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This Blog used to be about the question: What is Science?
Now, it asks: What is Happiness?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

PR sux...

Well, I am back in wonderful Nairobi, where Life is simple and the streets are safe. If you turn your gaze to the setting sun you may well see the knuckle-shaped Ngong Hills beckoning you to reaffirm your birthright as an African......

Ida, meantime, is back with her home office and 'best in the west' staff. Back to the excitement and smiles that she has become used to since joining Internews Network......let the story continue!

Q) How do tell when a journalist is not a journalist?
A) When they get a job in Public Relations.

The above Q&A not only describes 2 jobs that are about as far apart as the Atkins Diet and Lucozade, but also underlies one of the biggest challenges that a journalist will ever face - how to get past the PR to get a half baked shot at the truth. Living in a commercialized world of advertizing driven consumerism I have come to realise that most successful ad executives actually really believe the glitz they disseminate. I mean, do rural Zulus really need triangular tea bags?...and can a lurid green compressed lump of algae (the same stuff that we try to get rid of in our swimming pools) really replace the meat and veggies that Granny grew up on? I am told that the very people who market products like Spirulina (that's the algae in the blue bottle so the sun energy cannot escape) actually take their own product for a while...till Western medicine is finally resorted to again.....
Why this rave about PR? Well, on the 26th September 2008, I saw the most effective bit of PR ever....and it moved me.
I have flown many times between Johannesburg and Nairobi and each time we get a glimpse of the peak of Kilimanjaro, the highest free standing mountain in the world....if we are lucky and the clouds swirling around the peak allow us a peek from the SAA flight path some nautical miles to the west.
This last time, my sister, Joy was on board, commencing a trip to Kenya, accompanied by her travel compandium, Maggie. This had been planned for 2 years. Her seat was carefully chosen for the best vantage on Kili. I, Nokia GPS in hand, plotted our approach and was confused when the plane turned 90deg to the east of its flight path. The pilot announced that we should be getting a glimpse of Kili soon....and next thing there she was, just below us and visible like few have ever seen her.
The captain, Themba McLean, realizing that the cloud cover was up to the summit, had diverted and descended so we could literally gaze down the caldera of this old volcano, now falling victim to global warming, as her snow cap decreases every year.
There is no doubt that I am now a firm fan of South African Airways.
We hit the ground and the colours of Kenya hit us.
....and the wildlife too, those irrepressible Maribu Storks that dwell like old retired men in the sooty trees of Mombasa road.
Any good tour starts downtown....and here in Nairobi we were reminded by the security guy at City Hall, how 'our city used to be very bad and dangerous and dirty but now things have changed.'
It occurred to me that the first 2 El Presidentes had clearly been very busy with the stuff of consolidating the revolution and allied interests and it was only the hon. Kibaki that really got down to the nitty gritty of what really matters. And it is not all that difficult to enact here. Simply make the law and the enforce it the next day. They did that recently with anti-smoking legislation and almost overnight the city was free of smokers, who have now been relegated to a small square of concrete outside the public toilets in Nairobi. When we arrived at Jomo Kenyatta AP a rather stressed visitor asked us, "Where can I smoke here?". I answered that he had to take a cab to the toilets in Nairobi and stand outside, and to be very careful about it as only last week a diehard smoker was beaten to death in a pub for refusing to stub out!
So, for non-smokers who have a lot of living still to do, there is plenty on offer in Nairobi, from the famous leaning tower of Pilsiner to the many signs reminding residents of their core values.
Kenya continues to be a land of juxtaposed contrasts, with local hero, Kimathi, the Che Guevara of the struggle for Uhuru, standing proudly defiant in front of the Hilton Hotel to the enormous commitment that ordinary Kenyans have to not chopping down trees (Thank you, Wangari Mathai). The latter, however, is curiously offset by the almost universal habit of burning all garden refuse.
Amidst the peppery smell of the neighbours' burning leaves our friend, Stephen, general factotum, by appointment to our little bit of paradise in Kyuna Crescent, has learnt the advantages of a compost heap....
Stephen's reputation had spread and our visitors arrived bearing gifts of T-shirts galore for the lad....which seemed to elicit the hoped for response.
This is truly a wonderful place to live.........Karibu Kenya!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dancing with a Teapot

This is about as realtime as it gets. Headin' out from the Youth Hostel in the g-direction of Anapolis and the legendary seaside crab dishes we wander into Brunswick and having a mind for churches hive out of the 90plus heat into the local Reform Church to old church building, filled with vibing, mellow, beautiful, creative and sharing folk, some singing, other serving, all just feeling the rhythm of life....So, out comes the laptop and Nikon add a little free wifi and I sit here wondering what happened to 'home' back home and who lost the plot....

Oh...and we caught up on the Zapiro-Zuma cartoon and as Hogarth fans we smiled.

Bums, Bikes and Bugs

End of the trail...Cumberland! And barely 10 yards on is the world's best and friendliest bike shop who gave me a box for my bike, afforded me free use of their workshop and facilities...Ubuntu America.

Popped into smalltown Pawpaw and am glad it wasn't Sunday as I would have had a crisis of choice.

Time alone to reflect.....

My bud, Jim, from Downsville, Maryland. From the rain, part of the trail collapsed and so I headed off along the hills and dales of Maryland instead. At the crossroads I asked directions from a couple mellowing out on their porch. 2 hrs later I left having been fed, given a sweatshirt (great, as I left all mine) and more food for the trip than I could carry! Such, it seems is Ubuntu in America.

Well, at last, some pix!
Completed the trail by Thursday (which was 911 anniversary) and was met by a rather chuffed Ida resplendent with Subaru 4x4 SUV (hired at a cheaper rate than a city golf in SA). At petrol half the price of SA we are meandering back to DC via Pennsylvania, District of Columbia, Maryland and (West) Virginia. At prezz we are overnighting (and using the wifi at the Harpers ferry Youth Hostel - cheap and very good and full of interesting travellers).
SO here are few images from what will go down as a remarkable and magic time of adventure and joy in my I hope to continue with asap in the company of some of the more intrepid members of the SA African Explorers' Club!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Catching up!

Budgie will no doubt be disappointed that I skipped so may days of the actual trail part of his fabulous biking trip.
Day one SUNDAY 7 Sept or departure day soon became a day of screeches of delight. First involuntary stop was a blues band performance - it seems - for Budgie alone. It was hot walking in DC, maybe it was cooler cycling, and definitely cool to be surrounded by mossy grassy nature and some performers of note! Sleepover was Leesburg
The big surprises, I think, were the mozzies and other kreepy krawlies. DC and the 1st World can control critters to a point, but in the end - mosquitoes yearn for a lekka South Aftican tent to be abuzz in. Luckily, malaria not part of the picture!
Day two MONDAY 8 Sept - more screechy delights from Budgie, who is at a campsite with a cranky water pump, that sounds to me like something from a Karoo sheep farm. Cold water, the basics .... that's what it was to be all about.
Day three TUESDAY 9 Sept - started with lots of to-and-fro frustrated missed calls between me and Budgie. I only knew by late in the day that he had had another most mid-American experience: He'd been cycling in the rain - some warm-hearted people took him in and offered a hot meal and a cool sweat shirt! (Now he has three items of clothing on the trip: padded bicycle pants, the sweaty shirt and the sweat shirt). More spindly spiders, I think and a man whose only worries is that it takes a week to buy a firearm in the US of A .... problems, problems. "So, why do you need a gun, lots of criminals?" - "No, not bad - the criminals are all in jail!"
Day three WEDNESDAY 10 Sept - it's happening right now, and the next update will be tonight!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ida for Budge

Hi, I am updating you with news from Bicycle Budgie: he has just left the building! Will update next as soon as I hear a squeak.

Op Pad Ten Laaste...On the last

Sunshine! Yippee!

Packed and ready....have phone coms with Ida so she will update the blog...

ps...did you know that the Pentagon is actually situated behind a rubbish dump?

Bet ya diddin!

But this city certainly looks after her cyclists!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Big Apple, Little Apple

Woke up this morning to this.

...and this....not a good idea to head off down the C&O today as it is by now a mudpath...though I do suspect that all the tropical storm warnings and emergency service announcements are really reflecting what is called a 'rainy day' in Africa.

Last night Ida and I headed off to have a cultural immersion experience starting off at a Reggae Eatery and bar in Adams Morgan where we met up with her Internews sidekicks from Nigeria and I ordered a Kenyan Tuscan beer....(ps you can't even imagine how bad the US beer is - there is only one word - peepee d'cha)
Then, filled with Reggae and matoke we headed off to......

Mama Italia, a Prynne/Goldswain palace of kitch indulgence.

Trop Storm Gustave has turned out to be a bit of a relief!
There's a secret here in DC...order the smallest thing on the menu and divide it amongst 6 people. This was a side order....

Ida is either happy that I am still around or likes creative spaces...

This did work to the advantage of 2 happy folk...strolling round near Dupont Circle I whipped my camera out, ran across the road and humbly requested the couple in recently married suit and dress to let me take a pic....turns out it seems they had just done the impressive Catholic church and ... it somehow had the magical feeling guests, no photographer....who knows? So, their lucky day, my happy moment. More to follow! And if the weather hits on, I am finally off tomorrow.

Cool Bananas!

Kevin Whelan and Kirz Bulut

Married 6th Sept 2008!

Killing time...waiting for the rain to abate...taking arb pix of people crossing roads...eating cheap (divide for 2 people) burgers...and checking out the Apple Shop (free internet).