Saturday, June 16, 2012

Storytelling in Argentina: Part Two

A QUESTION OF IDENTITY From the moment I arrived in Buenos Aires, and saw the cobblestone streets of the San Telmo barrio where I would be staying, and the gorgeous grey roofs, and the long shuttered windows, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in Europe. Every street I ventured down reminded me of Paris or Rome. I learned on my second day here, that the reason I felt that way was because that was exactly what much of Buenos Aires was designed to be like: Europe. I learned on my bike tour that Plaza De Mayo, what is known as the heart of the city, was set up like the Spaniards would, and that the raison d’etre (to be French, and therefore European)behind the GORGEOUS opera house, Teatre Colon, was to rival the Paris Opera House, to show to the world that Argentina was as good as any country on the continent of Europe. Talking to a teacher at one of the schools I performed at, I learned that some 40% of Argentines consider themselves European instead of South American. It made me kind of sad to think that this vibrant, gusty, cultured city was trying so hard to measure up to somewhere else, and that perhaps its people didn’t see it as I, an outsider could – full of beauty, and it’s own distinct flavor. But just as I was about to mentally scold Buenos Aires for wanting to be something other than it was, I realized that since I got here, I, too, have been doing a bit of that myself. Dream On Productions, who is the company promoting, and running this marvelous storytelling tour I’m on, has been sending tellers to some of the schools that I have been sent to for several years. The teachers and staff have come to love their yearly visits from these English speakers who bring tales from around the world, and from their own lives, and as to be expected, each school has had it’s own favorite teller. Because your “first storyteller” is often the one you “imprint on” (the thing a baby bird does when it first gets out of the shell – taking the first thing it sees as it’s mother, even if it’s a rock, and loving it with all it’s little birdy might!), it’s not uncommon for a teacher, a student, an administrator to think that Storyteller A is THE BEST IN THE WORLD, and while you might do a good job, you are not Storyteller A! As someone who is actively trying to bring more humility in my life, coming into a place where a school’s “first storyteller” left so much of a mark that EVERYONE pales in comparison, was just the way to be humbled. But I quickly learned that in this instance, that trying to be humble could quickly slide into, “ Gee, why can’t I be more like Storyteller A. Maybe I should tell stories the way they do. “ Just like those folks who, long ago, wanted Buenos Aires to look European instead of South American, I was caught for a moment in trying to be what I was not. And in these first few days of being here thinking about all this, it is the city itself who has helped me believe in myself. Because despite all the planning of European designers, architects, and city planners, Buenos Aires is not Europe – it’s it own place, it’s own city, it has it’s own vibe – it is unique. And that’s what I have always loved about storytelling, that there are as many ways to tell tales as there are stars in the sky. Tellers are like snowflakes, no two the same – and they shouldn’t be. So, to quote the musical, Evita, “Don’t cry for me, Argentina.” You have inspired me to be as individual as your own dynamic capital city!!

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