So. Yeah.

Not much blogging lately just because life has been nuts. That's always the excuse but this time its somewhat legitimate...

I resigned last week from Accenture and accepted a position with World Vision. I'll be returning to Africa as the Program Manager for Global Supply Chain Management Implementation there (a mouthful, right?). I'm flying to Nairobi on January 10th and will be looking for an apartment there, at least in the short term. Doesn't really matter where I put my stuff, the position will be 75%+ travel to the countries across the continent (primarily southern, eastern, and western regions) that we are working in to set up SCM offices within WV's existing architecture. Its exciting but its going to be a lot of work.

I'm finishing up a 10-day stint here at home in Cali tomorrow and flying back to NYC tomorrow night. Its been good to spend time with the entire fam, eat all my favorite foods, and get a day of riding in on a foot of freshies. Also I think I caused some nerve damage in my arm that I need to see a doc for next week. Speaking of next week, I also need to:

- get a medical screening done for WV
- see a travel clinic to update any of my immunizations
- meet with my financial guy and sort all the 401k rollovers out
- interview potential sub-letters for my place
- host the NYE party at Lincoln center
- schedule an appointment with the derma doc
- figure out how to transfer all my personal stuff from Outlook and OneNote to the home computer
- back up the home computer
- get new headphones, an external hard drive, a projector to serve as my TV in Africa, and potentially a DSLR (woot)
- find my old receipts and submit them for work expenses
- finish all the administration around leaving the company
- send some thank-you cards
- pay my parking ticket
- find a new bank account that won't screw me on withdrawal charges in Africa
- figure out where I'm going to store my stuff
- start packing
- find some jeans sample sales
- get a living will drafted
- send my (late) holiday cards
- finish all the on-boarding paperwork for WV
- see Grand Torino
- switch all the bills over to Dave's name
- figure out how to get out of my Sprint plan without having to pay
- eat slightly healthier and perhaps even get a few runs in

Also, I have decided that I will be acquiring a pair of dogs once I get settled (so to speak) in Kenya. This makes me happy.

More when I get around to it...


In the last decade, urbanism has con- verged, to some extent, with another field of study: Internet use. It's probably not an accident. Both cities and the Internet are at once highly atomized and elaborately connected milieus that encourage both solitude and interaction with the diverse, bountiful unwashed. And like city solitaires, Internet users were also once identified as antisocial loners, painfully awkward people who vanished into the green-gray light of their computer screens rather than joining the warm community of man. In the beginning, studies even showed this to be true (or that users were shy, anyway). But not once three-quarters of the public started using the Internet.

"The idea that you're isolated when you're online is, to me, just wrong," says Keith Hampton, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania who did an extensive ethnography of "Netville," a new, 100 percent wired community in suburban Toronto. "It's an inherently social medium. What starts online moves offline, and what starts offline goes online." Which explains why the people with whom you e-mail most frequently are your closest friends and romantic partners. "Online and offline are inherently connected," he says. "They're not separate worlds."

-- Alone Together: The Loneliness Myth, by Jennifer Senior, New York Magazine, December 2008


7 days, 1 hour, and 14 minutes ago was the last time I heard from my friend Lu. We were chatting over gmail, like we always did.

We had been chatting off and on all day, ever since I pinged her at 8:25am right after I woke up that Saturday morning.

It seems really long ago now.

She told me about the bad dream she had and I told her about how I never really dream anymore. She told me about how foggy it was there that morning and we bitched about squirrels together - we shared a special hate for them. I complained about my cold and how the medicine wasn't working. I told her about the two things I want to do before I die. She complained about the small town post office. And then we started sending each other the music we were listening to.

I sent her Bach's hunting cantata "Sheep Can Safely Graze." She sent me Clem Snyde and some Pharcyde. I sent her a Dan Bern song and she sent me a bunch more of his back. She sent me a song that her band played. She sent me Fantasie in F Minor - not played by her but I know she played it perfectly, all 19 minutes of it. I sent her some Jozi.

She remembered the Uganda slide-show of pictures from the orphanage that I was supposed to show her, so we watched it and talked about it. We talked about African languages that I'll need to learn over there. That was the last thing we talked about.

"rofl. peace out."

That was the last thing she ever said to me.

Alexandra Clare Wilich, 28, died unexpectedly Sunday, Nov. 16, 2008. Her many friends and family called her Lexi.


I'm spending today and tomorrow in our West Village office for meetings with the partners that are doing the account planning session for the client I'm helping out with. I love this office because this is the view from my desk.

Also, the main office area is a big wide-open work space about half the size of a city block. Its got high ceilings with those suspended HVAC ducts, and for some reason whenever the heat or the AC comes on in the building, the entire hanging metal structure does a sort of metallic shudder, causing a big sound akin to thunder, but its right above your head and your inside.

I've gotten used to it after years of being in and out of this office, but it still sneaks up on you sometimes. Every time it happens you kind of look around to see everyone else who got taken by surprise and is mildly freaked.

The real bonus however is when you get a completely brand new analyst. She's hard at work in the brand new office with her head down at her laptop trying to meet some ridiculous deadline her manager gave her and all of a sudden thunder above her head and presto: office scream. And then we all turn around with huge grins and watch her cower and turn beet red.

Good times.


They're projecting Pennsylvania for Obama, which essentially means that McCain has to find a way to carry 5 out of 5 of the remaining must-win states to have a chance at the white house.


That's what I have to say to this whole race. These many months of insanity. This night of anticipation and mass celebration and grieving. What the freak ever.

You know what McCain would screw up? The economy, he has no idea how to fix that. He's going to keep giving the tax breaks (not to mention legal breaks) to the big corps that the Republican party is chronically indebted to. He'd more than likely not do a damn thing about the gross misappropriation of power to the executive branch of the government under the Bush administration. Gitmo, the NSA and the wiretaps, the Homeland Defense disorder, The Patriot Act. And he'd probably keep fairly similar foreign policy going, although he has a much more realistic approach to the war.

You know what Obama would screw up? The economy, he has no idea how to fix that. He's going to increase taxes for everybody 3-fold if he's going to pull off the kind of policy changes he's claiming (hint: he's not). He'll completely bollocks up the pull out of Iraq - and I have about that much confidence in his ability to manage Afghanistan and Iran - the man has no military experience whatsoever. He might do a bit more about fixing the office of the president and some of the other disasters developed in the previous administration. And although he might have a better foreign policy (this is my biggest siding with him - I can't imagine a candidate with a better position on Darfur), its not one that's supported by experience, which he'll have to get in real time. At least we don't have to fear the Palin factor if he did win.

Frankly I think neither of these candidates are a really great choice. We need change but it needs to be even more than the touchy-feely type that Obama's waxing his way into office with. We need a complete roll-back on financial policy and regulation. We need a massive shift in approach on the war in terror, and we need out of Iraq in a structured manner. We need a return to a position of moral leadership and a respected position in the world forum - we need to eliminate our gross violations of the Geneva Convention, our resistance to the Kyoto protocol, and other rights that we claim for America but forbid for everyone else. We need to fix the broken judicial and prison system, starting by realizing that the war on drugs is a war we shouldn't be in. We need a lot of other stuff that neither of these candidates is going to get around to during their stint in office.

Despite my cynicism, I went and voted today. It amazes me how few people think through these issues and then actually go out and vote. Its frankly quite frightening. We have sons and daughters still dying overseas to protect our freedom to do this and the vast majority of us will watch it on TV without ever taking part in the process. There is no national dialogue - we're a nation of zombies. Quite literally - we have been programmed.

In Zimbabwe this very year, there was an election complete with brute squads forcing people to vote in a completely rigged presidential election. The results weren't released for over a month, and when they were they were a lie. Hundreds of people were killed in the meantime. Thousands more fled the nation. And a tyrant remains while the economy continues to plummet. I'm convinced our freedom to vote without fear is one of the ones we appreciate the least and therefore will most miss when we lose it.

There goes the projection for Ohio. Whatever.


I've been researching the story of Lt. Daniel Dawson, a pilot shot down over Vietnam in November of 1964, and his older brother Donald. I first heard of the Dawson brothers' story in a sermon that quoted Edmund Clowney's own sermon, Sharing the Father's Welcome. You can read the following excerpt in its entirety, here.

During the war in Vietnam, Army Lieutenant Daniel Dawson’s reconnaissance plane went down over the Vietcong jungle. When his brother Donald heard the report, he sold everything he had, left his wife with $20, and bought passage to Vietnam. There he equipped himself with a soldier’s gear and wandered through the guerilla-controlled jungle, looking for his brother. He carried leaflets picturing the plane and describing in Vietnamese the reward for news of the missing pilot. He became known as Anh toi phi-cong—the brother of the pilot. A Life magazine reporter described his perilous search.

The Life magazine article in question was called "A Haunted Man's Perilous Search," from the March 12, 1965 edition of Life. Life is no longer in print but it is owned by time, and I'm still trying to find a back-issue of the article.

Time, however, did have a brief follow-up article on Donald's search, found here:

Californian Donald C. Dawson, 25, emerged from the jungle north of Bien Hoa airbase and reported that his reckless, obsessive search for his brother, Army Lieut. Daniel Dawson, was over after nine months—four of them as a Viet Cong prisoner. "They told me he was dead and gave me a flight vest he wore, and then they told me to go," said Don sadly. He never saw the grave, but the Viet Cong claimed they would tend it until Dawson could come back after the war to recover the body of his brother, shot down last Nov. 6 in a light reconnaissance plane. For Don, it was time to go home to his wife and four children in Costa Mesa, Calif.

The story really kicked me in the gut the first time I heard it related, and its one I'd like to write up in detail. I've found a couple more detailed but somewhat conflicting recounts of Donald's time in Vietnam here(from The First Marine Captured in Vietnam, by Donald Price) and here (from Honor Bound, by Stuart Rochester, Frederick Kiley).

In the meantime, more searching.


Today I went to meet a friend for free lunch at her work (yes, she works at Google, the company I so very-much-want-to-but-probably-will-never-work-for). After catching up on all the deets of late, I started home. Which is when I found out I had taken the wrong keys in my frantic run out of the house (to be fair, I was on the phone getting my annual review from my career counselor at the time).

I went through the building next door (we live next to a...thing...that is kind of half insane asylum / half retirement home / always interesting...anyway I'm friendly with one of the building managers there, we shoot hoops together) to check and see if I had left the back door unlocked, but I hadn't.

So I took an unplanned walk over to Dave's office to get his keys.

I got to Union Square without much event, although the typical street performers were out in force. A block past that I was passing a cop giving an older dude a ticket of some sort, and the old guy just started losing his wig. Next thing you know the cop and him are screaming at each other "ARE YOU THREATENING ME, SIR?" (They were both screaming this.) Then the dude takes a swing at the cop and down they go and next thing he's in cuffs and the cop is sitting on top of him radio-ing for a car.

Get to Dave's office. Pick up keys.

I'm on the next block and I'm walking up behind a rather shady looking guy in one of those big long hooded black North Face jackets that the hoodlums like to wear. "I shouldn't judge him based on his looks," I thought briefly. Then I watched as one of the med students from the University hospital there walked up to him and casually bought a dime-bag from him (this was in midtown at like 3pm in broad daylight, I kid you not).

I turn the corner to head downtown at the next street and I'm walking past the hospital lobby, which is floor to ceiling glass windows facing the street. And there's a mother in there, about my mom's age, and she's facing me and she's holding what I can only guess was her adult daughter very tightly. She's looking right at me but she doesn't even see me. Tears are coming down her face. I was momentarily awestruck; I kept walking to leave them in their moment but it was one of the saddest things I've ever seen.

Two blocks later I'm at Grace Episcopal and I see the above sign. So I do. I'm sitting there in the strange quiet that doesn't belong in the middle of midtown Manhattan, and I'm talking some things over quietly when all of a sudden I feel the familiar rumbling of the floor as an N/R train passes underneath.

And then I walked the rest of the way home and didn't see anything really of note other than the guy a couple blocks away from our place who was showing off his freshly shaven legs to a girlfriend of his.

Oh and they're shooting a movie on our block apparently.

I love you New York. I'm going to miss you.


Well there's been a lot going on but nothing I've felt particularly inspired to write about. Or I guess I should say some of them are things I can't really write about yet. Most of you who communicate with me through other mediums are pretty much up to date.

Let's just say a lot about my life is kind of up in the air right now. It will be interesting to see where I am (life-wise) by the start of next year. Its not a bad spot and I'm not complaining about things. Life is good right now.

This last weekend was Young Life camp - the junior highers go as campers and we take the senior highers to do work-crew. Amber fought valiantly to get us indoor work crew - serving and bussing the tables in the cafeteria. It's a lot of work and then you're chasing high schoolers around all night, but it's a lot of fun too.

I'm going to try to start writing more regularly. I've got a few pieces I've been sitting on which still need touch-up, but long story short I need to be exercising the brain again.


Week in CA:

- flew there uneventfully.
- went to Margy's wedding (still need to put pictures online).
- spent the rest of the weekend with Peter then took the train back to Sacto.
- worked a bit.
- spent some time with Aunt Betty and Uncle Joe and then with the grandparents.
- worked more.
- drove down to Santa Cruz with dad and got an afternoon of surfing in.
- flew back. had an upgrade on my LAX-JFK flight which was nice.

Last weekend I finally saw Burn After Reading and Sunday was the old routine that I've rather missed in the last year - church, youth group, football. The week's been uneventful. Foot has been healing up from a cut I got when coming out of the surf, so I couldn't run til today.

I want to get back to writing posts of some merit more than these blase updates but I'm horribly lacking in motivation during this limbo period.


I really wanted to start this sentence with the word "so," but I refrained. Have you ever notice how people tend to use that word a lot lately in beginning a sentence? Someone raised that question recently. Its almost taken the place of "like" although I doubt "like" will ever really go away in my lifetime. "So" goes at the start of the sentence, usually, though. Seems like maybe its half verbal stutter (like "um") and half transition or prefacing.

Lately another one I've heard that I'm not sure I particularly like but I may have even used it myself at times is "I know, right?" This might be attributable to the movie Juno. I'm not sure.

Anyway, (there's another one I use all the time!) its almost October and I didn't really have a chance to write much of anything this month. Although I haven't been with a client, things have still been crazy (nobody ever believes this, but I think sometimes not having one is even worse). And I can't even use watching the A's fight for a playoff spot as an excuse, because, well, they didn't.

I fly tomorrow back home for Margy's wedding, and there's been a lot of...shall I say, prep-work and prayer going into that. Plus I'm staying the following week and hoping to meet up with a partner on a project we recently sold out there and see if I can weasel a way onto it in the near future. And perhaps surf, if I happen to find myself south of Santa Cruz dressed in a wetsuit.

I realized I needed to post today because my blog has come up in exactly 3 unique conversations, and my posting as of late has been next to nonexistent. So to direct some of you to the places you might be looking for: if its the snake story (yes, it is true), you can find that here. If you want to see the blog we did for the Youth Group missions trip to Uganda, the post with that link is here. And if its sermon notes we spoke about, you can find one of those here.

I fly in 8 hours and haven't packed or finished re-writing the edits on my piece for the church's literary magazine, so that's what I'm going to do now. Then maybe I'll check back in on the collapse of our financial markets (apparently the FDIC just seized WaMu and sold them to JPMorgan, and the $700 billion bailout? Yeah, that number was just kinda made up.). Then maybe eat finally.


People we're still getting mail for who don't actually live here:

Ms. Jessica Delisser (apparently she was into the arts - some museum down on Bowery)
Ms. Corey Geremia (dance theater workshop, maybe she was roommates with Jessica?)
Pilar Menendez (Loehmann's - they're having a shoe sale)
Eric Andrus (Fashion Institute of Technology)

There's been a number of others but those are the only ones we got today.


Kilimanjaro. (doing this before Ghana because I don't have the Ghana pictures online yet)

After wrapping up the project in Nairobi with Jane on Friday night, I headed out for dinner with Melissa and some other ex-pats, and then got back to the hotel to pack things up. The next morning I met Louise in the lobby of the Jacaranda, she was waiting for the same bus to Kili as me, an older gal on her first trip to Africa - although she has her own small consulting gig with orgs like the UN, so we were able to talk a bit of turkey.

Our van was late but finally got there and then we were off to Tanz. When we got to the border I had a bit of a back-and-forth with the passport guy who decided to double the price on me mid-transaction when he realized I was about to pay the local price in Kenyan schillings rather than the USD $100 they like to scam mzungus for, the greedy bastard. Fortunately there were two British sweethearts in line behind me who lent me the cash I didn't have until I could get it out of my bag back on the bus. It took about 2 hours for the whole bus-load of us to get through so there was a lot of standing around and getting to know each other before we were back on the road.

The air in Tanz that day wasn't very clear and so we didn't see much of the mountain until we were very close, and even then it was covered in cloud. Louise, the brit girls, and myself were all staying at the same hotel in Moshi, and after getting settled we had a nice dinner and then all crashed pretty early. The next morning they were off (the 3 of them) to hike the Rongai trail with their outfit, and I was off with my guys (when they finally showed up) for a solo-hike up Machame.

The route was freaking crowded, the busiest on the mountain after the Coca-cola route (Marungu, the one with the huts so that porters don't have to carry tents). But we got off in pretty good time and spent the first day hiking through the rain-forest on the bottom quarter of the mountain, just me and my guide, Eugen. I found out a few interesting things about him on the first day - one being that he was one of the most experienced guides on the mountain (at 50 years of age), another being that he liked to smoke and drink. He had a beer that morning before starting the hike and had a couple cigs on the way up. Hmm.

The porters had camp all set up when we got there and cooked up some popcorn and warm groundnuts (like small peanuts, basically). After that and tea, Julius the cook started cooking a massive dinner. Unlike the higher-end outfits where there was a whole tent complete with chairs and tables for the hikers to eat / chill in, I got to eat in the porter tent on the floor with these guys. Eugen did that typical African "Oh man! We forgot to bring the chair and table!" thing when we were already halfway through our first days' hike so there wasn't much I could do about it at that point. I didn't mind, as it gave the whole experience more of a real-hiking feel, but I was paying enough to get what everyone else was. Oh well.

There were 2 other porters - Moses and Omar, both younger guys and really hard workers. Technically for the amount of gear we were carrying there should have been another porter, but Eugen did that thing I read about before the hike where he paid off porter #3 to carry up to first camp, and then go back down, while the load was then split between the cook and porters 1 and 2. He sold it to me like it was a good deal for the porters, but from everything I've read, not much on the mountain ends up being a good deal for them.

On day 2 on the mountain, we went from camp 1 at 3k meters up to 3800m, but the hiking was shorter. I still didn't have much problems with the elevation but I was drinking about 5-6 liters a day. We got to camp early in the afternoon because I was hiking pretty fast (faster than Eugen wanted to, which should have been an early warning sign). So I had most of the afternoon to chill and work on my Swahili while Eugen and the porters gambled, and I got caught up on some reading and journaling. Saw my first clear glimpse of the top that evening in the moonlight. Dinner was big again. And that night I realized that climbing on my own wasn't the best idea - it was a pretty lonely endeavor, but I didn't really have much option to do it any other way.

Day 3 at the next camp the elevation finally hit me. I don't remember how high that camp was at because I felt like crap and didn't do much of anything. We had hiked up to 4600m and then back down to 3950 where the camp was. Finally saw the peak in daylight that afternoon. We camped within view of a massive wall that the next morning we would have to climb - they call that part of the route "breakfast." I couldn't keep up with the amount of food being pushed on me at dinner still, which I realized meant a lot of extra food for them, which apparently seemed to be the point. We were also well above the cloud level at that camp which was kind of cool to see.

Day 4 we did a lot of elevation to get to the summit base camp - Barafu. We got in mid-afternoon and immediately after signing in at the ranger hut, Eugen told me he had a "scratch in his throat" and asked me "as his friend" to buy him some Konyagi (cheap cognac liquor that the ranger huts sell in these little plastic sealed bags). Whatever, it was about $0.75. But he was drinking at summit base camp...oooo k. We had an early dinner so I could "go to bed" around 7pm, in preparation for an 11:30pm wake up to start for the summit before midnight. We were camped right in the middle of camp and so there were porters and people walking around and talking the whole time, so I didn't sleep a wink, it was frustrating.

At 11:30 when they brought me my tea I was already up and ready to go, and was feeling pretty decent, no elevation effects noticeable. We finished tea and biscuits and then Eugen and I set off in the dark, a bit behind a couple lead groups but for the most part ahead of everyone else. Eugen was moving really slow but I figured he was trying to keep my pace manageable so I didn't wear myself out. We didn't need the headlamps until about 3:30 in the morning when the full moon finally set, and I saw a few fabulously bright shooting stars on the way up. Around 2 or 3 I got a really bad bloody nose that took a while to plug up, but thanks to a smart friend I had remembered my handkerchiefs and extra Kleenex.

That was when I first realized that Eugen wasn't completely there. He didn't stop the first time until he was about 20 yards ahead of me, and when I needed to stop a second time to work on it, he stopped but didn't seem very concerned that blood was gushing out of my face. He looked a little glassy-eyed and hadn't asked me how I felt since before I went to bed the last evening.

A little after that, he dropped his hiking pole (which he had been carrying rather than using), and kept walking. I picked it up and gave it to him, but he would have walked off without it if I hadn't made him aware. I started to worry a bit. And then we got to the steepest part of the route, the last 300 or 400 meters of ascent before getting to Stella Point, on the crater rim. Other groups had been passing us one after the other because Eugen's pace had slowed to barely a crawl, and he needed regular breaks.

And then he started losing the trail, stopping, looking around with his headlamp, backtracking. At a couple points he lost his footing and would have fell back on me if I hadn't had a hand ready to keep him on his feet. At that point I stopped him and made him sit down. There were no groups anywhere near us now. All of the capable ones had passed us and all of the slower ones were way behind us, and I knew that seeing the summit at all, let alone for sunrise, was in jeopardy. I stopped and did a personal inventory - breathing was under control, head felt fine, no more nosebleed, had plenty of water and half my power-gel / clif bars left. Eugen was a different story - all of a sudden I was the guide in our 2-person party, and I thought I might have to get him off the mountain. I called the outfit guy back in Moshi who actually answered his phone at 4 in the morning, but the network wasn't very good at that elevation and I lost him. I wasn't sure what to do, but Eugen got coherent enough to realize that I was straight pissed, and started arguing that he was fine. After a while he started walking again, but it was slow. After another agonizing hour and a half, we finally made it to Stella point, but he was completely off the network by that point. I sat him down in a safe spot along the trail and told him not to move til I got back. He just kind of nodded.

Uhuru peak was still a solid 45 minute hike from there and I realized I'd need to book it to make sunrise, so I did. I had plenty of energy left over after the slow pace of our climb to Stella, so I was moving pretty fast and passed a number of the groups on my way around the crater rim. I got to the peak with about 10 minutes to spare for the absolutely spectacular sunrise above the clouds, the only things visible above them being us and the peak, Mt. Meru in the distance, and the sun. Got a few quick video shots, and had a big tall Saffer guy snap a few shots of me with my disposable (he took a few with his digital too but we didn't get to exchange info back at Barafu before I left, frustratingly). At 6k meters you realize that a) there isn't much reason to stay and hang out, and b) the longer you do, the crappier you're going to feel, so after maybe 10 minutes at the peak I turned to start back towards Stella.

I found Eugen about halfway between Stella and the peak, trying to make it up. He looked better after another break, but I had asked the guides from the Saffer's outfit to help me keep an eye on him during the descent. He ended up doing fine.

The descent was actually pretty cool - what I hadn't realized in the dark of the climb was that the trail was, for the most part, surrounded on most sides by a scree field - loose gravel about 6-10 inches deep, pretty uniformly spread across the mountainside. I started moving through it pretty quickly, but then a girl my age came flying by me, and as I watched her I realized it was a pretty simple combination of running downhill with skiing-turn technique to slow one's self. It was actually more skiing than it was running, and pretty soon I was absolutely flying down the mountain. Probably not the smartest thing to do on tired legs, but I felt fine, was still a little high from making the summit, and it was just a lot of fun - bouncing down the mountain like I was skiing, hitting jumps and dropping small ledges and the whole shebang.

Next thing I knew I was back at Barafu at 8:30am, and Eugen was pointing out that we could descend all the way to the base that same day, if I felt up for it. I was paying for 6 days on the mountain either way, but that would give the porters an extra day off and me one night earlier back in the hotel, with showers and clean clothes and whatnot, so I said fine. We ate, packed up, and were back on the trail down by 10am.

It was a BRUTAL hike down. Eugen was moving a lot faster now, faster than I could keep up on tired legs. And it just went on and on - we hiked almost twice the distance and fully 3 times the elevation that day than we had hiked on any other day, not to mention the fact that we had hiked the summit all night instead of sleeping. The trail down was an access one that hikers don't normally take, so it was poorly maintained and really hard on the knees. The porters seemed to fly up and down it, but I was thanking God repeatedly for the hiking poles. At some point we finally made it to the rain forest but still had about 3 hours of hiking through that to get down to the park gate.

After an agonizing afternoon, we finally got there. I got my certificate from the ranger, and Jackson, the outfit guy who I had called early that morning, met us and I gave him the whole run-down. They took me back to my hotel and I crashed early and hard.

The next day I was feeling a lot better. I bagged up 3 bags of my mountain clothes - one for each of the porters, and walked into town to meet Jackson and Eugen at the bank and give them the tips. Having read about how guides often try to screw porters out of their tips (when they're already paid next to nothing), I wanted Jackson to give them directly to the porters, so I tipped Eugen separately and then gave the rest to Jackson. Spent the rest of the day at the internet cafe, having lunch at the only place with pizza in Moshi, and doing a bit of shopping / post-card sending.

That evening I went for a swim in the pool and found Louise and the brit girls sitting beside the pool - a day earlier than I expected them back. We all had dinner together and exchanged our climbing stories - apparently I had passed them when I was descending back to Stella from the peak, but none of us had recognized each other given all the gear we had on and the rather singular focus one has at that point.

The next morning I was all packed and off to the airport, where Air Tanzania informed me that my flight to Entebbe was cancelled, and it was mostly my fault for not "confirming" the flight during the week prior. That spurred some rather unpleasant hours. They sent me to a hotel and told me I'd be on a flight to Entebbe in the morning. Then they called me at the hotel and said the next one was cancelled too, so I had to fly to Dar Es Salaam that night, stay there, and fly to Entebbe from there in the morning. The real kicker is that the flight to Dar went via a town on the southern side of Lake Victoria, directly south of Entebbe by about an hour (instead of the 3 I had to spend on the plane the next morning flying to EBB).

All in all, it was a good climb (I made the summit). It wasn't nearly as hard as I had expected, which gives me hope for the next climbs I'd like to do. I climbed it comfortably (well except for the massive 1-day descent) in 5 days, pretty much the minimum for any trail, let alone Machame. Pictures from the crap-cams are here on Flickr.


Chelsea Market's Free Public WiFi User Agreement:

I promise to refrain from any hanky panky
Or anything that would make anyone get cranky.
Anything I do with this connection that is lame,
I absolve Chelsea Market et al of any blame.
I'm back in the US. Need to catch up on blogging. In store - hopefully in the near future:

A) A wrap-up on my project and Ghana - plus pictures from the slave castles on the coast there.

B) A recap of my Kilimanjaro climb.

C) A recap of the week at the TAOST school in Jinja with the youth group.

D) Other stuff...like what might be up next. And stuff.

I have a few topics I'd like to hammer out some thoughts on too but I can't really remember any of them at the moment. Maybe they'll come back to me tomorrow.


No time for blogging really since Kili (which I promise to blog about when I get back home next week - long story short I summitted solo after a very sketchy night).

I have however kind of been managing the blog that the team here in Uganda is using to cover our trip, which you can find here, complete with pictures.

More soon.


I'm in Moshi, the town at the base of Kilimanjaro.

I'm gonna go up to my room, pack my backpack, pack my 2nd bag (the one the porters take), crash like a zombie til tomorrow morning, and then I'm climbing for 6 days. I'm on one of the much-lesser traveled of the 5 routes up, so that should make for an even more remote experience than the typical trip to the roof of Africa.

Those of you who know me well know that I'm pretty even keel - you don't get too worked up about something, and you don't get too let down by it either. Or as Public Enemy would put it - "Don't let a win get to your head or a loss get to your heart." So I wouldn't say I'm particularly bouncing with excitement, but I am glad that I haven't had more than 3 hours straight sleep since Tuesday night, because otherwise I probably wouldn't sleep well tonight, when I need it. (Wednesday night was flying overnight from Accra to Nairobi - I argued my way into a free biz class seat which was nice, but it was BC on Kenya Airways, which isn't saying much. Thursday night was up late crunching for the project close on Friday, after dinner with Melissa - she's in Nairobi on another WV project, we both used to be on the Walgreen's project at the same time although we didn't really know each other then. Friday night I was out late-ish for dinner and drinks with a bunch of Melissa's friends and then there was some wedding party across the street from the hotel. I got a call at 2am that I thought was my wake-up call, so I got up and almost made it into the shower before I realized that the wedding party was still going strong, so I checked the clock, and sure enough, it wasn't 5am yet. Gah.)

There certainly wasn't any dozing in the crazy bus-ride from Nairobi to Moshi, which involved a distinctly less-than-enjoyable 2+ hour stop at the Tanzania border, where they intentionally screwed me over for my visa fee and there really wasn't anything I could do about it (although thankfully it wasn't me that was the one delayed for the 2 hours). It was kinda nice though because I met a few of the folk who were headed all the way to Moshi with me (we dropped the majority off in Arusha on the way here). One older woman who does a lot of independent consulting with the UN, and 2 girls my age from Liverpool - we all had dinner together but they're taking the Rongai route up (mine's Machame and I'm due to summit a day before them).

I'm looking forward to the week. Light food, lots of water, tons of climbing, dead sleeps. I'm taking my current read (Gore's "The Assault on Reason") and my tiny-moleskin for writing / drawing. And a Bible. And those are the only non-gear toys. I should theoretically summit sometime around the early AM hours (5? 6?) on Thursday after starting at midnight from summit base camp. Nairobi time.

Friday I descend and Saturday I hop on a plane to meet up with the youth group folk in Entebbe, and we're off to Jinja for our week at the AIDS orphanage. Will try to blog at some point about the climb but it might not be til I'm back in the states.

I'm liking the looks of August so far.


Last week was all work, wrapping up interviews with WV's Area Development Programs, for the most part. Tuesday Lewis and I flew up to Tamale, the northernmost city one can fly to within Ghana, and had some meetings there at the Ghana Rural Water Programs office. That afternoon we drove up even further north to Bongo, a rural area that was seriously affected by the floods last year. We met with the ADP team there for the afternoon and then drove back to Tamale. Bongo's only 20km south of the border with Burkina Faso, but this trip was all work, so no time to see that country.

We got a late start coming back and so as we got closer to Tamale it was getting pretty dark. That's a problem, because the sheep / goats / cattle roaming about like to sit on the pavement because its still warm from the sun. Sure enough, our driver's going a little too fast to slow down in time when a couple of goats are crossing the road and...the Landcruiser won that one I guess.

The next morning we were back to Accra, and in the office again. Thursday we headed out to an ADP within driving distance of the city - Dmange.

Friday I presented my findings to WV Ghana's Senior Management Team and then mitigated the response - which for the most part was pretty good. Spent the afternoon getting to the only Shoprite in Ghana and back, traffic here is nightmarish - 2 hours to go 10kms.

Was going to go to Togo yesterday but the driver couldn't do it. Worked instead, and some today too. Thought I might go to Togo tomorrow but by now I'm thinking its not really worth the money, which I need to be saving for the Kili trip anyway. Ghana's kind of the go-to place in western Africa - Accra gets flooded every weekend with people from as far as Nigeria, as well as a few of the other surrounding countries here. Which makes me a little apprehensive about what the *other* countries are like.

I leave for Nairobi on Wednesday night and get in Thursday morning. 2 more days of work at the Africa regional office and then the project is over and I'm off for Kili. Probably won't be much blogging for those two weeks.


Turned 30 today. That's about it.


I'm not a fan of Ghana. I'm going to try to get to Togo (to the east) and maybe Burkina Faso (to the north) but from what I've read, neither are any nicer than here.

The country used to be called the Gold Coast. There's lots of gold here, so mining is a big industry, just like in lots of southern Africa. They've also recently discovered that they have a lot of black gold as well, so of course the Arabs are now streaming in to help solve that problem. China is here too for that. China is huge in Zambia - funding projects everywhere you go to improve the roadways, but that's it - no other infrastructure, no factories, no schools, no shopping centers, no nothing. The only thing the Chinese are sponsoring there (and magnanimously, I might add - they have it painted all over on signs advertising said projects) is building the roads. Because it helps them ship out the natural resources (copper's a primary one in Zambia) faster to places where its cheaper to smelt it for market.

I actually wrote a bit about China in Africa when someone made a recent post about it on Metafilter, here. I'll paste the text of it here for those too lazy to click:

China is raping Africa, economically, because they can, because there's not enough motivation for the rest of the world to blow the whistle. So Africans stay poor and keep battling AIDS and malaria - as long as you can still get your value meal at McDonald's in Peoria, that's all that really matters to you, right?

I've spent the last month living in Zambia, and working in some of the more remote provinces around the country. You know how much gasoline costs in Zambia? Almost 9,000 Zambian Kwacha per litre. That's about $2.80 a litre depending on the day's exchange rate. There's about 3.75 litres to a gallon, right? Zambians pay $10.50 a gallon for gas. And people in the US are crying foul whilst trading in their SUVs...

Why does gas there cost that much? Because the Chinese are smart - they realized that to gain a solid bargaining position, the best thing to control to a land-locked country in Africa was the overland trucking industry. They have a stranglehold on it, and anything they ship into the country comes at whatever premiums they choose. And they maintain this through a complex series of bribes to the political leaders of whatever port host-country it is easiest / cheapest for them to move oil, et. al. through. That's just gas. But of course it takes gas to get food, clothing, building materials, or really anything else for that matter, to market. You can't get a decent meal for under $10 in Zambia.

And so an otherwise completely fertile country sits pretty much stagnant as China swiftly relieves it of its natural resources - shipping off valuable copper to neighboring countries where it can be refined. Zambia sees little to nothing in the way of recompense. Again here, political leaders taking pay-offs to look the other way. They're president has been (theoretically) off in a French military hospital for the last month, for crying out loud.

Why would China bother to do business with Africans in Africa, when its much cheaper to pay off a powerful few, and do business with no one? As long as the rest of the developed world isn't going to step in, it will still be Chinese weapons that ZANU-PF uses to keep Mugabe rich and the rest of the people starved. It will still be Chinese aircraft scorching the earth of Darfur's destitute villages. It will still be China leaching the natural resource out of every country here not sufficiently structured to defend itself from a greedy older sibling on the planet when there are no parents to set rules.

Instead, we, the collective free countries of the world, go to Beijing to play in the games and pretend that China isn't propagating mass suffering in the dark continent, let alone raping the environment in their own.

But at least I can get great Chinese food here, right?

So, yeah. China's here in Ghana too.

And of course they're in Sudan and Zimbabwe too. Its a sad pattern, but here I am one guy working with one humanitarian org, one voice on the internet that only a couple of people will hear. That's not a lot compared with hundreds of millions of oil-hungry Chinese, not to mention the oil-hungrier US (did you know that California alone consumes more gas than all of China? Gas, not oil - an important distinction, but still. China could eclipse California this year, with 1.3 billion people to CA's 37 million).

I feel like I can see something that's wrong with the world, that's an important thing that needs to be fixed, and pretty much the rest of the planet is deaf and dumb and blind to the problem. It's like that line, I can't remember where its from: "98% of the population is asleep. The other 2% are staring around in complete amazement, abject terror, or both."

The scary thing is that even if I am in the 2% awake on this issue - its only on this issue.

I really want to go surfing and feel like things are going to be OK, for a bit.


Read this question first. What follows is a story I wrote in response (which kinda technically broke the site guidelines so it got deleted).

June 12th, 2067.

We're hovering down the windy, decrepit old road that used to be CA Highway 50, en route to South Lake Tahoe. Its so freaking hot, even at this elevation. There wasn't much snow this winter, and unlike when I was a kid, the snow doesn't last as long into the early summer as it sometimes used to. I remember skiing under the July 4th fireworks at Squaw Valley, when I was a teenager. Those were the days.

The lake used to be so blue. But with the climate shift and the slow but steady temperature rise, more and more algae were able to find it a hospitable environment. Despite its massive size, its always been a mostly motionless lake, feeding no rivers and being fed by none. And so nature took its course, changing what was once blue into what is now green. And carnivorous.

The cattle grow restless as in the back as we near the water's edge. Somehow they can always tell the difference when we're moving over water and not land, and they do *not* like it.

There used to be gambling in South Lake Tahoe. I remember spending birthdays in my early 20's there, pumping quarters into the slot machines. Once I nearly won a Corvette - if I had only put in 3 quarters instead of one. We'd regularly get drunk at night on booze bought with bucketfuls of coins. That was back when we still used coins. The strip is an overgrown ghost-town now - no one's lived in Tahoe since '58, when the last remaining locals either moved out or were...well...consumed.

The first whisperings in the early 50's came with a missing fisherman here and there. Then a family out waterskiing for the day. For almost a year, foul play was suspected. It was foul alright, but play had nothing to do with it: rumors started to run rampant of some kind of freshwater shark, or perhaps even a re-awoken dino, ala-Nessie. And then one day a kid with a webcam saw one of the first one to be seen on camera - a massive land-mobile creature, resembling probably most closely a squid, but with hundreds of small, muscular, leg-like appendages on the bottom of its torso (for lack of a better word). Its beak, rather than the upper and lower joints found in most of nature, was more like an octagon. The mouth alone was the size of a Volkswagon.

The rear hull creaked to life as the first cow was hoisted out and slowly moved back over the aft of the ship, lowered to just a meter or so over the water rushing beneath it. We were cruising at roughly 70 knots, which had proved to be a speed slow enough for the gunners to work efficiently at, and still fast enough to tempt the beasts to the surface for an easy meal. They would come from beneath, and behind - so while we could see the dark mass begin to appear in the water behind the bait, the cow never saw it coming.

Tourism essentially fell off completely in '52 when the first video went live. Scientists from across the planet descended upon the town, however, and for a brief while gave some semblance of life to it. But as there continued to be less and less sustenance in the lake, the beasts began to roam further and further ashore, and it seemed as though anything larger than a small cat was likely to be considered edible. When a whole research team went missing near Zephyr Cove in November of that year, the government finally stepped in. The lake and the banks surrounding it for 20 miles in any direction were declared emergency government property, and anyone still stupid enough to be living within that radius was evacuated.

6 years later, they called us. The creatures had now been spotted within a mile of the safety zone border, and it was estimated they had decimated most of the ecosystem between the lake and mile 20. They'd soon need to roam even further, and that would mean they'd soon find new bodies of water.

Target acquired. On my mark...fire, fire, fire - my spotter called flatly into the PA system.

Man-eating fresh-water squid sold at almost $2000 an ounce in many parts of Asia.


I got mugged today.

That's the bad news - most of it, at any rate. Good news is that it looks as though I'm still going to see 30 next week.

I woke up early - 6am, and the first thing I did was look at my camera. I had been trying to decide whether or not to take it with me to Kokorbite today. I know it wants to leave me, all of my cameras apparently want to leave me, but I decided I'd be extra careful and not let it off my person unless it was behind the bar at the resort, buried deep in my bag, for safekeeping.

8am came and I caught my taxi off to the Bojo Beach Resort in Kokorbite. There wasn't much traffic as we were off pretty early. I was the first person at the resort, around 9am, and they were still setting up for the day. I took a few minutes to watch the waves. There was a practically endless right-hander that was breaking a little closer to shore than I would have liked, but it looked to make for some nice long rides. It was going to be a good day.

Until I enquired about the "surf" boards for hire. There was one. It was a drug-store boogie board. GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR. So apparently there won't be surfing in Ghana, as this was the only spot that Lonely Planet even listed for it.

I decided to take a walk down the beach. The only thing I took with me was my camera. About 50 yards from the resort bar I come across a line of about 20 guys heaving on a rope, pulling in a fishing net. I watch them for a while and then one of them waves me over and asks me if I want to see the fish. I say "sure," and he indicates a spot on the rope for me to help pull. What else am I going to do, right? So I start heaving with these guys. You slowly make your way back across the beach and soon you find yourself the last guy on the rope, and that's when its time to walk back to the front and start heaving again. It was hard work, but each time the bouy was a little closer to shore.

They were singing in unison - one guy would call out and the others would respond in a double-grunt kind of thing. I kept hearing them talk about me but couldn't pick up all the Twi (local language) - just enough to know that there were regular jokes at my expense. My camera was firmly lodged in the only pocket on trunks, the whole time.

Sun starts getting high, and I start getting tired and decide I don't want to wait around to see the fish. So I wave goodbye and start to angle back towards the resort. The guy right in front of me on the rope (Samuel, but it would turn out that wasn't even his real name) turns and insists on walking me back out of the village and towards the resort.

I stupidly follow him behind the only reed hut between me and the resort instead of walking along the beach, and that's when his pal steps out in front of me.

He didn't have a weapon in his hands and "Samuel's" hands instantly grabbed both of my arms from behind, just above the elbows. I don't struggle as the younger guy in front of me quickly grabs for the camera. He's wearing a black and red jersey emblazoned with a large "95," basketball jersey style. Then he trips me and Samuel pushes me face first into the sand, but is still on top of me.

I realized about halfway to the ground that I didn't have anything else of value to them but my life, and that's about when I decided enough was enough. I jerked my head back into Sam's face and felt his nose crunch against the back of my skull. His grip weakens a little bit, but he holds onto me as I stand up again, so I toss him overtop of me and onto his back on the grond in front of me. I turn to take on 95 but he's already taken off.

I decided against chasing after the camera, who knows what I might run into back in the village.

Broken Nose is lying there and I pat him down to make sure he doesn't have anything, and then I leave him there to go get resort security.

By about noon I get back with a small boatful of resort security and they quickly find Broken Nose. We cart him off on the boat and I stop to get him some sports tape from my bag, and set his nose, since it didn't look like anyone else around had the faintest idea that it needed to be done. Then we drive over to the police station.

We spend a couple hours in total driving there, hemming and hawing and finally convincing the chief to send a couple policemen back out to find the other guy, and of course my camera, which I'm repeatedly assured by everyone will be found quite shortly. They drag Broken Nose along so that he can help point out his accomplice. So the whole time I'm riding right in the same taxi van with the guy who attacked me. But whatever, TIA.

So now its maybe 2 or 3 and we're back boating over to the stretch of sand that the resort and these theiving bastards' village is on, except this time with a couple of cops. I've got my backpack on the whole freaking time as I trust no one even as far as I can throw them (literally) at this point. So there's the lone white guy with his backpack, 3 or 4 resort security guards, 2 cops, and Broken Nose, trekking through the village, which veritably collapses on us as I'm sure this is the most excitement they've seen all year. Kids crowding around people whooping and pointing, the occasional drunken guy coming out trying to act tough and get in a fight with the Broken Nose, since he's tightly cuffed and can't fight back.

We eventually find 95, sitting there mending fishing nets with the others, like he's done nothing wrong. I found it interesting that he wasn't in hiding or didn't even try to run. So they cuff the two together, and of course they start fighting, and now the crowd around us is like 10 deep and I'm starting to get a little nervous, and it occurs to me that its for the first time.

We eventually start back out of the village and down the beach, but not before the cops can stop and buy some of the day's fresh catch. Apparently this was every bit as much a shopping trip to the beach for them as it was arresting the theives. They make Broken Nose and 95 carry their fish. There's lots of taunting of the prisoners, both from the cops and hotel security, and even some of the locals, but its all in Twi and there's usually at least 3 people yelling at the same time. We return to the scene of the crime, its maybe 4pm by now, and it looks for a minute as though they might finally decide to tell the truth and give up the camera's whereabouts.

I should probably mention that by this point I've tried to bribe EVERYONE, multiple times. I've tried bribing the cops, repeatedly. The hotel security. I even tried bribing the thieves themselves. I bribe them and the cops simultaneously, convincing the cops to let them go if they produce the FREAKING camera.

But everyone decides that the camera just isn't going to happen. So we boat back across, and now the resort staff refuses to use their van to take us all to the police station (again), but they would appreciate it if I'd pay them for taking extra trips in the boat. Screw you guys, I'll pay you if I get my camera, which they're STILL telling me not to worry about.

So my taxi guy, who's been waiting there all day (not an uncommon thing, he knows he has an overpriced ride back to town essentially paid for), who is also my instant advocate and friend, drives me, the 2 cops, and Broken Nose and 95 back to the police station.

This time its a little more straight forward - I don't waste any time trying to bribe the chief anymore, I just fill out the report, and get their real names in the meantime so that I can include them in the report. I also get everyone's cell phone (there's no land line in the police office, but all the "detectives" have cells). Taxi driver suggests that I give them some money ahead of time as it might help their results, which apparently means that they'll agree to beat the prisoners extra hard. Everyone in the room seems to think this is a good idea but me, and they all seem somewhat disappointed when I tell them that I still only plan on producing bribes once I see my camera. As if I'm going to pre-bribe them or something.

Taxi driver takes me back to my hotel. Sans camera but with my corpus intact.

I take a shower and start writing this, and now its 7pm and I'm starting to come down from my hours-long high. My neck is sunburned as I didn't get the chance to put on sunblock today. Or eat anything. Or even go in the ocean. Which I could care less about seeing again here in Ghana.

This is my 3rd camera stolen here in Africa. I was joking after the second one that apparently God doesn't want me taking pictures of this place, but now I'm pretty sure He's serious about it. So that's it - I give up. If this camera comes back, great, if not, no more pictures. I have a feeling its been tossed into the ocean at this point - these people seem pretty afraid of the police, and as long as it never shows up, those two guys will be the only ones that get any hassle, which I assume will be a couple days in a dark cell and maybe a slapping around. And then they'll be off, with or without my camera waiting for them.

The really ironic thing that occurred to me at some point in the endless charade of waiting and pointlessly traveling hither and yon was that it really would have been something to have a camera to document the insanity.


Africa - I love you, but you're killing me here.


Tomorrow I'm going to Kokrobite - a town about 30kms from Accra, where there is report of surfboards for rent. I will leave it to your creative imagination what I will spend the day doing. Lonely Planet also tells of a pizza place there where the chef rides his bike to Accra every day for fresh ingredients. So hopefully the day will end almost as well as it begins.

And now I have blogged, which means I can eat now. Which I haven't had time to do yet today.


In Ghana now.

Decided this morning that I'm not going to let myself have dinner unless I've blogged already. Every day in Ghana, or at least every day I have internet access, that's the goal.

I got in yesterady (and didn't blog, yeah, I noticed). Toffa met me at the airport. I left a bag with a copper print I had bought in Zambia in the car that took me to the airport, and of course the guy couldn't find it when I emailed the agency in the afternoon. Anyway - at least it wasn't the camera. I bought my third one in the Joburg airport Monday night and am determined to keep this one til I get back to the US.

Toffa dropped me off at the lodge I'm staying at, which has aircon and internet so its pretty much clutch. I guessed the time zone wrong so I was up an hour early and ready to go and when I SMS'd Toffa he called me back laughing. So I hung out for an hour and then we headed into the office. Met with Toffa and Lewis, then the National Director, then the Procurement team. Also had a good call with Jen and Don, who are starting a project with Save the Children, also focused on Supply Chain. Jen and I worked together at the Postal hell project, so she's good people.

Picked up some groceries on the way back to the lodge, then this evening I walked a couple kms to the closest take-out place. I should have looked inside before walking home with it, if I had I would have bought 2 of em. Its a meager leg of chicken and some limp fries. Oh well.

Not a lot of people like me here - even less than in Zambia. We're called "obrani," here, for a change. Feels pretty lonely.

I'm tired.


And like that, my time in Zambia is through.

Its been a whirlwind 3 weeks, as evidenced by the nearly complete lack of blogging. Let's see if I can catch up a little.

I spent the first week bouncing between low-cost lodges trying to save on project budget, but they weren't nice, security was iffy, and I didn't have regular power or any internet access. And my camera got lifted, AGAIN. Apparently God doesn't want me taking pictures of Africa. At least I still have the video camera. Also that week was all of the creations of the approach and deliverables I'd be working to craft out for my validation (survey, interview guides, intro materials, final reports, etc.). That first weekend was a party that Anthony took me to with a few of the expats around, and then on Sunday I hit up Pastor Kabifya's church and was the only white guy there. I think I might have blogged about this already. Anyway, Kabifya's turned into quite a good friend of mine and a sort of trusted individual in my life. He's about my age but his life has taken a completely different path and he has a lot of good input for me on things. That's all.

Week 2 I started all the interviews, sending out the surveys, etc.. I also moved to the new, nicer, safer, usually powered and interneted lodge which has been much more comfortable. I spent most of the 2nd weekend hanging around here. The 4th was a Friday and not a holiday here, so I was working, but headed to the embassy to see where the party was that night. It was at the colonel's house so Diana dropped me there and I had a few gratis drinks and caught the last of the back-yard fireworks. Some gal from the Irish embassy invited me over to another expat party following, so that was nice too. Sunday I went to George's church with him and his daughter and Christy, who are all staying at his house (across the street from the lodge I'm at) right now. We hit up the grocery store and the street fair market thing they have Sunday afternoons to sell trinkets to the tourists. And we played soccer with security guard and maid that George has on staff, and the maid's 2 kids, which was fun. And I had more of George's excellent cooking. And watched an episode of house. Then I finally went back to my lodge to sleep because...

Week 3 started with a 2-day holiday here in Zambia. I worked from the lodge mostly. Wednesday morning Anthony and I were due to leave for Nakande, which is in the far western province of Zambia, about 70kms from the border with Angola. It meant a 6.5 hour drive (2 of them through the 3rd biggest national park in Africa), to a 2.5 hour speed-boat ride up the Zambezi and its requisite tributaries. Then another 2 hour truck ride to the actual field sites, which involved a very sketchy river crossing that we almost didn't make (the truck was taking on water, and I caught the whole thing on video).

This was in an area so incredibly remote that I was the first white person quite a few of the children had ever seen. Instead of shouting "Mzungu" they were mainly just screaming and pointing, and following me around at a safe distance whence I alighted from the truck. Suffice to say there's not a lot of NGO's operating this far afield.

We spent that night in Nakande, Anthony and I drinking Castles in front of his room and talking about life and such, and then Friday was all the traveling back to Lusaka. Yesterday and today have been mostly work (although I didt take a break to go work out at one of the nicer hotels here in town, with Tina, another expat stuck here at the lodge like me). I've been cramming the final presentation to the senior management team together, which I present tomorrow to them before flying back to Joburg. And then to Nairobi, and then to Accra.

Today Tina and I walked to the further away shopping center (Manda Hill, about 2kms, Arcades is the closer one at 1km) to have lunch at the Irish pub - Hagan's. Food's actually really good and we had a couple Mosi's and bitched with each other about the general challenges of development in Africa and the resistance to change and the temptation to succumb to the general "TIA" attitude that convinces you that's just the way things work here.

Tina went back to the gym and as I walked home, I thought back to what I have written about before - that part in Lord of the Rings where it talks about how Aragorn took Frodo's hand to lead him away from the fields of Pelennor, and "never walked there again as a living man." Except this time, I was feeling it for Zambia.

I've been here 4 times now, and have made good friends and grown quite accustomed to the society. I will miss it, and I hope to return. But I don't know if or when I will.



Lots to blog about, but here's the biggest item of late:

-----Original Message-----
From: TED.com [mailto:support@ted.com]
Sent: Monday, June 30, 2008 6:01 PM
To: Knowles, David C.
Subject: We've received your TED2009 membership form

Thank you for submitting your TED2009 registration form. We received it and look
forward to reviewing it. Generally, you can expect to hear from us within four
weeks. If you applied for a Fellowship or Reduced-Rate Membership, you'll hear
from us by early September.

We'll be in touch if we require additional information. In the meantime, we hope
you continue to enjoy the talks on TED.com, and invite you to join the
discussion around these ideas worth spreading ...

Our best wishes,

The TED Team

I applied on a fellowship grant since I'll never be able to afford to pay my own way, especially not after a year on half my salary. And with the freaking exchange rates here in Africa, where most currencies are actually APPRECIATING against the USD. A gallon of gas costs about $12 here now, so you all can just quit your whining about prices there - I'm not going to be able to do any personal travel here because of that.

Not to mention food. I am now utterly convinced that Africa's going to be hit first and hardest and longest in the coming global food crises. You can't even get a basic lunch here for under $10US anymore. The first world's demand for cheap food and their collective power to secure it is going to starve millions (more) in Africa - mark my words. More on this soon.



I've been here since Monday night. I was supposed to fly in mid-day, but when I got to the airport in Joburg Monday morning, they informed me that there was no fuel in Zambia and as such no more passengers / luggage would be allowed on the plane as it had a weight-max due to the need to carry extra fuel. I'm pretty sure I just missed the cut-off too because there wasn't anyone standing around before me looking all pissed off, but about 20 people behind me were just that. I took it in stride, it just meant working in the airport lounge all day, and not flying til that night.

Its cold here, I think even cooler than Joburg was. Its great, I love it. I'm not looking forward to Ghana's humidity, but at least there I'll be surfing on the weekends.

Good to see old friends here (I think I blogged about running into Kristin on my first time in Zambia, just saw her today), and Kabifya has been taking good care of me, shuttling me around and whatnot. I think I'll probably rent a car for at least one of these weekends and shoot down to cross Botswana, Namibia, and perhaps even Angola off my list, which will mean I've covered most of southern Africa minus Swaziland and Malawi. There's not a terrible lot to do around Lusaka but that's fine as I'll be pretty busy with work most of the time anyway.

Flying in on Saturday to Joburg was clutch. The son of the people who run the guesthouse I stayed at in Pretoria was throwing a small braai with some friends and they welcomed me right in, it was a fun night talking over dinner and drinks, especially when we dabbled into US politics. Sunday I was up early for church, where I saw Phil and Carolien, who got engaged the night before, and the Webbs. I miss the worship at that church already. Then in the afternoon I headed to the southern suburbs of the city and found Jess Wentling - one of our high school kids in the youth group at my church in NYC - at the orphanage she's volunteering at for the summer. Quite the commitment/adventure for a kid in high school, I'm sure, but I'd expect nothing less of our urban super-achiever kids. Got her some cell minutes and set up with my internet card so she could get on email, and then I rushed back to Pretoria for lunch with Gerard's family. Spent the afternoon seeing the doc and getting blood tests and getting my malaria prescription, and then had pizza from my favorite place whilst walking Jess through how to set up the internet on her computer. Then it was Monday morning and I was bound to the airport to (unknowingly) spend my day there.

Oh and I'm pretty sure I left my camera at the guest house in Pretoria. At least I hope I did. So that's great.


Apparently people do actually check my blog from time to time, because a few of you, my precious internet stalkers, have recently gone so far as to point out my lack of bloggery lately.

Apparently being in the US is not conducive to my motivations to write.

Let's see. Its mid June now. What's new...

Dave and I are pretty much all settled in the new place. I was worn down into picking up a HD flat screen and watching the US Open in high def in my own living room was a whole new addiction. So anyway, all settled in means of course that...

Its time to go to Africa again. I leave on Friday. Here's a random string-of-consciousness list of the things I can remember at the moment that need to happen before I leave:

- Do my taxes. This one pretty much has to happen as I'll be in Africa well past my 90 day auto-extension for being out of the country on 4/15.
- Get my passport back from the Ghana consulate along with my visa for said country.
- Get a hotel in Joburg for Fri/Sat nights. This one is kind of important. Rental car too.
- Get malaria medication. This one I'm toying with not doing.
- Balance out all the finances since the move in.
- More address changes.
- My driver's license expires while I'm out of the country (on my 30th birthday, actually) but there's pretty much nothing I can do about that. I finally have to go back to renew it this time. Which means I need to...
- Change my return flight home from NYC to CA in August. Surfing with the bro's is pretty much shot so I'll probably be doing the trip on my own, unless I can find someone cool enough to go.
- Send support letters for my missions week with the youth group in Uganda.
- Book my Kili plans for the week before that. Figure out how I'm getting from Nairobi to Kili and then from there to Entebbe.
- Find a replacement power cord for the video camera.
- Back up the laptop.
- Find a sublettor for my room (please God please make this happen).
- Continue to juggle the work that now fully 3 senior partners are throwing at me like I'm some Business Development slot machine that they can pull the handle on and win every time. I don't mind doing a fair share of work but people are starting to get insane, and nobody will take no for an answer. I AM LEAVING FOR AFRICA.
- Somehow catch up on about a week's worth of planning for my project that I was supposed to have done before leaving, but didn't because of the last item.
- Get Netflix and the cell phone put on hold whilst I'm gone.
- Fill my prescription for the anti-inflammatories for my foot since I won't be able to rehab it in Africa. Somehow it needs to be fixed before climbing Kili. They've given me a really stylish flat-soled orthopedic shoe I have to wear for the next week or so.
- Get the super to come change the lights in our stupid-high ceiling and replace the gate in the backyard (the one going to the basketball court).
- Tell my bank I'll be leaving them if they try to get me with withdrawl charges this time in Africa.
- DO ALL MY EXPENSE RECEIPTS. I'm like a few months and few thousand dollars behind on these freaking things and I need to send them in. Maybe I'll do this one tonight before leaving the office. I'd feel really good to have that one done.
- Pay the gas bill.

As you can see, blogging, personal emails, or really any personal life at all doesn't really make the list right now. It hasn't been all work, however. We did have, in the last month or so:

- The youth group's Father's Day year-end picnic yesterday. There was much razzle dazzle and nobody sliced my face open with a hubcap, so that was nice. It also ended with the tradition throwing of water on people, but Erin started it this time with Gatorade, taking it up a notch.
- Jen's B-day party the night before. Crappy weather but fun hanging with folk.
- Dinner courtesy of Trisha, who won some silent auction, at Django, with her and Holly and various other friends.
- Taught the last two lessons of the year with youth group on Others First.
- Had our housewarming party, which was off the hook. George knows how to get people grooving.
- Finally took the free tango lessons in Chelsea Market.
- Hosted the Arndt's son-in-law when he got sent back from customs in Cape Town w/o getting to leave the airport b/c he didn't have enough pages in his passport. That same weekend was paintball for Libby's birthday and breaking into the HighLine with Aron.
- Lunch with Dave's dad to talk over my schooling options for next year. There's really nothing in the city that matches what I want to do. Its either Boston or LA which is kind of like deciding whether you'd rather have your hands cut off or your feet removed.
- Lots of 8 mile runs up the West Side Highway, my new favorite place to run. Hence the busted foot.
- Caught a show with Mo and Jason and Julie and Amanda and her new BF. Show was some guy Mo knows from college, he was pretty good, and it was good to see everyone.
- Was in Chicago for a week for training, I think I forgot to blog about that. Training was good, made some new friends. Took it a lot easier than we used to at training, for the most part.

I think that's about it. I leave for Lusaka, Zambia (via DC and Johannesburg) on Friday afternoon. Next blog most likely from there.


I'm a four and a half point Calvinist and that makes the fact that I've de-prioritized dating in my life an OK thing.

If you're not sure what Calvinism is, well, its a reformed Christian doctrine based on the original insights of a one John Calvin, during the reformation era in Europe. Here's Dave's fast and furious recap of the 5 tenets of Calvinism:

Total Depravity - man is completely dead in his sin, unable to do anything to save himself. Sin has effected all parts of me, the complete essence of my being - I am totally depraved. We all are.

Unconditional Election - God bases his choice of me to be saved on nothing that has anything to do with me. He elects some to be saved and does not elect others. I can't know why, and I can't do anything to affect his choice on that.

Limited Atonement - Jesus' death on the cross was sufficient for all mankind but not effacious for all mankind. He bore the sins of many. This is closely related to UE - I can't know why. It just is - some of us will go to heaven and some of us won't.

Irresistible Grace - When God elects me, I can't say no to the call. There is an internal call, a work of the Holy Spirit, that is at the same time irresitible to me, and yet leads me willingly and even freely to God (this is key to my initial statement above, as you'll see in a minute). I am both free and irreistibly bound.

Perseverance of the Saints - Once saved, always saved. I cannot lose my salvation. Or, more importantly, God can't screw up his election / redemption / salvation of me, or somehow do it insufficiently.

(These five points spell the delightful acronym TULIP, as you may have noticed.)

I'm a 4.5 Calvinist because I agree mostly with all of the above, and can defend it with scripture. I do, however, have a certain amount of humility that I apply broadly to my faith at large, a rather general acceptance that there are some things that I simply cannot know or understand fully in this life time. Some of these things may even be things that no one at all can fully achieve, but who am I to guess at what God may reveal to the minds greater than mine? The point is that I can't know everything, and so sometimes I apply that realization directly to my theology.

I think there's some balance of free will with the predestination. I believe this because I believe my relationship with God is as much a real relationship, perhaps even more real, than any human relationship here on earth. And one of the ncecessities of a relationship is that two independent parties come into it of their own will. I do believe that I was forknown to be elect and to choose God, but at the same time I believe that I had to be the one to be there and make that actual choice before it actually came to be. I realize that these fly in the face of each other, but I am OK with that and don't expect to resolve it in this lifetime.

This, oddly enough, is quite closely related to why I believe that not talking to a certain stranger I run into, not chasing a potential relationship with a close friend, not deciding to make a relationship with one of the fairer sex a priority in my life at this point - this is why I believe that this is an OK thing. I don't think there is anything that I can do or not do that can stop me from winding up in the right relationship at the right time with the right person. If its supposed to happen, its going to happen. I can't stop it. If the stranger is The One, we'll somehow cross paths again. If the friend is the one, the timing will work out at some point. And if there is no relationship out there in my future, that's going to work out just fine too.

It makes it OK to not care.

And yet at the same time it doesn't. I have to think about these things. I have to wrestle with them and make sure I do due diligence on my end. I can't take it lightly and I have to have both a massive amount of trust that God has my best in mind - and I can't screw up His plan, and concurrently a constant motivation to search these things out and not sit back lazily on my haunches waiting for him to drop someone into my life. Even if I've decided that now is not the time for that.

Right now is a time for more Africa. I'm going back for the summer, I'll be working - on my own this time - in Zambia and then Ghana through early August. That just is what it is.

It feels like an escape, after a fashion. I've been talking with Brian since he got back and he feels the same way. We don't know how to cope with such ridiculously comfortable, opulent lives when there's a continent full of people trying not to die on less than 2 dollars a day. People talk about how these people "live" on less than 2 dollars a day, but that's not a life. You don't live on that. You die slowly on that. They are trying to not die.

I'm going back to help, but this time will be shorter, and then I'll be back and I'll finally have to go back to "normal life" as I once knew it.

Problem is, it never will be again.

(Happy June everyone.)


Well, yeah. I've been back for what, about a month now, and no blogging. Eh.

I've been busy mostly and then also not very much at other times. Here's the short recap:

Week 1 - spent some time back in CA with the folks. Flew out to NY and started the apartment search with Dave. Found / settled on a place.

Week 2 - worked out all the details on the place. Went to the office, got some training done. Stayed at Dave's family's place until the moving started at the end of that week.

Week 3 - continued the moving in / unpacking process. Had the super over a lot to fix up a bunch of stuff but the good news is that they're pretty darn responsive, which is rad. Celebrated Dave's 30th in a few various scenarios (Jen's apartment, Lugers, a bar on the east side, etc.).

Week 4 - went to Chicago for training all week. Started running again (first time since Africa). Had good karma in O'Hare for the first time in my life and caught a standby seat on the earlier flight coming home.

Week 5 - not sure what I did last week really besides finish the unpacking / cleaning finally, find out that I'm probably headed back to Africa for work for the summer, run some more, and then hurt my stupid foot so that now I'm probably out for a week or so. Then we came up to Jen's dad's lakehouse just south of the NY border, which is where I am sleeplessly typing from at the moment.

I'm getting settled back into the pace of things here and the culture shock isn't so bad as it initially was but its still noticeable. I'm actually kind of looking forward of going back to the simplicity of Africa for a bit, where you order whatever it is that they happen to have for dinner that night, rather than having to decide from the endless options, and the specials. Etc.

I still need to do my taxes, fight my parking ticket, pay my bills, change my address for everything, clean up my work email and wipe out one of the full drives on the laptop and then back it up, and a host of other administratia, plus Dave and I are having our housewarming party next weekend. So it should be a busy while before I take off again, from the looks of it. Good news is that this latest bit of work back in the dark continent should afford me the chance to climb Kili this August, and perhaps meet up with the youth group in Uganda for their missions trip there after that. Still have to hammer all of that down - another item on the to-do list.

Right now, however, I'm tired, so I think I'll stare at the ceiling for a while. Am I the only person on the planet who doesn't love the movie Juno?


I could probably count on one hand the number of times in my life that I've felt truly overwhelmed.

Now is one of those times. NYC is, quite literally, overwhelming me.

There is so much to do. There are youth leader interviews with the students for the Uganda missions trip this August, and then there's trying to figure out where I'll be and whether or not I'll be able to join the trip. There is setting up the electricity and cable/internet for the new apartment (not to mention the last week spent finding it, doing the applications, getting the deposits in, signing the lease, getting the keys, finding out there's no deadbolt, and trying to get a hold of the super). There is moving in. Likely in the rain. There are friends coming to visit and many more still here that I have yet to catch up with. There are the parties - somehow I forgot about the nearly constant parties - at this person's new apartment or that rooftop bar or what-have-you. There is working late to catch up on training since I've burned precious daylight hours on the moving process. There's trying to remember to stop and eat when I'm leaving the office. There's dry-cleaning to be dropped off and picked up and laundry to be washed and folded. There's an AC unit to order and have shipped. There's a new couch to find, and carpet for the downstairs too. There's booking the travel for training in Chicago in a couple of weeks, and then there's updating the resume and the constant search for the next project. There's trying to figure out if it will be in the US or maybe Moscow.

Perhaps even more distressing, however, is the sheer volume of options. Everything is open at all hours of the day, once again. There's 6 million different places to eat. There's the bank 5 blocks north or the one 2 avenues east. There were 10 or so viable apartments to pick from, and even once narrowed down to 4 it was still a tough decision. There were too many foreign beers to choose from at the bar where we made our decision. There were too many bars in the neighborhood where we made it, too. There's 5 different church service times to pick from on Sunday. There's the subway or the tram, or the bus, or the ferry, or a taxi, or walking - all depending on where you're going, or how fast you need to get there, or how much you have to spend on it, or some confluence of the three. There's 2 offices to work from (pick the one you can wear jeans to). There's the endless toppings for your salad at Hale and Hearty. And the packaging, the endless packaging - everything comes wrapped in plastic of some sort, and then you get a paper or plastic bag to carry it in, for no charge! There's cable TV with 200 some choices, and the regular high-speed cable internet or the extra-super-high-speed cable internet (guess). There's 3 airports to choose from and 100 or so flight combos to choose from for a simple RT to Chicago. There were 3 different free newspapers being hawked to me at the top of the stairs to the subway. There's 6 different kinds of metro-cards, and today I bought my first ever monthly unlimited (deciding between which credit card to use), and spent the ensuing ride wondering if I'd get 40 rides in during the next 30 days to make it cost efficient.

At least this this time I didn't get lost on the subway.

The other day I was trying to get to the uptown F-train platform at the 34th street station and I literally became lost, for a moment, in the station. Probably the station I'm most familiar with in the entire city, and there I stood on a down-ramp looking around like I'd just lost my horse or found a rope. Looking like a tourist, for crying out loud.

Why do I not remember feeling this way the first time I moved to NYC? Everything just kind of gelled. Even getting lost was part of the experience, then. Getting lost now, though, like I did again last night, trying to get through the West Village to Nic's place, seems strange in a hard-to-describe manner - like wandering into your back yard and forgetting why you came there in the first place.

I'm somewhat apprehensive to leave the office late at night and face the plethora of possibilities that await me. What is this strange fear?

And if coming back from Africa is this difficult for someone who's lived here before, what's it like for someone who's never faced such a deluge of option? How does that person not just shut down?

Somebody told me that reverse culture shock would be worse than going there was, and I shrugged that off, but they were right.

Things I miss:

People greeting each other before starting a conversation. This I miss most of all. I start my deli-counter experience here with the standard "Howr you?" and have YET to get a response from anyone - its like here, ignoring the question altogether is germane. There's an unspoken "I'm fine but you aren't asking because you really care so I'm not going to pretend to respond to your fake question." I don't like that. Did I used to do this? It feels rude.

Cheap food.

The constant warm weather, and the elevation. Its almost as if being back at sea level makes me feel heavier, more weighed down.

Good surf within a day's travel. I miss Cape Town and in retrospect realize that I should have spent a lot more time there, and if I get back, that is what I will do.

Simplicity. You get used to limited options and there's a general this-is-how-things-are attitude of acceptance. There are lower expectations and fewer reasons, for lack of a better way of putting it, to get bent out of shape.

New stamps in the passport.

Running alone in the morning with the local blacks on their way to work. Also the genuine kindness of many of the Afrikaaners, notably my client.

Days that start at 5am and end early too. Being awake when most of the US is asleep.

Things I don't miss:

Toilets that need repeated flushing.

People pretending to use language barriers to their benefit. Corrupt police.

Living complacently, just south of the disaster in Zimbabwe.

Jack Daniels priced as a luxury brand.

Not being able to walk around at night and feel safe. If there's one thing I do not miss about ZA it is the prevalence of crime. Being able to stay late at the office without having to think about the precautions I'm going to take to get home safely is a nice change.

18 hour cattle-class flights.


5:44 AM. Saturday morning. Its still dark, but I'm awake. In 12 hours I'll be leaving SA airspace. The project ended yesterday.

I grab the last orange Fanta out of the fridge and sit down to blog.

Kind of fell off the blogging horse for the last week or so - its been a bit crazy wrapping up the project, saying goodbye to everyone, packing up, juggling the possibility of 3 more months of extension work here (found out last night that its postponed til July, at best), and trying to settle on where I'm living when I get back. On the last one, it looks like NYC, with Dave, for the next year. After that I'm leaning towards re-igniting my seminary search, to start the following year. And I'm leaning towards the idea of a school near the coast, back in CA. Surf, baby.

The last few months kind of reignited the surfing bug, after many years dormant - specifically Mauritius and Cape Town, where I surfed last weekend, whilst staying with Mike and Kayln, and Gawie, who's living with them. They have a sweet ocean-view place on the atlantic side of the Cape - south of CT and only about 10 minutes north of the actual Cape itself. It is, authoritatively, one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. And there's incredible surf there.

So the plan from here is to finish packing, do some last minute shopping / errands, fly back to SF via DC, crash at Peters, and then get up to Sacto one way or another. Thursday I'll fly back to the city and stay at Dave's parents' place while we try to nail down an apartment. Mid May I'll head back to Cali and drive down the Baja coast of Mexico with Jonny and whichever of the other brothers have their affairs in order to join us, for mas surfing. These are my plans. I have no specific work projects lined up. I'd like to find a commuting gig in Europe, I think.

I'll miss the organic yogurt from Woolworths, the good cheap wine, the Zulu/Xhosa-influenced hip hop on the radio, the beautiful blonds, the great pizza, the game parks, the warm Indian Ocean, the early rising / early setting lifestyle, the almost-always perfect weather, the best client I've ever worked with (hands down), the flat-out sexy accents, orange Fanta, rugby on the telly, the favorable exchange rate, incredibly friendly people, and driving a BMW. I'm sure there will be lots of other things that I realize over the next couple of weeks that I will miss, but that's all I can think of at 6 in the morning.

Coming to Africa has been pretty much the coolest part of my life.

(More follow-up blogging on Uganda to follow in the next few days, as I get chances to do so.)