I started this post on June 7, 2013.
It’s been about a week without jet lag, 2 1/2 weeks home. That cloudy, out-of-it feeling is mostly gone & today, while swimming, I realized I was feeling sad. I”ve been noticing a kind of low energy & thought it was jet lag; rather, I think it’s the transition to my life here, so different than what I did while away.
Back to work, which is fine. My job is good, a little boring, but I love my co-workers & structure is good for me. My daily ride on the 6AM bus, routine tasks, yoga, swimming, grocery shopping, time with friends. All of it is good & I’m grateful to have a life full of work that makes a difference & friends/family who care. It’s just not the same as the busy, ever changing days of the last month.
One thing I miss a lot is the focus of daily dancing. I was lucky to be the one on the floor, moving in all sorts of ways, with people who were significantly different & yet so much the same as me. Sharing experience through the body is priceless; making a connection to something other than the outside layer of myself seems effortless. I may become my best self when rolling, flailing, scooting, sliding, pivoting to stand with total strangers, who, in amazingly short order, are no longer strange at all.
We did have a daily routine, not so structurally different from here; breakfast together, off to the studio, same car & driver, a full day of work, home for a swim & dinner, then off to our rooms alone. Maybe it’s just the constant attention I miss. Some other things are: the company of so many different people over the course of the month, different languages, different sights, smells & sounds. Everything was an adventure, just looking out the hotel window or driving in the car. Despite the ridiculously busy schedule, it was different & stimulating each day.
In Indonesia our classes were full of women who’d studied traditional dance from their earliest years in school. When I realized that was part of the every day education of girls & young women, I understood why, to almost a one, their fingers were long, lithe & arched backwards towards their wrists whenever they opened their palms. They all had the classic hands of Indonesian dancers & they displayed them endlessly as we moved, no matter the music. I found myself following them, making the hand gestures with my long, crooked fingers. The arm & hand movements were totally up my alley; I even felt a self-satisfaction & a self-confidence boost about my own movement, since so much of it is & has been upper body centered. My being one-legged & all.
There was, also, a beauty & devotion to family & faith & something deeper than day to day, head to head interactions. Their gestures of gratitude & respect were so subtle & so powerful. I wanted to remember & continue them; I haven’t thus far but maybe I will. Even the headscarves, which were not only a sign of devotion but a fashion statement & beauty booster, were a little awe inspiring. Religion is not something I practice, and I was a little nervous about being with people who are so devout they pray, unfailingly, 5 times a day. Whatever pre-conceived notions I had melted away. The Indonesian women I met are as diverse as any in America, as interested in having family & career, as conscious of fashion, as quirky & fun loving, with or without head scarves. The men we met seemed much the same. We had just one man, besides Reiza, in our teacher training; several did participate in the public workshop.
In Mongolia we were faced with the challenges of inaccessibility: the very different language & alphabet, steps to our hotel & everywhere else, squat toilets, being on the 9th floor with a non-working elevator, negotiating traffic as we walked to the Genghis Khan Pub each night, how to respond to the seemingly cautious, proud Mongolians, who looked at us as if they wanted us banished. In the workshops, I felt as if some of the young men were checking us out, wary of our motives. They seemed skeptical, although that changed considerably over each 3 day session. It made for good pondering; Alito & I talked about it; it was a stimulating challenge trying to get behind their somewhat steely exteriors. So never boring. These are the things that bring out the best in me: my positive attitude, desire to make all things seem effortless, curiosity about what’s below the surface in people. They can accentuate my fierce independence & tendency to deny what’s really happening, as well. I’m happy for the chance to notice aspects of myself that become accented when I’m in new situations & for the desire that arises to work to soften that next little bit.
We were beat by the time we got to the Philippines, yet, there too, my fascination with the things I saw & the spirit & character of the people & place kept me going more than a good number of hours a day. Almost every day I was up at 6A and still finishing up the blog at midnight. Here I drag on if up that many hours, day after day; there it fueled me. Or maybe my body just took over, knowing what it had to do. Either way it worked & was fun. The Filipinos were a tad goofy as a group, full of energy bursting forth. They seem a naturally joyful, lighthearted people. I struggled some with thoughts that they were less “deep” than the other two cultures. A judgment that keeps me out of the moment. They were engaged from the start, and for the most part, very good improvisers & much more willing to verbally share in the circles. I had many of my best, most connected & fun dances with individuals & small groups there. And their devotion to the arts & respect, shown in lifetime financial support & the kind of tribute in death we were a part of, is testament to their depth as a people.
In all three groups we found very interested participants, most of them in their 20s and 30s. It was encouraging in that they will be the people most likely to take Alito’s work on into their communities & the future. The best thing that could happen would be a Teacher Training, with available scholarships, to be held somewhere in the area, so those who want it can have a more in depth experience in mixed groups. The message is, at it’s core, about inclusivity on all levels & in all things. Something all the world continues to work towards, each country & region at it’s own pace.
It requires, first & foremost, an acceptance of the premise that we can only be a better society if all bodies speak & all voices are heard. Then, there’s the daunting work of accessibility, made more complex in some older cultural areas, by the amazing structures that should not be destroyed or awkwardly altered just so I, in my wheelchair, can gain access. It’s unfortunate that I may not be able to be a part of everything, everywhere, in the same way as everyone else. All of the natural world is not available to all beings. That’s not what real inclusivity is. All of life is not the same for all of us.
It comes back to acceptance and attitude. One hearty lesson, more front & center as a result of this adventure.