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Posts Tagged ‘music’

“Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: We are the same.” 

― John Denver

A common experience that I had in the various countries I visited was the presence of music. It came in different languages, genres and deliveries, but every time it served as a unifying force.

Dodi dancers

I wrote about the boat ride that I took in a previous post and briefly mentioned the singers who welcomed us when we reached the halfway point. Inhabitants of the small island, they sang and danced in an effort to collect donations. I wondered if they would do so otherwise, but they truly seemed to be enjoying themselves.

And it was contagious, as several boat riders danced alongside them.

Sing-alongs at Sacre Couer

An Italian man named Youri performed on the steps of the Sacre Couer on my sister’s first night in Paris. We had ventured over to see the Basilica and, after hearing him sing Rupert Wainwright’s “Hallelujah” on key, decided to join the crowd. We did not, however, give in to the men peddling Heinekens for 5 euros a piece, despite their persistence.

Here’s Youri singing “Hallelujah” while another man provides an entirely different form of entertainment (and I’m not talking about the man who appears to be performing magic tricks next to the singer):

The Basilica is situated atop a hill in Montmarte and is the only hill where you can properly view the city of Paris. So, as the sun set, we had a beautiful view to accompany the music. At one point Youri paused and told the crowd that we were all very lucky to be visiting Paris and asked our origins. Brazil, Spain, Italy, U.S., Canada: many different nationalities were all sitting together singing.

Given the chaos taking place all over the world, whether it has to do with finances, regimes or famine, I found solace in the moment. Hopefully you can capture some of it with these two videos of the crowd singing “Imagine” and “Let it be” together. Don’t mind my sister and me singing along/laughing!

Familiar tunes in Deutschland

The first family member I visited in Germany was my cousin, the director of several choirs in his hometown. I went with him to two of the choir practices and was surprised to find them singing American songs. ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ was followed by ‘Uptown Girl’ and then ‘Since U Been Gone’.

I sat watching and singing quietly, tapping my foot along to the familiar tunes. The German accents added to the moment and the happiness that the individuals felt in singing was contagious.

“…there is music in the air, music all around us, the world is full of it and you simply take as much as you require.”

—  Sir Edward William Elgar

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Daily bread

“The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

In that case, I had several loaves of bread yesterday. Regardless, I could still eat more (metaphorically). The whole trip lasted about four hours and we had ideal weather for the majority of it.

A boat ride on the Volta River.

Mirror image.

The halfway point was a small island named ‘Dodi’ where the locals met us on the dock, singing and dancing with a bucket for donations.

Dancing at Dodi Island.

We stopped on the island for about 30 minutes, allowing time to walk to the other side. All along the path were more musicians and dancers of all ages, each with their own collection bins. I gave my spare change to the performers and children walking around and holding people’s hands, asking for money to go to school.

The path to the other side of the island.

There were also men offering canoe rides, but the captain of the boat had warned us not to take part if we wanted ‘to come back alive’. He meant the boat would leave us behind, not that we’d be killed, but it sounded menacing enough.

Life-ending canoe ride?

When we boarded the boat to return to our starting point, rain was visible on the horizon.

Rain starting to fall.

Regardless, a boat of fishermen continued heading away from shore.

It still took some time before the rain reached us. So I sat at the front of the boat, and dangled my feet in the small wading pool. I had applied sunscreen (50 SPF), but discovered later that I still managed to burn a little. The new necklace I had purchased from a stand onshore left a nice outline on my neckline and it now looks like I’m constantly wearing some sort of white medallion. My sunglasses also left a nice ‘raccoon ring’ around my eyes.

The colorful stand where I purchased my necklace.

With all of that sun, it was refreshing when the rain started to fall. As its intensity increased, most people sought shelter and I gave in soon after. The sun, food, music and fresh air tired me out and I was ready to sleep.

Hoped to have dreams full of clouds.

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The same sky at night

NIGHT SKY

My first year as a resident assistant I had a few new additions during spring quarter, one of whom was a foreign exchange student from Japan named May. Her roommate had a broken leg and was unable to walk across the green to show May how to use the laundry machines so I volunteered to help. After getting through the usual string of introductory questions and comparing our cultures a bit, we temporarily ran out of conversation topics.

The sun had set since we entered the laundry facility and the night sky was clear. I had been looking at the stars and decided to break the silence by saying, ‘these are the same stars you see in japan.’

‘How romantic,’ May joked and I had to laugh.

There have been a few nights where I feel homesick, and one of them I looked up at the stars and remembered that conversation. While it still makes me laugh, there is a calming truth behind it. Sure the constellations vary depending on where you are, but in the end we all still have a similar view.

MODERN TECHNOLOGY

Along with that cliché thought, the ability to call home or send an email helps immensely. I’m able to find out what’s happening in the lives of my family and friends. It’s not the same as being there, but it will suffice for now.

My mom put things into perspective when she told me how difficult and expensive it was to call home while she was in Germany for seven weeks in 1982. It made me realize (though obviously not to the full extent) how different this trip would be without that convenience.

[If you’ve heard this anecdote, feel free to skip ahead!] Best Buy had other plans for me. Just before I left I went into the nearest store and expressed concern that my computer was nearing its end and I was about to be in Africa. ‘There’s nothing we can do,’ they told me, conveniently just before my warranty was set to expire. Now it won’t turn on; thank God for internet cafés and kind hosts.

NATURE NURTURES

One of my favorite quotes is: ‘I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.’ – John Burroughs

Besides the chickens, goats and lizards that I’ve taken interest in and are everywhere, it’s also a treat when I get to play with a cat or dog. Even though they roam the streets (more so dogs), I’m not able to pet those ones because I’d rather not need a rabies shot.

I thought I was seeing things at first!

His camouflage is perfect.

The trip to an eco-lodge in Cape 3 Points was great for many reasons, one of them being the pet dogs and cats. A kitten I called ‘Leo’ became a friend for those three days and I woke up on our last morning to find him sleeping in the wood shavings for my composting toilet.

A little kitten I nicknamed 'Leo'. We became friends.

When I got back to my host’s home I was happy to find that they had gotten a new puppy while I was gone. Sasha’s still a bit timid, but he’s warming up to me. He especially likes Macho, the bull mastiff who’s about six, and cries when they’re apart.

This is Sasha, an 8 week old pit bull at my host's house. Macho, the bull mastiff, is in the back.

The thing is, I act a little differently around animals than most Ghanaians. For them the animals seem to be seen in a much more practical matter. Hence the stares while I picked up a kitten in Cape Coast and talked to it.

SOLACE IN FAMILIARITY

Books and music have occupied many of my evenings. I’ve read six books so far and just started my seventh. Books offer a break from reality that is sometimes needed, no matter where you are. It’s been nice to get caught up on some books I didn’t have time to read during school.

And if all else fails and I’m feeling homesick, I simply remind myself that this trip is a great opportunity and I’m very fortunate.

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