Monday, February 8, 2010

Thoughts from afar

Rediscovering old music is almost as good as discovering new music. Old is a relative word; by old I mean something that I know well and have listened to many times before. New is relative in a similar manner, here it means new to me.

Two albums as examples: The Score by The Fugees. I got the Score from Allan some years ago by copying the CD onto my computer. It is an amazing CD and a very important one in many people's lives, mine included. When discussing musical tastes last week with Alex, a senior and fellow BU Rabat student, the Score came up. We were talking about its merits, and she and I both produced some lyrics on the spot. That night in my room I listened to the whole thing while reading and writing in my journal. I had forgotten how good it really is. Hence the pleasures of rediscoverng old music.

The second example is Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen. I have had Bruce's Greatest Hits CD since about 6th grade I think (it was a birthday present, along with Bob Dylan's Hard Rain). A couple of years ago I got We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions; by that I mean I copied the disc that was a present to my Mom (I think). Two very different sounds on those two CDs, and both confirm he is the Boss, no question. But neither are mainstays of everyday listening for me. Nebraska might prove to be a different story.

I copied it onto my computer before leaving for Rabat; it was a christmas present to Papa. I picture him as a young and vulnerable Bruce singing his heart out on a lonely front porch in the middle of nowhere. It really gets to me, especially my father's house. Allan, Papa, and I have a special history with that song, but I only knew the cover by Ben Harper (incidentally very good). Ok, well wikipedia tells me the album is Bruce's sixth, released in 1982, so he was not very young. But if you listen to it, you will understand what I mean. A 'new' album that has acquired symbolic significance because I have become attached to it in a place far from the one I call home.

Today is monday, and I am engaged in that most venerable of age old college past times, and apparently one that is harder to leave behind than loved ones. I speak of procrastination of course. I should be reading for my biweekly class, Constructing Gender in North Africa: Women, Islam and Politics, which I have Tuesday and Friday mornings. It is a very interesting class and it has showed how woefully ignorant I was of the place of women in the Islamic world. We are currently reading chapters from a book by Assia Djebar entitled, Women of Algiers in Their Apartment.

Ok woeful ignorance is an exaggeration. Before this semester, I have had little contact with any Muslim women (or men for that matter), nor have I studied any of these issues at BU or before. Ignorance yes, but lamenting that ignorance is neither justified nor constructive. Better to put energy into becoming more knowledgeable about the subject, which is exactly what I am doing. Or will be doing soon when I continue to read the chapters.

It seems to me that lamenting a situation one cannot influence is never very constructive. Instead it is better to take action to rectify a situation that one has deemed in their mind to merit lament. Holding regrets has also never made sense to me. What is done is done, the past is the past. Even if you could travel back in time to change things, would you? I would not. We can learn from the past, we can use things that have happened to inform the decisions we will make. The aphorism (maybe that is the wrong word, ok, the phrase) don't cry over split milk is applicable and will always be so in my opinion.

Take the situation of my study abroad plans for the West African country whose name begins with the letter N (it is not Nigeria). It was very disappointing to hear that my program was canceled, and I lamented the fact at the time. But would it have benefited me to wallow in self-pity, despair induced by a situation out of my sphere of influence? Not one bit. I cut my losses, spent some time thinking, and decided to come to Rabat instead.

I have thought about how things would be different if the US state department had not issued that travel alert, or if BU had been less concerned about potential concerns for the safety of its students. Bu those thoughts do not wear a cloak of regret or a veil of sadness. It is merely speculation about the what if?s in life, a kind of speculation that has a small place in my life. I cannot help but wonder about things.

What if I had gone to the local school in Ouagadougou, taught in french, instead of the english-speaking International School of Ouagadougou? What if I had gone to UVM instead of BU, or had been accepted to one of the schools that instead placed me on their wait-lists? What if I had never started working at Camp Roatry??? (that's a big one, as some of you know.) The point is that the course of my life has taken many twists and turns to get me here, to this very moment typing in the basement of the library annex of the Center for Cross Cultural Learning in the capital city of Morocco, Rabat, on the continent of Africa. I cant help but analyze some of those turns in my mind sometimes, but in the end I always remain confident of the decisions that I have made. I hope you are all able to sit for a moment and think about the many twisting roads and criss-crossing paths that you have traveled in order to reach this exact moment in your lives.

Speaking of exact moments, ever think about the fact that the present does not exist. We can speak definitively of the past, of events and people and moments in time that have passed behind us and will never exist again. We can also think about what is to come, the experiences we will have in the future and what choices we will make. But as soon as you try to put your finger on the exact moment that you are experiencing right now it is gone. It has already rushed past you, and you will never be able to get it back. There is no such thing as the present!

I dont write these thoughts with the intention of making anyone sad or to cause worry. Just some of the thoughts spouting from this head of mine here in Morocco. The idea of the present not existing I have thought about before this semester. But my history professor brought it up the first day of class when he was introducing his flexible, liberal, 'coffee culture' style of teaching and learning that he apparently fell in love with while studying at UC Santa Cruz. He is my favorite professor here and seems like a really intelligent and interesting person. Anyways he mentioned that idea and cited a French philosopher whose name I wrote in my notebook somewhere. We are studying the history of North Africa, with Morocco as the focus. He stresses the importance of historiography (the study of how history is written) and epistemology (the study of how knowledge is produced) for understanding history. What is forgotten is as important as what is written. It should be a great class.

Ok time to head home for lunch. Hammam tonight, get excited for me! After that a lovely skype chat with my dear Jill. Ooh and part of lunch is taktooka, a saute of fire-roasted peppers, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and spices (including cumin!). It comes out looking like a sauce I would normally put on pasta, but we eat it from a plate with bread. It is tasty mmm smoky and slightly spicy. I will get the recipe from Farida, dont you all fret, and I will be preparing it with her the next time.

love and hugs and kisses from Rabat.

1 comment:

  1. yeah maybe not exactly a young bruce, although he's only 33 when that came out. and he recorded it in his bedroom on a tape recorder as a demo for a later album. it really is amazing that all that came out of one person's head.
    i like what you said about rediscovering old music

    the taktooka sounds great

    brother bear