Today was Johann Sebastian Bach’s 325 birthday, or would have been if he’d lasted to 325 years old. The Sandusky Ohio chapter of the American Guild of Organists held a little show in honor of the event. Several local organists provided some music in a series of churches across the town. Being a fan of Bach, pipe organs, and Bach played on pipe organs, I decided to take a listen.

Although Sandusky did boast one stop on a recent northern Ohio tour of the international Organ Historical Society (of whom I was a member, for a day), the 3 churches that me and about 100 fellow tour-mates enjoyed were not on that particular list. These were not world-class instruments, nor the organists national stars. However, they put on a good show, for the most part.

Honestly, being very  picky about Bach performances (especially on the organ), I almost didn’t make it to the second venue. At one point, I remember gazing at the well-suited old man sitting patiently a row in front of me, his wispy white hair no longer able to hide the hearing aid firmly embedded in his skull. I remember envying him in the knowledge that his ears had an off-switch. (more…)

This is my wife’s niece, Rhea. Today, she leaves her home in the Philippines that she shares with her parents, for a job in Saudi Arabia. Many Filipino’s make this trip every year. But, this doesn’t make the trip any less dangerous. Along with her travel documents and assignment information, she’ll also be issued one other mandatory article for her job. A burka. This is real, now. And, I’m worried for her.

She’s travelling to a state where women already have fewer rights than men. Though not exactly taliban-country, it still imposes many restrictions that we in the west would find incomprehensible. On top of that, she’ll be a foreigner without rights, in a land that doesn’t speak her language, with no friends to help, and nowhere to run if something bad happens. She’s pretty, young, and totally alone. You can do the math. All this, for a few dollars more than what she currently makes as a nursing assistant.

Her mom thinks this is a bad idea.

My wife thinks this is a bad idea.

I know this is a bad idea.

I’ve seen the travel shows. I understand that Saudi Arabia isn’t as fundamentalist as other countries, and it doesn’t have a history of grinding it’s foreign workers into the ground like, say, Qatar or Dubai. But, Saudi history with foreign workers is still very grim, and reports of abuse are rampant. Also, she’s traveling to a Muslim country during the greatest wave of fundamentalist Islam in decades. And, has no way out once there.

I hope this will end as an adventure, and not a mistake. I hope she finds many new friends and her new work profitable. And most of all, I hope to see her safely back home again. Safe travels, Rhea.

Saudi Arabia photo courtesy of


This isn’t a master’s thesis. Not even an essay for an anthropology magazine. This was just a minor project I undertook to save an entire culture. A day’s research and writing snowballed into something much more.

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