Well, hello, 2 a.m. Nice to see you again. I suspected we would meet after some 15 hours of plane travel with just two hours of sleep. A short nap in my Salzburg hotel, a forced walk out into the evening air to turn to sleep again at 10 pm and here we are. A full day of teaching ahead beginning at 8 a.m., but I suspected that we’d get together in the middle of the night. Nice to see you, oh constant friend of my jet-lagged mornings.
Luckily, I have things to do in which the wee hours of the morning are ideal. No distractions, nowhere else to go, a blessed quiet. A perfect time to add a new chapter to my book about the role of music in forming school community and how that vision was formed from that marvelous year of traveling around the world with my soon-to-be wife way back in 1978. A year that opened new vistas, new feelings, new foods, new musics and arts, new friends, new ideas for our school jobs awaiting our return and a name for our first daughter, Kerala. We were in search of new experiences, new adventures, new cultures, with particular attention to the arts in all its many manifestations. Our initial plan included a dip down to West Africa, based on a rumor of cheap flights from London that we never found and so we let that go for a later time—and indeed, traveled to Ghana as a family some 20 years later. Another initial thought was to visit the Orff Institut in Salzburg, but I think they never answered an inquiry letter I wrote and again, there would be many, many visits starting a mere 11 years later. But had I gone, I believe I might have actually been able to meet Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman, so there is some mild regret there.
But mostly it was an extraordinary, life-changing and indelibly memorable year. Harking back to that time, a time of little money, but comfort in living frugally, pre-e-mail so no pre-arranging of anything—bus tickets, accommodations, food—a few people we had written to that we knew we wanted to visit and a vague sense of itinerary and plans open to the next decision about where to go next and how long to stay there, I am so grateful that I learned to live and travel with faith that the world would provide (it did), that we could count on the help and kindness of strangers (we could), that the next needed experience would present itself if we were alert and paid attention (always). And ever yet more grateful that not a single place we went to had McDonalds or Starbucks or Wi-fi, that very few people spoke English (except in—well, England where we started—and later, India) and that we went an entire year without hardly ever looking at a screen except for one movie each in Athens, Bangkok, Singapore and one in a funky outdoor place in an Indian village. I believe only one hotel (in Bangkok) had a TV screen.
We called my wife’s parents exactly once during Christmas in India, trying to fill in expensive $3 a minutes silences and the rest of the time relied solely on American Express addresses and those blue folded aerograms and postcards to keep in touch with our folks and friends back a home. Those were the days of genuinely missing someone when you went away, but keeping them in your thoughts and heart and letting them know with slowly written descriptive letters.
So, 2 am, I never know what the conversation will be between us when we meet, but that’s enough for tonight. Probably see you again tomorrow, though perhaps at 3 am. Good night.