Everything I know about guitar playing I learned in college from my dorm mate, Karin. She played her Martin D28, loaned her spare classical guitar to me, and through her patience and generosity, I learned to love to play. By the time freshman year was over, we were playing and singing duets - even performing for our roommates and families. Even now I get a big smile thinking about it.
Karin left school after a couple years and with her went my friend, mentor, and loaner guitar. However, by that time I had saved enough money to buy my own acoustic guitar - it wasn’t a Martin, but the lovely Guild 45 was all mine :)
I played often through college, and even regaled my University of Michigan teammates as we traveled many hours to tennis meets in our team van. My repertoire didn’t grow much, but my muscle memory did, and it’s a marvel to me now how much time can pass and yet my fingers have not forgotten.
I always hoped to take lessons, but, life. I tried briefly when I stopped out of work to care for my newborn daughter. Good idea, not good timing :) So I played in spurts over the years, most consistently at bath time when my two girls were little, playing to them while they played in the tub. I played chords and we made up silly lyrics… I think we all felt renewed after the nightly bath. (Side note - you can imagine my joy last week when my younger daughter, now 24, told me she bought a guitar).
As the years went by, my finger callouses came and went, but my interest in playing never waned. Fast forward to this year. I retired on March 1st from the University of Washington to take a role with Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières [MSF]). Why MSF? Over the last decade I helped run Lake Union Crew Outreach Foundation in Seattle. In that time we completed six international construction projects and I learned that I loved working side by side with the locals in other cultures to help make a difference. So when I decided to retire I made the decision to pursue my volunteer passion full time. I was thrilled to be accepted by MSF and learned shortly thereafter I had a one-year posting in Tajikistan to work at a mission focused on reducing morbidity and mortality in children with HIV.
Going far from home for so long, I knew I wanted to pack those things that brought me joy, and a guitar was at the top of my list. Trying to keep my luggage as compact as possible, a friend suggested I check out KLOS Guitars. I was immediately impressed. The body is handsome (as an avid rower, I love the carbon fiber weave :), and the neck is made of beautiful mahogany. Between the looks and the positive online reviews, I was nearly sold. Before buying though, I wanted to know how compact it would really be as I traveled half-way around the world (I am literally 12 time zones from home). I wrote to the company, shared I was headed out with MSF, was trying to travel light, and asked them to share a few more details about traveling with their guitar. I got the answers I needed and placed an order for the guitar and carrying bag that day! Within a couple of days my new best travel friend showed up, not only with a travel bag but also a protective case for the neck, a rain cover, and a capo! So generous of KLOS to support my endeavor with these extras!!
One of my expatriate housemates also plays and is so happy we have this rare treasure at our mission. And treasure it was, one evening, when we met a couple of backpackers from Belgium on our walk home. Before long we invited them to a bed and a shower at our place, and our evening was filled with tales of world adventures. Better still, we soon discovered one of them was a performing guitarist - and so out came my guitar he played for us!! My little KLOS never sounded so big. What a treat!
It’s been a busy 5 months and I am happy to share in that time my team built Tajikistan’s first medical waste management zone of its kind! And on the guitar front, just yesterday I arranged to provide accompaniment for English songs taught to school-aged children here in Kulob. We’re starting with John Denver’s Country Roads. :)
The opportunities to experience joy and challenges abound at MSF projects, but I would not want to be anywhere else in the world right now. I am so grateful for the daily experiences and that I can express myself through this guitar while here - I could not have asked for a better travel partner. Many thanks again to the team at KLOS for designing such a beautiful instrument and for sending along a little extra support while I spend a year abroad, doing my best to also provide a little extra support.