There’s no Place Like Home

A couple weeks ago, I took a largish group of high school students to Kenya for a choir festival. Wait … this sounds familiar … wasn’t it India? True, I did recently get back from a choir festival in India. That trip was a small group of middle school students heading to AMIS. This trip was a big group of high school students heading to ISSEA. Different kids, different organizations, different hosts – and only three weeks apart. In and around both trips, of course, was the run of doctors appointments and scans and blood work, etc. Not to mention kicking off rehearsals for the middle school musical, and … oh yeah, my regular classes. As I had expected, February was a bit of a tornado; but more on tornadoes in a bit. Back to Kenya.

It had been two years since I had been back to Kenya. Though a very short trip, it was sweet. The sights and the smells, the spaces and faces, were so comfortably familiar that it felt like going home for four days. (Except, I was in a hotel … weird to stay in a hotel two blocks from my old apartment.) The kids of course had fun at the festival, and most of my time was spent supporting my colleagues in making that a meaningful and successful experience. Even so, I managed to carve out time to connect with a handful of old friends. My only sadness is that there were so many dear ones I didn’t get to see at all. Hopefully I will get to make another trip before two more years melt away.

I have been back in the City of Gold (Joburg) for two weeks now. Ironically, the world is greener here than in the Green City in the Sun (Nairobi).  During the trip, I was shocked at how dust heavy and wilted the flora appeared in Nairobi.  It reminded me of the drought back in 2009.  Apparently Cape Town is not the only parched place right now.

Speaking of green cities … we are now full swing into rehearsals for the musical, The Wiz! (A jazzy version of The Wizard of Oz.) Our amazing MS drama director has a unique vision for the show: we are keeping all the text and almost all of the music the same, but setting the land of Oz in South Africa.  In the same way that the writers of The Wiz reframed the older story using African-American idioms, we are taking this jazzed version and adding a sort of ‘third frame’ to the picture by embedding South African cultural references in the dances, costumes, and set design. (So many fun parallels to draw.  Eg: this city was founded around gold mines so “follow the yellow brick road”; each of the four main characters represent different elements of historically disadvantaged South African society; the Wiz himself is a politician, all bluff and bluster until he’s outed; “jOZi” is even another nickname for Johannesurg!) Anyway, my role in the whole thing is to coach the soloists and teach the “pit singers” to sing in three-part jazz harmonies. It’s been good fun so far! The show goes up in early May, so we still have some time.

Yes, life is full. In all the bustle, people often ask me how I feel. They ask in that meaningful sort of way … not just “how are doing?” but “how are you DOING?” Thankfully, I feel good on the whole. If I didn’t know that I still have cancer, I wouldn’t know I still have cancer. However, three different doctors all agree that cancer is what I still have, so back to surgery I go. It is still scheduled for the 19th – a week from Monday. That is also the start of our March break so I will have two weeks to recover before that school tornado picks back up and begins to sweep us all towards the end of the school year. Though I am hoping and planning to be back up to speed by the end of the break, I am trying to put some tools in place for my students use in case I’m not quite ready in early April.  Which just means that this week is extra busy as I try to prepare for my own possible absence.  Oh to be replaceable!  😉

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