Friday, February 14, 2020

Sauntering Around Singapore

Tonight I have the dubious pleasure of spending 14-plus hours in an airplane seat, so I thought it best to get this body moving today. Began with a swim in the hotel pool and then off for an aimless saunter through Singapore, heading down to the Marina where the Singapore Flyer and strange gardens and such are. My New Orleans hat on my head, my Cuban shirt on my back, my Michigan shorts, Spanish sandals, all my various selves joined together. (I usually bring my "man’s purse" that traveled around the world with me in 1978 and still is my companion. But today I thought about traveling lighter and seeing what it might be like to go off without a book or Crostic puzzle and such. Just walk and think my own strange thoughts. It was enough. 

The sun was out more than my skin would have liked, but in-between bouts of genuine summer heat, there were some cool breezes. As happens when we travel, certain sights spark off memories of other travels. Some things reminded me of the Sydney Opera House, some of Spain (the heat), some snippets of San Francisco at the water’s edge, some sense of Salzburg feeling the echo of satisfying teaching. The convergence of Singapore, Sydney, San Francisco, Salzburg, Spain both a tangible trip through triumphant travels and a pleasing alliterative connection. 

Singapore is immaculately manicured and though it’s partly because of its Disneyland-like artificial simulation (man-made sculptures imitating trees), it sure is a refreshing change from the constant garbage on the street in San Francisco. And today on the way back, I took my third foray into the underground MRT that rivals Tokyo and puts San Francisco’s MUNI to shame. If you just miss one train (as I did), not to worry, the next will arrive probably within 2 to 5 minutes. If you miss the N-Judah in old San Fran, chances are you will wait between 15 and 30 minutes. If you’re lucky. The trains are clean and the signs announcing their arrival even color-code the cars to show whether they’re relatively empty (green), full (red) or in-between (orange). How cool is that?

Yesterday, I talking to the students in my course about jazz as the gumbo mix of the meeting of diverse cultures, naming how that happened in New Orleans and New York. I went on to note the richness when the Moors, Jews and Catholics mixed in 15thcentury Spain (before Trump-like Ferdinand deported 2/3rds of the mix), noted the other rich musical mixtures (though horrendous political injustices) when Portugal met West Africa (Brazilian samba and beyond), Spain met West Africa (Cuban son and beyond). And then acknowledged that there was another rich mix right here in Singapore—Chinese, Malay, South Indian and European/American. But one can’t predict precisely how cultures mix. From my limited vantage point, most are keeping to their own, equally with restaurants, festivals and music. But what do I know? Maybe there’s some cool fusion groups doing kung-fu dances with Indian drums and singing Malay lyrics. 

I did a little research dipping back into my travel schedules and discovered that I’ve been here to teach seven times—2020/19/17/16/15/11/08. And came here for the first time (to a quite different city!) in 1979. So it seems indeed that there is some karmic thread linking me to here, as it has to other places I’ve kept returning to to teach—certainly the Spain, Salzburg, Sydney link, as well as Scotland, Sao Paolo and out of the S’s to Tokyo, Turkey, Finland, Italy, Canada, Ghana, China and more. A great pleasure to get to know a bit of these (and other) places while also sharing work that seems to be needed and enthusiastically received. Maybe I should start a Blog called “Confessions of a Traveling Music Teacher” and talk about that! Ha ha!

For now, it’s back to the pool.

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