Wednesday, May 06, 2015

RaReva Ashey

Some days it feels like a dream.

Moana and I went out for a morning hike while Keola and Jeff went canoeing down the Zambezi. On the trail, we met a fellow named Moses who was training to be a guide.

Moses was a wise fellow, and explained all the different names of the trees and explained what they were good for. Some were great for kindling fires, others were good as “tree viagra.”

He was off to feed the bushbok; we decided to follow him.

Moses led us to a watering hole, where the guinea fowl would gather. Soon a flock of the polka-dotted, blue-faced fowl appeared. There were little chicks scurrying about over each other as they dined on their breakfast. They scurried around the watering hole. I tossed a few handfuls of feed, and they came scurrying about.

We spoke with Moses about his life and he told us of life in Zimbabwe. Of the traditional ways, and of the modern ways.

He told us about his wife, and his kids. He had three children, of which two were boys. Melvin and Kelvin. Kelvin's Shona name was “RaReva Ashey.” In Shona, that meant “what God wills.”

RaReva Ashey, RaReva Ashey, I kept repeating.

Moses told us of a family of warthogs, one of whom had been attacked. He had put salt water on its wounds, and they stopped festering. He nursed the pig back to health. The pig was friendly with him now, and would eat right out of his hand.

A group of tusked-warthogs came, and we fed them pellets we tossed. They forage on bended front legs, they tuck their front hoofs under to get lower. They are called the “African lawnmowers” for they way they kneel over and eat the grass. They were so close that we could see the large warts that give the hogs their names.

Eventually, the friendly warthhog came. He was smiling at Moses, you could see it on his piggy face. He went directly to Moses, and ate out of his hand.

I tried as well, and the little piggy ate out of my hand as well. I wasn't very good at feeding the warthog, he nipped at my finger a little and I dropped the pellets. But I was able to feed him correctly the second time, and he sucked up the pellets from my hand with a snort.

We bade Moses fare thee well, as we passed the pack of warthogs.

RaReva Ashey, I kept repeating.   

Moanalani Falls

Hello blog, my old friend. I have come to write with you again. I have missed putting digital words to blog paper for quite some time. The unfortunate thing is that I have been up to so much. I scarcely know where to start. And I hear myself writing in a Scottish accent. Just a wee bit.

Do I start with HIFA? Ot Bulawayo and its deportations? The Global NL program or the gastrodiplomacy conference after? So much that I scarcely know where to begin.

The most wonderful place I can end is the chant at Moanalani Falls. Victoria Beamer giving a benediction in Hawaiian to the blessing of rain at Victoria Falls. 

We sit at your alter
here is the water
the water of life. 

A soaked benediction with a double rainbow blessing. A wet prayer, if there ever was one.

I could start by recounting the immaculate day, because even that has been a while. Maybe my way of writing is just getting back to recounting the day. 

I woke up late. I woke up early at 4:15am to the sounds of the wilderness but meditated back to bed. I woke up late for me, in time to catch the day's brunch over the watering hole. Some chocolate muesli and some coffee. And some POG juice-- passion fruit, orange and guava as the Hawaiians refer.

I was hanging low, Melancholy and low. Until the water mist grounded me in the present and I opened up to the day.

Victoria Falls misted a rain cloud and soaked us in a misted benediction.  

I saw the Aloha of a double rainbow in the falls. The vivid colors stretched across the canyon in the clouds of mist arising from the falls.

I dried off to a crocodile wrap in the sun, alongside a Zim Shandy (lemonade, ginger ale and bitters) as I dried off.

Keola, Moana and Jeff went riding elephants, but I had my own pachyderm pair appear in the watering hole in front of me. “Wow,” I said and I cursed myself for not having my camera before I dived back into work.

I missed the first shuttle into town before I caught the ride with Victor the driver. He dropped me off at the market, which proved a longer endeavor than planned. I got the trapping of a barbecue-- fighting the onion scales and overstuffed charcoal bags before I caught the private shuttle back to the lodge as the green moon rose over the empty horizon.

We braiied it up over charcoals and spiced whole chickens. Rounded boerwoers. Top sirloin steaks.

A nice feast before I wandered over to chat by the watering hole with the good Dr. Louisia of Her Majesty's Nyasaland for a drink,

Sounds so little (it isn't) and so promising at the same time. Good night.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Zim Kids

At a Hawaiian music and hula cultural diplomacy program at an Zimbabwean orphanage in Bulawayo that I helped put together. I can die now-- my life is complete.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Road

On to the road less traveled: the Zimbabwe to Zanzibar to Zurich route, with a stopover at the Milan Expo. First stop: Bulawayo, the City of Kings! Journey on.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Sunday, April 05, 2015


“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
 ― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

gracias, JB

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Table

The difference between Bibi and Herzog is that with Herzog, Israel would have a voice at the table rather than a shrill scream from the wilderness.

Israel's strategic interests should be bigger than Bibi's narrow political calculations.

That's the Way That the World Goes Round

That's the way that the world goes 'round. You're up one day and the next you're down. It's half an inch of water and you think you're gonna drown. That's the way that the world goes 'round.

Sometimes Atlas' world spins in a different direction.  And sometimes he shrugs.

Sometimes the sun rises anew.   Sometimes love renews where it left.

That's the way that the world goes 'round.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


I went out last night with my grandfather.  We went to one of his favorite restaurants, Mykonos in Rockville.  The manager always remembers us, and greets us warmly--this time with some ancient Greek wisdom.

The food is always delicious. The saganaki--the flaming fried cheese was delicious.  The bread was warm and crusty and dipped wonderfully in the lemon and spice olive oil.

The manager brought us hot delicious spanikopita right out of the oven.

Poppy always gets the bronzino, a giant Mediterranean fish of flaky white meat.  I ate the spiced eggplant imam baildi, grape-leaved dolmades and delicious mushrooms stuffed with feta.

The manager brought us glikaki lil sweets of semolina cake oozing in honey and topped with vanilla ice cream as a treat.

I wish them happy independence day.  Quite an anniversary to celebrate liberation from the sichameni Turki.  I was perhaps the only one in the restaurant who wasn't Greek who bade such tidings.

The food was excellent, but the remembrance and warmth made it even more poignant.  I always find it moving when people in places that have a lot of turnover of customers, be it restaurants or hotels, remember me.  The warmth shown to my Grandfather and me made a nice night out even more special.

Nothing and Everything

There was no one in him; behind his face (which even through the bad paintings of those times resembles no other) and his words (which were multitudinous, and of fantastical and agitated turn), there was no more than a slight chill, a dream someone had failed to dream. 

At first he thought that all people were like him, but the surprise and bewilderment of a friend to whom he had begun to describe the hollownewss showed him his error, and also let him know, forever after, that an individual should not differ from its species.
-J.L. Borges, "Everything and Nothing"

Sometimes I forget what an outlier I am.

Usually I am reminded in the odd look I get when I describe what I do to average 'Muricans:

You do what?  

Hip Hop diplomacy, and other cultural diplomacy.


Zimbabwe.  Venezuela.  Iraq. Kazakhstan.

Is that even really a place?  

When I really want to delve into Absurdistan, I explain about my guard monkey in India.

It is just the life I live.  I often hear people say that I am "livin' the dream."

Sometimes it is a dream; sometimes it is exhausting.  In the end, it is just a matter of life being what you make it. I made mine about travel and adventure.

And so I tilt on.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

the art of the possible

"Politics is the art of the possible."
-Otto von Bismark

If two years of Obama and a Dems majority got us Obamacare, which is f'ing great, imagine what could have been possible if the Teahad hadn't broke out.  A bunch of rich oligarchs flood the political scene with money and conduct a bait-and-switch on truth and sanity.

I got to imagining what the last 5 years could have been like if Obama had kept a majority in the House and Senate.  If he hadn't been shackled by the Tea Party ship of fools.  I had a real laugh that Sen. Ted Cruz, captain of said ship, signed up for Obamacare.


A big what-if, up there if President Gore had been in office the decade prior.  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

travel travails

Vlugvoos (Afrikaans): to have been made spongy or rotten by jet lag.
25 hours of travel from Cape Town back across the pond will leave such a travel babalas.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Israel, WTF?

Nice win, Bibi.  Your wonderfully racist, anti-democratic campaign won you an ugly victory.  I send you my congratulations from South Africa.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

What's in a name?

"Good Morning, Mr. Rockower," the ticket agent said to this weary traveler, "Rockower, that is an interesting name."

"Thank you," I replied as I explained its various meanings, including "just passing through."

"It is a good name," she said, "It is a strong name"

I smiled.

"I will name one of my children it."

"Really?!?" I asked as my tired eyes lit up.  "What is your last name," I asked.

"Mrimba, which means 'peace,'" she replied.

So if you are ever in Uganda and meet a "Rockower Mrimba" you will know the interesting provenance of this child's unusual name.

Exit Stage Right

How mad and monstrous it all seemed! Could it be that written on his hand, in characters that he could not read himself, but that another could decipher, was some fearful secret of sin, some blood-red sign of crime? Was there no escape possible? Were we no better than chessmen, moved by an unseen power, vessels the potter fashions at his fancy, for honour or for shame? His reason revolted against it, and yet he felt that some tragedy was hanging over him, and that he had been suddenly called upon to bear an intolerable burden. 

Actors are so fortunate. They can choose whether they will appear in tragedy or in comedy, whether they will suffer or make merry, laugh or shed tears. But in real life it is different. Most men and women are forced to perform parts for which they have no qualifications. Our Guildensterns play Hamlet for us, and our Hamlets have to jest like Prince Hal. The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.
-Oscar Wilde, "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime"

Space & Time

h/t Russ

Lake Victoria

Lazy Sunday on Lake Victoria. Sipping Ginger Love (orange, pineapple, ginger & rum) and reading Conrad. Kurtz never had it this good.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

After the cultural diplomacy game "pet the mzungu's arm hair, beard and head," it was selfie time.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Why are white people expats when the rest of us are immigrants?

Boda Boda

In terms of cities, Kampala is not going to win any awards.

It isn't the biggest, or most diverse.  It isn't especially cosmopolitan.  It doesn't have rugged scenery, jagged cliffs or meandering rivers. gets a hell of a lot more interesting when you traverse its dusty, choked streets on the back of a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) for a few thousand shilling.

"Where do you want to go, mzungu (white man)?"

"I don't care, just drive."

Truth lies in the journey, not the port.
-Eduardo Galeano

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Cape of Storms

At the junction of Sea Point
and Three Anchors Bay,
I suffered an unenviable bout
of existential melancholy.

So tired, in the throws 
of exhaustion's weary grip
yet so restless as to lack peace.

Neither in the lush Company Gardens,
where the Dutch East India Company
once planted provisions for ships
heading East to Batavia,
Nor in the florid botanical paradise
of Kirstenbosch
on the eastern edge of Table Mountain
was I able to find respite.

It was only in the day's passing into night,
in the sun setting resplendently
across the golden horizon,
as the clouds rolled over the Table's edge
and the white sea-capped waves crashed
into the craggy black rocks along
the concrete sea wall
could I finally find peace in stillness.

From Cape Sunsets

Monday, March 09, 2015

A Manifesto for Blue America

A great piece by Michael Tomasky in The Daily Beast on why Obama's Selma speech is a manifesto for Blue America:

I wouldn’t blame you if you took a pass on President Obama’s speech in Selma on Saturday. It’s been a long time since he delivered a riveting one. I skipped it myself, and then someone wrote to say, hey, he knocked this one out of the park, so I looked, and boy, he did. It was the strongest statement about the liberal definition of patriotism I’ve ever heard a president deliver. It was also confrontational and challenging—an unapologetic manifesto for the values of blue America.
That’s something we don’t hear a lot about, the values of blue America. No, it isn’t because we don’t have them. It’s that we don’t parade them in the public square quite as much as conservatives do, while conservatives aren’t exactly shy about caricaturing in public their version of liberal values (we love sodomy and baby-killing and so on).
But there are liberal values. Some, we all know about—tolerance, diversity, etc. But another central one has to do with the way in which liberals love our country, and it goes like this: Yes, of course this is a great country. But it is change that has made it so. It’s a country that was founded on the highest ideals of the day, many of which are eternal, but it was also a country where ownership of human beings of a certain race was legal. So no, it wasn’t so great. It had to be made great. And by the way it’s not really as great as it should be yet. That’s a process that, the human condition being what it is, will never have an end.
This is exactly what Obama was talking about on Saturday, and it’s why the speech will be remembered. This wasn’t just another chorus of “Can’t we all just get along?” that you might expect to hear on such an occasion. This was an analysis of why we can’t—and a stirring defense of one vision of the country that was also an implicit and sometimes explicit critique of the other vision.

Gilding The Pearl of Africa

Descending into Entebbe, the sun was setting a resplendent gold film across the top of Lake Victoria.

Across the golden lake to the West was Rawanda; to the East, was Kenya; behind me lay Tanzania.

We descended over the shimmering gold lake and over the verdant green fields with a sky made hazy by white smoke from fires in the fields.

We touched down on the hot tarmac, and I walked off the plane.  There were buses heading to the airport, but not enough space so a few of us just walked to the terminal.

I stopped on the tarmac to watch the fiery orb's orange extinction, and chuckled that the TSA would be having kittens if a passenger walked from a plane to the terminal, and then stopped to watch the sunset.

The sun's decline was heralded across the sky and the tarmac with a burnt orange glow, as the fiery orb eclipsed into the horizon.


Raiding Entebbe!