20 March 2012

To Not Know

There are some awesome things happening in Kenya and, more specifically, Nairobi.  There are art displays, music festivals, concerts, musicals, plays, movie premiers and showings, poetry readings, and many other cool artistic events that happen every week here.  [Here's a link if you want to look specifically at what some of the events are:  http://nairobinow.wordpress.com/]  And there are incredible people working for the good of people through the arts in Nairobi.

My musical life began when I was in a preschool choir at Grace United Methodist Church in Rochester, Indiana.  Then when I began school in Rochester I had a music class during the school day - general music, choral, and/or instrumental - from the year I began school until I graduated.  In addition to that, I had the opportunity throughout all of my secondary school life to be a part of a music ensemble outside of the school day with students from all around Indiana.  I have been blessed to have music education in my life from the time I could pretty much hold my body upright until today (when I still sometimes struggle to hold my body upright).

So herein lies my problem:  Nairobi is a city of around 3 million people, and the majority of those people are very unexposed to the arts.  Young people have an especially difficult time being a part of quality music ensembles.  From what I understand, very few schools in Nairobi have music classes in their curriculum.  Many have after-school choirs that meet once or twice per week, but it is very difficult for some students to be a part of those ensembles...either due to transportation or fees or home lives or safety risks.

I want to offer kids a chance to do music...together...with quality.  And to be quite honest with you, I have no idea how to do that.  I've been praying a lot about it, trying to see what God wants me to do with this passion, but I still don't know.  I don't know where to start advertising...I don't know where rehearsals would be...I don't know how transportation for the kids would work...I don't know how concerts would work...I don't know where financial support would come from...I don't know a lot of things to do with this.  I think maybe God has other things He wants me to learn first, but I also don't want to waste my life away on myself.  The best I can do right now is pray and ask Him to teach me and lead me where He wants me to go...and then to follow Him and do what He asks.  But I guess To Not Know is a place to learn and serve in still.  So here we go.

26 February 2012

Back at it

Well...hello there again.  Welcome back.  (I'm saying that as much to myself as I am to you.)  I'm here to share with you what's been happening in my life the last few months.  So, here we go!

Audrey came in January and spent the entire month here.  It was great, and we were so blessed to have so many people support us financially to make that happen.  She was able to see my life here, meet a lot of my fellow teachers and friends, see the beauty of Kenya, and get excited about where we'll start our life together in July.

Just a taste of the beautiful colors on the coast.
The first week she was here was spent recovering from jet lag (for both of us - I had to pick her up from the airport at 2 am!) and visiting the Kenyan coast.  We spent 3 days in Malindi with my roommate and a few other friends, and it was incredibly beautiful.  We swam, ate lots of delicious seafood, walked on the beach, took engagement pictures, read, and enjoyed being back together finally.  Our favorite things we saw were the baobabs.  If you weren't at the Rochester Vacation Bible School in the summer of 2010 titled "Baobab Blast", and don't know what baobabs are, they are huge, old, awesome trees that are found mostly in East Africa.  They look like giant, grey elephants, and are the epitome of everything Audrey and I love in nature.

When we got back from the coast, Audrey was able to come in and help out at school almost every day.  She accompanied the choirs on piano most days, gave a speech in my 7th grade speech class, and helped run rehearsals for the middle school play.  I was spoiled having her here to help me.

Hi, Mr. Giraffe.
Before she left, I took her to Crescent Island, a part of Lake Naivasha that you can actually walk around on the island with the animals.  We hung out with some eland, buffalo, giraffes, dik diks, gazelles, and zebras.  It was a beautiful, sunny, hot January day, and we enjoyed walking around the island and taking pictures and spending time outside together.  Coolest part of the day was when we were in our car on the way out of the park and a giraffe stood right beside our car with his head literally right above mine.  Giraffes are huge.

Shortly after that day, Audrey left to go back to the States.  Terrible night.  I drove her to the airport at 3 am, we cried a lot, and I watched her go up the escalator past the ticket desk out of my sight.  That's one of the worst feelings...having to watch someone that you love so much leave, knowing you can't do anything more to help, and you can't be there to comfort them.  We're both glad that we'll never have to experience that again.

Well, then I was back to normal life without Audrey.  Choir class, speech class, ultimate frisbee every Sunday, Nairobi Music Society (just singing as a part of the choir this semester), and the middle school play.  The play performances were last weekend - Thursday, Friday, and Saturday - and the name of the play was 30 Reasons NOT to be in a Play.  It was a great show, the students performed really well, and the audiences really enjoyed it.  :)  And now I have a lot more time on my hands.

Well...there's a quick recap of the last few months.  Be on the lookout for more posts in the next few weeks.  Exciting things on the way.

14 September 2011

Nairobi Music Society

As of Saturday 3 September 2011, I am going to conduct the Nairobi Music Society choir.  I'm not sure how I was chosen for it, but I know this:  I'm BALLER excited.  Would you like to know why?  Here you go:
  1. It's a community choir in Nairobi, Kenya.  That's awesome in itself.
  2. One of my dreams in life is to combine 3 of my life passions:  Coffee, Communities, and Choir.  I really didn't plan on all of those starting with C's.  Don't hate me for that.  Anyway, my dream is to start a coffee shop/community music center where people can come and be influenced in great ways.  Two of these C's are beginning right now, and why not bring in some coffee to rehearsals every once in a while and complete the third?
  3. It's such an awesome way to get to know people here in Nairobi...singing with them, being a part of an ensemble, and taking tea (soon to be coffee?) with them during a break in a rehearsal.
  4. We sing pretty challenging classical music.  Currently we're singing Puccini's Messa di Gloria, and I'll be directing a Christmas oratorio for the Christmas program.
  5. I have a chance to proclaim the Gospel through directing music to a group of people who are singing songs about Christ but may not know him.  Ripe for the harvest?  Not to forget:  This group of people will then be singing for an audience that will hear the message of these songs.  Awesome opportunity.
  6. I love this.  It gets me more and more excited as I think about it.
I ran first my rehearsal on Tuesday night, and thanks to God's grace, it went really well.  It's so much fun to make music with a group of people that love to make music together.  I've experienced conductors drawing music out of me, but this was my first time to be on the other side, drawing music out of the group.  So cool.  I loved it.  And I got to preach the Gospel.  Part of the section of Messa di Gloria says this:

Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem.
- Who takes away the sins of the world, receive my supplication. -

It starts softly, with the basses singing the Latin line in a quiet, timid way.  The whole choir comes in a little louder next time with the same line.  The sopranos then take it back to a soft, quiet, heart-breaking way.  And then everyone comes in fortissimo - very loud - with that line.  After we rehearsed those sections, I read Ephesians 3:10-12.....
"His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Here it comes...) In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence."
I talked about how we can come before God with confidence (the fortissimo section), because of our faith in Christ.  We may start softly and timidly, but as we realize God's love for us and Jesus' purpose here on earth, we can come before God knowing that He sees us as pure and blameless.

I'm loving my opportunity with the Nairobi Music Society.  Pray that it's always for God's glory...that I give my life away for Him everyday and in every rehearsal with them...and that I can serve these people and love God with all that I am.

Amen.  :)

03 September 2011

Striving to Be a 3

Many of you might know about the Enneagram (AnnieAndGrams) personality stuff. If you don't, I'll give you a quick rundown:

There are 9 different patterns of motivation that give rise to nine different personality types. They have names that go along with them, but I'll just stick with calling them by their number (a 1 or a 7 or a 9, etc.) Now if you're thinking right now that you hate being placed in a box, please continue that thought process. The worst part about personality "tests" to me is that they tell me what I am and I feel either obligated to continue those patterns or try to do completely the opposite of them. The thing about the Enneagram is that it's all about motivations. Now, yes, it does happen and can happen that you place yourself in a box of "who you are," so just don't let it happen. :) Now, I would love to sit down and tell you all about the 9 types and help you figure out what you are, but it would take a long time to describe each of the 9 types, and I'm in Kenya so it's hard to sit down with you, so I'm just going to describe myself and what this post is ultimately about.

I am a 9 (with a 1 wing), and 9's are generally very easy-going, peaceful, like to be comfortable, enjoy resting, help others feel comfortable, and are very loyal. Those are great things...if I do say so myself...and I love being who I am - it's hard for me to even imagine other motivations sometimes - but they can also lend themselves to some not-so-great traits. 9's are awesome at being where they're at, which makes them fun to be around and good at staying in the moment, however you can imagine (or have experienced) what this means to people who aren't in a 9's immediate surroundings. 9's are also awesome at being comfortable and making others feel comfortable around them, peaceful, and calming to others. This is a great thing, especially for 6's who get very anxious (Grandma Moses is a 6). However all of this desire and motivation for comfort and peace doesn't always help to push a 9 out of his or her "box of comfort."

A 3 is a very motivated person who wants to make goals and accomplish tasks and work hard. 3's are also very loyal and responsible, and they generally are very successful at what they do. The thing that attracts me about a 3 is the way they are motivated. As a 9, I struggle sometimes to be motivated and do everything I know I should do. I'd rather sit back and let things happen and do what I need to do to get by. As anyone knows, that's not a good way to live. Now, at this point, if you're thinking, "So you want to switch numbers to a 3? That's not how personality types work...you can't just choose what you want," get ready, because this is where the Enneagram takes over and becomes boss. You have a main number - for me it's a 9 - but you also have other numbers that affect you and are incorporated into your motivations. Along with that, all numbers have a clarifying feature of three levels of how healthy you are...Healthy, Average, or Unhealthy. Healthy 9's, along with many other traits, help others to feel comfortable and use their peace to do good things for others. Unhealthy 9's, again this is only one part of a 9, are those who are stuck in being comfortable and are content to never move past where they're at now.

I'm striving to be a 3 while I'm here in Kenya. I don't want to be stuck in the same things I do every day. I want to try new things, get to know new people, be pushed out of my normal levels of comfort. Going to different churches, playing ultimate frisbee with a bunch of sweet people who do crazy cool things in Kenya but whom many of don't know Jesus, running in a 10k race, finding new and creative ways to teach (i.e. using the Braveheart speech to make better eye contact), being a part of and conducting the Nairobi Music Society...and working hard at all of these things.

But I'm also striving to remember that many of my family and friends are far away and could easily become a non-existent part of my life if I stay stuck in where I'm at and don't push myself to Skype and blog and email and share my life with them. I fail a lot, and I'm sorry about that, but I want to be better and am striving to be more of a 3.

Thanks for your prayers and encouragement as I've been here so far. I'm loving life and teaching and my roommate and friends and all the sweet opportunities I get. I love you all.

Hugs and hearts,

Mark (Alan)

p.s. Since I know you're interested in the Enneagram now, here are a few links to get you started...and I'd love to tell you more about it (we can try to sit down via Skype):
~A quick, 5-minute explanation of all 9 types: http://www.fitzel.ca/enneagram/index.html
~A little more in-depth look at the good and bad of each number: http://www.slideshare.net/ideasandrew/enneagram-summary
~A look at the 9 types as well as the way other numbers affect them: http://www.optimized-results.com/enneagram_types_abbreviated.htm

08 August 2011

Just Another Sunday

Sunday was a great day and so full. I’m being blessed by so many new people and experiences and opportunities…I fail a lot, and I’m dumb a lot, but thankfully God is fully of grace, and so are other people. 2 other teachers and I walked to Karura Community Chapel…roughly a 25 minute walk…for the 10:30 English service.

As I’m seeking out a home church here in Nairobi, I was so blessed by this local body of Christ. It had a western feel to the church, but it was completely Kenyan led, very energetic, and Biblically based. The worship band was made up of a worship leader, 5 vocalists, an acoustic, bass, keyboard, and drum set. The songs were pretty much all in English, besides a few choruses of “Hakuna, Hakuna, Hakuna, Mungu kama wewe.” (“No, no, no God like you.”) The pastor preached on healthy disagreement in the church…the idea of not getting caught up in our “secondary” differences that are more culturally and personally based. We should share in our primary beliefs of God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and Jesus Christ, his only son our Lord…and the rest of the Apostles’ Creed. A great message for a church of 1500 or so who come from various backgrounds and cultures and tribes and denominations.

After church the three of us walked to an orphanage called The Nest just up the road to help the women there feed, hold, and give attention to the 20 babies. I mostly held my new friend Leonard who, whenever the bottle wasn’t in his mouth, was smiling his big, toothless smile.

From there we walked back to our house on Rosslyn’s campus for Sean and I to change and get ready for some Sunday afternoon football. I wasn’t as terrible as I thought…and I didn’t get too embarrassed, so that was good. We then headed over to the International School of Kenya (ISK) with another Rosslyn teacher to play some ultimate frisbee with 40 other twenty-something mzungus (white people) who play ever week. I got a little more embarrassed a few times there, and my feet and legs are thanking me today…but it was awesome playing and meeting a bunch of great new people who come from all different walks of life who work in all different areas of Kenyan life. We came back to campus at dark and topped off the day with watching Harry Potter 7.1.

…Just another Sunday in Kenya. :)

14 December 2009

Pictures from the Concerts.

If you look hard enough, you might be able to see some middle-school-hip-shaking action going on. Thank you, Richard Simmons.

Ah the handbell group...playing their little hearts out.

The High School Choir. I did everything in my power to make them smile. It worked some?

Nairobi Music Society. This is the large choir that I sang with...you can kind of see the orchestra in front of us. We sang two large works: Magnificat and The Many Moods of Christmas.

This is the other choir, a small group of about 16 people that I performed with as a part of the Nairobi Music Society. We sang songs in Spanish, Latin, German, French, and English. It was great.

09 December 2009

Concerts Galore.

Yeah, this weekend was "plentiful" and had an "abundance of" (thanks, dictionary.com) concerts. We had the Friday night Rosslyn concert, but then I had two Nairobi Music Society concerts: Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. It was a weekend full of beautiful Christmas music.

The Rosslyn concert went great as expected. The students were so prepared. Mostly I just loved how my 6th, 7th, and 8th graders did flashlight choreography with Richard Simmons-esque movements...probably my favorite part. The handbell ensemble did great as well; people absolutely love to watch handbells play, especially since there aren't very many at all in Kenya. As for the high school choir, well...let's just say that I have the ability to make them laugh pretty hard while they sing. They had a really nice, soulful Christmas song called "Rise Up Shepherds and Follow," and I may or may not pretend I'm singing the women's part while conducting. Don't judge me...that's just how I feel the music, ok? I really enjoyed how the high schoolers were able to add in some different, fun things like percussion instruments and movements to add some "spicey spice" to the songs. The format of the concert itself was really cool as well, thanks to my cooperating teacher here. We had the fun, Santa-y songs in the first half, and the second half worked more like a more traditional Christmas cantata service. There were Scripture readings telling of the need for, the coming of, and the birth of Christ, and each reading correlated to a hymn sung with the congregation or a song sung by one of the choirs. It was meaningful...which is nice.

Onto the second concert of the weekend: NMS Christmas Concert #1. There are actually two choirs part of the NMS, a large ensemble choir that sang with the NMS orchestra and a small, chamber choir of 16 people. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to sing in both. A Kenyan conductor, Ken Wakia, directed throughout, and he was a fun man to get to know. Now of all my weekend concerts, this was the most entertaining by far. It was made so due to a few factors: A large portion of men standing up during the middle of the concert when they weren't supposed to, a replica of Mr. Bean that I sang next to, restarting one of the movements of "The Many Moods of Christmas" 3 times due to a lack of percussion entrances, and sitting next to a guy I've gotten to know throughout our rehearsals and laughing with him at the hilarity of it all. It was a blast.

The third concert, NMS Christmas Concert #2, went much smoother than first, and I maintained my composure throughout the concert this time. It was a bittersweet time, though, because as I said my goodbyes to friends I've made with people in this group, I knew that it would be a long time until I would see some of them again, if ever....Muryah, Sylvester, Tony, Stefan, Daniel, Beth. Being a community choir in a large city, it was a very diverse group made up of Kenyans, Americans, Brits, Canadians, Germans, French...young and old alike...it was amazing how any song that was sung in a different language was able to be translated or spoken to us by a native speaker of that language. So we exchanged email addresses and Facebook names, and if I'm ever in Kenya in the future or if they're in the States, we decided we would get together and hang.

I'll be posting pictures of the concerts soon. That's all. Other than that, my weekend was boring. Clearly a weekend of 3 concerts is not enough. :) Thanks for caring about me and reading my blog, guys. I can't wait to hear about all of your lives when I get back.