Monday, March 19, 2012

Perth, Jakarta and Cancun: Part 3


Ok, it was really Playa del Carmen, and it was a private birthday party for a very wealthy man and his daughter. The celebration was to last for 4 days and included several major artists and many major celebrities on the guest list.  Even though I was there in the capacity of employee, I felt like an invited guest, given that our accommodations were in a beautiful eco resort: Sandos.  I loved it!!!  I just wish I could have stayed for another 2 weeks!  The entire premise of the resort is conservation, which is just a way of being for me.  (Speaking of which, I want to buy a fuel efficient, small, used car....anyone selling??  I digress...back to my story).  I flew direct from San Francisco to Cancun (yay!) and met up with the rest of the band at the airport.  This was my first trip to Mexico, so I was really excited to be there and for the opportunity to finally practice speaking Spanish!  (Yes, I live in California, and yes, it's pathetic that I don't practice my Spanish more often, but its just too easy to speak English all the time at home.)  I told everyone at the resort that I wanted to speak Spanish and asked them to not speak to me in English.  It was tough, but for the most part, I did ok!

My room, with a swan made from a towel.  Very creative!

We arrived at the resort in the early evening and after dropping my bags in my room, I went for a walk on the exquisite grounds.  I ran into a couple of the crew guys and joined them for dinner at the Mediterranean restaurant (none of us could get into the Mexican restaurant, as it was constantly booked for private events).  I had grilled tuna, mashed potatoes and portabello mushrooms.  It was quite tasty.

As I walked back to my room, I noticed the scurrying of little feet.  No, these weren't cats or dogs...they were RACCOONS!!  My immediate response to seeing a gaze of raccoons was to become aware of my impending panic, stay calm, breathe deeply and rush in a different direction.  However, these raccoons were clearly not violent like the raccoons back home: they were milling around the outdoor dining tables, sometimes waiting patiently for food scraps and sometimes actually alighting onto the tables to pick from abandoned plates.  I'd never seen anything like it.  After about 30 minutes of feeling jumpy, I finally relaxed and joined my band mates in the lounge area for a bit of late night respite and laughter.

The next morning, I woke up at 7:30 so that I could make it to the 8am yoga class.  I'd assumed it would be taking place in the spa/gym, but no!  The group of students gathered at the spa/gym and then followed a focused, intense man name Juan Carlos to an outdoor spot.  At first I was walking near the end of the line, but I prefer a quicker pace, so I trotted ahead and walked next to Juan Carlos, who struck up a conversation with me - en Español!  After inquiring about my yoga experience, he asked me to position my mat at the front of class to serve as an example for the less experienced students (this always happens in yoga classes, and I'm happy to be in front - given that I'm a bit of an exhibitionist and have practiced yoga for 16+ years).

Me and Juan Carlos

Juan Carlos led an international group (folks from the United States, Spain, Germany and Brazil) to a tree covered deck, above a creek.  He spoke in Spanish and English and taught a tough vinyasa class.  Tough enough that 3 days later, I was still sore!  I loved it!  Being outdoors, under the trees, watching the birds fly by, singing their songs, and the turtles swimming in the water under the deck.  Breathtaking!  This was one of my all time favorite yoga classes.  It was tough to get up that early, but I'm so glad that I did.  I left class and headed to the internet cafe (the only spot to obtain free internet - remember, I'm frugal!) and this is the view I had while making my free international phone calls:
Not too shabby, eh?

I left the internet cafe and on my way to my room, I met my new friend, the iguana:

Look at that color!  When I approached, another woman was holding the reptile and I couldn't resist!  I finally said goodbye to my iguana friend, and headed back to shower and get dressed.  On my way to brunch, I came across these beautiful birds.

 Chatty, they were!

We all gathered in the lobby and went to sound check. On the day that Stevie performed, Santana, Enrique Iglesias and an amazing Flamenco troupe performed.  We performed in a tent that had been converted to look like a movie set.  It was beautiful!


After sound check, I joined Judith and met her friends from the Iglesias band and Robbie Williams band.  They were staying at the same hotel as the Santana band, where I ran into my friends Karl and Tony!  I wasn't able to hear them perform, but I was glad to be able to catch up with them.

Judith, Laura, Nayanna, Joe and I all went downtown for dinner and window shopping.  I wanted to have some authentic Mexican food while I was in Mexico, dammit!  We came across a restaurant that featured traditional Mayan recipes.  Winner! Joe and I shared the sampler plate, which had some very yummy tamale and ceviche offerings.  I love tamales, but it's not easy to find them without pork.  This restaurant had vegetarian tamales!  I was very happy...

Our call time for the show wasn't until 11pm, so there was plenty of time for me to do show prep (practice, hair, make up, etc.)  At the venue, everything was running an hour behind, so a group of us joined in an impromptu jam session with members of the Flamenco troupe.  We had our own party!

After the show, several celebrities came backstage to meet with Stevie (of course, after all, even the biggest stars turn into fans when we're talking about Stevie Wonder!), and I had the chance to ask Leonardo DiCaprio for a photo.  I'd just watched him perform in J. Edgar, so I was especially excited to meet and take a photo with him.  Very cool!

We didn't go on stage until nearly 2:40am, and by the time we finished and returned to our resort, the sun was nearly rising.  So, I took advantage of the opportunity to watch the sunrise.  I'd seen the sunrise once before, in Switzerland, the sun greeting me over the mountains and spilling across Lake Luzern.  But this was different. It was relatively warm, and I was on the beach.  Ah...

Later in the day, I went for a dip in the Gulf of Mexico:

Gracias por llevarme a Cancún, Stevie! Mi primer viaje a México fue mágico!  (Ok, I cheated with translating software...I'm not fluent...yet!)

Perth, Jakarta and Cancun: Part 2


We packed up and flew to Jakarta via Bali on a rainy morning after the show in Western Australia.  I never can stay awake on an airplane (dry air combined with engine hum, I suppose is the reason), so I slept nearly the entire flight.  Despite the fact that we were going to fly on the same plane, and that our layover was only 45 minutes, we were instructed to deplane and hang out in the airport.  So, I've technically been to Bali...but not really.

 Roman sleeping soundly

Bali Airport

We arrived in Jakarta just in time to have a passport fiasco.  Apparently, some musicians were selected for an extended passport review and our first group were forced to sit at the airport for 4 hours while being "processed".  The second group were allowed to pass unencumbered and we ended up all riding to the hotel 2am!  And then we had a 7am call for sound check.  No complaining! lol

Jarkarta Airport

I managed to find a few moments to watch George Duke perform at the Java Jazz Festival, but missed all of the jam sessions, Herbie Hancock, Al Jarreau, and Bobby McFerrin.  Oh well.  No complaining! lol

 Our sound check

After sound check, I went back to the hotel for dinner.  Another group of people were celebrating a child's birthday, and this person was dressed as a character, walking around greeting random diners.  The character was friendly, but a little creepy too.

Our show went well again, but my brain was definitely fried by the time Stevie launched into Giant Steps.  I don't drink caffeine or take any stimulants, so when fatigue hits me, I really feel it!  After the show, we all gathered for a lovely meal with our esteemed employer, and then headed to the hotel to pack for our early morning flights.

Driving to the airport, heading home, passing the mall I didn't have time to shop in...No complaining! lol

Perth, Jakarta and Cancun: Part 1

I've been around the globe again with Steveland over the past couple of weeks.  As usual with one-off concerts, there wasn't much time for sight-seeing or relaxing, but I took full opportunity to see what I could.

The flights to Australia were brutal on everyone: multiple stops, long layovers and endless time zone changes.  By the time I went to bed in Western Australia, 48 hours had elapsed since leaving my house.  Literally.  But I say that with the caveat that I do have the best job on the planet, so a little fatigue is no reason for whining or complaining!

Stevie was booked to perform at the Sandalford Winery in the Swan Valley / Margaret River area of Western Australia. Once we landed in Perth, we were ferried via bus for 3 hours to a private resort where we were assigned to houses in 3s.  My housemates were LaNesha and Judith.  We each had our own bathrooms and the house was large enough to allow each of us to maintain our privacy.  The house was decked out with a modern kitchen, a hip living and dining area and lovely patio and backyard.  I wanted to stay there for a month and work on music!  All of us were longing for that dream...ah...

Yeah, I could call that home, at least for a while!

We arrived too late in the evening to do anything besides eat and star gaze, but the next morning, we all boarded a bus to take a quick tour of the Margaret River region, Yallingup Beach (Indian Ocean) and a petting zoo. The ocean (Yallingup Bay) is gorgeous!

At the petting zoo, we were greeted by a sweet pair of dogs, and led through a menagerie of animals, most of which were very cute.

Ok, these hogs were not cute!  I'd never been this close to a hog and not only do they smell terrible, they're far bigger than I could have ever imagined!  A pet pig?  Not for me...

The venue at Sandalford Winery.

The show went very well, the audience was enthusiastic, but I barely remember anything because my brain still hadn't caught up to my body!  Jet lag is crazy...