Friday, February 15, 2013

Judy & Jack

We were recently fortunate enough to have some more visitors.  This time, our friends Judy and Jack stopped by as they were touring Southern Africa.  They are retired and seem to live from one travel adventure to the next.  Kathy and I see them as role models.  While they were here, the four of us drove out to Malealea (muh-LAY-uh-lay-uh) for the night.  We had been to Malealea in the past, but it is one of our favorite places in Lesotho, and a great place to take guests.  Peaceful, beautiful, and far from the madness, Malealea is a true retreat.  The majesty of that area of Lesotho greeted us en route to our destination, as if to say that we were on our way to a wondrous place:

Judy and Jack are fantastic people.  Easy-going and genuine, we really enjoyed their company.  And I particularly liked that Judy takes as many pictures as I do!  And my wife certainly knows how to entertain guests...

At Malealea, the backdrop is always stunning:

As are the views from the rooms:

Our first evening there, we went for a restorative walk through the picturesque countryside:

Here, you can see Jack, Judy and Kathy engaged in the full splendor of the setting (I recommend downloading and viewing on a large monitor):

Along the way, we saw these women walking home with their luggage (the roads being too rough and remote for regular taxi traffic).  One asked for our help, so the four of us carried some of her luggage for her across the next few rises, before leaving them at a likely juncture, where we wished them well.  (They were travelling too far for us to accompany them all the way. It never ceases to amaze me how far Basotho walk without giving it a second thought.  I know much of it is necessity, but I am still impressed.)

The views out across the fields through which we passed, and the clouds that rested upon the horizon, were well worth the trip all on their own:

Back at the Malealea Lodge, where we spent the night, we relaxed at the coffee shop:

And admired the views it offered:

That evening, as with every evening at Malealea Lodge, there were live performances of Basotho songs, music and dance.  This begins with a local school choir:

Not only did they sing beautifully, but I loved how much they seem to enjoy the songs.  They really get into it:

And they sing in harmonies!

Pausing between songs to reflect upon...?

Here is a quick bit from one of their songs:

After the choir, the band performs, all on home-made instruments:

Along with the profoundly peaceful mornings, I think this is my favorite part of going to Malealea.  These guys are so good, and their performances have such great energy:

And they really do seem to be enjoying themselves, perhaps even more than their audience:

I'd love to learn to make the instruments.  (And then to play and sing the songs.) This drum, for instance, is called a fukupu (foo-KOOH-poo):

Old tin cans and a need to create music...

What a joyous combination!

What a fabulous result!

Ah, to sing and dance every evening at Malealea...  I know they work hard during the day, but it seems idyllic to me.

A small taste of their musical energy:

And of course, as the music gets into their souls (or is that soles?), the dancing begins:

I think I might dislocate my shoulder if I tried to move like they do (though the music makes me want to try):

It was great to be able to share all this with Judy and Jack, though it was somewhat bittersweet knowing that Kathy and I will will likely not be back at Malealea again before we leave.  Still, what joyous adventures we have, Kathy and me, together and with our friends.

I's the B'y

My family comes from the far off land of Canada.  I tell you this so you have some inkling as to why my great uncle, Stanley Burke, sent to my father an old vinyl LP with traditional Newfoundland folk songs on it.  My father converted them to a digital format, and then he sent one along to me.  I was quite taken with the ditty, I's the B'y, and so tracked down the lyrics and chords.  I am now in the process of trying to learn them.  I thought it might be fun to share that process.  So here I am, still working on getting down all the chords and lyrics (this is the third take):

It's a fun tune, and I like that playing it somehow connects me to my family.

Michael's 48th Birthday

So I recently survived my forty-eighth birthday.  This largely consisted of working from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm.  The end of my day was all calls on Skype.  As those of you who use Skype know, part of the display is the video image you are broadcasting - in this case, my face and the parts of our house that can be seen behind me.  Well, as I was finishing up my final call, I saw in that display a small parade of folks walking by behind me.  As I was on a call, I could do little but wonder...

It turns out that my amazing wife had organized a surprise party for me!  I have never had a surprise party thrown for me before.  On television, something always goes wrong with surprise parties.  Not so with this one!  It was nice and intimate.  Besides the two of us, Kathy invited our friends Jim and Deborah, their daughter Ntsang, and our friend Eric.  Jim is my guitar jamming buddy here, and his daughter is a musical prodigy.  So we ate some delicious vegan strawberry-raspberry-peach shortcake that Kathy made, and we played and sang.

Here are Ntsang (playing my travel guitar) and me:

Deborah, Ntsang, me and Jim (from left to right):

Kathy is always accusing Jim and me of playing nothing recorded after 1970.  That is an exaggeration. We play plenty of material from the early 1970's, too.  Including this one, a gentle rendition of Helpless, which Kathy caught the end of:

It was a perfect evening, and Kathy knew it would be when she arranged it.