Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Find of the Week

May 29, 2009

Friday Find of the Week

This was on the back of the toilet in the hotel. It’s kind of a cardboard air freshener. Triple the pleasure! The flowers are camouflage. It really brings the fresh aroma of urinal cake to the surrounds.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

US Embassy in Tanzania

The visit to the US Embassy was quite interesting. As you might imagine, the security is quite high. I wanted to take a picture of it but there are soldiers all around – even on the street. Pictures are banned. I would have especially liked to take a picture of the street sign with a silhouette of a camera and a NOT symbol over it. It would have been the ultimate Kodak moment.

To get in, I first signed in. Then they contacted the person I was meeting. After a while I was allowed through an airport type security. Then they took all my bags and my cell phones and took possession of them, checking them in. I was allowed to put my sport coat back on and take a pad and pen. Then to the next security checkpoint farther inside: this was airport plus with a full wand down. Oops, I had a camera in sport coat pocket. Not allowed.

When Mr. Fred Maeda came out to meet me, I asked if he might clear my lap top so that I could show my presentation. He explained that if I could arrange for the proper approvals, it would take more than a day for it to go through all the security checks. So, no.

After all this rigmarole, I did have a very good meeting. Fred Maeda and his boss, Carl Fox both joined me. Fred is a knowledgeable Tanzanian that had many connections. I expect many of them will be quite helpful.

Here is his picture. In order to get it, we had to leave the compound and walk down the street. He was kind enough to humor me on this.

African Music

I don't think that you could understand Africa without experiencing her music. I began my day invited to a prayer meeting next to the hostel. So after a cold shower at 5:30 am I wandered over into the service. As only one of two Mzungu (white person) filling the church, I was pretty obvious.

Picture a large church filled with singing people. No, see you don't understand if you haven't been to Africa. The few old hymns in the dozen that they did were anything but stodgy - even with an organ leading. And drums. And an electric guitar. And multipart harmony. And swaying. And a tenor song leader with a voice to call across the Grand Canyon. I would have taken a picture but it seemed to be so Spirit filled that it felt sacriligeous. Here's a picture taken later when the church was quiet.

There is music everywhere. On TV. On radios. Broadcast into restaurants. While I ate dinner, the music came over the speakers and there was a choir practicing in the courtyard. And as I headed to my room, I heard another choir at practicing at the church. It called to me so I went and listened. I tried to upload a clip of some music but the internet was just too slow. After more than an hour and a half of waiting, I gave up. So here's a picture of them practicing:

It's like rock music for choirs, but better.
African music is really special. Even when you don't know what their singing, it grabs your heart.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


May 27, 2009

A day of travel, planes and airports completed. Then I stepped into the evening air of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, moist with the exotic breezes of the Indian Ocean.

What does it mean to arrive?

As if one has ‘made it’. As if the journey was merely an inconvenience between here and there. As if something was complete. No, to arrive is to start, or rather, to start anew. The journey continues.

The best arrivals are accompanied with warm greetings – and so I was. Chilwa Kiliaki, once a friend of a friend and now a new friend, waited almost an hour for me to emerge from the airport. Greeting me with a sign and a smile, we hugged immediately. She had prepared the way and took me to my hotel.

And so here I am in the Lutheran Hostel in Dar, thousands of miles from home. As if journeys are to be seen as going and then returning: home and away.

But that is such an unsatisfying point of view.

On this long day of travel I can’t help but think about the many journeys of my life. Indeed, I can’t help but rethink the old analogy of life as a grand journey.

Looking back I see this strange zig-zag path: a mish-mash of career shifts, changing objectives, new friends, different views on life, etc. My path could be that of a drunken soldier on a crooked road lost in the dark.

C. S. Lewis once wrote upon arriving in heaven or hell a person would look back on their life and see a straight line leading directly there. I see what he means. When I look back, the zig-zags fade and I see a straight line leading to right here and right now. Someone recently told me this is like tacking in a sailboat: the boat must go back and forth to overcome – no, use – the wind to get to its port of call. I have felt this before in my life – when what from this vantage point I was off on one of those side paths. It was a straight line to that place, too.

Maybe this is what that ancient prophet meant by ‘the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain.’ We just need the perspective to see it.