Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Music You Don't Understand

Recently, a friend of mine caved in to social pressures and joined Facebook. (It is inevitable. Resistance is Futile. One cannot help but be assimilated into the Zuckerborg.) Excited to show my friend all the fun ways Facebook is useful in sharing interesting articles and things, I posted a video for one of my favorite songs by Amadou and Mariam on her facebook page.

Now, Amadou and Mariam are from Mali and most all of their songs are not in English. Many are in French, but many are also in languages from the Sahelian region of West Africa. After I posted the video, another friend commented and asked "How on earth can you love a song you can't understand?" She then said (tongue-in-cheek) that they could be making fun of folks from Mississippi and we wouldn't even know it.

This got me to thinking. It is true that I really have no idea what Amadou and Mariam sing about. In fact, I have no idea what all the international musicians for whom I have music are singing about (and I have a lot- I have somewhere between 60-70 non-English speaking albums). I assume they are singing about the same stuff other people sing about: love, loss, joy, sorrow, life, death, anger, peace.

This got me thinking about another topic that has passed through my mind over the years. I have A LOT of African artists in my collection, many of whom come from predominantly Muslim countries. I also really like Middle Eastern music a lot. I am QUITE certain that I have plenty of music in my collection that are praise songs. Those would be praise songs to Allah and probably Mohammed. In my Indian music collection, I'm sure I have songs that are praise songs to Hindu deities.

So here's my thought, followed by a question about which I would love to hear people's thoughts: I know people that are Christians and they ONLY really listen to Christian music (or really only read Christian books, watch Christian movies, etc). They do this for any reasons, but I assume it is mostly to express their faith in God. So here's the question: As a Christian (which I am) should I be listening to music that is celebrating a faith I do not practice? Again, I cannot understand most all of what is being said, so I don't know the content of the lyrics. So for instance, if I know an artist is Muslim, don't understand the words, but can clearly see the title of the song is something about "Allah" should I listen to it? On some level, is listening to this music indirectly participating in worship of belief I do not hold?

And back to the original thought, how can you love music that you cannot even understand? Please share.

I would love to hear people's thoughts on either of these questions. I have my own opinion but I'll hold off sharing because I would really like to get other people's thoughts on this (though you can likely glean my opinion from the fact that I own 60-70 non-English speaking albums representing many faiths).

Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Reids Are Moving (For Certain) to Africa (Probably)

This is a modified repost from a facebook note I posted before.

Big news to share: Katie and I have officially been invited to become missioners with the Maryknoll Lay Missioner program. In January 2012 we'll be heading to either Tanzania or Kenya for a 3 1/2 year service commitment! The exact type of work we'll be doing is yet to be determined, but we'll know our country of placement by June 13th. I'll be working at USC until August 26th. We'll start training with MKLM on September 25th. And we'll ship out to our new home in January 2012!

So, not surprisingly, announcing that we’re not just moving but moving to AFRICA has resulted in people having a lot of questions for us. I have prepared this list of frequently asked questions to hopefully provide people answers to most of the questions people may have.

1. Moving to Africa? Why?

I should start with a disclaimer. TECHNICALLY, we are not guaranteed a placement in Africa. Maryknoll's place people in six countries: Tanzania, Kenya, Brazil, Bolivia, El Salvador, and Cambodia. We have requested an African placement because this has been a long-time dream of ours to live in Africa. But honestly, we would be happy with a placement in any of the countries. Each country has very cool work, so we'd be good with any of the placement. We'll know where we're going by June 13th.

So back to our plans for Africa: The original plan was to go abroad in 2006. We even applied for Peace Corps and several other programs, but my father’s cancer waylaid those plans. So we’ve been working toward this for years. As for why we’re moving to Africa, this one is a bit more difficult to answer. Katie and I have been fascinated by the continent for years and years. We even visited Tanzania and Kenya in 2006. I can speak a little Swahili, we’ve both tutored Somali Bantu refugees, and I helped found the Pan-African Student Association at USC. We just dig the place, man. We want to go have a substantial overseas experience, and the work that Maryknoll Lay Missioners (MKLM) does is awesome, so we are ecstatic to be a part of this organization and its mission of working among poor communities around the world.

2. Seriously, Bro. You’re talking about moving to Africa. Are y’all crazy?

Nope. Africa and Africans are awesome. It won't be easy, but we're up for the challenge.

3. Are you both going?

Yes. We are married and enjoy each other’s company. Therefore we have decided to move together. But seriously, this isn’t something tat one of us wants to do and the other is just going along with it; we’re both really excited about this move.

4. Why not stay here? There are plenty of problems here in the US.

True. But we want to live in Africa, so we’re moving there. Simple! Also, I’ve been teaching a class on International Social Work, and all my relevant experience is domestic work with internationals here in the States. I’ve talked the talk; now it’s time to walk the walk.

5. Will it be dangerous?

Most likely not. While I cannot tell the future, both Tanzania and Kenya are relatively peaceful (especially Tanzania). We do not foresee any issues, but it is a risk we have discussed and are willing to take.

6. What are Maryknoll Lay Missioners?

Here’s bit from the MKLM website:

“…We are a lay Catholic community called through baptism to witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, crossing boundaries of culture, nationality and faith to join our lives with impoverished and oppressed peoples of the earth. With them, we discern the presence of God’s Spirit in all creation and in the world’s many cultures and religions, and work toward human liberation and inter-religious dialogue in Africa, Asia and the Americas.

…We strive together for justice, peace and fullness of life, and so our ministries are offered in response to the needs of the people with whom we live and work, and with respect for the integrity of all creation.

…We challenge unjust structures and systems, seeking transformation of the very powers that create and benefit from the marginalization of communities, and we commit to becoming a dynamic anti-racist organization that reflects the ethnic and cultural richness of the US Catholic Church and the world in this millennium.”

A great organization. Pretty badass, actually. Learn more at their website: http://www.mklaymissioners.org/

7. What is the timeline for your move?

We will find out our country placement in June. Out pre-departure orientation and training takes place in Ossining, NY, and occurs mid-September through mid-December. We’ll leave early January 2012 for our placement and be abroad for 3 ½ years, with the option to stay longer if we so choose. We’ll both remain at our jobs into the summer. Not really sure at this point exactly when our last day will be. We’re working that out right now.

8. What will you be doing?

Well, we don’t actually know that yet. But we do know we’ll be using our Social Work training to work in marginalized and poverty-stricken communities most likely around either health or educational initiatives. When we arrive in our country of placement, we’ll first be put into an intensive language program to learn Swahili. While this is happening, we’ll be visiting prospective work sites to determine the best placement. It will be a “mutual discernment” to find the balance between our interests and the needs of the organization and community. It’s a bit nerve-wracking to move to the other side of the world without a clear idea of what we’ll be doing, but I have faith that the placement process will ultimately find a very good fit for our talents and interests.

9. Are you getting paid?

Yes. Not a lot, but enough to live on. We’ll also have a retirement fund and insurance.

10. What are you doing with the house? What about your stuff?

We hope to sell it. If we cannot, we will rent it. We’ll be keeping certain sentimental pieces of furniture and odds and ends, but largely we will divest ourselves of most of what we own. I think it will be difficult, then liberating.

11. What about the cats and the bees?

One beehive will be relocated to City Roots, the CSA just up the road from our house. The other will be sold. As for the cats- well, that’s the toughest part of the move, I think. I LOVE our cats. Luckily, they will both be moving into a new home with our friends Travis and Julia sometime in April.

12. What does this mean for being Foster Parents?

It means it will not happen at this point in our lives. The fostering process was actually very frustrating, but that’s an issue for another post. We knew when we applied for MKLM that we would only be fostering a little while; however, we never got a placement that worked out. The fostering approval process took much longer than anticipated, and the MKLM approval happened quicker than we thought, so the timing didn’t gel. We’re sad fostering didn’t work out, but we’re thrilled to be going overseas. We’ll have other opportunities down the road to start a family.

13. Can you come back to the US at any point in the 3 1/2 years?

Yes, we can, and we very well might. However, the costs of a trip home are quite high, so timing and cost will determine whether we can actually make a trip home.

14. Can people visit you while you’re over there?

Absolutely. It’s encouraged, actually, so folks can see for themselves the work that MKLM are doing. In fact, there are a few of you from whom I EXPECT a visit. It will be an amazing vacation- life changing!

15. Do we need to do fundraising before we go?

No; MKLM has funding available to send missioners. However, the organization can always use support, so from time to time you may be receiving information from us about ways you could help support our work. If you are able to help support us, it would be appreciated.

16. Are you giving away any of your CDs?

Ha HA. No (well, at least not MOST of them).