Scene: It’s Friday night in West Africa where there are no street lamps or proper road signs and the nicest item of clothing you have with you is a cotton maxi dress from Target ($19). The ship PA system comes on and says something to the effect of – and I’m paraphrasing: attention crew, shine your shoes and change out of your scrubs. Tonight there will be an opera performance in the International Lounge. People in blue look around, some perplexed, others un-phased, and then they get up to go change…after all this is Africa, stranger things have happened. Action.
Sidney Outlaw, a famous opera singer according to people who know things about opera, is an ambassador of cultural diplomacy to West Africa for the US State Department (or something). He is in Conakry visiting the American Embassy. While he was in the neighborhood, Sidney Outlaw heard the Africa Mercy was in the area. So he (or his people) rang the boat and said Mr. Outlaw would like to come perform for your volunteers, and I’m sure whoever picked up that phone call was like ‘uh…please hold.’ But a quick Google search explains that Mr. Outlaw is indeed called “The Opera Powerhouse” according to The New York Times. Well now, anyone that the Times has taken the trouble to nickname is worthy of an audience, in my opinion. Except maybe Sarah Palin.
So that is how I came to find myself in a Third World nation enjoying an opera performance in a wrinkled cotton maxi dress from Target ($19). I was reflecting on how I tend to find myself in the most curious of situations when Sidney Outlaw pointed to the wall behind him and said “And that’s Flat Stanley.” Sure enough, Sidney Outlaw had hung a Flat Stanley up on behalf of an elementary school niece or nephew back home who is totally going to get an A+.
I’m watching an opera in Africa while wearing flip-flops and there is a Flat Stanley on the wall while a man named Outlaw from North Carolina sings an a cappella opera tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sometimes my life is hard to make sense of. In a good way.
Since I’d never seen an opera, I quickly added “See Opera” to my mental bucket list just for the satisfaction of crossing it off. All in all, it was a very nice Friday evening during which I was educated in a new art.
I’ll admit that before this I might have thought opera performances were inherently boring, but tonight I was proven wrong. Thank you, Sidney Outlaw. Your show was lovely and an unexpected treat for our entire crew. There might have been one teensy slow part in the middle where I got lost, but it’s ok because it gave me time to draft this blog post in my head.
I better go iron my dress in case Beyonce shows up for half-time rehearsals. Although we definitely don’t have the technology for her to lip-sync. (aren’t you impressed with my knowledge of pop culture?)
Tonight I am reminded that anything can happen. Literally anything.