Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Son of an international businessman (and what he's taught me)

Those who know me at least moderately well know that I've spent a few years of my life outside the United States.  These experiences have shaped my life and influenced my perception of the world.  What some of you may not know, however, is the whole story of why I love world cultures.
I've made it a goal of mine to incorporate as much world music into my studies as possible.  If you come to my graduate recital on October 29th (8:30pm, Whitmore Recital Hall, free admission, it will be awesome), you will hear me play the Tahitian To'ere and Pahu, as well as the steel pan.  These instruments are not traditional in a fine art recital, but I feel that they are a key part of my musical personality.  I also have strong interests in music from Latin America, Africa, and Asia, although I won't play any of those styles in my recital.  Well, I guess we'll have a Latin influenced quartet piece, which will be awesome, so you should all come watch it :)
Anyway, back to the main point of this post, which is, how did it all start?  Why am I, a middle class caucasian Utah redneck, so interested in world music and culture?
Meet my father:

His name is Daniel Todd Edwards, and he is wearing that turban because he is the guest of honor at a product launch... in India.  This is not the first time he has been to international countries.  A few weeks ago he was in China.  His list of other countries includes most countries in Asia, Australia, basically every country in Latin America, Most of Europe, the Middle East, and so on.  Basically, he is the textbook definition of a world traveler.  
So why does he get to travel the world?  He is even more caucasian and redneck than me, so how did he get that luck?  The short answer is that he works for a company that develops plant nutrition products, and he promotes that product and negotiates with worldwide distributors.  Go back a few years, and he was hired to work territories in Latin America and the US because of his knowledge of horticulture.  Go back a few years before that, and he worked on farms with a degree in horticulture.  Go back a few years before that, he was a redneck who liked to grow things.
So how did he go from being a man who liked to grow things to become an international businessman?  He worked hard.  He had a goal, and stopped at nothing to accomplish it.  He seized opportunities as they came, and embraced learning opportunities as they came.  He wanted to make money growing things, so he worked hard to do it.  
One of the most amazing things about him is that he uses his travels to learn about the cultures of other nations, and finds applications for his own culture.  I love reading his letters that detail his experiences, especially when he shares about the friends he has made everywhere.  
That leads to a key aspect that makes my father a successful international businessman:  He does not criticize or condemn other cultures.  Rather, he learns from them.  He asks questions.  He shares his insights with those he works with.  Too many people today treat other cultures as too foreign, and often only point out the differences that separate us.  He, though, finds how we are similar.  
My first experience with experiencing an international culture came when I was seven years old, and my father took a job opportunity in Argentina.  He took his family, hoping that we could benefit from it.  I remember complaining before we left, saying "I don't want to go to ArgentinaaaaAAAAaaaaAAAaaaaAAAA!"  Due to my lack of negotiating skills, I failed in persuading my parents otherwise.
Our first few days in Argentina were a whirlwind of experiences.  Everything was different.  I remember seeing packaged food in stores and thinking that they all looked gross, and I thought to myself, "I'm never eating again.  I'm going to starve."  I quickly got over that, though.
One of the things that I'm grateful for is that my parents didn't send me to an english school.  In fact, I don't even know if they had an english school in the city we lived in.  I was forced to learn spanish as quickly as possible so I could survive in an educational environment.  
My parents also kept us heavily involved in religious life.  My family and I are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon).  My father was asked to be the branch president over the congregation where we lived, which is similar to being a pastor.  We accompanied him when he visited families, and always attended services and activities.  This helped me to make friends and understand the culture more thoroughly.  
We were in Argentina for only two years.  In those two years, however, I became fluent in spanish, made many friends, grew to love the food (I didn't starve), and loved the culture.  In fourth grade, I was part of a ceremony where my classmates and I promised our dedication to loving the people of and serving the country of Argentina.  When the time came to move back to the United States, I prayed so that we would be able to stay.  But my father and my family had accomplished what we needed to do, so it was time to move back to the states.
Life was different.  I didn't quite fit in.  I had a new view of the world, and found it difficult to relate to others.  Yes, I made friends and had good times throughout my youth, but I always had a different perspective.  While my friends would share racist remarks about Latin Americans, I would argue that we needed to understand them to accurately judge them.  
I was able to return to Latin America later, this time when I was 19 years old, to Guatemala.  I was there for two years as well, but this time I was serving as a missionary for my church.  I had no family with me.  I worked hard, though, and again became fluent in spanish.  I learned to love the people even more, and used my experiences to enrich my life.  Some of the missionaries I worked with never learned to completely appreciate the culture, which I feel bad for.  
After my mission, I studied at Brigham Young University- Hawaii, which has more international students than American students.  I immediately joined the Latino club, and started hanging out with international students more than native students.  I found that I fit better with them.  Of course I had American friends, but I always found myself criticizing their lifestyles and attitudes (not always accurately, I must admit).  This grew until I married the girl of my dreams, Sarah:

Probably one of the first things you notice is that she is not white.  She is from Taiwan.  That doesn't change how I feel about her.  I love her.  She loves me.  We are happy.  We have out struggles, but we always make it through.  She is teaching me more about culture than I could have ever learned on my own.  
Along with living in Argentina and Guatemala, I have traveled throughout Europe, spent six weeks in Kosovo, and spent two weeks in New Zealand and Australia.  I've spent a couple days in Puerto Rico and Mexico.  I have always tried to learn about their cultures, and it has enriched my life so much.  This December I will be spending Christmas and New Years with Sarah's family in Taiwan.  It will be my first time in an Asian country, so I am excited to have that experience.
Although my father and I disagree about many subjects and often don't connect well, I love to hear him talk about his international experiences.  It is always inspiring for me.  He often comments on how he wishes that he could have been a better father by staying home more, but for me, his travels have been more inspirational than he knows.  Seeing him travel as I was growing up, I often wanted to go with him, and become like him.  I still want to become like him.  I want to become a force for good in the world.  The difference is that I will use music as my tool, while he uses plant nutrition.  He has taught me a work ethic that will stay with me for the rest of my life.  I have learned from him to take any opportunity that comes my way, and not to rest until it is accomplished.  This has led me to tackle 19 credits this semester, including a recital, an internship, and doctoral school applications.  I've survived so far.
So why am I so interested in world music?  There are many factors, but my father is a primary one.  And I am grateful for it.  My wife is another.  And I am grateful for her.  There are many influences in my life, but I feel that family is the most important one.

1 comment:

  1. Daniel, this is dad. Thank you for your kind words. You have validated me as a father and you kids are what is most important to me after God and mom. I'm grateful that you are following your dreams. I'm also glad that we don't agree on many things because that means you have a brain and are thinking for yourself. Good luck with your recital tomorrow. We will be praying for you.