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The Power of One Cheesy 80s Song During World Travel

The soaring dome of Philly's "Please Touch Museum."

The soaring dome of Philly’s “Please Touch Museum.”

“Rains Down in Africa” by Toto Travels With Me!

One of the few songs I had on my small, cheap computer to travel around the world for 9 months was “Rains Down in Africa” by Toto, so you can imagine how many times I listened to it.

There are some songs that, while cheese-tastic, evoke a magical glitter in the air, and for me, Toto’s “Africa” is sure one of them.

So last Thursday, standing under the soaring dome and 100-foot arches of the “Please Touch Museum” in Philadelphia for my dear Doctor friend’s Hospital “Prom,” when that magical song, “Africa,” came on, I went wild. While dancing, memories flew, fast and furious.

“The wild dogs cry out in the night, as they go restless longing for some solitary company…”

I remembered how I listened to “Africa” on the Thai island of Ko Tao, after I got lost on a mountain for a bunch of hours… listened to it as friends were made and friends parted ways, from Japan to Cambodia

“I hear the drums echoing tonight, but she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation.”

I listened to it through tenuous g-chat connections with loved ones back home, each of us trying to describe the complexity of the situations we found ourselves in.

“I know that I must do what’s right, as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.”

Hooray for Doctor Prom in Philadelphia!

Hooray for dancing during Doctor Prom in Philadelphia!

I listened to it in the sweltering hot hostel room in Bangkok when I decided to stop tourist traveling for a time and volunteer teach in Ghana. I listened to it as I purchased those new plane tickets to Accra, then paid a fee to change the airline as the one I’d selected had a “pesky history of catching on fire,” internet research revealed.

“I bless the rains down in Africa!”

I listened to it in Sogakope, Ghana over and over in my wonderful three months there, and thought how funny and crazy it was to actually listen to “Rains Down in Africa” in… Africa!

“…Coming in 12:30 flight, the moonlight wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation.”

I listened to it on the 24-hour series of flights from Ghana to Germany to Spain to Portugal to meet my brother who flew in to travel with me for a week and help calm my swirling mind!

“It’s gonna take a lot to take me away from you. There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do.”

Doctors dance, too, to Toto's "Africa."

Doctors dance, too… even to cheesy and great Toto’s “Africa!”

I listened to it when I returned back home and decided I didn’t need to be away from people I most loved for a full 9 months in a row again for a while!

“I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become.”

I listened to it in Boston as I agonized over what job to take and where, wrestling with the drive to leave again, to be outside the norm, to not become “boring and stable.” I was frightened (terrified, really) of becoming this “thing” that was stationary and dull. I thought “Teacher” couldn’t possibly be cool, and returning to one’s hometown couldn’t possibly stay fun.

“Gonna take some time to do the things we never have…”

An artful torch sculpture at the "Please Touch Museum."

A torch sculpture at the “Please Touch Museum.”

And now, a year since I returned home from traveling around the world, I can definitively say that teaching is SUPER cool, and rockin’ out one’s hometown in a semi-stable way is totally cool, too!

Last night in Philly, looking around at the sea of gorgeously dressed doctors dancing to “Africa,” I thought, “Not only are teachers awesome and not at all stodgy like I thought, but Doctors can have rockin’ lives, too!

The live band reached a crescendo and the lead singer’s wrinkled face broke into a grin as he belted out:

“I stopped an old man along the way, hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient melodies. He turned to me as if to say, Hurry boy, it’s waiting there for you!”

That cheesy 80s song (with an even cheesier music video!) has spoken to me across continents and across years. It makes magic sparkle in the air and it reminds me: go out and chase adventure, and embrace the romance and excitement of what’s around us right now!

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