"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

9.30.2007

gulp

Someone reached my blog by searching:

issues that minorities face in the floydada tx community

Honey, that'd be a whole blog and/or dissertation in and of itself. Sorry I can't help you more.

Here's a beautiful essay on teaching poetry at West Point.

19?

I feel a little sick.

9.29.2007

it's saturday night...and ou sucks

Well, that didn't go so well.

Sigh. I've known that our team was overrated from the first quarter of the first game. But it was still pretty painful to watch our uneven-but-improving defense that seems to have some issues with actually reaching out and tackling the guys they're chasing, Colt's neverending interceptions, and the totally inexcusable inability of our special teams to prevent kickoff returns.

Here's what I think: if it was abundantly clear that Colt McCoy was sick at halftime, they shouldn't have put him back in. It was obvious by late in the 3rd that he wasn't himself. John Chiles is more than capable of doing the job - he gets us 5 yards every time on the keeper, and if McCoy can't get it together, his job should be in danger. That's just how it is. No, Chiles isn't experienced enough to do everything (yet), but this business about McCoy being better isn't playing out on the field. And if he's sick, DON'T PUT HIM OUT THERE. Duh!

Also, we should fire Greg Davis. And beg Gene Chizik to come back. There, I said it.

At least we weren't the only ones who had a bad day. We hate Auburn. But not as much as we hate Florida. Urban Meyer's last-minute sneaky time-out calling reflects the kind of class we expect from Gainesville. And ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! "#3" Oklahoma lost.

Actually, except for the football, it wasn't a bad day. We had a fantastic tailgate brunch (note: do NOT try to cook bacon directly on the grill. Lots of fire, too much for our resident pyromaniac. We moved it to the camp stove and things were much better.), Of course, we love admiring our neighbors' unique fashion choices:Vince and some of the old guard were around: And it was Alumni Band Day! For those of you Not From Austin, Alumni Band Day is hands-down the best show of the year, primarily because of the older gentleman baton twirler. He tosses it to the level of the upper deck, and the entire student section waits with baited breath to see if he'll catch or drop it. It's the highlight of our halftime year.

At halftime it rained, and as the third quarter got underway, it rained hard. Rather than bolt for cover (as did most of the crowd in the expensive seats on the alumni side), we stuck through it and got soaked, but it didn't matter. Laughing and smiling and dripping wet, I just couldn't help but think about how great it is to be young and alive.

The ensuing half of football did a lot to dampen that spirit, even as the sun peeked back through the clouds. We watched the fourth quarter mostly in silence, stayed through the final cannon and two rounds of "Texas Fight" and one of "The Eyes of Texas" and left just as the sky broke open again. This time we laughed some more and (at 23's insistence), stopped to take a picture in the rain, sorry about the sorry state of our football team, but glad to be friends and to be alive.

Maybe we won't drop out of the top 25. I mean, really, Colorado is worse than K-State, so it's worse for the Sooners to lose to CU than for us to lose to the Wildcats. Right? Right?

nigeria or niger

Via my sister. Welcome to my world:

In The Know: Situation In Nigeria Seems Pretty Complex

9.28.2007

woo-hoo

Suzii is on the front page of the Wall Street Journal today. She's such a rock star.

Unfortunately, wsj.com is subscription-only, and I don't know how to post a PDF file. So you'll just have to trust me that 1) she rocks and 2) the pencil illustration is accurate.

weekend levity

I don't know who Don Carson is. Apparently some seminary professor at one of those Reformed schools Up North. But, for the past few months, someone has been writing an absolutely hilarious blog that pretends to be written from Carson's point-of-view. And it's a scream. So much of a scream, in fact, that the authors decided to quit because of the controversy/threats from the seminary's administration.

Anyway, they're taking down the Fake Carson blog today or tomorrow. I highly recommend that you catch up today while you're wasting time and wondering why TV is making us have a September game at 2:30 tomorrow. Please note that earlier posts (namely, before it got so controversial) are generally funnier. Here are some of my favorites:
  • The relationship between Paige Patterson's career trajectory and global warming ("Everywhere that Patterson goes, the air gets hotter.")
  • An imagined conversation between Roger Olson and John Piper ("Pipes: Well, Roger, I respect you a great deal and I want things to be right between us. I want us to be able to work together to further the kingdom and to bring glory to God. So just admit that my model of God's sovereignty is the correct one and we can put all of this behind us.")
  • A Paige Patterson phone call ("...we're pretty sure that 'women in ministry is the Communism of the New Millennium.")

9.27.2007

thank goodness this has never happened to me

Hahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!

My sister and I were just talking about professors who date/marry/reproduce with their students last night. (There's a person in my department who has a nightmare story along those lines, which unfortunately gets shared with said person's TA's in TMI detail.) Ew.

clap clap clap clap

What a great way to start off your Tuesday morning.

does she speak french?

Oh, good lord.

I'll have more thoughts on this later. But a few reflections on this particular article:

1. Rwanda is NOT war-torn. It hasn't been war-torn for a good ten years. It's a very nice, pleasant, safe, developing country with authoritarian rule. There's a mall in Kigali. There are nice restaurants and Western-style coffee shops and 4 and 5-star hotels. Crime is minimal. I feel perfectly safe walking down the street alone at night.
2. There is SO much attention already on Rwanda. The place is crawling with development workers and Western missionaries.
3. The only possible good that could come out of this is Paris Hilton being shocked into the reality that there is poverty in this world.

Oh, good lord.

9.26.2007

careful branding

This is hi-larious.

two twisters

my sweetest downfall

The Intrepid Lobbyist (who, while still quite Intrepid, is no longer a Lobbyist, and is therefore in need of a new nickname - ideas?) and I were talking a few weeks ago about her new life in Seattle when camp came up in the conversation, as it always does, and somewhere in the memories, one of us brought up the maxim by which generations of campers and staff before us were admonished upon departure to some out-of-camp activity, be it a trip to the boys camp on the other side of I-40 (What can I say? We're Baptist. By the time you're 16, you know how to get across without getting caught.) or a hike to the ice cream parlor down the mountain:

"Girls, remember Who you are, Where you are from, and What you represent."

It was the camp's first director, Miss Bell, who was long gone by the time either of us were there, and her successor who always said that. (I never saw it written down until googling it tonight, but I always imagined those letters in capitals. Especially the "What.") It was generally delivered as a threat, not an encouragement. And generations of campers who heard it from them became counselors themselves, and said it to their own campers, and it stuck, not only at camp, but also in our hearts. Who you are, where you are from, what you represent. Remember. Because if you forget, there will be consequences.

Sunday my pastor preached about losing your life to find it, and how all our experiences make us who we are. Favorite Kid #1 and I were huddled together for warmth because we forgot to bring sweaters to guard against our freezing-cold-even-when-it's-95-outside sanctuary. No doubt his words hit us differently being as we are at very different stages in life. She is getting ready to jump out and discover who she is, to learn that where she is from matters so much, and to figure out what she will represent, and how. So much has happened to me since I was her age that I can only imagine the adventure she's in for, learning and living and putting together her own story in community with those who love her now and those who will love her in the future.

Ann Miller got me at an impressionable age, and therefore as soon as the pastor said that our experiences "are a catalog of who we are and what we are and what we are like," I thought of Tennyson, the ringing plains of windy Troy, "I am part of all that I have met," all of it. Who I am is a part of all that I have met.

Today is the date of the date that was still the best date. No matter how hard I try to believe it never happened or wasn't so, it did, and it was. We were and then we weren't and I was home and just as suddenly I was lost.

I had lunch yesterday with my friend T, who doesn't live in Austin anymore, and who's going through what he described as "a dark period." We talked about faith and life and simplicity and jobs and research and church and how sometimes, if you're honest with yourself, you have to admit that you just don't know what you believe, don't have the slightest clue as to what it is you are supposed to represent.

I am a part of all that I have met. Floydada and Franklin, Naples and New Haven, Washington and Waco, Black Mountain and Midtown, Africa and Austin. Summer camp and internships, late night talks and boys who broke my heart, tears at unimaginable misery and so, so, so much love.
Something happened to me this summer, something I'm not sure I can put a name on, and something that I'm not sure I fully understand, but that I know is good.

The last few years have been a little rough; the cumulative effects of the frustration of being stuck in graduate school with a difficult advisor, the end of a rather unhealthy relationship, the stress of living in the Congo, and processing the horrors I've seen there took their toll. I spent most of 06-07 just exhausted. I dreaded this summer's trip; I cried at the airport and wanted nothing more than to not have to go back.

But something happened, and it happened the minute I walked up to the border in Goma and saw Ben's shocked smile that mirrored my own. It happened when Nicole welcomed me home, when Anna and I ran into each other on the street one day, when Uncle Rene picked me up at the dock in Bukavu, when Anne-Marie welcomed me to her home with an unripe lemon and a prayer of blessing. It happened when I realized something I forgot:

God didn't forget me.

It's amazing how difficult people and difficult experiences can make you forget who you are. It's incredible how one person can cause you to forget that your heart has a true home, one that is full of laughter and friendship and caring and sacrifice and love. It is remarkable that self-doubt and wrestling with impossible questions can make it hard to remember what you represent.

Something happened to me this summer. A lot of people prayed for me, prayed that things would be better with the Advisor, that research would go smoothly, that I would be safe. They are, it did, I was. And somehow, through all of that, something happened to me. Somehow, through all the experiences and fears and sadness and guilt and worry that come along with going out into the world, I remembered.

And somehow, I am free. We are all free. Free, not just to jump off perfectly good bridges and flip through Class V rapids, but really, truly free. To let all these experiences shape us, to know that there is something solid that keeps us safe and guides us along. Free, in other words, to live.

"I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vexed the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honoured of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers;
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breath were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little..."


- Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Ulysses"

9.25.2007

Can you cook bacon directly on a grill?

Without causing a grease fire? Thoughts? Experiences?

funny things my students wrote

Today we begin a new, occasional series of humorous (and typically wrong) things my students write in response to quiz and exam questions. These are priceless:
  • "'States' rights' is practically code word for 'screw minorities' among forums of discussion." [Please note that this question had nothing whatsoever to do with states' rights.]
  • "I really have no idea what it is. I guess I need to go over my notes and find the answer to this question.

I love my job.

raised eyebrows

Okay. Other than the near-total lack of political freedom, free expression, and free press, sure. Why not?

9.24.2007

;",.!

We almost missed National Punctuation Day. Aack!

There's little that annoys us more than improper grammar, usage, and style. Since we are in the business of reading the ramblings of undergraduates, we see more than our fair share of horrific comma errors and the like. So take a moment, buck up on your grammar, and buy a t-shirt. Celebrate!

we are sitting on our couch watching tv tonight

...And here's what we think so far:
  • Chuck is really funny. And bizarre. He works at Buy More, for goodness sakes.
  • Seriously, the guy who owns The Aquarium and some other 6th Street locales is the Bachelor? Really?
  • I apparently get a channel that shows The Wonder Years every night.
  • There's a reality show on TLC about polygamy. For real. In Texas. They're not Mormons. Is this legal?

This is why I rarely sit around watching TV anymore.

[n.b. We are not watching much Monday Night Football tonight because we don't know for whom to cheer.]

oh my

You've probably already seen this totally appalling video elsewhere today. What I'm most amused by is Mike Huckabee's attempt to keep a straight, neutral face in the background of the soloist. Also, the dynamics of race in the choir vis-a-vis the candidates (and their voting records on civil rights issues) would make an interesting dissertation.

Otherwise, I have nothing nice to say, so I'll stop here.

i am so swamped it's not even funny

So of course the boys gave me have this week to plan the tailgate...

9.23.2007

before I forget...

Don't miss this year's benefit for the Political Asylum Project of Austin, next Sunday night at Jovita's. The Attorney is a board member of this wonderful local nonprofit that provides legal services to immigrants and persons seeking political asylum who live in our area. Here's what he has to say about this always-fun, very dancable event:

=======
PAPA Domingo [benefit concert for the Political Asylum Project of Austin (PAPA)]
Time: 5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Place: Jovita's
Cover: $20.00
THIS EVENT IS KID-FRIENDLY!

PAPA provides free or low-cost legal service to immigrants in Central Texas, including immigrant victims of domestic violence and individuals fleeing political persecution in their home countries. And what better way to support this worthy organization than by enjoying an evening of great music and greasy Tex-Mex with the south Austin hippies at Jovita's? There will be a different band playing every hour (descriptions below), and since the bands are donating their time and talent and Jovita's is donating the space, all the proceeds will go to help the clients of PAPA.

5:00 p.m. Contest Clues

Don't know much about these guys, but they sound fun.

6:00 p.m. Ginger Leigh

If any of y'all have the Blue Dog Rescue calendar for this year, Ms. Leigh and a fuzzy bug-eyed dog named Mico are Ms. September (and dog). Leigh obviously has a good heart, because she supports rescue dogs and immigrants. Plus, it sounds like she's a good musician to boot. Kind of Bonnie Raitt-ish (but less annoying), or as one critic has described her, "Carly Simon without the relationship issues."

7:00 p.m. Seu Jacinto

This appears to be some sort of Brazilian ensemble. Query: Is "Seu" Portuguese for "San"? As in "San Jacinto"? Discuss. Their website discusses the band's musical philosophy but, unfortunately, doesn't give you any music to listen to. It appears you have no choice but to attend PAPA Domingo and hear for yourself.

8:00 Arma del Alma ("Weapon of the Soul")

These guys played at this event two years ago, and they were a hoot. There were about a million people on the stage, from all kinds of different countries, all playing different instruments (pan flutes!). The lead singer, Nelson Saga, is a native of El Salvador. These guys are sure to end the evening on a high note.


=====
P.S. If I remember my semester and a half of Portuguese correctly, "seu" is the first person present form of "to be." Or was that "sou"? AaA, do you remember? I'm probably totally wrong... Regardless, you should come out and dance with us at next week's PAPA Domingo benefit!

heaven, i'm in heaven


Ladies and gentleman, we've found nirvana.

Seriously. We look like a toothpaste commercial.

day of rest

Well, this is fun:

9.22.2007

wow

Most. Random. Friday. Night. Ever.

9.21.2007

muggin' down

This gives new meaning to the phrase "kiss of death."

the worst hold ever

At the moment I am learning that Travelocity has the worst hold noise ever. You have to listen to these horrible conversations between two overly perky adults about travel dilemmas, and trying to change your flight information.

I'm pretty unhappy with them right now, because my flight reservation is for the wrong day. Normally, I would say it was my fault, but I sincerely doubt that I booked a flight for the time of the event that I'm traveling for in the first place. Despite this fact, they won't let me change my flight without paying a change fee since I didn't call the day after I booked the flight. (To be fair, I didn't look at my ticket receipt until today. That's my fault.)

Ooh, now they've kicked me over to something where I can hear a guy in India discussing a call with another customer, but he apparently can't hear me. Great. I'm hanging up.

I really hate bad customer service. Even more than I hate having to listen to terrible hold sounds. Boo on Travelocity for both.

9.20.2007

close enough

A couple of weeks ago I attended the inaugural dinner and discussion of the Texas Baptist Young Professional Network. TBYPN is an initiative of the BGCT's Christian Life Commission, and the evening was a great time of meeting other young Baptists in the central Texas area to talk about how we might collaborate with one another and with other Baptists to support the agenda of the New Baptist Covenant. Part of that means that we will be sending a delegation to the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta in January. Big Daddy Weave has more on that here.

The evening was a great chance to talk with young adults involved in all sorts of careers and ministries. As seminary students and lawyers, youth ministers and nonprofit workers, lobbyists and graduate students, we talked about several things at the meeting, including the exciting prospect of sending a multicultural group of young Texas Baptists to Atlanta, and that we are going to try to have a group of young Austin-area Baptists from different backgrounds involved in ministry together before we head to Atlanta. What an amazing witness that would - will - be.

We also discussed the meeting itself, what its purpose will be, and what tangible results will come out of this historic occasion. This has been very much on my mind of late, especially with respect to the question of the role of younger laity in Baptist life.

Why were we assembled in an Austin living room to talk about being Baptist? One of the reasons is most certainly the growing concern from the generations before us who fought the Baptist wars and who are concerned that the younger generation does not understand what was won, and what was lost. They are, probably rightfully, concerned that there is a brewing crisis in the lack of understanding about the Baptist battles that were fought and the real nature of historic Baptist identity, as well as the open question of the survival of moderate Baptist congregations in a post-denominational landscape.

There's no doubt that the cultural trends in American religious life are working against the sustenance of Baptist identity, and really of denominational identity in general. Young adults just aren't as committed to the idea of remaining loyal to one particular branch of the Christian tradition, and I doubt there's much that can be done to stem that tide with the vast majority of my peers. What more and more moderate Baptist young adults seem to value in "church" is a sense of engagement with the community and the culture, not a specific label that indicates adherence to a set of theological principles.

Which brings me back to the New Baptist Covenant, and its relevance to our discussions that late summer night. For while I do believe that there are certain Baptist ideas that are vitally important -- soul freedom and religious liberty among them -- to me, the New Baptist Covenant will be useless if it takes the form of just another assembly of Baptists. If it's going to be relevant to my generation, to my colleagues and friends, it has to result in action.

Don't get me wrong; I am looking forward to going to Atlanta and being part of this historic gathering. I agree with one of my fellow TYBPN attendees who pointed out that simply being present together is important.

But the challenge for the covenant's organizers - and the challenge for all of us - is to see that we are not content to simply sit in a convention hall with our friends, shake hands with a few strangers, and say nice things and go back to our comfortable lives. That will make for a nice vacation and little else.

What makes me so excited about the possibilities of the New Baptist Covenant is the chance that we could change the world. That's worth the trip.

ack!

So I totally failed to post yesterday.

Oops.

This is a really hectic week. BDW, I promise I'll have my NBC post up this afternoon. No, really.

9.18.2007

congo film


Did you watch Lumo? What did you think? Any questions about Goma, the Congo, or the work of Heal Africa? I'll do my best to answer, or ask someone who would know.
(The women in this picture were awaiting fistula surgery at Heal Africa in Goma, March 2006)

let me fall on the grace that first brought me to you

I hate contemporary Christian music.

Part of this is a side effect of growing up in Franklin, where you learn quickly that the Christian music industry is a business first. It's also concerned with image, marketing, and product rollouts. Musicality comes somewhere down the list, and, for the most part, truly living life as a Christian comes much farther down the list.

It's not some sinister plot or anything like that. Most people enter "the industry" with the best of intentions, and most of them leave disillusioned after waiting tables at a chain restaurant near the Galleria and playing coffehouse open mike nights for a year or two. A few get chosen and swept up in the world of perfect hair, perfect families, and mediocre music.

People from my youth group back in the day are now Christian music superstars. Others tried and didn't make it. Others were and aren't anymore. What we learned through all this is that your average CCM types aren't bad people, but they're also not generally all they seem to be. One of my closest friends from high school stood backstage at the Dove Awards one year and watched the members of a CCM supergroup pitch a fit about their toenail polish. When they were all wearing closed-toed shoes. It happens.

Hypocrisy has a lot to do with it, but the other reason I don't like most Christian music is the fact that I really like music. And the quality of songwriting and production in most of the CCM world, is, quite frankly, incredibly uncreative and uninteresting. It's bo-oring. Often, it's bad. Really bad.

What this adds up to is, basically, that I only listen to a little Derek Webb my sister told me about and some Andrew Osegna that Professor Deutsch passed along and ... that's about it. (I know. I'm the worst poster-child for Baptists ever.)

But today this beautiful post reminded me of one of the few people who got to Franklin, but who weren't caught up in a wave of hypocrisy and mediocrity. It's been ten years since Rich Mullins died in a wreck. Rich Mullins who went barefoot, who never fit in with the big hair and polished stage presences and picture-perfect families with adorable, photogenic children. Rich Mullins who wrote some cheesy songs you sing at youth camp, but who also wrote "If I Stand."

His life speaks for itself.

Lumo airs tonight!


Just a reminder to set your Tivo/DVR/VCR for tonight's showing of Lumo on PBS's POV series. In Austin, it airs at 10pm on KLRU; in Nashville, it's at 11pm on NPT; in Waco, it's on KWBU at 9pm; in DC, it's on in a couple of weeks because DC public television never shows POV on schedule. Check your local listings here.

I really hope you'll watch this documentary about the war against women and girls in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Lumo is the story of one woman who comes to Goma for treatment for a fistula that resulted from violent rape. She recieved treatment at the Heal Africa hospital, where I have conducted lots of research in the last couple of years. Heal Africa is a place of hope in the midst of despair, a point that the film will highlight. Here's a preview:



Austin-area friends and strangers, please come to a talk on the film and the situation in the DR Congo I'll be giving on Wednesday night at 6pm at First Baptist Church, Austin. FBC is downtown at 9th and Trinity and there's plenty of parking (and free childcare!). Please note that neither the film nor the talk are appropriate for children.

(Banner photo credit: P.O.V.)

9.17.2007

last night in live music: regina spektor

Luminous is the only word to describe Regina Spektor's Monday night taping of Austin City Limits. Don't miss this one when it airs later this year.

acl in review: wilco

Sunday afternoon as the sun went down over the ACL Festival, the Ex-Roommate and I (who are realizing that we have been friends for (gulp!) twelve years) pushed our way up to the front of the AMD stage, sat down with everyone else who was trying to sit for an hour, and got ready to enjoy Wilco's set.

I've almost lost count of how many times I've seen Wilco and frontman Jeff Tweedy (it's somewhere in the range of 9-10 times), but it never gets boring. Although we apparently missed the best ACL taping ever on Saturday, the band was still in high gear for the festival, and they took off with a great setlist that showcased some of their new music while hitting lots of old highlights:

Here's the setlist:

You Are My Face
Side With the Seeds
A Shot in the Arm
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Impossible Germany
Via Chicago
Too Far Apart
Jesus, etc.
Hate it Here
Walken
I'm the Man Who Loves You
Red Eyed & Blue
I Got You (At the End of the Century)
Casino Queen
Outtasite (Outta Mind)

Personal highlights included getting to hear "Casino Queen" off of Wilco's first disc, A.M., live for the first time, a beautiful version of "Impossible Germany," and the high-energy closing number "Outtasite (Outta Mind)."

One of the best things about every Wilco show is the camaraderie among the fans. When you're up front, you're almost guaranteed to be standing beside perfect strangers who, like you, know every word to every song. Last night we were next to a girl who'd worked her way up to the front, all alone, and who couldn't stop smiling and gasping. At one point, she apologized and said, "I'm a nerd." "Is this your first time to see Wilco?" I asked. "No," she replied, "but I've only seen them once, and never up close like this." Her excitement and that of everyone around us was a great reminder that it doesn't matter whether you're seeing Wilco for the first time or the twentieth. It's almost always going to be good.

acl day 3

By the pictures/what I really thought:

Midlake was fantastic, although I would really like to hear them in a club in order to better pick up the nuances of their music. These guys know what they're doing.

Also, the marriage proposal, though cheesy, was kindof sweet.

Don't tick off Lucinda Williams. She will write a song like "Honey Bee" about you. And she will have her revenge. Regina Spektor. Right. We were more concerned with securing our awesome Wilco spot, and as the crowd pressed in, our ability to hear Spektor diminished proportionally. But I'll see her tonight, so no worries.
Wilco was so fantastic I'm going to write a separate review later today. They played "Casino Queen!"
We only saw a little bit of Ghostland Observatory, but they continue to grow on me. You can't not dance to it.

Bob Dylan was just so bad I can't believe it.

Look, I've never seen him before, and I think he's a genius. The music, despite his gravely voice early in the set, was good. Starting with "Rainy Day Woman #12 and #35" is a sign that he knew his audience. But there is NO EXCUSE for playing to 65,000 people and not allowing cameras close enough to get your face, or closeups of the soloists. Because no one could see his face (jokes abounded in our section as to whether it was him, or whether he's been dead for years and we were being put on), Dylan never connected with the crowd. It was seriously disappointing.

9.16.2007

acl day 3

Wilco's show was fantastic. Dylan's was terrible. I have to lecture in the morning. More tomorrow...

9.15.2007

acl day two

By the lyrics...

eye of the storm

"Today, we are in a relatively calm situation, as there is a suspension of hostilities between the two parties, the dissidents and the FARDC. One has the impression of being in the eye of the storm, which is to say we are in a calm period, but we don’t know what what will happen next.

"We are very afraid. All the humanitarians had already envisaged a contingency plan since July, to cater for more than 280,000 newly displaced in the province.

"One is approaching this scenario more and more and we are really appealing to have a political solution, a negotiated solution, so that the weapons will stop firing, because each time it is the civilian population that suffers."

-Patrick Lavand'homme, UNOCHA, Goma.

9.14.2007

acl day one

By the numbers:

Bands seen/heard for at least half a set: 10
Memorable (for good reasons) shows: 2
Exercises in mediocrity: 2
Sixteen kinds of crazy: 1 (M.I.A., above)
Not nearly as crazy as we were hoping, yet still inexplicably appealling to a lot of people: 1 (Bjork. I'm sorry. I Just Don't Get It.)
Craziest ACL fashion I have EVER seen that I did not manage to get a picture of because it was dark: 1 (knee high fur boots and butterfly wings. Oh, yes she did.)

nowhere on this planet

"'The entire world is preoccupied with Darfur, understandably,' Lewis said. 'But it must be said that between ten and twenty times of the number of people have died in the eastern Congo as have died in Darfur. There are more displaced persons in the eastern Congo than in Darfur. Darfur has been going on for four years, the eastern Congo has been ravaged for ten. And nowhere on this planet is there such a holocaust of horror visited on women and girls.'"

- AIDS activist Stephen Lewis

9.13.2007

we are very excited...

...because we:

1. have tickets to Regina Spektor's ACL tv show taping on Monday night.
2. will get to see Rodrigo y Gabriela after all when we are in New York.

Yippee!!!

burdens

It's always the women who shoulder the burden of flight in the eastern Congo. Look closely at this woman. She's carrying a mattress, a jerry can for water, blankets, and a baby. She's also most certainly carrying her cooking pot and anything else of value that her family has. Her clothes are clean and her baby has shoes. She's not so thin and emaciated that she is completely malnourished, which means that her children are probably not malnourished either, since mothers usually let their children eat first. Her life is not easy, and she shouldn't have to live this way, but until this, she was probably doing okay.

She'll walk for five miles in flip flops carrying everything she owns until she gets to the camps at Mugunga, where she'll try to keep that baby safe from war and cholera and starvation, until the time comes when she can walk back, hopefully still in possession of these few things, to see what is left of her home.

The BBC has a story today about one woman, Brigitte, who's just fled Sake for the third time in a year. Brigitte walked down the Sake road to Mugunga with her little ones and their things, just trying to stay alive. Maybe her children will be among the 22,000 officials are trying to vaccinate in the camps. Isn't it sad that it takes war for a child to get access to something as basic as innoculation?

E says (everyone says, really) that they are terrified of cholera. The rains have started again and that makes the risk of cholera even greater. All it takes is one person polluting an already limited water supply to set off a chain reaction of disease and death that is difficult to control.

And I am torn. Part of me is glad I got out before the violence started. Part of me wishes I could be there, standing beside E and C and Lyn and Jo, doing whatever can be done to help.

I just reread the story about Heal Africa that ran in Christianity Today last year. Lumo airs next week. Both are reminders that there is good in the midst of evil, that women and children and fathers and brothers who flee are not forgotten.

But, oh, it breaks my heart that they have to walk so far, with no promise of anything at the end of their journeys, and little to return to but a broken world.

9.12.2007

don't mess with texas

We here at Texas in Africa have very little patience for two things:
  1. Bad customer service, and
  2. Companies that make it virtually impossible for customers to find a customer service phone number on their websites.

Because we feel this way, whenever we have negative customer service experiences in either respect, we choose to post the numbers we had to search for in hopes that others won't have to waste precious minutes of their lives vainly searching for what should be readily available informatoin. Companies should understand that frustrated customers don't want to wait for an email reply that will never come - they want to talk to a human being. Who can fix problems. Immediately. Posting your phone number may not be as cost-effective as routing it all through email, but it's certainly better than annoying customers so much that they become former customers.

Here are customer service phone numbers I've had to seek out for two companies this week. I recommend the first and strongly discourage you from patronizing the second:

  1. Zazzle.com - Customer Service phone number: 1-800-980-9890
  2. Symantec / Norton Internet Security - Customer Service phone number that actually works: 1-800-721-3934

Zazzle was very responsive; apparently my original email didn't get through, but they dealt with the problem immediately. And to be fair, my actual customer service experience with Symantec wasn't bad this time. The employees I talked to were responsive and helpful. I didn't have to wait on the phone for nearly 3 hours as was the case in January. I'm just furious with the company for what caused the problem in the first place.

a series of random events

Today I got to meet one of my favorite Texas writers.

It is, as per usual, a long story. This afternoon, we had a Famous Political Scientist visiting the department to give a talk. His topic was unusual, so I decided to go see what it was about. And while I'm not really into statistical analysis of party identification trends and spatial reasoning, it was an interesting talk.

About halfway through the talk, the speaker asked a question that required a response, and only two hands went up: mine and the gentleman in front of me. It seems that Paul Burka and I are among the few political science lecture attenders who know our T.S. Eliot.

That's right, Paul Burka, Texas Monthly political columnist and blogger and the person who knows more about what's going on in Texas politics in terms of the big trends than just about anyone alive (Kronberg knows the gossip; Burka gets the big picture). Burka's writing (along with that of the late Molly Ivins) shapes much of my thinking about Texas politics. Since Texas politics most closely resemble a madhouse in which several someones are clearly pulling the strings from behind the scenes, living here has definitely helped me to better understand the Congo.

Anyway, the talk ended, the Q&A was equally esoteric, and the whole ordeal finally ended late enough to make me late for GA's. And then Paul Burka turned around and asked me to explain the talk. "Oh," I replied, "the problem is that you asked a question about reality, and political scientists aren't very good at reality."

We proceeded to have a delightfully interesting conversation about the study of politics and history, why people vote the way they do, why it's a shame that academics can't translate their ideas into communicative forms that smart people can understand, and the freshman seminar he's teaching (how lucky are those 18-year-olds?). I already liked Burka's writing; now I'm pleased to report that he's also a really nice person.

It was so cool!

sigh

This summer in the Congo, I lived in houses that all had housekeepers. They cleaned and did laundry and ironed and gardened and washed the cars. In Goma, they cooked. I miss those Congolese housekeepers.

where the winds hit heavy

My sister (who is now the nanny for Roseanne's spiritual advisor. It's a long story.) reminds me that today is the 4th anniversary of Johnny Cash's passing. In memory of a great man, here's my favorite version of one of my favorite songs of all time. It's a beautiful duet:

betcha hinkle has something to say about this

Matt Darling passes this gem along. I am in tears.

congo watch: news from goma

E wrote today with this news and requests for prayer from Goma. Things are really bad in the internally displaced persons camps.

"The US embassy is urging us to leave, now. They think it's going to get bad soon. We are planning to stay, until we feel our lives are in danger. ....The specific prayers we need right now is that there will be no cholera among the thousands of displaced people in Mugunga. Specially because it's raining so much these days. [We] go help in the camps, the situation is just overwhelming. More about that later. Pray for the church here to wake up, and play their roles of salt and light. The church seems to be so indifferent to everything."

9.11.2007

a useless fact

Today I learned that the most statistically normal town in America is ....

Wichita Falls, Texas

To be fair, my one and only real visit to Wichita Falls was for the Doctor's wedding, so my perception of the city might be a bit colored by that experience. But still, it's good to know that there's a reason the place seemed so...average.

You learn something new every day, right?

that time of the year

Well, in the level of preparation I have come to expect from the Austin City Limits Music Festival, last night when I pulled up to the Zilker box office to trade in my ticket for a wristband, I was greeted in my car by a smiling woman who simply proclaimed, "We're out."

"Of what?" I asked.

"Wristbands," she replied, quickly adding, "But we'd like to offer you a cd or dvd from the 2005 festival for your trouble."

So I now own a copy of the 2005 ACL Festival live album. (A quick review: given that I generally 1) hate live albums and 2) hate 90% of the acts that ACL thinks I would like to hear over and over and over and over again, it's okay. There's a great recording of John Prine's "Lake Marie," and Asleep at the Wheel doing "Miles and Miles of Texas." (And that Kaiser Chiefs song that always reminds me of Wilco Ben, but that's another story). But there's a reason they have so many of these left over that they can give them away.

I returned today and the wristbands were back in stock, so we're all good to go. (And, wow, are the wristbands tacky. Like, Vegas-in-lights tacky. And also the kind of plastic that is pretty uncomfortable to wear, that doesn't stretch without tearing, and that doesn't appear to have a frequency chip inside, just a barcode. Whatever could have prompted the change?)


So the ACL festival is this weekend. Longtime readers of Texas in Africa will know that we always enjoy this annual event, in which we pretty much give over our weekend to sitting in the hot sun and listening to as many bands as possible while hanging out with good friends and making catty comments about the poor fashion choices of our fellow festival-goers (see 2005 festival coverage here and 2006 here).

The Librarian will not be at this year's festival, which is sad, because if the fashions are as tacky as the wristbands, it's going to be a great year for fashion-watching, and 23 is probably not going to be up for mocking people's bad outfits in the same spirit, so the last annual tradition may fall by the wayside this time around.

But I digress. On to the music.

By now I'm sure you've heard that the White Stripes are out, simplifying the White Stripes vs. Arcade Fire dilemma that was causing all the cool kids to try to figure out which show would make them seem hipper come Monday morning. They will apparently be replaced by Muse, who will be bumped up to fill that Saturday pm closing spot, but if the organizers are smart, they'll move Arcade Fire over to the AT&T stage to handle the crowds (Really. Who wants to see Muse?). (Then again, when have the ACL organizers ever done anything according to principles of logic or reason?)

There aren't many acts at this year's festival that I am Dying to See, so my plan is to just go with what my friends want to do for most of the acts. I do recommend that you check out
If you want more serious recs, Austin360's are pretty entertaining this time around. That said, here are a few acts you shouldn't miss that won't be the focus of any gushing Pitchfork reviews:
  • Zap Mama - I missed her the last time around and will not miss her again if I can help it. Zap Mama is a Congolese rapper based in London. Her sound is totally unique. Just trust me on this one - you won't regret it. Saturday, 5:30, Dell stage.
  • Bjork - Come on, whether you like her music or not, girl is completely insane. I'll stick around just to see her outfit. Friday, 8:30, At&T stage.
  • Wilco and My Morning Jacket - I am So. Torn. I Hate. The. ACL. Schedulers. That said, one of my colleagues is apparently friends from growing up with MMJ, so if we can swing an in, that's where we'll be. Otherwise, I never get tired of Wilco shows. Sunday, 6:30, the two big stages
  • Andy Palacia & the Garifuna Collective are up against LCD Soundsystem and M.I.A. I would like to see all 3. What to do, what to do?
And then there are the Austin City Limits episode tapings. Ticket giveaways for the mostly very inconveniently-timed tapings start Wednesday. (We are debating with friends whether it is worth it to drop everything to try for Wilco tickets.)

The weather forecast is looking good (not too hot, not too much rain) and there's always something new to see. So freeze your water bottles, pack up your folding chairs, swindle a Rollingwood or Zilker parking permit out of your friends (thank-you Favorite Family!), and text us from the show. See you out there!

beyond inappropriate

Student: Did you see R. Kelly's song [about Senator Larry Craig] on Jon Stewart?
Me: Yes.
Student: It was funny.
Me: I'm pretty sure that showing it in class would violate the terms of my contract.

how have i never seen this?





empty

Six years.

MSNBC is airing NBC's original 9/11 coverage in real time. It's still surreal.

I spent the morning on the phone with Symantec/Norton Internet Security Customer Support. Don't ever buy their products.

My lecture for today isn't ready, and I'll miss chapel at the Christian university at which I teach.

I really needed to go to chapel today.

The mundanity of life has taken over, and all I can do is watch television, try to think of something to say to my students, and try to remember and try to forget.

Everything I have to say about 9/11 I wrote last year. My heart was full of memories, and I needed to tell that story.

Today, I just don't have anything to say.

here's a headline you don't see every day

"Ninja return ends in Congo chaos"

Don't worry - that's the other Congo. :)

9/11

Calm is the morn without a sound,
calm as to suit a calmer grief,
and only through the faded leaf
the chestnut pattering to the ground;

Calm and deep peace on this high wold,
and on these dews that drench the furze,
and all the silvery gossamers
that twinkle into green and gold;

Calm and still light on yon great plain
that sweeps with all its autumn bowers,
and crowded farms and lessening towers,
to mingle with the bounding main;

Calm and deep peace in this wide air,
these leaves that redden to the fall,
and in my heart, if calm at all,
if any calm, a calm despair;

Calm on the seas, and silver sleep,
and waves that sway themselves in rest,
and dead calm in that noble breast
which heaves but with the heaving deep.


- Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam A.H.H. 11

9.10.2007

congo watch

This is what we're all really afraid of.

The ceasefire is sortof holding, but everyone believes it's just giving the two sides a chance to regroup. Sake is the boundary between Nkunda and the government.

9.09.2007

august



created at TagCrowd.com


9.08.2007

up to you

"How can evil ever prevail when there is such courage in the world?" - A Wrinkle in Time

"We pin [Jesus] down, far more painfully than he was nailed to the cross, so that he is rational and comprehensible and like us, and even more unreal. And that won't do. That won't get me through death and danger and pain, nor life and freedom and joy." - The Irrational Season

"You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you." - A Wrinkle in Time

Rest in peace, Meg.

week two

You know, when it comes to weekends in September, I'm a pretty simple girl. All I want to do is hang out with friends on Friday night, sleep until 10:45 on Saturday morning, watch Herbstreit's picks on Game Day Live, and watch twelve hours of football (on tv, at our tailgate, and at DKR). Nothing complicated.

It's difficult to enjoy such a leisurely schedule when someone decides to mow the lawn at the crack of dawn on Saturday.

Morning perturbations aside, let's talk football. (Actually, before that, let's talk annoying things ESPN/ABC have instituted this year: Dear ESPN: As super an idea as your marketing interns surely thought it would be to have celebrities introduce each team's lineup, it's not. In fact, it's really annoying. There's nothing in this world I want to watch less than Toby Keith introducing the OU secondary. (Although that does more or less sum up Oklahoma, n'est pas?) Or Miss Mississippi's analysis of State's running game. It's just not interesting. Make it stop. Love/Hate, Texas in Africa)

(While we're at it, also, those irritating Sonic commercials have got to end. They're not funny. They were never funny. And two years is more than enough. Get another ad agency, Sonic.)

But I digress. Today things finally get interesting. OU is making a strong showing against Miami so far. Wake is holding Nebraska in check. LSU-VT will be the best game of the day primarily because VT's overratedness will be exposed for good. Tennessee should be able to recover from last week. And we'll see if Baylor's defense can handle Major Applewhite's Rice offense.

And then there's Texas-TCU.

Look, the doom and gloom assessments are aplenty, as are the excuses. They weren't expecting Arkansas State to show up and play. The offense/defense/kicking team is young. The coaches didn't want to give TCU too much to watch on tape this week (mission accomplished, gentlemen). Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

There's no question that Texas looked bad last week. There's also no question that Mack and the boys are well aware of the fact. If they play that badly again, they're going to lose. If they practiced on Labor Day and corrected some mistakes and Colt gets over whatever it was that threw him off after the first quarter last week, we should be okay. TCU's offense is not that great, despite their highly-touted QB and last week's thumpin' of Baylor.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some football to watch.

9.07.2007

coming attractions

A heads-up for Austin-area/central Texas friends and readers: I'll be speaking about my experiences and the situation in the Eastern DR Congo on Wednesday, September 19 at 6pm at First Baptist, Austin. I'll focus on explainng the situation there and suggest practical ways we can help support community-based ministries and development in the eastern Congo.

My talk is the day after the first airing of Lumo on PBS's POV series on September 18 (at 10pm on KLRU in Austin; check your local listings here). Lumo tells the story of a Congolese woman who was raped by soldiers and came to the Heal Africa hospital for fistula surgery. The trailer for the film is below. The documentary will give you a great sense of what life is like in the eastern Congo, what people endure there, and how a woman like Lumo goes about rebuilding her life after enduring suffering most of us can't imagine. Whether you can make it to Austin or not, I hope you'll watch Lumo if you get the chance.

friday fun

This is priceless:



In other news, it looks like my plans to open my own seminary on the back deck will face no further legal hurdles. Yippee! There's nothing like accredidation-free theological training!

oh, thank goodness

'Cause, you know, the world's been needing some of these.

9.06.2007

gifts that keep on giving

So I am trying to figure out what to send to Melissa the Missionary for her upcoming birthday in our longstanding Battle of the Tacky Christianesque Products (has it seriously been 9 years?), and I am completely torn. Namely, I'm trying to decide between this , this, and this. Thoughts?

imagine

I am trying to imagine what these plains west of Goma look like right now. I'm trying to envision them when they are not empty and green, but rather occupied by tens of thousands of people just like you and me who have done what any of us would do if war broke out in our town: they've run from their homes carrying everything that is precious to their families. I'm trying to conceive of what the presence of so many people does to a landscape. I'm trying to think what thousands of little grass huts like these must look like.

And I'm wondering what this is doing to my friends, both Congolese and expat. My aid worker friends are no doubt living under a lot of stress. It's hard to be the person in charge of distributing food to 20,000 people who have nothing. I haven't heard from many of my Congolese friends lately. No doubt most people aren't venturing out unless it's necessary. Tasks like visiting the internet cafe tend to be less important than ensuring the security of one's family.

My phone rang at 4:18am today. It was a text message from Mama Rene in Bukavu. She wanted to know why I have been silent. In the eastern Congo, one is expected to keep up with one's friends on a more-or-less weekly basis. You need to inquire about their health, safety, and family. Apparently, I'd been too long in writing.

I could say I can't imagine what things are like in the eastern Congo right now, but that's not true. My friends there have lived these horrors and told me all about their experiences in the war. I've seen drunken soldiers roaming the streets, looking for someone to harass. I've seen weapons in the hands of child soldiers. It's terrifying. And all we can do from here is watch, and hope, and pray that this too shall be made right.

congo watch

Well, the fight is getting closer and closer to Goma, and the United Nations has finally said what everyone in the region has known for years: the government of Rwanda is supplying rebel general Laurent Nkunda with equipment and manpower.

Which is interesting, especially given Rwanda's efforts to look like the good guys by engaging in diplomacy and offering to mediate. The Rwandan foreign minister is correct in his assessment that Kinshasa is dead-set on using military force to solve this problem. But Rwanda's fueling of the conflict hasn't helped matters. (We should note that the official Rwandan line is that Rwandan soldiers are not fighting with Nkunda's men. This article (in the government-controlled Rwandan newspaper) doesn't mention whether former Rwandan soldiers are in North Kivu, which seems quite likely to be the case.)

I think the UN's accusation is accurate, but I also agree with the analyst in this article (who is a friend) that Nkunda's participation in the mixage made him stronger. He's definitely under Kigali's influence, but I'm not convinced that he's simply a puppet. At any rate, despite the fact that their men are under attack, it's refreshing to note that Nkunda's spokesman still found time to talk to the Voice of America.

My friend A is quoted in the first story as saying that they think there are 30,000 new displaced persons as a result of the fighting this past week. A was apparently near Sake today and says that there is "a massive number of people on the road to Goma." Estimates of the total number of persons displaced in the east since January are now up to 224,000.

Here is the problem: we want peace. Average people shouldn't have to flee their homes over this. But the problem has been festering since 1994, and it's not going to go away until somebody's military controls the whole region. The diplomats can call for all the talks they want; Nkunda can ask for a truce. But until the issues of refugee return and land ownership are solved, and until the Rwandans make a firm commitment to stay out of the Congo, and until those responsible for the 1994 genocide are caught and punished in a way that satisfies the Rwandans, none of this is going to get better.

Update: The BBC reports that Nkunda's forces and the FARDC (the Congolese army) have agreed to a truce. Nkunda attempted to take Sake this morning, but his men are withdrawing into the hills above Sake. MONUC is supposed to take control of Sake.

9.05.2007

congo watch

From Radio Okapi:

"Ce mercredi, il y a eu des bombardements de FARDC dans les collines de Bukarara occupées par les éléments fidèles à Laurent Nkunda.Des dizaines d’habitants quittent Sake avec leurs bagages sur la tête en direction de Goma. Ces habitants ont peur d’éventuels affrontements entre les loyalistes et les éléments fidèles à Laurent Nkunda, indique notre source.Depuis le début de cette semaine, précise le chef du quartier de Mugunga, un quartier proche de Sake plus de mille familles ont abandonné leurs domiciles pour rester à Mugunga dans des conditions déplorables."

"This Wednesday, there have been FARDC bombardments in the Bukarara hills [which are] occupied by elements loyal to Laurent Nkunda. Dozens of inhabitants left Sake with their luggage on their heads in the direction of Goma. These inhabitants are afriad of eventual confrontations between the loyalists and the elements loyal to Laurent Nkunda, indicates our source. Since the beginning of this week, notes the head of Mugunga quarter, a neighborhood close to Sake, more than a thousand families have abandoned their homes to stay in Mugunga in deplorable conditions."

the course of human events


In the chaos that is my life during a new school year, sometimes I forget what we're really talking about. This week I am teaching the Declaration of Independence. I forget what a magnificent document it is, how eloquently it states the principles upon which our government is supposed to rest:

"...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...."
In Congo this summer, everywhere you turned, in taxis, at C & E's house, everywhere, people were listening to the broadcasts of the National Assembly, which is Congo's parliament. I'd step into a taxi in Bukavu to hear a debate about the budget, or the security situation on the Angolan border, or any other of a hundred topics. (It would be as though our whole country were glued to CSPAN, day after day after day.) The nightly news, which I mostly laughed at because of its proliferation of fluff stories about the daily doings of the president and his ministers, is a matter of true concern for my Congolese friends.
Democracy is a precious thing. And while the Democratic Republic of Congo is arguably neither democratic nor a republic, they are trying. My Congolese friends have suffered too much - they have seen war and experienced hunger and been thrown in jail - to take Congo's democratic experiment lightly. That government should function according to the consent of the governed is more than an ideal. It's their hope for the future that their God-given rights will be respected and honored, that their government will be their own, that their children will grow up not knowing so much pain. Here's hoping.

9.04.2007

thirty minutes I will never have again

Given my new employment status at UT, I just had to complete four somewhat ridiculous complicance training modules, one of which was entirely dedicated to explaining what compliance training is. Never underestimate a bureaucracy.

Here are some things I learned from the other training modules:
  • I can file a complaint with the state if someone discriminates against or sexually harasses me, but they'd really, really prefer that I first address the question internally.
  • I am technically permitted to have a romantic relationship with one of my students, but this is frowned upon, and I'd have to tell my department about it. (The idea alone is so disgusting...)
  • I can speak any language I want in the course of my job duties. Otherwise they'd be discriminating against my native heritage. Lectures in Swahili, here we come! (Wait, what am I saying?)

congo watch

This is from a friend in Goma. I've taken out some of what he wrote for security and streamlining. They ask for prayer for peace, and to spread this news:

Monday:
"yes, the situation here is really bad …. yesterday the Sake road was full of old mamas and papas and little children carrying everything they had moving toward Goma for security. So tragic. Mugunga area has easily 10,000 tiny grass shelters …and the rains are coming (have arrived) and everyone is soaked. 1500 fresh troops arrived from Kinshasa yesterday along with two helicopter gunships…Goma is looking more like a garrison town. [Name redacted for security] says the army is preparing for a major attack on Nkunde….17,000 mai mai are marching to Rutshuru to support the DRC army….talk about a rag tag rape and run army.

"...several Tutsi’s have been murdered in Goma town the last few days. Tensions are rising."

Tuesday:
"The food situation here is becoming a crisis….tens of thousands displaced, no water, no sanitation, no food. UN seems paralyzed by it too…I’m sure they are planning but I don’t see any action. We sent out a team this afternoon to the Mugunga settlement…to assess the situation. ...I think we should be sounding the alarm."

Texas in Africa:
On another note, I haven't heard from C & E, and I am a little concerned. Although they are not from the east, E's physical features have caused some to mistake her for a Tutsi in the past. Please pray for their safety.

It's really bad. If they don't organize water and sanitation in the camps immediately, Goma will see yet another cholera outbreak within the next 3-5 days. Mugunga is roughly the area where many of the refugee camps were in 1994-96, and to say that people in the region have bad memories of this time would be a gross understatement. This is really bad.

(Above is a picture of the Sake road that I took in June. I am trying to imagine what it looks like now, packed with refugees carrying everything they can rather than with the cows and overloaded buses and carts that constitute its normal traffic.)

september


Driving North, 1981

The darkness was Protestant that year, but not
with individual conscience, the hymn of the south,
or the priesthood of the believer. Haunted,
driving north, I watched the horizon gray
over Oklahoma, the rim of fires drifting down
from Manitoba. I stepped out hours later
to the first cold of September, a season's end.
The magnolias were already old those last evenings,
reflected in the watery light of summer rain. The air
was dark with words. But this spring, a hymn heard
through a distant window brought back the years
before: The place where crepe myrtle blooms
early and late, where old bells echo from a green
Handel and Mendelssohn and all the music of Passover,
where almost every lamppost has a name
and shadows cross our days without erasing joy.


-Jane Hoogestraat

polls are out

Ouch.

At least we're still in the top 25.

congo watch

North Kivu is descending into war. This is more than the usual low-level violence.

The FARDC (Congo's national army) made its first helicopter gunship run and claims to have killed 50 of Nkunda's rebels.

There's fighting in Sake. I think we can safely assume that the pygmy families have again had to flee.

10,000 refugees have crossed the border into Uganda.

Nkunda's men (who are Congolese Tutsi rebels (And, if we're honest, he's got a bunch of Rwandan Tutsis under his command as well.)) have taken huge sectors of Virunga national park. They're apparently chasing the FDLR, who are the Rwandan Hutu rebels. This means, among other things, that the mountain gorillas in the park are at serious risk.

As best as I can gather, the government is also supposed to be going after the FDLR. But these clashes are aimed at Nkunda's men. Confused yet?

Radio Okapi says that Rwanda is "ready" to mediate between Nkunda and the DRC government.

My friends say Goma is tense but fine.

I don't know whether to believe them or not. If I were still in the region, I would have left by now.

thanks!

Welcome readers from The Secret Life of Kat. Here's a link to the original post on Olivier.

Regular Texas in Africa readers, I encourage you to visit Kat's website. Kat is a different kind of soccer mom. I started reading when she started The Forty Day Fast, and have really enjoyed her thoughts and insights.

9.03.2007

unacceptable

Amen to this!

PhSquared and I both have problems of this nature this season. I don't want to talk about it.

sights and sounds

I'd love for you all to go listen to Fred's recording of Sunday morning worship in a Congolese church. This is exactly what it's like.

congo watch

Gunshots are reported in Goma last night; apparently rebels tried to take out some of the communication towers on Mount Goma. They have also cut off electricity and communications in Rutshuru.

C & E live more or less at the base of Mount Goma. I've emailed, but haven't heard from them, nor any other of my Goma-based friends.

Today was the first day of school in Congo. I'd imagine that for most, life goes on, but it sounds like things are very tense in Goma. Goma's public school teachers were on strike today, so only the private schools there opened.

Agence France Presse says there was a truce on Saturday, but that western security observers think the two sides are getting ready for more fighting. I'm inclined to agree. It's been obvious for several months that both sides were planning for this.

9.02.2007

it's the most wonderful time of the year

Ah, the first Saturday in September. It's my favorite day of the year - waking up to the picks on GameDay Live, tailgating for several hours before kickoff, and figuring out where our seats are this year before taking in a game. Oh, yeah, and watching teams like Michigan get what they deserve!

The Longhorn Foundation took over all the state parking garages this year, which means our longtime tailgating spot is no more. We were Not Pleased with this development, but PhSquared called an audible and found what most football fans only dream of: the perfect tailgating spot. It's a hidden place, a 10-minute walk from the stadium, with plenty of live oak trees (read: shade) and grass and not too many people. Someone has DirectTV set up in the parking lot, and there's no traffic at the end of the game. (And there are clean restrooms nearby.) . Am I going to tell you where this is? Of course not - there's no way we're giving away our new find on the internets! It's the holy grail of tailgating spots. Turns out that the Longhorn Foundation's expropriation of our spot was the best gift they could've given us. UT is redoing the north endzone, so things there are a mess. For some reason, our group of fourteen has 13 seats in one section, and one in the north endzone. Not that the unlucky winner actually has to sit there, but that gives you an idea of about how well-organized the ticket office is these days. Anyway, our seats are good, right up against the edge of the now much smaller north endzone, and pretty far down. We're on the new concrete, but still on the east side, meaning we have new benches to stand on, but still good seats. The people in front of us are obnoxious, but everyone else seems cool.
I wish the same could be said for the Longhorns. Law, it's going to be a long season if they keep playing as poorly as they did last night. I was concerned about the secondary going in, but they were even worse than I expected. Colt had a rhythm early on, but he lost his confidence or something after the first few drives, and the offense missed opportunity after opportunity to drive the ball in. Thank goodness it wasn't on television, so most poll voters didn't see how close the Horns were to being upset. You know it's bad when the team is ahead 14-3 and everyone's acting like they're losing. TCU's going to be an upleasant wake-up call if the Longhorns don't get it together next week.

We left after the game ended to watch the end of Tennessee-Cal (sorry I jinxed it, Emily) and Auburn-K-State (sigh). All in all it was a great day of football, even if the best plays didn't come from the Horns. It's September, and therefore we're happy.

*The last photo credit goes to 23, who wasn't happy with the Tower-at-sunset pictures I took. Hope he's happy.