six weeks to vacation!!!!
I think I've found my rafting trip for July.
"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)
I think I've found my rafting trip for July.
A travel site for people like us!
So I finally worked up the nerve to watch Into the Wild tonight. (Yes, it takes me six months to get it together to watch movies about people who find unique ways of learning to live by managing to kill themselves at the same time. I'm a little fragile on these things. Stop judging.)
This picture is worth a thousand words. Except there are already words in it. But you know what I mean. Right?
Sure signs it's summer in Austin:
UPDATE: AND, I have a chaco tan. How did that happen so fast?!?
In which the reality of Facebook hits a bit close to home. Careful, kids!
I just got my first email from a parent. Of a college student.
Just in case you were wondering, here are all the symbols you can have put on a tombstone at Arlington National Cemetery (assuming, of course, that you meet the other criteria to be buried there.).
Sunday after brunch, B and I decided to go to the African Art museum to see the Tischman collection, which is finally on display after, oh, 23 years in storage at Disney World. More on that later, but what I want to tell you about here is what was playing when we were perusing the gift shop, comparing prices the Smithsonian will charge you with the actual fair market value. "Is this 'Where the Streets Have No Name?" I asked. "Yep," said B. And we saw this:
I don't really go for tribute albums, but In the Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2 is insanely good. Put another way, kids, you haven't lived until you've heard Angelique Kidjo sing "Mysterious Ways," or listened to Vieux Farka Toure do "Bullet the Blue Sky" in the desert blues style his father perfected. In Bambara.
I can't think of a better introduction to contemporary African music, or to some of the most talented musicians the continent has to offer. Give it a listen.
And I thought some of my students were off the deep end.
Arlington on Memorial Day is probably not a place you want to be. The entrance and visitors' center are total chaos; thousands of tourists and soldiers and boy scouts milling about, trying to find the Kennedys' eternal flames or the Lee house or the Tour Mobile that will get them there. If you're extra unfortunate, as I was, you'll arrive while the president is on-site to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown, meaning that tons of extra security personnel make you walk on the grass and that tourist after tourist after tourist waits to catch a glimpse of the presidential motorcade.
Film director Sydney Pollack died today. He had me at that farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills, and the day I stood on that porch for myself was one of my favorite days.
This is how small my world is:
It's a little scary, no?
Eurovision does the Balkans: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/05/22/europe/EU-GEN-Serbia-Eurovision.php
Tacky, tacky, tacky. It's not what she meant, but it came off that way, and she should've known better.
What if you were taking wedding pictures and an earthquake happened? Some pretty amazing shots from China are here. (Click on the "more pictures" link under the picture to see the rest.)
The cost of war is enormous:
Kickoff times are being set, and the season is only 3 months away. But 2:30 on September 13 is just asking for massive heat-related sicknesses in the new, breeze-free south endzone.
Oh, I am still so stinkin' jealous that Steve the Lawyer will be at Eurovision this weekend. I love it not for the reason that Europe loves it, but rather because it's so over-the-top BAD that it's hilarious. Anyway, here's an overview of some of this year's more...special entries:
It says something about my life experiences that I already knew the answer to this Slate Explainer question. And I'm not sure that something is good.
Steve the Lawyer is going to the Eurovision Song Contest finals in Belgrade this weekend.
Well, that was fun. Now I can add yet another inconvenience to the list of things I've endured in the name of political science: being evacuated from the Library of Congress.
Ahh, the border fence.
1. I am currently sitting in an Apple store in Arlington, Virginia, waiting longer than necessary for an appointment I made 24 hours ago. They're running behind.
And I'm done with American Airlines. Just as soon as I use that voucher from my Kosovo trip nightmare.
Brant Hansen is doing a week of "The Most Disturbing Album Covers Ever."
So. D.C. It's about 40 degrees cooler here than it is in Austin, which is unfortunate, because I packed spring clothes. It's always nicer here in May, but it's usually warmer than 55. Oops. But DC never really changes, and it's the usual mix of confused interns, sleazy lobbyists, and tourists standing on the left side of the Metro escalators.
Free tickets are never really free.
Wow, am I tired. After six parties this weekend, I'm about to catch a flight, on which I plan to promptly go back to sleep.
Of course, that bar has a steeple, and Dale Watson usually plays, so I guess you could consider it evening church. In a manner of speaking. Did I mention that I was in pearls, due to the fact that I had a graduation dinner to get to and that I hadn't had time to change since church? Right.
At any rate, the main reason we were there was so that O-Line's sweetheart could witness this spectacle. The poor girl. She's a nice Jewish girl from New Hampshire and apparently they don't do this kind of thing up there. (Clearly, she really likes O-Line.)
Anyway, the great Dale Watson played, we all managed to get tickets for bingo, and the crowd waited for about 20 minutes for the chicken to do his business. Which he did on my square, #47.
Technically, that's not true. Technically, the bird, um, went, on the line. But the majority of his um, yeah, was on my square.
Now. I don't dispute that the person holding the "line" ticket should've won. Ginny gives separate tickets for any line and any corner on the board. (Who knew this would be so detailed?) But the problem was that nobody had the "line" ticket, and so they went to a tiebreaker, where some woman who had #12 claimed that it was hers. It was SO not hers. Anyway, Ginny ended up giving it to the band, which is perfectly fine with me. But I don't imagine I'll ever be that close to winning again. Sigh.
Well, last night was my 30th birthday party. The Attorney and the Librarian were very sweet to host the party, since my apartment can't come close to handling that many people. It was a good time, in that "worlds clashing" kind of way that happens whenever you put work friends and church friends and random friends from other places into the same room, er, backyard. My sister made her amazing red velvet cake. It was way fun.
Lola is the Attorney and the Librarian's dog.
It was an entirely logical conclusion, but I am happy to report that they have not yet had to resort to packing Lola in a box when it comes to wishing a friend a happy 30th birthday.
But what could have been inside that box of wonder? Well, That would be this:
His name is Buck. Buck talks. And sings. Songs like "Sweet Home Alabama." And "Friends in Low Places." You can also do karaoke with Buck. Through a microphone.
As you can probably guess, Buck is fascinating for some small children and terrifying for others. Especially when his "voice" changes genders midway through a discussion, when someone else picks up the mike.
Believe it or not, this is not my first encounter with Buck. You see, the night before I took off for the very long trip to the Congo in 2006, I stayed with the family. It was a late night, as I had a good-bye party and lots of packing to do, so I got to their house long after everyone else went to bed. I tiptoed into the guest room, when what should happen but a loud voice started singing "Suspicious Minds." It was Buck, on my bed.
(That's when I learned that Buck is motion-sensitive.)
The best part of last night's Buck-stravaganza was driving home. See, Buck and his eight points wouldn't fit into my car without putting the top down. So there I was, driving down Burnet Road late at night with a deer head in the passenger seat.
I've never had so many interesting conversations with strangers in pickups at stoplights involving the words, "Did yew bag that yurself?!?"
It was even better when I realized that I had to get gas if I was going to be able to get to church this morning. That's when I got to talk to the Exxon guy who was refilling the tanks.
Seriously. It was so funny, but given what I dish out in terms of practical jokes and silly gifts, I totally deserve it. I am lucky to have such wonderful friends who open their homes and hearts and make me feel like I have more than one family in this city.
Also, if you're in need of a singing deer, I can hook you up. No charge.
Austin, Texas is party central of late. There's something about three other friends turning 30 (and another turning 25) along with graduations and the end of the academic year that means that I'm currently on day 8 of something like 17 straight days/nights of social events. Somehow my body has adjusted to going to bed at 2am, waking up at 11, and still getting enough dissertation work done to keep everyone happy. Go fig.
This is a bit much, no?
This is a fun little blog about things that look like ducks.
Yet another reason to avoid Houston like the plague.
This can't be real, but it sure is entertaining.
Austinites, if you've got old electronics sitting around that you need to get rid of, there's a great opportunity this Saturday from 9am to 2pm. Students at McCallum High School are collecting your old computers, televisions, CD players, cell phones, and anything else electronic to try to refurbish. What the experts can't refurbish, they'll recycle for you.
Admit it. You wish you'd gotten to spend this afternoon reading about Calvinist Belgian Protestants in the Congo. And a book about women Christians in the Congo published in 1936 that begins with this gem:
Well, if the secretary of defense says we should go, then I think we should go! Who's in?
So you can understand what's at stake in the PEPFAR fight in Washington, today I'm rerunning a post from last summer about Congolese individuals who live with HIV/AIDS, and the treatment they receive from international funding sources. While PEPFAR doesn't fund treatment in the eastern Congo as of yet, this will give you an idea of the devastating consequences that a decrease in funding or a failure to re-authorize the program would have.
It is unconscionable that seven Republican Senators are holding up authorization for PEPFAR, a program that treats and helps 3 million HIV/AIDS victims, a huge percentage of which live in Africa. Unconscionable. They're asking for unnecessary and ultimately harmful provisions in the legislation, and all of their shenanigans may result in the program being cut by 50%. Michael Gerson's article does a great job of explaining the issue.
My laptop adaptor isn't working. And by, "isn't working," I refer specifically to the fact that it shoots off sparks whenever it's plugged in and moved.
In which a political columnist apparently goes off the deep end.
"Why would anyone take issue with a church sign that said Love God, Love Your Neighbor? Jesus did say that and many other things. He said something about loving your enemy too. Jesus reached out to the down and out, told his followers to take care of the poor and needy, feed the hungry and pursue peace. If the Bible is so important, why don't we take Jesus more seriously?"
It's been awhile since we've updated the old blogroll here at Texas in Africa, and since it's vacation-from-classes time, now seems like as good a time as any. So ... if you read or link to Texas in Africa and I haven't linked to you and you'd like to be linked to, leave a comment with your URL and it'll appear like magic. Promise. Thanks for reading.
So what has your president done to signal that he cares about our troops who are fighting and dying in a war he started?
Many of you may recall that my March journey to the wonderland that is Kosovo was somewhat less than 100% smooth. And by "less than 100% smooth," I refer, of course, to the fact that the journey was disrupted by a blizzard, which caused a 22-hour delayed reroute to Pristina via Des Moines and Istanbul, and luggage that made it to Kosovo approximately 96 hours after it was checked in.
"So...," begins the conversation I've had approximately 1,247 times in the last month, "When do you leave for Africa?" Or, "What exotic place are you headed to this summer?"
Today I am reading theology dissertations written by Congolese Baptists from North Kivu. (Admit it, you're jealous.) Anyway, this morning my good friends at Interlibrary Services got a copy of the dissertation of one of my all-time most entertaining interview subjects, whom I'll refer here to as Pastor He's Not Only a Pastor; He's Also a Member of Parliament. Pastor HNOPHAMP ends his acknowledgements section thusly:
Turns out Jenna outsmarted the White House press corps and most of Salado. It's pretty amusing.
Happy day, Jennifer Kim is off the Austin City Council.
This is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. EVER.
This blog is a scream.
This must really stink. But clearly they have a sense of humor, 'cause the townspeople are calling it the "Sinkhole de Mayo."
This just arrived for me via inter-library loan services:
Oh, my word, it's hot in the ATX. Seriously. It's normally pretty warm in May, but it seems too early for us to already be in the 98-degrees with 90% humidity range. I hit the point of just not being able to take it anymore yesterday afternoon, said "forget this" to my work, and went to Deep Eddy. I have a feeling that's about to become a pattern.
My mother's hometown has the somewhat dubious distinction of being the home of what used to be the tallest cross in the Western Hemisphere. (It was the tallest until some guy in Illinois decided he wanted to make one that is 8 feet taller.) It's 190 feet tall (because 200 feet makes you subject to FAA regulation, and the builder wanted the government to stay out of his cross. That's a principle I can stand behind.) and was built by a guy from Pampa who wanted to build a billboard for Jesus that would counteract all the publicity for various triple-X establishments that lines Interstate 40. Since Pampa is apparently too far off the highway for even God's billboards to be seen, he had to find some land. And my mother's hometown - home of one Catholic family that obeyed the Magisterium's commands concerning fruitful multiplication over the course of several generations - is where he found it. Being as the land up there is flat, flat, flat, you can see the thing for miles.
Now this is pretty cool.
The person who writes the police blotter at UT has a sense of humor. It's seriously amusing, almost every day they print it. Anyway, today's contains an item that is particularly memorable:
I knew it would be bad when a birthday gift from Melissa the Missionary showed up bearing this label:
Oh, yes, and dear Melissa outdid herself this time. What greeted the 30th anniversary of my appearance on this planet? Why this little gem, of course:
Miss Anderson, it seems, was a Georgia native who was appointed by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention to make her way to Nigeria in 1920, where she spent the rest of her life civilizing the natives. According to the forward, Miss Anderson's time as a teacher at a Baptist Girls' School in Nigeria made her "greatly beloved by all the black people who come under the influence of her Christlike personality."
Sigh. Melissa doesn't know how many of these sorts of books I have to read for my research. In trying to establish the social histories of the churches of the Kivu provinces and the history of social service provision by those churches, I get to read dozens of accounts of American missionaries who took off for darkest Africa, many of them never to return. And, truth be told, many of them give accounts of activities that are absolutely horrifying. If what they did bothers me, a nice Christian woman, then what do you suppose their Congolese converts thought?
It's not that I'm opposed to missionary endeavors. It's just that so many of them, especially in Africa, are undertaken with a level of naivite, arrogance, and lack of respect for existing cultural traditions that's just appalling.
In my work, I'm in the middle of reconstructing the history of Baptist churches in North Kivu in the DR Congo. There's a fantastic book about this, which makes the task a lot easier. But the history of mission and church in North Kivu isn't pretty. A group of missionaries, no doubt with the best of intentions, but also with a cultural arrogance and a sense that anything secular was inherently corrupting, ended up depriving a generation of Congolese converts of an education that would provide them with non-mission-based employment, and refused for far too long to allow local Christians any measure of control over the activities of the mission. They wouldn't even ordain African pastors.
As you can probably guess, this ended badly. The missionaries and their supporters were challenged by a group that agitated for more African control, for an education system that would allow parishoners to attain a level of material well-being that was comparable to that of the missionaries themselves, and for the mission organization and properties to be turned over to the Congolese Baptist churches. People actually died in violence that resulted from this struggle for control, and by the time most of the missionaries realized what they'd done in their quest for doctrinal and spiritual purity, it was too late. North Kivu's Baptists split, and they are still split today.
I've thought about this at length over the years - especially when watching groups of enthusiastic young American college students wearing matching t-shirts and carrying guitars board flights to East Africa - and I've come to the conclusion that the problem is not in the message, but rather in the culture. One of the huge (and entirely understandable) mistakes the early missionaries made was the assumption that deviations from American cultural norms of dress and conduct were representations of a "savage" or "heathen" mentality. So if women went around in the jungle naked all day, they were violating Biblical standards of modesty. Or if a marriage was celebrated by dancing, then clearly the culture had to be changed, because that was obviously a sign of an overt sexuality that needed to be repressed.
Never mind that those early westerners were projecting their cultural norms onto the society of others.
Unlike most of my colleagues in this field, I don't believe the missionary influence on Africa was entirely bad. They brought a new faith, they brought modern health care, they brought connections to the outside world that didn't exist before.
But they also brought a legalism, a sense of superiority, and an arrogance whose effects are hard to correct . And I fear that many very well-intentioned Americans carry that same attitude into Africa today as they go off to "bring Jesus to Kenya." May we remember that Jesus is already there. May we know that the kingdom of God is not about hierarchies, but about communities. May we be mindful of the fact that God speaks through all cultures, not just our own, and that what God requires of us is to do justice, love mercy, and act in a spirit of humility.
Both of the guys in the next office spent today cleaning out their office. The three of us are the last of our cohort (that's an entering class, for those of you lucky enough not to be academics) still in Austin, and both of them are leaving. One is throwing in the towel after six fruitless years; the other is moving away to be with his fiance while he finishes his dissertation.
MSNBC reports that Hillary Clinton has cancelled all her public appearances tomorrow. It's over.
After eight years of undergrad (where she graduated with a 4.0) and seminary (where she graduated as the top student in her class), and spending a couple of summers in rural Ghana being sure that this is what she wants to do, I am proud to announce that, as of today, my baby sister is the newest member of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Congratulations, sis!!!!! I love you!!!
I think it's over. There are 220,000 uncounted votes in heavily African-American districts in Indiana's Chicago suburbs. It may go on through May, but the Clintons know they can't win this.
I could care less about what's happening at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, but Robert Parham makes some excellent points in an essay about that church's current infighting:
Gang, I'm off to Amarillo for a couple of days. Until then, here's a quiet version of one of my very favorite songs to enjoy:
"This is the week when dear little old ladies in Shawano, Wis., get to know about sports figures named Spectacular Bid and Flying Paster. Spectacular Bid and Flying Paster are thoroughbred race horses, and there are vast and sinless areas in this country where they and their like are regarded as instruments of Satan 51 weeks a year. Then comes the week of the Kentucky Derby, and sinless newspapers that wouldn’t mention a horse any other time unless he kicked the mayor to death are suddenly full of information about steeds that will run and the people they will run for at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May. In cities all over the land stenographers invest their silver in office pools, in cities and towns and on farms the sinless old ladies study the entries and on Saturday almost everyone tunes in on television." - Red Smith, 1979
This gorgeous book showed up in my stack of books-brought-from-library-storage (oh, yeah, I get to read books no one's checked out since 1943). It's a production of the Belgian Foreign Ministry during the colonial era. Too bad I already know so much about how bad Belgian rule of the Congo was. Although the naked African carrying a heavy load on his shoulders is pretty accurate...
Well, if I had to turn 30, yesterday wasn't such a bad way to do it. Reverend Ann showed up at my door first thing in the morning for a, ahem, pastoral visit (complete with doughnuts), during which we called our friend Cody and tried not to think about turning 30 together (all of us hit the big one this month). Then I had a fabulous lunch with wonderful Genie on the balcony at Shoreline Grill, did some shopping, went to the spa, and ended up the day with friends at Eastside Cafe. That plus calls from all over, lovely cards like the one above, and some really special gifts (including a cd of "old lady" songs from the Librarian and the Attorney, about which more will be written later) made for a great day, and I was almost able to forget the reason for it all. Until a text arrived from Debra: "you have one hour left." :) Thanks, y'all, for making it a special day!
I just got an email from a student who 1) missed the first two exams, 2) didn't complete any of the other course assignments, including the research paper and presentation, and 3) overslept this morning's exam. Said student wants to makeup this morning's test in hopes of passing the course.
When I was six or seven years old, we went to visit my grandparents. One late afternoon, as part of that visit, we drove a couple of hours from their house to a farm where someone was having a party. I don't remember whose party it was, or why we went, or much about who we saw. What I do remember is that I fell asleep on the two-hour drive there, and when I woke up on our arrival, I still believed that I was asleep. I have this distinct memory of sunset on the flat West Texas horizon and talking to a little boy while we were jumping on the trampoline (it was a fun farm) and telling him that none of this was real, that it was all part of my dream.