Cultural Exchange: sometimes a splash is all you need

Matt and I had arranged to meet Natalia and Khun Pae in the morning, before heading off to our first school show of the day. Our hosts from the American Embassy in Bangkok, they would be escorting us to our various appearances at schools in Ubon Ratchatani and Surin (both in the Northeast or "Ihsarn" part of Thailand).

Not only were N+P extremely pleasant and kind to us. They were also gracious to everybody we met in our two days together--thank you, United States Gov't for investing in elegant ambassadors. With these hosts, gracious and talented local musicians at every turn, and my ability to speak Thai, we were able to forge connections with fellow musicians and students.

Highlights:
* Learning Tuey Khong (a traditional Ihsarn tune) from Aacharn Na at Uborn Rachaphat Univ... and then performing it together "in an Irish style, and then in an Ihsarn style." The arrangement was his concept.

* Hearing Aacharn O sing Lao Khruan with Thai traditional music students in Surin.

* Performing traditional Irish music from America at the Surin International Folklore Festival, accompanied by smoke machine and a Thai friend holding an enormous American flag.

The shows had been touted as cultural exchange events. Like the frog who is so involved with his journey from lily pad to lily pad, we were all so engaged in our activities at the time that it wasn't until we'd parted from N+P that I realized how much these two days had actually lived up to the promotional hyperbole. This last photo that Matt shot of my Irish flute on top of a Ranad Ek summed it all up for me. Who knows and who cares exactly how we all fit together... if we're busy being involved and interested in one another, we don't have time to worry about it.

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