This gorgeous documentary follows people as they become US Citizens across 50 different states. As each person tells us why they came to the United States, we are reminded of the tremendous privileges and opportunities we have in this country.
"You have to go out to be humbled," said one new US Citizen, meaning we understand and experience other places to understand the value of what we have in front of us. This documentary provides an amazing glimpse into what is good about the U.S.A. using the mirror of our newest citizens. Beautifully done.
One of the most beautiful, heart stopping things about my visit to Harnas was the opportunity to hear a cheetah purr. It is a full V8. It is no holds barred. Something to make a visitor forget absolutely everything else but that moment.
It's a taste of East in the Mid. A not cold, not yet warm walk down the streets of Chicago, fingers and ears cooled, trees still leafless. Aged brick buildings designed from a time-gone-by, the rumble of the L, and murals of colorful graffiti. A feeling of old industry and history in the air. Warm rounded lights, broadway style, blink around hand painted signs.
One hour north of San Francisco down winding, forested roads lies Pt Reyes, a beautiful gem of a coastal town.
A tiny outdoor coffee shop, eclectic bookstore, inviting creamery. Warming restaurants and the proclamation of 'organic' on signs and packages. Art standing free in open lots and hanging off the sides of buildings.
A drive down a long coastal road leads to wooden shacks hanging out over the water. A cool microbrew, garlic bread and barbequed mussels, thick chowder with herbs. Rain rising, making way to a lighthouse buffeted by wind and fog. Grass glows green in the rain, mud sticking to shoes.
Night descending and refuge in a small stand alone cottage. Vaulted ceilings, heated stone floors, a fireplace and sunken tub. Inviting white down, the sound of wind in the trees just outside. A breakfast of warm baked goods delivered to the door in the morning. A small sanctuary "the secret place" soon to be again visited.
I continue to be a huge fan and supporter of Kiva, a non profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. A big congratulations to Kiva on just passing $200 Million in loans! Kiva has shown an incredible growth rate, haven given its first loan in 2005, reaching the $100 million mark in November of 2009, and then $200 million just a little over 1 year later.
"This milestone serves as an incredible reminder of the impact lenders are making, one loan at a time. With the help of 126 Field Partners, we have been able to provide loans to over 520,000 people in 58 countries around the world!" - Kiva
A 10 minute video journal on beautiful Argentina ..... reminiscing on a trip that took us from the chill Ushuaia to the glaciers and dramatic mountains at El Chalten to the near tropical landscape of Iguazu Falls.
It's just dusk and I quickly grab a sleeping bag and headlamp, packet of repellant, long pants, fleece. It's sleepout night and I'll be spending mine with Duma and Goeters, two of Harnas' cheetahs. Entering their enclosure, I set up my sleeping bag on a wood platform, barely able to make out shapes in the dark. The sounds of the lapa bar carry over for a couple of hours, then it is just the beautiful sound of african-night. Lion roars, crickets, the sound of Duma circling under the platform, purring and rubbing up against its edges. The sound of a lone mosquito. Brilliant star filled sky above, spots of clouds.
Duma joins me once for a few minutes, then a second and third time before settling in for the night. First there is the purrrrrrr below the platform, the sound of cheetah rubbing against the wood corners. Then a lanky figure leaps up gracefully onto the platform, strolls over. Then paws are placed on the corner of my sleeping bag by my head. A slumping down hard against me. Purring, a few licks, a nibble on the corner of my fleece collar, cheetah head on my shoulder, we both go to sleep.
A final 5am wake up, Duma leaps down, stretching one paw out, then the next and next, then saunters off to Goeters. I pack up in the still-near-dark and walk back to the village as the sun rises. Eyes of bat eared foxes shine across the lawn, a herd of springbok bound out of the way.
Back at the village, I wash the scent-of-cheetah off me and my clothes. There are the sounds of birds, Africa waking. A hot cup of tea out on the picnic benches, 3 zebras frolic at the watering hole. 3 giraffe lumber in.... a handful of cookies with my tea. An ostrich pecks at the BBQ, then trots off to play with the hammocks, fascinated.
Sun rising, warms my back, wet hair drying. A mob of mongoose enter, criss crossing the area for bits of food, heads just barely bobbing above the slightly-taller-than-them grass. Wildebeast enter, springbok moving nervously away. The rest of the village still sleeps.
My task in the afternoon is to take Herman the Mongoose out into the bush for a few hours of bush R&R and a light program of digging. I capture him just fine and we head out, Herman chirping away in the cage.
A suitable distance from the farm, I release Herman. All goes well ... for the first 30 minutes. Herman digs. I take some time to listen to 'the bush', chirp back to Herman and watch and encourage his digging. It's all very Disney. Then Herman sits on his back legs, looks out to the farm, back at me, then *runs* (and I mean runs) away.
This wasn't part of the program. I grab my pack, the cage, my water bottle, and run after him, cage and pack bouncing off me. I look like a woman with too many bags in the Christmas shopping rush. "Herman, come Herman " I call. I see an occasional glimpse of him, hear chirping, but he's still running. All I can think is that I can't lose Herman. I *can't* lose Herman. 400 meters later, he pauses, I catch him, breathless and in disarray.
On gathering advice prior to taking him back out again (we still had 2 hours left), I'm advised to "Just walk the other direction (away from him) and he'll follow you." Aren't lessons so much more poignant when they follow a 400 meter dash? Done. More Disney. Less running. A perfect closing afternoon with Herman the Mongoose.
We walk down a path marked by wooden markers with white tips to our cabins. All manner of animal footprints indent the sand, the air is cooling, and the sounds of night rising.
It's our first night in Harnas and already we have the sense we are 'in the middle of it'. At orientation, an ostrich strolls by, flapping its wings, picking at the ground, and clapclapclapping its beak together. Wildebeast gather at the watering hole just behind our benches. We are warned not to dry hand washed clothing during the day as ostrich are likely to make off with clothing. Oh - and it is the start of snake season. Watch where you step.
But it's around 12am when the most moving 'in it' moment occurs. Lion roar. First one, then another, calls overlapping. They are deep, guttural, entire body sounds that carry for miles and own the land. I wake up with a start. It sounds like they are 'right there' and I imagine my cabin (and in fact my very corner of the cabin, with just mosquito netting between me and the outside) is closest to the sound. 4 times that night, the lion roar 'goes off'. I learn later that our lions are in enclosures a fair distance away, but for that one night, it felt like they were walking right amongst us.
Lion roar is what first welcomed us and what wished us a goodbye on our last night. Magic.
We arrive at Harnas. One road out of Windhoek, one turn down a dirt road, miles of red earth. A brief pause in Gobabis, a small dusty town with brightly colored buildings, a bustle of humanity, the long, patterned cotton clothing and horn-shaped headdresses of the Herero people.
As we enter the gates of Harnas, I can't help but be reminded of Jurassic Park. The gates are large and ornate, and bordered by rows of tall, electric wiring.
"You're very lucky to arrive safely. Enjoy your stay at Harnas."
In upcoming posts I will not be sharing any details on how Harnas works or runs its program. These are to be discovered by those who visit and represent the secret sauce developed from years of experience, listening, and improvement.
Rather I'll be sharing some of the amazing moments that can only come from being in the middle of something very extraordinary.
On the plane, an announcement that the staff speak English, Afrikaans, German, Setswana and Zulu. An 11 hour flight down the length of Africa.
As the sun rises, Namibia first presents itself, from the plane, as nearly entirely flat land, criss crossed with tracks, dotted with squat trees. It shows in the colors of cream, gray and black. A rare stone hill carries moss green; a color I would think is only found in the presence of an unexpected, new rain. We land between billowy clouds and the gray sky-to-earth streaks of thunder showers that flank us left and right.
On the ground, we step out of the plane to a steady horizontal wind blowing with the scent of just-wet sand. The airport is an informal space of just two rooms, representing well the capital of one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world.
A tall silver sign proclaims "You in Namibia."
We arrive 50 kilometers from anything, far out in the bush and in our drive to the capital the cab driver talks of Namibia's sparse population, diamond mines, sand dunes, how the capital is too expensive for most and how many live just outside its borders. The lilt in the speech is hypnotizing. We drive through a desert landscape with deep, dry riverbeds that show the possibility of great and sudden rains.
Road signs warn of warthog and kudu crossings.
In the capital, a handful of women sit on the side of the road, hair reddened, traditional clothing. But otherwise Windhoek first faces out as a western city. Everything is crisp and in good repair, street signs awash in German. It feels like Europe. I wish I had a few days to find and explore the 'non-europe' of Namibia's capital.
Now sitting on an open porch having dinner, the scent of rain and the steady warm wind. Bougainvillea and a candle on my table. Flashes of lightning in the distance. A completely foreign star-scape in a patch of clear sky just above. A dark outline of a figure standing by the hotel gate, backlit by streetlights.Tomorrow, the multi-hour drive to Harnas, 100km north of Gobabis.
I try to never check bags when flying internationally. It adds time to flight transfers, particularly where the already multi-hour customs process gets involved. Plus there's always that chance of lost luggage (and I've had my fair share of lost bags).
My trip to Namibia created a special challenge when I realized, upon completion of packing, that I forgot to include a sleeping bag (great sadness). This was already an equipment heavy packing job that included normal clothing and gear *plus* a syringe kit, full first aid kit, mosquito net, camera gear, computer, rain jacket, and pillow (yes, never leave home without one when long flights are ahead). My work-of-art carry-on had not a cubic centimeter left available.
Solution: I had to go buy a slighter large backpack for my second bag and a compression sack for the sleeping bag. It's tight but beats checking luggage!
Just 3 weeks away from my next trip, I'm in the final phases of prep for a trip to the Harnas Wildlife Foundation in Namibia including the gathering of a visa, immunizations and supplies.
Namibia holds my destination point, the Harnas Wildlife Foundation where I will be spending two weeks doing hands on volunteer work with an amazing group of people known for their unrelenting efforts to protect local wildlife.
About 100km north of Gobabis, it will take 33 hours by air and 4 hours by land to get there. I can't wait to put my feet on the road! (And thank you, Graham, for catching that I wrote "33 years". That would have been one, mighty journey ;)..)
Lyrical and beautifully crafted, West with the Night is among the most wonderful books I have had the opportunity to read in recent years. Though its pages, Beryl Markam tells tale of her remarkable life as a horse breeder, adventurer and aviator in East Africa in the early 1900s. And she tells it with such skill that the reader can taste, smell and feel the air and light of Africa. That it is a highly recommended read goes without saying. Magic.
One of many memorable passages below:
"There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is silence after a rainstorm, and before a rainstorm, and these are not the same. There is the silence of emptiness, the silence of fear, the silence of doubt. There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used, or from a piano with old dust upon its keys, or from anything that has answered to the need of a man, for pleasure or for work. This kind of silence can speak. Its voice may be melancholy, but it is not always so; for the chair may have been left by a laughing child or the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay. Whatever the mood or the circumstance, the essence of its quality may linger in the silence that follows. It is a soundless echo."
In the night, smoke imbibed hair, marshmellows. Wind in the eucalyptus above a needy campfire. Raccoon paws rustling through an unattended bag of beef jerky. Fog horns paired with the thrum of ship engines, waves.
In the morning, the cracked concrete of an old fort, embellishments of purple thistle. All of San Francisco measured in the window of a tent. Fog enveloped rock scenery. Wet sand. An old rope swing hanging by a tendril. A sea lion, Golden Gate Bridge and I watching the sun rise.
The rain first comes down lightly, then persistently. Roman soldiers in garish costumes take cover, leather skirts flying. Vendors switch from selling gelato to selling umbrellas without missing a beat. A sea of umbrellas rises out of a crowd of tourists, red, blue, polka dot and striped. Tiny alleys, cobblestone streets, sidewalk cafes and the scent of stone and pavement dampened by rain.
Sitting at a cafe under an umbrella as the rain comes down...warm cappuccino... a first day in Rome.
4 hours. Little 80s Peuguot with falling-off car doors, missing latches, ripped seats, deflated arm rest and decapitated rear view mirror. Scent of mildew and diesel.
Just outside the city, a stop for gas, oil, water and more water and windshield wash. Into the car and turn the key. No ignition once, twice, three times. Then the engine catches. Confidence soars?
Testy driver. Swerving, gestures and a little distraction? Hand grips what's left of the arm rest.
2 and a half hours out into the countryside. Donkeys, goats, horses and street vendors. Entry into a tiny little country town for a nice, hot coffee. Car turned off. Will it start again?
Back into the car. No ignition once, twice, three, four, five and six times. Then back to the trunk, and return with a tire wrench. Hood open, tire wrench jammed into the engine. Another try, no go. Back the the engine. Use of a hammer to drive the wrench deeper into the engine. Ignition.
On our way again. More swerving, more gesturing and that sometimesdistracteddaze.
St. Louis, Senegal
Grand old colonial buildings in vast disrepair, chunks of concrete missing and stucco crumbling. Only faint colors remain from the original exteriors.
And 'the village' has moved inside. Thatched walls and small plank shacks with tin roofs fill in where buildings fell. Goats wander in and out of buildings. A look inside some of the buildings shows thatching, clothes lines, and farm animals have often moved within the large, old houses. The streets are mostly made of sand and children play soccer in the street in groups by size (small, medium and extra small). People sit in doorways, heating drinks over a pieces of coal.
On the far side of the island sits an impressive fishing fleet that serves as the center of the island's activity.
Next, off to the Desert De Loumpour just south of St Louis.
From a 4 hour, 45000 CFA taxi ride from Dakar to St Louis...
in the city, the sheer press of humanity... vendors, people, taxis, buses, horse carts
in the country, flowing colored robes against a backdrop of reddish earth and faint green trees
women wearing sequined head scarves that sparkle
babies on backs, large baskets on heads, large poles to grind meal and machetes to partion goats
The 'donkey cart road'. A set of tracks just off the paved road for horses and donkey carts
sirened cars racing by the regular traffic with a line of bmws and mercedes in tow. executive privilege?
trucks and cars surging around horse carts
noon time. every donkey. every goat. every horse. *every person* crashed out, unmoving in spots of shade
little tiny horses. massive loads. donkey 'luxe' = 3 donkeys on one cart. goats on top of buses, on top of cars.
be-tassled donkeys, horses, buses, semi trucks, cars and taxis... a clear love of tassles
cars and buses hand painted with images and words in primary red, yellow, green, blue
people walking out of the bush and hailing buses and cabs in the *absolute* *middle* of *nowhere*
roadside vendors and peopledonkeysgoatshorses criss-crossing the roads
A drive up the coast is to breath in diesel fumes until you're near delirious, to have the sun beat down on you until you're near wilted --but to get a wonderful and unforgettable view into the life of Senegal.
Available in models of white, black, brown and spots, this little hoover vacuum cleaner and compactor of trash is to be found everywhere here. With an expression that mingles confused with amused, it wanders garbage dumps, roads, the countryside, and even the inside of houses with freedom. On a recent taxi ride into the country, an emphatic 'bahhhh' sounded off and I looked up to see two goats staring calmly down at me from the roof rack of a blue 1980s Peugeot.... an animal that knows no bounds.
A fever, body aches ... unable to keep anything down or even shift position on a couch without getting sick. I managed to haul out to get water, salt, and sugar (homemade" rehydration concoction) before going down entirely. Two days of bed rest, antibiotics and tiny sips of water later the light of day is coming back. After being so careful it's hard to find the culprit, though as my waiter serves me a cola with a garnish of lime, a possible contender arises. Never did a fresh garnish look quite so bad.
Showercurtainsnutscellphonesbeadscoconutsbaggedjuicesmonopolyshoessockssocksandmoresocks...coloredfabricshighheeled shoescigarettesballoonsmatchesandpencils. The Walmart of Senegal walks on two legs and meets you at intersections and traffic choke points, hands extended. There is nothing you can t buy from the inside of your car :).
Today, a trip down the coast to Toubab Dialao ... a tiny fishing village south of Dakar. Tomorrow heading North: