Wednesday, December 31, 2008

lessons from my father

3/9/2002 again:

hard work

work, women and what we won’t do in public. things my father never told me about. well, not in so many words. what i’m trying to say is that my father didn’t exactly sit me down and talk to me about such things. he didn’t have aphorisms or proverbs – words to live by – to pass on. his actions spoke many a word and much louder even.

on a few occasions however – in those teachable moments – he’d turn to me and share a thought or two. he’d tell me i was in the wrong and why. or he’d be speaking to others but i’d hear. and all this time – the time that’s passed – i didn’t realize i was listening.

i listened to my father talk about hard work. work ethic. that some are blessed with talent. a gift to play or write or perform. and that some – although not many see it in that light – are blessed with the ability to work hard. work ethic. he was blessed with that. my father.

i listened to my father talk about respecting women. not slandering women. not judging women. not making woman feel uncomfortable. he respected women. my father.

i listened to my father talk about being frank. open. honest. about having the confidence and integrity not to scheme. if you can’t do something in public (in view of people) don’t do it in private (behind their backs). he didn’t do things behind people’s backs. he didn’t scheme. he was decent. open. honest. my father.

those are the things my father never told me about. those are the things my father talked about. and was about. i listened. i saw. i didn’t know. but now i know.

Monday, December 29, 2008

hollow land

Indeed, beyond their physical reality, the territories of Israel/Palestine have constituted a schematic description of a conceptual system whose properties have been used to understand other geopolitical problems. The ‘Intifada’ unfolding in Iraq is a part of an imaginary geography that Makram Khoury-Machool called the ‘Palestinization of Iraq’. Yet, if the Iraqi resistance is perceived to have been ‘Palestinized’, the American military has been ‘Israelized’.
Furthermore, both the American and Israeli militaries have adopted counter-insurgency tactics that increasingly resemble the guerrilla methods of their enemies.

When the wall around the American Green Zone in Baghdad looks as if it had been built from left-over components of the West Bank Wall;

when ‘temporary closures’ are imposed on entire Iraqi towns and villages and reinforced with earth dykes and barbed wire;

when larger regions are carved up by road blocks and checkpoints;

when the homes of suspected terrorists are destroyed, and ‘targeted assassinations’ are introduced into a new global militarized geography is because the separate conflicts now generally collected under the heading of the ‘war on terror’ are the backdrop to the formation of complex ‘institutional ecologies’ that allow the exchange of technologies, mechanisms, doctrines, and spatial strategies between various militaries and the organizations that they confront, as well as between the civilian and the military domains.
Eyal Weizman. Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation (Verso, London, 2007), p. 10.
this is what i'm presently reading... can't help but make the connections b/w current events in Gaza, my recent posts on Israeli incursions into the Occupied Territories almost 7 years ago, and the links the author makes in the excerpt above (and i allude to in the previous post) b/w American and Israeli approaches to the 'War on Terror.'

note: i've broken up the excerpt for easier reading... it's all one long paragraph in the book.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

until they understand...

40+ people (mostly Palestinian) were killed yesterday in and around the Occupied Territories. it was a Friday, of course. now Sharon is talking about a cease-fire... without the need for the 7 days of peace he’d been calling for as a condition to talks. he’s been saying things like: we have to inflict pain and casualties on Palestinians until they understand...

i don’t think he or a whole lot of other Western leaders understand that this will not end in that way. that no matter how many die or are killed in one day, tomorrow there will be more [resistance]. even more. i think maybe Sharon finally understood he couldn’t butcher that many people on a consistent basis and go on alleging they were all terrorists.

i think maybe Sharon got a phone call from DC telling him to cool it. that our "War on Terror" takes priority and he’s giving it a bad name. especially with the “Moderate Arab States.” yeah... God bless the Moderate Arab States. God bless America. God bless foreign national interest in our part of the world. peace.

on a lighter note... i went out to the farm with Paul and his crew [siblings] this morning. planted maize. got my hands dirty. good stuff.

smells like Babadjou

been raining again. hasn’t done so in over a week . dust was coming back. anywho... all is well now. clouds are back. forgot how beautiful and spectacular the formations are/were.

cool in the morning. a bit. fresh, if you will. even smells like Babadjou in the morning. definitely feels like it. funny how the rain does that... remind me of Babadjou. changes this place entirely.

i know i’ve written about this. it is too uncanny. and, like i said... Wum is much better suited to the tropics.

“oubanga”... Aghem for white-man ["outsider"]. just met a couple of them from the SIL group doing their stage here. American and Canadian.

and, of course, i’ve already forgotten their names. typical. couldn’t catch someone’s name if it hit me in the face. i shwear!

Friday, December 26, 2008


ran out to the Lake this morning. not just to the beach spot... climbed up to the ridge around the Lake. great view. high up. these sports are really hurting my body. it aches. i'm tired. i don't recover physically fast enough. i stretch. i eat. i sleep. still... i ache. but good aches i guess.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

hip hop home

still 3/5/2002:
“Don’t Touch That Dial!”
DJ Marley Marl on the BBC World Service!

...hip-hop (serious stuff) on the BBC. all too random but truly welcome. little piece of home... wonder who else is feeling that out here?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

two slips, but who cares?

ACT Teaching Reading Seminar
(Association for Creative Teaching)

Scripta Verba Manet is the ACT motto. “Written word lasts."

-"when we repeat we remember, and we repeat what we remember."
-the skills involved in language are listening, speaking, reading, writing and thinking... each skill has its own vocabulary.
Tell a child what to think and you make him a slave to knowledge. Teach a child how to think and you make all knowledge his slave.
notes from a reading seminar i made a grand entrance into by falling on my butt in a busted chair in front of a crowded hall of 200+ students and teachers, LATE! no biggie, though. just dusted myself off, apologized for interrupting as i did and sat down closer to the front.

you know, i don’t know what it was but i totally/sincerely didn’t feel at all embarrassed. to me, right then and there and in front of all those people, i didn’t care... good thing or bad? confidence or apathy? self-esteem or presumptuousness? either way... i just didn’t care. and in a way, that concerns me.

besides, one of the other GTTC teachers [a colleague who was known for sleeping around with our students] was more ashamed i’m sure when his namesake, the seminar's leader, called himself the original version and our colleague the adulterated one!

no pun intended and much covering up for the Freudian slip but to no avail... 2 slips [one of the tongue, the other off a chair], 2 teachers got laughed at. but only one cared, i think. i hope.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

the hypocrisy of we

palestine keeps getting worse. afghanistan is still going. the philippines, georgia, iraq and yemen are next. listening to the BBC this evening [2002, Review of the Year] i didn’t know what to think. what is there to think? one just feels in cases like these. and [we] Americans (the administration, at least, but the public to the extent that [we] don’t protest) seem unable to do either; think or feel, that is. only for [our]selves.

and [we] send troops around the globe reflecting that... an ethnocentric egoism blind to how others are affected or may ultimately react. and [we] send volunteers around the globe talking about peace and understanding. i cannot believe i got a letter from George W telling me what an important job i’m doing. the hypocrisy disgusts me. makes me sick. ashamed that i’m out here. as an American... that i’d even begin to defend American values, ideals or culture... let alone represent them.

i was so disgusted as i listened to yet another self-righteous, myopic “ugly American” political viewpoint that it made me want to leave. head right to Yaounde and tear up my passport in front of anyone high enough to do something about it. to send me home. to take this label off of me. where do they get off? ...and how do i utter we anymore without buying into that same hypocrisy?

the Peace Corps... are you kidding me?!

Monday, December 22, 2008

honest constructive

...still here at Muhammad’s. his mother refused to let me leave before 1pm. after prayer, that is, wants to feed me again. good folks.

we went out to see the cows. Abdu and a bunch of the young men were struggling with an injured cow, itself struggling. this place is sooo big. beautiful open grassland. [my stereotypical] Africa.

saw Suhaibu in the morning. had a most interesting conversation about America, Israel, the MidEast and Oil... politics, that is. Suhaib was translating questions from an old Fulani man from Esu to me.

conversations like that make me think. they tire me b/c it’s tough enough to deal with topics like that without the language/cultural barrier. that makes expression and comprehension that much tougher.

question(s): other PCV’s... when they’re asked about America, how do they respond? how frank are they? how biased? and i? am i giving an equally biased view? an inaccurate one? an unAmerican one? a detrimental one? not constructive or just honest? can honest be constructive? that the trick. be honest about American government. constructive about American people? can’t have conversations like that without thinking “wow... this PC experience.” surreal, the cross-cultural exchange. you take it for granted, but at times you can’t help but notice the exchange as you’re having it.

and the questions about America don’t stop coming. keep them coming. just need the answers myself. and in trying to answer i learn more. about here. about there. about me. about us.

Friday, December 19, 2008

peaceful people, beautiful place

just after maghrib [sunset] at Muhammadu’s place. BIG compound. small village, really. good people. a lot of people. peaceful people. beautiful place. stereo-typically Africa. imagine spending stage [training] in a place like this. with a family like this. would love that. guess that’s why i’m here now. spending the night... peace and freedom.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

mon-ee matters

“in africa there are no emergencies, only people in a hurry.”
a young, charming, well-spoken, intelligent, handsome doctor shared this proverb (and an anecdote or 2 from his personal/practical/medical experience to reinforce it) with Maggie and i this evening.

i’m tired... been tired. body needs rest. been up to a lot, physically. maybe to make up for not being so mentally.

joined MUDA [a local muslim men’s savings & loan group] today... spent 4,800 cfa on registration, savings and back fees. seems like a good idea. would have been/would be great with the ISA crew. remember how we spoke about it before i left home?... gotta write some of the guys about it.

funny how money is. doing business with people changes things. no nonsense. kinda strange. a little unnerving. only b/c of how i feel about money. but if all intentions are well, all is well. gotta talk with Adamu about that... mon-ee!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

go to things

go to things, Mohamad. go to things... don’t make excuses. you’re only here once, so to speak. better to go and know then stay home and not, or regret. OK? go to things!

monkey water

“it’s easy to give a monkey water, but it’s not easy to take the cup away.”
-proverb from
this morning’s
Network Africa!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

2 Worlds, 2 Wums

26th February, 2002...
it rained today. early afternoon and evening. places are “fresh” now, as people here would say. actually, it’s like a different world. climate totally changed the atmosphere, if you will. and i’m not the only one who’s happy about it. you can feel the energy in the air.

the rain did a lot... it feels/sounds/looks like the tropics again. no dust. no heat. clouds keep the sun at bay. wind keeps humidity lower. not low, but lower. all is good... i like the tropics. i like it hot and dry, too, but Wum is no desert. hot and dry without the serenity of open space is no good. so i welcome the rainy season. knowing full well i’ll be cursing the mud soon enough.

but mangoes will be here soon! that’ll keep me quiet for a while. and it’ll all be green before we know it. Wum is 2 different places, i’m telling you.

Friday, December 12, 2008

bugs awake, clouds forming

fresh, cool breeze blowing through Wum this late afternoon and early evening. and just last week i was thinking this place would soon turn into a desert. it’s humid now.

bugs and frogs awake at night. clouds forming in the sky. rain at Benakuma. must not be too far off here.

it’s getting hard to drink my necessary 5 or 6 cups of tea per day. humidity and all... can’t keep my shirt on, either. kinda like it though... feels like Africa [see comments]. the tropics.

Muaza says it won’t last. the heat, that is. rainy season can bring cold winds during the storms. like Santa, i guess... just not that cold.

all right... PEACE MUHAMMADU!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

suddenly hot and humid

it’s hot and humid all of a sudden. like overnight. i’m SW [southwest province] sweating. strange. really so drastic of a change. rainy season is coming... sooner rather than later. the heat, clouds, insects and even thunder are all telling the same tale. gotta love these transitions.

gotta love the extremes. cannot believe Wum got this hot... and who ever heard of humidity before it even rained? no rain for months and it’s humid! was just saying last week that Wum town will soon become a desert if it doesn’t rain. now that looks like it’s right around the corner.

signs of the rainy season... extreme heat, strange humidity, everyone to and from the farm, the clouds and bugs at night. oh.. went to Muhammadu’s with Maggie today. HOT!... and we still drank tea!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

eid in any language!

‘Eid mubarak! [arabic]
Bonne Fette! [french]
Barakata Sallah! [hausa]
Happy Eid! [english]
Njoli njam! [fulfulde]
...heard a bit of all of that today. spent a nice long day out in Ukpwa, 9am-6pm. ate... twice. well. meat... ram, beef, chicken and fish. prayed out there. toured the village with Maggie. sat down and had interesting discussions with the young men. HIV/AIDS, Bin Laden and development, among other topics.

women figured heavily in our discussions but not in our presence. Maggie sat, ate and chatted with the men today. wonder how she feels about that? will ask... about that, Bin Laden and Ukpwa wanting too much tomorrow. we ended the day out there watching a football match. nice place. great people. good day.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

bamenda and back


...well, was to and from Bamenda today. tired now... mostly b/c it’s late. Isma was too cute the entire time. too dirty as well. but i think i ended up being dirtier by the time i got back here this evening.

got to the bank. sent some letters. was unable to find an envelope to send that audio cassette i made. did send Isma and Das off. but didn’t do email. got mail from BP 5033. talked to the fam... got a few things from Vatican [imported goods supermarket]. got here safely... coming home is nice now.

wished Arouna and Dairou [two muslim friends in douala and yaounde] bonne fette by phone. tomorrow is eid al-adha! [feast of the sacrifice]... didn’t get to email. next time. spending eid in Ukpwa. gonna chop [eat] meat! Maggie is coming, too.

Monday, December 8, 2008

das is here

was just thinking this morning that Das was supposed to be coming around to visit around this time. end of Feb... fete du mouton [feast of the ram, or the sacrifice]. figured i should let Paul and Maggie know, as i may be in Bamenda or at Ukpwa if/when he shows up.

well... Das is here. he’s chillin’ to Um Kalthoum in the living room, perusing through my old Newsweeks. his edible adorable daughter, my sister Isma’ilah, is sleeping in the other room. has the dress Nunu got her and her hair is all done... she’s too cute. beautiful girl.

we’ll be off to Bamenda together tomorrow morning around 10am. gotta make a few changes to my plans (can’t pick up my package), but it’s worth it. family always comes first, n’est-ce pas?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

trust faith

a few scattered thoughts before i go to bed...

-Ibrahim took shahada [converted] at the mosque tonight after maghrib [sunset prayer]... he got some change from a couple brothers, and he’s getting a book from me.

-it’s easy to get lost in thought during those long walks home under a hot sun. i wander through memories in my mind and my heart wanders a little further back home. home-home, that is.

-i’m having issues with lack of structure. WHY?!

-hard work is a gift, hardly working a curse.

-la imana liman la amanata lahu
= “there is no faith in someone people have no faith (trust) in.” -Hadith

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

cement bags to Ukpwa

took the cement bags out to Ukpwa today. all went well except Zengue [local trader] asked for 3,000 cfa instead of 1,500 for fuel. made those deductions. i’m going to spend a week out there in the village sometime... insha’Allah.

Monday, December 1, 2008


"income is the direct output of input."
-quote from a Christian preacher
on the radio this afternoon...

i.e. don't sweat the mon-ee, ee di come! [the money will come, in pidgin]

...was listening to the radio show as i waited for Joe, Apollo the plumber's brother, to come back to his shop at Fish Point in Bamenda.

back in Wum now. long day. not bad. especially as i saw Kristen... she's well. got a nice letter from her. sweet woman. school is good for her. a lot of hours. much work. she may also ET after this year.

all right... gotta sleep. tomorrow.