Travels With My Cello

  • Misha

      It was a beautiful, brisk October morning in Tbilisi, the kind of day that makes you think of apple cider, bonfires, and Halloween.   I strapped my cello to my back, and made my way down five flights of stairs, and out onto Kotetishvili Street where I lived.  My neighborhood was an interesting mix of new apartment buildings and 19th century houses, now crumbling to bits.  Picking my way across the cobblestones, I began the slog down the hill to the Tbilisi State Conservatory.  I was going to meet my Georgian cello teacher for the first time and we were...

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  • Everybody Knows Boris!

     Marianne Ide So how exactly does one move a cello from Yemen to the Republic of Georgia…without a flight case?  I spent quite a while pondering that question, because it appeared I had two fairly awful choices.  One:  somehow, get a flight case shipped to Yemen and take the cello home with me for a month.  Two:  ship it straight to Georgia in the box it came in.  The first option quickly became impractical and horribly expensive.  Option two scared the crap out of me, but since I couldn't think of another solution, Yemeni shipping would have to work.  In retrospect, I...

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  • From Sana'a to Stalin: Moving to Georgia

      There was no doubt about, Yemen was falling apart.  In the days and weeks after Mohamed Bouazizi doused himself in gasoline and set himself ablaze in Tunis, Yemen would succumb to the rage that dominated the Arab world throughout 2010 and 2011.  Leaving just seemed like a good idea. Christopher and I had applied for and received a transfer to another school, in the Republic of Georgia.  We began the long, tedious and very painful process of packing our traveling circus of belongings and saying goodbye to all of our friends and students.   Tanya tried to put a bright...

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  • Concerto for Al Qaeda

    Marianne Ide It was always hard to know what to do with the Warden’s security messages that passed through our email in boxes every so often.  The State Department took its job of warning Americans of potential danger quite seriously, and in Yemen, danger was part of the collective conscience, to varying degrees.  The Yemen Post would report such exciting tidbits like “Al Qaeda Franchising into Southern Yemen” and “Yemen Proves Attractive Breeding Ground for Al Qaeda.”  But what did that mean exactly?  9/11 proved that you can’t turn a rock over in the sands of Arabia and not find someone waving...

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  • The Cello Whore

      It was spring and I had been playing for almost a year when my friend Tanya came to me with the most amazing news, as well as a proposition.  She had been asked to play her violin at a Yemeni wedding—10 minutes of playing for $100!  However, she did not want to go alone so she asked me if I would be willing to go along and accompany her on the cello, for the very same fee.  I was completely dumbstruck.  10 minutes of playing for $100?  Of course I would do it.  Then I began to ponder the...

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  • A Christmas Carol

      Marianne Ide December in Yemen can be a strangely disconcerting experience for Westerners.  Not that it’s a regular experience the other eleven months, but December can be a little surreal.  In the west, Christmas madness begins before the Thanksgiving leftovers have even started to pick up refrigerator chill, and continues relentlessly until well into the new year.  Now, imagine if you will, a world where none of glitz and tinsel of the Yuletide exists, and you will have a pretty good idea of what Sana’a feels like in December.  I didn't mind; it’s not like I didn't know that I was living in...

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  • The Sana'a Community Orchestra

    Marianne Ide My neighbor had a friend, Stephen, who had started a small orchestra in Sana’a several years back.  He was a missionary with two daughters who played instruments and felt like they needed musical companionship, so he rounded up anyone who could play a western instrument.  Aid workers, teachers, government employees: whoever had a little extra time joined.  Usually he wanted musicians to be at least 12 and have played for two years.  While I more than met the age limit, I was quite a bit below the experience requirement.  Stephen didn't care: there were no cellos in Yemen, and he...

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  • Damage, Part 2: Home Cello Repair for Dummies

    Marianne Ide Warning!  The following story is not for the faint-hearted: It involves the graphic description of  cello maiming by amateurs! Before I begin, I feel you should know two things:  First, the story ends well.  Second, from the moment of my very first bow stroke across my old Cremona, all I ever wanted was to play the cello well—not brilliantly, just well—and my long-suffering husband has only ever wanted to support me.  I think it’s important you know these things, because in this story we appear to have a little less sense than Laurel and Hardy. That year, summer...

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  • Damage, Part 1

    By Marianne Ide I knew that having a cello in Yemen was going to be complicated.  Before making the purchase, I had thought over every likely scenario and decided that it was well worth the risk.   However, of all the problems I anticipated, the one that proved my undoing was one I had truly not foreseen.  I had thought about the fact that Yemen had no national orchestra, no local orchestras, no other cellists, no cello repair shops, no cello teachers, and still I decided it would all work out.  Some might consider me delusional to the point of insanity;...

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  • Mail Call

     Receiving mail at the international school where I worked in Yemen was always a good time.  If a package managed to arrive, chances were that it was from Amazon, or a friend sending you highly coveted items from the States.  So when the campus PA system called us to the office to pick up mail, we hustled to retrieve our highly anticipated packages.  The fact that I had recently ordered a cello from Stringworks significantly ratcheted up the excitement quota.  The very idea of something as large yet as fragile being shipped to Yemen was so outlandish that a campus...

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