25 June 2012

Fresh Coffee and Drums

On Saturday I went to a Refugee/Asylum Seeker event at St. Fagan's open-air museum.  I admit I hadn't given much thought to the situation of refugees until I met some a few months ago, and now it's something I increasingly care about.  I also love the warm, vibrant cultures that many of these refugees come from; it stands out brightly against what can sometimes be a rather dreary context here in rainy Wales (sorry, Welsh friends - I do love Wales.  It's just awfully cold and gray, and a bit formal sometimes).  Saturday was intermittently rainy and characteristically overcast, but St. Fagan's was a lush green and the tent that housed the event was filled with the nutty smell of roasting coffee beans as Almas performed the traditional Eritrean coffee ceremony - washing, roasting, and grinding the beans before finally brewing and serving the thick, sweet coffee.

Modernity means camp stoves and electric grinders

 We stood outside the museum for a while as Max from Liberia played drums, inviting passers-by to give it a try and encouraging them to come by the tent later.  As numbers lagged, we each sat down in turn and tried to drum along.  Max showed me harder and harder rhythms but I kept up ok, though I can't seem to get a very loud "boom" out of the center of the drum head; he told me I needed to cup my hand and that helped a little bit.  "You're good," he said, "Do you want to play again with me later?"  
Can I just tell you now that drumming is ridiculously fun?  Naturally I said yes.  I've tried to play a djembe before but never really grasped it like this before, and I was itching to play more even though my hands ached already.
Back in the tent, a Zimbabwean refugee animatedly told the crowd stories from his childhood, and a Sudanese man sang two hauntingly lovely songs in Arabic, a capella.  Then they called Max up to the front to perform- there were maybe 40 people gathered to watch, I guess, I'm bad at numbers so I could be really off - and he said to me, "Come on - you're playing with me, right?"
So he announced me as his drum assistant and we played together, me on one drum and Max on two.

It was a long day, cool and rainy, but warm and filling nonetheless.  I got to observe most of the time, which is what I really love doing, but I was pushed out of my comfort zone in many ways (not just by impromptu drumming), with delightful results, and made a few lovely new friends.  Also, the food and coffee was delicious.

22 June 2012

Any minute now...

I'm sure you know the song "Down Under" by Men at Work..."Do you come from a land down under?  Where women glow and men plunder?"  Well, this post is not about that song - even though it's a great song.  Naw, Men at Work frontman Colin Hay does acoustic albums now, which I discovered several years ago.  One of the most memorable is "Waiting for My Real Life to Begin". (YouTube it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cvrzqcfv9mY)

Any minute now, my ship is coming in
I'll keep checking the horizon
And I'll stand on the bow

When I awoke today, suddenly nothing happened
But in my dreams I slew the dragon
And down this beaten path
And up this cobbled lane
I'm walking in my own steps once again.

Don't you understand?
I already have a plan
I'm waiting for my real life to begin.

I admit that, against my better judgment, contrary to the knowledge of the things I know to be true, I have lived long periods of my life with this mindset.  That someday soon, next month, six months from now, next year, "real life" will finally begin.  Like I'm waiting for something.  Like I'm just in the first chapter of the book of my life and we're just trying to get all the back story out of the way.
I know that this is a shallow, lazy, and unfaithful mindset, yet I continue to come back to it.  I think Paul hits the nail on the hammer when he says in Romans 7: "For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate...For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out."  That's not an excuse, though - just an acknowledgement that I can do very little, if anything at all, without God's help.  Even now, I am planning and waiting and regarding my present time as just something to "finish up" before the next stage of life, instead of fully embracing the time here as purposeful and God-given.  That's how I regarded last summer, how I regarded the last couple years of college, last two years of high school, etc.  
This post is not going to have a neat, self-revelatory, problem-solving ending.  It's merely a confession.  Maybe you can empathize with it.
In a few months, I will be moving back to the US.  I don't expect that my "real life" will begin then.  It's happening now, and I'm missing it because I'm dreaming about slaying dragons.  (Not literally, I haven't dreamed about dragons in a while...)  
Life is not a dream, and dragons are real.  They just don't always look like dragons.

These Are The Creatures In My Neighborhood