Sunday, July 27, 2008

UPDATE - Top Ten and Quiz Results

July 12

Top Ten Reasons You Know South Africa doesn’t have Central Heating

10. It’s often colder inside the house than outside.

9. Inside the house, my towel won’t dry (showering towel).

8. When I take a warm shower, my toes hurt due to thawing.

7. When I breathe in the house I can see my breath.

6. When I urinate in the bathroom, I can see “steam.” (and I’m holding my breath)

4. I went to a birthday party last week, and the two girls who were dancing the MOST, had the largest coats on (NYish style).

3. My church uses outdoor heaters indoors.

2. When you sit on the toilet, the cold of the seat makes the waste rush back into your body. The waste then speaks. “It’s too cold to come out.”

1. When my refrigerator and freezer had broken and stopped working for TWO days while I was in Stellenbosch, upon my return, I asked my housemates if I should throw some food away. They told me, “No, nothing defrosted!!” WHAT??!!


  1. What is the one vegetable that is always sold as is and is never sold sliced, diced, minced, cubed, pressed, cooked, sautéed, pureed, etc.?

Lettuce (MKDauria)

  1. What is the only North American landmark that is moving backwards?

Niagara Falls

  1. What is the only fruit with its seeds on the outside?

Strawberries (Valerie)

Someone said berries but that is a category of fruit, not a specific fruit itself.

  1. The spirit called pear brandy is usually sold in a bottle that contains a pear in it. The pear adds to the flavor of the drink. How do they get the pear in the brandy bottle?

Funny answers include:

They put in dehydrated pair

They blew the bottle around the pear (glass blowing).

  1. What are the only 3 words in the English language that begin with the letters “dw”?

Dwell (any form of it)

Dwarf (any form)

Dwindle (any form, Valerie)

Someone has brought to my attention the word dweeb, but I was not looking at this as it requires a modern dictionary (maybe 1990s+) reflecting the linguistic dynamics of our time.

  1. What are the two vegetables that continue to grow perennially without having to replant, reseed, or sow them again into the ground?

Asparagus (Valerie), rhubarb

The trouble with this question was the definition of the word vegetable and the definition of growing without replanting which might be different than accidentally reseeding or regerminating in the ground. So people have mentioned onions, garlic, Thai peppers, Swiss chard, spinach (good answer, I like this one), etc.

  1. McDonald’s is involved in two world affairs measures. One is called the Big Mac Index which is an index of the big Mac’s price in countries around the world in order to compare aspects of the economies. The other is Golden Arches Theory which states that no two countries with a McDonald’s have ever gone to war with each other. This theory was violated for the first time in recent history (let’s say past 50 years). What two countries battles or war violated this?

Israel and Lebanon

Someone said Iraq and the US, but I’m still confirming whether McDonalds is in Iraq.

I’ve only found MaDonalds (imitation) in northern Iraq. So for now it’s just Israel and Lebanon, but I’ve read (on the internet) a possible part of a Bush-Iraqi infrastructure rebuilding is a McDonald’s but I do not believe it was built before I left to SA.

Someone else thought I was joking, so here is an article talking about the Big Mac Index and burgernomics.

I will leave it up to you to find the Golden Arches Theory.


Hello, this is Victor. Good to hear from you and see you. It seems that the quiz last time drew much interest. I hope the answers helped. Usually when it involved a fruit or a vegetable there were more answers than my questions suggested due to the biodiversity of fruits and vegetables around the world. In the tropics, for instance, there are fruits that are not found anywhere else in the world, even, I’m told, a tropical fruit that has seeds on its outside. Secondly was the definition of words like vegetable and war. Sometimes people suggested tubers or roots or someone suggested NATO going into a country constituted war. Hopefully those questions are cleared now including the MaDonalds in Iraq.

This has been a quiet week for me full of many laughs. My good friend Adrianne (grew up with me) flew into Cape Town. I admire the woman she has become and is becoming. She is currently a missionary outside Johannesburg doing child development work. She’s here for two years, roughly, and plans to go back to the States and do a sociology masters degree at the University of Kansas. She contacted me and asked if she should submit a paper on the realignment of an interstate highway in Oklahoma, its effects, and its implications to the South African Sociological Association 2008 Conference. I encouraged her to do so, and it was accepted!! South Africans listening about Oklahoma City!! The conference was held in Stellenbosch a proper suburb (what you call suburb; we don’t call it that here) of Cape Town only 30 minutes from the airport. The University of Stellenbosch is, in my estimation, perhaps one of the top four universities in the country along with UCT (where Jeannie is), Rhodes (where Haley is in Grahamstown), and Wits (short for University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg).

The University of Stellenbosch is very white and it actually has signs and notes in the town and in the university completely in Afrikaans with no English translation for foreigners or non-coloured and non-Afrikaans peoples. I didn’t like that. The university also has classes taught in Afrikaans. I believe most to all of the graduate classes are in English.


The conference was constant non-stop hilarity for me, at times engaging, at times disappointing. But it was fun nonetheless.

You know the problem I’ve talked about in science, scientific research, and academia in general? It’s the problem of a lack of real work, truly new ideas, a lack of creativity. Well, the same is in the social sciences. There was one American who was a professor at the American University in Nigeria, and what he used the term “posturing.” There was a lot of talk. But the original power of sociology was the power to enact and bring about social change. That fire has gone. In fact, this same professor said sociology was dead in Nigeria. I wondered if the same were true in South Africa. For all the sociologists in the country we had a conference of maybe 120 people. I was shocked.

Being a social science, I knew statistics was integral to the work. When I made a comment about gender psychology (how it manifests itself in conversational differences between genders holding other influencing factors constant) Tate (a gentle, hard-working, and persevering teacher who just completed her first year at Shine Elementary school in Houston, TX—CONGRATS!!) said that I could not make those statements without statistical proof. I said something about my statements being based on observation (in all- female groups, women tend to interrupt each other, whereas men (in mixed groups or in all-male groups) tend to wait more and let another person finish; women tend to speak with subtext, men tend to speak superficially (text); etc. etc.). Tate said she is wary about statements made with no statistical “proof” or evidence at least to point in that direction. And she’s right though I believe in the power of observation. I think (just due to the talks I went) I saw only 7 talks (out of about 20-24 talks) that used any type of data collection and analysis (whether through surveys, interviews, experiments, etc.). I was surprised. It seemed a little more like pure humanities. And I saw a quote at the conference from Einstein reminding us not to forget about the importance of science and “the scientific method in solving human problems.” It makes sense. At one talk, a Nigerian student(?) questioned the American professor at the American University in Nigeria. The student said that he needs a more qualitative approach and not quantitative. But the comment was foundationless because the purpose of the professor’s surveys and interviews was to get data in order to make a qualitative statement. The quantitative is a tool (stats is a tool) in order to get to the implications and solutions to problems (the meat of sociology). In fact the conference taught me a few lessons:

1) You can make claims without data collection or stats.

2) If you want to increase the appearance of validity or bolster your work, use the words “epistemology,” “Marxist,” “Weberian,” “ontology,” “methodology,” and “dialectical.” That’ll get ‘em.

3) Sociology has no meaning. Put any adjective in front of the word and then you can talk about the nominalization of the adjective. For instance: health sociology—give a talk on health; industrial sociology—give a talk on industry.


Just read. This deals with North African perceptions of Obama. It’s getting crazier and crazier. Everyone around the world (most people; that’s a generalization) is pushing for him.


Here is the link to the remainder of the 6-part series on South Africa. Thanks, Alex.

You’ve probably seen the dancing friend who travels the world to film himself dancing. Well he has reached the news in South Africa. So we are now watching him or have at least seen him on our version of the Today Show or Good Morning South Africa.

I’ve had to type this update a few times, so I have forgotten everything I was going to say (today is now the 26th about two weeks after I started having crashing problems with this computer). But I think the few issues I’ll mention are below.

The Zim crisis still looms heavily on us. I wrote about it in the Africa section. Mbeki finally got both sides to agree to work out a government of national unity within two weeks. Since that was Monday, it should be one more week, now. So Mbeki is happy.

The election is next year though, and the ANC has asked premier (governor) of both the Western Cape (where I live in Cape Town) and Eastern Cape (where Haley lives) to step down. Many feel this is because they want to win the election carrying those provinces and they don’t think they can do it with those premiers. Whether or not that is true, they cited other reasons which do seem suspicious because they could have sacked these people long ago.


It is Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday on the 18th of this month. And over here it is like an extended public holiday with no days off. It’s a celebratory month. It’s like Black History Month except it’s more embraced by a greater population than BHM in the States. You probably know that Mandela is a huge figure, celebrated internationally, but it’s difficult to articulate and illuminate his stature within the country to South Africans. It would be as if – this is not a good example – George Washington were still alive or something and you are continually thanking him for leading the country to liberation. It’s not a good analogy though Washing had “high morals” (questionable to some due to slavery). Mandela’s work is probably much bigger, more imaginative because of its nonviolent aspect, its anthrophilic aspect (yes I made the word up but you can use your etymological senses), and its more unifying commitment.

Anyway, there are TV commercials, store sales in his names, school programs, events around town (like choirs singing at the waterfront), etc. He himself has had about 10 days worth of celebrating and big names in South Africa come out to his events. I was able to watch a bit of the culminating personal event for his birthday, a 500-attendee birthday party in his hometown, Queen in the Eastern Cape. His family and grandchildren were there (they helped him blow out the candles), and a play of his life was commissioned for the event. There were dancers and warriors in traditional garb at his event, making presentations, singing, and dancing. The women are topless and because of that culture here it is not uncommon to see topless women in a traditional setting or program on TV. It’s not the same as topless people in a Western movie which many times can be done to arouse, allure, sensationalize, etc. But here (in the Black South African (and southern African) cultures outside of the cities), it is natural, normal, beautiful, and regular. So there were topless people in traditional dress at his event. It’s a huge affair.

He even had the 6th installment of an annual lectures series—the annual Nelson Mandela Lecture Series. Bill Clinton was the first year’s speaker. Kofi Annan has spoken before and so has Wangari Maathai (2005 Peace Prize winner from Kenya), and guests like Bono and Oprah Winfrey are the types of people that might come. This year I was especially excited because they had President Ellen Johnson-Serleaf speak. She is the president of Liberia.

Her presidency is historic because she is the first democratically-elected female president in the history of the continent of Africa. So that’s huge. And she had to take over a country that is suffering from its civil war in the 1990’s and the legacy of Charles Taylor who is being prosecuted for war crimes during the Liberian and Sierra Leonean civil wars in the 1990’s. And she has taken the reigns after this. A Harvard-trained economist, she is a mother and also a grandmother and she brings that perspective into her government. I love watching her on a typical day in her government because she switches her language and talk (diction and accent) to match that of the speaker. This one particular day there was a riot and people seemed on the verge of revolt. So she asked for the leader and brought him in. He spoke in a type of broken English, and so did she. It was cool. I liked and appreciated that. She, her chief of police, the minister of finance, and the minister of commerce are all women. And thus we have the documentary called “Iron Ladies of Liberia.” This film documents the first year in the presidency of President Johnson-Sirleaf. And they face huge odds.

One of the problems is money. As many of you know, it is difficult to get money from the IMF, World Bank, etc. And there was a time in the first year (depicted in the movie) when they had to look at other options because it seemed like the money would not come through. So they welcomed the president of China for a visit. President Johnson-Sirleaf made it known to her group that though China represents huge investment potential, the buck still stops with the US. In other words, the US is still the major player who can help them out of their debt and financial problems (the US by the way is the de facto controlling member in institutions like the UN, World Bank, etc., though it is not meant to be that way). So she worked hard and she met with Bush and she engaged in talks with the US. And do you know what? She was able to get the US (or you could frame as something the US did, as well) to forgive around $4 billion. She and her group reorganize the police force, seek new international partners (like China), clear that US debt, change the local market, negotiate pensions for ex-soldiers, and appease those still loyal to Charles Taylor. Whew!


Foreign debt that African countries carry bothers me greatly. In a Time Magazine article on Tony Blair and his life and work after the prime ministry, Bono is quoted as saying that Tony Blair was the first world leader he has met who understood that debt cancelation or debt forgiveness was a matter of justice not charity. It’s a powerful statement. Do you understand that?

Imagine it. You’re in a stereotypical country that has achieved liberation from the controlling colonial powers, but they did not leave or acquiesce under the best circumstances. You are now left with a dictator or some totalitarian regime (in President Johnson-Sirleaf’s speech she said “Africa is not poor, just poorly-managed.”). This regime abuses the people, takes money from rich resources and does not use it on the people, fills the pockets of government-military officials, wages wars (usually internal-civil) due to an unborn national identity lost before conceived, some genocidal killing off ethnic groups. And guess who feeds or supports the dictator. Yes, foreign countries, big countries. And none of the money loaned by these corporations, countries, or multinational organization is even benefiting the people.

Then one day, the civil wars end. And then, maybe later or at the same time, the dictatorships end, and you are finally able to have a democratically elected government. Your country has all these issues or problems and you have to address it. But instead of feeding your poor, providing better health infrastructure and trained personnel and medicines, instead of housing the homeless in your country (not to mention fighting pestilence in your country or creating access to clean water, etc.), you as president must pay interest on outstanding national debts accrued under the reign of a dictator benefi0ting only him and friends and those around him. Is that fair? Forget about fairness because it has a connotation. Is it just? This is normally what happens. You cannot address the needs of your people because you have to pay interest payments, minimum payments or installments on a loan that you can never repay anyway. It’s ridiculous. And there are many examples including Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. That was one of the issues that President Johnson-Sirleaf had to face as she could not pay for everything she must including promised pensions to ex-soldiers while she was under the weight of this crippling debt. It really isn’t charity. And it reminds me of war as well. Outside of tribal, civil wars, many wars (like the debt situations over here) are not due to issues between peoples but due to issues between leaders or a few people. Yet those leaders or people are not the ones who must fight. The peoples do the fighting for the leaders or few people with the issues. And that’s the situation with the debt. People are paying for mistakes over others and the justification for lending to such militaristic regimes and dictatorships is questioned by many.


Well, the big stories for us are Zimbabwe and Sudan. Of course issues still remain around the continent including the ongoing war in the DRC and the problems in Somalia to name a few.

But Mugabe and Tsvangirai were able to sign an agreement to work out the details of a government of national unity between the two groups. It’s a concession for Tsvangirai who probably won the first election outright, but he is conceding for the betterment of his people and country. This deal was worked out under the mediation of Mbeki. So he is feeling very happy right now since many people have been upset with him for not doing something more. The wonderful thing is that such a government possibly suggests the end of the road for Mugabe. There will be a day when he won’t be in power. And there will be a day when his people and military heads will not be in power. So change is happening and people are exuberant even if in part.

People criticize Mbeki a lot. Adrianne pointed out that (I think it was her) that if you are mediating a certain situation it would not be wise to speak out and denounce one of the parties. This is the problem or the conflict between the two roles he holds as the SADC appointed mediator in the Zim crisis as well as the president of South Africa. Denouncing Zim could have hurt his negotiations. Now, in all honesty, he probably would not have denounced them even if he wasn’t the mediator, but it does bring up an interesting point.

In Sudan, Omar al-Bashir has been indicted. It’s the first time the ICC has gone after someone in office, though other tribunals have gone after people while in office. Most news sources say the wars in Darfur are between different ethno-religious groups, the Arabic one (doing the killing) being backed by the government. But my Sudanese friend says everyone is the same religion, so it’s completely tribal. He also says that the government is supporting one side; he says it’s just officials in the government that are supported (financially) one side. A friend and I (to make a point) asked him if the president knew about such support. He didn’t say anything. So the silence is like consent. The problem in Sudan is that I’m not sure what would happen if al-Bashir goes away. He has been described to me like a fall guy or a dummy. But hopefully the ICC will continue with others, though they are very busy. Here’s a list/chart of current leaders in trouble.


I didn’t get any. My supervisor thought I should make sure that I took care of a lot of work, some of which has been done. But I just wanted to highlight the importance of actually being in a country to be able to speak about it. It’s not that you cannot read about it. For me, it’s just the added input of the citizens and people of the country that helps. Even though I’m in South Africa, I fell I can talk confidently on Zimbabwe because there are many of them in this country, people that I know who give me earfuls. I hear from Congolese friends (DRC), Sudanese people, Ethiopian people, Nigerian, people, Angolan people, etc. And that helps. That’s why I’ve been amazed at Haley’s travels.

She spent two weeks traveling with her parents in Zimbabwe (brief stint to cross the border), Botswana, Zambia, and South Africa (Kruger National Park). The she spent two weeks with her friend Rosa (talented and fierce philosophy major who wants to use it to change the world) to Uganda and Rwanda. She is back in South Africa now, but has 3 friends of hers visiting her for 3.5 weeks! Amazing. She came into town a week and a half ago to pick them up (she came straight from Uganda) and say hello before she left to turn in a paper back at her university in Grahamstown. Kate, Rachel, and Lindsay stayed with me one more night before traveling on their way to Stellenbosch (wine country), the Garden Route (I wrote about this one in December, similar to Route 66 in states but along the coast), and then on to Grahamstown where Haley is. They reached their Saturday (yesterday, the 26th).

Well, she’s not done. During Spring Vacation (September), she will go to Malawi to visit an orphanage, and then will travel to Kenya in November or December to visit Elisa (consultant manager friend who is admiringly stepping out into God-dreams and doing a year of service there helping build up the health information infrastructure of the country. I look forward to seeing what’s next after that for her!!).

Wow. That’s traveling.

I think all I did was deal with the US consulate in Cape Town to renew my passport. Did you know that the US CONSULATE (key word) has security as if you were trying to go to the actual White House? I was taken aback because I’m used to consulates in the city of Houston that are a building with one metal detector which, if it goes off, doesn’t bother even the security guard. One consulate (the Ghanaian one) is someone’s home!!

Here they don’t let you park without telling your business and your citizenship after which they look you over. Then they do a pat-down, a RUB-DOWN of your CAR. And you have to lift the hood and open the trunk!! What?!

Once inside you have to empty your pockets of EVERYTHING (not just metals). Then they tell you what you can take in and what you cannot. What you cannot must be stored in a locker. You must remove your belt and jacket (I think) before going through the metal detector. And you can never use the same door for entry as exit. The doors are extremely heavy. I think this is so they can shoot you if you get a little too excited to be just a normal person with normal business.

[by the way, I’m listening to the South African national anthem; a friend of mine is playing in a national soccer match; and I’d like to say the song is TOO LONG. I know they are trying to have 6 languages and mix it all together, but it’s extremely long. It’s like 2 anthems in length]


With me having FOUR visitors (Haley, Kate (New England girl with a very large heart who teaches at YES), Lindsay (now a 3rd year teacher who just finished her TeachForAmerica service and is now [surprising to herself but not to me] mentoring others, she is a supporter and carer of many), and Rachael (now a 3rd year teacher who is overflowing with creativity and dreams and is starting to enact them in a thrilling way)), Ryan had his girlfriend visiting, and Anna had her mother visiting. And remember Radesh now lives here (and Ryan will be moving out soon sometime). So it was crazy, but we worked it out. I got an inflatable bed—queen sized. And Melissa, my friend, offered to house me and people (I slept there one night). So we worked it out. I have never seen the bathroom stay so clean. Usually it degenerates within two days. So it’s nice to have Anna’s mother around.

Radesh is getting a dog on Monday. I’m not very excited about it. I think it was supposed to be only outside due to my allergies (border collie), but now it will be hanging out in the living room) and will only sleep in the back patio (not in the yard).

Oh, I almost forgot someone offered me a spot in her home? Do you remember the FYP’s? Two of them—Kat and Laura—stay with the Frames. So the Frames are this family who do this communal style of living. They built another layer on to their house so they could take care of people. Gillian Frame is a head counselor at my church and sometimes runs my HIV/AIDS and crisis pregnancy sessions. If you remember I was telling her how beautiful I thought it was. And she said to me that actually sometimes it’s very difficult (she had been going through a battle with one woman who was either pregnant or drug-embattled; I am not sure actually, maybe it was something else). And so I began to see the real side of such work. But they have had many bedrooms open up in the house and she always tries to balance good solid stable people with others who need help. So it seemed like a cool opportunity. There’s a ton more space. It’s cleaner and I can have people over more often in terms of meals or just housing people who are visiting Cape Town. So I’m thinking about it. I’m not sure. The price is cheap; it’s about what I pay now (the discounted price because Radesh moved in; it may go back up when Ryan moves out; not sure). If you have insight, please do let me know.


The Dark Knight

I don’t see a lot of regular movies. But I just saw this one because someone was going to see it. And so I thought I would check it out even though I didn’t see the first new Batman with Katie Holmes. I won’t say much except that Christian Bale is excellent, in general, at most things he does. But Heath Ledger was pleasantly amazing in a disturbing way, very disturbing. It’s nice to get a different type or variety of role for him, but it’s sad if it messed him up. He did extremely well.

10th South African International Documentary Festival

Iron Ladies of Liberia

I spoke about this film in the Madiba’s Birthday section. So read that.

Dear Morris

Levitan had a 9-year pen pal relationship with a guy from the U.S. She flew to the US to finally meet him for the first time and he didn’t show up, didn’t answer her calls. Nothing. After flying back after a week, she never heard from him again. And this film deals with that mystery and letting go of Morris. It was funny and painful.

Old-time, Long-time Love

Kambandu is a young girl (maybe early 20’s) who doesn’t think marriage is relevant anymore disagreeing with her boyfriend. She goes around and interviews older couples to ask them why they got married and how they decided to do it.

Mbira’ My Music My Love

This is about an American-born Zimbabwean artist who is simply amazing. She plays a particular Zim instrument like a virtuoso.

Silent Response

A Congolese father lost his boy for awhile when the son left the house and ran away for a few days. They are united and work through counseling.

Where My Heart Belongs

Jen is a British girl who went to Malawi on holiday and met a Malawian. It’s funny to see the relationship. They are from different cultures, and he says things like “Here in Malawi, a man can leave the house and leave a woman alone for an entire day and she doesn’t say anything, not a word. But Jen requires so much more time. She needs, she wants, she needs, she wants. . .” Everyone laughed at this because you really cannot do that in western cultures. Everyone refers to the almost all white-audience in the theatre.

Sunday, July 6, 2008



  1. What is the one vegetable that is always sold as is and is never sold sliced, diced, minced, cubed, pressed, cooked, sautéed, pureed, etc.?
  2. What is the only North American landmark that is moving backwards?
  3. What is the only fruit with its seeds on the outside?
  4. The spirit called pear brandy is usually sold in a bottle that contains a pear in it. The pear adds to the flavor of the drink. How do they get the pear in the brandy bottle?
  5. What are the only 3 words in the English language that begin with the letters “dw”?
  6. What are the two vegetables that continue to grow perennially without having to replant, reseed, or sow them again into the ground?
  7. McDonald’s is involved in two world affairs measures. One is called the Big Mac Index which is an index of the big Mac’s price in countries around the world in order to compare aspects of the economies. The other is Golden Arches Theory which states that no two countries with a McDonald’s have ever gone to war with each other. This theory was violated for the first time in recent history (let’s say past 50 years). What two countries battles or war violated this?

I continue to be amazed by people’s bathroom etiquette. Have you ever seen a person leave a stall without washing his hands? I don’t understand it. And I try not to judge because perhaps he was blowing his nose for a really long time and the severe congestion was why he was straining.

When I was in the Limpopo Province speaking to the kids about AIDS we didn’t have running water, so I had to use a latrine I guess you could say. They do use that word in South African English, but you know what is. Either I’m losing weight or they are changing the design because it didn’t hold me when I sat down on the stone. I would fall straight in 30 ft to the cultured bottom! So after trying to dry the urine-stained stone in front, I had to lean my bottom on the left edge of the stone opening because my hips were too small. I kept questioning myself if perhaps this was a squat latrine where I should stand over it, but the seat/hole was elevated from the ground like an extended (width-wise) shelf. It still confuses me to this day.

I’ve included pictures of cherry trees in frost. These cherry trees sit on the mountains to the west of Cape Town. If you’ve seen any pictures of Cape Town, you will not have seen these mountains. But when you stand on the mountains of Cape Town or at UCT and you look east across Cape Town there are mountains on the other side. One of the ranges is the Ceres. That’s where these are from.

And I’ve included a picture of “Ferrari in Pole Position.”


June 23, 2008


Hi, everyone. This is Victor. It’s hard to judge, but I gather that you hear about Zimbabwe in the news somewhat. I don’t think you hear about it as much as we do, but you do. I was reading Anderson Cooper’s web-journal entry on Mugabe and how sad it was. That guy had over 400 responses. I couldn’t believe. I think it’s because he’s famous. Anyway, life here is good. Interesting week since I wrote you last Monday on the 30th of June.

FYP – Frontier Year Program Volunteer, person who volunteers 6, 9, or 12 months of their life to serve in a sister church (part of New Frontiers Churches) in another country


I received an e-mail from an engineering journal saying another paper from my thesis (one of the three) was accepted, and that I should submit a revised draft. Surprise, surprise.

Also I had an Ethiopian dinner for friends.


Vinod was contacted by Rice University because he gave a talk in which less than 10 minutes was devoted to his thesis. My ex-advisor, searching the internet for us, found the talk (posted on a New Mexico State University site) and reported it. So now Rice is trying to get him to sign another unethical contract.


I took myself out to a movie because I hadn’t been going to half-price movie night (on Tuesdays) in over two months because of work and choir rehearsals. I fell asleep during “Son of Man.”


I went Sukie or Suki dancing. I’m not sure of the spelling because it’s not said clearly enough for me to determine (do you like how I turned that around instead of saying I don’t pick it up?).


We had a farewell party for 4 of the 5 FYP’s who were leaving.


A university interested in changes its mind probably due to money and scheduling.

I met the FYP’s for lunch and presented them with a gift.


I took the FYP’s to the airport. Actually a lot of people came. It was quite sad.

Because of the time that I went to the airport, I missed a talk given by Desmond Tutu and Raphele Maphele and another woman on UCT’s campus. The talk was about Zimbabwe.


I don’t remember. . .supposedly.


Jeannie’s friend Josh was in town, so I went with them to do jazz dancing (not to be confused with the category of professional dance called jazz [jazz, modern, tap, ballet, etc.]. Jazz dancing is dancing to jazz music like swing dancing. The place we went did not have this type of music. They played what’s called house. So we sat there. Jeannie’s friend Kristin also came because her sister Shelly was in town visiting.


Made some good progress on the artery problem. Still working. Missed Jeannie’s call to hang out with Josh again. They went to hear jazz this time.


I went to Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope (so funny to be saying that like it’s next door when I used to read about it in school), and saw penguins, again. Then Saturday night (U.S. Independence Day weekend), we went to see MuayThai fighting. It gave me the chills.

Like I said before, there have been times when I was unsure if I should have come. I did this postgraduate position in an attempt to see if I would enjoy being a professor and teaching at the university level and I find that I love research when I can do it fully and freely and unhindered. So that’s why the choir event and the HIV/AIDS Youth Day Youth Rally were huge for me. Hopefully I can do more of that.

My church has already asked me to see if I can organize a choir to sing repeatedly. Unfortunately they want the Hillsong model—worship leading choir, so the choir wouldn’t perform numbers which I love. But we will see.

And the pastor (she’s a Sepedi South African girl in her 20’s who recently resigned from a position working with Adrianne (my friend from Texas) as a missionary for Nazarene Compassionate Ministries) now contacts me a lot. She sms’s me things telling me she’s thinking of me. Normally I wouldn’t think anything but it has the slight feeling of – well she said she thought what I did was amazing and beyond words. Now if it was then that’s ok. But it really wasn’t. So it’s kinda funny. So I might have my first SA fan which is a definitely a black SA person because white SA people don’t really see me in that way as much as I could be seen in that way by others in a city like NYC. Interesting.

I made vegan strawberry muffins and took them in to work. Excellent!

The Ethiopian dinner was especially excellent because Ross and I didn’t cook everything. Instead we made the event cooking the food. So when the FYP’s arrived, they were put to work. Luckily most things had been chopped, diced, pressed, minced, or made (with Ethiopian food, some of the ingredients have to be made like Berbere or Kibeh). It was WONDERFUL food! And we did it all with candles!


Before the Zimbabwe run-off election three weeks ago, someone asked me about the Zimbabwe situation if I thought the country would erupt in civil war. At that time I had not thought about the run-off election since I had been engrossed in choir preparations and HIV/AIDS work. I said I would think about it. I had to re-acquaint myself with the situation. My final answer was no. This is because I know the Zim people. And though I have only met a biased sample (those who leave the country are not a representative mix of the country), they are not a people that would erupt into the type of violence you saw in Kenya. Kenya was a racial issue, as we know. It’s not racial in Zimbabwe. Even the type of xenophobic attacks you saw here in South Africa would be improbable (not impossible) in Zimbabwe. It’s just a qualitative opinionated observation, but they are not as discontented as South Africans.

Anytime you take the time to write something and stick your neck out, people will criticize which is not a bad thing. So let me qualify the previous statement because some will say they are discontented. Let me put it like this. Tsvangirai desire a regime change as do many people in the country. But desire does not equate to choice. Tsvangirai is own his own. The people want him to win and they want him to stand up for them. But the Zim people are not standing with him, fighting for him. They are not even standing alongside him and fighting with him. Do you see the difference? In other words, they are waiting or watching him fight for them but they are not joining in it. So it’s like he and his group are alone in a sense. Imagine what the country could achieve if they all worked together against Mugabe. I’m not advocating violence at all. I know that South Africa/UK/US will not do anything (I would be ok with this if the foreign policy were consistent; for Mbeki, it is consistent). So things would move faster if they did something for themselves. Again, I’m not advocating violence, and I know how scary it must be. I don’t know that I would do anything myself, though I would want to do so. The most crushing thing in my heart during all of this was when I read that they had kidnapped the son and wife of the new MDC mayor of Harare, Chiroto. They left the 4-yr-old son unharmed but beat his wife to death. I couldn’t imagine the pain that that man must be going through, the ease with which he could take up a grudge and hold unforgiveness in heart, the ease with which hate can develop. Again, the people in Zim are very much different. And this observation (about the people watching Tsvangirai fight for them instead of fighting with him) is observed by Zim people. They would not move toward civil war. And they have not.

Whatever moments that found Mugabe originally ready to concede the first election have elapsed. They were ephemeral. The people of Zim, or the MDC, are willing to grant amnesty or pardon to Mugabe for past wrongs, so that he may transition, concede, or retire peacefully. But when you look at the Matabele Land Massacres in the 1980’s done by Mugabe and his group (with the help of North Korean mercenaries 25,000 Matabele (enemies of the Shona) people were killed and it could have been up to 30,000), you realize that the problem lies in the rest of “his” gang—the Joint Operations Command (JOC). This group is not run by Mugabe and has someone chairing it that is not Mugabe. It is this group that does not want to let control go because if a new government is in power, they will be tried and convicted, and they know and understand this. Pardon has not been extended to any of the JOC should Mugabe concede and leave. And this is the problem. People still remember those Massacres. That’s not surprising as people remember atrocities committed much older than that (remember the update I gave with all of the International Criminal Court cases on past dictators and killers).


I know you are probably tired of hearing about the xenophobic attacks here, but I thought you might like to read something from NPR. My friend Alex (environmental scientist/policy, international development man of mystery extraordinaire) sent it to me. It’s part of a 6-part series, though I haven’t seen the other 5 parts. Maybe you can search for them. Alex also won a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship (like Jeannie and Haley) and will start his assignment at UCT in Cape Town in January. The article is below.

We’ve also just recently designated Chinese people as black. No, this is not because they know how to get down or are Afrophiles or any other stereotype. This is because they have fought for equal rights and equal affirmative action under the law as is given to blacks and they have finally won.

Other than that, things are mainly the same. People still complain about gas prices and food prices whose hike they are blaming on biofuels for decreasing the food supply. That is possible I guess in a global sense. I know biofuels are not big here at all.

I think the two biggest things here now are a court case with Judge Pikoli. He is was charged with obstructing justice by collecting intelligence and handling matters that should have been reported or handed over to the justice department and not kept in the National Prosecuting Authority. They are saying he is not fit to hold office citing a breakdown in his relationship with the Justice Minister. He says he’s only being prosecuting because he was pursuing charges against Jack Selebi, the Police Commissioner and alleged friend of Mbeki.

The other big news is that the head of the ANC Youth League said that the youth league would kill for Jacob Zuma. The country has been going crazy over the comments. People have asked him to retract it but he won’t. I don’t think it will incite people to arms when Zuma becomes president but that’s the question it raises. And many say such comments have no place in post-apartheid South Africa especially with the history here.


From time to time I write; from time to time, the writing is poetry; from time to time, the poetry is what I call name poems. These are poems based on a person name that brings out the meaning of the name that I see in the person’s life. It’s a reminder of who they are. It can be prophetic or reflective. It depends. Well, it’s strange because I gave all the four FYP’s one as parting gifts, and I tell you the truth, I have never seen people so overjoyed in utter shock and amazement. “How did you know this about me?” “How did you know to write this?” I kept saying I don’t know. I don’t know. In usual Christianese manner I am asked if I prayed over it or about it.

If you’re not a Christian or not a charismatic Christian, let me help you a bit. Christians often feel that if you know something about someone without it being said that God has done that or if you’ve done something very powerful that you had to have been filled with the Spirit at that moment. Let me give you an example. I wrote a song for a Christmas concert at my church. The choir was doing a concert and did not have enough material. So I was to fill it up with two more songs—one of which was me accompanying a really great singer, Katie. The other I wrote. Now when people heard the song, they thought it was powerful not just the words but the music. The first question I was asked—“Did you just sit down at the piano and just pray-play it out instantly?” I said no. I actually didn’t devote much time to it as I was busy with things, but the first line of the melody of the chorus came to me in the car while driving (as I usually compose while driving or learn songs while driving). But NOTHING else came for weeks (I don’t like to force songs). But it was not Thursday and the concert was Saturday, so I sat down and worked something out, but I was not done. I did a little again on Friday before the dress rehearsal, but I was not happy. And so I went into the Saturday concert actually feeling that I was going to change the song later after the weekend was over, not knowing or realizing it would be considered good.

I said something like that. So I kept the song as is, never changed it, and I recorded it sometime ago. This has to do with Christian’s concept of truth. Many of us do not know any other truth accept the Bible, etc. So if it’s not in the Bible or if Jesus didn’t say it’s not truth. This, of course, creates a problem (Rob Bell notes this in his book “Velvet Elvis”) when young people go to university and learn all sorts of things (biology, geology, astronomy, etc.) that do not fit with the worldview they were taught as a kid in a Bible-based community—all sorts of new knowledge. At the point, Rob Bell thinks, many of them turn away from God in college because of this (I’m assuming he’s not counting freedom/legalistic reasons for such). What he notes is true and is one of the big reasons for such a turn away from God. What’s the problem? They were taught a God that is not big enough to embrace the truth everywhere. (I have a friend named Bonnie who is quite excellent at claiming truth wherever she sees it. She lets science say what it says and if it’s true [or proven which is difficult] it’s true [or proven]. She does the exact same thing with faith. You should ask for her e-mail for questions)

The God that Christ claimed (give me a moment, I’m getting there) was called the Truth. And this is the truth wherever it is found. So if someone says the building blocks of matter are called atoms and they have protons and neutrons and electrons, Christ followers are to take that in as divinely created. It’s still sacred and divine though not in the Bible because God created and it is Truth (Jesus) or at least accepted truth today. So we don’t follow Jesus because he came to start the RIGHT correct religion. On the contrary, he didn’t come to start a religion. We follow him because we believe the way he taught to live is the best, truest way to live. In this way, I see glimpses of God in many people and places.

Going back to these picture-name-poem, the girls saw truth in the words of the poem about themselves, so they thought “it must be from God.” Now given what I just said, I don’t dispute it or argue against, I just think it’s funny that in their minds this equates to me having laboriously prayed hours over each of their lives before writing. The thing is if I’m really in God (in Christ) as they are taught, then everything I do is in Him. And truth can come out anywhere. In other word, I don’t have to have been spirit-possessed or heard God’s voice, I can use simple emotional intelligence (even spiritual intelligence) to tell me things about them and because it’s truth it still belongs to God.

I’m not going that deep into this as usually such thoughts are reserved for writing projects, but I wanted to share a bit of a project I’m working on because it related to what happened this week with these gifts for these 4 friends. They were amazed. On the other end, sometimes people are not impressed at all. I gave one to a girl that I felt strongly that I should give one to. She is not a Christian. I was not present when she received it but I did get a facebook message which was sweet. The tone is missing so it’s hard to tell but she is displaying it prominently in her room to see it everyday.

But I’ve never had a response like these four girls. Perhaps I’m walking more in my design. Anyway, I loved giving to them or blessing (I hate saying that as it sounds condescending) them because I know that when you input into their lives you were touching the world: one will combine theatre with theology in the UK, one dreams to do nursing in Mozambique and Brazil, one wants to serve (the persecuted church) in Eritrea, and one dreams to work with and help women in Israel and the Middle East. All I could say was wow.

I had someone respond to Confluenza, and it reminded me that when you publically write you do something vulnerable because anyone can say anything about what you wrote. She had a good point which I agreed with but it always reminds me of the fact that I must always tell people that I am making a generalization that does not apply in every situation.

I have one friend in South Africa who is the only person who has verbally told me that I do not need to state “I’m making a generalization.” He knows and understands. I LOVE that. It’s hard to find people who understand and it’s just cool that he can let me make one in order to highlight a tendency or proclivity and know that it doesn’t apply to every case, person, or thing.

His name is Ross. I also honor Ross because he allows me to simply be. I don’t know how to explain it other than I do a lot of flexing for people. Hopefully these are not compromising flexures but he is one of the only people who allow me to just be me—it’s pure acceptance. And it’s not compromised acceptance; it’s still challenging, but there is no care or concern to change you. He’s the one of the only people who really understands cross-cultural communication, so that if he knows that your actions mean something from your culture than it does from his, he’s ok with that. Many times even people know you must still conform to the other. With him it’s refreshing to just be able to burp because in your country it’s a sign of respect for the person who made the meal. Thanks.


I lost a big brother mentor of mine about a year ago. I knew him when I was in college, and we kept in touch indirectly after college. And he was excellent at whatever he did. The strange thing was that he made me feel excellent. I’m used to younger people saying words of affirmation to me but when an older person is seeing things in me that HE would like to have, it amazed me, especially from him. His name is Bernie, and I honor him.


This article is a few weeks old, but I thought it was interesting in talking about Korean’s view of our beef. They seem serious about guarding their health and being proactive about prevention.

Nigeria has long had rebels fighting in the delta region. Well a few weeks ago, a ceasefire was called after another attack by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). They have called ceasefires before, so we will see if it lacks. Nigeria is one of the reasons why oil prices are high. Demand keeps increasing worldwide and the supply is decreasing. About 25% of Nigeria’s daily output is derailed due to rebel violence. And now the president’s reinterpretation of oil contracts with oil companies is making oil companies think twice about investing in Nigeria (Nigerians [the government] want to get a bigger peace of the pie by retroactively reinterpreting contracts made under dictatorial regimes).

Ethiopia’s people are dying due to a drought that has affected agriculture for around a year now. Here is a video clip of it.

Mauritius drug use is rising. For explicit quantification of that look for the video on the above site.


I forgot to say that back in April a student was attacked. She complied and they took her keys and locked her in her car. She later called the police and they fired on the police as the two armed assailants got into a waiting vehicle and drove off. She was safe, but it was scary that it happened in a common area right at the law school.

Then we had a law professor mugged for his laptop. He refused and the assailant killed him. It’s so bizarre and crazy. It’s all around.

People always ask me what my plans are. To be honest; nothing is set in stone. Everything I told you still stands. Here at UCT they would like me to stay for a 2nd year for the post-doc postgraduate student position.

And I had only two other options besides that.

1. The professor to deaf students at RIT in Rochester, NY
2. A professorship at VMI—Virginia Military Institute

They contacted me three weeks ago interested in knowing if I was still interested. They are a teaching college, meaning they don’t focus on research and they have no graduate programs. I would receive immediate rank in the Virginia Militia or something and the students there graduate with 2nd lieutenant officer rating like at Army (West Point) or Air Force or Navy colleges. Anyway, they were interested. After two short just-calling-to-say hi talks, they shifted to e-mail to discuss plans to fly me in person. They are in Lexington, VA, but (unlike RIT) they will not hire someone without meeting him face-to-face. So they wanted to fly me in. I was excited about going to the States for a bit.

Well, they contacted me two Fridays ago (1 and a half weeks ago) about flying last week on Thursday for a Friday interview. I told them 1) the tickets were $4,000 and 2) I cannot fly on Thursday and arrive Thursday night and sleep in a hotel before a Friday morning interview. It takes more than a day; you generally lose a day both due to the time it takes and the fact that there are usually not direct flights between the cities between which you are flying. After this he e-mailed me saying he would get back to me. He got back to me yesterday and said, over e-mail, that they changed directions and chose someone for the job. I was not really hurt, more disappointed that I did not get a chance to go to the US. People in my family used the word rejected, but I didn’t feel rejected. See I asked how they would choose the person. And they said they choose 3 candidates to interview and they make a decision from the 3 after all have interviewed. So they never really interviewed me and decided to make a decision based on who they did see. If they say me and chose me I might feel bad. So it was fine. Strangely my family called telling me to keep my head up and stay encouraged. I thought it was sweet, but I wasn’t depressed at all. I wonder if they were told I was. Not sure.

So that only leaves the RIT option or staying here. I’m not sure about the RIT option. I know they might be scared that I would be sad that I’m not able to do as much research as in the past. Also my presentation was for final year students and first year masters. So they may have felt that I can’t teach undergrads. Not sure. It’s a cool opportunity nonetheless. I will probably stay here another year and seriously hit the job market in the US autumn.


Well, home is still funny. I still usually must wash a pot or pan if I want to use it, either because it’s dirty and hasn’t yet been washed or it’s been washed but needs a bit more help. It’s still overwhelming to try to wash all the dishes every time you wash your own because you’ll be washing for ever. This happened to Radesh when he first moved in.

Well, guess what? Ryan was asked (by Anna) to move out—it’s called serving notice. Strangely enough, he was given a letter (it wasn’t done in conversation in person). I couldn’t believe it. I thought something had happened or gone wrong. No, not at all! “I just need more space,” said Anna. I couldn’t believe it. Let me tell you why.

Though Anna didn’t have to do so, she asked us (Ryan and me) if we would be ok if Radesh moved in just for 3 or 4 months (we’re at that deadline now). If either of us had said no, seemingly (who knows) he would have had to go somewhere else. Follow me, now: I say yes, and Ryan says yes. Radesh moves in. Anna and Radesh have problems and fight and make-up and fight and make-up and fight and make-up. When they fight, Radesh doesn’t really have anywhere to go because the house is so small. He’s either with her in the bedroom or in public with us (me) in the living room. If he’s sleeping on the couch we know something’s up. There’s nowhere to go. Before Radesh came, Anna never had any issue with space. After Radesh came, Radesh complained about always washing dishes asking Ryan whose dishes those are. Ryan and I laughed about it because we both always wash our dishes after we use it.

So it’s because Radesh moved in that Ryan is moving out. It’s because Ryan said yes that Radesh came in and now Anna is sending Ryan out. That’s the part I don’t like. I just wish we were told Radesh was moving in because I feel like Ryan’s niceness got him sent out. Anna felt very bad about it, though. And I just sit in wonder at how blessed I am because it could have been me. Ryan has as many months as he needs to find a new place and he has taken the news very well. So things are good between everyone. Just strange when you think about it.


race issue also because media will not let it go away

Normally I would feel like we’re much more into US Politics especially with the current race, but it’s winter vacation time here and many people are gone. More importantly, I think we’re so busy with our own problems at home with food, oil, 2010 World Cup, power, inflation, housing, and that’s just for starters.

I thought it was interesting that China was projected to pass the US in terms of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions! I didn’t know it was that soon. And there was one report that said this year in 2008 China already did surpass. I read this in the Economist. The article also included a quote by an Indian official who was indignant at the US’s refusal to take emission cuts unless China and India also did the same comparable cuts: Guys with gross obesity telling guys just emerging from emaciation to go on a major diet.

THAT made me laugh. It makes sense. I’m not sure with the post-Bush administration would do in terms of the Kyoto Protocol and all this global warming talk but I got a good laugh out of that comment which came out of indignation and anger.


“Son of Man”

Did anyone see the string of African movies I put awhile back—Son of Man, Lost Boys of Sudan II, or another one?

Well, I actually saw this one. It was interesting. I fell asleep, though. But that doesn’t mean it was bad. It just means it was nighttime.

“The Other Boleyn Girl”

Did you see this? Please tell me which girl was the other because it seemed like they kept going back and forth. Fascinating story. My two favorite young actresses (in their 20’s) in one movie. Both started very young. Natalie was excellent even as a 13-yr-old. Sometimes I don’t like when kids act like adults. I want them to be good but to act like kids. Anyway, Natalie was excellent. But Scarlett was amazing. Let me tell you why. She is one of the best in the business at acting without speaking, acting while others are speaking. Go back and watch her again. Or go and watch her in the first thing I’ve seen her in “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”


This is a note from a friend of a friend. Please read and if you want to partner with them, you are encouraged.

Dearest Family and Friends,

Happy 4th! Warm greetings from Los Angeles. I'm writing to give you a bit of an update on my new life in LA, send some love, and share some exciting news.

So as not to hold you in suspense, I am NOT: pregnant, getting hitched, or running for president.

Thanks in advance for reading through...

To start:

I am loving Los Angeles, and loving my newfound passion for teaching. I'm working at a middle school in Watts, infamously called "Drew the Zoo," and currently one of the worst performing schools in the entire district. 94% of the eighth graders score far below basic in math skills and many are reading at 3rd and 4th grade levels. As you can imagine, my first year in the classroom was unbelievably challenging -- I've experienced growing pains like you wouldn't believe -- but I have come to love what I do, and to really appreciate the brave and charming, sometimes obnoxious, always hormonal, hilarious and incredibly resilient kids that I have the privilege of working with everyday (do you not remember middle school?). If you're ever in LA, come see us for a visit.

Next (sending love):

I love you all! Regardless of how awful I've been at staying in touch, I want you to know that I'm thinking of you today -- each one of you -- and grateful for your love and support. Let me know how you are!


The exciting news. Many of you know that my experiences in Africa several years ago completely changed the course of my life. I've been working as a representative for Hananasif Orphanage ( for the last few years, pouring any spare hours in my day into networking, planning, and fundraising, and also started up a non-profit organization to support this effort (Kujali Int'l) -- which many of you have generously supported when specific needs have come up. Because of general life responsibilities (work, studies, etc), it had always sadly been something I have had to split my time doing. It was frustrating that I couldn't offer more to the work that I feel so compelled to do.

Well, a recent turn of events: I have crossed paths with two remarkable women -- Claire Williams and Lara Vogel -- both talented, passionate, and driven ladies who have been doing similar work in orphanages in Kenya for the last few years (, with slightly different programming aims. It was as though we were living parallel lives, inspired by nearly identical experiences, and having incredibly complimentary visions for orphaned and vulnerable children in impoverished communities.

After a year of being in correspondence, and an opportunity to meet and discuss partnership possibilities earlier this spring, we came to the decision to merge organizations and visions. We are called IBECOME.

Our vision is simply this: to equip orphaned and vulnerable children with the tools to change the world. We work in close partnerships with orphanages to expand programming in the fields of health, education, and social entrepreneurship. On a global scale we are working to create a transformative change in the traditional orphanage model, launching "orphanage academies" -- rich centers of learning and training that will give vulnerable kids access to the resources, tools, and opportunities they deserve to break the cycle of poverty they were born into and to effect powerful change in their communities.

I feel just as passionately about these children as my own in the classroom.

Did you know?

In the United States, of the 13 million children living in poverty, statistically only 1 in 10 will graduate from college. I walk into a classroom everyday testifying to the fact that this has become a simple function of your zip code -- five numbers that determine your access to education and life opportunities.

The same goes for children living in impoverished communities around the world.

In 2002, UNICEF reported that there were 115 million primary-school-aged children out of school because of poverty and political conflict. Currently, 125 million children under the age of 5 are living without access to clean water. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, there are 12.1 millions AIDS orphans. Think of the crippling effect this has on the capacity of a community to overcome poverty? We are losing a generation of future leaders.

And so, this is where we have planted our roots, currently in partnership with 4 orphanages in East Africa.

I wouldn't have been ready before now to share this with you and call on you in this way. The vision has finally crystalized into something I feel so confident in, and IBECOME has a team of 9 individuals deeply devoted to this work, with several other part-time friends offering their skills and talents voluntarily.

So I want to leave you with this:

(1) Would you consider partnering with IBECOME in our efforts to effect grassroots change for children?

Become an IB partner through a monthly pledge:

*Change lives, secure futures, empower orphaned kids!
*Get frequent updates on our current initiatives and on-the-ground stories
*Get your name in quarterly raffles for gift certificates and donor surprises
*Get tax write-offs on your donations
*Does your business match charitable donations? let your gift give twice.

(2) Would you consider hosting a house party anywhere in the US this year, inviting close friends for appetizers/dinner and giving me the opportunity to share our work and our vision with your circle of friends or co-workers?

YES!, IBECOME is a tax-exempt, 501c3 non-profit organization. All donations are tax-exempt.

So thank you for reading through.
If you are feeling inspired, this is how you can give today!

(1) Sign up for a one time gift or monthly pledge at our website:


(2) Write a check to:

c/o International Humanities Center
PO Box 923
Malibu, CA 90265

(3) Contact me for more information on house parties or other creative ways you can be a part of the vision.

All of my love and best wishes to each of you. Please keep in touch and I'd love to hear how you and yours are.

With gratitude,


Sydney Schaef
Founder and Director
equipping children to change the world

Friday, July 4, 2008


June 14


Hi, guys. Lots going on. A week ago, Saturday, my choir performed!!!! We had four songs prepared—“You Are the New Day,” “Were You There” (spiritual), “Oh Happy Day” (sister Act II version), and “When You Praise” (Fred Hammond). At Thursday’s dress rehearsal on the 14th of June, the producer of the show (Jacob Zuma’s daughter, does theatre and film) said we were not at all show quality, and she was willing to cut numbers if they were not good (she already cut other things like a poem of another performer’s). So I was done a bit. The choir was infected with stage fright performing for the first time in front of an audience. But I knew they could do better.

Well we went through a lot. The head of music at my church didn’t get me the musicians that I wanted (I wanted people who could listen and play by ear and improvise well), so we worked with what we had. None of the people he gave me felt comfortable playing the Fred Hammond piece, so I had to stop directing the choir and play the piano for that piece. By Friday’s dress rehearsal, the producer (Gugu) was finally happy and felt the choir did a 180 degree turn. The most important thing to me was that they finally enjoyed singing and smiled and had a good time. It was WONDERFUL.

Saturday night came, and before the show I thanked them—the choir—for giving me an opportunity to get back into music, something I missed here in South Africa because I haven’t been drawing, dancing, singing, or acting much, and the one play I got into I was dropped. I told them they gave a lot to me and they had been through a lot. I told them I was proud of them especially because we are not all musicians and many of us don’t read music but had done an excellent job in learning. I said many other things but I would like you to know they went out there and sang their hearts out.

They sang the first two numbers, and then we returned later to sing. In between, I had to play Georgia for a choir member who wanted to sing solo; it required me to play jazz piano style so they got to hear some different chords (remember they look at America and American music as being the bearer of innovation) than we usually hear at church. Right before choir returned I was told by the host to do only ONE of the remaining songs because the show was long. I had to decide between “When We Praise” and “Oh Happy Day.” I chose the piece that more people knew that would get people clapping. We did “Oh Happy Day” and they went crazy. The church has now asked for the choir to be a main stay. Though they don’t want the performing choir model (which I love) I am going to see about this worship-leading choir (where the choir sings with the congregation during the musical worship part of the ceremony). It’s a nice model. If you come from some churches (like the African American church) you know you can hear a new piece, a fast piece, and/or a performed piece and still worship while you listen. It’s been a good week.


They liked the choir so much that they asked us to perform (ahem. . . worship with the congregation) THE NEXT DAY. But I was flying out to Limpopo (a northeastern state) Province to speak to a rural group of kids about “Making Healthy Choices.” So I arranged lifts (rides) for choir members and flew out the next morning.

Adrianne and Brian picked me up and we drove to somewhere near Bergersfort, Limpopo and stayed with Jeanet who recently resigned from a position as a missionary with Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (Africa Region) working alongside Brian (more closely as his boss) and Adri.

The next day Monday was Youth Day in South Africa, a national holiday. And we were having a Youth Day HIV/AIDS Rally. We started with a march in which I felt like we had gone back to 1976 during the Soweto uprising. We marched and sang a few kilometers (which high steps and high kicks) until we reached the tent for the meeting. I (not really having prepared a speech since I was busy with the choir) was still working on my speech near the beginning of the day. I was given a seat of honor along with a pastor, a teacher or education person, two government officials, and another person who wasn’t introduced because she came late. They sang worship songs, then they introduced us all.

Then they asked me to speak.

Well, these people speak Sepedi which is not only different than Xhosa (spoken in my area of South Africa) but not even understandable and different (Xhosa, Zulu, and Ndebele people can somewhat work out what each other is saying because the languages are similar and are considered dialects by many). Sepedi is part of another group of dialectal official languages, so they couldn’t understand me. I spoke a greeting in Sepedi, then a small introduction in Xhosa, and then did the talk in English. They specifically said they didn’t want an interpreter, but either my accent was unintelligible or I was speaking too fast (I wasn’t speaking fast but it might have been fast for my accent). So we had to stop after awhile and get an interpreter (there were some who spoke no English but they were in the minority; I wasn’t sure how many of the English speakers were misunderstanding me). So I had an interpreter and it was at this point that I felt like a big speaker or missionary or something. Interpreting is a very difficult task and takes some type of intelligence to do it well. This person was having a tough time with it, so he was thrown aside after stuttering about 12 times on a specific word. This next guy did well and didn’t ask me to repeat what I said all the time.

I spoke on “Making Healthy Choices” and had to get the kids talking during my talk because it was going long and people were getting tired in my opinion. This was because the 30 minute talk took 45 – 60 minutes because of the starting and stopping with the translation (it wasn’t the type of translation where you speak continuously; I had to stop and wait and take turns with the translator). I tried to involve them and tell stories instead of preaching since it doesn’t work so well.

After I was done, we had to continue with the program because the food was still not ready. We heard from the education/teacher man, a woman who remained a virgin until marriage (she was funny; she spoke about men wanting her so badly thinking she was so attractive [she didn’t seem especially attractive] and she would tell them “I’m so attractive to you because I have JESUS and you don’t!”; she would also talk about unzipping your dress and how many times that should happen a day; men used to tell her that she was a virgin not due to self-control but because she didn’t like men or because she liked women; etc. you had to be there). Then we did a Q&A. Then each group of bussed-in kids came forward and performed a song. In between every song/group and every talk we all sang and dance. It was a worship service! Lastly there was a time when kids were given the opportunity to come forward and pledge abstinence until marriage. There were about 12 youth and then the honored guests were asked to stand behind them and pray for them.

It was a great time. I know many have issue with not educating and teaching and preaching condoms, and it’s good to do so. It’s important (AIDS is passed here many times within marriage, even), but you have to be sensitive to who is asking you to speak. So I didn’t do the ABC emphasizing the C. The group I was speaking values abstinence as a group value and I have to respect that (actually I value it, too). I did talk about the importance of condoms in the talk and about women and how they can be empowered through fermidoms (female condoms and microbicides). The BEST part for me was the Q&A. Everyone had questions, mostly adults. And they all called me Doc. “Doc, can you help me? “ “Doc, what happens if this. . ..”

It was great because we began, if only for that small group, to demystify AIDS/HIV and remove the stigma, destroy the myths. That’s why the trip was so important. We spoke about passing HIV through saliva, the possibility of re-infection between two HIV positive people, etc. The most powerful moment came when an actual youth asked me if God can cure AIDS. The moderators try to dissuade me from attempting to answer the question, but I took it and answered. Jeannie asked me last night what I said, and I didn’t go into it. But I’ll include it now.

What I said was not profound at all; it was simple actually. I said yes, and then went back to my seat. I figured he wanted a better answer so I then elaborated, expounded, elucidated with this, unsure whether he meant cure an instance of AIDS in one person or if he meant cure the entire AIDS epidemic:

I believe in a miracle-working God who not only creative the world but is active and presently intervening in this world. Yes, He can cure any diseases and, even with AIDS, we have seen people who have miraculously been cured of AIDS through no work of the doctors involved. Yet, simultaneously we realize when doctors do help someone and use medicine that that is also the work of God for doctors and medicine are gifts of God and fruit of the inborn knowledge and thirst for advancement he gave us. So we have seen AIDS go away in special cases with no known human cause. But if you were asking about God’s ability to find a cure, once and all for AIDS—yes, He can. If you look at the disease, how smart it is, how it can change and mutate into a different strain, how it can hide within a cell, how it can go dormant, and many years later turn on within a cell, how it can become resistant to drugs, how it attacks the very cells that should kill the virus—the task is overwhelming. We’ve never seen a disease like this. Moreover, we have no known cure for ANY virus. So when we find a cure for HIV and AIDS (and I believe we will) I know it will only have been through God’s grace because this one beyond our current understanding. Yes He can cure it. And I believe He will.