Did you hear? It’s winter…
Wow, talk about climate change. The further north I flew, the colder the airports became, the more bundled up the passengers were, and the skies filled with clouds.
The first thing I saw upon entering the airport in Texas was a statue of George H.W. Bush. I wandered around for a bit avoiding, but fascinated by, the Fox News store. Grabbed lunch at a Mexican place called Salsa, and kept almost speaking in Spanish to the guy who took my order. He told me about how he was going to go into engineering, and defiantly told me he believed firmly in global warming and was planning to be an environmental engineer. I wished him the best of luck, and ate my burrito that was spicier than I thought it would be.
Flying from Denver to Spokane the mountains changed to snow.
Adjusting the first week or so was difficult.
I missed my friends from Argentina, and most of my friends hadn’t come back to Spokane yet. My parents were very helpful in that they allowed me to kiss them on the cheek hello and goodbye. I even made empanadas with my dad, which turned out a little flakier than I expected, but still tasty.
The other thing that has helped is the tango.
My initial motivation for going down to Argentina was to dance tango. I planned to learn Spanish at my university, and then head down there, maybe to live for a year, after I had saved up some money.
In all likelihood, I was lying to myself.
On some level, I realized this.
So when I had a falling out with a friend, I suddenly wanted nothing more than to get as far away from Washington state as I possibly could, and even if running away isn’t always the best choice, it provided excellent motivation.
So I went to Argentina after patching things up as best I could with my friend, and I started my first tango expedition a little sooner than I might have ideally planned. I left without being ‘ready’ whatever that was supposed to mean at the time.
It turned out to be a great choice, not only for my dance, but also for myself as a person.
But I want to focus on tango in this section. When I started dancing seven years ago, I was fifteen going on sixteen, and showed up because I hoped this girl I was crushing on would also come. She didn’t. Most people who showed up that first day left, but some didn’t, and the original girls who invited my friends and I took me under their wings and showed me the ropes of tango.
My first teachers were a married couple who went through a divorce. One day they taught together, the next she had her own studio down the block. The same night. The same time. Both of them subsisted on donations from the community, and with the community split between them (my friends and I occasionally giving what we could from our allowance, which never was a deal breaker), both locations to learn tango slowly died and faded into obscurity. Tango lived on quietly in Spokane, but as far as I was aware and knew, it had died.
I started inviting friends over for tango at my house, taught them what I could (which was mostly poor technique and tense frames—sorry folks, my bad), and I cultivated some terrible habits in that time, not having anyone to correct me.
Then I went to Bellingham, where my ass was finally kicked into gear. Layton and Caileen beat out most of my bad habits, or at least the worst of my habits, and I returned to the track of improving. A couple years later, they asked me to take over Layton’s position as the instructor for leads. So I taught there for a year, and teaching forced me to improve my technique, to explain my leads, and gave me the opportunity to see how my style affected others. I’m not sure if my students learned more, or if I did.
After teaching out of a studio for the summer, I went to Argentina.
Buenos Aires is the home of tango, and I spent three amazing months there developing my dance, myself, and my language skills. I met wonderful people, and believe I added more energy to my dance. I went out to milongas as often as I could, took private lessons, and took group classes. It was delightful.
As I returned home, two of the community leaders for tango in Spokane contacted me to guest teach classes with them. Additionally, I’ve taught a few private lessons by myself, which is a first for me, and I’ve received plenty of positive feedback. I’m extremely grateful at this point in my tango journey to have people who believe in my ability to teach, who enjoy learning from me, and that I have the opportunity to share something I love with so many people. I’m excited to head back to Bellingham and start teaching with Caileen again; it isn’t the same without her.
And now I’m home. I’m where I started my tango journey more than seven years ago. I talked with Carol and we laughed about how enthusiastic my friends and I were when we started, how little we knew, and how no one had the heart to correct us because we just enjoyed dancing for the sake of the dance so much.
I’m glad to live in a community where there is so much enthusiasm for tango that on some nights you have the option to go to more than one place, I’m glad that people approach teaching tango differently, because learning in different ways means learning in more ways, and I’m glad to see so many new people stepping off into tango; they’re starting a new leg of their lives, and some don’t even know it.
Not Better, but Different
That things somewhere else aren’t better or worse, only different, is something the ISA facilitators told us constantly. Being back in the states has its advantages (not afraid of sounding like an idiot when I don’t know the name of pears) and disadvantages (tango is mainly a before midnight weekend activity). The most interesting part about being home is trying to figure out how (if) I have changed and how I now interact in the world.
I feel like I dance less around subjects that used to make me uncomfortable, and that I tend to be a little more direct. I definitely don’t hold my alcohol as well as I used to, but I drink it faster (guess Argentine drinks weren’t that strong). I’ve already started fulfilling a promise to myself to put more of my writing out there.
In addition to maintaining this blog, I’ve started up a profile on the writing site Figment where I use the pseudonym Jack Fletcher. I’ve posted a few things, two I like, one I’m going to just let be and sort of ignore for the rest of my life, but it’s important to write bad things every now and then. I’m not sure how beneficial it’ll be, but it’s something to do, and it gives me the chance to edit and review other people’s work, which is enjoyable.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
I won’t be writing another blog until January, but it shall be my first blog not categorized under ‘travel’. I’m still not sure what I’ll be blogging about, but dammit, I’ll be blogging about something. Have a happy holidays everyone!