Guilt Trips

Guilt Trips

To everyone planning travel : Listen to NPR’s latest podcast of “To The Best of our Knowledge” after, of course, first reading this blog. And then, buy and read “Beyond Guilt Travel,” remembering, of course, this blog.

“To The Best of Our Knowledge” is an often dead-pan basement interviewing machine adroitly edited to keep you awake. When successful you actually learn quite a lot. Ditto for this week’s podcast about travel.
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KLM Backwards

KLM Backwards

Twenty years old I thought I was an up-and-coming journalist albeit of a different kind. Because the Movement into which my age conscripted me was winning. We young, naive often reckless kids were actually stopping the war in Vietnam, and we “journalists” played a proactive part in bringing that about.

Why am I writing about this on Martin Luther King Day?
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Seal Attack

Seal Attack

Yesterday a baby seal, about the size of a small black lab, attacked multiple swimmers at Cape Town’s popular Clifton Beach. I’d come down exhausted from watching the House disaster, in need of several items of ordinary African news. And the first I found was this.

The seal first attacked a kid, then an older man rescued the kid and got attacked, then the lifeguards blew out warnings but one woman didn’t notice and the seal really bit a chunk out of her until a guy grabbed it, swung it around and then threw it back out to sea… where it immediately turned around and swam back to attack him.
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Failed Demo

Failed Demo

Tomorrow the modern African country that started the Arab Spring in 2010 will officially end democracy in Tunisia. This is neither a coup or proletarian revolution. It’s what the people want.

Tunisia is and always was one of the most progressive and developed societies in Africa. It was no surprise that the “Arab Spring” started here. And I don’t think it’s really their fault that the democratic experiment of 2014 will fail. It’s the fault of democracy itself.

This massive political and social retrograde is happening because democracy is seen as having suffocated economic development. Too much talk and not enough action.
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OnSafari: Aswan

OnSafari: Aswan

The incredible multi-thousand year old history and monuments of pharaonic Egypt draw nearly 12 million visitors a year. But I’m getting really fascinated by the much later periods, when first the Greeks, then the Romans, then ultimately Muslims took control of the empire.

The basic pantheon of Egyptian gods existed from about 5000 years ago, about a dozen deities that explained creation, the difference between good and evil and the afterlife associated with each. But with time the collection of gods increased substantially, and with it the elaborate tombs and monuments and ceremonies that created a civilization that became encapsulated in myth and held stable by fierce ideology.
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OnSafari: Israel

OnSafari: Israel

Three soldiers — all very young – like stick men in a video game strutting awkwardly across an intersection at the very far end of a very long, dark street. Too far to hear their boots on the lose rocks. But the shrill shouts of very young children displace their cadence, and they lift their TAR-21s to hip level and face the sounds of the screaming children.

It just so happens that the kids are between me and the soldiers. I’m in the line of fire.
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OnSafari: First a Fall

OnSafari: First a Fall

The “Great Wall,” the rapturing at the Church of the Nativity, an intimate private lunch with a Palestinian family — so much, today, but one of the most telling was our visit to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

Considered a sacred site in both Judaism and Islam for the same reason, the ability of believers to worship here is now “absurdly” controlled by Israel.

Israel has valid security concerns since at least 67 Jewish worshipers were gunned down here in 1929 on rumors that Jewish militias were going to take over the Temple Mount.
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OnSafari: War Births

OnSafari: War Births

The easiest question of the day: ‘Where’s the center of the earth?’ Certain Christian sects believe it’s the Temple Mount; Jews believe it’s Golgotha; and the always necessarily compromising Palestinians simply draw a line between the two assumed centers and declared the half-point the real middle which conveniently falls in the middle of the Church of the Sepulcher.

So that’s the easy part. So glad we finally figured that out since it’s been bugging me for such a long time.
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OnSafari: First Impressions

OnSafari: First Impressions

Unusual message from the Lufthansa purser: “Please prepare for an immediate landing.” But we’re a long way… “Make sure that you leave behind all personal belongings if asked to evacuate.” Evacuate? I look out the window. “Tray tables now immediately to upright positions.”

But we’re three-quarters of an hour before the scheduled landing! The whole jammed-pack aircraft is now filled with erect, silent passengers – some like me in window seats, squashing their noses against the glass for a better view.
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AWAKE

AWAKE

Beware The Woke. For half a century I’ve lived, worked and critiqued Africa. Now I’m supposed to relent, regret what I did? This mostly leftist campaign currently focused on the entertainment industry is ready to pounce on me and thousands like me.

So I’m pouncing first.
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Beautiful Beast

Beautiful Beast

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.”
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OnSafari : 1st Impressions

OnSafari : 1st Impressions

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?”
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Slow Go

Slow Go

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!’
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Me Worried

Me Worried

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.
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Scared To Death

Scared To Death

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.
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