It’s hard to believe I’m leaving Iraq day after tomorrow. In some ways it seems like I just got here. I suppose I’m ready to go home. I certainly miss seeing everyone. But I will miss people here, as well. I will miss other things here, too. Marc emailed me when he got home saying that when he arrived there were gray skies and he loved it. Today I went to the bazaar and the temperature was 122. When I stood still, I could feel my toes burning as they were exposed in my sandals. So the heat won’t be something I actually miss. In addition to missing many of my students, I will worry deeply about them. Some of the worrying will be about simple things . . . do they have music? Do they have strings? Are they inspired? Are they happy? For others it will be worrying about much more significant issues. While we were here the Kurds lost control of Kirkuk. This could have serious consequences for our students when they return. Then there’s our students from Mosul. Mosul is controlled by the Taliban. They could not be photographed or filmed participating in our academy because performing music is against Taliban law. They could be locked up or much worse if they were discovered. It’s simply unfathomable to think that you could be executed for learning to play an instrument. One of my first posts to this blog was about fear. What I’ve come to realize is that, while I may not feel much fear about my own personal safety, I can possess a great deal of fear when it comes to the safety of those I love and care about.
I feel like I’m part of two worlds. I’m amazed at how deeply I can care for people in such a short amount of time. I’m sure the fact that we’re starting with the bond of music has a lot to do with it. But there’s more–much more. I wish so badly you could all meet these terrific new friends of mine. Like Jabar, the concertmaster of one of the orchestras, who is also a general in the Kurdish army. He’s one of the kindest, most gentle, most humble people I’ve ever met. Or Boran, the 17 year old wonder who, in addition to often translating for me, became one of my favorite people to just sit and chat with. She’s brilliant! Or Alan, who, in a heartbreaking moment after the concert, looked at me with glassy eyes, touched my chest then touched his and said “you are my heart!” Or the 16 year old pianist who’s name I can’t pronounce, let alone spell, but every time he sees me, he throws his arms around me and says, “I love you, Mr. James.” This is only the tip of the iceberg. So many wonderful people!!!
Tonight was our final concert. It really couldn’t have gone much better. A quartet of very fine violinists gave a great performance of a Telemann Concerto for four violins. The cello quartet did an outstanding job with their two Apocalyptica pieces. Both orchestras played their very best. I was so proud of everyone! It was exactly the kind of final concert you want to have. Everyone felt good about the work they accomplished.
It’s 1:10 a.m. and I’m exhausted. Good night!