WH Chronicle No. 1.26

Jan 22, 2011

It’s nice to have Tom back after his adventures, though the other day, I overheard the words “Mt. Kenya” waft from his monster-mountain-climbing lips.   I guess he’s angling for the trifecta of African peaks. 

Life continues to be an exciting adventure.  There’s a surprising amount of European culture here if you can find it.  A Macedonian violinist was on tour and hired our supervisor as her accompanist.  She was performing at the ‘Usa Opera House (Ooosa Ahpara Haus) which is a private mansion modeled exactly after “Tara” from Gone with the Wind.    In typically Tanzanian fashion, all the luxurious houses and resorts are tucked away behind shanties, shacks, and farms.  I diligently followed the directions to drive down cow paths and goat trails but still managed to become stuck in the middle of somebody’s corn field.  Slightly embarrassed and glad no one was watching, I looked up and noticed an army of farmers walking toward us--all of which were packing lethal garden hoes.  Regardless, my co-pilot and I were convulsing with laughter. The farmers were not amused.  I feigned enough seriousness to ask them, “Where’s the Opera house?”---in my best, but useless, English.    That’s when all remnants of composure dissipated into the mountain air.  The idiocy had escalated beyond all measure and we struggled to control our bodily functions while writhing in an abundance of giggles.  Meanwhile the farmers continued glaring.    I suppose the ineptness they where witnessing might have left them with the impression that we were possessed  and that any invitation to an ‘opera house’ should be avoided at all costs.

I read several years ago that ego is the source of all emotional pain, and that sentiment resonates with me.   I’m happy to report that my ego receives a  daily spanking. 

Spanked by speaking Swahili, teaching music, singing in choir, dancing, drumming, shopping, driving, navigating (or lack thereof).  Of course, sticking out like a florescent beacon tends to amplify any acuteness. 

Daris :  “Pencils at the ‘Ready!’” (class giggles).    “A recitative is musically heightened speech frequently employed in operas or oratorios in order to indicate the emotional state of the character.”
Student One:  “Madam, please repeat that slowly.  Can you write it on the board, please?”
Student Two:  “What is hootened?”
Daris:  “Can you repeat the question?”
Student Two: “What is musically hootened?”
Daris: “Ohhhh, Musically heightened?  It is….”
Student Three:  “What is an opera?”
Daris: “Opera is a union of music, drama, costumes and scenery; basically a staged production with singers, orchestra, chorus all in a dramatic setting.
Student Two:  “Yes, Madam.  What is drama and scenery?”
Et al.

So, it was obvious that they  needed to see examples of  western opera.  I bring a few Youtube clips and everyone gathers around my laptop. Orfeo, Don Giovanni, and then finish with a humorous, action-packed excerpt from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel at the Metropolitan Opera (click here). 
 But first, to explain the children’s fairy tale.   My  excitedly cheerful rendition was met with horrified looks.  Hansel and Gretel was nothing less than a true story to them.  I vainly attempted to explain there’s nothing true about it, at least by the people who wrote it and watch it, but to no avail.  They are really confused by western preoccupation with the grisly stories their lives actually resemble.    

Daris:  “Ok, moving right along….(sigh)…  Vivaldi, the red-headed priest, wrote   hundreds of baroque solo concertos (safe ground, right?).  Take for instance… The Seasons…….(voice dwindling off as I realize there are no seasons here).  Ummmm…we’ll focus on the “Spring Concerto” since spring springs eternal and there’s no such thing a winter, fall and.... (trailing off...).”  
Shwwww….tough crowd.

Computer assistance:
Daris:  “Now, when you go to the computer lab, look for this browser icon and click on it.”
Student one: “Madam, what is a click?”
Daris: “Ummmm….the mouse has a button…..”
Student One:  “Madam, a mouse? (you can see where this one is going)..  Madam, (handing me a beautifully handwritten paper) but here is my paper.  How do I submit this to the website?”
Daris: “Ummmm…..”

Of course, within one year all the students are addicted to Facebook and Youtube just like the ones back home.  It’s impressive how far these students come in just 10 months of University study. 

Civil Unrest
The kids and I were shopping downtown when we saw people assembling and screaming over loud speakers.  Since Tanzania is generally peaceful, but only 7 seconds away from mob rule, we turned and proceeded briskly into a small alley with lots of little shops (i.e. hiding places).  The kids, oblivious to any circumstances, complained about being dragged away and about me squeezing their arms too tight.   Of course, they also complain when I yank them out from in front of busses. 
Tanzanians are tired of their ineffective government.  The opposition party usually protests peacefully, but if the riot police arrive—it’s a combustive reaction.    Luckily, nothing happened the day we were in town, but the week before three people were shot by police.  We avoid crowds. 

Concert Preparations:
"Ngoma" is the word for drumming and dancing, because you don’t have one without the other.   My quiet, demure students, clad in Sunday best, suddenly transform into wild dancers once the drums begin.  Even if I put on a grass skirt, it’s all I can do to keep up with them…and then I’m sore the next day ('spanked', again).  They perform ritual dances from their home ethnic groups, such as a harvest dance or a hunting celebration dance.  When we shyly asked one of the students if she had performed this in actual celebration—we might as well have asked, “Do you breathe air?”    They grow up dancing, singing, or even more living these songs.    Even so, I understand so little.  

I visited Tengeru market.  Think Christmas shopping mayhem crossed with street carnival, Goodwill Sale and then throw in a bunch of carnies, criers and pickpockets for good measure.   Only one attempt was made to empty my pockets of their contents and I shook my finger while yelling at the guy like he was a very bad dog.  Everyone around laughed. 
Toy Isle of Tengeru Market


More Shoes

Pillows, linens.




 Photos thanks to Gabby, who got yanked around and yelled at for taking photos.  We saw one pickpocket running from his victim.  Several people commented that if he is caught, he'll be beat to a pulp if he's lucky and hopefully escape the more gruesome punishments.   It was quite an adventure. My students applauded me when I told them I went to the market for the first time. 

On the opposite end of this philosophical  spectrum, we visited a very peaceful service at a Sikh Temple.  The music was beautiful, as were the ladies’ elegant Indian fashions.   The free breakfast afterwards was not bad either.  Sikhism appears to be one of the most inclusive, welcoming religions with no evangelism.  One works to escape anger, lust, greed, attachment and ego (does spanking count as escaping?) to achieve a union with god.    There are temples that offer 24 hour free food to anyone who is hungry.  For more on Sikhism click here. 

Daryl is in heaven:
Daryl and Betti
Betti used to be scared of Daryl (or anyone with white skin), but Betti's mom told Daryl to come daily to eliminate the baby's fear.   Seems to have worked.   

Random acts of music:  this is a real clip of Ghana postal workers cancelling stamps.  You'll hear (nothing to see) why Africa is so delicious for musicians.  Click here. 

"Egoism is the aesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity."  Coach Frank Leahy of Notre Dame
"Deny Self for Self's sake."  Benjamin Franklin
"Egoism is an alphabet full of one letter."  Scottish Proverb

Lulled into a false sense of competence and happy to be abused of my notions,

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