Saturday, July 21, 2007

the end begins

It is currently about 20 of 2:00 in the morning. The flight for our youth mission trip to Alaska leaves in less than 12 hours.

Exciting, to be sure. But so is the fact that the final Harry Potter book is now in-hand. Like true book-nerds, Nancy and I ventured to Barnes and Noble at 11:30 p.m. for the midnight sale. We joined a crowd of approximately 700 other people (no exaggeration) equally excited about the final installment of the series.

I have to give credit to Barnes and Noble: we were near the end of the line, and it took us less than an hour to wend our way through the entire store to the cashier's desk. Pretty efficient...and, truth be told, shorter than most of my browsing trips to B&N.

I'm off to read a few pages before bed. Looking forward to spending the better part of three long plane rides reading. Being the relatively slow reader that I am, I'm thankful that I'll be in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness for a week and a half where no one can spoil any of the book for me. If only I can make it through the airports tomorrow, I should be home free...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

more africa photos

Weeks after the fact, I have finally managed to sort through the 1,296 photos that I took in Sudan and Kenya. I'm picking up prints (yes, actual photographs that one can hold in hand) this afternoon from Richmond Camera. I culled the mass of photos down to just under 200, and I have uploaded them to Kodak Gallery and arranged them chronologically to provide some semblance of a story line. If you're interested in seeing our little corner of Africa as we saw it, you can get to the online Kodak Gallery Album here.


Monday, July 02, 2007

toothpaste epiphany

I had an epiphany while brushing my teeth a few minutes ago. It's so simple and obvious that it hardly seems worth the breath to say it. The thought (I swear I've been mulling this over like a Zen koan for the past 15 minutes) is this: You can only see what is right in front of your face. It's so obvious as to sound painful, idiotic. Reminds me of that line from the play Anything Goes: "It's always darkest just before they turn on the lights."

What I mean is that you can't really know something fully until you experience it for yourself. And we can choose, to some degree, what we see and don't see (and here I intend "seeing" to encompass all types of personal experience). For instance: we can know - rationally - that a sunset is considered beautiful...but we don't know it as a part of ourselves until we actually see one in all its grandeur. We can "know" that disease exists, but we don't know it until people close to us (or we ourselves) fall ill. We can conceptualize what it is like to be incredibly wealthy or unacceptably poor...but we don't feel those things fully until we see them firsthand.

I guess what I'm getting at is that most of us living as middle-to-upper class Americans are comfortable. Yes, there are things that we want and need that we don't have. But generally speaking, we have the comfort of being able to choose. There are any number of things and experiences that we can't control in our lives...but there are a vast number that we can. And if it's true that "we can only see what is right in front of our faces," it seems to me that we have a moral obligation to place in our field of vision ideas and experiences that benefit others as much as (or more than) they benefit us. This is a tough idea in a country that prides itself on "the individual" and the personal gain inherent in pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. But given our global position of relative wealth, choosing to put others' needs in front of our faces - voluntarily compromising our anesthetic blindness of unknowing, the comfort of our unwillingness to look closely - seems to be the only responsible course of action in order for us to evolve as humans.

(OK, I admit it: this post is an oblique reflection on the whole Africa experience. Still struggling with what to make of it and, more importantly, what to do with it...especially as I increasingly see it as a microcosm of the human condition. Feel free to call me out if you think this is all pseudo-philosophical overly-sentimental idealistic B.S....but be prepared to defend your position.)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

garden in the paper

A follow-up on the May 30 post about my garden being in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The article ran on Saturday, June 9 while I was in Africa. I was really happy with the way it turned out and the amount of space given to this edible front yard idea - the article about Antonia's garden covered the entire front page of the Home and Garden section. Very exciting - and affirming - for these projects to be displayed so publicly. Here are links to both articles (mine is the second, leading out of the first):

Times-Dispatch article on Antonia's garden
Times Dispatch article on my garden

Sorry the pictures seem to be unavailable at this point, but at least the articles are still there...