Friday, January 25, 2008


Read the below entries backward (from below up) starting at the UPDATE TOP TEN back to Movie, books, and music. Thanks. Here's the true original top FOURTEEN.

Top 14 Reasons you KNOW the US has a HUGE influence here.

14. South Africans are voting for the next US President.

13. South Africans cry when the dollar goes down. (where’s the tissue?)

12. People mention Congress without saying US. (there’s only one right?)

11. There are South Africans who have an American accent. (what?)

10. One of the top gangs in CT is called the Americans. (huh?)

9. South Africans look for tissues when the Federal Reserve sneezes! Aaaachew!

8. Even South Africans make clicking-language jokes. (:D)

7. There is more “American” food here than South African (whatever that is?)

6. South Africa’s Next Top Model has all skinny girls. (silence)

5. Black South African girls from the country gorge on food the week before they go

home to the country and try to starve themselves before arriving back in Joburg where

their friends noticing the 2 kg increase will comment “You haven’t been to the gym,

lately, have you?”

4. A South African man listening to an American cover song identified the song and

original singer as Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” and the singer as Barry White!


3. A South African will tell you whether he is a Republican or a Democrat! (wha--)

2. The two most popular and powerful South Africans are Oprah and Chuck Norris.


1. They showed a TV ad for the George Lopez show, and they called it “Everybody’s

favorite South American family.”


Carmen (SA Township version)

They call her Carmensitha. I saw this on TV tonight (Thursday). Pretty cool. They actually sang it in Xhosa. So it’s strange to hear the EXACT same music with Xhosa clicks (c’s, q’s, and x’s). Very interesting. Nice to see big women (this includes Carmensitha) instead of the skinny ones and dancing closer to the black culture in SA. It was complete with witch doctors and SA “eh’s”. The cigarette smoking of all the girls at the beginning looked strange though. I LOVED when Carmensitha (the actor/singer) digged down into her chest voice. It was riveting. She had an excellent voice.

Feast of Love

Interesting movie. Supposed to be me and Haley when we get older (Morgan Freeman and some white woman as his wife). Sad at the end and throughout. It has nudity in it and sexual situations, so you shouldn’t watch it if it will offend (that doesn’t involve Morgan of course).

They showed a TV ad for the George Lopez show, and they called it “Everybody’s favorite South American family.”

Elton John had a good concert here. Also here this month is Julio Iglesias. I would not have guessed him to come to South Africa.


Right now we’re having the Cup of African Nations. One of the Peace Corps Volunteers in Ghana that we worked majored in Turf Grass Science and wanted to work for the event. I hope he got the job!

South Africa played Angola on Wednesday, and we tied 1-1, so our division is still up for grabs, surprisingly. So we’re doing better than previously. We don’t do well in soccer (they use that word here) despite the huge talent that is underutilized and undersourced and underdeveloped in townships and in the countryside through the nation.

Anyway, the Cup is from Jan 10 – Feb 20, so if you have time watch it or stay abreast if it interests you. I think it’s about 16 countries.

I had to send a friend, the wonderful Eliza Doolittle (girl with the biggest heart for Africa) some info on Ginuea, Kenya, and Uganda. Though it’s out of context for you, I thought I would include it for you to see some of what is going on. Of course we are dealing with a horrible AIDS crisis to the point where pretty soon (in a few years) we will have more people dying (in general) than born in a year period. Also the floods in southern Africa are ravaging people left and right, and relief efforts are important. Here’s my update to Ms. Doolittle about direction for her Africa prayer group (you’ll see me mention God).

Kenya - biggest is turmoil in aftermath of elections; need peaceful resolution to contention of presidency; don't know if you want to pray one way or another (people
differ on this), but it is clear that Kabiki did not win fairly especially as primaries showed he would lose (I don't know if primaries is the right word, but you understand what I am saying); but more importantly the violence is bad; right now 250,000 displaced from Kenya. That's HUGE.155,000 people (including 66,000 children) are homeless because of the violence. These are in the townships of Nairobi, Nakuru, Eldoret, Mombasa, and Kisumu. Now more than 650 deaths. Maybe 5,000 have fled to Uganda and Tanzania. So lots to pray for. Groups like Red Cross and World Vision have had to work over time because their work has been disrupted and their work has ostensibly increased.

Uganda - huge victories for God, I believe have been occuring in this place. But peace is still not secured, though there has been a dramatic decrease in violence. It's amazing what can happen when people come together (UN, Invisible Children, President of DRC, Rwanda, President (finally) of Uganda). It's been a long war.
Ok, there are 3 agenda items being discussed in full-peace talks. They have finally finished agenda item 3 which is about accountability and reconciliation. The Northern Ugandas are still encouraging all sides to continue to hash out agenda items 1 and 2. The importance is that it will bring a final resolution and end to the war. Until then, it's still going on though mitigated.

Joaquim Chissano, a special UN envoy to LRA-affected regions, has been charged with negotiating peace by the UN Security Council. He's in Kimpala meeting with Rwanda, DRC and Uganda heads of states before going back to the LRA to hash things out in Juba.

Big deal here is the January 31st deadline given by the government--well the president of Uganda, Museveni to resolve peace AND leave their DRC base.
LRA has asked for extension like into March, but Museveni or his government has continually denied such requests. So as of now, it's still set for January 31st.
I don't know what will happen if they don't reach peace by then. Oh yes, I do. DRC military and the Ugandan military are going to go after the LRA and Joseph Kony (head of LRA). They should have done this awhile ago (I don't mean all out war and killing civilians but a specific search for the head of LRA like police work in a city).

I don't fully understand the usefulness of the Congressional Act being considered, but there is one on the floor of your US congress. It's the

Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2007 (S.1175), which would encourage governments to disarm, demobilize and rehabilitate child soldiers from government forces and government-supported paramilitaries.

So you can ask your people not only to pray but to take action (I'm big on this type of active prayer as we are the actual body of Christ and too often the hand asks the brain to do something about the crippled person in front of her who cannot pick up his dropped money. And the brain is telling the hand "I'm trying to do so but my hand won't receive my signals").

Back in 2002 the child commuter count was 25,000. Last year it was down to 500 because of increased efforts to stop this war.
About 1.4 million people have been displaced. But many hundred thousands (changes every year) have been able to return home due to increased effort.

Guinea - interesting choice. Well, USAID is still there, one of around 5 development programs there but Peace Corps has left (you have to be welcome and invited to be there). It's still underdeveloped but it has been good in helping with the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the 90's (civil wars). But issues with Taylor of Liberia (currently being tried for war crimes in Sierra Leone during those civil wars) led Guinea to support the anti-government rebel group during the war (after they were attacked by Liberia and the Guinean malcontented and suffered 1,000 deaths and 100,000 displaced peoples). But since Taylor was exiled in '03, relations have improved. In my mind things are not as bad as Kenya and Uganda. They do suffer from this never-ending-power syndrome. Back in 2001, a national referendum was enacted allowing the government to --the president to run for an unlimited number of terms and increasing the length of each term from 5 to 7 years. Some foreign observers, as usual, though this referendum was unfair or flawed. There were riots last year against Conte's rule (he's the president) and much of the press is restricted due to high price and censorship. There is some tight control on the radio and tv following the riots last year as well. And there is opposition against his rule but nothing so far. The IMF pulled out because they didn't reach certain goals. I'm not sure if they have recaptured that support or not. But many think it is headed toward a failed state. They still have refugees living there (perhaps still from the 90's from Sierra Leone and Liberia who the president turned against and accused as conspiring with the Liberians when the country was attacked so many were jailed or persecuted). And most people live under $1/day.

But I'm not sure if you meant Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, or Papa New Guinea.


So I heard growing up that the most powerful man in the world was the chairman of our (American) central bank—the Fed Chairman. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I do now. I think it’s because the guy does not only control the amount of money in the US and can fight inflation or fuel it in the US, but he can do it around the world. We are everywhere and affect all. Even the Great Depression was not just a US phenomenon.

Writing about economics as a series of entries from each update, I’m naturally building on previous things. So if you’re joining me now, I’m definitely skipping things. But with exports and imports, foreign reserves (esp of dollars with other countries), foreign investment, demand for dollars for various things (like sending kids of Asian presidents to US schools), presence of American multinational companies everywhere, etc., you really do affect the economies around the world.

The strange thing is that today this truth is weakening. There will probably come a day when this is no longer true. But already, the rising powers of China and India, for example have a weakening effect on the ability of a boom or a recession to quicken or dampen the economies of countries around the world. And economists have already said the developing economies are balancing out our growing recession when calculating global inflation.

Did I talk about the process of inflation? I don’t remember. But anyway, central banks have been known as inflation busters because their policies can curb it or fuel it. The problem is the same thing you do to fight a recession (lower interest rates) and to put more effective money in the economy, is the same thing that causes or fuels inflation. So it’s a dilemma for these banks (EU bank, US bank, British Bank, etc.). Do you fight the recession and fuel inflation? Or do you eschew contributing to inflation and leave the executive and legislative branches to fight recession (which policies require money as well)?

Right now, the rand is weakening, and the ratio is the highest it has been since my arrival (or around the same amount about 7 rand to 1 dollar).


Last school year (’06-‘07) we had our 10th grade students read a book called “Disgrace” by Coetzee. He’s a weird South African writer who won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003. The setting of the book is in Cape Town where he used to live; it’s about a professor at UCT who is disgraced because of an illicit affair. He’s a strange guy because he’s hyperaloof and doesn’t do interviews. His agent and publishing house finally agreed to one for him a few years back and a writer went to meet him in his home. After each question, Coetzee would pause for a long time and scribble notes about the question down on paper before answering in one ambiguous sentence. For instance, the interviewer asked about his book Foe and if he understood some of the meaning correctly. After scribbling, he only offered one sentence: “I would not wish to deny your reading.” This went on and on. An artist tells of story of going on a 3-day hike with Coetzee and a group, and Coetzee said not a word to anyone. Here’s another story:

“A friend of mine was an MA student of Coetzee’s. She had to deliver a paper to his home. As she approached the door, she noticed the blinds moving, but her ring remained unanswered for a long, long while. When she finally gave up and was walking away, she turned around to find the crocodile-eyed genius contemplating her implacably from a window. She became a lesbian, but I am not sure if there is any connection.”

I like Antjie Krog, who is mostly known for her poetry, but also writes fiction and children books. Antjie didn’t win a Nobel, but she’s good.

It’s interesting to me because South Africa, in some sense, has produced a few (2) Nobel Prize winners. There’s also Nadine Gordimer in ’91. She’s written about thirteen novels and some short story collections. Of course, by association she knows Coetzee. The government implied he was racist due to his book “Disgrace.” She sent him a congratulatory note and gave her own criticisms (she’s very opinionated). Her work isn’t read much in South Africa. In fact, more people have read Coetzee’s Disgrace than any of her books even though she won the prize back in ’91. She also told Coetzee that he should come back to South Africa (he left and moved to Australia a few years ago).

Funny thing is that she allowed a young Trini writer, Ronald Suresh Roberts, to write a biography of her. She withdrew her authorization of the book due to a disagreement over some content of the book her wrote. People think it’s because it was more personal than she intended. She doesn’t believe a writer’s personal life has anything to do with the writing; she says it doesn’t matter if Tolstoy’s wife didn’t like him as long as his books impacted people and sold.

Well, Jeannie met “Suresh” through a film-maker friend, Kahlo (sp?), who she was told to look up in Cape Town. He’s a bit funny because he, Suresh, was hired to write Mbeki’s biography, “Fit to Govern.” Suresh had a parting of ways with Anthony Brink, a lawyer who labels himself as the one to introduce Mbeki and the government to ideas that question the HIVàAIDS link and the efficacy of ARV’s. Anthony accused him of “pilfering” his research and “falsifying” Mbeki’s views on AIDS. It’s just strange because, though I hadn’t met him, I’m separated from him by 2 degrees of separation. I’m friends with a friend of his lawyer. According to my friend, Suresh’s arch enemy and his lawyer live TOGETHER. Very strange.

So there seems to be controversy about many of his writings as he does have strong views. Oppenheimer lawyers made him strike out 11 different comments from Mbeki’s biography that put Oppenheimer in a bad light saying things like his wealth came from the raping of Namibia (the library at UCT is named after Oppenheimer [the Oppenheimers are the beneficiaries of the De Beers wealth]).

Anyway, Jeannie and Haley are friends with this writer here in South Africa. And it makes me think about that theory of 6 degrees of separation. Suresh knows the president. So Jeannie and Haley are only separated from the president by 1 degree (some people call this two degrees since they know someone who knows the pres, but if you know the president you’re not separated so I call that 0 degrees of separation).

PURSUIT of HAPPINESS (continued)

And it’s this concept that I think keeps me from being eternally happy which I don’t mind (Isaiah prophetically called Jesus a man of sorrows and he was). Tracy Kidder, in his semi-biography of Paul Farmer, names the book “Mountains Beyond Mountains.” I can’t exactly remember why, but I think it’s this same idea that Mandela was stating. I think it’s that tension that hits me when on top of the current mountain or hill, as I view the next one that keeps me pushing. You may call the tension unhappiness, sadness, longing, yearning uneasiness, dis-ease (or disease), but it’s there and it pushes, inspires, aspirates, and respires. Bruce Wilkinson also references this concept in “Dream Giver.”

My friend Vasco mentioned that he would also score very low on the test as he doesn’t necessary “feel” happy much. So I’m not sure. I definitely would love to be referred as the guy who is eternally happy and so joyous. But I’m ok being joyful while circumstantially being happy or sad or what have you. Not sure. Just pondering.

[if you wonder about what I do in terms of research, here is a conference coming up in Sun City with a list of topics to show you the full range of stuff I do: this is related to the next paragraph]

In actuality, I think maybe you can have new mountains and be happy through the entire process whether reaching the summit of your current one or going on to the next. So it could be that I’m still wrestling with my place and niche here. I haven’t fully honed in the AIDS project. I don’t even have a fully working pre-processing program to make computer models for some of my research. I’m still waiting months for a computer modeling package to arrive. No bites on collaborations. So maybe that’s part of it. I am glad that I’ve been asked to join the children’s team at Jubilee church. That’s going to be so exciting for me. Still working out continued service in other ways. I wish the AIDS thing would pan out, but perhaps it will be long term. And it all depends on how many years I stay here.


I actually wasn’t finished last time when writing. I meant to say that some oppressed peoples have actually turned it around. In the Americas you see the Black slaves connecting with the Ancient Jewish people during Pharaonic Egypt (you’ve heard spirituals like “Let My People Go”) and Liberation Theology in Latin America (sociologists, historians—people have attacked the missionaries and monks of that time labeling them as killers, haters, and people who have killed indigenous cultures; it’s always important to talk in percentages because it gives the impression they were all like that which isn’t true; there were actually some good monks, missionaries who worked with and for the people during late pre-colonial and colonial Latin America) and even in the Caribbean. Noticeably, it was this type of theology that made Paul Farmer (in Haiti) even feel like he could connect to Christianity, not his Catholic upbringing. So for the Latin Americans, too, they connected with the Hebrew children in viewing their own plight.

And I’m glad some people have used theology in seeing how God does care for them and hear their cries. All the theologies of oppression throughout history scare me, though. It scares me because religion seems to me like an academic course at a university. Perhaps it’s history. We all sit down, and we read this book. And the professor asks each person to tell what she thinks about the book. Later, the professor asks everyone to write a paper espousing their views. “It’s ok what you think or the position you take. Just make sure you support it with details.” In others words, there is no right and wrong. It’s just what you think. Now, in many belief systems and philosophies this thinking is ok, and it envelopes the foundation of that belief. But in Christianity (the name of religion or community of people who believe that Jesus was God and that he saved us through his voluntary death into a glorious eternal joy [from a deserved separation from God due to sin]), we believe that we are a God-led or Spirit-led people. So I ask myself again and again how is it that a God-led people cannot agree on something that doesn’t require their strict interpretation but rather God-leading or hearing from God? We disagree about the eucharist, eternal salvation (means you can never lose your “salvation”), prophecy, speaking in tongues, the end times, etc. And those are just more theological or spiritual issues. Socially we disagree about how to treat abortion, death penalty, homosexuality, poverty, health care, etc. And we have even used our religion to justify oppression. So in the end, it seems like a book to me. Just a book that we read and use to justify what we want. But not really a book that, outside of ourselves, speaks authoritatively or truly or absolutely. It’s like the entire faith of Christianity is a class, and we’re all students, each giving his opinion, backing it with support from the book, and given an A+ from our personal professor (our conscience and consciousness). Somehow we’ve gone off-course.

(The same problem exists in Islam and Judaism for instance. By the way, if I were Muslim I would be practicing in the Sufi order as a whirling dervish.)

Thankfully, I have not let the example of Christianity throw me off course, knowing that’s it possible for us and myself especially to mess up what I believe in. But with examples of oppression and genocide in our past, I wonder where the real Christians are at. Where are they?

I’m reminded of the 5 M’s. The Messiah (Meh-shee-uh)àMahatmaàMartinàMandela. Remember that India song on forgiveness? She mentions three of them (Jesus, Gandhi, and Mandela). Now, I’ve left out some holes (those are not perfectly direct influences especially between Jesus and Gandhi [someone may give you a book about Gandhi for instance]), but Jesus’s teaching influenced Gandhi especially about active resistance. People think turning the other cheek is weak, but what Gandhi realized Jesus taught was that nothing can withstand love. And love is active. It stands there and resists in the face of the opposition without striking without hating but simply loving [remember Jesus could have said run or walk away]. And it’s hard to hate that, to actively hate (just as strong) in the face of that active love. I think it’s because at that point the hater begins to see the person; it’s hard to beat, hurt, maim, injure, kill a person with a history and humanity. It’s easier to do it to an idea (an Indian person, a Black person, an Aboriginal person). Gandhi then went on and used this active pacifism or active non-violent resistance to change many. Then Martin picked up that same kind of love and carried it through the civil rights movement in the 60’s. And Mandela took Martin’s words of forgiveness and reconciliation (as there was and is much reconciliation needed in the US) and applied in South Africa. The first time I arrived in South Africa, I went to a jazz festival for Heritage Day and I remember the host saying to that mixed group of people “We still need some major reconciliation,” and everyone agreed.

One thing Mandela also said is that after climbing a hill, you find that there are more hills to climb.


I suppose this hasn’t been the best week. I’ve had two strange or negative conversations and a rejection of one of the 3 papers I was not worried about (not the 4th that I was trying to publish in a general science (general audience) magazine. It definitely took me aback, and I was shocked. It was the strongest of the three. But looking honestly at the two associate editors who reviewed it for the main editor, the comments seem to be that it was unacceptable in its current form. They wanted things like a change of title, introduction, and focus. They want it shortened by 50% and no details on well-known things. Both suggested it should be rewritten and resubmitted. Though out of the 4 advances it offered, one reviewer liked them and said I’ve made significant contributions. Another thought some were ok but others bunk. So it’s unclear how I should approach the changes.

Today (Thursday), Nature magazine rejected my application for the Nature Postdoc Journal contest. If I had won, I would be writing a journal of postdoc life, one 250 word entry per month (so 12 articles for the magazine). It’s pretty cool and super easy. Surprised I didn’t get it.

Then I had a strange conversation with a man in whose house I had been sleeping (to avoid driving home late at night, driving back and forth a distance, sleep apnea issues, etc.) felt that he was being taken advantage of and wanted me to pay for staying, approximately 3% of my monthly salary per day. Well, over a month, that’s my monthly salary. Strange conversation it was. I don’t like or enjoy staying at his house for any amount of time now.

And another conversation. I think it was Shane Claiborne who said, in community, they hasn’t figured out how to stop hurting each other. I haven’t not discovered this either. I have some who are continually hurt which makes relations hard. Some friends (I still count them as friends) I spend the entire relationship amending, atoning, recompensing, fixing, apologizing. I’ve had one that I would classify as emotional abuse (after doing a play on domestic violence and abuse of all types). Others, I spend the entire time fully enjoying. Those I like. So it’s hard to go through these. But that is life. Most find me pig-headed. I’m a bit of – no a definite Monet, I believe. I look nice from afar, but up close, you don’t know what you’re looking at. That term is from Clueless. With all the low points it would be “nice” to be down, but I haven’t time. I have to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes to understand where they come from. And I have to be more determined in my work (right now have a daily goal of some sort of work I do plus two daily job apps for the next year). So we shall see.


For instance, Anna is doing this, getting one with Radesh. It seems my I may still be in a temporary office (my 2nd) and with a temporary computer (my 2nd), but this second temporary home may be my final. You see, she is now staying. Instead of going back to the UK during the month of February she will instead use the money to get this relationship visa with her boyfriend. This will finally allow her to work and get money officially. So Radesh has changed her story and mine as well.

So we’ve had ants on the table top/counter. And now last weekend I noticed them on the floor. I think there is a difference between people about comfort with messes and when you leave them and how long they stay there and whether you clean a splash or something. I had the sleak, slimy, shiny slug thing jump out of my closet once this week. And there was one on a pot that I pulled out. So it’s kind of different living here. I’m comfortable though. Oooh, I just had another one that was in my cupboards on my clothes, I had to shake my clothes and then do something to it (I won’t say kill for my animal friendly friends).


Every time I fill up at the petrol station, the attendants (there’s no self-service here, so it’s like back in the 70’s or earlier) do a strange thing from a US perspective. When the petrol (gas) reaches a certain point the pump naturally stops. Well, it’s happened twice that I have asked for R200 of petrol, and the the pump clicks off around R150. And then this is what the attendant does. He lifts the nozzle so the petrol doesn’t go inside it or fill it while it is filling the tank (like using a garden hose to fill a inflatable pool while pulling the garden hose up so the standing water doesn’t go inside the hose because that’s the signal to shut it off). They fill the gas and keep lifting the nozzle higher and higher. I, of course, from an American perspective am horrified. I try to keep my peace, but finally tell the guy it’s ok (they are obviously trying to fit R200 worth of petrol into the tank or as close to it as they can). Strange. So there are not warnings of topping off problems here. Today (Thursday) I finally asked for a fill-up (I wasn’t sure you could say that as I haven’t heard anyone do that), and the attendant did the same thing. I was going to let him go and do it as much as it wanted, but after about R250 worth of petrol, I had to stop him.

I’ve heard that my response last e-mail due to criticism about Jeannie and Haley met with more as words about Jeannie were only that she had brilliant friends. So let me address that in a very simple factual way. She’s excited about life and what she is doing (here in SA she’s like a kid in a candy store and everything is novel). She is ready to engage in the community and do good work (she has wonderful service work planned that I shall not unduly reveal). Her zest for life is contagious as she infects those around her (not me, I was called heavy and depressing this week). She is committed (she ran an entire fundraiser for my Ghana kids in Austin with no actual reason, motivation, or impetus other than love). She is inspired (she wanted to join us in our work in Ghana and wanted to do whatever she could to help and come; she even left with no job security or promise to receive her old job back). I’m tired.

I’m again dealing with power outages. Some call it rolling. I call it spot-outages. I went to the post office to pick up a package in the dark. Thankfully the two attendants had candles. They were nice. My university even lost power on Wednesday for 2 and a half hours. In fact, we’re slated for power outages anytime between 10 and 12 and 18:00 and 20:30 each day (the put the percentage chance that it will happen on the web). So you are highly discouraged from using the lifts at the university during those times because if you’re caught there when they cut it, you’re stuck. Do you see why I’m surprised we are hosting the World Cup in 2010. I’m sure they’ll work something out. Funny, when electricity usage is high and they place the meter on TV, they tell you to turn everything off except the light and the TV. I always laugh at that. Why not tell the person to turn off the TV or why not cut power to TV stations, especially government ones? Just thoughts.

Here, you can citizen rights through a relationship visa. The reason I think it’s novel and good, is that it decreases the motivation to get married just to get a green card or visa. And so South Africa decreases the contribution to the divorce rate from citizenship seekers.


January 23, 2008

Top 13 Reasons you KNOW the US has a HUGE influence here.

13. South Africans are voting for the next US President.

12. South Africans cry when the dollar goes down. (where’s the tissue?)

11. People mention Congress without saying US. (there’s only one right?)

10. There are South Africans who have an American accent. (what?)

9. One of the top gangs in CT is called the Americans. (huh?)

8. South Africans look for tissues when the Federal Reserve sneezes! Aaaachew!

7. Even South Africans make clicking-language jokes. (:D)

6. There is more “American” food here than South African (whatever that is?)

5. South Africa’s Next Top Model has all skinny girls. (silence)

4. Black South African girls from the country gorge on food the week before they go

home to the country and try to starve themselves before arriving back in Joburg where

their friends noticing the 2 kg increase will comment “You haven’t been to the gym,

lately, have you?”

3. A South African man listening to an American cover song identified the song and

original singer as Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” and the singer as Barry White!


2. A South African will tell you whether he is a Republican or a Democrat! (wha--)

1. They showed a TV ad for the George Lopez show, and they called it “Everybody’s

favorite South American family.”


My mom

Amanda Edwards (she is here!)

Megan Francis and Credell Coleman

Marissa Eubanks

Monday, January 21, 2008

UPDATE - January 12, 2008

January 12, 2008

Every day after hiking up the mountain to my office, there is a pool of water on the floor trailing behind me in the office. I refuse to change clothes and work as-is. However people usually notice the pool of water trailing behind my drenched and soaked self. If they ask, I tell them the truth. “I was exercising vigorously, you know!” All the water makes using the restroom very uncomfortable.

I’m highly allergic to all species of roaches. And while I was in the lieu at a certain church, there was a roach that spoke to me as it sat on the toilet seat, shocked that I would dare invade it’s privacy, as if I had missed the occupied sign on the stall. I left immediately not wanting to contend with a roach or my imagination. I went to the sink to wash my hands, and there was his cousin staring at me. Needless to say, I didn’t wash my hands. I think I’ve started noticing dark splotches on my hand. . . .I’ll look for an allergy specialist soon.

I went to a Rotary meeting, and the future president (this winter in June/July) told me he noticed I had a partially Nigerian and partially American (I think he said American) accent. And he said most people he met with my background have the same accent. Huh?


Somehow, as always happen when you put yourself out there, you offend. So to set the record straight, let me quickly address some things from my last update. I often deal along the impulsive. I don’t act on it, but you will often find me pondering it, examining it, letting it breathe so as to render it powerless. We all think. And updates or blogs are thoughts. I wish I could prioritize tact over honesty. And perhaps tact is not the right word, but I am always honest about thoughts and impulsive feelings. And that’s ok.

It’s actually quite natural to at least consider (thank you, JM, for guidance) living in the same place as a spouse. So I think that was a good thing for me to consider. And so Haley moving to South Africa caused me to consider coming here. That’s a good thing. I wasn’t forced at all. I didn’t leave teaching for anyone nor was forced to do so. Secondly, in the end, actually I decided to stay and teach another year at my school (long story why it didn’t happen). The only reason it is tough is because I know that if I’m not somehow connected to my function here or feeling active in my purpose or gifts and passions here, she would have the tendency to feel bad because I considered coming here due to her scholarship. I do not hold anyone responsible for anything or hold a grudge.


In fact, Haley is the most relationally selfless person I know. Every action, thought, word, deed is to push me toward what God has implanted in me before the world began. And this she does even to the detriment of herself, no matter distance or time. And I have never seen that. Never. So she would be the last person to dictate where I would or should go. And would choose that I do what God has in store for me even if insane to the world around me (and believe me, this was).


She is the most energetic person in the world constantly gorging herself on the only positive addiction—life (well, and love, too). She surrounds herself with brilliant people and it rubs off on her. She’s modest and self-deprecating and ever-praising of those around her. Her presence could only benefit me and has done so thus far and will continue to do so as she chooses to immerse herself in the culture here and surround herself with South Africans.

I got a few articles (though I’m only supposed to write one a month). They are below. Beware, though. My editor changed them around a bit. He put his own titles on them and changed things, like adding caps, quotes, italics, etc. He even groups it. So the message may be a bit different from what I meant. It’s interesting to see what an editor does.




World Bank economic forecasters predicted a slow-down in the global GDP growth to 3.3%. They said the resilience of developing economies would offset the troubles in the US. I just thought it interesting because they have always predicted resilience in developing economies. It’s not uncommon; in fact, it has been common. Perkins talks about this in “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” where economic forecasters overprognosticate the brightness of the future of these developing states so that they will receive bigger loans from the IMF and World Bank, so big that defaulting on the loan was highly probable. This makes those nation-states beholden to these multi-national money organization (controlled by really one superpower). And they must give certain things like UN votes or land for military bases in exchange for retaining the debt. It’s something that is held over them.

Today things are a bit better since light has been shed on this (thanks to people like Perkins). Many are calling for reform in such organizations. And Mbeki is one of them; actually all of Africa is calling for it.

The World Bank will share with you success stories about their lending. I’ve seen them. I haven’t seen many in Africa. They will quote India, China, Chile, Poland, Vietnam, Botswana, South Korea, Uganda, etc. Some of those may be surprising to you as they are not doing well in an absolute sense (what does that mean?). The problem is that sometimes any country that has been doing relatively well (compared to in the past) can be used as an example and their success attributed to the WB’s work when there are many more factors going on in the country (like with India and China). So it can be questionable. They are definitely doing better than before. But people are still calling for reform, even today. The power needs to be spread a bit more as well.


So I melted Tupperware. You know how I don’t have a microwave, right? I know what you’re thinking: “For someone so dumb, that sure is dumber.” I know. I’m trying not to reach dumbest (there was a movie about it). I just needed to heat up my leftover eggs (I made too much the other day), and I thought it would be quick but I ended up graduating from dumberdom.

Sometimes, my belt talks to me. It was in my first 2-bedroom flat that my belt broke. I never mentioned this, but it was saved by only one whole. It broke on the PENULTIMATE hole. In other words, when it broke the main part of the belt still retained ONE hole. And that hole is its lifesaver. So I walk around with a little piece of belt (smaller than the distance between holes on a belt) jutting out of the buckle. Sometimes it talks to me. It says “Get a new belt.” But I pretend I can hear talking belts.


Some asked me questions, two updates ago, about what I meant by “apartheid was invented by a theologian.” And the question reminded me that many of our oppressive regimes and moments throughout history have been motivated (God forbid) or justified, rather, by and through religion especially Christianity. I won’t expound, but these include oppressive results of the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, Salem Witch Trials (much wider than just Salem), the Holocaust, slavery (even outside the Americas like in Africa, as well), etc. This includes apartheid.

Haley and Jeannie have asked me a lot of questions about this—apartheid—as well, and so I wanted to take a moment to talk briefly about it. It officially started in 1948 when Malan became president. Malan was previously a theologian of the Dutch Reformed Church. He left the church when encouraged to enter public policy (politics) in 1940. Now prior to his administration there was what we will call segregation. With his administration what we call apartheid began with a whole new set of enforced laws. Let me briefly tell you four differing points between segregation and apartheid.

Both had laws, but segregation was more social (as opposed to legal). Few laws were passed relating to it. Apartheid, on the other hand, had a complete set of detailed, ratified, enforced laws that dictated the separation and complete segregation in all facets of daily life.

There was brutality throughout time/history and during segregation. Apartheid, on the other hand, saw grotesqueness in the severity of police brutality. It reached another level and the police definitely took the law both “by the letter” (that letter enforced apartheid, remember) and in their own hands as you study about places like the farms in which blacks (sometimes referred to derogatorily as Bantu during Apartheid times) were “farmed” for information, tortured, and killed.

3. Segregation occurred (prior to ’48) when many countries of the world were like-minded, like Great Britain, USA, etc. Apartheid, on the other hand, occurred from ’48-’94. Who was doing such things in the 90’s? Well, it does happen. But mostly around the world, such legal policies had ended. Enough said.

4. Segregation, again, was social. Apartheid was church-sanctioned and enforced—no justified by religion and theology (Dutch Reformed Church; but many will tell you it was the British and not the Afrikaaners who “invented it”).

And so it is this man, Malan, former president, who I associate with apartheid. Of course, it was not brought about through one man or the result of one man. I just associate it with him because it was with his regime and his consent and encouragement that it became law and apartheid started. I saw an alleged picture once of white men in suits looking over plans like architects; except, these were the supposed “architects” of apartheid looking over plans for the districting of different colours of people ,where each group would go.

And so it is a bit strange for me when I hear about Muslims today. You see, we don’t normally label a Christian person when she does wrongly or badly. We don’t say Christian terrorist or Christian Unabomber the same way we do with Muslims. Now, some people say we don’t use terms like Christian Nazis because such people were only nominal Christians and not real, true Christians (they are not being true to Christ’s beliefs and teachings). I don’t argue that point. But the same can be said of Muslim people. I would say you would have to sit down and actually study Islam in order to make an informed decision as to whether Islamic terrorists are misinterpreting or misconstruing scriptures from the Q’ran, in the Surah, etc. But in absence of this, it’s important to know that there are Muslims who also feel the same way. They do not interpret the scriptures in such a “fundamentalist” way, and they are offended when they see Western media place the label “Islamic” or “Muslim” in front of terrorist when they feel those people are nominal or untrue, apostate Muslims.

I know that it is probably desecrating sacrilege to many, and I apologize for offense. I just know what it feels like to have someone name themselves by “my” religion and yet not follow or practice what it says. It presents a misrepresentation. And I know how they feel. One of my favorite professors was an amazing Muslim man who knew 7 or 8 languages. Let me see if I remember them all: language 1 from hometown in India, language 2 from neighboring region to the east of town, language 3 from neighboring region to west of town, Hindi because it is the language used to communicate in India across language groups, Swahili from growing up in Kenya, English (because it’s important) from Kenya as well, Arabic from Islam. It was a pretty amazing class. I’m not sure why. I just know we liked it a lot and it was PACKED. Everyone wanted to take the class. And they were right; it was good. I was blessed to be there. Two things I always remember about him outside of his language speaking abilities (he was a language teacher as well).

He would get in trouble with the university because he cared so much about teaching and students. He taught a much larger load, something like at least 2 courses per semester (and I think 5 total per year) in contrast to professors who tried to teach 2 or even 1 course per year. I didn’t fully understand the importance of this as an undergraduate student. I just knew I liked it because he cared so much. Now I see, being deep within academia, the pressure to only publish and write and research and how he was very different from those around him really caring about people and students and imparting knowledge.

But, above all, I will always remember the last day of the course, the last lecture. He talked and spoke in a concluding manner, and I remember him speaking about the public image of Muslims in the media especially with the rising (maybe this was in 1999—I’m pretty young) terrorism. And he talked about just what I spoke about—how we label criminals and terrorists as Muslim but never when they are Christian. He saw an incongruency in that. And I remember it being soo powerfully moving as he finished his lecture in tears asking for the license to quote Shakespeare’s Shylock from “The Merchant of Venice” [which I will see here at the Shakespeare festival in 2 weeks time] in the context of Muslims:

I am a [Muslim]. Hath not a [Muslim] eyes? Hath not a Jew hands,
organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same
food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,
heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter
and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If
you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the
rest, we will resemble you in that.


So I went to a Rotary meeting of the Rotary Club of Cape Town (the Cape Town Rotary Club). There are about 30 clubs in Cape Town (including the suburbs similar to being within the city limits of a US city) and 40+ clubs when you go outside the suburbs (similar to including the suburbs in the US; suburbs here have a different meaning). And the speaker was a member, a medical doctor here, so you know we were friends.

She gave a talk on the Pursuit of Happiness and used many quotes, some funny.

If you marry a good wife, you will be happy.

If you marry a bad wife, you become a philosopher.


Don’t forgive your man today and then reheat his sins every morning for breakfast.


Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. Carl Jung

I though this one was interesting because it goes against the general concept of Heaven and some specific religious concepts of Heaven. It’s actually supposed to be a time of continual joy and bliss without sadness (though the Bible does refer to loss resulting from a difference in implicit rewards or levels; some interpretations disagree with that). There’s a Wake Forest Professor Eric Wilson who, in “Against Happiness,” says similar things about perhaps needing the sad and depressing for creativity and beauty and intelligence.

Anyway, during the talk she presented a Happiness quiz:

Measure Your Happiness

Read the following five statements. Then use a 1-7 scale to rate your level of agreement.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Not at all true Moderately true Absolutely true

(in case the formatting does not show well above, look below)


1-Not at all true



4-Moderately true



7-Absolutely true

  1. In most ways my life is close to my ideal.
  2. The conditions of my life are excellent.
  3. I am satisfied with my life.
  4. So far I have gotten the important things I want in life.
  5. If I could live my life over again, I would change almost nothing.

Total Score _________________________

31-35 You are extremely satisfied with your life

26-30 Very satisfied

21-25 Slightly satisfied

20 Neutral point

15-19 Slightly dissatisfied

10-14 Dissatisfied

5-9 Extremely Dissatisfied

Apparently it was used on Oprah. I thought it was very interesting. Haley and Jeannie scored excellently. I on the other hand did poorly. One reason, is that I most definitely have regrets in the past. I, however, feel I can still live happily in light of the fact that I would change things. So I thought #5 was a strange input.

I find it interesting that the president of Bhutan decided that happiness was important to cultivate in his country (paramount priority) and he started a happiness conference. The president of Rwanda put the entire country on Warren’s book “The Purpose-Driven Life.” So interesting to me. There’s a World Database on Happiness. It shows that married, optimist, extroverted people tend to be happier. It seems to help (correlation) to be sexually active, a college graduate, religious (some say otherwise), and having a short commute to work (even Republican over a Democrat).

In the US we’re some of the most unhappy people. And many try to figure out why with our wonderful freedoms and wealth. Eric Weiner wrote a book “The Geography of Bliss” about this. He looked at the same database and took a world tour interviewing people about this very subject. Check it out. According to the Economist, he found that happier places tended to be ethnically homogenous and unhappier places tended to be new states from former USSR (lots of corruption and mistrust between people groups).


And so, I went, with Jeannie and Haley, to Robben Island and saw the prison of many of the current members of the ANC including Mandela and Zuma. We saw his cell, and the cell of the “originiator” of the freedom movement (back in 1960) ,Sibukwe. There are about 120 people still living on the island including previously released ex-cons (political prisoners) who give tours to people like us. I would write more, but this is long and this week has been busy.

We also went to the Cape of Good Hope which we learned about as little kids in Social Studies and History. I think next, Jeannie and Haley want to go to vineyards and Table Mountain.


Only about 40% of the music on the radio is South African. More is American. Same with TV. Although I’ve only heard this in conversation, someone put the percentage at about 60% of TV coming from American shows. Part of this helps to explains Oprah’s reign here. She’s on twice a day, at least 5 days a week. And at times, with different sectors of society here, people mimic what they see in the US. And we know Oprah rules in the US as well.

Natalie Williams (UK) – “This Girl”

Ishmail Lo (Francophone Africa)

Book--“Geography of Bliss” Eric Weiner

Friday, January 11, 2008


January 8, 2008

I think being an American, a black American, attracts a lot of South Africans young people. I’ve told you about Serge and maybe another guy. There’s a third person named Sun. He, too, will stop by unannounced, but he does it really really early in the morning. Sun comes to hang out EVERY DAY! And he comes as early as 5:30 AM. Because we’re scheduled to meet around 9 or even 8 (earliest) I always think it’s that late in the morning because he couldn’t possibly come at 5:30 AM. But he does. Sun is persistent. And he hangs around as long as he can. Many days he doesn’t go away (he comes after work even) until 8 at night. And that’s just him saying his good byes. It can take a while for him to completely go away for good that day. So it’s a bit hard and takes some getting used to for me. He makes it a long day, a really really long day.

If you were to enter my house, you would see that there are three hand soaps to choose from when washing your hands. Which do you choose? Your own, silly! This is some of the strange ridiculousness I see in the non-community communal living.


Anna’s father is here! He’s a nice man, an Anglican priest with a heart. He’s the reason the house was bought so that they could have a presence in Bianca and Lemise’s lives and help out through Anna (they could not ignore the meeting and do nothing when they first visited SA and met the two girls). He’ll be with us for a month. And then Anna will be in the UK for February. Jeannie comes tomorrow (Thursday); and Haley, Friday!! YAY! I’m a pretty stoic person, but it’s hard to remain unexcited when by myself because no one can see me. . . . . . . . .well, there’s another reason. It’s nice to have someone in your life who known you for a long “time,” with whom you have a deep connection. I don’t necessarily mean “time” because I’ve only known Jeannie for a year. But they are connected to me through a common blood that boils, surges, and revitalizes our thinking and vision in this world.


Regarding my finger (I forgot to respond about this) a number of e-mails ago. I’m well, thanks. Thank you to all who showed concern and contacted me, though it wasn’t that many. It was merely a test, as I put pieces of the truth (or joke) throughout the e-mail, so depending how much you read you might find out that it was a joke or find out that the joke was a joke and real or . . . you get the point. Judging from the responses, only 1.87% of all seven of you (Yayyy, after another family asked to be extricated from the list, two people joined. With seven, we’re REALLY growing!!). Some people would say they don’t understand that percentage. Let me explain. If there were 5 people (instead of the great 7) on the list then each person, assuming she reads the whole thing, contributes only 20%. If one of the people reads only say a quarter of the message, then that person contributes only 5% (since that’s 25% of her 20%). And so on. So that’s how I arrived at that. As some people don’t read it at all. Some skim. Some take great pride and joy in deleting with panache and gusto. And I invite all of you to submit your best videos (they can be digital) of you deleting the e-mail with the most excitement.

I accidentally wrote that Western Sahara was Burkina Faso. It was late, and I think I was confusing the directional part of the name. Burkina Faso and Upper Volta are the same. And I think the Upper and the Western were switched in my mind. Sorry about that.


You may not believe this but last week (the week of New Year’s) was the first week I’ve actually worked on my cardiology project for patients with thinning arteries. All I’ve been doing for four months is lecturing, reading, preparing for lectures, advising masters students (don’t ask me how I can do this), writing research articles, submitting to journals, making presentations, meeting about the direction of the center, planning a new group computer code (program) for what we do, etc. So now I’m actually getting into the actual new work. It’s a go!

Oh, and Nature Physics said the same thing saying though they appreciate the physical nature of the fluid dynamics of the parachuting problem (I’m assuming as compared with Nature) they don’t feel the work in the paper represents a sufficient advance (ouch) in general understanding to excite the immediate interest of their broad readership. So same thing as Nature; send it to a discipline-specific mag. So I’m taking a break from that one. I might combine it (as I was thinking) with one of the other 3 articles that are still in review, or might continue with the plan to next go to Physics Today as the last broad one and then on to a general journal within a more tightly defined audience (the AIAA one I mentioned before). Right now, I’m taking a break from it for a bit.

I have finally found a supercomputer to use or a cluster to work on for computational work. I took for granted the ease of having a supercomputer available and the freedom with which I used it (usually they cost if it’s government or proprietary). I’ve also managed to make my desktop a parallel” computer since it has a dual core processor. I’ve got a parallel compiler working on it. And I’ve just a few more things to do in order to actually be able to run some simulations for the first time in 5 months.


China’s officials have been in South Africa lately courting us more and more. They’re the 4th largest economy and the 2nd largest energy user, and they are trying to tap African resources. Especially with the price of oil going over $100/barrel, countries like Nigeria to whom people are increasingly looking within the continent for oil resources (which can be affected by corruption), become more important not only to Africans but Chinese as well. I think (as many Africans do) that they are slowly taking over the world. They are starting to come into their own and exert a dominance that probably will not be felt for years to come but it’s started.

Many people will be watching them as they host the 2008 Olympics. One important point is the fact that they are not allowing in foreign chaplains for the athlete’s religious observance which they contend that they are honouring. They will be providing their own Chinese, appointed chaplains to minister. It’s a bit of a touchy subject as it is normal practice today with the Olympics to allow foreign chaplains into your host country.

Being from the oil capital, or HQ, of the world (Houston, TX), I even know coal and oil workers/businessmen who are smarting from the Beijing ordinance that all construction and factories shut down for 6 months to clear their continually degraded air. I’ve seen it. I don’t think I saw the sun in that city once while there. It goes from black at night to a lighter and lighter grey. And then the grey gets darker and darker until it’s black again. Different Chinese people said different things: some said actual pollution like smog where the smoke is from factories; others said dust particulates from construction. I think it was a mixture.

Distrust, here, also arises here due to their mingling and intermingling with the Sudanese government in more ways that one. Most notably they are alleged to be funding the government with arms. Incidentally, I heard the same pastor that talked about growing up in townships listening to Pointer Sisters refer to the Darfur one as a Christian issues in which Muslims were going up to Christians asking “Are you a Christian?” and if the questioned says yes, the questioner blows the head of the Christian off (with a gun). I had never heard of it like that before. I know they are a Muslim group perpetrating the violence, but I had never heard of it with a specific anti-Christian spin.


I passed by two homeless people today (Tuesday) after seeing my half-price movie, and I happened to be clutching change in my left pocket while passing them. Homeless people must have some type of spiritual perspicacity or something because they always greet me or try talking to me. It could be that I sometimes dignify them with a glance and a greeting. But even with no greeting, they always talk to me or solicit me, rather. Anyway, this time, I just smiled at the man and woman and kept going.

I then began to examine my actions. Yes, there are people who justify not giving change or money to beggars, but I was not one of them. I mean, even to this day, I could not systemically or categorically justify never giving to these people. I definitely contribute to changing the system that creates the poverty, but I have never been able to feel good about addressing the roots while ignoring the symptoms. I always feel like you still need to handle the present crisis.

I walked back to them as I had walked away based on others’ thoughts. And I gave them each change. They were so thankful. I think they knew I had just passed them. The man let me know that they were homeless almost in a way to explain why they needed the change. They were very thankful. And the guy tried to give me a hand greeting, the kind where your fists hit like clinking glasses or mugs. But I didn’t understand and instead tried to hit his fist from above. They said a few more things, and I headed home. Although I feel relationship and conversation is very important and needed, in this case what I needed to do was give, as I felt God speaking.

I have often done the thing where I take the person to get food (though these people were not asking for money for food as that’s usually the most pressing need). But it brings up an interesting point. How do you feel about it? To read a ridiculous, funny, interesting, somewhat long take on it by 4 different “intellectuals” check out this article.

And I’m looking for a car. I narrowed it down to my German friend, Wiebke’s overpriced car (R20 000), a buyback place that buys back the car in 3 or 6 months or longer, and a beetle rental place that decreases the monthly rental price (starts at R1 950) by R100 as you increase the number of months (1950 for 1 month, 1850 monthly for 2 months, 1750 monthly for 2 months, 1450 monthly for 6 months, 1250 monthly for 8 months, etc.).

The problem is that the buyback place wants it all upfront (which I don’t have if I want to live), and they buy it back at only 2/5 of the price on average. I don’t think they should depreciate that fast in 6 months. I think they are making money (of course)

The beetle place is perfect. I can get a car for R11 000 for 18 months. But investment-minded people consider that a waste of money. I’m throwing my money away. Instead, why don’t you get a car, buy a car, and then sell it and get the money back? It makes sense. But you still need all the money up front. And I would loose that much (buyback cheapest car is 25,000 and after 6 months I would sell it back for 10,000; I would need it longer than 6 months so I would receive less back) anyway. And, thirdly, I wanted to give the car away to a friend. Unfortunately car-ownership falls along racial lines here, and I don’t know (I’m sure there are a few) black students who have cars, definitely not at Church-on-Main. But anyway, thinking practically, if you don’t have a choice of purchasing one, then why bother. I am paid 6 months at a time, so I could do it in March if I wait. But I do need a car for Jeannie and Haley for a month, by which time Haley will have left to Grahamstown and Jeannie will have bought a car for herself.

The fact that I can consider buying a car is a huge thing to me because many people here do not have that luxury of the question. And to that end, I think I’ll be fine in the city without one, now. This is a new realization, but if they can do it, I can do it. It’s not a necessity, just a large inconvenience without it.

Anyway, in heeding the investment-minded people, I may just rent for a month. I just hate paying 2000 bucks when I could have paid 9 more and had it for 18 months. We’ll see. All the cost analysis reminds me of politics and making voting decisions.

I got the car (Thursday) and put extra drivers on it so that Jeannie and Haley could have something to drive in when they are here. Someone thought that was silly of me to listen to the investment-minded people, especially as to just buy a car requires a sufficient amount of income. Perhaps it was a bad decision. I got the car for one month for them, and should I decide to do it in the future, I can get it for 18 months or so. So we’ll see. The research will be helpful for Jeannie who is looking to buy a car. I found a nice one for her should she like it.


They are a bit funny. The airport meeting was very funny. Jeannie unfortunately has been sick and was sick before flying, so flying only made it worse as well as swelling her ankles. I was able to see her (Thursday) before we left together to pick up Haley. She looked good for someone who was about to go to the hospital for an emergency last night (Wednesday night)—she had trouble breathing between coughs and spats (as well as sleeping). She’s better now, of course. But I haven’t been concerned enough about her. It’s not that I haven’t been concerned, but I think the normal person bombards and constantly asks how someone like that is doing and my mind works a bit differently.

So we went to the airport to get Haley at the airport. I feel bad for her, she had a 14 hour lay-over in London and somehow it was suggested to her that my cousin pick her up (bad idea). My cousin is Nigerian and older and generally we have a different cultural concept of time. On top of that, Peace can be scattered sometimes, and she mistimed something and so she could not stay at the airport to wait, but had to run to take the kids to school (and she doesn’t live near the airport) and then find out the correct place the airport to go and then come back. So it was a mess and she was 4 hours late.

It’s a bit strange to have them here. It’s as if within me I had a well-guarded secret that I could perhaps pervert its appearance knowingly or unknowingly in presenting or motivating action back home. And now people have arrived that can themselves peer into this strange place and see something different or correct or readjust my lens. In truth, it’s a wonderful thing, and they will go on to do much better and lasting things than I while here (they are Rotary Ambassadorial Scholars, something far better than I have ever done).

It’s also a bit strange for me because Haley was the reason I considered not teaching at YES for a third year. I believe I was unfairly pressured to give an answer before the date that I was required and I gave a no answer if forced to give one (and I was) before I was supposed. When I had come to a decision naturally outside of a forced answer (still before the deadline), the job had been given away. And so here I was, needing to find something. And I looked for something here. The position I have is the ONLY thing I looked for in the entire country, and somehow God provided it to me when I don’t feel worthy or competitive. I was very unsure about being here as I thought perhaps it goes against the direction I was taking and wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with academia, if I was just doing what I had done most of my life, etc. And so to see the person that motivated you to originally attempt to come is a bit strange. Jeannie and Haley represent different spheres of life, and now they have invaded each other. It’s quite interesting. Some people love it; they try to mix all friends as much as possible.

I’m learning to do it, though really I don’t motivate-I mean initiate outings. My friends always do and I come along. I think if I had enough breathing time at home not doing anything I would, but there’s never a need. I’m overjoyed to have them here, like I said. To see people with whom you have a strong connection and do not have to explain yourself (though I must explain myself all the time to Jeannie and Haley ha ha ha! ;-) is a wonderful thing. To feel someone in your town knows you is a great thing. It’s both reassuring and correcting, challenging and necessary. So it’s nice, and I welcome them.

They are really funny to me, though. I’m smiling as I write this. When they talk to South Africans they put things in dollars and use American words for things even when the South African has mentioned it first with the ZA word. (I think the dollars thing doesn’t bother ZA people because in international conversation the USD is the most common currency to use a frame of reference though I hear the UKP & EUR used as well)To be fair they just arrived. But it doesn’t make it any less funny.

Jeannie has noticed that Cape Town beaches are very diverse which is a bit different than I’ve seen. I don’t know if it’s because she goes at night when you have a lot of people out there doing their night out or if it’s because from a South African reference, though the beaches have non-white people, it’s still non-representative of the population as it heavily leans away from the black population. It may be the second; I’m not sure. The other idea she challenged was about Mbeki not liking white people. If the SA white people who told her this said it because of his comments a few years ago on AIDS, I don’t put much stock in it because you have to say a whole bunch of blacks (not just Africans but Afro-Caribbean people as well) don’t like white people because many feel AIDS is a white thing. African people are a bit tired of negative things being associated with their continent including saying AIDS started here and was brought to an “AIDS-free and pure” America (north and south) from its birthplace—Africa. But this is not the first, but one of a string of associations. So they get tired of it a bit. I think it was silly of him not to see the scientific and statistical connection between HIV and AIDS, and as a national leader I wouldn’t make the comments he made, but I think it’s natural for him to think those thoughts. Jeannie also asked me about the American political race. Will you permit to give you an international perspective?


Obama. What can I say? Let me start by explaining my sister, Clinton. First, I tried to list last names on that female list (last update) because we have some weird problem where we refer to men by their last names and women by their first names. I won’t talk about what that suggests; I just think it’s interesting. They do the same with the Chancellor in Germany (the Germans). I think her name is Angela, but they call her Angie.

Anyway, when you look at African state history (which is relatively little since the states are so new) [and actually in SOME Latin American and Asian state history, the rule is the] incumbent wins the election (elections where all candidates are new are different). When full true democracy comes, that changes, and many states have. Some states, though, go through a period of a superficial democracy or a façade democracy in which the old rule still stands. That’s why you can have leaders who were leading when I was a little kid. And now I’m a little bigger kid and they’re STILL leading (what!). So we have situations like this in Libya (1969), Maldives (since ’78 Gayoom), Egypt (1981), Zimbabwe (since 1980 Mugabe), and Kenya (as you see today). Even places like Cuba and Castro.

Most people agree that diversity of leadership over time improves the holistic health of a nation. Diversity in general improves output and quality especially in situations that are creative (research for instance in any academic discipline even seemingly noncreative). So it makes sense that it applies to leadership which (if great leadership) incorporates creativity. So people have trouble with al-Qathafi (al-Ghadafi/Qaddafi), Mubarak, Mugabe, Gayoom, and Kabiki. And al-Qathafi has the audacity (opinion; he’s been leading since about ’67) to want his son to rule after him AND to have the USA. I almost think he might want a similar type of leadership for the federation of the USA. I don’t know. But it’s hard. And African people want a change. The level of involvement of the opposition in the election process was a good change for Kenya, so that people WOULD know if an electoral result was a farce or real. Kibaki has only been in power since 2002, but his predecessor, Daniel arap Moi, was in power form ’78 to 2002. I don’t think they want this to repeat; they are tired of such.

So do you understand, now, why people around the world or at least in these parts might not prefer Clinton winning? That would be over 20 years of Bush or Clinton contending for a position in the white house or ruling (actually it’s over 20 now if you including running). And that starts to feel or tends to feel like entitlement—where one family feels entitled to such things as the presidency or the premiership or whatever top job represents your country.

On the other hand with Obama, I remember critics trying to say that he was the Islamic (sorry for using religion) militant choice or the choice of terrorists. The paradoxical thing is that if those people prefer you in office, it’s actually a good thing, at least in this context. If you’re someone making them mad, that’s not good. But if you’re someone who can bring people together, somewhat appease hurt feelings around the world, or at least not exacerbate our relations with other countries, that is a good thing.

If you think Kenyans were dancing in the street when he got elected Senator, wait to see what happens across the continent if he’s elected president. I don’t know that every country will go crazy, but I believe there will be some celebrations. The funny thing is when African TV reporters try to interview his grandmother or his uncle (Kenyans); I saw that on TV today on the news. And the reporters act as if his grandmother is in contact with him coaching him on his campaign strategy or what he should do if he wins. It’s funny.


We’re having record-setting (within past 100 years when official records began) days of constant rain across the following countries: Zambia, Milawe, Zimbabwe (27 have died already), Mozambique. So things are a bit of a mess, and different countries are trying their own methods to alleviate the stress in the situation. Zambia has a multi-million dollar contingency in place, and we’ll see if it’s used effectively.

Kenya is a mess. People have lost jobs. Businesses have closed down. I’m sure the US media is covering it, so I won’t write much. But if not, let me know, and I’ll write more about it next time.

The government in Malawi has started hoarding oil reserves so as not to have to buy petrol/gas should there be a price hike even further on the $100/barrel price peak.


Here in South Africa they have a certain style of fabric and women’s clothes that you would call retro in the US. Only it is not a fad here, but a mainstay, a common style that you will see many girls, black and white, wear during the spring and summer. There is a spectrum and so some are on the pure “retro” style you have there and would pass in the US for that. Some are less flower-power or less brown-and-black and can involve any set of colors and slashes/patterns (not just floral) and lean more toward something similar to African patterns in the cloths used for pan-African formal wear. I call it Afro-pop mode. It’s very nice and popular. I gave some welcome gifts to Jeannie and Haley, and one thing was to make sure they had summer outfits since it would be warm when they arrived. So I got them each one of those, but a light dress that they could wear casually.

Besides that things are a bit normal here. It’s still strange for me to see a developing country deal with developed country dealings. So there is a battle between gun owners (my sense is that the gun owners association are white people; I’ve seen the spokesperson at the very least) and those wanting tougher stiffer gun control laws. The gun owners say it’s not the gun owners who are the problem. And they are being unfairly targeted, they say. But violent and armed crime is a HUGE problem (remember just think of any negative statistic you have back at home, it’s Usually worse in this unequal economy).

Last year (2006) we had 1,440 deaths in car accidents. It went down to 1,142. But they still have a way to go. It’s very high, and drunk driving is a big problem. So they have advertisements about it to curb it. I’ve only seen advertisements with actors who are in dramatic situations (like a party or something like that) with black people. I don’t know if that’s important or not. Just an observation. I won’t judge it’s meaning here.

In all these things and more, it is very similar. But again though all part of your society affect you, even if indirectly, it’s like two worlds. With the two examples above, yes, I could be hit by a drunk driver, but I would never worry about driving drunk as I don’t have a car or a license even (as a carless SA person, stereotypically black person). Or, assuming I’m a law-abiding citizen in a township or city, I don’t own a gun (I don’t go hunting, can’t afford one, and don’t shoot for target practice). But again, just like a car might hit me driven by a drunk driver, people in my family or city might acquire a gun illegally and shoot people. So there is always an effect but the directness of it does not hit all.

Some of the kids here have returned to school again for the ’08 school year. I don’t think there is analogous MTV beach party summer shows like there is in the US. But this wonderful children’s music and fun countdown (like a better TRL with elementary kids because it does other non music stuff; the music countdown is not central) went to the beach for a few weeks back around New Years. Maybe for two weeks they had summer shows at like water theme-park places. It was great! They had a really cool song for their summer show that was just good in a kid-simple-moving-beat way, ya know? Anyway, I thought it was neat that they had a kid show like that and they did summer beach shows. Number one on the countdown, by the way, is still the wonderful Alicia Keys reigning strong on some slow song with a beat. Maybe it’s called “No one.” OH! And the show is only weekly, Saturday morning, not like TRL daily.


By the way I mention movies or plays not because they are necessarily South African or related. I guess it’s a way for me to feel connected or something. I miss a few things that make me feel internally disconnected (music, drama, etc.). That makes it hard, possibly (maybe not, I’m still thinking). But I do miss it a lot. And I’m always watching good actors and seeing what they are doing and learning even from movies. That’s why I watch a lot. I remember seeing pieces of Mystic River right before I had to do Othello. And I watched Sean Penn (he’s always in torment, ha ha!) for some help. He’s very skilled.

Away from Her

It’s about a couple dealing with Alzheimers, and it’s very heartbreaking and sad. It’s amazing the sacrifices that were made in this. I never thought about such decisions if you are married to someone who has Alzheimers. Interesting discussion point. Very good acting. Wouldn’t be surprised if there is academy nomination. I also wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t. It’s subtle acting.

Forgiveness (SA movie)

It’s a movie with the guy from “The Mummy.” Not Brandon but the guy with black hair (he might have been bald in the movie); I think he was the mummy king trying to come back to life. I liked it. He’s one of the SA policeman or secret apartheid enforcers who worked at the “farm” where they really tortured, brutalized, and killed blacks. Anyway, he killed a guy, and post-apartheid he wanted to go to his hometown and talk with his family and ask for forgiveness. It doesn’t go well, and so he decides to leave town. But the daughter and son of the family try to keep him in the town because they have called their late brother’s friends from somewhere else in SA to come and kill the white guy. Very subtle, slow, powerfully speaking movie. I’ve never seen anyone embody forgiveness like Mandela.

Indie Arie & Serge

So Serge (you remember him; he still asks me about my friend Vanessa Acker every time he IM’s me) was saying to a friend of mine that secular music is bad. I was trying to explain to him that I dislike the term secular. From a religious standpoint—forget that—from an African standpoint (I’ve said this before), there is no separation. Everything is seen as happening in connection with God. And so a song about the grass is not anti-God or secular; it’s actually quite God-filled. A song about washing the dishes is likewise. There is no secular. I personally use the term secular only for something that actually is anti-God, not for something neutral. But Serge was showing through scriptures and the spirit of God how God only inspires people to write music that names him and invokes that name directly. I was offended because I feel I have been inspired by God to write many things, and music-wise I’ve written songs that are not about God directly. I’ve SEEN and HEARD songs that are not about God but people who have the love of God in them. He said that is wrong and an abomination (he didn’t say that but he was saying something like that). So it was getting a bit ridiculous for me. He quotes a lot of the Bible but I find he seems (this is an in-depth analysis and most people even Christians do not think this; actually I’ve not heard anyone say this) to be regurgitating things from Big guys in the US (Creflo Dollar and TD Jakes). It’s a bit like religious “Good Will Hunting;” he has no creative insight of his own, and so he is limited by what they say. There is no personal understanding apart from the others. I don’t really quote the Bible as much as he, but he was angering me (righteous anger), and so I explained that the book of Esther doesn’t mention God once (I was shocked that he didn’t know this with all of his “knowledge”) and I also referred to the Song of Solomon and a few of the Psalms (like 45—a wedding psalm). Actually I didn’t mention the last two because the conversation ended, but I would have if I cared to do so, but it didn’t seem to matter.

[I was at a Bible study meeting with COM people. And they asked each person to tell what God-dreams they had and things God had really put in them to do. Do you know that EVERY single person said something about being a preacher of the word, or a teacher of the word, or a great worship leader or something like that? I was very disgusted not with the people but the thoughts (I love the people and people in general). There wasn’t one relevant thing. I don’t doubt that what they feel is real. I just wonder if that is really God. The God I know puts into the heart of his people relevant Christianity—one that cares for the homeless, raped, widows, AIDS orphans, township people, etc. And with soo much here, so much work to be done, I couldn’t understand it. Where was God in their God-dreams?]

So I know you remember I mentioned Indie Arie. I am still inspired by her though I haven’t heard her in many months (since last NH summer). The reason I mentioned her especially in the e-mail about Oprah is that she was asked by Oprah to do a song for her kids in South Africa. I’ve heard it, and it’s beautiful. Secondly, she has two songs about forgiveness on her latest album (I think it’s the third). We played this album non-stop with the Ghana-kids service trip throughout the year while fundraising. It’s very inspiring for the kids and really is good uplifting beautiful messages from the heart of God. But it’s not Christian music. Anyway, one of the songs about Forgiveness (Wings of Forgiveness) mentions Gandhi, Mandela, and Jesus. She changes the bridge that leads to the chorus each time and she uses a different person. I’ve put them below. It just reminds me that there’s no one I cannot forgive for anything. Better put more affirmatively, I can forgive everyone anything they have done with examples like these men. It’s what this country needs as well as countries across the face of the earth in places like Cote D’Ivoire and Rwanda and Bosnia and Kosovo and Germany (where some Jews celebrate the end of WWII unconditional surrender and Russian Jewish veterans celebrate that they stomped out the German plague on that day; yes even inter-ethnic forgiveness is needed) and Russia.

"Wings Of Forgiveness"

I just want you to know
After everything that we've been through
I just want you to know
That I still love you
That I still love you:

Had to go
Across the water
Just to find
What was here in my heart all along
Spend so much time
Trying to be right
That I was dead wrong

If Nelson Mandela can forgive his oppressors
Surely I can forgive you for your passion

You're only human
Let's shake free this gravity of resentment
And fly high, and fly high
You're only human
Let's shake free this gravity of judgment
And fly high on the wings of forgiveness

Had to run
To the arms of curiosity
Just to find
What was here in my life all along
I had found that the art of simplicity
Simply means making peace of your complexity

If Gandhi can forgive persecution
Surely you can forgive me for being so petty

I'm only human
Let's shake free this gravity of resentment
And fly high, and fly high
You're only human
Let's shake free this gravity of judgment
And fly high on the wings of forgiveness

I've searched for romance
Flowers and affection
What I found is a lesson
Of what love really is
Found the game of love is
Not about how much you can take
In fact authentic love is about
How much you can give

After everything that we've been through
I just want you to know
That I still love you
I want you to know
That I forgive you
(thank you for teaching how to give)
And I wanna let you know how much you changed my life
I wanna let you know you taught me how to fly
And I wrote this song to tell you this
I'm better cuz you taught me how to give

I took a swim
In the sea of guilt and misery
To find myself in an island
In the middle of nowhere
In my solitude
I asked to know the highest truth
And what I was told
Is to let own self be true

If Jesus can forgive crucifixion
Surely we can survive and find resolution

Let's keep it moving
Let's shake free this gravity of resentment
And fly high, and fly high
You're only human
Let's shake free this gravity of judgment
And fly high, and fly high
Let's keep it moving
Let's shake free this gravity of commitment
And fly high on the wings of forgiveness

After everything that we've been through
I just want you to know
That I still love you
I want you to know
That I still love you
And I wanna let you know how much you changed my life
I wanna let you know you taught me how to fly
And I wrote this song to tell you this
I'm better cuz you taught me how to give

I still love you
I want you to know
I still love you
Want you to know
I still love you
(And I always will love you)
And I wanna let you know
I forgive you
I wanna let you know
That I still love you
Want you to know
I still love you
I just want you to know
I still love you
Want you to know
I still love you
Want you to know
I still love you
And I wanna let you know
I forgive you
I wanna let you know
I still love you