Sunday, March 28, 2010

In My Country

I awoke this morning in my country. I have been awakening for some little time now. And for the last week or more it has been with the story of South Africa in my mind and the rhythm of Maggie Soboil pouring the prose of "Cry, the Beloved Country" into my heart. Another Meg, the most traveled of my family and dear friends to offer me tips and advice, simply said get to know something of the country and the people you will visit. The most traveled indeed. Yes. I will get to know something of these people dear Meg. I will get to know something of their country.

Do you think you know the story of their country? Something of her people? I did. As it turns out I knew nothing. As it will turn out, even after reading so many books and watching so many movies and following impassioned cyber-debates between her countrymen - posts as fresh as today, I will still know nothing of their country. Nothing of her people.

And I will go there and hope to then know something. For on this trip I will try so very hard to be wide awake.

I was not yet born when my European ancestors 'discovered' my country in their name and that of their god and,
I was not yet born when exploration and progress of white men tangled up with tribal tradition in my country and,
I was not yet born when the natives were corralled into reservations so meagerly parsed in my country and,
I was not yet born when the natives of Africa were captured and enslaved in my country and,
I was not yet born when they were on paper set free in my country and,
I was not yet born when the rising up of those who were not truly set free won their legal rights in my country.

I was born when the reality of legal rights together with what lies in the hearts of some and not in others is messy and painful.
But I was not awake.

I was born when the natives were rising up from legal and systematic de-humanizing in their country. But I was not awake.
I was born when the rights of all citizens were won and declared equal on paper in their country. But I was not awake.
I was born when new leaders set about to help all men women and children tell the truth and reconcile in their country. But I was not awake.

I was born when the reality of legal rights together with what lies in the hearts of some and not in others is messy and painful.
Don't go back to sleep.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mystery Solved

We have been having a lot of fun speculating about elephant contraception. If you are ready to have the mystery solved and see some amazing footage of the project I will be volunteering my time with in South Africa next month - hit the play button. It's about 2 minutes - plus a wee bit of patience for buffering.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Tree of Life

Where in the world would a skinny white girl growing up in a tiny farm town in the 70s American midwest get the idea that Africa is the one place she loved and had to see? I think the trees told me. Seeped it under my skin where I scraped and shimmied up against theirs to get as high as sense would let me. Held me in their web of tangled roots and canopies stretching round the earth while I spent whole afternoons at their feet making little villages from the parts of themselves they shed.

In Africa is where it all begins. The tree of life. The birthplace of human. Later I discovered scientists hypothesize about it, archeologists dig up evidence and African folklore tell its tales. I just knew because of the trees. Is it a coincidence that the first time I saw a photograph of a baobab tree I was shocked at its beauty, struck me as profoundly perfect, mesmerized me. Or was it calling me home in the secret language spoken amongst trees?

Monday, March 15, 2010

However Do I Find the Time?

For the use of those who may find this someday as they prepare for their first trip on a volunteer project to Africa, and for those who find entertainment in those strange components that make me, me... the answer to the question "However Do I Find the Time..." to figure out this trip AND bring home bacon AND fry it up in the pan is Project Management geekitude of course.

A bow down to Jim and Martha who have taught me well. You can see my 'network and time plan' here. I will be sharing this example with my new batch of Time & Project Management guinea pigs - I mean students Wednesday and Thursday - so you see I took advantage of the SYNERGY! For those playing 'workplace bingo' I believe you get double points for that one. If you don't have workplace bingo and you REALLY WANT IT - I got mine at Borders in clearance calendar form for only $1. Yes that's right One Dollar. (Quick, how many rand is that?)

In my efforts to provide useful information - although I may be the last to discover this - if you go to Google and just type in for instance 'dollars to rands' or 'ounces to kilos' the conversion just pops up! Will wonders never cease I ask you!

If you are now dying to be as Project Management geeky as me, following is the recipe for your very own network and time plan for your big project - going to Africa, or even bigger cleaning out the basement.
1) Brainstorm ALL of the 'deliverables' you need that together get you the end - 'clean basement' such as Waste Disposal Plan and Tasty Snacks & Beverages.
2) Write each one on a sticky note and estimate how many minutes/hours each will take to complete
3) Kind of organize all the sticky notes into categories that lead up to the 'big' chunks
4) Missing anything? Go ahead and add sticky notes.
5) Draw on a big piece of paper or your basement wall a calendar with columns for weeks
6) Layout the sticky notes in the order that makes sense to you across the weeks from your target COMPLETE date backwards - being realistic about the amount of TIME you have each week to spend


Now just get 'er done. Got 10 minutes - grab one of your 10 minute sticky notes and DO IT!!!!!

7) Invite us all to your cool clean basement party! I'll bring the bingo game.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Something Old Something New...

Something borrowed... I mentioned in my last post my burgeoning packing list. When Claire faces a math problem that she hasn't encountered before I tell her "do what you know". Africa? No clue. Making lists - that I know how to do. In fact I am entertaining myself with an app I downloaded that lets you make packing lists! I have a big basket going of the things I am gathering. Take a close look, there will be a quiz later.

In my 'favorite new' category so far is an item not pictured here. An olive drab super heavy-duty canvas duffle from the Army Surplus store on Woodward. I'll admit I was a little frightened at the 'vibe' in this place less than a mile from my house. (And next door to a shooting range, I might add). But within 20 minutes I was seriously eyeballing those curvy knives they use to skin stuff! Recovering rationality I decided to leave any stabbing or skinning that might occur to the professionals.

In my 'favorite borrowed' category so far there is a tie between my Mother's 'tilly' hat - the cream-brimmed beauty at center of the basket, and the little plastic compass on a red string from my stepdad Dave. The hat has been to South Africa so I figure it will know the way, and the compass will lead me home.

So here comes the quiz part. After perusing the contents of my basket (click on the picture to view it big - then hit your browser's back arrow to return), what ONE thing would you suggest I add. And ahhh, can I borrow it?

TROUBLE posting a comment? Sometimes you have to hit post through a couple of error messages and perhaps type in some words to make sure you are a nice person.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Elephant Contraceptives, Oh My!

Lions too, I hope. This will be the first of the "I'm off to South Africa" entries. Yay! And ummm, no the title of this post is not referring to an item on my burgeoning packing list, rather the focus of the volunteer project I have signed on for. WHAT? If you are like every single person I have mentioned this to, you are now imagining the various ways in which one might, to put it delicately, intervene in the natural goings on of the reproductive activities of a VERY LARGE mammal. I'll give you a moment...

All interesting thoughts (feel free to post your guesses to the comments for our entertainment) but no, I have NO idea. I'll let you know when I return on April 24th, or can get to an internet cafe in the Limpopo region of the South African bush. In the meantime, my new travel advice internet buddy Jim the Shoemaker suggested I write about what it is like to be a first time 'voluntour'. Okay, so the idea is that instead of being driven around a big national wildlife safari park and take pictures of 'The Big 5' between drinks and your spa appointment like NORMAL people possessing large doses of sanity do, I am instead volunteering to spend my vacation time working on a research project on a private game reserve. I've heard it described as going on safari with a clipboard and homework. Take a peek at the place I'll be if you have a second, the Siyafunda Conservancy research and bush camps.

So I'd love nothing more than to have you follow along for the ride and of course offering all of that advice and witty commentary I know you have in you. I figure the more people I have following this blog the better negotiating position my 'abduction consultants' will be in when a band of elephants hears what we're up to and take matters into their own hands - or um trunks.

Want to join the web warriors and try your hand at following your favorite blogs via the mysterious RSS? I posted a 'what the... and how to" here.