It was August of 2010. I saw the lights of Anchorage from the seat of my plane as we prepared for landing at Ted Stevens International Airport. My family had lived in Anchorage for a few years when I was very young but at age 32, this was my first time back in Alaska, as an adult.
This trip had begun in my imagination, about a year before, as I walked around the Indianapolis Zoo. I was fascinated by a placard about grizzly bears, located nearby to a rather sad looking, caged Griz. The placard told of how a woman was attacked by a grizzly bear, in the city of Anchorage no less, while out for a jog in the park. For some reason that resonated with me. It wasn’t a sadistic thing, I don’t take pleasure in the suffering of joggers. I was just completely enchanted by the idea of a state like Alaska, where bears and moose made their presence felt, even in the biggest of cities.
It was strange, that moment, but I felt a strong intuition, that this State was home. Reading the placard aroused a desire to live in a place where wilderness is the norm and civilization is the exception. In many ways, this desire summarized my decade. I was landing in Anchorage, soon to be flying to Kodiak, heading into the wild, in ways both literal and metaphorical.
Continue reading Into The Wild: 2010 to 2020
I made a rare appearance at the theater last night, and rarer still, I purchased my favorite salty-sweet combination — popcorn and Sprite — my craving setting me back nearly fifteen bucks. (Such a purchase generally requires something along the lines of a leap of faith, i.e., that I step up to the concession and order without first checking to see what it will cost.) It was all to see Black Panther, in Columbus, Ohio, with my sister and brother-in-law.
I was truly spellbound by the film, riveted by the cool inversion of the generally accepted norm that white Western capitalist culture is the superior standard and the rightful model for modernity and beyond. There’s something innovative and new here, with this film, something that is refreshing. As director Ryan Cooglar put it, “The concept of an African story, with actors of African descent at the forefront, combined with the scale of modern franchise filmmaking, is something that hasn’t really been seen before. You feel like you’re getting the opportunity of seeing something fresh, being a part of something new, which I think all audiences want to experience regardless of whether they are of African descent or not.”
Continue reading Why ‘Black Panther’ Is a Defining Moment for Black America | Carvell Wallace, The New York Times
I’ve recently been writing about my experiences in Africa and India during my seven month stint abroad in 2013-14. My writing over the last few weeks has focused on my experience of realizing that I was white. It’s not that I didn’t know my own skin color, in the technical sense, but it didn’t matter to me, and because it didn’t matter, my whiteness was irrelevant and hence unrealized.
While volunteering in Tanzania, I quickly learned to become aware of the color of my skin, or more to the point, I learned that I couldn’t escape the color of my skin. My skin color was economic, my whiteness meant something: I either had money or else I had access to money. My whiteness defined the nature of my experiences with other people and shaped my whole being. Continue reading Being white, being black
The United States is a Christian nation, and we are the greatest nation on earth…at least if measured in terms of how much gross revenue made from the sales of weapons. In all seriousness, though, most of these sales of weapons go to “developing nations,” which means that 1) the weapons do great harm, landing in the hands of tyrants and war lords in unstable countries and 2) these weapons can more easily find their way into the hands of terrorists. Karma, though, what goes around comes around. You reap what you sow. We create the terrorists that we so greatly fear and that cause us to enter ill-advised, unwinnable wars that divide us, cause us to go into great debt, and further destabilize the world.
How I rate it: 4 of 5 stars
Plot Summary: A young Nigerian woman travels to America, discovers race and blackness, and navigates a wide range of deep experiences that are intense and demanding.
What I most appreciated: The author digs into the various experiences of Africa and of America and of the lived experience of what it means to be “black.” It truly feels like a privilege to read a narrative so well-crafted and yet also so deeply informative, something that the author conveys through the characters and the story.
An important novel? Very. The discussions of race are open and raw, difficult for the characters and for the reader, but very timely in this so-called “post-racial, America.” In addition to the deep discussions of race, the author manages to speak to 21st century people navigating their lives in global and multicultural societies. Takes you into both the intellectual and emotional element.
Continue reading Review of Americamah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A classic novel, an important novel, and a novel historically set just before the implementation of Apartheid, Cry, The Beloved Country illuminates a nation on the fragile edge of possibility, a nation whose white power structure would soon choose to plunge the nation deeper into darkness and chaos, and yet in this novel, Alan Paton does what great novelists do: he illuminates the people living the reality presenting both a panoramic of perspectives along side a nuanced and detailed examination of the subtle textures of diverse peoples, cultures, and points of view in collision, all struggling among and against each other, grappling with their fears and seeking a way forward in a time where wisdom and compassion were so desperately needed.
Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. – Paul in his Letter to the Romans
Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. – Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians
My theology of homosexuality is described thusly. That being gay was considered by biblical authors like Paul to be “unnatural” and as such was wrong. But there were other things considered to be unnatural as well, like having long hair, or having women as equals and as leaders. Likewise, slavery was also considered natural by many ancient worldviews.
Continue reading It ain’t natural
Initially when I purchased my cheap ticket via Orbitz, I was worried about having to spend almost 48 hours in transit, the bulk of the wait being a 16 hour layover in Qatar. As luck would have it, my long layover qualified me for a stay at a hotel, with transportation and meals provided. Lucky me. This is the view from my room. Doha, Qatar is filthy rich, off of fossil fuels, of course, and they are currently modernizing and diversifying their economy, resulting in an economic boom and grand building projects such as the one just outside my hotel room. Surrounded by desert, the parabolic warning about “building castles in the sand” comes to mind. But Doha is merely a metaphor for the situation of all humanity right now. We have overextended ourselves to the point where our earth cannot support us. Still, we keep building, using the wealth of a resource that is running low.
I am an American who has spent six months in Africa. The contrast between the wealth of the two nations is striking, to say the least. Theologically, many American Christians view American prosperity as a blessing of God bestowed upon the United States because her citizens have worked so hard and have honored God. Is this the case? Or has American wealth come at the cost of oppressing and exploiting others: stealing Native lands, enslaving Africans, killing off Natives who resisted displacement, paying immigrant laborers virtually nothing, importing goods from abusive and oppressive sweatshops, and being environmentally destructive and irresponsible?
The answer to the question is important. Jesus, for example, viewed his world as being dominated by the oppressive Roman Empire. Those who had wealth gained it at the expense of others. (The Romans, however, saw things differently. Their gods were on their side and the Emperor was a manifestation of God, the Son of God.) In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is recorded as stating, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Why so hard on the rich?
Continue reading How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God
Very pleasantly surprised at the diversity and spottings in Arusha National Park. Less than an hour’s drive. We had a great day.
Continue reading Safari in Arusha National Park
An amazing day on the African Savannah.
Continue reading On safari in Tarangire National Parkn
I thought I would post another one of those incredible quotes from Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. In this quote, Orleanna Price is reflecting on the loss of one of her children, her marriage to the angry and unstable Nathan, and on her darkest day in the Congo. In doing so, she reflects on fate in general.
“Maybe the tragedy began on the day of my wedding, then. Or even earlier, when I first laid eyes on Nathan at the tent revival. A chance meeting of strangers, and the end of the world unfolds. Who can say where it starts. I’ve spent too many years backing over that muddy road: If only I hadn’t let the children out of my sight that morning. If I hadn’t let Nathan take us to Kilanga in the first place. If the Baptists hadn’t taken upon themselves the religious conversion of the Congolese. What if the Americans, and the Belgians before them, hadn’t tasted blood and money in Africa? If the world of white men had never touched the Congo at all?
We are a getting the “long rains” early here in East Africa. No worries. In some of the spots in coastal Alaska that I’ve inhabited, this kind of rain never stops. It’s kind of soothing, actually. We have power tonight, so I’ve decided to spend my Valentine’s Day evening finishing up Into the Wild, the story of Chris McCandless, an adventurous, idealistic, and romantic young American guy in his early twenties who dies in the Alaskan wilderness back in 1992 while attempting to survive a summer on ten pounds of rice and whatever he could hunt and forage. I’ve been reading this book a little bit at a time over the span of about four months, having found it in our Food Water Shelter library, which, though exceedingly small in our number if books is nonetheless dense with intriguing reading material.
Continue reading Into the Wild
A few pictures of my recent travels. Continue reading Africa on the move
Jambo! Greetings to you using a common Swahili salutation. Friends, I find myself in Tanzania, Africa, 11 time zones away from Alaska, where I spent my summer. For many of you, my friends and family, it might come as quite a surprise that I am in Africa, on a long term volunteer stint. And honestly, I can hardly keep up myself these days. So, here’s the story of how I wound up in East Africa. Continue reading Jambo! My journey to Africa