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In-seat route map: 10,000 miles to go!

2:00PM – time for tea in Singapore. I’m sitting in our hotel cafe, fighting a little jet lag and doing my best to stay awake until a respectable, grown-up bedtime, after three big travel days that took us an estimated 11, 500 miles around the globe. We flew from Nashville, TN, to Washington D.C., to Baltimore, MD, to San Francisco, CA, to Singapore. The last two flights spanning about 21 hours of air travel. Why all this jet-setting?

To start from the beginning; last year, Lesleigh and I participated in a program called American Music Abroad – a cultural diplomacy initiative where musicians apply to work in cooperation with the U.S. State Department and its posts overseas to build bridges through music and educational programs all over the world.

We traveled to South America for four weeks visiting schools, hospitals, an orphanage, concert halls, and other various community gathering places. We learned so much, and had many opportunities to share from our own background and experience.

A few days into our tour, Lesleigh and I were walking down a street together in Recife, Brazil, and as we were talking, we both said “ We really have to try to do this again.” So we did…

We went through the application and audition process and were honored to be selected once again to represent the United States overseas on this music mission. This time, our mission is in Southeast Asia. We’ll be visiting five primary places in the region spanning from Singapore to Malaysia, to Indonesia, to Cambodia, to Taiwan.

In preparation for the tour, several posts sent us local folk and pop songs to learn that are important to the people, and we had conference calls with each post that detailed the programs we’ll be doing, outlined the specifics of the day-to-day activities of our group, and gave us some background on the places we’ll be visiting.

Each tour also starts with a briefing in Washington D.C. We gathered around a conference table with a group of exceptional women and men who’d all served in the region, and who had incredible insights about the places we’ll be going. It’s inspiring to be able to gain from the wisdom of so many lives spent in service. I wanted to soak in every word.

After our meeting, we departed for Baltimore in a large Uber with a friendly driver named Anthony who had a gift for storytelling and had us laughing and talking all the way to the airport.

Next stop: Singapore!

On the flights, I watched a few movies, tried my best to rest, and thought a lot about things like this: Isn’t it remarkable to be able to travel 10,000 miles at 40,000 feet in the air, at 600 miles per hour on one tank of gas? It’s a powerful, strange feeling to be so far out over the Pacific with no land for thousands of miles in any direction. There’s a screen in the seat in front of you, and if you select “map” from the menu, you can watch the route of the jet as it cruises over the map, creeping slowly, but surely inch by inch, mile by mile across the world.

My first impressions of Singapore are these: the sun came up just as we descended into the city. There were dozens of freighter ships dotting the harbor, and showing how important it is to global trade. It’s sunny, warm, and humid which felt really good after 21 hours of dry, plane air. It’s an enormous, sprawling city, with lush green trees, and colorful flowers. I can’t wait to explore more.

After all of this preparation, all of this travel, all of this rehearsal, I am really ready to get out into the community, and to do what we are here to do. We begin tomorrow with two school visits. I can’t wait to meet the students and see, do, and learn all I can in this beautiful place.

Tony Memmel and his band (left to right: Joey Wengerd, Tony Memmel, Lesleigh Memmel)


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