South Africa is exquisitely beautiful and culturally devastatingly complex. It’s the bitter-sweet but intense experience I try to convey at the start of a South African trip.
My job was made really easy this time. The whole massive conundrum is so perfectly conveyed by Cape Town’s new super modern art museum, anchored at the moment by Rose Tracey’s “Shooting Down Babylon” exhibition.
On the one hand we walked across the top of the Cape of Good Hope able to see for miles and miles out to see and watch all the anger boiled by the seven seas crash against giant mountains. And on the other hand the vast majority of South Africans remain captured in an asphyxiating ugly past that Tracey characterizes as “Mandela’s Dream Deferred.”
My Uber driver somehow noticed my app came from America and greeted me in perfect English, “Where you from?” I told him Chicago. He thought a moment then sort of sardonically guffawed:
“Are you prepared for the trouble?”
I’d let my routine slip recently, not following Kenyan news as I usually do. I knew the presidential elections were coming up, always a bad time to be in Kenya. My mind raced through all the too many different times in my life I’d stepped into trouble in Africa, rarely accidentally. But I’m much older now. My heart didn’t race like it did when I was young. There was no adrenaline. I always got through it before. Would now. No matter what it was.
“So what’s wrong?” I finally prompted him.
“What?!” he asked incredulously. “You didn’t hear about the shooting of children in Texas?”
I’m on my way back to Africa, the second time since the pandemic began oscillating downwards. As with the first safari it’s much longer than pre-pandemic.
Responding to my clients’ wishes I built a long, multiple country itinerary with almost every possible wildlife stop. A certain anxiety among traveler enthusiasts has resulted in them pushing to go longer and deeper once they make the decision to go.
Sort of like, ‘Well if we’re going to do it, we better do it all!’
Written years from now history will describe the fall of Mariupol not so much a military as political defeat. Then more years hence when books are written about the end of modern America, a connection will be made with Mariupol.
Then more and more cross references will weave a history of our current times as one of privileged classes intoxicated by their comfort, unmotivated to carry on the battles for everyone that got them to where they were: Coopted if not corrupted by their own satisfaction.
It’s very hard to write in a public forum about anything other than the Ukrainian war. Referring to my own interests rooted deeply in Africa can’t assuage any of the guilt that we’re not doing enough to stop this monstrous conflict.
They say age increases paranoia: Thousands of memories of African dictators and gruesome conflicts sweep through my head, but nothing rises to the destruction in Ukraine. I don’t feel this way because Ukraine is a “white man’s war” or because Ukrainians seem to be more culturally and economically aligned with my own privileged ecosystem than the good citizens of Uganda fighting the LRA. That’s hogwash.
Covid – IV
Traveling with Covid
We traveled when colds spread in airline cabins. We traveled when flu was all around us. So now we’ll travel with Covid, too. Americans, though, have additional hurdles others won’t have to face. But if you’re an American, you’ve got to face them. Don’t walk away from distant travel, because America’s Achilles heel – and the disabling personal anxiety in our individual souls – is an unique cowboy loneliness that will take us down awfully quick. Travel is our antidote.
Might makes Right.
How about adding, Woke makes Weak.
My wife’s sisters were born in South Africa and my wife was born in Canada because of World War II. Now stretch that out to my own life in Africa. Then let it snap back to the instant. My African spirits whisper, “World War III.”
Last night EWT’s first large group since January 2020 arrived Nairobi on Air France. Quoting the leader, “It was a LONG DAY.” PCR testing, endless lines as health officials scrutinized and tested every entrant, and sudden new regs against the Yellow Fever outbreak… “Exhausting” he said. Then…
… two hours after they were tucked asleep in their Nairobi hotel, the Kenyan Government removed most restrictions regarding Covid as a result of the enormous decline in the virus locally. All you need now is a copy of your vaccination. How we want to celebrate! But we can’t because of Ukraine.
Six dollar-a-gallon is less painful than radiation burns. Devil in the details, of course, so celebration of America’s “ban of Russian oil” should be suspended until all the details are known. But my African friends think my ardent support for this is hypocritical. One of my favorite commentators, Joy Reid of MSNBC, last night echoed that sentiment. They’re all wrong.
South Africa’s repugnant refusal to condemn Russia is a dangerous over estimation of the importance of its BRICS trade alliance. As a leader of much of the African world, it’s cultish suicide.
Attempts to frame the Ukrainian invasion as just another dispute among us rich and powerful is shameful. The South African Rand plunged today. Apparently the Rand understands.
Imagine at long last! You wiggle happily into your preferred economy seat that you agonized over buying. Not bad. As the stream of pushing and shoving passengers push down the aisle to the back of the plane you smile quietly nodding your head to yourself. Preferred economy was undoubtedly the first right decision. Sighing you just hope that all the other decisions will prove just as good!
Vacations were never as important. As problematic. As uncertain. The long time since you last left home because of the pandemic grew so depressing that it was difficult to spring out of! The first difficult decision was just to do it! And you did! Congratulations!
Britain’s House of Lords isn’t normally a cauldron for news. Scheduled tea breaks would likely prevail over debate of the imminent apocalypse of an asteroid racing towards Westminster. But Wednesday Lord Peter Hain managed to step onto the world stage to – with not quite these words – warn America of what has just happened in South Africa.
I’ve often connected South Africa and former President Zuma, with America and former President Trump. Well, move Mitt Romney into the mix, now. Something’s very depressing about all of this.
If you’re a resident in one of the twenty Republican States that are currently prohibiting vaccine documentation you probably already know that it will be much more difficult for you to travel outside the country than before the pandemic.
I anticipated this, but not to the extent it’s happening. It’s ludicrous and is making America the laughing stock of the world.
Shortly after crossing the parched deserts of what is now southern Namibia the explorer Charles John Andersson collapsed onto the embankment of the Hountop stream that ultimately led into the mighty Orange River. Dangerously relieved he almost fell asleep rather than drink some life-saving water. He had “made it through,” according to his book, Lake Ngami.
“But I was soon destined to experience a greater calamity… I was seized by a violent shivering fit which lasted three hours, then came the fever, of almost as long duration, accompanied by racking headache and profuse perspiration.”
These are classic symptoms of malaria. It was April just after the rains when malaria is most severe. But this was long before malaria was known and Andersson was convinced it was a pandemic.
Minutes after Biden’s speech ended the media of sub-Sahara Africa fired up. No matter they were all ending their day: “Biden tears into Trump,” Nigeria’s Independent online newspaper proclaimed. South Africa’s Business Insider focused on Barak Obama’s praise of the speech.
“Democracy is at a greater risk,” Business Insider concluded.
You have to go outside America to see what the speech means. No matter how historical or consequential the speech may be for Democrats and progressives, it doesn’t exist for Trumpians.