Please say a prayer for my friend Emily. She's got an ankle fracture and is expecting her two-year-old's baby brother in just a few weeks. Feel better soon, Emily!
"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)
Please say a prayer for my friend Emily. She's got an ankle fracture and is expecting her two-year-old's baby brother in just a few weeks. Feel better soon, Emily!
The river itself is beautiful; I wish the photographer had taken more pictures of the birds and villages and crops along its banks. It was hard to believe that we were actually on the Nile.
Simon, our guide, was great. I was soooooo glad we weren't in the other boat; their guide was a jerk and wouldn't let them flip or do anything interesting. Simon had a little too much fun flipping us without warning, but it made the day interesting. We went over Bujagali Falls, and survived the lower section of Itanda, which means, "The Bad Place" in the local language. They wouldn't let us do all of Itanda - it's a Class VI rapid and apparently people actually have died there. It was the most fun of the entire day - we all wanted to do it again, but no. (Apparently Prince William asked the same thing. Wonder if they told him, "no.")
(Oh, there I am, gasping for air after Bubugo)
My only complaint about Adrift was their really stupid "no shoes" rule. Of course you can't take flip flops on a river that strong, but it's pretty stupid to expect your clients to walk over a stretch of rocky land without their Chacos. Especially when one guide says the guides don't wear shoes, but he just happens to wear them anyway. Grrr. My feet were Not Happy on the climb up the 150-foot muddy cliff at the end. But all in all it was a great day, so much fun, and I would definitely do it again. Although I want to check off the Zambezi first...
Today makes four years since I moved to Austin, Texas. Best decision I ever made. We drove four days straight from Connecticut, and when I crossed the border at Texarkana, I got out and kissed the ground. Amen and amen.
It's Memorial Day back home. Good to remember sacrifices, and to be thankful for those who serve us now. Be safe, Andrew and Nathan and all the rest of y'all who are far from your families today.
Quelle journee! I left Goma on Saturday morning, crossed the border with no problems whatsoever, spent the night in Gisenyi, and caught a ride to Kigali with Human Rights Nick early Sunday morning. It was SO NICE to not have to take the bus -- it took about half the time and I didn't have to listen to any theological and/or political discussions. Plus Nick backed over a moto-taxi (and its driver) at the gas station in Ruhengeri. Nobody was hurt and the gas station guys urged us to drive away before the driver could get his moto started, so I guess it was okay. Poor Nick's going to be hearing about it for awhile, though.
And just like that I'm gone. Last night was sad. Really sad. I said good-bye to Aime and cried, then went by to say good-bye to my friend Mama Helene. She gave me a picture of herself and her four sons and said she wanted me to have it to remember her by. So I cried some more, pretty much all the way home on my last motorbike taxi ride. But, wow, what a view.
It's my last day in Goma. So strange to be leaving. I've been running around nonstop for the last two days, and today won't be terribly different. The Other Diplomat got on a plane this afternoon and the gang is all going out for fondue at Doga tonight and tomorrow I will cross the border and that will be it. My original plan was to go straight to Kigali tomorrow morning, but Human Rights Nick offered me a ride early Sunday and since that's free, I'm crossing to Gisenyi tomorrow, staying there overnight, and riding up to Kig on Sunday. Then it's a few good-byes in town and a trip to Amahoro ava Hejuru and off to Kampala Monday night. Then Tuesday rafting the source of the Nile, Wednesday shopping in Kampala, and conducting the last interview on Thursday. By this time next Friday I'll be in London.
What I love most about Africa is the stars.
We got the land!!!! The Sake pygmies will now have a place to live and to grow food. We went out to visit the site this morning and it is awesome - one border is a river that flows into Lake Kivu, and the other side is up against the road, so no one can challenge their rights of access. There's a stream flowing through the land which will make irrigation easy. And plus it's just beautiful. I will write more about this later when I have more time, but suffice it to say that today was a Good Day.
So Lloyd Bentsen and Clifford Antone passed away on the same day. Bull Moose has a nice tribute to the former, and the Statesman covers the latter's amazing contributions to the Austin music scene. One of the last of the great, old-school Texas Democrats and one of the heroes of Austin music, gone all at once. What a sad day.
I just learned something awful:
Completely rocking my world right now are none other than Germany's Eurovision Song Contest entry, German country cover band Texas Lightning. It's embarrassing. And true.
Today makes ten years since I graduated from high school. Daddy wrote last week to say that an invitation to our ten-year class reunion arrived in the mail. Ten years? Yikes. Where did that time go? Oh, right. School, school, and more school. Anyway, I don't know if I'll make it to the reunion or not. I've kept in touch with most high school friends, and it's scheduled for homecoming weekend, which will probably conflict with a home game. Although I have to admit to a certain curiosity as to whether the diplomas still feature two Confederate flags...
Mawe Hai is a subsidiary of DOCS that deals with agricultural development. They distribute seeds in Goma town for people who still have land (not rocks) in their gardens, and their agronomists run a demonstration farm about 15 miles outside of Goma on the edge of the lake. They use the plot to test different methods of farming and irrigation, to try out new seed varieties, and to teach widows, rape victims who've been treated at DOCS, and others sustainable farming techniques specifically geared to dealing with the rocky volcanic soil around Goma. "Mawe Hai" means "Living Stones" in Kiswahili, which is such a wonderful name for an organization that is bringing life out of the rocks. When people learn how to effectively farm the land, they return to their communities, share their knowledge, and food production improves for entire villages.
Spent most of Friday with a group from Minnesota. They are all students at a small college that used to be a Bible college, but is now a liberal arts school. I walked into the computer room at DOCS on Friday and it was full of American college students. It was kindof surreal. The first question their professor asked me (after my name and all that) was, "Are you a Christian?" Second question: "And what local church are you active in?"
Since I have very little to blog about today, I'm posting this super picture my sister took on her trip to Groom this week. I can't wait to be home!
My Q-tip supply is low. My flip-flops are changing color. My iPod pretends to erase itself, only to come back to life for twenty minutes every third day. Clearly, it's time to go home. Two weeks to go. To that end, since it's been awhile since I posted a list, here are:
I guess I've gotten used to saying no. But I've been noticing it a lot more this week. I don't know what to do. On the one hand, you know people need money. On the other, you know if you give them money, they'll expect more tomorrow – as will 25 of their closest friends and relatives. Part of me rebels against that and part of me wonders why that's such a problem for me. It's not like it would hurt me to give a dollar to 25, 50, or 100 people. But I don't like that idea of creating more dependency in a place where the mentality is very much that of "there's nothing we can do about our situation."
So the ACL lineup is finally out. Not a lot of surprises at this point, but it will be fun to see the Raconteurs and see if they live up to the hype.
So the ACL lineup is out as a leak, for the most part. I'm excited to see Explosions in the Sky, Okkervil River, and Centro-Matic, along with the usual suspects and all that. But I think the Bonnaroo lineup is way more interesting and risky. They've got Amadou and Miriam AND the Refugee AllStars of Sierra Leone, whom I'm dying to see. It's so close to Franklin. If only I didn't have objections to sleeping in a muddy field for three days. And if it weren't the weekend that youth camp ends...
So I completely failed to write about the crazy trip home on Saturday. After waking up at 5, heading to the airport at 6, and waiting in line until after 7:30 to check in bags for an 8:30 flight (This is normal for Kenya Airways, although when I saw Think Tank Jason in line for his flight to Lusaka, he told me he had actually missed a flight due to their unbelievably poor service.). Miraculously, my bags made it to Kigali on the same flight and the three-hour bus ride back to Congo. The bus ride was long and painful (There are bruises on my kneecaps!) and featured a two-hour discussion of Congolese politics, complete with accusations that a Kinyarwanda speaker wasn't "really Congolese." This election is going to go great.
This is so funny, but it makes me want to cry.
Pretty much every evening since arriving in Goma, I've gone for a walk or run just before sunset. It's a good time to get exercise. More importantly, it's the time you're least likely to scandalize the neighborhood by wearing shorts or running shoes. It's always beautiful – you never know what flowers will have bloomed that day or what birds you'll hear or how the light and clouds will create shadows and colors in the sky.
Bertha died. On Friday. She was 97. Mom and my sister are going to the funeral today. I'm sad that I can't be going with them.
Days left in Africa (this time): 20
So I got published....
I am enjoying a lovely holiday in Kenya. Dinner with the Buckner group last night, ran into my friend Kat today for lunch, and am interviewing my friend Jason tomorrow. It's nice to see friends. And to have a break. And to speak English.
Hope. I haven't written about Sake in a week or two, because things have been happening really quickly and I didn't want to jinx it. But here's what happened: in order to help 224 families (768 people) to restart their lives by buying them a field where they can plant crops and build homes, we needed $2100. The Librarian talked to the missions committee (of which she is the chair) at my church, they voted for more than that, a couple others chipped in, and we have $3500.
Sunday was International Orphan's Day. E talked MONUC into sponsoring the day and helping with transportation, convinced the Goma Technological Institute to let us use their grounds, and got Celltel, one of Africa's big celluar service providers, to pay for everything via our friend Junior, who is Celltel's regional chief. I'm about to hop on a bus to catch a flight to Nairobi and don't have time to upload pictures right now. We fed 2,000 orphans lunch, enjoyed dancing, music, and acrobatics, foiled an attempted robbery, and had quite the time. For now, this picture says more about the day than words ever could.
Today, in fact. Off to Kigali to catch a flight to Nairobi. I really need a break from central Africa. Nairobi is perfect - it's a big, cosmopolitan, modern city with everything you need or want. Plus I have old friends there! I'll be meeting up with most of them, as well as with a group from Buckner that includes: 1) Jason, the associate pastor of my church in Connecticut, 2) Laura, my across-the-hall neighbor from the dorm sophomore year, and 3) a whole mess of Lubbock folks. I am so excited! And did I mention that you can get actual quesadillas in Nairobi? And see a movie? And go ICE SKATING? Plus Jason is carrying a package of stuff from my parents. Yahoo! Given that I will be catching up with old friends and doing a lot of shopping, and that internet access in Nairobi is pricey, posting this week might be light.
Today marks a Texas in Africa first: a guest post. Longtime readers of the site will have noticed that since the "in Africa" era of this blog commenced, the number of reviews of live music shows has declined precipitiously. This is due to the fact that it has been 107 days since I last saw a live show (which is about 106 days too many). But never fear, my Attorney has come to the rescue with the following fantastic review of last weekend's Merle Fest in Boone, North Carolina. Unfortunately, his wife The Librarian wasn't up for publishing her catty festival fashion commentary - if you want to hear us talk about inappropriate footwear, men in skirts, and various configurations of confabs, you'll have to join us at ACL. Thanks, Attorney!
Oh, my gosh, they made a movie out of the Bell Witch story. If you didn't attend any slumber parties in middle Tennessee in the mid-1980s, you're not going to understand how freaky this is! It was, like, the big dare to go stand in front of the mirror in complete darkness (usually in the bathroom of whoever's house the party was at) and say, "I hate you Bell Witch" I forget how many times and then you were supposed to feel her TAP YOU ON THE SHOULDER and you might see her in the mirror.
Friday odds 'n ends:
Next time you're in your city hall or county commissioner's office (or even in the trailer park that is Franklin's sad excuse for a DMV), remember what the chef du territoire's office in Sake looks like. No computers, no electricity, no secretaries ready to take your call.
After awhile, you get used to it. You get used to planning your day to be flexible so you can check your email while there's electricity and, hopefully, an internet connection. You get used to having food on the stove, ready to cook for that precious hour when it comes on. You get used to dropping everything when the water runs so you can take a shower, wash dishes, and do laundry. You get used to the constant requests for money, a job, candy, a ride, a scholarship to a school, any school, as long as it's in America. You get used to the bumpy roads covered in lava rocks, and you get used to being covered in the lava's black dust all the time. You get used to taxi drivers asking for your phone number or your hand in marriage when they don't even know your name. You get used to arguing over the price of everything, until you realize that thirty cents to you is the difference between eating dinner and going without for the woman selling you an extra two tomatoes. You get used to seeing half-naked children running along the streets alone, sleeping under tables in the market, and begging for food from strangers. You get used to the unbelievable disparity between the lifestyle of the aid workers (a lifestyle of which you yourself are a part) and the people they are trying to help. You get used to hearing about plane crashes and earthquakes and foreign army invasions and the misery that will ensue when (not if) the volcano erupts again. You get used to the fact that the place you go when you need a break is ... Rwanda. You get used to the appalling statistics – annual per capita income in the country is $120, infant mortality is 129 in 1000 births, there are only 500 kilometers of paved road in the entire country, 15 soldiers died yesterday. You have to get used to it. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to get out of bed in the morning. But there's a danger in getting used to life in the eastern Congo – if you're not careful, you'll forget why you're here.
I'm not a Neil Young fan.
Sharlande Sledge is the reason I believe God calls women to be preachers. I don't remember exactly when I first came across her prayers, but reading "Justice" made me realize that the shock and frustration and fear we feel when we're confronted with the terrible suffering of the world just might be the thing God uses to push us into action. She has a gift with words about faith that is rare and special and right.
It's a small, small, small, small, small world. Over the weekend I met Patricia, who's from Kenya. Long story short, it turns out that not only is Patricia from Kenya, she's from western Kenya, from a village near Kakamega. I said, "Um, I stayed in Eregi" and Patricia screamed. Yep. Here in the eastern Congo I've just met someone from the random little village we stayed in for the first week of our study abroad program in Kenya in 1998. Here is a photo of the house I lived in in Eregi. It's not exactly the kind of place you'd just stumble onto while traipsing about the countryside. We talked about the church there (her church, the place where I attended the first Catholic mass I'd ever heard, in Kiluhya), the dispensary medical center, and the girls' primary school we visited. We know it's the same primary school because we talked about the uniforms, and Patricia solved the lingering mystery of why some of the uniforms were solid green and some had green checks (something to do with the difference between day students and boarding students). Needless to say, we've become fast friends.
|One Step Ahead|
You are 80% likely to survive the end of the world.
|You're alive, with minimal effects from whatever disaster struck. You're in good health, with moderate supplies, have a plan, and maybe a few other survivors with you to help out with manual labor. Congrats, you're gonna do just fine when all hell breaks loose.|
|My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:|
|Link: The Apocalypse Survival Test|