Thursday, September 25, 2008

UPDATE - September 12

September 12, 2008

I must have been sitting with my friend Megan in a small Thai restaurant for less than 5 minutes when a woman came up behind her. Earlier when we arrived at the front door we noticed a group of about 20 septuagenarians having a lunch reunion of some sort at a long rectangular table covered in a white table cloth. Little did we know at least one of them, the tallest female, had been watching us, was still watching us—a black man and a coloured girl eating.

So she touched Megan on the shoulder at which Megan jumped, and the woman said, “Wow. I just wanted to telkj adlkj;kadjf jiweofmi.”
Megan smiled, but I missed the entire thing.
“I’m sorry what did you say?”
“She said that—“ Megan started.
“I said you are SUCH a GOOD-looking, handsome man.”
“Well, thank you very much. I’m sure she thinks so, too.” I referred to Megan.
The woman smiled and went on her jolly way to the bathroom where joy can sometimes be found.

Megan and I laughed as I tried to explain that, though I work very hard at uglifying myself, sometimes people can see through it.

Another of the septuagenarians came by and spoke to me saying “This food sure is good, isn’t it?”
“You said it, sister!”
She smiled and giggled like she h ad just won the opportunity of a lifetime to make a famous person smile and she did it. I think she half-expected balloons to fall from the ceiling.

We laughed again. I explained that it’s quite normal for me.
“Too bad you only get it from people minimum 70 years!”
We both laughed at that. And from across the room, they just stared at us and watched in glee. Puppy love—two very handsome and cute puppies.


It’s good to be back and writing to you, updating you. Last week I was out of town and this week I have been sick. Strangely enough it appears as if the average person here gets sick more times a year and for longer periods of time. But that’s only my experience. It’s almost like everyone works with little kids. I wonder (assuming it’s real) if it’s related to a different level of warmth/insulation (or sanitation?) during the winter.

We recently had another winter blast in the winter’s final attempt to win a shouting match against spring. The winter is the winner. And now we have received snow in some parts of South Africa while I huddle with my warm water bottle at night. Some friends of mine (two groups) have gone camping to places where they could find snow because it’s a novelty here. Someone told me that the news reported snow hitting the beachfront. Just to make it clear, the snow places are isolated locations. Please don’t think there was snow across the country or anywhere near me (we usually have snow only at the tops of certain mountains, and we only have one ski resort in the country with a very short ski run).

Other than that, Ross (the guy I speak with; I first met him on a hike near Knysna, South Africa) and Melissa (she’s the pretty, sweet, Godly girl who lives in my neighborhood and car pools with me) are now dating. The strange thing is that they met through me. I don’t even come from this country and I introduced two people that may end up together in the end. Now, THAT is strange. I had a daydream today about coming back for their wedding. After one month of dating that’s completely premature, but you’re allowed to daydream for others.

This week, I have a few goals: 1) get a new health insurance (the one required for my visa expired last week) 2) start back at the gym regularly 3) get a college loan deferred 4) renew car registration
Wish me luck. I’m looking for health insurance that includes gym membership (as long as you go once a month it’s free for a certain level of premium). I need to see how much they ask. The doctor would always laugh at me when I went to him and told him the name of my student health insurance, and after flipping through pages of medication names, he would tell me that I would just have to buy it out-of-pocket because my medical aid doesn’t even cover the generic versions. I think I could hear more chuckling after that but I’m not sure since he was coughing at the same time.

I was told that I should have asked for a week off, but I decided to tell people I was taking spring vacation (break), and I did. I have only taken one week of vacation to go to the States. Maybe it was a week and a half. But it was good to go away even if only for a week. It was also a spur-of-the-moment drive. And I drove all the way to the Eastern Cape. . .to Grahamstown. On my way out of Cape Town, I escaped what looked like one of the worst Cape Storms in years.


Two Saturdays ago I drove to Grahamstown on a whim at half past three in the afternoon for a visit. I got there at half-past one. Apparently my mobile phone company has no towers outside of large cities, so it only worked 30 minutes of the 10-hour drive (yes, I did take breaks and rest). So my plans to call for a guest lodge during the drive failed. And 1:30 AM was so close to the morning, I decided not to worry with waking anyone (you’re not allowed to stay in residences/dorms of people of the opposite gender in South Africa) and getting people in trouble nor paying for a night at a hotel since the first night would not be fully used. So I slept in my car.

In the morning I surprised Haley, and she was surprised. She was very sad when I said I that I had a lot of work to do (I did) and that our spring breaks did not match up so I couldn’t go to Malawi (where she is now working at an orphanage for its grand opening). But she was elated. It think besides her being somewhat sad, it was just good to see her as we did not get to see each other during the “weekend away”, a weekend where all the participants in my marriage course went out of town to some cabins for more teaching and marriage sessions. And STILL people asked where my partner was and apologized, feeling sorry for me (if you read previous updates you know I haven’t been able to escape this). So it was good to do some of the work in person—previously I would go home after every session and type out my notes as well as create the hand-outs from scratch in Microsoft Word. It’s silly that I would do that but according to them, they did not have electronic copies of the book or handouts. I don’t believe them. SOMEONE had to type it.

Anyway, I had copied the book and sent it awhile ago, but I had mail problems so she had only had it for half a week. But it was good to talk through things though, Haley has strong opinions about most of those things—debt, finances, contracts, etc. So it wasn’t really new. The nice thing was doing some planning for the church ceremony (wedding ceremony; actually it may be outside) in August 2009 in Idaho. So set your calendars. In case I forget to invite you, just remind me.

Anyway, it was a nice visit. I was finally able to meet the final 2 housemates out of the 6. I met Estelle, an Afrikaaner from Pretoria, and Kosi, a Xhosa girl from Mtata in the Eastern Cape (same province as Grahamstown). Estelle is an honours politics student who feels strongly about her country and wants to become president someday. She has beautifully wavy hair that she hates. Kosi is a postgraduate student in journalism with a quiet (sometimes loud) spirit whose passions lie elsewhere. Hopefully next year she can pursue that and not journalism just because she won a scholarship. Money is important here in this country. I also got to see Matt (a teacher volunteer funded by Episcopal church in the states; very chill and communal heart), again, and Eben (vibrantly real and strangely observant masters politics student who will be doing Peace Corps next year!) and the lovely Rosa ( masters philosophy student who questions much of the world in a way that I hope leads her to the truth; she wants to change the world through philosophy but that might switch to law or something else)..

I saw how much the girls love Oprah. I saw how much the US election is on everyone’s mind even over there. I saw the size of Grahamstown. I just really relaxed. They were all still studying as it was mid-terms week before spring break. So I helped when I could. Rosa asked me to help edit her paper for a conference a week ago on Saturday (she presented and it went well!!!). I was so excited. It was her first and a rewarding experience in my book. I think there should be more funding for graduate students to go to conferences and present and learn the field (and the game and see if they want to play). Haley took to an observatory in Grahamstown with an amazing view of the entire city through the use of a mirror in a tower that focuses its reflected light through a lens and down into a dark room on top of a white drum. In that room you can see the entire city from the outside. It’s amazing. And you can rotate it to look at different parts. I went to the very small History museum which required a lot of reading (Haley did not give me enough time to read it all). There was a second exhibit (room) and all the others were being built.

We also went to a monastery but it appeared deserted, or all the monks (Christian not Buddhist; it was a Benedictine order) were watching us from behind closed doors. The chapel is open to all who wish to engage in silent prayer. It’s a beautifully designed building set at the highest point at the retreat center filled with glass on 3 walls and center area on the ceiling providing for amazing views and light bouncing off the very light brown hard wood floors which muffle the squeaks of our tennis shoes. But no monks showed up for the 5 o’clock mass. We could not figure it out. It was still very nice touring the place. They even have guest lodges for people who want a retreat or a silent retreat.


There are some people who always ask me how is home, and I have no idea what to say. Home is home and doesn’t change much, and I am not here much. A few weeks ago the dog was able to negotiate an opening past Anna’s leg defenses and get into the house. It then proceeded to jump on top of me stepping on my keyboard. The laptop fell and was turned off, but it was ok, and Anna grabbed the dog and took him out. Then it happened all over again as if I had only dreamed the first happening because surely a dog cannot get past your legs and the slightly askance door twice without a larger opening. But it did. This time the computer seemed to have been damaged more as it fell harder to the floor. But it was still ok.

Other than that, Ryan has moved out. I missed seeing him because I decided to drive to Grahamstown the Saturday he was moving. I hope he is enjoying his new place. I think he is because last weekend he went to Mzoli’s, a famous township meat restaurant.


People have been complimenting me recently. I don’t know what the deal is. But it’s nice. I told you about the septuagenarians at the beginning, yes? Well, two Sundays ago, a girl came up to me. Her name is Joanne. She is a cute, simple, nice girl—nothing fancy, but quality. I promise that I had one simple conversation with her I think. Oh, she may have been working in the kitchen the night that Ross (my partner-friend in talks on love and female identity) and I were espousing views in the kitchen for the Thursday night sessions (my church was offering 5 classes during 7 weeks on Thursday for which a pre-dinner was free, and we were the wait-staff and clean-up crew). The problem is the guy-girl relations in some of the Western Christian churches in SA can be weird. So she was really nervous to tell me her compliment but she decided to do it anyway.

This is a Sunday night service at church. I have quietly slipped out early because my life group is serving coffee/tea/chocolate after church today (I have not been to a church that does not serve such drinks after services).

“Hi, Victor.”
“Oh, hi, JoAnne. How ARE YOU?” (smile)
“I’m good. How are you?”
“I’m well. I haven’t seen you in so long.”
“Yes, you’re right.”
“What would you like?”
“I would like some chocolate, please?”
“Victor, may I tell you something?”
“Of course.”
“This may sound weird or strange, so I was a bit nervous to tell you and don’t want you to get offended.”
“Please don’t worry about that with me. Go ahead; it’s fine.”
“I was thinking about you.” (this is strange to me because I don’t think we’ve spoken enough for that to happen naturally)
“And I wanted to tell you that I want to BE you. You’re everything that I would want to be in life, and I hope to become like you in terms of your character and nature and who you are.”
“uhhh. . .Wow. Yho! (South African word). Thanks so much. That’s super sweet. I really appreciate that. And I know that was hard to say not knowing what I would think or say, so I really appreciate you taking the time to share the compliment with me. Thanks so much.”
(we hug and she moves on. Poor girl, I think she was nervous)

It’s really sweet. I am better friends with one of her housemates with whom I worked on a kids camp with back in March (first month of autumn for us).

And that’s what I feel like these days. It’s like there’s been a shift in the focus in life, a move from self to others. It’s not a conscious one or anything. It’s just a natural self from investment to divestiture. Instead of investing in myself which still naturally occurs, I am now divesting myself out in a sense. That’s what it seems.


Last update, I told about an emotional week in which a friend found her boyfriend (I’m not sure if that’s what he is) cheating with someone else [he had kissed another person and was inviting her for a weekend away], another friend admitted to being gay and having so many questions for God about unfairness and being dealt a bad deck of cards, another questioning the obligation/privilege/concept of tithing in church, another depressed clinically, another scared for his life should he have HIV, etc.

It really is a tough world. And it’s hard for me because I walk around and sense things. I’m sensitive to most things I perceive (somewhat redundant I know). I actually walk around and when I see a need or a hurt, I begin doing something to address. The problem is the enormity of the needs. There are too many. So many times there are needs I want to work on but I’m busy with other ones. I was working on an encouragement box for one person, letters for another, a gift for another, a poem for another, money for travel issues for another, faith questions for another, etc. The list goes on. It can be overwhelming. I’m specifically reminded of the girl suffering from depression.

I actually think I forgot to mention the depressed girl. I gave her a gift. It’s called an encouragement box. I had been making it for a few months with some breaks in between. But I finally finished it. I gave it to her at a time when she started taking another turn for the worse. She had been doing better but she was getting sad again. And people in her house and in her church life group didn’t know what to do. I was trying to tell her I’m fighting this with her, not just praying from some lofty place from afar, feeling empowered in my “prayers.” She hugged me and took the box which I explained would last for 100 down-days (not to be used when you feel great). So when I wrote that update, she had never mentioned it again. And I had to check myself because it was very easy to feel bad or like it had no effect because I am used to people being very appreciative (I’m even used to people just being happy to see me!). So perhaps she wasn’t. But even if she wasn’t, it was for her to help her.

Well, a week ago she spoke to me during a break in Saturday tutoring. She said she was SOOO thankful and really appreciated it. I couldn’t believe it. Moreover, she spoke and gave real input the last two Wednesday life group meetings. She seems to be picking back up from her latest dip that lasted a few months. So we’ll see how it goes, but it’s wonderful to see her smile and interact with people.

So for some reason, I’m at this stage where I hear a lot of questions from people looking for answers. I specifically mean that they are asking me directly. One person was asking me about prayer, another about identity, another about if Jesus ever claimed to be God, another asking what happens to us when we die. It goes on and on. Those are the most recent, but the tough one was this week when I met with the guy who admitted to me that he was homosexual. I was the first person that he had ever told and he told me over e-mail. Now we were meeting face to face after I asked him to write down all of these angry, confused questions he had for God. We were going to have an encounter with God, with each other, or with somebody: he wanted answers.

Well, he forgot the questions but he asked me things to my face. And he was not curious about whether homosexuality was “ok” or “fine.” No. He specifically wanted to know what the Christian God thought of it. Can two guys get married? Can two guys just date with no sexual intercourse? Moreover, he didn’t want to know what current Christian scholarship thought in all its colors; he wanted to know what the real true God thought (Christian God) represented in Jesus. In other words, he recognized that organized religion had often gone wrong by the interpretation of many people—Crusades, Inquisition, Witch Trials, Nazi Germany, apartheid, etc. But alongside all those movements there were always counter-cultural mystics and prophets who encapsulated the real Jesus: Dorothy Day, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Hildegard of Bingen, Francis of Assisi, Julian of Norwich, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Catherine of Genoa, Thomas Merton, Oscar Romero, Gandhi, Helder Camara, Dorothee Soelle, Mandela, MLK, etc. Even with their faults they spoke out against the atrocities of their time.

So it’s against this faith tradition that I’m supposed to authoritatively answer his questions. Thankfully there was a guy called Socrates who lived and taught me about answering questions with questions. My Nigerian culture has also taught me about that, too, much to the chagrin of my mother. So he was able to start exploring those answers by answering questions he felt comfortable about. I did speak a little.

Yesterday (Saturday the 12th) I was happy that my friend called me. He had a question about identity and which identity he should prioritized, but it’s nicer to do it on the phone. Thanks, T.


My time/fellowship is almost up, and I feel like I haven’t done much. I’m still working on the testing of the blood flow model inside of arteries. But now each day I’m supposed to be applying to one job for the end of next year 2009. I’m a week behind, but I’ll catch up.

I’ve also started lecturing again. After spring break, I am lecturing the second half of the second semester (or the fourth quarter)—just one course. But it’s new material from my own notes so it takes some work. The students are masters students and they don’t understand the text that I had to use for the first week (the first guy didn’t finish his section, so I am finishing it for him, though I don’t really use the material in my work; so I’m learning with the students).

Lastly the Bill Gates Foundation replied declining the proposal. Though they don’t give individual feedback they did give general feedback that was not given before hand (I mean the general comments would have been useful before hand). It tells the way in which winning proposals were framed, shaped, written. There is a round two and HIV is still a part of it. So I will submit again by November for the $100,000 seed money grant. In the meantime, the axiom (by me) that says the slowest way to find an opportunity is to offer to volunteer. Not a single HIV/AIDS person has welcomed any free help. So I go it alone. Most people also don’t have time for you in terms of questions. That’s it would be nice if I had a friend who worked in the area. I would just call him up.

People still ask me about the NASA timeline, so I’ve included it below. Thanks, Mark. In short, I don’t know what I’m doing next year since many are asking.


Speaking of medicine and science, the science community is buzzing with the preliminary results of the super-collisions at CERN in Switzerland. After listening to a travesty about it on BBC radio, I realized this is actually interesting to people. People think it’s interesting to find “wormholes” in space-time, some sort of tear or break in the space-time continuum that allows people to travel in time. Funny enough, I came across the term first in science fiction. I wonder if scientists use it. I know some do.

But these guys are looking for a particle predicted by a retired physicist named Higgs (whose original 1-page paper was first rejected by CERN for publication; Higgs rewrote the paper by adding a few equations). This particle, the Higgs boson (the “God particle”) is supposed to help answer a lot of questions in particle physics:

Does mass come from the Higgs boson? (Right now, subatomic particles like quarks don’t seem to have mass but we know particles that are made from quarks have masses (like protons))

Why is gravity so much weaker than the other three fundamental forces: weak force, strong force, electromagnetic force?

What is the nature of dark matter and dark energy?

Is there really supersymmetry in nature (do all known particles have a supersymmetric partner-particle?

Are there extra dimensions (as predicted by string theory)?

So far all that’s happened is the firing of the first beams of protons clockwise around the accelerator and counterclockwise around the accelerator. And it was successful. So the actual first high energy collisions will be about two months later (6-8 weeks). And they expect to run collisions for three years to build up enough statistically sound evidence to say the Higgs boson exists if they are able to generate it. They believe it will be generated every few hours. But again, you’ll need a lot of data (and it happening again and again and again) before they say with statistical soundness that is the elusive or mythical Higgs boson.

Stephen Hawking believes it doesn’t exist. And so we will see.

So here we are again, going deeper on another quest. My guess is that science will never learn or find all because, strangely enough, the way the universe is created each discovery brings even more new questions than the ones it answered. And given that I remember the time that the rate of knowledge (across all fields) in the entire world used to double every seven years, though now it’s less than two years, I think science will be ever-reaching.


Here now we are watching with constant prayers, bated breath, and hope the hurricanes in the Americas—Gustav, Ike, etc. So my prayers are with all those in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico (especially Texas) who have been hit and have lost power or are experiencing flooding and other damage.

It reminds me how relief and development can go hand in hand. Sometimes with greater development, less relief is needed. Or with less development, more relief is needed (New Orleans). And there are people across the globe needing relief help, as in India these days.

One of the most important parts of development for me is health and sanitation development. A few updates ago I was questioning the meaning and efficacy of development. I didn’t mean to suggest that all development was bad. It’s especially good when you are saving lives such as development in the public health/health and sanitation arena. These are important advances for all of humanity. And the world is still looking for such developments in malaria, TB, and HIV though in the US we are not as hard hit.

Rather I was pondering what would African development look like without colonization. Would it have taken place faster or slower? Would it hold the same value? What would it look like? Would development and say globalization have occurred in a way to preserve cultures and the environment much more than it has today? Those are the questions brewing. And remember, I’ve given examples of the great open trade that occurred between great ancient civilizations like Egypt, Mali, Ghana, etc.


I’m combining South Africa and Africa this week. South Africa by the way did much better in the Para Olympic games in Beijing. Last time I checked we were 5th, so the country is happy about that.

Specifically, I want to note the men’s 200m race for people with prosthetic legs. Most had one. But there is a famous South African who has two. His story is famous because he was not allowed to participate in the normal games, though he wanted to, because the Olympics ruling bodies felt it gave him an unfair advantage. It’s an interesting story. He actually has a slow start compared to the other runners with at least one leg of flesh. But he has amazing acceleration and some how comes back to achieve the highest top speed. He won the race and received gold for that category. His name is Oscar Pistorius. I am especially interested in him because I met an American film maker in Colorado who is making a documentary about him in Durban.

Angola just had its first free election in 16 years which is huge. I like the quote I heard by a Unita (a group that fought for the total liberation of Angola) representative commenting on the election: “Democracy is a process not a destination, and this is part of that process.”

Well, the two resolutions (or temporary resolutions) that stood out to me the past two weeks involve South Africa and Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe, exactly a week ago (from today, Monday) talks resumed and Mbeki flew back out to help get all sides to sign a compromise power-sharing deal. Well, they were finally concluded. The details of this new power-sharing government should be announced today. The hold-up so far has been with Tsvangirai receiving enough power as prime minister. Either way, my guess is he will have less power than Mugabe. We shall see. Thankfully the country can start to move on and see a Mugabe-free presidency in the near future.

Secondly, if you haven’t been following the charges against Zuma (head of the ANC and greatest potential to be president as head of the ruling party) it may be hard to understand what I’m talking about but it’s still important. A judge (a white judge) through out the charges against Zuma. So Zuma has won a major victory and will probably proceed to the April elections next year indictment-free. First, understand that in other countries, with such a cloud hanging over his head (corruption charges), he would have been asked to step down. But he commands such powerful support from the people including the president of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) who said he will eliminate anyone who stands in the way of Zuma getting to the presidency. The scary statement is at least toned down from his previous one of vowing to kill for Zuma.

It’s a bit hard to understand what’s going on here, but try for a minute. There have been protests against these corruption trial proceedings against Zuma. We had street violence last week in Durban. People say our rule of law has been corrupted as the head judge over all other judges (Cape Judge President) has been found to be lobbying other judges in favor of Zuma! Some people say the case is unfair, and Zuma’s being targeted. Others are saying if he’s committed a crime, he’s committed a crime. Others say he’s innocent until proven guilty. Others, vice-versa after his financial adviser was already convicted for corruption and fraud and is currently serving. The case against Zuma was dropped until the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority) could get their case coherent and together. Well, now that they have tried to indict him a second time with their case “intact,” it’s been thrown out. Thankfully the judge did not throw it out due to its merit but due to the botched proceedings. The courageous judge sitting over it correctly (my guess/opinion) ruled that the proceedings were done incorrectly regardless of his opinion of whether Zuma did it or not. The NPA was supposed to allow the defendant to speak if they are bringing fresh charges which they are allowed to do (they are not allowed to rehash the same charges they dropped initially when they moved forward with indicting and convicting his financial adviser).

Some predict social unrest, economic turmoil, and a political mess if he goes to trial. Some believe he cannot receive a fair trial, and just because of that, the NPA should drop the case (forget about innocence or guilt). And then you’ve got a leader talking about killing for Zuma.

It’s a bit of a mess. And no matter what the judge decided both sides would have pressed on—the NPA can now try a third time to proceed correctly following the rule of law in which case the judge would then judge by merit before possibly indicting. Zuma’s team would probably also press on for a permanent stay from prosecution. And with so many threatening chaos if Zuma were prosecuted and sentenced, some believe it should be a consideration.

Others wanted a simple slap on the wrist as long as Zuma admitted and apologized. I’m not sure that would have happened. Either way, the judge ruled that

1. the proceedings were unconstitutional/unlawful because, according to the South African constitution, you must give the defendant chance to make representations. (this is the case if they were bringing a new case against him as they were supposed to do so)
2. and political interference played a large role in deciding to recharge Zuma
• the timing of the indictment (Dec 28, 2007) was right after the president (Mbeki) suffered a political defeat in Polokwane (remember Mbeki fired Zuma from the Deputy President position amidst accusations of corruption)
• Mr. Pikoli (former head of the NPA) was suspended just as he was pursuing charges on Zuma and Shabir Shaik (by the way, Pikoli said it was one of the toughest days of his life to have to go to a fellow-fighter in the struggle for freedom and tell the fellow-comrade that the NPA was charging him corruption)
• Ngcuka (head of Public Prosecutions at the time) was investigating both Zuma and Yengeni in the arms deal in which it seemed both had received bribe money. Well, Yengeni was found guilty, but they dropped the case against Zuma saying there was “prima facie evidence of corruption” but it wasn’t sufficient to win in court.

The NPA may again try to charge after allowing Zuma to make representation for his case. So we shall see. The saga continues.


Ahhhh, McCain and Obama. Palin and – well I haven’t heard Biden’s name in awhile. People here don’t normally mention McCain to me, but Palin is definitely mentioned. And Palin even found stories of herself in the South African papers—something I have not seen much with McCain.

Well, the story here is the same. Choose any continent outside of North America—even scientists and technicians in Antarctica—and Obama and Biden would win. Choose America and the question is up in the air. Who will win? Most are scared to say. Most think they know.

I had an interesting conversation about America. Remember that as a broad generalization (of course there are exceptions to generalizations; it’s a generalization) or in my experience, you receive anti-American comments in more developed nations. In my experience you don’t get it as much from developing nations. You can, but not when you’re among the poor or the working class. You have to hang with the minority—the elite. (exceptions can be found, say, in Middle Eastern countries for instance) Now, I didn’t realize it but you could say I was with a person whose income is above the median and average in South Africa. I was at a fundraiser for an NGO that works with kids in Grades 10-12 from a township outside our wine country. The group was mostly white but I’m used to that. At this ball/formal, a man at my table heard the word “American” and he started going off on Americans and how they are ignorant, stupid, don’t know anything about the world outside of America, etc. It’s all stuff I’ve heard before and it doesn’t phase me. In relative terms it’s true: we know less about the world than they know about the world. We speak fewer languages. We’re less informed from a broad perspective of opinions. The list goes on. I had invited an American to the formal, and I think she was getting offended. The guy was using foul language as well. And one South African was embarrassed because it is a common thing for South Africans (not the Black ones) to bash America or Americans.

Now, I rather enjoyed hearing his comments because I like to know what people think and to change people through engaging and exposing. I said to him that perhaps what he is calling anti-Americanism is really anti-Bushism as I think I’ve experienced in my travels over the past few years. People still treat me kindly, generally. He said that may be true but the next election will tell if that’s true.

If his issues and problems and concerns and complaints are really with the current administration, then Obama will win. And it is anti-Bushism. If his complaints are with Americans—we are mostly (meaning more than 50%) jingoistic and xenophobic and Amerocentric, then McCain will win, and I was wrong. By this he meant that it is a type of concurrence or agreement with the current administration or policies (as Bush endorsed McCain).

Now there are Americans who will disagree with you saying they are voting for McCain and not necessarily supporting the current regime or policies. And that may be true. But seen from an outsider’s relative perspective, a vote for Obama is a vote that goes farther against current policies and actions than a vote for McCain does. So for those Americans, their reasons for voting for McCain are prioritized over their disdain for certain current policies (if there is disdain; if not there is no problem).

So we both said we will wait and see if the majority of Americans are different than he believes and actually independently thinking enough to recognize things that are done that are wrong and to use their vote to counteract it. To him this would mean it was Bush’s administration. Otherwise, he thinks that Bush’s administration is really just a reflection of the American people and their current philosophy, values, and practices. In some way, that is always true as a politician must be elected somehow, either by intent or neglect, by commission or omission, somehow. So it may represent that some people don’t care and don’t participate and out of the remainder this is who was chosen.

So we wait and see. But to him and others, the fact that the polls don’t rate Obama higher already answers their question.


When I arrived back from Grahamstown on Friday night I originally had no weekend plans other than Saturday morning tutoring. But I was invited to the purely-Afrikaans university Stellenbosch for a music competition final. They took the category winners from Friday’s final round and had them perform in the finals concert though the judges had chosen the overall music festival winner. Even though I did not attend the first (Wed), second (Thurs), or final (Fri) rounds, I could tell who would win—it was between two people, a marimba player and a pianist—both girls. All the contestants were either high school or college age, so they were impressive (sorry there was one professional—I forgot but they didn’t give it to him I think because he was a professional or above a certain age).

The winner was the pianist and she had chosen to perform a piece that was a medley of four American Ballads: Down by the Riverside & Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues uit 4 North American Ballads by Rzewski (1938-) Uit is an Afrikaans word. The entire program and brochure and university signs were in Afrikaans. The speakers spoke in Afrikaans when announcing the results. But I wanted to talk about this girl because she highlighted what music was: an art and a craft. People talk about how it’s so right-brained and it’s such an art. But you don’t have to do anything artistic with it and you can be quite famous. You first must learn the craft: learn the notes, the technique, the placements—you must learn how to perform a piece. Once that is done (in classical music) then you can work on musicality and expressing the piece and the actual art. Personally I prefer hearing someone who says something through a piece with technical mistakes than someone who plays something perfectly that is not artistic. My friend Jose-Miguel questions what art is. Though I haven’t defined it, my words are a picture of it.

So this girl is playing these spirituals and American songs and she is dancing with it. I have NEVER seen this in a classical player (not to this degree). The rhythms are a bit complex and so you’re left and right hands need to be ok behind independent. And her head just bobs in a strange figure 8 pattern while her upper body snakes when her left hand sets up a repeating pattern before her right hand comes in. It’s like her body internalizes the beat, the meaning, the significance and the implications of the music and what it meant. She even played the piano with her elbows!! No lie. I also have never seen this in a classical piece. Now mind you, this is classical music, so it sounds like notated improvisation by the composer (like some of Gershwin’s pieces). You might think she’s making it up, but you remember it’s a fully composed piece by someone, but she plays it like it was hers, like it came from hers, and you feel somewhat silly for ever thinking that someone else could have thought of something so attached to her soul.

She spoke through the music. And she won. All eyes were glued on her. And the people sleeping woke up when she played. It was fun.

Before the competition, Some friends and I had dessert on an apple farm in Stellenbosch (vineyard-suburb of Cape Town they way you would think of a suburb in the States).

This past weekend (yesterday) I went to a fundraiser ball, a formal dance to raise money for an NGO called Vision K. They work with students grade 10-12 from a township outside of Stellenbosch. It was completely inspirational for me because you know I feel like so many more of us should be doing such work. The lives of the students are changed for the better. And the NGO has passed the two year mark!! So they actually have kids who started in the program who are in college now. And 3 spoke. It was wonderful to hear. Amazingly one of them passed ALL of his first semester courses. The reason that that is amazing because the level of education is much different. Black kids from the townships have a higher chance of doing below average in their courses. In other words it’s not a level playing field. And in all honesty, Vision K’s mission is not to get all of their kids in college. Their goal is to give them life skills to aid them to do whatever they go on to do in their lives. Grade 10 is life skills work. Grade 11 is service work. Grade 12 is academic support. And each year the groups go on camps where these people are building into their lives.

I was soo thrilled to be a part of such an event. The kids really touched me. Before the dinner and dance they performed some songs and a play. The play was the Prodigal Son and for some reason (I’ve been recently studying about Jesus, again, his significance then and now and I studied this story and what it meant) it touched me deeply. I loved it. It of course was set in South Africa.

The reason that I talk about it in the ARTS section is that they did a drama and they sang. And I’ve been told by Americans (like my friend Marissa who is a beautifully affectionate foreign service worker who is trilingual, headed to Mexico and pregnant with her first healthy baby--congrats) that South Africans have such gifted singing voices. I was thinking about this and it occurred to me that they sing closer to an American style than any other Africans I’ve seen. I think this might be it. I’ve noticed for instance that when an African tries to audition for American Idol they are placed in the first show with all the rejects because “she doesn’t know she sounds badly.” The problem is that the aesthetic/style is much different in Africa. This is especially true of the vibrato. We employ a different kind of vibrato that sounds bad to Americans. But I notice here that they tend to sing much more like Americans in South Africa—even with their own songs. I think it’s the American influence (you could say African-American influence but American works).

It’s still good and beautiful. It’s just something I noticed.

Goya’s Ghost
Interesting. If you’re into to historical fiction, this is at least the genre. I think it is more about the lives of a few people than the history of the Spanish Inquisition and Spain under France. But strange. Natalie Portman, after being in a dark dungeon for 15 years, looks emaciated, like a rotting skeleton or something. My friend thought she was overacting at this point. I’m not sure how I would have acted if the make-up artists made me look like that with a dislocated or rotted jaw.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Cute. I wasn’t in the mood for something dark and the only other thing showing was Ang Lee’s “Lust Caution.” Thunderbird something (the movie with Jack Black, Ben Stiller, and Downey Jr) wasn’t until 2 hours later, so I saw this. I enjoyed it. Fun, light movie.

UPDATE - August 24, 2008

August 24, 2008

Hello, and good morning. I’m in a season of slightly more happenings, but it’s ok.
Last weekend on Saturday (17th of August) I went hiking again on a very short 1 hour hike up Lion’s Head. The cool thing is that it was at sunset.

Lion’s Head is part of the profile the most beautiful CITY on earth, Cape Town. And because of its height above the lights and the strength of a full moon, many people hike up before sunset and then hike back down using the natural moonlight to guide their paths. Others even hike UP in darkness, and then down. Many do this without a flashlight due to the brightness of the moon. And it’s quite enjoyable. Lots of people do it. Before accidentally doing it, I thought it was an exaggeration, but it’s true. The moon is quite bright relative to darkness (it’s not bright relative to sunlight). So it’s bright in that you can see things but it’s not completely clear as in daylight. The other point is that is only lights one side of Lion’s Head, so the other side which you must go around further down is not lit up very well. It’s still quite fun and romantic. And this if the first city where I have watched the moonrise and moonset. In fact, I watched the moonrise from the top of Lion’s Head. It was thrilling especially being a full moon.

The next day I went out of town for a weekend-away as part of the marriage prep course I mentioned. At the Sunday session (I missed the Saturday session because I was tutoring) I was officially sure that it gave me the feeling of discouraging marriage due to showing all the pitfalls and potential disaster areas. But preventative maintenance doesn’t always scare people from other things like driving. But it gave me a discouraging feel—like one of those 12 steps to success books or 7 steps for a healthy relationship or 4 steps to a wonderful family. I was SO thrilled when Lee (I like her; she’s very passionate about South African people) one of our speakers said what you really need is God’s grace in the end. There’s so much to say and learn and remember, but if you can remember that it will take you a long way. I think this was more at the heart of what I was getting at.

The other thing that scared me was that much of what was said is something (for me) you would say to one person. Like I might tell one person (in a couple), alone, to set up specific days where the couple does what the husband ones and then what the wife wants. That way (watch this) the husband won’t mind doing the wife’s event so much because he knows he’s going to get his day next weekend. Now if I am counseling a wife and I say that fine; she hopefully won’t find any inconsistency with the message of love I’ve been preaching. But if I say that to both of them, then it encourages the man to be selfish. Only enjoy this weekend because you know you’ll get yours. That’s not love. It should be more about giving to the other. But much of what was said seemed to have that weird backwards twist which was probably only me noticing from my backwards vision. I just don’t like telling someone to do something in front of the partner so that the partner gets what she/he wants when what I really should be doing is getting each other to give to the other instead of focusing on how to get what he/she wants by having the other person give or giving so that the other person gives so that she/he gets what she wants. Whew! I’m confused. One guy did ask a question about all the stuff we were learning bordering on manipulation. And so one question in the premarital questionnaire/survey is the difference between manipulation and ministry. It is possible to manipulate without knowing it, though. So it’s interesting. I love sitting in and listening to the older people talk. The last session (this past Tuesday) was on planning the wedding and honeymoon and on what the wedding covenant (last week was sexual intimacy).

Coming back from the weekend away, someone mistakenly told me to go to Hillsongs because Israel (one of the music worship leaders at Osteen’s Lakewood church in Houston and one of my favorite artists) was supposed to be there. Well, he wasn’t. He had canceled some Zim dates earlier and is planning on redoing his Zim dates and subsequently going through SA on a later date. So I ended up going to Hillsong without knowing it.

If you know Hillsong (Darlene Czech—“Shout to the Lord,” “I Will Be Still and Know You are God,” etc.), you know they have their own style of music (even their kids worship DVDs/CDs have a specific feel). They are huge globally. So when they said they were coming to Cape Town to open a church a few months ago, people made reservations for the inaugural service with the quickness. I went to the 8th Sunday (after two months) and it was still packed and going. In fact, the first Sunday, they had to make a total of 4 services to accommodate everyone who made reservations over the internet. Now they have two morning services and two different evening services. It was a bit darker than my church here with lots of guitarists, those colored lights on the ground that rotate and move around and stage smoke that oozed out during the music. It was like a concert!

The greatest part was that they actually had a group of black South African youth there called Africa Jam, and they performed three songs. It was so wonderful to see that and to see people mixing together. One of the leaders (?) or pastors (young guy) said he wanted their presence there to be the start of an ongoing supportive relationship. I hoped so, too, though I didn’t understand specifically what he meant. There was a young, pretty girl who led worship from the side (a male acoustic guitarist was central) who sang as if she were at a concert and almost seemed to be manufacturing excitement instead of being naturally incited about the material/topic she was singing.


This past weekend I went ice skating with the Blits kids. Blits is the Friday night program at my church for grades 4-7 (the highest grades of primary school before going to high school here). It was SOO much fun. I definitely enjoy roller skating over roller blading and ice skating (especially since we tend and tended to dance more and have all sort of prizes and competitions). It was just FREEZING. And it was already cold due to winter time, but we enjoyed it. I missed those kids. I hadn’t hung out with that group in awhile (I usually work with high school kids on Saturdays or grades 1-3 on Sundays).

On Saturday I helped a masters student with his thesis, then I went to a meeting at my church for a formal I’m helping with. The theme is a Night at the Oscars. If you’d like to go, let me know. It’s on the 23rd of September. Then I ran home to change to sing at a choir festival followed by a dance festival I attended. Then on Sunday I had a nice American friend (from HOUSTON) come visit my church. Michelle is a confident woman who decided to still pursue her dream of a law degree no matter how long it took. She’s here doing a semester abroad. And she had a good time at church. Afterwards, I had a meeting for the formal again, and I spent the afternoon with a Congolese guy and a Malawi-Zim guy. The three of us – A DRC-SA guy, a Malawi-Zim guy, and a Nigerian-American guy—made me happy like I was looking at a picture of world peace or better yet, heaven. But as my Zim-Malawian friend shared, we, as humans hurt inside.


If you’re like me you’re quite sensitive to all the pain in the world. In fact, most people have had to either turn down their sensitivity or shut off completely. Otherwise, you become overwhelmed and can go in any number of directions including shock, denial, abandonment, etc. But it’s everywhere. And many people come to me for help, advice, or my ear, both informally and informally. And some people don’t use me as they either choose not to do so or they have other people who fulfill that role for them. Either way, I am constantly doing things for other people.

Sometimes it’s as simple as one friend asking me for thoughts and notes on tithing since he was unsure about giving it to his church because he didn’t agree with how they used it. Or someone wants a CD of some American gospel group (why should I have it?). This list goes on. I try not to think about it and let it happens when it happens. But sometimes the list is more painful.

In the same week, one friend found out her boyfriend was cheating by kissing another girl and trying to take her away for the weekend. Another friend who is clinically depressed and withdrawn from university for a semester who started getting better, started getting worse again. Another friend confided in me that he was attracted to other men and the world would call it “gay.” He believes in God and has prayed for these feelings to leave but they have not. He finds it hard to have faith in God and to love others or just believe because he feels he has been given an unfair hand his entire life, from birth. What kind of God does that?

This was over e-mail. So I said some quick things but the biggest thing I asked him to do was to write down every question he had (of God, for God, etc.). I told him to bring it to our next meeting. To be honest, I don’t know what I’m going to have him do with that list, but I have a good idea.

You see the fact is that I have been formally asked by two people in SA to mentor or them or be their life coach. A third never formally asked me but seeing as we meet every week, and he just asks questions, I suppose it is. A friend was scared for me when I explained that this third person (also the boy in the previous paragraph) told me “You’re my fix. I gotta have my fix every week. You’re like a drug.”

There’s a strong need for role models in this country especially male ones. So I’ve somehow fallen in that role not because of me or anything about me but due to the lack and need. The toughest part of the past two weeks started last Friday when I got a call from church. Even though I had just been certified as a counselor two days before and I would do further training for crisis pregnancy counseling since the church’s counseling center wouldn’t open for another month, I was called in.

Apparently, the HIV hotline that we have was called. It was called! Let me explain the significance: no o ne calls it. In fact, the head counselor at church just switched the number to her mobile because of that (no need for a separate line). And the guy who called was a male. Surprise number 2. And the day he wanted to come Monday (the 24th) was a busy day for the nurse/counselor at our church. She called me up telling me that though my official application to work at the church was not in, they know me and trust. Could I come in and meet with him? Ok.

When I met with this young twenty-something man and took down his information and explained how our session would go, he immediately asked me for prayer to start off. I did. He was completely nervous. At this point, after the prayer, he began to sob and cry, something he had not done in years. It felt good. He just cried.

Immediately I began to cry, too. And then I caught myself. As counselors we’re supposed to keep our distance and remain there to listen not to outcry the client. But it’s so easy to let go. After the session, my supervisor-counselor said to me that it’s ok to also shed a tear. I just shouldn’t be sobbing louder and stronger than the client.

It’s tough for people. I even saw the guy the next day and accompanied him to another location to get the test done since my church didn’t yet offer it until we open. Tough times. It reminds me that a rope, a cord of three strands is not easily broken. This life, this way, this walk was not meant to be done alone. And that’s what so many of the people I’ve seen this week were doing. You really need another person (preferably two) to go the distance with you. They help and support you when you can’t walk. Then when you ask where God is you can look at your friends and see that he is right there.

All these people struggle with what it means to be human and I’m learning, too. I think for my one friend what it means to be human is to live in the tension between knowing and not knowing. He won’t get the answer to all his questions. And the answers he does get open up more questions. But he doesn’t stop learning and pursuing. He just understands there is something-someone bigger than the totality and capability of our minds. Questions. . .we might tie them on a helium balloon and release it.


Home is funny. We’re not supposed to put shampoo and similar products on the ledge of the tub but others are doing it so maybe I can. The painting is definitely done. Do to the painting the mirror above the sink was removed, so I never see my face before leaving the house. Hopefully it’s clean. Because we were not supposed to leave shampoo or leave the bath mat (you must pick up the bath mat and hang it somewhere after showering and stepping on it and you must put up your shampoo) I didn’t bother using either. The only rule I actively followed was cleaning out the strainer. You have to pick it up and clean it out, or else you break the rule. On another note, it was hard for me to clean the house when Anna’s mother was here because there was so much stuff in the kitchen, but this is my weekend, so I will give it a go.

I still usually must wash stuff before I use it but it makes me laugh because in Ghana I would have used less clean pots than this. But is nice to grab something clean from the dish rack instead of something else from the dish rack.

Ryan leaves this weekend. He found a new place. I will miss him though I saw him little. He invited me out places and I appreciated that as well as meeting and hanging with his friends. I wish him well.

In the meantime, because electricity and water was high for 1.5 months this winter and Ryan had a 3-week guest, Anna had a 3-week guest, and I had 4 3-4 day guests Anna asks us to pay more. It’s not exactly correct since our rent is all inclusive and doesn’t fluctuate with the price but she may have said something aurally to me about this when I moved in. I’m not sure. She has also asked that I fill the kettle with the exact amount I need for tea or whatever and not to use the heater in my bedroom (if I needed heat I should use the one that works like a light bulb in the living room). I didn’t bother; I’m used to those bills going up in the winter. It’s cold and people use energy to stay warm. She may no be used to it. So I put up my heater and took longer hot showers (not purposely) and did more hot water bottles because it’s COLD. You see if you deny warmth from one angle, my body naturally tries to get it from another way. Haley said it’s silly not to use the other heater just because you think it’s silly that I’m not supposed to use mine. She’s right: I’m freezing. So I wanted to get the living room heater, but people use it for the living room. So there’s a problem.

And now we’ve had a return of winter temperatures and can possibly expect snow on the highest mountaintops or wherever it is we get snow.


Like I said I went to a university where we loved to learn and went to a lecture as part of our orientation week activities. So you know all the trouble I’ve had with auditing (languages, music, drama, etc.) as the university charges per course above tuition and considers me a knowledge-thief even when it doesn’t count towards my degree. Well, I’ve been sitting in on a philosophy course called Ethics. It’s been exciting, thrilling, and good for me since my supervisor asked me to stop tutoring the math course. Well in lecture two weeks ago two girls made an announcement at the beginning of lecture.

Vote for me!

I remember similar announcements about other topics, but it reminded me of college. And these announcements were about election time. The two girls giving 1 min speeches to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year students were running as independents. That’s right. There are parties through which students run for student council/government. It’s exactly like having students run as Democrats and Republicans on campus. Students can even vote a straight-ticket (straight-Democrat or straight-Republican). It’s so strange. So I highly support independents as I am not sure about university elections mimicking national ones.

The other interesting point is that communism is seen much friendlier here. There is a communist party that is known and respected (meaning you can have a speaker from that party interviewed on TV programs about his/her opinion). And you remember the sociology conference I attended? They loved Marx. One girl (South African masters student and lecturer) said that when she went to the US she felt overwhelmed by capitalists that it drenched her soul. She lost her soul.

Alongside the elections buzz (the results came out this week, and neither independent was in the top 5) was the inauguration. The new Vice Chancellor (president) of the university was inaugurated on Monday by the Chancellor (like a king or queen for a university) Graca Machel (Mandela’s wife). Chancellor’s don’t seem to have offices on campus but perhaps they do. The average student has no idea where the administrative offices are, so I have not been able to ask about their location. Moreover UCT has no good, large venue. So graduations must be held over a period of 5 consecutive days to all fit.

On Sunday, there was a closed symposium where people (students) reflected on importance of a famed 1968 sit-in by student protesting the UCT reversal of an appointment of Professor Mafeje due to pressure from the apartheid government.
On Monday, there was an open program at the law department/building which the late Professor Mafeje’s family attended. The symposium was entitled Lessons of the Mafeje Affair - 40 years on featuring speakers Fred Hendricks, Dean of Humanities at Rhodes University; Professor Ken Hughes of UCT's Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics; Professor Lungisile Ntsebeza of UCT's Department of Sociology; and Emeritus Professor of Economics, Francis Wilson. The senate room in the law school was renamed the Mafeje Room and a plaque was unveiled.
On Tuesday, he was inaugurated in a closed ceremony.
On Wednesday, he went around and had hour-long open forums with staff and faculty all around the university. This concluded with an open symposium with speakers Akilagpa Sawyer, former Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Law, University of Ghana, and former secretary-general of the Association of African Universities; Dr Mamphela Ramphele, former Vice-Chancellor of UCT and executive chairperson of Circle Capital Ventures; and Jonathan Jansen, Honorary Professor of Education at the University of Witwatersrand. The symposium was title “he Future Role of South African Universities: Campus … city … country … continents”
On Thursday we had an anti-stigma rally. The new VC officially made this rally part of the inauguration events. 50 UCT drama students were frozen on the steps to signify . . .hmmm. . . –well, to signify freezing our notions, I think. There was a band playing and some refreshments. The event was hosted by an actress who plays an HIV+ AIDS activist. So it was cool to see her in real life doing the same.


People keep asking me about these issues. I didn’t have any jobs this year so I am remaining here a second year. It’s quite possible that people who wonder about this may not even read this section, but just sharing. Most probably I’ll be heading to the States for Christmas and again next year in the US-summer, say June-July.

For now my artery project keeps me busy. I’m in the testing phase, but there is a problem with the testing so there are no results yet. I am still working and trying to get help on HIV/AIDS ideas and waiting to see what happens with the grant. I’m still supervising masters and 4th year students both formally (one) and informally (many). I also start lecturing a week from Monday. For now, this coming week is spring vacation.

I’ve had two papers accepted so far, but after submitting the revisions for the first they sent back something saying they won’t accept it until the English is further revised (remember how people would tell me I should sit down with a native speaker of English to help me? Andrew, my colleague, thinks people were prejudice because of my last name since I could definitely speak, read, and write English). Well, this time they said I should sit with a science writer. I may or may not do that. But the rule is “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” And though scientific writing is incomprehensible and awkward an garbled to me, if I write in an unorthodox way that is clearer and simpler (constant passive voice is not simple nor is natural; people tend to switch between passive and active not just for variety but for different emphasis in a sentence) it is seen as unclear and obtuse. So I have to sit down and study some of the writing because I don’t think they will ask me to submit a 4th version if they don’t like this 3rd one. It’s humbling.


The last bit of big news is that people are still mad about the Olympic turnout for “Team South Africa”—the name given to all the South African Olympic athletes. People want answers why there weren’t more medals. And there is a lot of finger-pointing. Luckily we got a silver medal in the long jump. But still people wanted more.

Also the 1st female amputee to compete in Olympic history was a South African (Natalie du Toit; she swims at the gym near me in Cape Town). She came in 16th but was still very proud as were we all that she was competing in the Olympics. I have no idea how Zimbabwe did.

This update is a bit long, so I’ll include one more interesting story (out of the many going on South Africa) on sex workers. There has been a move to decriminalize or legalize many things such as drugs so that you decrease the demand and price (and increase supply, too). The same for the sex trade. I’ve long been confused on what is legal and illegal because police seem to allow things sometimes and prohibit other times. Strip clubs seem legal sometimes and other times they are raided.

Well a personal exchange between two consenting adults is legal here, but to do for the purpose of earning money, livelihood, etc. is not. So the National Police Commissioner Jack Selebi suggested (he is no longer in that position) that prostitution should be decriminalized for the 2010 World Cup, and people thought he was crazy.

But a key conception is that sex work criminalization leaves the industry unregulated, so women can be exploited by employers, police, clients, anyone. (People even say that this allows the spread of HIV. And we looked briefly in an earlier update how Thailand lowered their incidence rate by regulating the sex trade industry. This wouldn’t impact the South African situation much which is primarily spread heterosexually outside of the sex trade industry) A study found (noted in Big Issue) that deception and force during recruitment of sex workers were not common characteristics of the Cape Town scene.

The second reason people support decriminalization is the behavior of sex workers. In the article I read Serena, a “sugar girl” (one of the dock girls who supply sex to the many sailors who visit the Cape Town port), became pregnant to an Indonesian sailor The baby was diagnosed with HIV shortly after dying soon after birth. Serena was also then diagnosed and started taking ARV’s calling them painkillers to her family. When she felt better and moved back with other colleagues she stopped taking her medicine for fear of shame and ostracization. Women face the threat of being kicked out of the circle and possibly beaten since many of the women share clients. So Serena’s behavior was usual. Her secret was uncovered when the Indonesian sailor who was dying from AIDS sent a text message to the owner of the club about Serena’s status. She was forced to leave the club and could not get work at another because word had gotten out. She died from a brain tumor before turning 30. With decriminalization women would see their job as having a higher status and would feel better about taking medicine and using protection (especially if regulated).

Some suggest that the soliciting remain a criminal offense but the sex work be legalized (this failed in Sweden). So some support any lifting of a ban on sex work. Some want it to stay.

With 1200 sex workers in Cape Town, 250 work on the streets which is called the outdoor industry. 964 work from apartments or homes independently or from brothels (indoor industry). Only 5% are foreign nationals with the majority being Black South Africans from age 24-28. Now check this out: on average, a brothel-based worker who did not graduate from high school (no matric) would earn R12,344/month as opposed to R3,737 in another field. A street-based worker on average would earn R3,771 instead of R693 per month in another field. This study (quoted in July 18th edition of “The Big Issue) said that it’s a rationale alternative in that it brings immediate cash, brings more money than other jobs, and requires no academic/practical qualifications.


I don’t know if they showed it in your country, but Robert Mugabe was booed, audibly booed in parliament this week. That’s a huge step in terms of the courage that people feel. That has never happened in history for Mugabe. The opposition party, MDC, won the speaker of Parliament Position. And there are many more MDC members in Parliament, so it is definitely a new day. Even some of the people who have spoken in Parliament have said they do not recognize his authority or regime. Right now, we’re not sure when the trilateral talks will resume to create a government where both Mugabe and Tsvangirai rule. My church was praying for the situation last Sunday. Last Saturday we had the “most famous pastor in Zim” speak for the students from 10AM-1PM. I think they did it like a workshop. I missed it, but Bones (this pastor) will do both morning and evening services this coming weekend. The funny thing is that he’s on vacation!
China in its continued efforts in Africa is opening up a Ghanaian campus of the China Europe International Business School based in Shanghai. This new location will be in the capital, Accra. It will have classes every 2.5 months, 10 8-day sessions spread out over two years. Its flagship program will be an MBA in business innovation.

In addition to Bernie Mac, Isaac Hayes, the Saxophonist for Dave Matthews, etc., the president of Zambia passed away. Levy Mwanawasa did a lot for Zambia in terms of fighting corruption and bringing money into the country (investments) through decent policies. Funny enough, he turned against his predecessor by not allowing him amnesty or not allowing him t get off on all his 168 counts of theft. Mwanawasa had a lot of health problems and so it was not surprising. But he seemed to be a good president making Zambia one of the biggest recipients of Chinese investment. I particularly liked how he spoke out against Mugabe (the Botswana president wouldn’t even attend the SADC talks because Mugabe was allowed to attend), and I wish he was better at the time to be able to go and criticize him personally/ Rest in peace.

We have violence all over including random acts of violence in places like Algeria and Somalia which has no real sense of government. The port city of Kismayu has now been captured by Somali “Islamists”.

A Sudanese commercial plane was hijacked and sent to Libya as it took off from Darfur towards Khartoum. Eventually the hijackers surrendered and freed the prisoners.


Well, you know I sing with this choir called UCT Choir for Africa. They are an alternative choir to the UCT Choir that sings Western music (I think they mean European or “classical”). It reminds me of an exact African version of my university gospel choir in the States. This is because they do gospel music (this means TRADITIONAL African music that sings about God) and then try to do some classical style music (this means someone who wrote a song in the classical style but still used Xhosa/Zulu/Ndebele/Sepedi, etc. words). The funny thing is that most people don’t read. So if you are musician it can be painful to sit in a room while people learn by rote when you are used to having your music learned BEFORE coming to rehearsal because rehearsal is not for learning music. I almost left my college gospel choir when I first joined because of this. You could fall asleep. I learned to bring a book while they worked on other parts. I even remember Tatiana Ali (Ashley on Fresh Prince) falling asleep while waiting and never coming back after 3 or so rehearsals. It’s hard. People don’t come on time; they don’t respond to e-mails, they don’t bring uniforms, etc. There is one cute Afrikaans girl who tries soooo hard; she is the de facto secretary. She gets frustrated sometimes. I tried to tell her it’s a different culture and not to worry about the time and stuff. But someone just brought up on Monday (a Black African) whether rehearsal starts at 6:30 or 7.

Well, we were invited to a choir festival organized by the Catholic Association (Kolby House). Little did we know that only 3 choirs were invited, one singing 1 song, another singing 2, and us singing 3. So it was over VERY quickly. Our choir bolted after we were done. I stayed along with a few others including the frustrated girl. It was fun because they opened it up for people to sing and a few girls from one choir came and did three more songs. And one choir did another. It was still done pretty early, but it just reminded me why I like music so much. I really miss singing and music and choirs. And so I’m glad I joined this one in stead of waiting for my church to make up its mind about when/how the choir will start there.

Right after the choir festival I went to the national-class theatre on campus, the Baxter Theatre, to watch a Dance Festival. Each performance is a medley of different small performance in the genres of modern, jazz, and African dance. It was especially nice for me because these styles can be especially moving to me coming from a perspective of seeing similar styles in the US. I have even had the opportunity to do some music-dance collaborations where I am singing and people are dancing. And when it’s done to spirituals and the dancer(s) can dance with authority, presence, passion, and soul, it’s powerful! This was somewhat more of the same. It wasn’t mind-blowing but perhaps that’s because I slept through most of it. It was dark and late. But what I saw was good. African dance doesn’t seem that African but I haven’t seen most of it.

I’m trying to get an agent for acting work but no luck so far. We’ll see what turns up if anyone will take a temporary foreigner. Maybe, maybe not.

And I was super excited about writing. Every time I am at university again, I try to do something else new. Someone (actually many have) said that I like to busy. That is furthest from the truth. If you look at my activities (even where my money goes) it’s all aligned with certain things—passions, loves, burdens, etc. I don’t blindly, haphazardly, or flippantly stay busy. I’m pursuing something. Anyway, I’ve wanted to write and the UCT paper, Varsity, is not so great.

As you can see, they don’t even have a proper website. Well, either they do and I didn’t find it, or they only have a blog. But I found a publication that I wanted to be a part. It’s called the UCT Globalist. It’s world affairs/societal issues magazine that only comes out semesterly (so semi-annually). I happened upon a meeting for it and the guys encouraged me to send in a proposal. I did and they thought I wrote eloquently (my proposal was actually a mess and I didn’t think much of it). But they just had one question in their response (e-mail) before they chose which options I should (though they liked all): “Are you an undergraduate or honours student?” No, I’m a postgraduate student. “Sorry, we can only have undergraduates and honours students write.” Bummer.

I just came back (Thursday August 28, 2008) from a friend’s performance in Café Sofia, a café in the town of the University. It was really great to see him (drummer) and his band (new bass player, lead singer/guitarist, keyboardist/wife of guitarist) do their thing. They are still growing and getting better but still courageously performing at their current level. It was great. They had something to say and they said it. I appreciated them. And I miss seeing performers more and performing. It made me happy. I also watched the guitarist’s fingers.

Here are some books related to the section on South Africa:
Selling Sex in Cape Town by Chandre Gould and Nicole Fick
Sugar Girls and Seamen by Henry Trotter

And Music you should check out:
Dr. Victor and the Rasta Rebels
Favorite songs: “If You Want to Be Happy For the Rest of Your Life” (. . .Never Make a Beautiful Woman Your Wife) [I tried to explain this concept to my Ghana kids team and chaperones but all the girls and women through vegetables at me]

“Women Smarter” (women are smarter than men)

When I did a kids camp back in March I think it was I was unsure as to why my cabin called me Dr. Victor. I honestly thought they could see something prestigious in me or something. What a laugh. I didn’t know that “SA’s #1 reggae group” was Dr. Victor and the Rasta Rebels. Everyone calls me Doc V now.

Here’s a note from a friend who has a new movie out. If you will, go out and support it.

Dear Friends and Family,

We are extremely thrilled to write to you about the upcoming release of our movie PING PONG PLAYA beginning September 5th! It's an exciting time--but here's where we need your help. We'll let the movie speak for itself (if the reactions of people who have seen the movie is any indication, we firmly believe you won't be disappointed), but we need your help to spread the word about the release of the movie. Independent movies don't have the marketing budget to compete against the mammoth studio movies, but what we do have is intense, strong word-of-mouth (just check out any of a number of our reviews--from outlets large and small, from critics, bloggers, and chat room posters alike).

Please help us continue to spread the word and come check out the movie opening weekend (Sept 5--LA/SF/NY; Sept 12--Seattle/Houston).

Our website:

And if you know of any friends w/ websites or blogs that want to support the film by putting up our banner ads, please download here:

See you at the theaters soon,

Jimmy Tsai
Writer/Co-Producer/2nd Assistant Production Accountant

Jessica Yu

Joan Huang

Anne Clements

Jeffrey Gou
Executive Producer

UPDATE August 16, 2008

1. Name a type of food where you would normally find Durum?
2. Which of the following is not an onion? Leek Fennel Spring Onion
3. What is the youngest country in the world?
4. In which country would you find a smorgasbord?
5. Name 11 countries with oil.
6. If you could only learn 3 languages, which 3 languages would take you the farthest across the world without needing a translator?
7. What is the basic ingredient used to make hummus?
8. Out of turkey, chicken, goose, and gammon which
9. Which one doesn’t belong in the group?
Omelette pancakes soufflé fondue
10. Botulism is a rare form of what?
11. Champignon is the French word for what?
12. Which one doesn’t belong in the group?
Lasagna risotto fettuccine ravioli

August 15, 2008

As always I have things to correct. I was told I should note Rachael’s spelling of her name. But I thought I did spell it correctly. So perhaps since I wrote her name a few times I did not spell it correctly every time. It’s R-a-c-h-a-e-l. And if you go to her home country in the Caribbean they don’t even pronounce it how you would pronounce Rachel (different spelling).

My great theatre friend Birte who I know solely because she took the initiative to reach out to me after seeing me perform somewhere which opened up a great e-mail friendship (she was an exchange student who now is back studying in Germany) told me about another group similar to couch surfing. She didn’t give a website but they are called hospitality groups. So you can also look for them, as well.

Let’s see. Oh, I do not live in the same city as Haley. Some people still think that.

And about development—I will respond to that next time.

I received a wonderful call from friend Peter (lawyer-pastor and college roommate who is a passionate man who likes to dominate in a game called Zang).
Let’s see. Interesting week involving AIDS.
First, I passed my final aural exam and am now a certified HIV/AIDS pre and post test counselor!!! Yay. So now I get to go back to work on Wednesdays and not feel like I need to make it up on the weekend. My church will open up a counseling center for HIV/AIDS and crisis pregnancy counseling. The crisis pregnancy counseling certification requires more work, but this is done at home on your own time, so it’s much better!! They have been praying for male counselors, so here I go. Perhaps it will open in late Spring (Octo-Novemb). We shall see.

Second, UCT had its semesterly HIV/AIDS testing on campus. Like I said, there are two things you should never have to pay for in South Africa—normal condoms and HIV tests. Now, even though the business school is down by the water and the fine arts/drama campus is in town (downtown) and the medical/health sciences is a few kilometers away closer to town and the college of music and dance is slightly downhill, UCT has 20,000.
The testing place had seats for (I’m estimating) 150. If you add people who are sitting with pre-test counselors plus those being tested plus sitting with post-test counselors in booths, you could handle 170. And the event went from 9-4 for three days, Tuesday-Thursday. Guess what? You’re right you guessed it. It was never filled or packed. Stigma.

Even I thought “What if someone sees me going in?” Once I went in I felt better. It was a normal and a good thing. The pre-test counselor scared me because she said you could have HIV without engaging in risky sexual behavior, just accidentally bumped into someone with cut and sores and you had an opening, etc. It’s interesting because in the US, no one would ever suggest that you could have HIV and you should get tested because you might have gotten accidentally be touching blood or being in an accident. So now, even though I haven’t engaged in extramarital sex and saved it for marriage, I’m freaking out. Do I have it, do I not have it (remember just the day before I had to pretend to be a client for my fellow counselors-in-training and I was crying as they delivered the news to me twice [confirmation test] that I was HIV-positive). And so it was interesting now to be on the opposite side or to be the client again but now in a real situation and not acting. I was fine. I’m HIV-negative. But it let me know the anxiety you can feel. The course really overdid the rigor or standard of the training. The counseling is much easier, relaxed, and natural then they made it to be. And we were held to a much higher standard. For instance, if your pre-test counseling session ended before 40 minutes, you lost points. We had to dive into the client’s full sexual history, frequency of partners, children, life story, emotional lives, etc. These people didn’t do that though they did go over basics (window period, difference between HIV and AIDS, modes of transmission, etc.). My pre-test counselor finished with me in 15 minutes. I told my post-test counselor that I was just certified to do the same thing. She looked into my eyes and told me I would make a good counselor because I have great eye contact. I wondered if she would buy me lunch because I didn’t have money on me. We had a good conversation, and she knew my church. I only told her I was certified because she started those same questions again that you get in pre-test counseling—do you know modes of safe sex, modes of transmission, difference between AIDS and HIV.


I have been paid back for my infamous shark-biting experiment (some of you would use the word ruse). Well, the finger the shark bit was now burned as I was trying to poor a hot water into a hot water bottle for Autumn while she was visiting. Anna’s mother was sleeping in the living room and I was trying to poor this in the dark. Well the dark one. And boiling water fell onto my thumb. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. I just stood there as it boiled my skin, feeling, feeling, feeling. It was like I was electrocuted. Luckily the nerves were numbed a bit. The pain came later at night as I was trying to sleep. It was actually a bit funny. In general your brain gets like 100,000,000 messages a second, but only 200 to 300 make it pass your brain stem. It does some type of traffic control or prioritization. Just because your ankle tells you there’s a nice breeze down there doesn’t mean you need to attend to it now, especially because your eyes are saying a car is coming and you need to MOVE.

Your nerves have a threshold level before a message is sent to your brain. When you go to sleep, this threshold level is raised, so it takes something much hotter or colder or sharper or painful for you to feel it (when my allergies get really bad, my body naturally raises the level and makes me feel sleepy as if to feel less of the miserable allergies). So as I was sleeping that night, the pain on my thumb would grow and wake me up, I would realize it was my thumb and run more lukewarm water on it to cool it or put some lotion. And then I would fall asleep. Then the pain would grow and wake me up again. And then I would laugh (maybe just in retrospect). I stopped trying to do something about it. It’s just a bit funny when I think about it. Now underneath the burned skin that has already peeled, I can see red and it reminds me how newborn babies are a much lighter color as the skin is more translucent at that point. My skin is like that now.

I’m taking this marriage prep course offered by my church because it’s good to take it, but I really wanted to take the marriage course. That one is more about relationships. I helped serve food for these people, and the other waiters/servers felt awkward interrupting a couple in a dimly lit room with romantic music playing as they whispered sweet somethings (it sure was SOMEthing) in each other’s ears. Then you cough, “Ahem. .. .would you like some tea or whoopee--COffee.”

So this course, being a prep course, is more about administrative and preventative measures dealing with in-laws, finances, debt, conflict resolution (things that could break up marriages as my good teacher friend Ross says). Thankfully there was one on attraction (15 min) and another upcoming on sexual intimacy. On the Tuesday night with the attraction talk (also in-laws and something else that day), the woman leading it said that sometimes it’s so difficult to get men to come to these things because they feel it’s for people with broken relationships. And I honestly though “Me, me me!!! That’s me!” For some reason it doesn’t feel so natural to go to this and the only thing I can think is pride. I’m prideful. I love to read and learn and dive into other things, so why not this. It must be pride. I would LIKE to say that it’s because I get tired of going to a workshop on how to father and then a conference on forgiveness after reading a book on reconciliation before going to a seminar on family values and—you get the point. I’m at the point where I honestly feel you can handle all of those things at a certain base commonality. How you father, forgive, reconcile, run a family, etc. can stem and stem well from learning one thing—you thought I was going to say it. I won’t but remind me in a few months and I’ll let you know. And so I like to focus on that. But some would just call it pride. Ha ha ha! Makes me laugh. I’m enjoying it though (except when people ask you where you spouse is and after you explain she’s in a different city the say “Oh, I’m sorry.” I feel like standing up and making an announcement to the entire group to explain that no one must feel sorry for me ever again. I’m doing ok and trying to learn. It’s only when you emphasize that I’m alone is it reinforced in my head. That’s when they remind me that when the speaker asks everyone to discuss something with their partner/spouse and I simply write things down in my journal that THAT should be reminder enough!! I laugh. It’s good and fun. Trying to learn. One guy asked a question about a comment that Jesus made about there not being marriages in heaven. The speaker wasn’t sure and suggested the pastor should come and talk about it. But I wanted to talk about it since I think I have some insight on it and Rob Bell discusses it in “Sex God.” Whew! Long Parenthetical note).


On August 2nd, a tutoring program was started. I tried to join the fact that this Cape Town suburban school for kids (mostly black) from two townships (New Crossroads and Gugulethu) needs tutors/mentors with the fact that my life group needs to get more others-focused. So instead of me going myself, I tried to get my life group (all students) to volunteer. The problem was that university students are notorious for lack of commitment and the school was already wary. So I had good talks with my life group about being sure you could commit. We divided us into two groups—those who could commit every Saturday for one term (a quarter, one half of a semester) and those who might come less (biweekly or monthly). Out of 15, only 3 would commit to every Saturday for only six Saturdays (it would be 8 but last weekend was Women’s Day and in one week is a parent-teacher day on Saturday). So we started it on August 2nd with Autumn. It was a nice start with Autumn and two other girls from my life group. But now one of the two girls started a marriage prep course after committing to the tutoring. The course is going away for the weekend and having some sessions out of town. I’m sitting in or taking the course, too, but I committed first to the tutoring so I’m not going. She is. And I feel sad about that because I have to tell the school one of the committed girls (who drives the other girl) will not be coming. I wanted to avoid that. The kids were so precious. We went around the first week with each person giving one thing that causes despair or worry and one thing that gives hope. DO you know at least ¼ of them said what gives them hope was our presence and that they know they will pass and do well because we’re there (and we had not even started any tutoring or mentoring!). Wow.


I know this is the name of some magazine which I believe was started by Billy Graham, but I just read an article about Rick Warren perhaps being the next one. And I admit he’s highly influential. I have seen no Christian book that pervasive with so many copies sold around the world. It’s huge (“Purpose Driven Life”). And though Osteen is huge and TD Jakes as well, this article in the Economist said that their appeal is staggered by their prosperity theology. But I was just trying to imagine if one of these newer, unorthodox, young guys ever became the advisor to the president. Let me see if I can explain.

A Christian magazine (the one that bears the title of this section) in a September 2006 issue named two new movements/philosophies as the two hottest things in Christianity today (I think they mean Western Christianity to be correct): the new Reformed Movement (Mark Driscoll [formerly part of Emergent Church movement] out of Seattle) and the Emergent Church movement (Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, etc.). Funny enough I’m sandwiched between these two as I read and agree a lot with the latter and go to church in the former (my Cape Town church is the same group of churches [New Frontiers, founded by the same original New Frontier Church] New Frontiers churches). The New Reformed is characterized by urban growth, charismatic churches, massive church planting, being missional, complementarianism (men and women being equal but should have different roles with the man leading and the woman submitting) etc. The Emergent Church Movement (not a well-defined movement, just a bunch of guys who happened to say similar things) is defined by simplicity, back-to-basics, Jesus-following, social relevance, living interpretation meaning-for-today messages. It’s the type of thing for young adults and college people who are burnt out on religion and church and see no point in it. Guys like Donald Miller and Anne Lamott share their faith in real ways to make you feel like they are real people and this is possible. It’s that sort of feel. Funny enough, both Rob Bell (go out and read every book by him—there are only two) and Mark Driscoll named their church Mars Hill after the Greek site where the 1st century apostle Paul spoke to Greek people about God (Acts 18).

In that scene you find Paul quoting Greek poets and writers and referring to their objects of worship. Rob Bell uses this to wonderfully point not to a new model of mission but (he and I feel though he never said) the original model of missions. In the traditional paradigm, with a missionary and the people, who has God? . .. . . that’s right—the missionaries. Who doesn’t? . .. that’s also right God. But you see here Paul points to the presence of God in the lives of the people. So missions isn’t about taking God to people who are Godless, it’s about identifying God already with the people. And I see it all around me. I actually remember telling Kate about how I could see God in her or God working in her. It’s really great to watch her; I’m not sure where she is at faith-wise, but she is going to start tithing, not to a church, but to good loving works. I thought that was great. She reminds me of relational tithing.

So I encourage you to go out and read “Blue Like Jazz” or “Searching for God Knows What” by Donald Miller or any of Rob Bell’s books (“Velvet Elvis”, “Sex God”) or Anne Lamott (“Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith”, “Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith”, “Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith”) or Shane Claiborne (“Irresistible Revolution”, “Jesus for President”). Outside of Rob Bell, the rest are not pastors or clergy, just non-clergy people (and so maybe I shouldn’t connect them to the Emerging Church movement). These people have a sense for what it means to be human and what it means to follow Jesus. What I especially like is that say at churches similar to these people, churches like Mars Hill in Michigan or Riverside in Houston, etc. everyone is welcome. This has not been a problem in minority communities where everyone knows who is the prostitute or the pimp or the gang member or the drug pusher or the drop-out or the teacher or the lawyer. This refers mainly to white churches I grew up in where you don’t know that anyone has any issues or struggles. Take for instance my student life group. Outside of me (I’m not considered the same as a black South African because I’m American) there is only one black guy. He struggles with issues of identity, acceptance (by whites), manhood, race, polygamy of his father and competing families, pornography, etc. But when he goes to our meetings everyone seems perfect to him without a care or problem. They give the PERFECT answers and they grapple with nothing. It discourages him. For him, it’s important that I share my struggles because he doesn’t feel normal or human in that group. Even though a majority of adult males in almost all churches (over 50%) view pornography you would not know it. You wouldn’t know of any issues, who is cheating on tax returns, who is embezzling, etc. And in many churches that I grew up in, someone who is poor or an ex-con, someone who is dirty or smelly, someone who is a prostitute or a gang-member does not only feel uncomfortable but also feels unwelcome. And these places (like Riverside Church in Philly) admit to the brokenness of us all and they accept you as you are. If you want to quit smoking, don’t worry. You can work it out; for now, come and join and we’ll quit together. The overriding over-defining characteristic is not theology but love. It’s not perfection but faith through the communal journey.

All this is to say that these guys make me laugh sometimes. Again I don’t think Christians should worry about hot new movements and I definitely don’t think there should be a top 20 list of most powerful or influential youth pastors (I think it can be a numbers game; you can’t get on if you go to a small church). But I wanted to show a funny picture. Look at all the respectable guys, the nice smiles the beautiful poses, the authority and command.

Now look at #19 on the list. This guy is the youth leaders at Mars Hill in Michigan, Rob Bell’s church. You kinda get what I mean. Silly. Some see this as posturing though, like they are trying to be too real instead of being real. And perhaps that’s true for the picture and the youth pastor at the time of the taking. But I invite you to jump with me as you read “Velvet Elvis,” and you’ll see it’s true.

1 I am well aware that many people do not consider them to be such. There are varying degrees of it depending on how much it is mentioned or which words are used, but to the most sensitive, it is present in their teachings. Regardless, one cannot deny that they have both helped sooo many people out of tough situations and circumstances. And we are all grateful for positive influences.