I’ve been listening to my “Aussie Tunes” playlist quite a bit lately. Most of the songs were popular during my time as an exchange student, and many (but not all) are by Australian musicians.
Music triggers memories for me. I may not remember all of the details from my two week tour of Tasmania with my fellow Rotary exchange students, but I can tell you the music we listened to on the bus. Those songs take me back to being sixteen, far from home, learning about other cultures and discovering what it meant to be me.
We began almost every day with this song – “Lay Down Your Guns” by Jimmy Barnes. So when the song came up on my iPod this morning, the first song for my commute, I laughed and thought about my friends and I dancing on the bus.
Thanks to Facebook, I am still in touch with some of them. Andrea is teaching Special Education just a few hours away from where I live. Christine and Cecilia are both mothers, living in Denmark and Sweden respectively. Henrik is teaching scuba diving. Liz, originally from South Africa, is now in England. Astrid, originally from Norway, lived in Canada for years but now is in Denmark. Hanna is a married mother in Finland. Marianne is a minister in Denmark. Although I don’t know where the others are, I think about Maiko, Philipe, Peter, Tina, Susan, Shawna, Tati, Chie, and Hiro frequently, especially now as I prepare my speech for next month’s conference.
It is impossible for me to describe my year as an exchange student without discussing what I learned about friendship from all of them. After our Tasmania tour, some Rotarians expressed doubts about my ability to ‘manage’ and participate in the exchange student tour of mainland Australia. Their intentions were well-meant, but I perceived this as paternalistic and discriminatory. My fellow exchange students rallied around me, devising a plan to assist me and threatening to boycott the trip if I were not permitted to go with them. Their acceptance and support allowed me to fully experience the entire year, including the mainland trip, along with everyone else. I mentioned this recently in an email exchange with Andrea, thanking her for taking a stance with me. “Well,” she replied, “we didn’t do anything special. Just treated a friend as a friend.”
This morning as I danced in my car, singing along with this song, I spent a few minutes with my friends. I appreciate them stopping by to visit through music.