Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sorry guys

I.        Have. Not. Written. In. a. very.



Why is that? Well, because life is moving so fast and I’m amazed each day as I’m lying in bed and  recognize that yet another day has come and passed. Of course I feel like I’ve been back in Tanzania for several months, and yet it’s only been about a month and a half. What has happened? I’ve gotten back into teaching all my private lessons and group classes at our Umoja ensemble schools, I’ve organized a successful fundraiser for Meru Animal Welfare Organization, I’ve made some new friends, I’ve gotten much closer to old friends here, we’ve had our first student recital of the year, I’ve thought about a lot of people in the US and Brazil and everywhere else in the world that I miss a lot, I’ve composed the music for my collaborative project in Tunisia with Colette, I’ve been shopping to buy a car, I’m organizing a recording session for our Umoja Ensemble kids to record a song I wrote for a heart disease foundation here, and tonight… I partook in a barn dance.

Yes, my roommate Millie helped plan a barn dance/hoe down at her church and tonight it happened. Oh my gosh, I don’t know when I have laughed and had so much fun here in Arusha! The pictures show it all- basically, there was a band of musician friends playing and one who called out the moves of what to do “swing your partner, line moves in, ladies to the center, men to the center, strip the willow!” haha oh man it was a great deal of fun.

Roomate, Millie

We were a foster-home for a wonderful little puppy for a week!

the hoe-down!

All of us very tired after the dancing!

Life is moving fast. But there are cycles in life- sometimes I feel very inspired to compose and to write blogs and journals, and other times it’s as if life itself were demanding all of my time and energy- no time to reflect, no time to sit and ponder the meaning of everything. But that time will come again. I leave in NINE days for Tunisia and Morocco and I couldn’t be more excited. I have no doubt that as I stare over the sands of the Sahara Desert some sense of inspiration will hit me. I’m going first to Tunisia where I will hear the premier of a piece I composed with Colette. Very honored and excited to have the chance to work with her again- also to hear how this music sounds, as it was all inspired by ‘arabian’ sounding music… well, I don’t  have the energy to discuss all of the kinds of music I had to take into consideration for this ‘middle-eastern’ musical drama that Colette and I created.

I’m feeling more comfortable in Tanzania than ever. It really takes a year to feel at home in a place and it’s certainly what I feel here now. Today and yesterday I snapped at some of the drivers of the dala dalas I was on. Yesterday it was because they were talking about me ‘mzungu’ (white person)  and making kissy noises at me and laughing. I shouted, “ndiyo, cheka, cheka!” which is like, “yeah go ahead- laugh! Laugh!” and they usually shut up a bit when they realize I know some Swahili. Today there was a homeless man who came across the street to either ask the dala dala for some money or try to get a ride in it. The driver said, “toka!” which is basically like “shoo!” and the command of ‘go’ people say to dogs. I couldn’t help myself,  I told the driver in Swahili “you know, he is not a dog! Why don’t you say ‘pole’, not ‘toka’!” We had a bit of an argument, of which I stood very little as the driver spoke back in fast Swahili. But, maybe he got my point. All that to say that I’m feeling comfortable;  I’m feeling it is my community here. I’m feeling more of an outsider and insider all at once as I learn the kinds of people I can and cannot trust all because of the color of my skin. It is a true coming of age- losing some of that idealism and starry-eyed naiveté one often has as a young 20-something year old first going to live in Africa.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Always jarring…

 I read this poem in the blog of a friend and I was immediately captivated by it:
Once you have flown,
you will walk the Earth
with your eyes turned skyward;
for there you have been,
there you long to return.
- Leonardo da Vinci

I think about it metaphorically as well as literally. Most Tanzanians have never been on a plane, yet watch all of the expats like myself arrive and leave on planes, as if Amsterdam were just a day trip to the market. Several times on my way to work, I’ve stared out the blurry window of the dusty dala dala (bus), to find men pointing upward and staring at these metal birds as they take flight and disappear from the small tarmac just outside of town. The literal translation of ‘airplane’ in Swahili is ‘bird’, after all. What do they imagine we see from so high? It is perhaps just another way that we with wealth can look down on the rest of the world, thousands of feet between our understandings of each other.

But with whom else now do I feel a distance? At times, my own culture-- my own home. “Once you have flown…” I do love Tanzania because I feel as though I am free, flying without limits or boundaries, where I can explore endless amounts of new things. And I think anyone who has fallen in love with traveling, with meeting new cultures, with being caught off guard and forced to reevaluate all that is comfort and familiar to us- people who feel home sick for a place that was not home for most of our lives, they will understand “you will walk the Earth with your eyes turned skyward” … perhaps it’s not skyward, but toward the south where dusty, tropical Nicaragua lies, or to the east where you can hear the clicks of shoes upon French cobblestone streets, or west toward the snowy peaks of Kilimanjaro.  

I spoke with a friend last week and she said, “that’s why I love it here: because you never feel settled. Everything is always jarring!” And I realized how right she was! How ironic it is that nervousness can become so appealing. It’s a nervousness of the unexpected, which transforms into excitement for those of us who become addicted to the lifestyle here. I think I should keep a journal each day of what I see on the dala dala because it’s so unique, so individual to each dala dala. A lot of people here don’t want to ride the dalas because they’re dirty, smelly, slightly dangerous, and crammed with people. But that’s exactly why I love them. They are jarring- you don’t get to become blind or closed off from the realities of life and how difficult it is for so many people. While being crammed in with Maasai women carrying massive baskets of fruits and vegetables (and wondering how on earth they manage to carry such heavy goods), I stare out the window and see infants in the ditch playing with vegetable scraps discarded by their nearby mamas selling fruits. I see an old man alone whose clothes are dark, stained, and full of holes, leaning against a pile of cement blocks, rocking himself back and forth. I see people with shrunken feet from a disease unknown to me, pushing themselves around in old wheel chairs in the road as giant trucks and motorcycles blow by them dangerously close. I see men standing in joyful conversation, holding hands as they speak. I see the mommas with their little and quiet babies wrapped in bright colors to their hips and backs. I see beautiful butterflies dancing over rooftops and bright sunsets that paint mount Meru pastel pink. It’s also beautiful and so horrific at once some times. But I smile because I know that I’m seeing life- that I’m getting a chance to fly and never again will I have the desire to have both feet on the ground.