Friday, April 27, 2012

World Music, truly

A world in which a boy with a black African, Kenyan father and a caucasian American mother, who grows up in Indonesia, and later Hawaii, and who goes on against tremendous - some would say improbable - odds to become president of the United States is a world that is increasingly transcends national boundaries. Whether a Boeing plane with parts from twenty countries manufactured in five nations, or, say, genome research simultaneously advanced by a team spread across a dozen time zones, the mixing and matching of people and ideas is profound, permanent.

Especially in places like KAUST, with inhabitants literally from all around this oblate sphere we live on, heterogeneity is often the norm rather than the exception. This diversity was on full display yesterday at a delightful music recital for many of the campus's younger musicians. Practically each performer was a rainbow coalition. At one performance an English boy with a Sri Lankan mother was playing Sweet Home Alabama, a hit by a decidedly southern white American rock band. In another performance, an Indian girl was accompanied by her Chinese teacher while playing music composed during a cold German winter long ago. Mind you, all this was occurring on a compound in Saudi Arabia, a land not necessarily known for its music.

Music, indeed, helps guide the way in this blurring of national boundaries and stand-alone identities. When I ask my students what they listen to, their answers often span continents, centuries, and genres.  While they may not be listening to fusion music per se, their myriad musical tastes defy simple, convenient definition. The internet allows them to virtually experience much more diversity than in previous generations, and they seem comfortable in this tech panoply. If music is the most human of expressions - the art that can touch us most deeply - then it's safe to say that fundamental expressions of humanity are alive and well in many of youngsters here.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Trip to Colorado

We just got back a few days ago from a glorious trip to Colorado. We enjoyed sunny, summer-like weather in the 80s and cool, Colorado spring-like weather in the 40s which included sleet and snow. We had a chance to spend the weekend in Winter Park, skiing in the spring conditions - firm in the morning and slushy in the afternoon. I have never come quickly down a firm, almost icy, slope to soupy, slushy snow that makes you jerk along and almost come to a stop sometimes. Spring skiing! We saw teenagers skiing in shorts, tank tops, and bikini tops. I tried skiing in shorts once in college and got the worst scrape up my leg when I fell in the icy snow. We all have to try it out to learn, I suppose. We also got to take bike rides and run outside in the sunshine. Staying with my parents was relaxing. Good food. Many games of Ticket to Ride. Some shopping. Lots of time playing with their Shih Tzu, Lucy.

Lufthansa is a golden airline. The travel from door-to-door was about 24 hours, which is rather excessive for a week trip, but the airline made the travel smooth and easy. We had good service and even some decent food.

We did some shopping while in Denver. Both boys needed new shoes and some jeans. After all was said and done, we needed a new suitcase as well. With a one hour layover in Frankfurt, I was not sure our suitcases would make the transition. We traveled with carry-on bags only enroute to Denver to avoid the problem of missing bags, but on our return we could no longer manage that. After the nearly one hour wait in the Jeddah airport passport control line, we were so pleased to find our four suitcases just sliding onto the baggage claim carousel. Now we are home. Back to our classes. Nine weeks to go until we break for the summer...

Thanks for reading,