In LAX. Crazy week. Drove fast a lot.

Off to IAD. Then JNB. Hope to get in with enough time to make it to the evening service at church. Then off to Uganda.

Don't expect to blog much before Mauritius, if even by then.

But I will be writing.


A few weeks before I last left Johannes- burg, a church I've been attending on Sunday evenings held a public forum of sorts, entitled "South Africa: Staying or Leaving?"

It was extremely well attended, if that tells you anything about the importance of the issue there, of late.

Emigration isn't a word you hear used a lot in the US. While immigration is a hot topic (one that even the presidential candidates must take position on), there simply isn't much focus on the opposite. Probably because there's not much reason to dwell on the possibility / idea of emigration - who would want to emigrate out of the US (although these words of mine may soon require a bit of adjusting, considering the economy of late)?

But emigration is a huge topic here. By some estimates, requests for it have risen over 400% in the last year alone in SA. If your not familiar with the reasons why, you can find them in this brief article. Speaking only as someone who's lived in ZA for the last 7 months or so, the article is pretty accurate. Storms are brewing there.

Enter the conference. The pastor gave some introductory notes:

1) Why are people wanting to leave South Africa? Four main reasons were cited:
- Rampant crime and the general fear of it
- Married people / parents worrying for their spouses' and childrens' safety, also white people having to worry if there will be jobs for their children, considering the pervasive affirmative action now in play
- ZA's shaky economic outlook
- ZA's perhaps-even-more-prominent shaky political outlook - while many people are appalled with Zuma's election to president of the ANC, it doesn't as of yet look as though there's much that will stop him from ruling the country come next year.

The pastor at this point stopped to recognize the fact that everyone has to draw the line somewhere on how much they are willing to stay and endure, the question is just where do you draw that line.

2) What does the Bible have to say about where we should live? The answer is: very little. Scripture is more primarily focused on how and why we should live, than it is where. References:
- Genesis 12:1 - the first big move (God prompts Abram)
- Ruth 1:1 - Elimelech's move due to famine (Ruth's father-in-law)
- Matthew 2:13-15 - Jesus' own family's emigration from the promise land, to escape persecution (they return in 2:19)
- Acts 8:1 - the church persecuted and scattered, but those who stayed and those who left kept on preaching the gospel
- Acts 18:1-3: Priscilla and Aquilla - wealthy early Christians with homes mentioned in Corinth, Ephesus, and also Rome (see Romans 16:3).

3) What is the church's position? Overall, the position was to encourage people to stay in ZA, but more importantly the church wanted to stress that staying vs. leaving is not the central issue - the main focus should be on how and why you live.

After the introductory notes, a panel was asked on stage, consisting of a white man who had emigrated (somewhat ironically, I thought) to Zimbabwe with his family, a white couple from Zimbabwe that had decided to stay there, and a black mother of a family that had decided to stay in ZA. They all had interesting stories, especially the couple from Zimbabwe.

They had built a farm there in the 90's, raised their kids, and were employing a large number of local people on their farm (ostrich, cattle, sheep, also a shoe factory and clothing factory for both local sale and export, that they operated there, on their farm). Then, in the (government-supported) riots of 2003, one night their house was surrounded, and by the next morning - when they could get police escort to the local magistrate, they were told by the magistrate that they had one hour to take what they could from the house, which they no longer owned, on the farm that was no longer theirs. When they got back, all of their livestock was gone, and most of the property that hadn't been stolen had been ransacked. The new "owner" was there to dictate to the police escorts which items they could and could not take with them. And then they had nothing.

Fortunately they had the support of their local church to get them back on their feet, but it was quite fascinating to hear from a family that went through this, considered leaving, and then realized that they couldn't escape suffering in this life, and felt called to stay in Zimbabwe (they are still living there now, rebuilding their lives, farming, and trying to create more jobs for the locals).

Anyway, here are a few of my other random notes from that part of the night:
- When you give people jobs, you a) inherently give them a manner of dignity, and b) earn the right to influence them, to get involved in their lives. Supplying people with employment can be a powerful means of community building and eventually witness as well.
- The safest place in the world is to be in God's will. (I heard something similar on the first Sunday I went to the Every Nation's church I've since been attending on Sunday mornings in Joburg - the pastor said that if ZA is where God wants him and his family to be, there is no safer place for them in the world.)
- The Zimbabwe couple considered moving to Australia for a while, a place where some of their emigrating white friends had moved. What they saw there, however, was a life so easy to live that you "don't need God anymore." That was a fascinating and deeply convicting statement.

The pastor closed out the evening with 3 key principles from Scripture:
1) The Sovereignty of God
- Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.") - while the verse is not for everyone, He yet works in all things for his children, for their good (the good, which is contained in v29).
- God's ultimate concern is not our comfort but our conformity to Christ. And nothing can separate us from His love (v37-39).
- Ps. 139: "...all the days ordained for me" - Christians are immortal until called home by God. Until that point: untouchable.

2) The Lie of Emigration
- People hate the insecurity and crime and politics with good reason, however there is no safety on this side of Eden. Sin and Satan are no less active in Melbourne than they are in Midrand, or Manhattan for that matter. You can move anywhere and serve God, but don't think that you can escape suffering.
- (Herein I was reminded instantly of the message behind M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, and also the quote on suffering that I will close this blog post with.)
- The only safety and security to be found on this earth is with Christ. And with Christ, there is suffering.

3) The Wasted Life
- Ease and comfort can never be a purpose for living - they are only a recipe for tragedy. We are made for a purpose beyond comfort: wherever you live you must make a difference for Christ.
- The Bible does not give us guidance on where to live. A story by John Piper was then quoted which I will semi-quote / paraphrase from sources I found online:
...and then, as many of you know, Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards died this week in Cameroon in a car accident - Ruby in her eighties and Laura in her seventies. Ruby gave all her life in medical missions among the poor. Laura, a doctor who practiced in India for many years and then here in the Cities, was giving her retirement for the bodies and the souls of the poor in Cameroon. Both died suddenly when their car went over a cliff.

Was that a tragedy? Well, in one sense all death is tragic.

[But] I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider this story from the February 1998 Reader’s Digest: A couple ‘took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball and collect shells...’ Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: ‘Look, Lord. See my shells.’ That is a tragedy.

- The purpose of life is not self-fulfillment but self-forgetfulness. As Jesus said, "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it..."
- One person can change the world, you don't have to be a Nelson Mandela or a William Wilberforce, you need only follow Christ

For those of you who aren't already aware, I'm seriously considering the possibility of staying in South Africa on a more long-term basis. I won't yet say "permanent" - and the US will always be "home" to me - but it is something I on my mind. I'm searching for discernment on the issue, but I feel that being there might help me stay in better touch with the contacts I have made / am making in the relief and development sector, where I would like to be working, long term, in Africa.

I remain realistic and alert and try to be wise on the issue of where I should live. But at the end of the day, I am immortal until I'm not supposed to be anymore, and where is not as big an issue as why.

At the onset of the disease...most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick. Attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves – the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others transferred their death to themselves, and died in their stead... – Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity


Gaze upon its beauty, and fall before it in your terror.

I have acted foolishly this week, and disregarded the apostle's wisdom and guidance to flee temptation. Nay, I have sat down in the midst of temptation, time and again, and stomped upon her gas pedal of power, pushing dangerously close to and perhaps slightly exceeding the speed limitations of the various counties of the greater Los Angeles area that I have traversed these last few days.

I'm pretty sure I've avoided breaking the tenth commandment, because this is Hertz's car, and since technically I'm paying them to rent it, if I envy it, its kind of like coveting something I actually own myself, which really isn't coveting at all. Right?

I'm not sure I can say the same for the deadly sin of lust, however. To look at this car is to lust for speed.

This car. Just...wow. On the drive back to the hotel each night I have a very real and very serious struggle with the idea of just driving past my exit on the 10 East, and taking it to the 15, and seeing Vegas for the evening. But there is work to be done the next morning. Except for Friday, which is a South African holiday, which means I get the day off, which means that Thursday night...

The grinch had a wonderful, awful idea!

So anyway yeah...I've never driven such a small car with so much horsepower. I've been thinking for a while now that I want my next car to be a project car - a late-60's mustang I can re-work. But now...now I just want pure unadulterated Japanese speed.

In black, please.



OK so I'm in LA. For a bit.

I got my shower in LHR. Turned out to be a lot easier than I thought - premier exec status on United gets you lounge acess when flying international. Go me.

Flights were still long but Peter was waiting for me in SFO in his uniform, which was kinda cool, cause I was on the phone fighting with Sprint to get my super-discounted plan re-set-up, and he took my luggage cart, which made me look like someone super-important, with a military-looking escort to push my crap around.

Hung out with Peter that afternoon / evening, we got drinks with his boss, John the Harbormastor, which is always fun. Then Friday morning I took the train up to Sac, and worked from there. Mom made meatloaf that night because she loves me.

Saturday we drove off to Yuba City to see Joey's lacrosse game. I was surprised to see that he was the biggest kid on his team. I guess it makes sense cause he's huge, but still. He's fairly new to the game but he's already pretty decent. I sat on the bench for a bit as older-brother-who-knows-a-few-tricks-to-the-game. One of his teammates was an about 4'11" kid who got trampled in one play and then came out of the game (all pissed off) for trying to start a fight in response to the trampling. I explained to him how to casually walk next to the opponent, push his elbow from his side, and deposit the butt of his staff into the kidney of said trampler. Etc.
Joey enjoyed that, but he's too nice to ever do it himself. I'm not sure anyone on the opposing team would be brave enough to piss him off anyhow. Not that they could.

Anyway, they had a local dad as the only ref, which was complete BS, so the game was totally slanted. The home team would have won anyway, but he seemed hell-bent on giving them all the help he could. I have a nasty word for people like that which I will not use.

Lunch with the fam and grandparents, who also came down for the game, then tacos at home for dinner. Mom loves me.

Interesting evening which culminated with me shaving my beard to a very short length while I was not really in my right mind at about 5 in the morning before Joey and I shot off to the airport.

Then I was in LA. Afternoon/evening prep meetings for our presentations which began this morning, with WV's Exec Board Advisory Group. Re: presentations: I always freak out a very little bit right before go-time, but then I end up kicking arse. Anyway it was cool to see the work I've done in stark relief, and have people actually appreciate it.


Hertz hooked me up with a 350Z.

You probably don't know what that is, but it deserves its own blog post in and of itself. Suffice to say that if this car does not send me to jail before I leave on Saturday, self control is a fruit of the spirit that I have in spades.


OK so work is crazy and tomorrow night I enter a period of roughly 30 hours that will be spent either on a plane or in an airport. Which I am not looking forward to. But I have done detailed research on LHR and come to the tentative conclusion that I can get a shower there w/o needing to drop dime on the red carpet club. So that's something. I'm pretty much packed and am taking home a bag of stuff to get a head-start on the moving-back-to-the-US, and at the same time I'm still not entirely sure that's the plan - just today I talked with another SE in the practice here who told me they're way oversold and could desperately use me...so...who knows.

I'll try to throw a post about something up tomorrow, maybe a story time for the road. After that, don't expect a blog before Friday, if at all, I suppose. I'm in NorCal for the start of the weekend and have a week in LA after that, and I gonna be bizy.

In the meantime, here's some stuff I've been writing, elsewhere.

My flame-out over at Fab Females. Suffice to say I'm taking a break.

A comment I just kind of cranked out on poverty here in Africa. Remember that story about the dogs on the roof of Macy's from a couple months back? How it got side-barred? Well, this one did too, and it sparked a good deal of conversation, which was pretty cool. I've had a lot of good email convos stemming from it as well, and its kind of got me pumped up to really capture my upcoming Uganda trip in true amateur journalistic style.

Some other stuff from Metafilter writings of mine:

A bit about what being a Christian is about. Wrote this one a few days after the poverty comment, and it also got over 200 favorites, and started a whole bunch of emails, which was also cool. And encouraging. I've wanted to share my point of view on faith with the (largely atheist/agnostic) MeFi community for a while, and this is about as close as I've ever come to doing it half-well. Sadly, it had to be on a deleted thread, but I'm pretty sure that's the most favorites any comment on a deleted thread ever got.

Reading for the exact center.

Things we squished on the train tracks growing up.

My requiem for a fashion industry. I wrote this one back during fashion week. Words can not express how glad I was to not be in NYC during fashion week. I do not miss that life.

The eventual destruction of private life.


0-for-3, so that's a strike-out for this week. It was a crazy week. Zambia is crazy.

Anywhere in Africa is crazy, but I've been pretty blessed to be based in the one country in sub-saharan that's not too dissimilar from a European feel. You go elsewhere - Moz, Zim, Zambia...and at best, things are just plain crazy. A different approach to business, a different methodology on time, just different ways of living, here in Africa. Surprise.

Anyway, the week was a bunch of moved-around meetings and some that didn't end up happening, and some unexpected ones that did end up happening. The team there is a group of really wonderfully awesome people and it was sad leaving them not knowing when or if I would return. It reminded me, as other experiences on this trip have, of one of my favorite parts of the Lord of The Ring, when Aragorn and Frodo are leaving the heart of Elvendom: "...he left the hill of Cerin Amroth and came there never again as living man." I like the qualification on the end.

So yeah, today was the flight back to ZA, and after I dropped Tracy off I came to the office to catch up on time reports and emails and...booking flights to Uganda.

March 24th I'm headed to Northern Uganda to spend a week volunteering with the child soldier rescue camps there that World Vision has been operating there. There has been (thank God) a shift in the work there lately following the rather recent and relative peace in the north, but I've been told to still expect to get a full picture of the issues in a place that has seen such horrible contact for such a long time.

For those of you who might not be aware, the previous paragraph is pretty much the first actualization of a life-dream that was first sparked in my soul some years ago, and I'm pretty much in complete disbelief that its actually going to happen. Its only one week, and I have no idea what kind of future doors it might open, if any, but if it is all I can ever do to help, it will be something. Somehow, though, I still kind of hope it will just be another beginning. Its only one small place in this massive continent where this horrible problem is still a very real thing.

I'm hoping to make it a bit of a journalistic endeavor, which will be a matter of a significant amount of after-hours research over the next couple of weeks, combined with really kicking my writing into gear for that week. Its something I want to draw attention to (the situation, not my involvement) and while it's all rather amorphous at the moment, I've got a few ideas in mind...so stay tuned.


So yeah. Today I was a speaker. I spoke, and everything. Ahoy.

The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) is basically one of the leading consortiums of...well...SCM Professionals...in the industry.

Today and tomorrow they're having their Southern Africa 2008 conference, and today I had the honor of presenting, along with my client lead, on Humanitarian Supply Chain Management in Africa. From the program:

The provision of humanitarian aid is fraught with significant challenges including hunger, infectious diseases, lack of sanitation and clean water, political conflict and crises as well as natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, flooding, and devastating fires. One common thread throughout all of these challenges is the need for efficient supply chains...etc..

Suffice to say that my client, World Vision's Global Supply Chain Management Director, as well as the speaker that followed me, the CEO for Pharmaceutical Healthcare Distributors (one of the main orgs delivering the meds sponsored by PEPFAR - the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief), were much more experienced presenters than myself. So, in essence, I was the young, inexperienced, American creamy filling to their older, highly knowledgable, African Oreo cookie. Except they are both white gentlemen as well. But man could they command a crowd. They both said I did well but I hate standing in front of that many people. I need a few more years under my belt to get as conversational as they were in that environment.

But, it was an awesome opportunity and I do think a few tidbits of industry-specific knowledge may have actually spewed from my lips in the course of my blatherings. Anyway, great opportunity. My name in print and all that. Straight to the CV with that action.

After that I ran over to JNB and now I'm typing from Zambia, where I am for the week for work. My cell here is 0966-481298. There might be a country code needed there. Not that it matters. No one ever calls you in Africa.

Besides work this week, I hope to a) read, and b) blog. Here's what's on the docket:

- Retro-blogging my first trip to Zambia (irony, much?)
- Storytime - the best worst day of my life (yeah, the one I didn't get to last week)
- A recap on the story I recently wrote on Zimbabwe, which gained me more mild internet fame
- Maybe something else but frankly I doubt it

Happy March everybuddy.


Retro- blogging: First trip to Kruger.

So back when Brian was still here, he and I headed off for an extended weekend at Kruger, my second safari, I think his 3rd. Suffice to say we had fairly high expectations after such a great time at Medikwe.

Kruger is about a 4-5 hour drive from Pretoria, basically straight east - its situated right on the border with Mozambique. I had my first getting-pulled-over-for-speeding-and-bribing-the-cop experience. Its kind of an essential part of any trip to Kruger, I would come to find out last month when I took my parents back there.

Anyway, we rolled into the park and had a little trouble finding our way to the resort we were staying at, but in the midst of being lost, I did see my first rhino (white), albeit a bit far off. We saw all the usual stuff as well - kudu, springbok, warthog, gnu, zebra, ox, giraffe. Eventually we got to the main lodge, Camp Shawu. Its the bigger one and its situated closer to the river, but we were actually staying up in Camp Shonga, which is tucked up in this little valley between two hills, and only accessible by their Landrovers, so after a welcome beer we loaded our stuff up for the quick drive to where we were staying.

I have to say that staying in the middle of the park is a pretty awesome way to go on safari. The whole camp is basically on raised platforms - the main dining area / lounge, the pool, the walk-way to the individual villas. It was pretty much the same incredible high-level of comfort that Medikwe had offered, complete with the outdoor shower that I so very much covet want one just like it for myself.

The really great thing about Shonga is that there's only 5 villas, so at the very most, you're going to have 10 people there at any given time (which, conveniently, still fits in one Landrover for the game drives). We shared our first evening drive with an older "couple" that seemed to be on some kind of vacation fling thing. They had been there all week, and it was their last drive, so they very selfishly insisted that it not be a game drive. Right. I mean, why would you come all the way to Kruger park to drive around and see the animals? So we went speeding past everything, including a family of rhino, up close, so that we could get to this stupid rock outcropping on the side of a riverbed where supposedly there were 2000 year old paintings from the tribesmen. Well, turns out there was only half of one little sketch of a tiny dude left there, and it was barely visible to the naked eye. The river had long since washed everything else away. Awesome.

That evening, though, when we got back to camp, our guide did show us how to find the Southern Cross, which was another pretty cool first for me.

The days drives we didn't see a lot that we hadn't before, but we did get up close with 3 cheetah - and these guys were lazy, let me tell you what. They must not have been very hungry. During the afternoon down at the pool, we had a family of elephant wander right up to us - about 20 feet away, so that was pretty cool. The baby seemed pretty curious to head over closer to us, but the mom wasn't having any of that, she positioned herself between us and him, and that was the end of that. On the evening drive, I saw my first crocodile, and a pool full of hippo across the way as well.

After one more morning drive on Sunday, it was back off to Joburg. I was headed to evening church there so I hung out at Brian's for a bit and then went to the service over at the university. The end.