weekend sporting fun
"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)
Well, thank God that Al Mohler knows what God has called me to do with my life.
By the way, for those of you looking for really snarky, weekly Longhorns commentary, I get a kick out of 54b Blog, which publishes every Thursday during the season. Here's a sample from his pre-season analysis:
Rick Perry commutes a death sentence.
Nkunda's forces attacked the FARDC (the Congolese army) before dawn this morning at Katale, a town just south of Masisi, 60 kilometers to the northwest of Goma. Reports say that somewhere between 1,000 - 2,500 men were involved in the offensive, with the goal of taking the headquarters of FARDC's Charly brigade, where 1,000 FARDC troops are posted. The fighting lasted 5-6 hours, and Charly brigade managed to hold onto Katale. No doubt they had plenty of assistance from MONUC.
This is the best thing I've read on the so-called worship wars in a long time. Mark Labberton, the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley, CA reflects on worship and justice in this piece that you should definitely read. A snippet:
I am really worried about North Kivu. Reports like those on this blog are becoming more and more common, incidents of low-level violence, though normal, are more frequent, the Rwandans are pushing for military action against the FDLR (and the Ugandans are echoing their calls), and desertions from the army (always a sure sign that something is about to happen) are on the rise. There have been a couple of incidents in the last week on the Sake-Masisi road, which is one of the places serious trouble could start if it starts at all.
Professor Deutsch made the BBC. Oh, yeah, she did!
In an ongoing effort to get my students interested in politics, I try to touch on a current event or two in each class session, and to relate it to what we're talking about if possible. Since today was the first day, I just asked an open question, with the caveat that it couldn't have anything to do with Michael Vick, and with the assumption that surely someone would know something about the Gonzales resignation. Here's what happened:
Ah, the first day of school. Some things never change. This is my (gulp!) sixth year at UT, so certain aspects of the first day back have become routine. There will always be clueless freshmen clogging the buses and wandering the halls of the wrong building while searching for their classes. The Gideons will greet you at the edges of campus and hand you a little green New Testament, without fail. Quick reunions with friends and colleagues who were spread to the edges of the earth will take place in stairwells and the computer lab as you rush to print class rosters before the bell rings. Students will look confused when you tell them that if they text message during class, you'll make them leave.
Today is a momentous occasion. Not only is it the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, as well as Texas in Africa's 25th consecutive First Day of School, today also marks two years since I started writing at Texas in Africa. It's hard to believe that so much time has passed since I thought up the name on a bus ride between Congo and Kigali. The original goal of the blog was rooted in the knowledge that I would be spending a lot of time in the region over the next few years. I didn't want to keep flooding my friends' and family's inboxes with emails, so I thought that starting a blog would be a great way to keep in touch during my extended stays in central Africa. So when I got back from that first trip in 2005, I decided to get into the habit of blogging by writing about football, live music, politics, and the scandal at Baylor.
This morning I tried to blister Hatch chiles for the first time. I don't really know what it means to "blister" chiles, except that it has something to do with separating the skin from the meat of the chile and that it requires use of a broiler. According to the directions from New Mexico State University's Agricultural Extension office that Central Market was handing out, however, it's easier to peel them after freezing the chiles. So, basically, this means that I won't know for six months or so whether I did it right. They turned brown. My house smells like green chiles. I'm sure it's close enough.
Well, it's Tuesday, so I thought I'd finally get around to posting about my excellent first weekend back in Austin. It was so nice to finally have time to just hang out, clean the mess that is my apartment after returning from the Congo, and unpack. (Yes, I still had unpacking to do. Who are you to judge?)
"There needs to be a distinction between one's personal enemies and the enemies of God, said Sister Thomas Bernard MacConnell, founder of the Spirituality Center on the campus of Mount St. Mary's College and a veteran teacher of spiritual direction. 'It is very possible that my enemies are not God's enemies,' she said. Referring to Drake's targets, she added, 'Who is to say that those people are God's enemies?"
Here's a loaded Google search that led someone to Texas in Africa: "how do you know if God calls you to Africa".
Alberto Gonzales has resigned. About 9 months too late. And on a Monday morning, which is the worst possible time in the news cycle to do something like this. Anyway, I'm glad that Gonzales finally did the right thing. Some of his actions as Attorney General and White House Counsel were absolutely appalling in their violations of the basic principles upon which the United States of America was founded. It's going to take years to undo the mess this administration created when it decided to use torture, and to alienate most of our allies in the world. Gonzales' resignation is a small, but very necessary first step.
Here we have it: the ten worst polluters in Austin.
Yesterday was the day that has become an annual tradition, and which I try to limit to one per year: the day I deal with UT's mind-boggling bureaucracy. This is the day when I psych myself up to stand in lines, pay bills, sign forms, and be as pleasant as possible while trying to distract myself from the 99% humidity outside. And also to dodge all the freshmen and their parents, who are wandering around confused, carrying armloads of books and t-shirts from the University Co-op.
Here comes the fight. Troop desertions are always a clear sign.
So a 17-year-old figured out how to unlock the iphone this morning. Instructions are here (get your soldering iron ready!). He's not planning to start a business unlocking phones, because he leaves for his freshman year of college in two days. The current confirmed eBay bid for the phone is $25,000. Is this a great country or what?!?
It's about time.
Two things for the moment, oddly related:
I've been thinking about translation lately, and it's not just because I went to see my sister in Waco yesterday (although that was wonderful). It's not just because Betsy gave me a beautiful copy of a letter about Ann that included a John Donne quote on translation (although I'll definitely be sharing that quote later). And it's not even because I spent the whole summer jumping between languages, trying to find the right way to express what I meant (although that certainly has something to do with it.).
The contrasts could not be more stark.
I'm giving my students the citizenship test today. Here's hoping they're all this well informed:
I had a great post this morning, but blogger won't let me publish it. I'll try again after class.
"Karl Rove figured out a long time ago that the way to take an intellectually incurious draft-averse naughty playboy in a flight jacket with chewing tobacco in his back pocket and make him governor of Texas, was to sell him as God's anointed in a state where preachers and televangelists outnumber even oil derricks and jack rabbits. Using church pews as precincts Rove turned religion into a weapon of political combat -- a battering ram, aimed at the devil's minions, especially at gay people." - Bill Moyers
Here's a handy guide to this year's NCAA rules changes. Thank goodness they got rid of the stupid clock nonsense from last year.
I'm not blogging this week. Really.
The iPhone is unlockable. Good for them.
New York. From $20 cab rides in Nairobi with friendly old men driving to a Manhattan cab driver with an attitude problem and little knowledge of Brooklyn. From pleasantly chilly 65-degree days to August in America.
London is gray and chilly, because it’s August, and because it’s London. I’m only here for two hours because my flight from Nairobi arrived 45 minutes late. But it’s just enough time for what is becoming a re-entry routine: a stop at the drugstore to buy all the things you can’t buy in the states (Sudafed with no ID scan! The world’s best after-sun lotion – on sale at buy one get one free!), and then over to the Starbucks. Nevermind that I never but never go to Starbucks at home. Here they have paninis and fruit blends, and it’s the only decent food in Terminal Four. Starbucks Heathrow also has the distinct advantage of being directly across from the only public power outlet in Terminal Four. Miraculously, no one else was using it today, so I’ve got time to recharge my laptop. Ah, Western civilization.
It's another last night in Africa. Here at the Methodist Guest House, there's a constant stream of short-term mission-trippers, a pastors' conference, and other assorted people who are in and out. I spend most of my time in my third-floor room, watching the sky, seeing what's on television (Big Brother Africa is back. It's that, John Hagee, competitive whitewater rafting, or some really bad movies.), and repacking my bags for the last time. Today I did some shopping and went to see an afternoon showing of The Simpsons movie. And ate at Java House for both breakfast (huevos rancheros) and dinner (chicken quesadillas).
Karl! Say it ain't so! Who else will we mock? Who else will nearly run over us at the Willard? Who else will be on our flights and in our offices? Who else's face will be on the clocks I send to Melissa the Missionary as housewarming gifts? Who else's cottage in Ingram will we accidentally rent out for the weekend? Who else's bed will we mockingly jump on?* What are we going to do?!?
I am shopping and packing in Nairobi today and have nothing inspiring for you. So, in the absence of thoughtfulness, here's a super-popular Swahili hip-hop song that's all the rage in eastern and central Africa. It's called "Regina" and is by a Tanzanian artist named Akil the Brain (featuring Steave 2k!).
I can't decide if #2 or #3 is my favorite.
I went to Malawi! Our plane stopped there on the way back from Lusaka. I stuck my head outside the window and breathed in the air just for my sister's sake. Hee-hee!
Here's a great reflection from Lyn on "A Good Day in Goma."
Today was a laid-back day in Livingstone. I was really worn out (and sore!) from rafting and all the other crazy things I've been doing this week, so I slept in a bit, then went over to the Royal Livingstone for a massage in their open-air white canvas tents which face the Zambezi. You get a massage while watching the mist rise from the Falls. Incredible and very relaxing.
Here's a great post reminding us that Africa is not all starving-children-in-the-streets / expensive safaris and adventure travel.
Interesting poll from the ONE Campaign out today. Here's the part I find most fascinating/compelling:
Rafting the Zambezi has been on my To-Do List for a long, long time. It did not disappoint - class V rapids, a put-in under Victoria Falls, and the most spectacular scenery you can imagine. I went with Safari Par Excellence, which I would recommend with reservations. The group of 53 was entirely too large, and they were a bit disorganized (and the whole breakfast thing meant that we stood around for well over an hour waiting to go), but we got through safely, which at the end of the day is the only thing that really matters.
The essence of Laurent Nkunda, warlord extraordinaire. Read that last bit about the Rwandans' view. It's coming.
Victoria Falls is beautiful beyond anything you can believe. If you ever have the chance, you must come here. It's just indescribably lovely. I went to the park on the Zambian side yesterday to have a look. There's fall after fall after fall, and you're seeing less than half of it from this bank. It makes Niagara Falls look like something small and insignificant.
Tuesday afternoon I went on a ridiculously quaint trip to Livingstone Island. Quite honestly, this was an afterthought, an impulse purchase at the booking office, if you will. But, wow, was it worth every penny. The tour left from upper Zambezi at the Royal Livingstone hotel (which is the fanciest ($550/night) joint in town and is a place for those who like their colonialism up-to-the-minute) in a flat-bottom boat that raced through the rapids and came alarmingly close to the edge of the Falls.
When they said, "It's the island closest to the top of the Falls," I didn't realize they meant, "Livingstone Island is actually in the middle of the Falls." As in, on the edge. In the middle. It was one of the coolest things I've ever done, even with the creepily friendly guides who insisted on taking way more pictures of us than we wanted taken. They're required to hold your hand while you're scrambling down the wet rocks to the edge (losing a customer would be bad for business), but my guy wanted to hold my hand for just a bit too long. After admiring the various views, we sat down under a tent for a ridiculous high tea, complete with Pims punch and all the finger sandwiches you could want.
As previously mentioned, Vic Falls is also the adventure capital of southern Africa. This is great as I'm getting a vacation that's both relaxing and active. I've been in the Victoria Falls area for about 48 hours now. So far I have done two stupid things that could get me killed.
First, I bungi jumped off the 102-year-old Victoria Falls bridge, which at 111 meters was until recently the world's highest commercial jump (that's longer than a football field, people). I really thought it would be like skydiving where I'd want to go, but they'd have to push me because my body would refuse to go, but they counted down from 5 and when they yelled, "Bungi!" I just jumped. The freefall was exhilirating and terrifying, the bouncing was a strange sensation, and hanging upside down over the roaring Zambezi rapids is not for the faint of heart. What a rush! I was still shaking when they pulled me back up to Cecil Rhodes' bridge. and I will never do it again, but I would not have missed the experience for the world.
Today, I went abseiling, "flying," and gorge swinging in the 5th Batoka Gorge. So the deal with Victoria Falls is that the Zambezi has been carving out gorges for millions of years. There are 8 gorges, each of which once was a powerful waterfall like the one we see now, and the river is in the process of carving out another one. The gorges run roughly perpindicular to the river's course, and in the 5th gorge, a company has set up some super cool ways to jump off of the edge.
I decided that half a day would be enough and found myself in a group with four British kids and their father, who was only there to take pictures. (They were nice as could be and all terrified of each activity until they tried it, after which time they couldn't stop talking about how much they loved it. The only bad thing was when Lucy's hair got caught in the ropes on abseiling. Which had to have been quite unpleasant.) Anyway, first we did the Flying Fox, which is like being on a zip line, only you're attacked to the wire on your back, so you're "flying."
It was so cool. You get a running start and launch out into the gorge, where it's unbelievably peaceful and quiet. You can see the river rushing in the distance, and it's just amazing. The kids weren't sure they wanted to try it, but when the younger brother, James, came back announcing that "The only thing you have to fear is the wedgie," they all decided to brave their fears. (James, by the way, was right.)
After that, we abseiled. Abseiling is basically the opposite of rock climbing. You're belayed and all that, but instead of working your way up the sheer rock face, you go down, lowering yourself backwards . As James put it (he came second, after the kids decided I should go first), once you figure out that you have to let go of the rope, it's easy. And fun. You just kindof bounce off the rocks with your legs, working your way down the face until you get to the end. As Lucy learned, it's not so pleasant when your hair gets stuck, but she was okay. We tackled the brutal hike out of the gorge together after that, before getting ready for the gorge swing.
The gorge swing is like nothing else. It's a bit like bungi jumping, in that you basically step off a cliff into a free fall, but you're not upside down, so it's slightly less terrifying. Or at least, it was for me. All four kids refused flat out to try it, until their father talked them into giving it a try. I went last; it was really cool. They'd warned me to keep the rope close to my chest, as losing it could cause whiplash. I stepped off the cliff and somewhere during the free fall, the rope jerked away. It didn't matter; I easily regained control and swung through the gorge in silence and wonder.
Tomorrow is the big day: rafting! I've been looking forward to rafting the Zambezi for a long time. I cannot wait!
I'm still alive, but my internet access has obviously been very limited. I'll be back to normal blogging tomorrow. For now, know that I made it here safely, I'm having a great time, and, yes, Professor Deutsch, I did it. Amazing. More to come...
I finished Harry Potter late Sunday night before leaving Nairobi. So now we're free to discuss it here on Texas in Africa. :)
323. I laughed when I saw the key to my room, because it's the same as the address at the house at which I mostly grew up. After a painfully early morning (the sun wasn't up when I entered the airport) and a pleasant flight, the shock of Nairobi hit like it always does. Skyscrapers, an efficient airport, paved roads, real shopping malls - this is still Africa, still the same latitude, even, but it's another world from the chaos of Congo and the sleepiness of Kigali. Even on Sunday, there's traffic and people are out and about.
Ah, the church of individualism.
Bukavu was once the capital of the old Kivu province (which was comprised of modern-day North Kivu, South Kivu, and Maniema provinces). Because of this, there are lots of big administrative buildings. To me it feels much more like a city than Goma. This is the old post office. It's now used as university classrooms and as who knows what else.
I woke up at 6 this morning, took a shower, got dressed, finished packing, and opened the curtains to see a group of soldiers playing leapfrog out by the lake. Apparently they're now having Saturday-morning karate lessons. By the time we left, they were practicing their chops and kicks. With gusto, as my mom would say.
We got to Kigali with plenty of time to make it to the stores before they close (at 1pm on Saturdays), so I changed to an earlier flight tomorrow, had pizza for lunch at my favorite Kigali restaurant, marvelled at Kigali's new mall, got some groceries, and found a copy of the American edition of Harry Potter #7. (We're not going to talk about how much that last one cost.) I head to Nairobi tomorrow at dawn. Somehow I'm guessing there won't be any leapfrogging soldiers there.
Olivier has become quite the photographer since I've taught him how to use the camera and the zoom, and how to get good lighting. Right now, we're working on remembering that it's very important to ask permission before you take someone's picture. (The poor cook got a little frightened the other day. Oops.)
My phone rang at 5:52 this morning.
My, my, we here at Texas in Africa certainly are getting hits from some interesting places. Apparently posting on troop presences in Goma gets all kinds of attention. (Hello, Department of Defense!)