Three countries in six weeks

The new year blew in with rapid-fire change, and it was March before I was home long enough to absorb it all. Within two weeks of getting back from New Zealand, I headed to Zimbabwe for a music festival with four of my band students.  When we got back from Harare, we had a day to repack before heading out on Intercultural Trips. Three weeks after breaking my tailbone on the IC Trip, I flew with six kids to Oman for the annual choir festival.  Two weeks after that, it was time for “Spring Break” – a restful visit to my cousins in Ethiopia.

Running through all of these travels was a deeper current of change – one that would eventually carry me out of Kenya.  In January, I was accepted to a Masters program at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).  The sabbatical opportunity that I had applied for through the school fell through, and I decided to resign my position and accept the graduate school offer.  By March, it was clear that I would be moving to London at the end of the summer.  In the meantime, I would enjoy the moments – the friends, classes, students, travels, experiences, family – and all the simple joys of being in a place called ‘home’.

ZIMBABWE BAND FESTIVAL
January 22 – 26, 2014

The layers of change and new experiences this year included a new teaching experience.  When the school admin decided to change the schedule, I had to give up my middle school choir in exchange for the high school band … and what an adventure that was.  The highlight of the experience came in January when I got to take four kids to the first-ever band festival in our international-school league.  The kids had fun of course, but I had a great time.  I led sectional rehearsals, participated in workshops, and learned how to play the Mbira (African thumb piano).  I even got to conduct a piece on the final concert.  You can spot me in the last third of this video.

OMAN CHOIR FESTIVAL
February 27 – March 1, 2014

This year’s choir festival was special.  The music side of it is always wonderful and the kids have an amazing, transformative experience every year – this year was no different.  They worked hard, learned a lot, made beautiful music on the final concert, and generally made me proud.  The extra-special part of the weekend, however, was the hike and swim through the Wadi Shaab.  This was the first time I took a group sight-seeing outside of the city.  In a word – spectacular.  I put together a video of the whole weekend so I’ll let that say the rest.

ETHIOPIA SPRING BREAK
March 8 – 14, 2014

My cousin Travis and his wife Emily recently moved to Ethiopia with their baby daughter Clare.  It was a delight to spend my March break resting in their home.  It was also my first time to Ethiopia.  Discovering a new country is best when you have fun, familiar residents to show you around.  We ate a lot of Ethiopian food, explored Addis Ababa, drove out to a gorge for some hiking, weathered a bout of food poisoning, and generally enjoyed each others company.  My friend Jeannine and I took an overnight side-trip up to Lalibela – a site that has been on my travel “To Do” list since I was fifteen.

Travis with Clare.  Why I didn’t get a family picture … I don’t know.  Clare was the happiest 6-month old I had ever met.
Inside one of the Lalibela churches.

The churches at Lalibela are all carved down into the rock.  They are single pieces of stone that have been excavated rather than built.  Many of the churches are connected by underground tunnels and narrow alleys.

This is one of the better-preserved free-standing churches.  You can see though how 1000+ years of rain have worn down the top level.  Now that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there is a shelter to protect it from the sun and rain.

Many of the churches have very simple interiors.  Some however have intricate carvings on the pillars and doorways.

The Church of Saint George is one of the most iconic buildings in the area.  It looks a lot bigger than it is – especially from the outside.  In order to maintain its structural integrity, the walls have to be thick, so the inside is remarkably small.

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