Sunday, September 5, 2010


As some of you know and some of you don't, I've recorded a lot of music over the years, releasing two albums in the process. Since 2003, my output has been minimal for various reason. But now, the most important obstacle -- a lack of free time -- has been removed (for the time being). But even though I have the time to make more music, my gear is hopelessly out of date! Help fund a revival through Kickstarter! Please click the link below for the page for my project:

In case you've never heard what I can do with a musical project, here is an example:

My 2003 song "What's Your Name?" with music video by Brian L. Perkins :

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Traveling with Vladimir

If you are thinking about writing an online travel diary while you drive across the U.S., you should not listen to the audiobook of Lolita in the car. Because Lolita is just the kind of thing that makes writing anything, ever again, seem like a tremendous waste of everyone's time. Try not to imagine Jeremy Irons reading your blog post out loud, and then try not to cringe at the toneless banality of your travelogue. Heck, we haven't even gotten to the part of the book where they go on their cross-country road trip! I'll probably just have to delete this post after we listen to that.

Working backwards: We are in Montrose, CO, where we watched Inception, which we thought was nifty. Bridget thinks Joseph Gordon-Leavitt looks too much like Heath Ledger. I say he picked up tips during the making of 10 Things I Hate About You. For dinner I think we had prepackaged Chex Mix. Things are getting a little fuzzy for us at this point in the trip. I think I drove for seven hours today; Bridget spent a while supine in the back of the station wagon, nursing an upset tummy after some Jerk Chicken Penne at Rasta Pasta in Colorado Springs. I saw some deer and I thought I saw moose antlers poking ominously out of a pond, unmoving. We peed on the side of the road. We passed the Smallest Jail in the US (not really, though) outside Ramah. Colorado didn't stop looking like Kansas until we'd gone 50 miles in.

Yesterday we stayed in a noxious motel in Oakley, KS that neither of us can remember the name of (we arrived in a total stupor at 1:20am, which was really 2:20am for us as we'd crossed a time zone earlier that day). We always, always seem to have a distorted view of how much lodgings will cost. Happened in India, Nepal, Kenya, so why not here? How much would you pay for a night in a place with a bathroom, an AC, a TV, and wi-fi? Not less than $50, I assure you. Even if it's infested with crickets. As they say in programming: that's not a bug-- it's a feature!

Day before that, I guess we were in Indiana. An Econolodge with disintegrating furniture.

I'm too tired to continue. Look for more later. Tomorrow should be a rest day in Ouray.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Don't Worry About the Government

We are back in Kathmandu -- Boudha, actually. We arrived from Lukla airport in the mountains safely on Friday morning, and went back to the refuge in Godawari where we had been staying. We heard that the head of the organization was pleased with our work on the curriculum, and apparently his praise is rare and coveted, so that felt good!

We washed some of our stinky trekking duds and took showers and then met up with the other volunteer living there who told us the Maoists were planning a big demonstration and Kathmandu Valley-wide transportation strike to start the next day! So, we were given the advice to get as close to the airport as possible, as we will most likely have to walk there with all of our baggage on Monday. So, we had to get in a late-night, illicit-seeming taxi to Boudha and Pema's (our Sherpa) sons let us stay at his apartment. Last night we moved to a hotel.

Thus, we are in the nearest town to the airport, probably still a couple of hours walk, waiting to see how the strike will develop. It seems unlikely the Maoists will get their demands met, as they include things like the instituting of Maoist rule and the resignation of the Prime Minister. Hmmmmmm. The good news is, though there are no transportation options and most of the stores are closed, we don't seem to be in a dangerous area -- though there seems to be the possibility of violence in other areas of the capital. Mostly are just resting up for our "trek" to the airport.

We are flying to Arizona (travel time = 40+ hours!) and will be there until Saturday, at which point we will fly to New York. We haven't figured out much beyond that. It feels vague, but we are feeling pretty happy for all that. Adventure!

Anyway, as much as I regret not getting to SE Asia, after the trek and the strike and whatnot we will be happy to be among familiar places and faces for a while. We talk a lot about all the foods we are going to eat in NYC -- smoked fish, Italian, sushi, bagels, olives, pickles... the list goes on. And, we know we'll have good company to eat with. See you all on the flip side!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Settled in Nepal

Okay! In case you've lost the thread: we were planning, for months, to volunteer with a program in Pokhara. Our contact had a death in the family and could not coordinate our visit. A week or so before going to Nepal, we emailed some random organizations we found on the internet and offered our services. We got the most enthusiastic response from the Esther Benjamins Trust, a UK-based org that rescues Nepali children who have been, or are at risk to be, trafficked into forced employment in Indian circuses.

For our first six days we stayed at a swank apartment in Thamel, the most touristy part of Kathmandu. The place was great for 21 hours of the day, but from 7 to 10pm, two cover bands on neighboring rooftops battled for stupid supremacy. We could not really imagine the clientele that would bother walking up three flights of stairs to hear "Love Me Do", "Even Flow", "Come as You Are," "Wild World", and a medley of your favorite hits by The Doors. Not only did each band play the same three-hour set list every night, but they BOTH PLAYED THE SAME SET LIST. Stupid. But the view was nice:
Here is an even prettier, if smoggy, view from the top of the monkey temple:
And here is a picture of the terribly polluted river:
And here is a picture of one of a billion temple statues around Kathmandu, this one in Bhaktapur's Durbar Square (we're really racking up the UNESCO World Heritage sites):

Bridget wanted to make sure you noticed that Nepali statuary carvers did not scruple to provide their subjects with ample genitalia. To draw attention to this tradition, it also seems that there are people who wander around temple sites slapping the statuary genitals with pink chalk, every day. Perhaps they make up a caste of their own!

Anyway, on the seventh day we moved into a room at the site of the Esther Benjamins Trust's refuge in Godawari:
View Larger Map

They are putting us up and feeding us for two and a half weeks while we try to create program-related teacher resources for use in the US and UK. We humbly acknowledge that this is a pretty amazing outcome. We are grateful! Make a donation to these folks!

On April 21st we head to Lukla to begin our nine-day trek, watch this space for more about that.

Shin Ramyun
Back in Brooklyn in the summer of '09, we discovered an amazing product called Shin Ramyun. Saying it's a brand of packaged ramen noodles would be like describing Bruce Wayne as a millionaire and leaving it at that. That's right, Shin Ramyun is the Batman of ramen noodles. Why? Cuz it's spicy. So spicy that you can water it down with twice as much water as the package recommends, toss in a bunch of fresh veggies and an egg and it will still spice your face right off.

How many packaged brands of ramen have their own wikipedia page? Don't answer that. Just revel in this unsourced claim on that page:
Like most instant noodles, it offers only minimal nutritional benefits.
Um, citation needed, right guys? Sounds like original research to me, in clear violation of wikipedia policy!

Anyway, I don't know why I wrote this except to say that Shin Ramyun is awesome, and has been available in every country we've visited so far, making itself a narrative through-line for our entire eight-month journey.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Kathmandu: First Impressions

Turbulent Flight
Bridget, as we may have mentioned here before, cannot handle turbulence. Whenever the airplane ride gets bumpy, and especially if sudden it features 10-foot drops, Bridget gets a look on her face like she's already dead. The flight into Kathmandu was scary because a bunch of it was spent inside clouds, and it was very easy to imagine a Himalayan cliff face looming miscalculatedly out of the mist and turning us into gory atomized debris. So we did our in-seat dance to mask the exterior motion (which still worked, but if you're jitterbugging for 5 straight minutes you get a little self-conscious about whether the other passengers think you're a pair of chorea sufferers) and we repeat mental mantras ("safer than being in a car, safer than being in a car") or try to think how rarely you hear about giant airliners on well-traveled routes accidentally veering into the earth.

But we were considering going to Lukla at some point to start a trek. That would mean flying into Lukla airport. Here are two pictures of the runway:
 Picture #1

Picture #2
The numbers I put after the pictures refer to the excretory function you would involuntarily experience while viewing the subjects of those images from within a moving plane.

As she treasures her continence, Bridget does not want to go to Lukla if that is the only way to get there.

Hazy; Crazy
The clouds never really went away. Kathmandu is covered with a fine, aromatic layer of smoggy pollution. A disconcertingly large number of people wear face masks, which makes me reflexively clutch my cheap Indian handkerchief over my breathing parts.

Also, this neighborhood (Thamel) is really crowded with tourists and the shops that try to sell them stuff. Of course, we are above all that. WE are not tourists. WE are different somehow. Stop trying to sell us shit, merchants! Can't you see we're different?

White Dreds and Hammer Pants
In Goa, Mysore, and now especially in Kathmandu, we are seeing a lot more of these visual abominations. We will attempt to collect some visual images, but it's harder to sneak a good pic of terrible fashion choices than of temples. Check this space.

 Not the best image. Keep Checking.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sit Down and Shut Up

We are at the Bodhi Zendo in Tamil Nadu. It is an amazing place -- serene, lovely Zen gardens surrounded by steep blue mountains. The sun is warm and the air is fresh and cool. We do meditation every morning, then work in the garden where most of the food we eat is grown, then meditate and rest and read. It’s great, it’s exactly what I had hoped for, and now I’m going to talk about all the ways it’s driving me crazy.

The food is delicious, vegetarian, lots of greens and what Ben calls “al dente legumes” that produce a tremendous amount of gas during digestion, so that while we sit in zazen my bowels make ominous bubbling noises like an air horn being fired up the ass of an elephant. I’m terrified to let out a fart, not only because it would be embarrassing to rip one in a room of 40 absolutely silent people, most of whom seem to have had humor-ectomies, but because the ones I actually let out smell bad enough that even I don’t want to meditate in a cloud of my own creation.

Lots of the day is silent. While in theory I like this, it’s almost worse to be doing made up sign language to try to indicate you want someone to pass the salt. It seems like even worse than just saying it. And it makes the simplest things — a bit of food on your face, stepping on someone’s foot by accident — like a Mr. Bean sketch. Sometimes I start laughing and can’t stop, like in church. The many Europeans here, on the other hand, seem to have no trouble at all keeping stone-faced, which makes me feel more awkward. Whatever happened to the laughing Buddha?

There is a really crazy thing about the way the white people here dress in Indian clothing. Granted, when I had a sari made for me I thought that was pretty cool, and then I wore it around and felt sort of weird, like dressing like a gangster and going down to hang out in the projects. It was just totally obvious that’s not my normal clothing. The people here are wearing more toned down, hippified versions mostly, like those ankle-length linen pants in turquoise or something. What really irks me, though, is the dudes-in-shawls thing. I just can’t dig on a guy in a pashmina, any more than a man with a low-slung pony tail — or worse, hair half-up, half-down. Yikes. Sorry, guys, but the fashion road is just a lot narrower for you.

As for the meditation, sitting in zazen is intensely physically uncomfortable. Most of the time I am thinking about my hips, or my knees, or lower back, and how it seems like a tendon is about to tear off my kneecap any second, and what would I do, blah, blah. When I’m not thinking about that, I get to see what’s going on in my mind, which appears on closer inspection to be kind of like a dusty garage full of TVs with broken screens playing the audio of commercials from approximately 1988-1998. Like, just a loop of “I believe in Crystal Light… cause I believe in me!” Or “Get in the zooooone -- The Auto Zone!” When I’m really reaching for the next spiritual plateau, I decorate rooms in my fantasy house, which is looking really awesome these days. I feel like everyone else in the room, sitting totally still with beautiful posture, is probably steadily inching their way towards Enlightenment, while I bend and squirm and itch and hear a line of Bon Jovi swirl around and around the drain of my consciousness. Each session is 25 minutes with a 5 minute walking break (the lady announces “kinhin” or “freakin’ hin” which I think is actually “free kinhin” when it’s time to walk around), and I spend at least half of every session praying fiercely for it to be over (and resenting the shit out of the woman who rings the start and end bell, wondering if she forgot to look at the clock, or if she’s drawing this session out to punish me, or what) or making plans for the future -- like, future bed linens, or porch furniture, or (winning first prize for irony) how I’m going to meditate a lot in the future.

Once I took some students on a trip to New York; one student kept asking me all the time “what are we doing later? What are we going to have for lunch? What are we doing tomorrow?” So I said, “look, maybe there won’t be a later. Maybe when we walk out of this museum you’ll get hit by a bus and die. So, let’s just enjoy what’s happening now.” I have come all the way to India to find that very child is the loudest voice in my head. Talk about irony.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More About India

Goa is overrun by the laziest, happiest, itchiest dogs we have ever seen. It's wonderful to see confirmed everything that Cesar Millan has said about what makes dogs happy. The dogs form a large community, and none of the dogs is the slightest bit misbehaved -- the pack has a standard of acceptable behavior that is expertly enforced from within. Only a tiny black puppy near the Rocket Cafe gets out of control sometimes, and when that happens, older dogs come along and gently shut him down. No dog has growled at me, tried to bite me, or run from me in abject terror. They all approach calmly, if they approach at all. Every once in a while all the dogs along the entire 2-mile stretch of beach start howling at the same time. It's awesome, and I hope to get a recording for you soon.

It makes American dog ownership -- especially any kind that does not happen on a farm -- seem really cruel and weird. I don't want one weird neurotic dog in my house. I want a pack of happy, balanced dogs in my yard, playing with the goats and cows and so on.

A day after we got to Kochi, Ben asked us two questions in a text message: "are you frustrated with India yet? Are you peeing out of your butt yet?" The answer to the latter is still, thankfully, no -- for me and Bridget. But to the former, we say yes:

This hasn't happened to me much, but apparently Indians are weirdly squeamish or superstitious about their paper money. One newsstand vendor tried to reject a 100-Rupee bill because there was a small, 5mm tear on its corner. I directed his attention to the portion of the bill where its value is guaranteed by the Governor: "I promise to bay the bearer the sum of one hundred Rupees" and pointed out that nowhere does it stipulate "... as long as the bill is in mint condition."

Ben says that people also don't want to accept "old bills" -- and not old in terms of worn-out, or dirty -- old as in they were printed five years ago (or something), no matter what their condition. Indians will only grudgingly accept torn or old bills, because only banks (and foreigners, I suppose) will accept them. Dear India: this is stupid. If everyone just stopped being stupid in this way, everything would be a whole lot easier for everyone.

Text Messages and Advertising Calls
Our new Indian SIM card in our phone (which you may recall we had to show our passport and provide a new photograph in order to buy) lets us make calls all over the world, which is great. It was also pretty cheap, which is nice since we'll only be using it for 30 days. But we get around 5 automated calls and 10 text messages a day from the carrier, AirTel, telling us about all sorts of great features and products that could be mine. Each call or text costs me, the recipient, 1 Rupee (about
US $0.02) but it is just really really annoying. Luckily, there is an Indian Do Not Call Registry!

So I followed the instructions for registering our phone number, and this is what I got in return from the helpful registry:
Thank you for registering your phone with the NDNC. All promotional communications to your AirTel mobile should stop within 45 days from now.
Ha ha ha. You win this round, India.

I didn't talk about food yet. Next time, maybe. Also: scooters, snakes, Israelis, and chilly peppers.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Malarial Risks

Here's what the malaria risk looked like in Kenya:

In case you can't read the key, pink indicates minimal risk, with anti-malarials not usually advised, red indicates holy shit you'd better take them drugs! So since we were always in the red zone, we took our Lariam religiously.

Now we are in India, where we will mostly be in the light pink zones (except for this week in Goa, a darker pink but not red zone):

...And then we go to Nepal, where we are firmly in the green zone:

So we are pretty sure that we're going to take a break from the Lariam until we head out of Nepal for Cambodia and Laos:
...which are like the twin nations of malarial death. 


Friday, March 5, 2010


At some point we will have to write our Kenya summary post, but it's hard, here on the beach, to muster the energy to think about the past. I think when we get to the apartment in Mysore for four days of air-conditioned, high-speed-internet livin', we'll find the time to supply you with our reflections of our five months in Africa. But for now, a few updates and observations about India.

India is hotter than Kenya. Okay, we knew this would be the case, I guess. Bridget's mom liked to tell a story about how when she got off the plane on a visit to India, she got blasted with the powerful heat of the jet's engines, only to realize that, no, that was just the local weather. When Sue told this story in my earshot, I would always catch Bridget making wild shushing ixnay gestures -- because I don't like being hot, and Bridget was afraid I might get wise to what was in store and divert our trip to Norway or something.

But seriously, it is hot. Four showers a day hot. Upper-thigh-chafing after a twenty-minute walk hot. Giant tongue-shaped sweatstains making my t-shirt translucent hot. Hot. But you can cool off a little with the omnipresent fresh lime soda under the omnipresent ceiling fans. Here is a picture of me after enjoying same in the Jew Town Cafe in Mattancherry:

As you can see, I look refreshed. What? What's that you ask? "Jew Town Cafe?" Well, there is a community of about 16 Jews in Kochi, and there is a synagogue, and lots of shops trying to capitalize on the exotic angle of Indian Jews. The "town" is really a tourist trap made of stores filled with overpriced, if nice, crap. The synagogue wanted us to put on all sorts of long-sleeved or -panted clothes before entering, and we thought it was not worth it. Because really, If we were already as sweaty as we were (whcih was very, very sweaty) then the chances are that the modesty clothes they offered to us, unlike your typical fancy-restaurant loaner necktie or blazer, would be absolutely rank. No thanks!

Weird Requirements. To get a SIM card for your phone, you must provide a copy of your passport, your Indian Visa, and a passport-sized photo. That's weird.

Kerala Backwaters. This is a picture of a dude poling us down the rivers and canals of the famous Kerala backwaters.

He's wearing a garment called a lungi, which looks reaaaaaly smart after an afternoon walking around in breezeless western-style shorts and underpants.

India is just unspeakably exotic, in a way that kind of loses its meaning after a very short while. Everything is lush and weird and colorful and there are temples strewn around with the frequency, if not the uniformity, of Starbucks in America. This picture above does as good a job as any at conveying this concept, even though we have 50 others that could expand on it.

12-Hour Train Ride. Being on an airplane for 12 hours sucks a lot. Without ever having been on a flight that long, I know this to be true, because I have been on seven-hour flights, and they sucked pretty hard. However! Taking a 12-hour train ride across India in an old-fashioned sleeper car? Not all that bad! One of my least favorite sensations is wanting to sleep but not being able to lie down. Another is being hot and sweaty without recourse to a shower, or fan-blown nudity. How about an air-conditioned sleeper car? Don't mind if I do!

Look at all that room! Pull that curatin closed, and you could flail your arms about wildly and no one would even see you, much less get injured by your flaily shenanigans! Go ahead and flail in cool, horizontal comfort!

Goa. Okay, I'll need to take some more pictures. Goa is a crowded, touristy beach town, full of goddman WHITE people. There must be a name for the syndrome in which I think of myself as an an open-minded and intrepid world-traveler while viewing other white tourists as unspeakably vulgar intruders and polluters. It's a challenge to live with this hypocritical mindset. But not as challenging as trying to imagine life without toilet paper and standard dining utensils!

Later: dogs, food, and pushy vendors.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

How's This for Awesome?

A reader was complaining that the blog had turned from an adventureblog to a visitingfamilyblog.
Well, sometimes the two go together. Check this shit out:

Yes that is a cheetah. Yes we are touching it. We are touching a cheetah. Unfortunately I can't tell you where this happened, because it was definitely not on the regular menu at this attraction.

The visas were awarded without much ceremony. Yes, it took three trips, several hours of waiting, and almost $100 apiece, not counting travel to Nairobi. But really: fine.

Here is what we have in store for our trip to India:
  • Feb 26: Depart Nairobi, 5 hour flight to Dubai, 4 hour layover, 3 hour flight to Kochi (aka Cochin)
  • Feb 27 - Mar 1: Three days stay at the Hotel Excellency in Kochi, travel around some "backwaters" and get ourselves an Indian SIM card. We will be 10.5 hours ahead of you, so expect phone calls in the late evening from the following month or three.
  • Mar 2 - 3: Overnight train (11 hours) up to Goa. Romantic! Air-conditioned!
  • Mar 3 - 10: Stay Palolem Beach, South Goa at the Laughing Buddha Cottages with our friends Ben Dahlberg and Katie Lazarowicz! This will be awesome. We we regain the tan we lost. We will get spiritual. We will do yoga with Ben, who is training to be a jedi master. I mean yoga master.
  • Mar 11: Travel by train with Ben and Katie to Mysore (with a stop in Bangalore), where Ben has been living and studying to be a jedi master.
  • Mar 12 - 15: Hang out in Mysore.
  • Mar 16: Travel to Kodiakanal so that we can....
  • Mar 17 - 23: Go to the Bodhi Zendo for a week of awesome zazen!
  • Mar 24 - 26: Travel up the East Coast to Chennai. Hopefully something dreadfully scenic should appear. Ruins, or temples, or something.
  • Mar 27: Fly from Chennai to Kathmandu.
So that should be fun. I hope to write a Kenya wrap-up post soon, but I may not get to it until i'm on the beach.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Blog Fail

So it's been long enough since the last update that people have actually started complaining. What can I say? We're just so freaking cosmopolitan and in-demand that we've simply been too busy living, dahlings, to bother about blogging doncha know.

The house is now at its fullest strength: 11 people total in the same space that Bridget and I were occupying all by our lonesomes for the first 2.5 months. Much of the readership is family, but for those of you who don't know the cast, here's who we've got:
  1. Jeremy (our hero)
  2. Bridget (our heroine)
  3. Debby Rooney (Bridget's aunt, founder of BEADS)
  4. Bill Rooney (Bridget's Uncle, Debby's husband, BEADS Treasurer, Eagles fan (the band, not the football team))
  5. Sue Heersink (Bridget's mother, given the nickname Fisi Wakitabo ("book hyena") for her rabid efforts in bringing books, maintaining the library, reading out loud to kids, and running book clubs during her annual month-long visits)
  6. Dr. Ben Heersink (Bridget's father, Sue's husband, volunteering his opthalmalogical expertise at the local clinics and killing an average of 20 flies per day in the house -- with his bare hands)
  7. Alexandra Heersink (Bridget's youngest sister, helping out in various ways, but mostly teaching two Maasai warriors, who are particular friends of BEADS, how to read)
  8. Dr. Deirdre Heersink-Brown (Bridget's immediately older sister, lending her medical expertise to the clinics, too)
  9. Marc Brown (Deirdre's husband, lending his special education expertise to the school)
  10. Fiona Heersink-Brown (age 6) and
  11. ... Myles Heersink-Brown (age 3) (children of Deirdre and Marc, here to attend classes for a month of serious adaptation)
Whew! It's exciting.

Since many readers seemed captivated by tales of parasites, I will provide more detailed info on my health. Two nights ago I felt nauseous around bedtime, and at 1am I got out of bed and threw up. Now, this wouldn't be such a huge deal except that I haven't thrown up since... (pause for calendar check) least October of 2008, the date of my first hiatal hernia surgery. One of the side effects that some people experience from the surgery is an inability to vomit, which if you check out the wiki entry for the Nissen Fundoplication you can see why. So I've been living with the fear that when I needed to vomit I wouldn't be able to. Good news! I can vomit! Well, good news because it's good to be able to throw up when your body wants you to. But potentially bad news if it indicates that my second surgery -- which, if you haven't heard, I had TWICE because it failed the first time -- also failed. Which, honestly, I think we already know it did, because I still have bad enough heartburn that I am back on daily Prilosec to control it. Sigh.

But so I threw up, then spent much of the following day unconscious on the couch, drifting in and out of a light fever, not hungry, with slight nausea. Today, I am better.

Okay, so we probably should have known this. But as I said above, we're very busy, cosmopolitan people. We're going to India on February 28, according to our plane tickets. But they will put us right back on a plane unless we get some visas. Tomorrow's trip to Nairobi will include a visit to the High Commission of India, where I suspect we will stand in very long lines for very long times. We will surrender our passports (and our will) to the Higher Power of Visa Issuance and hope for the best. It may mean we won't get to go to our favorite shopping place! But we love an adventure, even a bureaucratic one. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Jeremy here. We just got back from the walkathon, which was, as expected, full of challenges.

WARNING: This post has some explicit and disgusting content. Do not read if you are easily upset or revolted.

Debby, Bill, and American Sponsor walkers Mary, Linda, Carmen, and Hatley arrived at the house in Isinya. The house is much more crowded with eight people than with two. We pack and get ready.

Before the walk began for real, we have a short day walk just down the road from Isinya. This was where I discovered that I needed to wear my better shoes for the real walk. This was also the day that when I asked a 7th grader from my singing club how her Christmas break had been, she reported that it had not been good -- because her stepmother had murdered her father. Immediately, I realized we could stop complaining about the cold weather of Europe.

Walkathon proper began with a walk to a church where the BEADS girls who just finished high school were given a graduation ceremony complete with "Pomp and Circumstance" performed on kazoos by the wazungu [white folks]. Unfortunately I spent the entire ceremony squatting in a concrete outhouse with my first real attack of diarrhea since arriving in Kenya. It was... unpleasant. Exhausting. The kind of diarrhea where I thought to myself "I will probably never be able to leave this outhouse" and "I hope that whoever finds me in here will pull up my pants before taking me to whatever passes for a hospital nearby so I might expire with dignity" and "you know what would really hit the spot right now? Morphine." However, after an hour or so and a dose of Lomotil, everything was really fine.

Later, at the Namanga River Lodge, I discovered that I have been colonized by intestinal worms! (Do not ask me how I discovered this.) When I asked the nurse about it, she said "oh, you haven't been taking worm pills regularly?" Sigh.

DAYS 2 & 3
We camped in Amboseli outside the manyatta of the girl whose alternate coming-of-age ceremony BEADS is sponsoring. On the way to the camp we were joined by a sponsor from Sacramento named Betsy and her 19-year-old daughter Jessica. In addition to the white folks on the walk, there were 40 or so 8th grade graduates; about 20 warriors providing protection, support, and amusement; 3 drivers (for the 2 passenger vans and the supply truck) and a cooking staff of like ten. Here is our cook tent:

Here is Saitoti, the Maasai night watchman at Top Ride, slurping blood directly from the carcass of the special cow killed for the ceremony:

DAY 4 & 5

Our second campsite was near the "big rocks," so we climbed them:

We celebrated Linda's birthday with an amazing night of dancing (and showing-off) by the girls and the warriors. No pictures, unfortunately.

Somewhere along the line Bridget and I got very good at sneaking up on and grabbing tiny baby goats and sheep. Here is one of those. This is probably our favorite thing to do. We love picking up baby animals. They're so SOFT.

We walked for a ways but had to drive for an hour to get to our campsite inside of Amboseli National Park. Hyenas, elephants, giraffes, cape buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, etc, all visible. More delicious goat stew. I get hit with another case of diarrhea, but though I didn't think I was going to die, I went to bed with a fever, shaking with chills. Man, I haven't had a fever in so long!

On the last morning (for me and Bridget, anyway -- the others went on to the fancy Serena Lodge) the light seemed way weaker than it should have been for a cloudless 9am near the equator. Turns out: solar eclipse! Since it's hard to take a picture of an eclipse without jeopardizing the intergrity of one's camera (and retinae) I could only take a picture of the shadow cast by the lattice of a plastic chair. See those crescent shapes? That's the shape of the sun with the moon in front of it!

We rode back to Isinya in hired matatus, with frequent stops to allow me to void more of my apparently endless supply of liquid shit. I sleep feverishly for another night.

This is not a very complete travelogue, but I wanted to give you something. The walk was a lot of fun, and filled with adventure, which I may have failed to convey. Perhaps Bridget will fill in some of the gaps! Hooray for Bridget!

Friday, January 8, 2010

It's Just Another Day for You and Me in Paradise

Tomorrow we leave on a week long walk-a-thon, covering 100 kilometers, tenting out in the soggy plains (it finally started raining, 3 months/3 years late), and eating a lot of goat stew. I would feel less trepidation about it if there weren’t so much tension circulating amongst the Americans; in fact, I think that might be the thing in the world that I find most unpleasant, interpersonal friction… which goes to show how charmed my life really is. Everything outside of that seems to pretty much take care of itself for me -- when I’m hungry there’s food, when I’m tired I rest, when I’m angry or lonely I have a little tantrum and get attention or love. I am blessed.

The other day we were in Nairobi in a car we hired on account of the matatu (public transport) strike. From the corner of my eye I saw someone at the car window. I looked away, ignored them, ate a piece of bread, started to polish my apple. I perceived it was a woman, young. She swung her baby from around her back and pointed to it, and some terrible cynical voice inside me said “yeah, nice ploy”, but really what I felt was fear -- afraid to make eye contact with her, to have her see me look and do nothing. The traffic started to move and Jeremy handed her one piece of bread through the window, and she took it not with the disdain or disgust I had expected, but saying “thank you, thank you,” almost bowing to us, and the car began to pull away and I was suddenly full of panic, thinking why didn’t I give her this apple? Why didn’t I give her these dried pears for her child to eat? How could I be so fearful and selfish, when it means nothing for me to get enough to eat? I really felt like a piece of shit. I don’t want to be afraid to look at those who are suffering, and I know there will be more of it to come. I hope I can do the right thing when it comes.