Monday, January 31, 2011

Definitions in Color: Integrity

I am blogging the rancid memories of a disfigured romantic entanglement out of my system. When a revelation comes to mind that will help me make sense of the catastrophe, I jot it down for further contemplation. At one point in the interchange with this man, I told him that if we were a continuum, we would BE the opposite ends. This is particularly true in our unity/separation of the personal and professional.

My definition of these two terms is rooted in the lessons from the feminist movement. Both the political and the professional are also personal. There is very little separation or division between the code of conduct I follow in the personal or professional roles I play in my daily life. Maintaining one unified principled rulebook of behavior in all areas of my life is how I define integrity and gauge the success of my relationships with others.

On the opposite end of the continuum are those who separate their professional roles from their personal lives and establish dual sets of regulations governing each sphere of their existence: separate, disunited and lacking in integrity is how I experience these people. The word "fake" comes to mind or lacking in authenticity and not to be trusted. I feel as if I am dealing with a person who has a personality disorder split down the middle.

I can only express my opinion here. It would be fascinating to discuss this with someone on the opposite end of the human continuum. I have realized from this experience that interacting intimately with people whose vision of the world is so fundamentally different from my own forces me to define my stance on the issues.

Sins of Omission

"Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny."

Abraham Verghese

(Thanks to a friend for bringing this quotation to my attention.)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Kissing Holiday

A mural on the wall of the Pão Quente de Cabo Verde bakery and coffee shop in Praia caught my attention while Candace and I were munching our sweet treats in December 2010. I took so many shots of this mural that various customers coming in and out of the bathrooms gave me odd stares. I would love to return to Carnaval à Mindelo (île de São Vicente) and cavort with the crowds experiencing a Brazilian-flavored fantastic time.

The lovely crooning of Cesaria Evora and so much more... If not this year, then next.

Show and Tell: Incongruity and Humor

Jackalope Crossing: Source Site

Incongruity and Humor

As I was looking at my iTunes list of news/talk radio streams, something about these stations was incongruous with my thinking causing me to laugh.

Big D Paranormal Radio - BDPRN is here to bring enlightenment to the paranormal community, provide information, closure, and a number of other topics. [Wait, is there ever closure on concerns arising in the paranormal community? And, closure on what?]

BBQ Central Radio - The only station talking BBQ & grilling 24/7. [I would like see audience demographics on the BBQ Central Radio listeners. My stereotypes have to be wrong!]

Edmonton Fire Radio - Broadcasting live audio from the Edmonton Fire Rescue Services. [Are there enough fires in Edmonton to occupy a news channel 24/7? or are household accidents and cat rescues also broadcast on iTunes?]

Jackalope Radio - Rock your routine. [My personal choice for radio exploration due to the station's mysterious and adventuresome description of its content. I did; however, choose to stream an NPR/BBC channel located in North Texas.]

Show and Tell Morning Notes

Long tail-feathered, orange-footed, mini monkey-faced chirpy comrades gather in the tree outside my apartment window each morning to share bird stories.

If only I could decode their conversation as they hang awkwardly on the slender twigs jutting from the main branches and chatter mellowly.

"What do they like to eat," I wonder? Perhaps a snack will draw them nearer to my balcony for clearer observation.

Social Connections And Honesty

Knowing What I Need

I believe this, but Dean Ornish states it so well in his book:

At some level, we are all interconnected. Thus, every lie is known at some level, even if the other person does not consciously want to acknowledge it. Every lie to our loved one, every deceit- no matter how seemingly small or trivial- causes trust to begin dying. As trust dies, intimacy withers (p. 91-92).

Getting involved with a man who is not single means I can't trust him because I know he hasn't been honest with his wife or girlfriend. If he would lie to the person he claims to be the most important romantic connection in his life, what will he do to me?

And I DO AGREE with Ornish when he writes that he needs trust, commitment, and complete honesty in order to feel safe enough to make himself vulnerable to love someone without holding back. I need those things too.

It’s good to know what one needs in a relationship. Life is all about learning!

I also like this definition of success from Ralph Fiennes, in addition to adoring his performance in The English Patient:

"I call people 'successful' not because they have money or their business is doing well but because, as human beings, they have a fully developed sense of being alive and engaged in a lifetime task of collaboration with other human beings- their mothers and fathers, their family, their friends, their loved ones, the friends who are dying, the friends who are being born" (p. 96). I will add my personal input to his definition. The joy of living is part of the walk, talk and gestures of such a person. Laughter is a daily sound and the connections among emotion (heart), intellect (head), spirituality (soul), and body are strong and wise.

I have always known that talking to my friends is an important step in healing and moving on when a setback or emotional challenge stands in my path, but according to Ornish, "Increasing scientific evidence documents the healing benefits of opening your heart. Many studies have shown that self-disclosure- that is, talking or even writing about your feelings to others- improves physical health, enhances immune function, reduces cardiovascular reactivity, decreases absentee rates, and may even prolong life... if you have suffered a major upheaval in your life, talk to your friends about it" (p. 124-125). I couldn't agree more. After talking to friends about emotional upheavals, I feel cleansed and ready for round two: craziness of the world versus me.

Idea: I may need to spend some time with my Ohana when I leave Brazzaville at the end of June. I need some Kalani love in my life.

Dean Ornish, Love and Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy, HaperCollins, 1998

The Big V

"We can only be intimate to the degree that we are willing to be open and vulnerable." Dean Ornish, M.D.

"An important reason why early relationships are so predictive of later illness is that these patterns of relating do not change very much in most people over time. Modifying such behaviors as diet, exercise, and smoking is hard enough. Changing our ongoing pattern of relating to others is even more difficult" (Ornish, p. 38).

[Crap, this describes the human condition I know, but how long will each one of us continue playing out communication patterns that we have internalized since birth even though those patterns are like poison in our psychological make-up?]

We Are Touchy-Feely Creatures

Yet we are touchy-feely creatures. We are creatures of community. Those individuals, societies, and cultures who learned to take care of each other, to love each other, and to nurture relationships with each other during the past several hundred thousand years were more likely to survive than those who did not. Those people who did not learn to take care of each other often did not make it. In our culture, the idea of spending time taking care of each other and creating communities has become increasingly rare. Ignoring these ideas imperils our survival.

In short, anything that promotes a sense of isolation often leads to illness and suffering. Anything that promotes a sense of love and intimacy, connection and community, is healing.

Love and Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy, Dean Ornish, M.D., HarperCollins, 1998

If one of the measures of social intelligence were given to random groups of Americans and Congolese, it is my belief that the Congolese group would blow the American group out of the water by leaps, bounds, and lengthy strides. Perhaps Americans should build peace education, civility, social bonding, and respect for the community into their education system- both public and private- institutional and home/family.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Going Public With A Country Western Twang

[While you read this entry, imagine a s/he done me wrong twangy country western song playing in the background.]

Hey Ladies, bright and lovely but not always wise in the matters of love when that chemical reaction dims and curbs our best impulses, here is some advice from a girl who learned her lesson in a recent romantic disaster.

If a man won't be seen with you in public, dump him on the spot. Right then and there ladies- no questions asked. I didn't, and what a mess that caused. I sent him this e-mail tonight. I want to make it public, all names omitted, for my sake.

To: (fill in the name of the man who did you wrong)

Thankfully the last word- wa-hoo!

Hey, even though I view you as unethical, untreatable, and slutty/sleazy/creepy in your sexual politics, I am not mad any more. I just want to let you know how your behavior impacted my self-esteem and sense of self. I hope for your sake, you never ask a potential lover or romantic partner to hide herself and accept the fact you won’t be seen in public with her because you have a Significant Other and you want something on the side. Low!

One thing I am HAPPY to have learned about myself; I think it is impossible for me to poach (meaning steal not boil) another woman’s man. Feeling pretty good about myself right about now. I know who I am!

And, you can’t shut me up. I am, and have always been, free to talk to whomever I want about whatever topics I want. Fact is, I didn’t do anything wrong. Let me repeat that wonderful sentence in caps- I DID NOTHING WRONG; therefore, I see no reason to keep quiet.

I find silence is for those who feel guilty, remorse, shame or embarrassment about their actions. They want to shut up others to protect themselves.

That would be you (fill in the name of the man who did you wrong).

So this is the last word. You really aren’t worth it. I don’t feel awkward anymore either when I see you. Because, hey, “I did nothing wrong!”

making music in Brazza

I was disappointed the ELF/TESOL conferences were canceled in Cairo because I was looking forward to hanging with the Ugandan, Malian, and Senegalese ELFs. Presenting my paper Authentic Learning: Quality of Life Issues Addressed at the Community Level and hearing what other scholars had on their minds also caused my intellect to salivate, but nothing can stop a nation in revolutionary motion.

4:34 p.m. Friday January 28, 2011
Cairo Conference: CANCELED
(Egypt Cries for Freedom)

Dear Fellows,

Unfortunately, due to the current situation and political unrest in Egypt, the Embassy has requested all Non-Essential Personnel not travel to Egypt until further notice. This means that the conference scheduled to be held in Cairo is canceled.

Again, do not travel to Cairo, and please reply to this email ASAP to confirm receipt of this message.

Thank you,
English Language Fellow Program

[I went to a concert at the CCF in Brazzaville instead. Nothing like the soothing vocals of Papa Jacques to ease the disappointment of my canceled travel to Cairo.]

CCF in Brazzaville

East Along The Equator

I have been planning to blog about this book for several weeks now because although East Along The Equator: A Journey Up The Congo And Into Zaire was written about Zaire in the mid 1980s, so many of the realities of Brazzaville-Congo in the year 2011 (the sleepy village across the river from Kinshasa) are reflected in the descriptions of Zaire at that time. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or, here in Central Africa, conditions often change for the worse. Take education as an example.

The author, Helen Winternitz, describes the campus at Kisangani- a branch of the national university and one of Zaire's three seats of higher learning- like this:

"The university's courses were being taught without any textbooks, because there were none available. The professors had either to mimeograph information for their students or read them notes in class for copying, a procedure exhausting to both teacher and learner" (page 146, 1987 edition).

L'Ecole Nationale Supérieure (ENS), the teachers' college in Brazzaville, follows the same model- providing extremely few and consistently outdated textbooks to young minds. My observation is that the novel the students are currently reading in class, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman a 1971 novel by Ernest J. Gaines, has been photocopied from the professor’s original copy yellowed and frayed by repeated use.

Students are required to copy professors’ notes from decades past and pay for the copies from their meager student stipends, which are often paid two to three months late by the government. Professors can’t afford to buy their own computers or access the Internet in a country where the digital divide yawns widely. Without this access, university educators are shut out of the information age.

On the days I have planned workshops for future Congolese English teachers at ENS, there was no electricity in the classroom. Two chalkboards on the wall are so scratched and scarred by time that it is difficult for the students to read what I write there. The soft chalk often breaks in my hands, and the front of the classroom where I teach is covered with snowy dust that coats my clothes and hair.

I understand why the students' English pronunciation is mangled and morose. When I did a needs assessment with them the first day I arrived at ENS, they begged me to ask the U.S. Embassy to help the school purchase equipment for a nonexistent language lab where they could wear headphones and imbibe the accent of native English speakers into their own ears.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Are you the epigraph type? Memoirs and Memories

I began reading Dave Eggers novel this morning. I enjoyed this passage from the preface.

Preface to A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers

Finally, this edition reflects the author's request that all previous epigraphs-

including "The heart's immortal thirst to be completely known and all forgiven." (H. Van Dyke); "[My poems] may hurt the [living and] dead, but the dead belong to me [and the living will recover]." (A. Sexton); "Everything will be forgotten and nothing will be redressed." (M. Kundera); "Why not just write what happened?" (R. Lowell);-

be removed, as he never really saw himself as the type of person who would use epigraphs.

[Oh Mr. Eggers, you are quite clever. You claim you aren't the type to use epigraphs, but you have slyly managed to weave them into the preface of your novel. "Bravo," I say!] And, my heart is immortally thirsty as well. If we were reading this book in book club, I would ask the members of the club to find epigraphs that reflect their view of memory and memoir.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Study Analyzes Laughs at Supreme Court

Drawing on Kant, Schopenhauer and Freud, Mr. Malphurs identified three primary theories of laughter (superiority, incongruity and relief). “Laughter enables justices and lawyers to negotiate the institutional, social and intellectual barriers that impede human communication,” he wrote, seriously.

Justices Scalia and Breyer still dominate the rankings, though Chief Justice Roberts was responsible for a respectable number of laughs. The three of them account for about 80 percent of justice-generated laughter at the court.

Excerpt from The New York Times
January 24, 2011
by Adam Liptak
A Taxonomy of Supreme Court Humor

[Laughing for relief and the incongruity of life- join in!]

Perky Signs of Life - Lake Rose, Senegal

Regenerate Yourself, Myself, The World

Enticingly Incorrigible: Jamaican Gypsy

Enticingly Incorrigible: Daley

When Americans reside abroad- living their daily lives unrestrained by the confines of red, white, and blue social conventions governing stateside sexual conduct- odd and unpredictable activities in the human relationship department occur. I have observed antics of men and women turned loose in Brazzaville for the past five months, including myself, and shaped our performance into poetic form.

Behold a day in the life of Central Africa’s ex-patriot erotic playground.

I dedicate this poem to a man who asked me to be his dirty private secret in the bedroom while his true love, languishing on a distant continent, pined publicly for his return.

An internal struggle ensued after I heard his overture to my senses because emotions emanating from warm bodies are never as unambiguous as intellects would like. Could I exchange my sense of self-worth and my expectation to be acknowledged publicly by his friends for a shimmering fleshy promise of stimulation I was certain he could deliver to me time and time again? Although the clandestine perversion of hiding passion from the world’s gaze intrigued me at first bite- its addictive musk still floats in clouds through the air- my heart dissuaded me from accepting his gag order and cloak of invisibility. I knew his demands would eventually destroy me. Common sense told me that a relationship between a man and woman poisoned by deception, lies, and secrecy from its inception was trouble.

The explanation I present to the reader is quite cut and dried, but reality in Central Africa is neither simple nor painless. I was anything but unaffected by the intimacy we shared, which was both profound and putrid, as exposed bits and pieces of our lives blended and bled. He’s closed the door to communication with me now. No compassionate words and positive closure for us, so I am rearranging memories into a comfortable configuration all on my own.

...from a bruised place in my soul, sample a taste of something uncooked and raw.

Uncooked and Raw

Vulnerability is a sensitive issue.
Slight pressure transforms beige normalcy.
Thin-skinned and bruised sexuality-
black and blue for the world to see.
Pulsating with a sluggish rhythm.

Unleashing privileged information with abandon.
Giving clues to inner workings and
exposing more than just a favorite color: purple.

Panting in the humidity of rainy season.
Eating leftovers of another woman’s man.

Knowing he sleeps in the nude.
Asks you bluntly to air your dirty sexual laundry
for his physical gratification.
Fantasizes about the verb list
nudging, prodding, probing and finally poking


He knows
your mouth wants to open for him
at crotch level,
unzipping his fly with gentle teeth tugs.
Reaching in orally for the prize.

Remember to


when he recalls a Significant Other
from his time in Algiers, so certain of his sexual fidelity-
she waits chastely for his return
unaware he’s in the midst of a midlife crisis
busy text messaging girly friends
soft porn images on their cell phones
of hot bath dances.

Bruised inside and out
by vulnerability’s disfigurement
sleepless and wide eyed
between stained sheets in Brazzaville.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Finger Painting In The Sand Dunes

Sitting in the sand dunes at Lake Rose outside of Dakar, Senegal led me back to sunny childhood days spent building sand highways in the tractor tire sandbox in my backyard in Iowa.

Feeling free with the sound of the ocean in my ears at Lake Rose, I finger and toe painted in the dunes while discussing my plans with the baobob tree in the distance. May nature always surround me and silence and wisdom walk beside me as constant companions.

Friday, January 14, 2011

La Différence

A once hidden but now exposed delight that emerged from my visit to Senegal and the Festival Mundial das Artes & Culturas Negras in December/January 2010-2011 was an appreciation for the music of Salif Keita. Listening to his recent CD, La Différence, with the exception of one or two songs- sends me on a hypnotic voyage to calm creative spaces in my own living room. According to the website, the profits of his newest album will go to a charity for albinos in Africa. I found this excerpt from a story about Keita's album on NPR worth re-posting.

NPR, July 6, 2010: Salif Keita Savors 'La Difference'

Mali's best-known singer, Salif Keita, is an albino and, as such, generally viewed with condescension — if not superstition and fear — in much of Africa. Keita has long spoken out on behalf of albinos, but on his new album, he sings about the subject for the first time. The title track of La Difference encapsulates the African legend's career and biography.

Keita sings, "My skin is white ... My blood is black," but that difference is beautiful, something to celebrate. Keita descends from a noble line in Mali, and when he became a singer in the late '60s it was a serious violation of protocol in his traditional society. Singers entertained nobles. Nobles did not sing. But facing life as an albino in Africa, Keita decided early on that he was going to make his own rules. And that's exactly what he's done ever since.

The stigma of albinism has always been part of Keita's biography, one of the things he overcame on his way to international stardom. But then he began hearing grisly stories of massacres in other parts of Africa — albinos being sacrificed so that their blood, hair and body parts could be sold for use in rituals. A few years back, Keita started a foundation to counter superstition about albinism. But with this song he makes it personal, saying not only that albinism is beautiful, but that the very fact of being different is beautiful.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Image of a Saint (but not mine)

Taxi Marabout in Dakar
Saints: an interesting concept!

Definition: Marabout

Definition: Marabout

A Mohammedan Saint

I heard a great deal about marabouts and Muslim brotherhoods on my recent trip to Dakar, Senegal in December and January 2010-2011. I saw images of marabouts painted on city walls and hanging from taxi cab mirrors. One all-powerful leader- either living or dead- at the center of a brotherhood of men united on religious, ethnic, or nationalistic grounds has polarized and destroyed many societies throughout humankind's evolutionary transition on the planet.

I bought a key chain with a severe looking marabout staring out at the living world with his dead cold eyes. His miracles were sandwiched between the plastic of modern-day urban life in Dakar. If you are able to identify the keychain saint and the reason for his glorification in Senegalese society, please contact me through

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Moment of Zen

Waiting for breakfast, I observed my ocean-side cracked table tottering as if it experienced a minor earthquake- once ivory- now the color of the underside of a flip-flop at the Chez Baby Cafe. The pink skinned beach dog had been scratching his ear and belly nonstop for the past three minutes as the ocean eternally advances and retreats. Imagine living in the idyllic beach town of Toubab Dialaw only to experience fleas, ticks, skin rashes and hunger.

Can a dog with droopy teats or swaying testicles perpetually ready to breed more yelping misery into the world dream of reincarnation and the material comforts of a pampered Toy Poodle next time around?

Monday, January 03, 2011

Descending Sweetly

Once upon a time, I descended into a reckless romance with a man committed to another. He described this woman as his Significant Other, abbreviated SO. Nothing between us breached the pleasures of flesh, but disconnecting from our three-month marathon of teasing- stimulating words, arousing paragraphs, and unfulfilled promises- beckoned for a descent that I now understand as opening spaces inhabited by creativity and light.

The Descent
William Carlos Williams

The descent beckons
as the ascent beckoned.
Memory is a kind
of accomplishment,
a sort of renewal
an initiation, since the spaces it opens are new places
inhabited by hordes
heretofore unrealized,
of new kinds—
since their movements
are toward new objectives
(even though formerly they were abandoned).

No defeat is made up entirely of defeat—since
the world it opens is always a place
unsuspected. A
world lost,
a world unsuspected,
beckons to new places
and no whiteness (lost) is so white as the memory
of whiteness.

With evening, love wakens
though its shadows
which are alive by reason
of the sun shining—
grow sleepy now and drop away
from desire.

Love without shadows stirs now
beginning to awaken
as night

The descent
made up of despairs
and without accomplishment
realizes a new awakening:
which is a reversal
of despair.
For what we cannot accomplish, what
is denied to love,
what we have lost in the anticipation—
a descent follows,
endless and indestructible.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Big Men

Two prophets dream of Christmas turkey and fruit cocktail in a shop window in Mindelo, Cape Verde.

December 26, 2010

Praia Beach on Christmas Day 2010 #3

Dreaming in the arms of her lover while perhaps digging something out from between her teeth with her tongue on December 25, 2010 on a Praia beach: What better way to spend the day?

Praia Beach on Christmas Day 2010 #2

I desire to be this comfortable and relaxed with a stupendous lover lounging on the beach on Christmas day 2011. I won't call it my New Year's resolution, but here's hoping!

Praia Beach on Christmas Day 2010

About Me

My photo

What do I do? That’s a question with more depth than the deceiving three-word construction would lead us to believe.

I live on planet earth with other folks, and I’m involved in the field of education and learning. I’m a life-long learner with a passion for knowledge and the process of bending bits of ideas into new constructions of beauty.