14 November 2011

Why am I here?

a picture I took of an oud this summer
before I knew what an oud was
I think it was a little over a year ago that I first learned that Ethnomusicology was a real thing, and something that I could learn.  At that point, I was fairly convinced that I was not going to go to graduate school, and that I was going to stay in Birmingham and try to be a freelance musician.  I was writing my undergraduate thesis, so of course I was fed up with school.  But the idea of ethnomusicology, and the idea of using music for missions, stuck with me, and grew...and thus a year later I find myself working toward an MA in Ethnomusicology.

I feel compelled to mention here that spell check does not even recognize ethnomusicology as a word.  That is because it is a pretentious sounding and made-up word.

I don't really know the details of how I got here, silly as that sounds; when people ask me "What brought you to Cardiff University?  What do you plan to do with that degree?" I feel much the same as when people would ask me "What brought you to Samford University?  What do you plan to do with that [history] degree?"  I could trace the sequence of causation, from one decision to the next, or I could just shrug and say "God only knows," because that's really the best answer I can give.  I could list all the billion ideas I've had for what I want to actually do with my life, or I could say God knows, because I don't.

I had this idea in my head that studying ethnomusicology was going to involve a lot of chilling around playing cool instruments from around the world.  That's not the case (Well, it is at UCLA, but I don't really regret not going there).  There's a lot of reading.  And writing.  And discussion.  And while those are three things that spent 4 years of undergrad honing, I get disillusioned sometimes.  The more academic jargon I swallow, the more people ask me "what are you going to do when you graduate?", the more it seems like all roads lead to PhD (which is not a place I want to be spending the rest of my 20s), the more I wonder what I'm doing here.

I've been asking that question for a couple weeks now.  God, why am I here?  What's the point of this?  I don't feel like I've made a mistake, but I can't see the purpose of it.

After writing two embarrassingly bad papers, I was Googling around with "ethnomusicology" "careers" and "missions."  That's when I stumbled across another pretentiously long word, ethnodoxology, and this quip about it.  Basically, ethnodoxology is ethnomusicology, but for worship music.  That quip led me to the International Council for Ethnodoxologists and, maybe even better, Heart Sounds International, which is a branch of Operation Mobilization that focuses specifically on worship music in other cultures.  I also found the blogs of people using ethnomusicology for missions.

Regardless of what I end up doing when I graduate (if I graduate, sheesh), finding out that there actually is a use for ethnomusicology in missions, that people are actually DOING it, is a huge encouragement.  Heart Sounds has a YouTube channel, on which you can watch recordings they've made of worship songs around the world.  Clicking around on the "related videos," you can find even more.  These videos make me so happy - watch them and try not to smile.

I have no idea where I will be a year from now.  I look forward to the unknown with the excitement of knowing that God's plan will be the best.  I know that what I am learning now can be used for his purposes.  I know that my being here in Cardiff can and will be used for his purposes.  I know it might be a long time before I know what those purposes exactly are, if ever.  I'm okay with that.  I can learn to wait patiently for the sovereign God who loves me.

08 November 2011

Weekends and obligatory procrastination

Two of my special skills are:

1) Not taking pictures.

2) Blogging when I should be writing a paper.

Therefore, today I will share with you nearly all of the pictures I took this weekend in Copenhagen, and probably end up ruminating philosophically for a couple of paragraphs before I finally feel so guilty that I stop blogging and go make coffee so I can think about writing my papers.

I'm tempted to think I must be really cool for going to Copenhagen NOT to be a tourist, but to visit my sister - because, I thought, I've been there and done that.  Copenhagen is old news.  Of course, once I was there I realized how little of the city I've actually seen.  I can't totally be blamed for this - my last two visits, it was covered in snow and well below freezing.  This visit was purely a relaxing with family visit, though, and I'm so glad for that.
These pictures are of the botanical gardens, which we walked through on our way from drinking coffee at an American-style pancake house to drink coffee at someone's house.  There are two primary ways I've noticed of dealing with the darkness in Denmark: 1, Drink Coffee.  2, Drink Alcohol.

For some reason, Blogger won't let me put pictures side-by-side.

In the course of a few days, I drank more coffee and beer and ate more chocolate than I have since...well, since the last time I was in Copenhagen!  Although the city is still primarily unfamiliar to me, it was nice to recognize some places, stay with my sister, and feel a little bit like I was experiencing a home-away-from-home, in a weird, everybody's-speaking-Danish kind of way.

Of course, like I mentioned earlier, I am terrible at remembering to take pictures, so, this is it.  I have no pictures of my sister & I, no pictures of the endless cups of coffee and the Christmas beer.  But we did plan a little for a warm-weather trip, because everyone keeps telling me that Denmark is so beautiful in the spring and summer.  We'll see.  It's a short trip over there - the longest part is the coach ride to London.

One final and important thing I learned from my weekend in Denmark is - I'm pretty sure my house is making me sick.  I've had a persistent cough since my second week in Wales, and while I did still cough in Denmark (bringing about lots of big-sisterly worry and affection), I didn't nearly as much as I do here, and then after having been home only a few hours my cough got worse again.  I woke up this morning feeling stuffier & sicker.  I have many complaints about this house, but now I know, it's definitely time to move.  Here's hoping all the houses in Wales aren't dusty and moldy.


I have to make an addendum to this post.  I regret to admit that I've lived most of my life oblivious to the greatness of John Coltrane.  That has changed.  Here's a video to rock your world:

02 November 2011