I am planning on traveling in sub-Saharan Africa and hope to be there for two full months. I begin my journeying there by going from Johannesburg, SA, where I first land (and will stay a day or two to recover from the flight) to Meseru, Lesotho. I have a lot of work to do before I depart. Writing this introduction is a part of that work.
Before we start this voyage together, assuming you’re going to come and visit with me on these virtual pages from time to time, I want to be open with you about a little personal problem I have: my editor thinks my writing, while competent and good, is not that interesting. Well, unless you know me personally. And I want my writing to be interesting. And while I’d like to tell you about myself personally … the fact is that much of autobiographical material has already been written … and can be found elsewhere on this site, i.e., at “Select Journal Entries,” “Memoirs,” and “Poems.”
I have been writing seriously for forty years, and rarely has anyone seen a word of what I’ve written. I think of myself as an ethnographer, trying to describe what I see of the world I am encountering without judgment or presupposition. I wrote a poem that says “a good poem describes what the author has sensed or seen, never saying the word it, without describing what ‘it’ is.” Maybe good ethnography is like that also.
I’m currently in San Francisco visiting my daughter, my son-in-law and grandchildren. San Francisco is in strange ways how I think parts of Africa will be. Consider walking on Mission between 17th and 18th after midnight, the taquerias open, the 24 hour stores, the smoke shops, the homeless people, the haggard prostitutes, the derelict junkies and the smooth junkies, ready to exploit any opportunity that presents itself.
I am holed up in an old SRO for 70$/night with my laptop and my writing. But the outside world is calling for me to set this down and otherwise engage. Grandchildren. Daughters. Pumpkins. School plays. Halloween. Ex-wives.
This photo of a dwelling taken from the west side of Bernal Heights - could have been taken in Africa … or maybe not My shadow was photographed facing east in late afternoon.
I also imagine this is what parts of Africa may look like.
I am now 72 years old. With arthritis, atrial fibrillation, the residue of a law practice, macular pucker, and a fabulous life partner who is very into her work. www.alinearchitacture.com.
I live on Cape Cod – which I must tell you is a horrible place, that I advise all visitors to avoid and stay away from (unless they are good personal friends) what with ticks, lyme disease, poison ivy, street crime, and sharks – besides the traffic is terrible, the weather unpredictable, and the crowds unmanageable. Go to Long Island. Or Deer Island. Or the Thimble Islands. Remember, Cape Cod is a shifting sand bar that will be washed away in another 15,000 years. Property values are sure to fall. Don’t visit. Don’t buy. There are thousands of absolutely amazing, charming, comfortable, easy, beautiful places to live on our planet, thousands. Visit them. Turn back before you get sand in your shoes. The spirit of the people who lived and hunted here 500 years ago is abounding. So too the whale, the dolphin, and their kin.
1. San Francisco -
San Francisco remains a most amazing city. The weather can be change very quickly and frequently over the course of a day. Bright sunshine in cloudless skies often followed by rain, sun, rain, fog, and a special Pacific drizzle that leaves me cold to the marrow. In the summer the plants here want for water. In the winter the earth is lush and Mediterranean flowers bloom everywhere.
My daughter and son in law’s children are brilliant, eager, open, curious, and good humored. Trust me. I’m an ethnographer. And I must go.
- drumming and singing in Spanish in the street
- 18th and Mission
- M-A HS
2. Lesotho - I had a lovely and informative conversation with Mary and Judy who described their involvement in Lesotho as it related to a Girls Empowerment Programme camp there and how GCA helped in training counselors. i was actually quite amazed and taken aback by how they described their Lesotho experience - from the UN "evaluative" psychologist's perspective - five star hotel, meeting the first lady, hotel food only, not going out at night or perhaps not even going to cities/towns/villages other than Mesaru.
i described myself as a one time lawyer and ethnographer on a spirit journey. told them i travelled "backpacker style." did not say i was a wandering mendicant poet. they offered me cautionary words and referred me to the U.S. State Department's web site, which I did go too. My my all those warnings - reminds me of how people think/thought about myanmar and what the reality of my experience there was in 2010, altho i didn't get to muslim conflict areas, or Kachin ... but given how broadly and freely i travelled there there was virtually no sense of a military presence.
3. Camp Sizanani
4. Phil Lilienthal as guide and manifestation of the Great Spirit