I’ve done the 4-hour trip from Accra to Dzodze some eight times now, but always in a bus filled with 25 to 50 excited students coming or departing from the Orff-Afrique course. Today I went in a private car with a driver who decided he would beat his previous record and pass all cars at breakneck speeds to get me there in three hours. And that he did. Actually, he clocked in about 2 hours and 40 minutes.
I passed the time looking out the window at a place that has come to mean so much to me. Unlike Salzburg or Bali or Kyoto, the charm is not visual. All small towns are somewhat alike with slapdash stores, street vendors with their baskets or walking with their wares on their head. The land is flat and occasionally attractive with dotted with acacia trees, wandering goats and termite mounds, but certainly not the dramatic landscapes (at least in this area of Ghana) with lush rainforests or mountains or flowing pastoral rivers.
But still it was lovely to look out at kids playing soccer, gathered at a small beach at the one river we crossed. Inside the car, Ghana pop and some imported reggae was playing and as Bob Marley sang, “Don’t worry about a thing. Everything’s gonna be all right,” I could almost believe it as we zipped through this lovely, in soul and spirit, land. Five white birds flocked together and that felt like a good sign.
Later, unbelievably, the radio played the O Fortuna to Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana as a precursor to a discussion about the soccer player Renaldo. Unbelievably because today happens to be Carl Orff’s birthday!! (Twilight Zone music here). He would have been 123 years old and amazingly enough, one of the posters in Dzodze announcing the burial of an elder named his age as 125!!! So theoretically it could have happened.
As we neared Accra, I saw some signs for Montessori Schools. I’d say the arrival of Montessori (a pedagogy begun in Italy) and Orff ( a pedagogy begun in Germany) in West Africa is a sign of a healthy cultural exchange, just as the arrival of djembes and xylophones inspired by Ghanaian gyils in Italy and Germany is a healthy sharing in the other direction. The International Body Music Festival folks, like the Orff-Afrique folks, represented many countries world-wide, with France, Quebec, England, Brazil, Colombia, South Africa, the U.S. in the former and Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Thailand, China, Australia, the U.S. in the latter. That’s a lot of cultural exchange flying back and forth and through the best vehicle—music and dance.
With four hours ahead at the airport, I had my last dish of jolof rice with a Malta drink for a while and watched the France vs Belgium World Cup game. There’s a cultural exchange, but at the end of the day, I’m always a bit sad for the team that lost. In this case, Belgium, who I was slightly favoring. Now am in the waiting area with 90 more minutes before my flight to Lisbon and connection to Madrid.
And so happy birthday to Carl Orff, the man who wove the threads that carried me here and to some 45 of the 60 countries I’ve visited. What would my life have been without him? What stroke of good fortune (with the O Fortuna soundtrack) led me to the people who opened door after door and helped me craft the vision that the world is ultimately good and benevolent and have a helluva good time with some marvelous people finding that out these past 30 years or so?
Talking with the folks, mostly strangers, at the Body Music Festival, I could feel some intrigue and interest in Orff (most had kind of heard of the approach, a few never had) and imagined more woven threads that may (or may not) impact their lives. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few eventually showed up at the training I direct and they would be most welcome! And then we could trace that moment to a casual little talk we had over jolof rice at the White Dove Hotel.
O Fortuna indeed. On to Spain!