Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Home Sweet Oklahoma

Tulsa, Oklahoma
Little Joe McLerran Quartet leaves Oman after 4 weeks on the Rhythm Road

Home in Tulsa 36 hours later and still smiling.  What a trip!
Our return journey was long yet uneventful. We arrived at the Muscat, Oman airport at midday on Thursday, April 22nd. We said goodbye to the Embassy staff and thanked Dan for all his support and the gifts he sent with us. We had 5 flights, 3 baggage checks and 36 hours of travel ahead of us. Thankfully, we made every flight with no delays and all our gear returned with us and without any damage. It felt so good to see my home sweet Oklahoma again.

Will and David sporting new Omani kumas
My re-entry back into life in Tulsa was smooth with no major jet lag. Upon arriving home I gave Liz and Will big hugs and I was in bed by 7pm. I slept until 6am and woke up surprising well rested. I spent Saturday unpacking, resting and having breakfast at Cafe Ole and dinner at Goldie’s hamburgers. Sunday afternoon Will and I went to see the Tulsa Drillers play at the new Oneok Field. Big Joe met us outside the park and gave us tickets to seats in his row of season tickets along the first base line. Bobby Greenshoes gave us a tour of the park and as we walked along the promenade deck, we sampled some of the great hot dogs and Philly cheese steak sandwiches. Ain't nothin' like a ballpark hot dog. Sitting at the ballpark, enjoying a completely American tradition, my mind continued to reflect on the incredible experiences of the past month on the Rhythm Road.

Monday morning, I was back teaching kids at Edison Middle School. I’m teaching the same curriculum I taught before I embarked on my journey.  However, I feel that I'm looking at the world through different eyes.  My life has been so enriched by this cultural exchange.  Now, when I teach kids here, I can share with them about teaching kids at the Kanoo International School in Bahrain or the Azzan bin Qais School in Oman, or talk about Saudi women studying engineering at Effat University, or share about jamming with Abo Siraj and the Saudi musicians, or explain about the sheer joy our music brought the kids at the Help Center in Jeddah. I'll also be able to describe the incredible people who serve our country in foreign lands. The men and women who work for the US State Department, the US Marines who protect the Embassies and Consulates, and the Ambassadors who represent our country, all are dedicated, knowledgeable and have special gifts for connecting with others. I hope to be able to share all of that with every student I teach.

I bring home with me a much better understanding of the people of the Persian Gulf. By spending time listening to people, sharing meals and playing music, it has helped to inform me about a life and culture I knew very little about. I hope that the people who crossed paths with us also have a better understanding of Americans. My belief that music is the universal language and transcends all barriers continues to be validated.

I owe a most heartfelt thank you and debt of gratitude to our friends at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Their commitment to this mission of diplomacy through music is of the highest order. From the training they provided us, to their support, and their planning and logistics, even getting us home around the Icelandic volcano, was incredible. I am honored to have served such a fine organization and fine people.

Finally, I give a very special thank you to my fellow travelers on the Rhythm Road. I'm grateful that Little Joe, Robbie, and Ronnie asked me to join them in this project. We formed a professional ensemble that was highly successful at delivering the message to the people. Everywhere we went, we had a positive impact, and we were often part of groundbreaking events. Little did we know that we might make history through music. We did the Bahraini Boogie, the Saudi Shuffle, the Kuwaiti Quiver and the Omani Mambo! I shall never forget it.

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