Friday, December 16, 2011

Balancing Sotuba Camp with a Metronome

Until I was able to pick up a trumpet in 5th grade, I loved playing the piano. Never too fond of the houses/classrooms I took lessons in, I did enjoy the feel of the long, slender keys and the beautiful sounds that human hands could make. To this day, I relish in musical interludes when a piano solo balances out a good beat. I'd also say that other than hearing two or three people weave their voices together, or hearing a great percussion solo, hearing a piano hits a special chord (no pun intended).

A custom-engraved bracelet from a silversmith in Tombouctou (Timbuktu)!
Being in my host family's house here in the Sotuba area of Bamako produces a lot of feelings that bring me back to my younger years. I had a great upbringing with 99.9% positive memories, but the feeling of mixed sadness and anticipation of being left at a Lutheran bible summer camp when we were about eleven years old is one that I recalled recently, here in Bamako. Back then, I knew deep down it'd be fine in the end, and that I might even enjoy it at times. I really did. But I was never one for programs or what felt like dorky group things were being forced on me.

A few other examples of this feeling...

1) Talahi Elementary's after school "KidStop" program. I know for a fact I went on only one occasion. I cried the entire time. They had to bring me outside in the cold, drizzling rain to watch my brother play flag football instead of cut out an owl in the cafeteria.

2) Daycare - Also a one time event. I was younger, probably 7 or 8. We went about six houses down, at Beckman's. I walked in circles around the play area watching toddlers play and cry, not engaging with anyone. As soon as my mom got there, she knew it wasn't our thing.

3) Anything that involved trying to be insta-friends with a bands of kids who knew the world of uncomfortable socializing all too well. ie: Ringette: a "new sport" that was like hockey for girls, except without hockey sticks and pucks, you had a ring thing and a pole with a round end on it that shuffled the ring around ice. Haven't heard of it? Most haven't. It was season one, and season end.

Here in Bamako, I get these feelings every Sunday night when I'm dropped off here. Does this make me anti-social? Introverted? Maybe both. I try really hard to be upbeat in my role as an English tutor, so maybe it's the pressure of this new role along with being a foreigner where my actions are observed and many times, questioned.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, I feel a strange sense of calm when I'm in my bedroom here. It's a simple set up, with a bed, chair, armoire, nightstands, an exercise ball and a bathroom connected. Lovely, right? I think so. When I first moved in, Laura told me that the air conditioning is not to be used during daylight hours since there isn't enough electricity for the kitchen. The a/c can be used for sleeping at night. Daytime hours use ceiling fans that are set up in most rooms. Completely used to the heat while living in my uptown, non-air conditioned apartment this past summer, I have no problem with this.

The ceiling fan in my room acts as a metronome. Supposedly, it was poorly installed. After the initial danger of it spinning off completely and landing on my bed, I realized its just an imperfect install. And now, I'm in love with it's ability to drown out the shrieks, arguments, television theme songs, and the sound of large trucks that pass by every couple hours behind the house. Although I've been told it is obnoxious during skype calls with family and friends, my Solstar fan metronome is the perfect rhythmic connection that brings my central Minnesota piano-playing past into the present, wherever that is.

Oh, and Christmas is in a week? I want snow, but I've heard it's not even white in Minnesota yet. Is that right? Maybe I'll watch Love Actually (thanks Liana!) while indulging in a few pieces of Phemie's lefse with brown sugar with Mia's biscotti.

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