As I am about a week into this choir trip to Europe, I am overwhelmed with how blessed we all are and what a truly amazing opportunity this has been for about 30 students from mostly small Montana towns. Though I do not think that the value is given to those 30 students alone. With this trip our school is taking the stance that we will work hard, find resources and support intercultural experiences--I am so proud of our school, and so grateful to be from it.
The other day the Maestro of the Motsky Svotsky choir, that we are singing with, made quite flattering remarks of our choir, graciously thanking us for participating in the event this year and commenting on the warm tone we bring to the concert. Certainly the privilege is ours and it is we who are gaining the most from this experience. Speaking only of very practical musical improvements, our choir has made tremendous gains in sight-reading, vocal production, sustained singing ability (the entire piece is about 90 minutes non-stop) and our ability to follow different conductors and different styles, even without speaking the same language. I am excited for our choir and audience to enjoy these great improvements.
As one of the recent graduates, I couldn't be more proud of our choir, the way they present themselves in public, the way they engage with the locals and other American nationals, or altogether strangers--everybody has been very complementary of our Montana group. In a way, I feel very much as if our group is a group of singing ambassadors. I have been thinking lately about the American orchestra that was recently allowed into North Korea and the major political value which that trip had. Of course Bulgaria is not North Korea, and we already have pretty friendly relations with this great country, but the idea of ambassadors of beautiful music from a small private liberal arts college in the Montana is a powerful concept to me.
As a popular destination spot for many Western Europeans, Bulgaria sees few Americans. Such being the case, we are often the first, or one of the first experiences they have with Americans. It is so refreshing for this group of intelligent, fun, music-loving students to be the initial representation of our country rather than the oft-cited emblematic obnoxious American tourist who makes everybody cringe.
I can envision Rocky Mountain College building on this program and initiating future intercultural group exchanges that will pave the way for positive relationships whether those relationships be used for politics, business, arts, humanities or anything else. The truth is, if we want to produce leaders in every field at Rocky, these intercultural assimilation experiences are of the utmost importance, and I am so proud that Rocky is indeed forging this path.
Another uniquely Bulgarian experience that I have noticed in the past week is the significant amount of cats and dogs that roam the streets. At first sight, one would be tempted to call these farrel cats and dogs, and I suppose in most ways that is true, but I have observed a very interesting practice here that I have not seen anywhere else. It seems to me that the residents of the country all take a bit of responsibility and ownership for these stray cats and dogs. Most people including our interpreter carry a bag of food in their packs to feed the small animals, and many people leave bowls of water along their buildings for them. My suspicion is that this communal responsibility and caregiving is a remnant of the communist philosophy that reigned here up until 1989. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need". I can't necessarily back this up, but I think in countries like our own where we are very much rooted in individuality and personal responsibility, the reaction to an excess of stray animals would be either personal adoption or altogether removal of them. This is to make no comment on which idea is better or worse, but like so many of the experiences we have--different. And I believe it is at that point, when we can see and appreciate the differences that we can begin to pick out the strengths and build.
More Musings from Jesse