty students and I set out to improve the walls of an old building, but ended up painting hope in the eyes of a community. As we worked, car after car drove by honking and yelling, "gracias" and "fantastico". My experiences on Wednesday taught me that a true leader allows room for error and facilitates a group in a way that allows them to lead themselves. A leader of a large group can never be everywhere at once so I discovered that my strength as a person had to be divided. I found great success when I appointed individuals as group leaders. I divided all 50 students into groups of 10 and became a leader of leaders. I was then much more relaxed and open minded because I was able to monitor progress through the eyes of five people instead of relying on myself to guide 50. In a short while my group of 50 was leading itself. I was then able to concentrate on instructions that were given to me by community leaders such as Mr. Dominguez, president of the Ray Thompson Foundation. A leader should take it upon himself to accomplish tasks that others would rather not do. He or she does not make him or herself a hero, but it is important to establish an image that does not place the leader above others. Students were happy to do the jobs I asks them to do because I had earned their respect. This element of leadership worked because I had given my strength to group leaders that relied on me for instructions. That night, I showered with a turtle(host family's pet) and realized that Mexico really is a place I love!

Thursday was a day of rehearsal. Viva La Gente split us up into group sessions. Dancers practice routines at a local dance studio and many students were placed in smaller community impact groups. As a member of the show band, I worked with Javi our drummer from Texas, Julie our bass player from Norway, Jochem keyboard player from the Netherlands, Phil alternative bass player from the USA and Michael Bowerman our music director. The six of us rehearsed the Mexican Medley. This arrangement of music is a 10 minute arrangement of popular Spanish songs from the late 80s early 90s and the present. Since the first time I saw this selection, I found it to be very difficult, even though the chord changes and melodies are very simple. Unlike our 50s Medley of American music, the Mexican Medley is of course made up of music that I have never heard before. Working on these Spanish songs was yet another indication to me that I am the kind of person that needs to listen to a song over and over again in order to remember the exact melody. I have never been able to simply look at a piece of paper and play notes as they are written, but my Viva La Gente experience has really expanded my ability to read charts and recognize written music. That evening many members of the cast and I were in downtown La Paz. In order to find out about the ways in which others view world differences of politics and culture, I am challenging myself to spend individual time with each member of the cast over the course of the next few months.

Each week we are given a least one day to learn about the city we are performing in. We call this day of local education a Regional Learning or RL day. Friday was our RL day in La Paz. The cast and I started the day by taking a bus tour around the city. Mexico is home to many old Catholic churches. Many of these places of worship are very famous and have stood for well over 100 years. After visiting many churches, our buses took us past a community sports complex. This area of recreation was very large and contained many indoor and outdoor fields. Outdoor fields included bike and skateboard ramps, soccer fields, basketball courts, running tracks and many food venders. The indoor facilities were even nicer. I saw a racquetball rooms, nice basketball courts and a large room with ping-pong tables, but the coolest thing about this facility was the fact that everything was free to the community every day. This facility was built as part of La Paz's efforts to keep young people occupied and away from drugs. After the bus tour we ate dinner on the beach. It was an incredible experience because everyone knew that our first performance in Mexico would be the next day.

Saturday was show day! and was also very hot!, very sandy!, very long! and very ROCK 'N ROLL!!! Our day started at 8:00 AM and ended at 1:30 AM. Every show day the cast is divided into three groups: promotions, exploration and set up. Promotion for the show takes place weeks before the cast even reaches a city. Promos run in monthly and weekly newspapers, play on the radio and are posted in storefronts, but on the day of a performance the Promotions Team will go to local malls and tourist attractions to hand out flyers and meet the public. Cast members who are placed on Exploration are given the opportunity to go in to the city and explore the local markets. The third Group of students is added to the stage setup crew. Since our dress rehearsal in Denver Colorado I have been on stage set up. Constructing our stage in Mexico becomes a mental and physical test of endurance. Since all but one of our shows in Mexico are held in baseball stadiums working set up for one of our shows is much like being in an ancient Egyptian slave. Working in the direct sun on top of sand with temperatures over 100 degrees can become a bit unrestful, but our setup in La Paz went well do to a steady breeze that blew throughout the day. A full cast run through was scheduled to be held at two o'clock, but it began to rain around one and show rehearsal was delayed three hours. I sensed our lack of practice in our performance that evening, yet twenty five hundred people roared with applause after each song.