About Me

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A man of many words. Profane, profound, loyal to a fault and a right rat bastard. I love the finer things in life: expensive cigars, cheap women and all the salted, cured meats I can eat. A friend to dogs, lover of humanity and despiser of people. If I were King the world would be a better place, because, well...I would be King! Oh, and I like ice cream.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Turkey Day (Unless you´re the bird)

Peace Corps policy is that we don´t get the day off for American holidays. So today is just another day in the Kalahari Desert. (if you work in Peace Corps headquarters you get both American AND Botswana holidays off. A total screw job in my opinion.)

Anyway, it doesn´t bother me. Although some yams with butter and gravy would go down pretty well. Maybe some fresh blackberry pie. And another slice of the bird. Don´t care if its light or dark meat. More gravy...

Where was I? Oh yeah, also Happy 62d Anniversary to my parents. I like to think they are living "Happily Ever After."

In other news: Monday, December 1st is World AIDS Day. Exactly two years ago on that date I received notification from Peace Corps sending me on my way.

I´ll be traveling up to Kasane on the Zimbabwe/Zambia border for the national commemoration. I see where the spread of AIDS worldwide appears to be stabilizing...except in southern Africa. Fifty percent of maternal deaths in Botswana are due to complications of AIDS. One in six children is an orphan. It´s a perfect storm.

Be of good cheer!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

And Then There Was One...

It was 1977. I´d gotten out of the Army the previous year. Was single. Twenty-seven years old. Getting fat.

I had tried playing racket ball to stay in shape. But there were few courts in Athens back then and court time was tough to get.

One day, while waiting for a court to open up I decided to jog around a bit to warm up. And thus the die was cast.

It wasn´t bad at first. I built up to three miles and stuck to it fairly well. Wasn´t looking for much more.

Then one day I was getting a haircut at Max Carsey´s shop down on Court Street. He had a copy of "Runner´s World." That did it. I was hooked.

Looooooooooong story short this morning my three mile jaunt brought me to mile number 99,999 lifetime. (I don´t count runs done in high school gym or Airborne shuffles. Just ´77 onward.)

Thirty-two and odd years. Forty marathons (Best- 2 hrs, 39 mins flat; Columbus 1984), 17 Bostons. Fastest mile- 5:03 (pedestrian), best 10Km- 33:42, best ten miler- 56:19, half marathon- 1:14:40.

In one eleven year stretch I recorded 44,000 miles, over 4,000 miles per year. I wonder how I was able to do it.

But tomorrow morning I´ll make my goal. A hundred grand by age 60. With weeks to spare.

Don´t think I have another hundred thou in me. But I still have a few. And the next day I´ll start on them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Five Years On...

Those who follow this blog know the significance of this day. Five years ago Jan, my wife of 25 years, passed away. And every year I post something on this date about her, about me, about what it´s like.

In the past year I´ve begun a sort of metamorphosis. I´ve written this post out on that topic about five different ways now. And none satisfy what I want to say.

But basically it boils down to this:

I´ll always love her. I´ll always remember her. But it´s time to fully engage in this life. I can´t continue to measure time by how long its been and what has been lost.

This blog is the Best of What´s Left. Not the Best of What´s Left Behind.

This is my last "Anniversary of" post. Of all people she would approve.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Paradise in the Indian Ocean

Just got back from nearly two weeks in Mauritius. Got re-certified in scuba after 36 years. With me is Cabrini. We had a wonderful time! Nuf said.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Artsy Fartsy

I did this over the weekend. From looking at my last post you can see my immediate inspiration. It was a combination mosaic/water colour (get that UK spelling?)with salt, Thokolosi salts (don't ask) and some kind of beans (mung?).

There's one part I'm particularly proud of. I posted this directly on facebook and no one got it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wild Kingdom Lives!

This was awesome. John John Kempf, the Afrikaaner guy who took us all out into the CKGR, was driving alongside these guys (or were they running alongside us?). I was laying on the roof of the Range Rover snapping away as we rolled over the plain. He was yelling "Are you getting this?" I'm yelling "Yahoo! Keep going! Keep going!"

It was a moment.

It's Not All Donkeys, Goats and Cattle...

I'm having a terrible time posting pictures on blogger. Hope at least this one comes through. Saw this big guy a few weeks ago when camping in the CKGR (Central Kalahari Game Reserve). He wasn't overly thrilled about giving ground. But we were two vehicles and he apparently didn't like the looks of us. We were a bit gamey at the time.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I Am Not Dead

Reliable sources inform me I have not posted here since April 29th.

My excuse is I have no excuse. Just haven´t heard the muse.


So...I´ve been in Peace Corps 14 months as of tomorrow. The day-to-day is pretty unremarkable.

Oh! I have started teaching reading at Rethuseng, the local Junior Secondary School. Forms two and three. That´s like 9th and 10th grades. About 30 and odd kids in each class. Once a week.

So far I´ve done it once. It was fun. Their reading level is below what I´d expect for kids that age. But that´s just me. Overall they seem nice. It´s something to do that feels good.

I´m closing in on 100,000 miles run lifetime (not counting the army). I want to hit that milestone by my 60th birthday. Got less than 500 miles and about seven months to do it. Shouldn´t be a problem.

Starting to think about life post-Peace Corps. Got some ideas, but don´t want to discuss them here yet.

Otherwise everything goes well here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jiminey Cricket!!!

This is a Corn Cricket. They are huge. Apparently when the Corn Crickets appear that means the end of the bug season. I've been seeing them all over for more than a month though. And there's still a lot of bugs around.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This Is Teaspoon!

The happiest dog in the 'ville of Charles Hill. Teaspoon started life as the pet of a former Peace Corps volunteer in nearby Karakubis. When she left her boyfriend moved to Chuck.

People in Botswana typical treat dogs with the care and tenderness usually reserved for rats in your pantry. To show kindness or affection is somewhat akin to pure lunacy.

But Teaspoon was weaned on Americans. And she LOVES to run with the other PCV in the village and me. She can't understand why we can't keep up with her. Naturally she was spayed early on. So her teats don't drag in the dust like most feral dogs around here. Also she mightily enjoys showing off her speed when she goes after various goats, cattle, chickens, donkeys and other quadrupeds.

If I happen to be out at night Teaspoon comes along for escort service. Of course I have to give her a reward.

Just one of the treats of African village living.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

One Year In Peace Corps (Amended from Yesterday)

So today marks one year since I pulled out of Columbiana, looked across Arrowhead Lake for (what I hope) the last time and headed to Cleveland for the short flight to Philadelphia and the Peace Corps..

So today marks one year since I pulled out of Columbiana, looked across Arrowhead Lake for (what I hope) the last time and headed to Cleveland for the short flight to Philadelphia and the Peace Corps..

Ordinarily I do my year in review on January 1st. But this is a more significant date.

So what has transpired in the last 365 days?

First, the raw numbers:
Miles run-978 (My lowest since 1977, yet still on pace to hit 100,000 miles by my 60th birthday. I only have to average 2.5 per day, not as easy as it sounds, but eminently doable.)
Countries visited- five (South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and Swaziland, in that order)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites visited- Squat. (Not a good year for cultural and historical edification.)
Books Read – 113 (Not bad. Lot’s of alone time. Also explains why my Setswana is so bad. Ga ke bua Setswana sentle!)
Times I’ve ALMOST sold my house- Three (Last time was close. Within five days of the closing the buyer lost his job. Curses!)

So what else? Phew! Lots!

The reason my companeros and I came here is to help in the fight against HIV/AIDS. I doubt any of us had much of an idea how hard that thing is. You know, as bad as it was, AIDS in the US was brought under “control” relatively quickly. Certainly it could have been handled MUCH better (Read “And the Band Played On…”). But the Grim Reaper no longer hovers over every potential sexual encounter like he did in the late 1980s-early 90s.

Would that it were so easy here. We are up against so many variables it boggles the mind. Every couple months it seems a new focus arises. ABC (Abstinence, Be Faithful, Condomize). Circumcision. Multiple Concurrent Partners. Sexual Networks. So far no magic bullets.

BILLIONS of Dollars, Euros, Yen, Yuan and Pula have been poured into this over the last 20 and odd years. Yet the problem ceases to go away. Or even get much better. Whole bureaucracies have sprung up around the banner of HIV/AIDS. I can’t even begin to keep track of all the NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations).

I can’t be expected to understand it all and/or what it will take to make any difference.

I have to self-censor this blog because Peace Corps monitors blogs and what we say. But here is my current opinion (subject to change tomorrow. Or even this afternoon.):

First of all one must recognize that historically Africa has been a hard place to survive. I often say for untold millennia Africa has been a pretty easy place to wake up dead on a given morning. Bugs, snakes, Africanized bees, malaria, dengue, Yellow Fever, wars, big animals that like to eat you. Africa has it all. For 200,000 (or is it two million?) years evolution here has been developed to ensure survival of the fittest. I don’t want to go into everything I think that entails. But suffice it to say it’s a life-pattern significantly different from what we in the west call “normal.”.

The influence of the western world in Africa has only been for around 150 years, give or take. Most countries here were colonized by the “Great Powers” in the late nineteenth century. Independence came to Africa barely fifty years ago.

Two hundred thousand years vs. 150.

I speak of Botswana, because that’s what I know best. But I also think much of what I say can be extrapolated throughout alot of sub-Saharan Africa.

Things here may APPEAR familiar to us. The clothes are basically the same. The cars are the same, except for the whole “driving on the left” thing. Television pumps American style entertainment into living rooms. Internet, though not ubiquitous, exists. Coca-Cola is Coca-Cola (only with REAL sugar, not corn sweetener. Big difference!) Over all it kind of LOOKS like us.

But those things lie only on the surface. Underneath the skin “Survival of the Fittest” still calls the shots. Behaviours that ensure propagation and survival of the species still reign supreme.

We think we (Africans and westerners) are all driving together on the same road in the same direction. But my feeling sometimes is we are in opposite lanes, going opposite directions, both hoping to arrive at the same place at the same time. We will never understand each other. We CAN’T understand each other! The cultural gaps are too wide.

I seriously doubt that our two years here will make any critical kind of difference. Even the six or so years since Peace Corps was reintroduced to Botswana hasn’t seen much improvement. Most likely 20 years here wouldn’t make much difference. Am I sorry I came? To the contrary. I HAD to come! How else would I learn? It is in the best efforts of evolution that we try to help our fellow humans survive and thrive.

How will this all turn out? I don’t know. I’m a doomsdayer. I see the potential scenario for Apocalypse in every society, ours included (I had a ball with Y2K. Of course I was wrong!).

What happens if/when the HIVirus mutates and the Anti-Retro Viral (ARV) drugs lose effect? Or the Botswana government, in the current financial crisis, can’t pay for the ARVs? Or Zimbabwe melts down (even more) and war spills over the borders. What if. What if? What if!

Maybe a cure will be found. That would be a HUGE monkey wrench in a lot of careers! Sometimes I think history will judge us from a distance of a century or so and say “Those blind fools! Couldn’t they see how stupid they were? If only they had done X or Y or Z!”

I don’t write this as an indictment. My service here is no better nor worse than if I was digging irrigation ditches in Mongolia. I’m glad I came. Sometimes we must tilt at windmills. Don’t read this and say “Oh, Wigal is unhappy. He’s sorry he came.” I am very happy. I have learned a lot and have found my happiness here. Four years ago I was at the nadir of my existence when I happened to fly into Beirut, Lebanon and my life changed immeasurably (Yes, Joseph). For the better I think. Botswana also is having that same effect.

One of the very few things I can say in Setswana is “letsatse le langwe kwa Paradise!” Don’t worry. The Motswana never understand what I’m saying either.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Look what I Found

I'm sorry it's taken so long to post. We just got internet in the office I work. It is VERY slow and I have to keep refreshing the page.

A couple weeks ago we had a music/drama tour of the sub-District. Ten villages and settlements in five days. It was a whirlwind tour.

Later I'll try to put up more pix. For now I'm just hoping these will fly.

The one without the baby was of me and some of the crew. the baby was just a random cute kid who hitched a ride with us one day. The mom hitched too. But we let the little guy ride up in the cab.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

If You´re Going to Play Around With Facial Hair Now´s the Time to Do I

If it´s sideways I´m not gonna fix it. I´m trying this with my Nokia E90 cell.
The reviews are mixed. But the Motswana women almost uniformly hate it. Ergo, it has a good chance of staying.