Four years ago today I got up at like 5 a.m. and flew to Okinawa, Japan. (I was pretty sure I remembered the date, but I double-checked my Google Calendar, and sure enough I had February 11, 2010, labeled “HOLY SHIT.”)
Our 12-week trip was part vacation with my family, part English-teaching internship with my cousin, and part musical traditions study in an oceanic cultural crossroads. It’s the reason I bought a portable recorder, the place I started recording live music and found sounds. It was the greatest adventure I’ve ever had, and it opened my heart to ethnomusicological research. You can read all about it on our travel/music blog: oki yo!
It took me over a year to synthesize all my recordings, photos and stories into one compilation album, which was my goal all along. After many hours drudging through audio content and getting frustrated at Kinko’s, I had this neat little CD package, an oki yo! time capsule in four chapters: traditional concerts, private performances, adventures, and originals.
Each of these songs has a story on oki yo! if you want to search around or in the liner notes if you want to order the album!
A weird thing happened to me when I returned to D.C. after winter break. I was relieved to land at about 10 p.m., not too late, and then reserved a spot on one of those airporter shuttles to get home.
After a long wait, our van—containing two D.C. women, a guy from Australia brand new to the U.S. and myself—was about to take off, when the driver tried to fit in a French family of five. One woman said she was going to report the driver because there weren’t enough seat belts for all the kids, and then the other woman stormed out in an awkwardly maneuvered rage.
The first woman got the company’s dispatcher on her cell phone, and the conversation was so outlandish I whipped out my recorder. (The three kids sharing the back seat with me snickered.)
I felt so bad that all these people were arriving in my county and this was their first experience outside the airport—but not so bad that I wasn’t laughing most of the time. Eventually, the driver kicked all of us out (20 degrees and nearing midnight, by the way). Aussie guy and I waited another half hour for another van and left the crazy lady to take a taxi.
My winter break was full of highlights, but the most scenic of them was a few days spent at Point Reyes with my cousins. We rented a house in Inverness, explored Tomales Bay, pointed out every cow, deer and turkey vulture along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and took the requisite hike to the historic lighthouse.
We learned that Point Reyes is officially the windiest, foggiest place on the West Coast, but we picked a beautiful clear day. And by the time we walked down and up those 300+ stairs, we were down to T-shirts and tank tops!
By December I had forgotten if I had made any resolutions in 2013. Luckily I still write all my hopes and dreams in a Livejournal! Here’s what I found:
Find a new cool job
Done! I couldn’t have imagined at the beginning of the year that the Smithsonian would offer me a job. I guess I made quite an impression with my audio posts during the Folklife Festival, and in December I started work as the editor for the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.
Go to the PNW, New York and Peru
I spent a frosty beautiful week in Washington state in March and a sweltering sticky weekend in New York in July. One day I’ll make it to Peru and see those arpe players for myself!
Start biking regularly again
Yes! I took a six-month biking hiatus after almost passing out alone on Sunset Boulevard, but I worked up courage and strength to begin again. Lou and I started biking along the L.A. River every weekend, and in D.C. biking was the fastest and funnest option.
Get confident taking public transit
I finally braved the Los Angeles Metro to commute to my volunteer gig at KPFK. Even on my first day in D.C., I successfully navigated the city by bus and subway. Now I can get just about anywhere–and get motion sick in the process.
Make a radio documentary (or many)
This is the audio achievement I am most proud of! My first radio documentary aired on KPFK in June, and I have recordings and ideas for many more.
I think I did pretty well! Did you complete your resolutions? Let’s hear ‘em!
My favorite page from Yoko Ono’s book Grapefruit, a set of whimsical instructions for making conceptual music and art, goes like this:
Take a tape of the sound of the snow falling.
This should be done in the evening.
Do not listen to the tape.
Cut it and use it as strings to tie gifts with.
Make a gift wrapper, if you wish, using
the same process with a phonosheet.
I’ll do this someday, but for today, with no tape recorder and only rain now that it’s evening, here is the sound of snow falling around my front porch.