One of my favorite movies as a child was “Around the World in 80 days” with English actor, David Niven and my favorite Mexican actor, Cantinflas. I remember thinking how cool it would be to travel to far and distant lands on a hot air balloon and experience the different cultures of our world. The movie plot is about Phileas Fogg, David Niven’s character, and his sidekick butler, Passepartout, played by Cantinflas, racing to circumvent the world in 80 days to win a bet. Hit with just about every absurd obstacle you can think of, they manage to pull it off all the while learning about each other and life’s unexpected twists and turns.
There’s an uncanny resemblance between these two characters and me and my kids at Meadowbrook. You see, I feel very much like Phileas Fogg –determined to get something done quickly, efficiently, and prove that I’m capable at succeeding at anything I set out to do. My kids on the other hand, are more like Passepartout – carefree, silly, and not the least bit concerned about time.
Like the characters in the movie we’ve traveled the world, so to speak, in a relatively short amount of time, met interesting people, and faced obstacles along the way. From South Africa, Russia, China and Bosnia, we’ve experienced many cultures, learned a lot about our new found friends and a lot about ourselves. Yes, we’ve come a long way in our long journey.
A visit from South African hip-hop artist, Monishia, was first on our list of travel adventures. As part of an International Fellows Mentoring Program, she came to observe our class at Meadowbrook. The kids and I performed a South African dance called Pata Pata and presented her handmade storybooks about our life in Seattle. Monishia in turn, talked about life in Cape Town and performed hip-hop lyrics about community and harmony…something we’ve been working on all year. It was great to see the kids enthralled, mesmerized and deep in conversation.
Next on the itinerary was a return visit to Bart Harvey Senior Center where we taught folk dances to the residents. Bosnian folksinger, Mary Sherhart, joined us and taught some Balkan folk dances as well. Interestingly, the senior residents present that day represented the countries of China, Russia, and India. While there were a few language barriers, conversations took place and all sorts of questions were flying in the air such as; “How do you say pink in Hindi?” and “What’s the word for thank you in Russian?” Which by the way is, gulabi and spasiba, respectively. Adding to the experience were the beautiful songs shared by the residents in their mother tongue — songs of their homeland, their childhood, and community.
A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. I get goosebumps just thinking about it!
So there it is, we’re back home having circumvented the globe in only two days. I’m still amazed, even as I write these words, at all that happened in that short amount of time. I came to Meadowbrook on a mission to help bring together and celebrate the unique cultural diversity of that community through world music. With all the difficult challenges I faced this year, I finally realized that the “mission” was not to unfold the way I envisioned. The kids had to experience these musical and cultural connections by themselves and in their own time — I merely served as a catalyst to the events. And like Phileas Fogg, I’ve returned from my travels with a new outlook in life. I’m reminded that life is not always on schedule and that life is way more fun when you just let go.