Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Mariakani, Kenya (there's at least one alien in this town)
There are places where the world's strangest people live.  They're aliens. You can sneak into their world and hang around them and be forever changed for having done so.  Happier perhaps, or nobler or wiser or even nicer.
'Nice' wasn't ever on my list of goals.  It's what some people did because they were soft inside; at least that's how I saw it when I was a kid.  It took sixty years to realize that there is a depth and breadth to the alien heart that with great strength and magnificent selflessness can touch a life and in a moment, change it forever.
Having met a few such stunning creatures in my travels, I find that my heart is happy to be wherever they are.  The place may be harsh and the circumstances may be uncomfortable, but I find that I want to be around those strange, immortal creatures who willingly open their hearts to others and lay down their lives.

It isn't just an African thing of course, although I think that's where I began to see the aliens clearly, perhaps for the first time with understanding.  A pastor I met in Kenya is undoubtedly one.  I realize now, we'd unknowingly welcomed aliens into our lives when we were newlyweds and  assigned overseas.  We even went to church with them! We came to live where we do now because of just one such soul.  We remember with deep appreciation those few along the way who similarly conveyed us into a realm we hadn't known.  What a journey it has been.

I realize now, decades after his passing, my father must have been an alien.  And I'm suspicious about my wife.

Oh, good grief; now a kid I work with is making alien noises.  

(So what are the aliens up to?  You'd think they were maybe trying to change the world or something like that.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

A year since Africa

She's a young mother now; I met her and her rowdy friends when they
'kidnapped' me several years ago and made me take them through the 
jungle to a restaurant and buy them lunch.  :)
As of this month, it's been a year, but my heart still wanders back there.
In front of their elementary school, my friends are still
in their uniforms at the end of the day.

Calls from friends in Kenya, email and pictures from Ethiopia, Facebook chat with Djibouti, Benin, Nigeria, and Sao Tome & Principe; we're still connected.

Reports come regularly from our friends and efforts.  A fellow in college, more than a hundred in schools, several families and their businesses, and a community building a preschool.

Over the years traveling in Africa, I've been offered several children for adoption; by their parents, surprisingly.  They were hoping their kids could go to the U.S. and have a better life.  It broke my heart to decline, but we're past the age where we might succeed at raising children again.

Mom and Grandpa clown around with the kids.
Nice folks; thoughtful.
My first African friend and her
family pile in for a trip to the shore.
We've partnered with several families to help them step up a bit.  Home repairs, water and electricity, kid's school uniforms and fees, ... rabbits!  They've graciously included us in their families and communities.

Sitting street-side with one of my teens.  He and the rest are
grown up, married, and with kids of their own now.

Life is simple and difficult.  Education and healthcare are a long way from universal availability.  Economic opportunity is hard to find.  Even an adequate diet is hard to pull together, and many children are undernourished with the health consequences that follow.

They spend no time at all worrying about the things that are common in the developed world.  They don't worry about their 401k, their lawn, their insurance, their bank account or credit rating ... they don't have any of those things.  No careers, no job security, no choice of this college or that for their children.

They are good at community and watching out for each other, though.

With a couple dozen Africa trips behind me, it looks like maybe next year before I get to see my friends in person again.

Monday, April 15, 2013

You can call me Al; Africa sings with the world!

Mama Hope uses
humor to change
the West's view
of Africa

Nyla Rodgers is one charity official who is fed up with the way nonprofits represent Africa. Too often she sees depictions of AIDS, warfare, famine, hopelessness, desperation, and dependence on a Western hero.

That kind of concern came to the surface when she saw the “Kony 2012” campaign by the advocacy group Invisible Children.

“When I saw the Kony campaign, it made me so mad,” says Ms. Rodgers, founding director of Mama Hope, a San Francisco charity that works in Ghana, Kenya,Tanzania, and Uganda to start farms and build schools, health centers, and other facilities that strengthen communities. But long before that campaign, her charity started working to create new perceptions of Africa and to show that it is full of capable people with the potential to support themselves. Her nonprofit has released three videos over the past year as part of its “Stop the Pity” campaign, using humor to create a new conversation about the continent and humanize the people who live there.

In the first, published in February 2011, a 9-year-old African boy explains in detail the plot of his favorite movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Commando.”
In another, Americans and Africans sing along to Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al.”

Saturday, March 30, 2013

... through each other's eyes ...

Few things are harder to grasp than a world in which we've never lived.
One look can change your mind forever, disassembling a lifetime of narrow thinking.  It's available for the price of a few days on the road.

You'll see and learn more than years in the finest university could provide.  Come see for yourself!

The faces in the photos are that of a young lady and her siblings whom we met in Africa. They laughingly waved me down and asked for money. It was more recreational than real begging. 

The kids took me home to meet mom and dad; nice folks, tough minded and practical. They raise goats and a few camels, generating a small income to support a family of nine.

They've welcomed me each time I was there and made a place for me in their social circle. We laughed a lot and parted tenderly at the end of my cycle of travels to their country.  I so hope to see them again.
 "Could a greater miracle take place
       than for us to look through each other's eyes
            for an instant?"  ~Thoreau

Friday, February 22, 2013

The most fun

Of the occasions in life for being happy, playing at the beach perhaps tops the list when you're young.

In the distance, tiny silhouettes... the kids have the beach pretty much to themselves today.  Big sister and grandma are watching from the shore, in case you were wondering. 

In an as yet undiscovered country, smaller than most actually, the beaches are rarely crowded and then, not with tourists.  

Local folks enjoy the beauty and moderate weather of the equatorial climate.  Sao Tome & Principe is a tiny island country in the Gulf of Guinea on the western side of Africa.

It used to be a Portuguese colony, but has been independent since the seventies.  Among the world's nicest folks.  No significant violence or crime, no really dangerous animals, and no reason to rush.
Click on the pictures; they're hi-rez.
It's a rare blessing to visit such a place.   

It's Friday afternoon, and all things considered, I'd rather be in Africa.

(just some photos from a recent trip; reminders in this cold February of what it's like to be warm)