Still no news about when I’ll be going back, though I’m hopeful it will be soon. Basically, the way medical leave works, from my understanding, is that you sit around, sit around, sit around, attend an appointment, sit around more, yada yada…. then PC tells you to get on a plane in 24 hours. So there’s no actual telling what will happen. But initial evals are done at least, so we can start planning.
It’s been interesting being back home. Also odd, because I constantly feel like I don’t belong here. My home and work are back in Africa right now. Of course, the fact that it’s been snowing here and in single digits (Fahrenheit) might have something to do with my newfound nostalgia.
It’s interesting coming back home and comparing it to South Africa. And I’ve found that I’ve become much more interested in exploring my own culture and its own folk traditions since studying those of KwaZulu-Natal. I spend time thinking about the course of most people’s lives in my little suburb of Detroit, one which still has barns randomly strewn along city roads in people’s back yards, one where many people grow up and remain their entire lives. I’ve also been out to Milford with its country feel a few times, which makes me think on how my own family’s rural roots compare to those of my little African village. (Though African rural sites do tend to have fewer gastropubs and microbreweries.)
Other than that, I’ve been learning languages and music, two of my biggest hobbies (/obsessions). My goal is to read Homer in Greek by the time I’m done with Peace Corps, and perhaps even to translate some of it into Zulu. Can’t you just see the stories of Achilles and Odysseus being set in the times of Emperor Shaka and his conquests?
In addition, I’m currently fascinated by alternative tonal systems in music. Not that this has anything to do with Peace Corps, but I’m bored of sitting around right now and have you reading this anyhow. Arabic music is fascinating (http://www.maqamworld.com/); as usual, I’m floored at the level of sophistication of their theoretical analysis and how little we pay attention to it in the West. My overall impression of Arabic scales is that they are circles and curves to the straight lines and squares of classical Western music. Western music is better for harmonies, but there is a sort of roundness and artistry about Arabic scales which smooths out melodies by playing around with quarter steps and microtones. Also: the Bohlen-Pierce scale (http://www.huygens-fokker.org/bpsite/index.html) is a harmonic scale which builds a set of tones from scratch that don’t fit into the traditional 12-step chromatic scale. Listen to some samples here: http://ziaspace.com/_microtonality/BP/. It sounds to me like the key keeps changing around almost atonally, yet there remains an odd coherence which atonality lacks. I think the music actually sounds quite lovely and wish I had an instrument which could play around with it.
Ok, geek mode off. Or at least hidden for the moment.