Wednesday, April 23, 2008

April 23, 2008

Sometimes the way real life comes together is much more phenomenal and inspiring than anything that could be made up in a book or movie. And strangely enough, sometimes less believable.

A few years ago I read an article in The Atlantic Monthly about Winton Marsalis. It said in a time when jazz was about to roll over and die (the early ‘80s), up rose this young talent who revived and resuscitated the music. The son of a New Orleans jazz pianist, Marsalis played trumpet with Art Blakey – one of last of the old guard of musicians from the ‘50s and ‘60s heyday. And then young Marsalis just took off from there. It’s amazing to think about: a brilliant young African American born to a family of musicians, raised in the birthplace of jazz, played the signature instrument of the music’s formative years, and was taught by one of the most respected teachers of his day. The article’s author said that if this were a movie script, the producers would’ve handed it back to the writers. Try again. A little too perfect.

But, of course, it’s a true story.

Most all of you know I grew up in Indiana. And when I was 27 I moved to Portland, Oregon, after spending a rough year and half riding a steep learning curve at a newspaper. In Portland I learned a new trade and much more about life in general. Blah, blah, blah.

Ten years later… I ended up moving to Indonesia to start a new career in teaching. Those of you keeping up know it has been pretty crazy year of trying to figure out which side is up for us. Just when we were getting a feel for Indonesia (kind of), Sarah and I have already done the job search for next year. And Radom, Poland will be the next home for this couple beginning in September. We will be teaching English there and pursuing a masters in education through a commuter program. The prospect of Europe is more exciting than we can put in a blog entry.

So. I’ve thought about this.

Starting points for me: Indiana and Indonesia. Next stops: Portland and Poland. Hm. It’s also interesting to note the countries’ flags. Both are half red and half white. Indonesia has the red stripe on top, Poland has white on top. (On a strange almost unrelated note, I’ve been listening to a lot of The White Stripes lately, a duo whose gimmick is to dress in red and white.) This all is cheesy in the Shakespearian or Greek theatrical coincidences. If this were a story, I’d never write anything so transparently “poetic.”

Now please don’t think I’m making a comparison between Mr. Marsalis and me. That’s not my intention at all. I’m saying it’s just funny how life can sometimes come together so neatly.

The characters I work with here in Makassar could not be found in any (good) book or movie either. Their racism, chauvinism, alcoholism, and psychological projections are just too obvious – too straight out of Psych 101 textbooks and AA literature. But as I know all too well, they’re waiting for me at work today. They’re real. And I’ll have to listen to them order Ballentine’s whiskey by the case (sometimes two at a time), listen to why things were better for Africa in the old colonial days, listen to patriotic recollections of the Faukland Islands conflict, and joke about how their Indonesian girlfriends will have to be quarantined with their pet Dalmation upon returning to Europe.

Yeah. It’s been a rough ride. But I can’t wait to find out what’s next.

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