3.03.2009

some thoughts en route to india


So I’ve decided to go a little out of order. I still have to write about the Sea Olympics but I was in the mood to write this entry now before bed so here you have it. I promise to be all caught up before we arrive in India the day after tomorrow, and I’m pretty sure little disorder never hurt anyone (I don’t think). This little stretch of time at sea between Mauritius and India has been pretty enjoyable, although I can’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe it’s because the Indian Ocean is so calm, or maybe it’s the fact that we had grilled cheese for lunch that one day. No one can be 100% sure. But before we get to India I wanted to take the time to reflect on a couple really great moments I’ve had over the past few days.

On Monday we had our first day back to class and it was honestly one of the coolest school days I’ve ever had. I got up for global and we learned pretty much the entire history of India in an hour and then I had a break until 1:30. Usually I don’t have class until Ecoacoustics at 4:15 but we were having a MICE performance that day and I attended the MICE class in order to get ready and learn the piece we would be performing. At 1:30 I met up with the professor, Matthew, and the MICE boys in the classroom and we grabbed all the computers and cables and microphones and headed up to the pool.

The piece we were performing was called Kañja, which is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning “born from the water”and the East African Kikuyu language meaning “from the outside”. We were going to be playing the piece underwater in the pool. The name immediately reminded me of my parents and my brother (and of the videos of Russian women giving birth in the ocean that my sister and I were made to watch as children in preparation for watching the birth of our brother - another story entirely). But, aside from the Russian women, anyone who knows my family knows about our connection with waterbirth, and because of that I automatically had a strong affinity with the piece. Matthew described the experience to all of us in the context that, in our travel we’re coming from the outside as visitors to each of our ports and that through the water we’re able to make our journey around the globe. The pool is filled each day with ocean water so the concept of the performance was playing in the middle of the Indian Ocean –literally in the water itself and while we traveled through it.

We grabbed all the equipment, put on some sunscreen and hopped into the pool to play with the hydrophonic microphone. The mic is meant for recording the sounds of water and we were going to use it to record the sounds of the water moving with the ship and us vocalizing and playing instruments in the pool. We tested the mic out, trying different underwater vocalizations and they sounded really cool. Steve screamed into the mic, I made some higher pitched sounds and Justin made whale noises. Then we grabbed the cowbells we had used for the previous performance in Cape Town and started playing them under the water. Those sounded pretty neat as well and we played around with those sounds, in addition to playing with the drumsticks on the ladders and metal sides of the pool. We decided that for the piece Matthew and Keith would be on the deck playing whale calls and ambient noise and we were going to respond to the whale calls by making similar sounds underwater to be picked up by the mic. Then they would introduce a beat into the mix and we would pick up the cowbells and play them underwater, varying in time with the beat. Finally, we would fade out the sounds of the beat and the bells until we were left with only the sounds of the moving water and ambient sound.
 
MICE class ended and the performance was set to happen around 5:30. We were going to have Ecoacoustics in the pool at 4:15 as well so I decided to just stay in the water until then. A little after the MICE class had finished the clouds began to move in and as the humidity in the air finally reached its breaking point, the sky opened up and it began to rain. We quickly moved all the electronic equipment out of harm’s way and I stopped to look out and admire the rain. Justin walked out into the rain and jumped into the pool and I followed suit. It was pouring by this point and I lay on my back in the middle of the pool with my arms outstretched and closed my eyes. I was surrounded completely by water –lying in the middle of a small pool of ocean with rain falling all around me as we moved slowly along in the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean. It was such a quiet and peaceful moment with the rain falling on my face and the clouds surrounding the ship as the rain came down. The water in the pool was warm and the rain was perfectly chilly. I popped back up just in time to see a bunch of friends coming out from under the covering to enjoy the rain with me. A few of the professors and families with children came out and we all hung out in the pool and played as the rain came down. Like all good summer storms, the downpour didn’t last long and the sky had cleared in time for our Ecoacoustics class. We all sat around the pool and discussed the difference in the way that sounds moves through water versus air. Sound moves much faster underwater meaning that the sound waves themselves are far larger in water. We did some math and calculated the speed, wavelength and frequency of certain pitches in water versus air and then Matthew let anyone who wanted to hop in the pool and try out the hydrophonic mic. I was pretty soggy by this point and let my classmates take advantage of the opportunity to play with the mic.

At 5:30 the class dispersed and we set up for the MICE performance. We put the audience in front of the pool and tied our MICE poster to the showers at the back of the pool. From where the audience sat, they looked aft to the pool and then out off the back of the ship toward the ocean. A good number of people showed up and once the audience was settled we all hopped into the pool to start the piece. The whale calls and the ambient noise started and the entire deck was quiet. The mood was calm and serene and we moved through the water slowly and deliberately, going down under the water to respond to the calls and vocalize, and then resurfacing. The beat was introduced and we grabbed the cowbells, playing them softly as the sound was amplified through the water. Eventually the beat faded out and we all came to the surface and the final sound was that of the water in the pool sloshing from side to side with the motion of the ship. It ended up being a really beautiful piece, definitely one of my favorites that we’ve done thus far. Apparently Matthew has been posting all the pictures and information on the MICE facebook group, but as none of us have internet minutes we have yet to see them. As far as school days go however, it was pretty neat to spend two class periods in the pool, making music and playing with sound. It beats sitting a lecture hall to be sure.

After MICE I ran back to my room to wash off all salt a get dressed up for my friend Megan’s 21st birthday dinner. On the ship you can sign up for Special Occasion Dining where for $25 you get a really tasty five course meal served in a smaller private dining room. A lot of people do it for their birthdays and we signed up for the first time in order to celebrate with Megan. Aside from the absolutely awesome fried chicken/french fries of sea Olympics day and the bright spot of grilled cheese for lunch, the food on the ship had really been starting to wear on us. So, we were extra excited to get dressed up and have a really good meal. My friends Taylor, Rosaly and I got to the small dining room and ended up at our own little table next to Megan and everyone else. We were given a menu with two or three options for each course and a glass of champagne. I decided on a trio of grilled and smoked fish, chicken tinola soup, salad with feta and oranges, filet mignon roulade with spinach, and mud pie. The food was so delicious and it was really fun to have a nice meal with friends. After dessert they brought out another cake and we all sang for Megan and sat around joking over coffee and tea. My extended shipboard family has a fancy dinner scheduled for March 12th and I’m excited for it already.

Aside from class in the pool and a delicious meal, the other highlight of the past few days was earlier tonight when they shut the lights off on 7th deck forward so that we could look at the stars. I headed up alone and at first it was a little overcast and hard to see. However, my eyes adjusted to the darkness and as the wind picked up a little the clouds blew away. I grabbed my ipod and lay on my back staring up at the sky. It was so nice to just listen to the music and let my thoughts wander while looking up at the stars. The sky was so clear and so big and it was incredible to just look up and marvel at it. Sailing along and seeing nothing but ocean for days can often make you feel very small. You look out and realize that you’re just a dot, floating along in the great mass of water, somehow in transit across this giant globe. Looking up at the sky continued to impress upon me the big-ness of the space that we’re in and how small each of us are in comparison. And while this might make some people feel insignificant, it actually made me feel hopeful. So often we get stuck in our own little microcosm and it becomes easy to get caught up in the rigors of our lives and our space in the world. But the knowledge that there is so much out there, so much space that we never even think of, is kind of comforting. We have the ability to seek out new spaces and carve new niches in the world, indefinitely if we need to, as long as we create the means to do so. And the idea that there is so much out there to see is both humbling and exciting all at the same time.

I am incredibly excited for India and also incredibly in need of sleep before my last day of classes tomorrow. I am so looking forward to experiencing India and I have no doubt that I will have much to share when I return to the ship. Until then I hope you all are enjoying the snow and staying warm and dry inside.

With love from the Indian Ocean,

lia

1 comment:

Rachael said...

I LOVE YOU AND YOUR BLOG. i miss you!