Friday, December 31, 2010

This Moment: Friday ritual.

.{this moment} – A Friday ritual.  A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.



.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Violence Against Women: Female Genital Mutilation.

I've just read a photo essay on Matador -''Photo Essay From Mexico City: No More Violence Against Women." written by Julie Schwietert Collazo, and came away lost for words apart from one word ringing in my mind- Powerful. Why? Because that essay dragged something to the forefront of my mind.

That word described the photos, and it described the effect on me. In asking why it struck me as it did, I have to say that for some months now I've been wanting to place this photo on my blog, but haven't found the right frame of mind to do so. It needs to be there, and it needs to be written about, and it needs you, the reader to look carefully at the scene depicted, and wonder why so much violence occurs towards women. This picture is of artwork I photographed in the Ethiopian National Museum, Addis Ababa, last August.





Like most visitors, we had gone there seeking 'Lucy', the 3.18 million year old skeleton of one of the earliest hominids so far discovered. Recent discoveries elsewhere have been dated back to 4.4 million years, but 'Lucy' remains the most well known early hominid find, and Ethiopia's draw card. The museum has a range of other cultural and historical artefacts, and some contemporary art on display also.

Walking through the museum I came upon a large painting, viewed it briefly, moved on by... turned and went back. Taking another look, my mind couldn't make sense of the jumble of angles and colours. So I walked away again, only to turn and walk back again. 

It was the child's face, in the top left, that had reached out and grabbed me and would not let me walk on by without telling me her pain. 

This time I had to know what I was seeing, so I stopped and read the sign. The painting is an interpretation of the violence and pain inflicted on a young girl through Female Genital Mutilation. The practice of removing the clitoris, and cutting away parts of the external female genitalia.
Take a careful look at the child, restrained by her own mother, legs held by relatives, while another does the cutting.
Powerful.

I took a note of the artist and title but have mislaid them. But the picture speaks enough for the over 70% of women in Ethiopia who undergo this assault as a child. A practice that will continue until Ethiopian men's attitudes change. 


UNICEF Image




UNICEF

Battling an ancient tradition: Female genital mutilation in Ethiopia
FAFFAN, Ethiopia, 10 July 2006 – These days, Asmah, 6, and her friends Deca, Ferhia and Hassina are secluded from their community. Their legs are tied together and they are told to sleep as much as possible and not to wash; it will help heal their wounds, adults say.

Testimony from women and girls

Hodan, 20, has never gone through the procedure but said she does not consider herself lucky. “All the girls of my age are married. Only I remain single, because people say that I am open,” she complained at the community forum. “If I ever have a daughter, I will make sure she is cut and sealed.”

But another young woman, Kauser, 18, had a different view. “Since the time I was cut I kept bleeding all the time. I am afraid of getting married because I will have to be cut again,” she said.

After hearing testimonies from many women and girls, Fateeh Mohammed Yassin, a single man in his early twenties, remained committed to the tradition. “I do not want a wife who has not been cut at all,” he declared.

Mr. Yassin’s comments illustrate the immense challenge of ending female genital mutilation and cutting in Ethiopia. It will be up to communities themselves to reach consensus on the harm being inflicted on their daughters and ultimately make the collective decision to abandon the practice.

The question is though, with so much violence against women in our cultures, how can we expect Ethiopian men to change, unless we change also?



This practice is not confined to Ethiopia, nor restricted to any religion but is wide spread in many countries in Africa, Middle East and Asia. FGM may even persist in immigrant communities in Western countries. Most countries have outlawed the practice.

Another valuable program in Kenya battling to change male attitudes.
Catapult.org/project/halt-fgm

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

My Christmas Present : A Special Place- Cille Choirill.

My Christmas present from my wife Kay is this- a photo we took in Scotland, mounted for hanging on our wall. A special photo of a special place for our family.

Cille Choirill, Glen Spean, Brae Lochaber, Inverness-shire.



Cold, wet, hungry and exhausted the small party picked their way through the rocks in the dark and the rain, travelling at night down the long glen, and hiding by day from the marauding parties of Redcoats intent on punishing the rebellious Clans. Lashed by fierce gales, the fugitives struggled to maintain their footing in the mud and shale, unable to risk a light to see their way, relying only on pale moonlight where it seeped weakly through the storm clouds. The stocky mountain pony carried a bloodied body across its back.



Eoghunn Ruad Chulodair, a Mackintosh died on this journey, his legs shredded and his wounds too severe to be staunched. Struck by grapeshot during the Clans charge upon the Duke of Cumberland's troops at Culloden, 16 April 1746, clansmen loyal to their local chief carried him from the battlefield and made their way south back to the family home in Glen Spean. In the killing time of Culloden...that scant desperate hour...over 1200 clansmen were slaughtered in a valiant but futile charge to break the English lines. For loyal kin to risk their lives under fire to carry the mortally wounded Eoghunn from the field, then to dodge the cavalry attack, and spirit him away, all the while avoiding the snapping hyenas of Redcoat pursuers, and carry his body so far home must speak of how those clansmen regarded Eoghun Ruad Chulodair.

From him are descended our family.

It has long been a dream to travel back to our ancestral lands, and to seek out Cille Choirill where the body of Eoghun Ruad Chulodair ( Red Haired Ewen of Culloden ) was buried under the floor just inside the door. How strange it would be, if he could ever see that over two centuries later his descendants would pilgrimage to his resting place....

In September 2010, we travelled up route 82 from Luss on Loch Lomond, exploring Glencoe on our way and taking walks in the glen and forests of this vast and magnificent valley. Purple flowering heather still draped the lower slopes, and the first touches of Autumn's golds tinted the forests bringing the deep greens of Scot's pines into contrast. There is a visitor's centre on the main highway, and in the village itself a very interesting museum. At both we spent time reading up more of the history of the area, and of the massacre of MacDonalds by Campbell lead English troops, that occurred in the early morning of  February 13th 1692. It was a very full, interesting and enjoyable day for us and although we had not hurried, arrival at Fort William was mid afternoon, spurring a last minute decision to head on through to Glen Spean...Cille Choirill was a powerful magnet...something pulled us there...a very strong sense of anticipation.

You could easily miss Cille Choirill being high above the road, and masked by hedgerows and trees from passing motorists. That but enhances it's mystique and character...it welcomes those who have travelled to seek it out, or those loyal residents of the area who now lovingly tend and care for it, and worship there. The 15th century church was built in honour of Saint Cairell, who preached Christianity in the area around 600AD and is named after him, in Gaelic

Cille Choirill attracts its own... as it has over the centuries, the wee graveyard full of generations of clan and parish worshippers, and Chiefs of Keppoch buried within it's walls under the floor. During the latter 1800's the church fell into disrepair but was renovated and rededicated Sunday July 10, 1932, and its living spirit has been maintained since. A key may be obtained at the dwelling on the A86 Glen Spean road, 2 km from Roy Bridge, just opposite the turn off for the narrow road that winds uphill to a small parking area beside Cille Choirill.



The sky was overcast, lending an eerily dark and foreboding atmosphere to our arrival, but at the same time welcoming, as if the whole presence of the church and host of sleeping persons there would awake if they deemed our visit of worth or import. The interior of Cille Choirill is basic with very little ornamentation, just a functional Catholic Church. Around the walls, a few plaques and crosses marking the graves of those buried within.

Eoghunn Ruad Chulodair remains unmarked where he lies just inside the doorway. I stood for a while there, soaking up the atmosphere of the interior, a place of peace and reverence, where for centuries people have sought solace and salvation, prayed, married, and christened their newborn. Ancient churches like this are not just stone buildings, but living repositories of the history of countless lives: each generation setting another stone in place, another tombstone outside, another entry countersigned in the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. We stuffed 10 pounds into the donation box taking the Cillie Choirill history brochure in return, then walked out to explore the dimly lit graveyard.


By the time we reached the rear to look back down on Cille Choirill we noticed a circle of light upon the hills the other side of the glen, as old Sol managed to fight through the cloud banks and follow us up the glen. The light was coming our way, and in a fitting welcome finally it threw down upon us its full brilliance and warmth, and the whole setting upon that quiet hillside awoke to receive us...accepting us as more of its own...we had returned...we descendants of the Great Scottish Diaspora of the '45 and the Clearances were home...reclaiming kinship and being welcomed back into the clan.







 







The fugitives, joined by other relatives and kins people worked in the dim mutton tallow lamplight to lever up the heavy flagstones of Cille Choirill's floor. Digging out a narrow pit, they lay their revered clan leader within, wrapped in the the plaids and sheepskins gathered from his croft, then covered him with dirt, and relaid the stone above him. The weeping of his wife and young son accompanied the prayers as the little grave was filled in. No sign of disturbance of the floor was left as telltale for Redcoats to seek excuse to wreak vengeance upon the inhabitants of the village in the heart of the area where rebellion had been strongest.

Eoghunn Ruad Chulodair lies undisturbed at Cille Choirill.

Cille Choirill now hangs upon our wall at home. A pilgrimage home completed.

A special photo of a special place.

As a footnote: Chatting with my visiting brother a few weeks before Christmas, and we talked of his wish to also travel to Scotland and do much as we did - research our heritage, and of our visiting Cille Choirill. We looked through the score and more of photos we had taken. Shortly afterward, we and our wives settled in to watch a DVD, and we thought the most appropriate, with Christmas coming upon us, was "Joyeaux Noel", a film about the impromptu Christmas truce of 1914 between Scots, French and German troops in the frontline trenches. During the first part of the film, the young men of each side are shown signing up and leaving their home villages to head off to war. At the start of the Scottish home scenes is a clip of a young boy cycling down a shingle track towards a wee stone church and its graveyard...Cille Choirill is that church used for that scene.
Coincidence surely, but strange as 10 minutes before we'd been in conversation about it.

Cille Choirill calls its own....

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Friday photo for Travel Thursday

Over here is Travel Thursday at Budget Traveller's Sandbox , but since it's already Friday here, I'm putting this photo up as they show a Cathedral in Malacca.

The organs of Saint Giles' Cathedral in the Royal Mile, Edinburgh.


Very lucky to get such a good shot as Cathedral interiors can be gloomy and a flash may not always give enough depth of illumination. But the light from the top of the organ dome added enough back lighting to bring the pipes in to clarity.

Here's a shot of the exterior, on the usual sort of overcast Scottish day. A foreboding presence...?


Brilliance and beauty inside, but gloomy and grimy outside... what a contrast.
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

'Twas the Night Before Christmas ' Africa style!

Gap Adventures Watering Hole travel forum is a fun place to hang out, help new travellers, and chat about tours, places and travel tips. It's a great forum with a helpful welcoming ambience, and you'll find me there as Jimshu. The Christmas spirit has obviously infected another Moderator, JaliscoJudy or she's been tippling at it, because when I checked in this morning, here is what was waitng for us!
Thank you Judy for writing this fun prose.
I added a few pics.

Now where did I park that overland truck?


‘Twas the night before Christmas and all around GAP
Not a creature was stirring (Bruce was taking a nap)
The daypacks were hung by the work desks with care
In hopes that St. Jimshu soon would be there.


CEOs were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of border crossings danced in their heads.
And Red at the Base Camp and Meg in Halifax,
Had just settled down for Canadian naps.



The Bushman kids at Na'ankuse

When out in the street there arose such a clatter
Red sprang from his bed to see what was the matter.
And what should appear through his nighttime Raybans,
But an overland truck and eight Na’ankuse orphans.


With a little old driver, so lively and trim
He knew in a minute it must be St. Jim.
More rapid than rhinos his coursers they came
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name:


Now Tano! Now Kibo! Now Erik and Chemi!
On Neena! On Murka! On Judy and Wendi!

He better not poop on me!
To the top of Base Camp to the top of the wall
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!


He was covered in deet from his head to his boots
And his clothes were all tarnished with elephant poops
A bundle of shoes he had flung on his back
And he looked like a cobbler just opening his pack.


He spoke not a word but went straight to his work
And filled all the daypacks, then turned with a jerk
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And using his iPhone, blogged the whole episode.


He sprang to his truck, to his team gave a call
And away they sped to a refuge in Nepal.
But Red heard him exclaim ‘ere he drove out of sight
Happy voluntourism to all—let’s go make it right!




Merry Christmas and let's go make it right!


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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Footnotes for Tomorrow's Leopard : After effects, upside down cabinets, and leopards.




 I have been asked about post TURP operation effects, the topic I wrote about here - Tomorrow's Leopard.  I have many emails, two male friends of ours have had lengthy discussions with me, and what's really intriguing is all of our female friends have been very concerned to know how it has affected me. They're pretty cool with the operation, but are really interested about the ongoing physical effects upon myself. They are really concerned. We've got great friends for which we are very thrilled to have, so there has been some weird discussions and a lot of banter going on, particularly after we've all got together over dinner and the wine has been flowing. I can't blame them for being so intrigued because for we mere males, it can be a scary operation, but of course never as bad as having a baby I'm constantly reminded by all the females in my life. So let's run through the after effects.

Leopard at Naankuse awaiting release.
Ah, but before we talk about that, let's talk about leopards. Leopards ( Panthera pardus pardus ) were an essential part of that story, real and as a  metaphorical representation of fear, and like most of Africa's wildlife are under stress and classified as near threatened. Numbers are declining due mainly to human agricultural sprawl into wilderness areas, and farmers and locals killing them when they come into contact. The incident Hendrik related of the usual retaliatory method of killing a leopard that was taking their sheep and goats is sadly too common. Today there are conservation organisations addressing that type of situation, and developing new solutions that local communities and farmers can with education put into practice to preserve their flocks, and wildlife.
New ideas include running other animals with herds to protect them. Read about the amazing programs introducing huge Kangal and Anatolian dogs from Turkey and Central Asia to protect farmers livestock from cheetah and leopard here-
Guarding dog_program
and on video here-
youtube Guard dog program
And there is even a program of training donkeys to run with the cattle. The female donkey will foal just before the cattle, and will not just guard her foal, but all the calves in the herd!
In concert with these programs, many farmers are beginning to farm small herds of gazelle, or springbok as a prey base buffer to ensure they don't attack the livestock. New methods, new ideas... invaluable to protect the last 12,000 cheetah in this world and the near threatened leopard.

Travel Africa magazine has an excellent article here which outlines the history of Africat and how they are developing strategies to minimize human-wildlife conflict. Naankuse just outside  of Windhoek, Namibia, ( where Kay and I met up with our daughters Elissa and Emma for a volunteer period in July 2009, ) also operate a rehabilitation and release scheme. Naankuse have rehabilitated and released many large cats- leopard, cheetah and caracal as well as hyena into wilderness areas in the Namib Rand away from farms. GPS collars are fitted to track their ability to survive in their new ranges. Other cheetah, leopards and lions that are too human habituated to release are living their lives out in huge enclosures. It is sad to see them there, but better than them being shot as they would seek food near humans if released and be a danger.


Lions at Naankuse. The male is neutered to prevent breeding.


I don't like to think of another wild creature being shot, when perhaps education, and new ideas can be used to intervene and perhaps deter leopard attacks on livestock, or have them captured and relocated. As a traveller, take the time to read more about these issues, and perhaps even consider a volunteer period at one of the wildlife sanctuaries. I'll list some below. Hopefully Hendrik or his village kids will never have to kill another leopard. They are magnificent creatures.

As to the other subject of "Tomorrow's Leopard", the operation, the after effects have been not so bad. Bored ( pun intended ) at sitting ( well not for very long...) around home, I toddled off to work the Wednesday after the op, and tenderly waddled around getting light duties done. Pain killers and Sachets of ural alkalinisers got me through, and 10 days after the op I'm off those and  fully mobile and banging out those shoes at work. 18 days later, I'm almost completely over it. Gee, it's been pretty easy to get through. I probably shouldn't have said that because... it's not as bad as having a baby, you know! Occasionally, can't a man have a bit of mothering?

Oh and did I hear another woman ask about that other thing again?

I'm not telling but there's a clue here-





Oh and by the way, the bathroom cabinet has been bothering us both since I put it up...we just worked out that it's on the wall- upside down!




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Friday, December 17, 2010

For all visitors to this site-

Readers to this site, would you like to help?
Would you be able to make it possible for Jim and Kay to donate $1,500 to protect wildlife?

Here is why.
 I thought I should state a bit about myself to all readers to this site. I have set this site up so I can use our travel experiences, knowledge and wisdom to highlight issues that concern me, particularly to do with conservation of Africa's wildlife. So you will peruse through this site and read a lot of references to Africa, and also to the plight of Elephants, rhino and big cats -  leopard, lions, cheetah, caracal and even servil. Africa's wildlife is being decimated at an increasing rate, because of the growing affluence of China's population that demands, and can now afford more and more rhino horn for it's traditional Chinese medicine, and ivory.
There are reports now that where ever Chinese mining operations are, or road building projects are, elephant and rhino poaching is soaring. Plus where there is civil conflict, adjacent countries are being stripped of elephant ivory, thought to be smuggled out in a long underground chain to China, and being exchanged for weapons to fuel killings in countries such as Sudan.I would like to do anything I can to contribute to halting the slaughter of Africa's magnificent beast, the very wildlife we travel there to see.


Here is how you can help.

We have entered this competition and if we do win it, then we will donate our entire travel savings account to wildlife protection organisations in Africa! $1500 .

You can make this happen simply by voting for us to win here- Romance Ireland : Jim and Kay
Go there, follow the registration process, match the caps sensitive code and vote. Simple.


The organisations we will donate $500 each to are-
http://www.naankuse.com/
http://www.soselephants.org/
http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/

Total $1500.

On this blog site you will find many references to them. We currently have adopted 2 baby elephants at  Sheldrick Trust, and 1 wild dog pup at Naankuse. Plus we have made donations to SOS Elephants and Chobe Wildlife rescue. All from earnings from this site, and our own.
We have a really big chance now of making a difference by your taking the time to cast a vote.

Help stop this-




By doing this-

We have a readership of between 40 to 100 per day here. You realise what you could do?
By the simple act of voting for us at this link- http://www.romancenz.discoverireland.com/profile/67/Jim-and-Kay.aspx?sort=top we could travel next year and not use our travel savings, which we could then donate to Naankuse, SOS and Sheldrick Trust.

Readers, please make this happen. These wonderful animals need every bit of help we can give them.


I'm committed to a volunter project with EHRA Elepant - Human Relations Aid next May. Paid for the trip. So this Romace Ireland is an extra for us, so should we win it. then it unlocks our travel savings account to be donated to the animals we love. You are the key.


















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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Requiem for an Elephant. Thursday Photo.

    Savi RIP.

I was advised today that Savi died. I cannot tell you how heartbroken I, and many others are.
Savi represented the hopes of many people that we could save the last of Chad's elephants from the elephant wars that are wiping out the last elephants in the Sahel and Zakouma National Park in Chad.

Central Africa is one of the last regions with a sizable population of African elephant, but their numbers are only a fraction of what they used to be. In Zakouma National Park in Chad there are an estimated 600 elephants. Twenty years ago there were 40,000.

There are suggestions that poachers are killing elephants for their ivory which is then supplied to Chinese backed criminal agents and traded for weapons from China to further spread conflict in the area. Ivory may be funding conflict in Darfur.

Savi was a survivor of these slaughters when her mother was killed by poachers and then rescued by locals lead by Stephanie Vergniault, who went on to found SOS Elephants recently.
This has been a sudden and tragic loss.
I wrote about Stephanie and SOS Elephants last month here-  elephant-wars-in-chad-sos-elephants.html to try and publicise the enormous task they had taken on. Now sadly, the death of Savi has also caused the demise of SOS Elephants as the Chad Government has not been forthcoming with financial support, and the flow of public donations is just not enough to fund the costs of running such an organisation.
So today we have the death of Savi and SOS Elephants, a double tragedy.

Chad's elephants are on their own.... Once they are gone, which country will face the poachers onslaught?

UPDATE : I have just been advised that SOS Elephants may continue. Thankfully Stephanie is reconsidering a decision made during the stress and heartbreak at Savi's death. When you work your guts out to save these wonderful animals, and you get such sad news, it must take real courage to pick yourself up, find the courage, and continue.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

MY Land : Gannet Colony Cape Kidnappers.

My Land - The Napier / Hastings area of New Zealand's North Island offers one of the most exciting opportunities to visit Cape Kidnappers Gannet Reserve of over 6,500 pairs, which makes it the largest and most accessible mainland colony in the world. Most species of gannets seek the security of offshore islands for their nesting, so here you have a great opportunity to get up close to observe these beautiful birds, and the photography opportunities travelling there, and at the rookeries are boundless.




.
The trip along the coastal route offers good seascapes, coastal cliff formations, and you will pass an arm's length away from nesting sites at Black Reef. Please observe simple precautions of not disturbing any nesting birds, or going past the roped off areas at the Plateau colonies. You will be able to get close to them, but they make better photography subjects if you allow them to get on about their lives without you causing them disturbance. Stand back, use your zoom and you'll get wonderful photos.






Gannets have to be one of the best bird subjects for photography. They are experts at riding the wind and air thermals, much like an albatross that can soar and glide huge distances without flapping it's wings, so photographs will be sharp and clear as right up to their final landing, they give very little movement.










How to get there.
 Travel from Napier or Hastings out to Clifton. The main highways will be well sign posted.

Walk.
 At the far eastern end of Clifton you'll find Clifton Reserve Camp and the walk along the beach commences here.  Allow around 5 hours for the return trip, and start your walk around 3 hours after the high tide, and plan to leave the colony around 1 hour after low tide as you must complete your walk before the next high tide.

Beach Safari.
 You can join the Gannet Beach tractor safaris. Give them a ring and get the departure times for the day you wish to go as it is very tide dependant. They also depart adjacent to the Clifton Reserve Camp.


Overland Tour.
 Travel by minibus is also an option, particularly for those less mobile, or if the weather is very rough. The other advantage is they are not tide dependant.

When to go.
Best time for viewing the gannets is between November and into February. Nesting commences in mid-September and continues through to mid-December. Then the young chicks will launch themselves and undertake an amazing flight to Australia returning to breed 5 years later.

What to take.
Sunscreen, sunhat, sunglasses, are musts particularly for the Tractor safari where on a sunny day there is little shelter from the sun.
 Pack your own nibbles, lunch and plenty to drink.
Comfortable walking footwear for the track up from the beach to the colonies.
Swim suit and towel as you'll  not resist jumping in the surf on a hot day.
And weather may change so take at least one warm top.
There are cushions provided on the trailers for delicate Granny backsides.
And don't forget the camera, fully charged batteries and spare memory card. You'll be snapping away!


We have been on the tractor safari 3 times and it keeps getting better. The gannets, the rugged coastal scenery, pounding surf that needs to be entered at times, and the excitement of the actual tractor way of travelling all add up to a great adventure day out for families, individuals and the birder.
Each time we go back, we appreciate it more.

Double click on any of the above photos to bring them up full size, then use your browsers back button to return to the post.

 
You will find a walking and tractor safari route map here-
http://www.doc.govt.nz/upload/30768/cape-kidnappers-map.jpg
Overland tour info here-
http://www.gannetsafaris.co.nz/
Tractor Safari info here-
http://www.gannets.com/

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Friday, December 10, 2010

This Moment: Saturday ritual.



This Moment – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.




A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.





This Moment” is a ritual I found on Life inspired by the Wee Man adopted from SouleMama. Check out their blogs…they are beautiful, and if you are moved too, please leave a link to your Moment in the comment box below.

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Romance in Ireland!

Over the past week I have been getting over the operation mentioned in  my Tomorrow's Leopard post, and I'm doing OK, everything is working but a wee ( pun intended ) bit tender, so just light duties at work which I went back to on Wednesday, as contrary to popular belief  shoes aren't made by little elves in the middle of the night! Dollars still need to be earned.
The support I have had from Kay has been bloody marvellous so I had been thinking of ways to show her how much I appreciated having her look after me, and her general encouragement. Kay and I married way back in 1973, and have been travelling this life together since. She's a loving, caring woman and a great mother to our 3 grown up children and has a great sense of family. I enjoy great health, hardly a flue, cold or any other illness, but this past week I drew upon her strength to face up to my wee problem. My father had prostate cancer, and two friends have had radical treatment for prostate cancer. So my benign enlargement was a trifle in comparison, but until the post operation biopsy result, there was  the fear that I could still have been one of the 10-15% who are positively diagnosed after the op.


There is a competition being run by Tourism Ireland for New Zealand residents called An Affair With Ireland and when I came across this I immediately felt this was just so suitable, as it has always been Kay's great wish to travel the Emerald Isle. In fact we very nearly did an impromptu visit for a few days from Stranraer when we visited Scotland this past September.


So I have entered to win this for Kay.

 Please help us by going to this link and voting for Jim and Kay. An Affair With Ireland.

Only takes a minute. And please spread the link through your friends.

Thanks everyone. It's wonderful to have your support.
BTW if we win I'll be donating $500 to Naankuse wildlife sanctuary to help with their wild dog program.

And another $500 to SOS Elephants a new organisations fighting to save Chad's remaining elephants.
You'll read two posts on this site about another 3 very courageous women leading the fight for those eles.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Travel Friday for Thursday Photo.

I'm posting this photo for Friday here, because here it's Budget Traveller's Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday!

Here is Kanna. Kanna is a San Bushman boy I make custom boots for as he was one of the last survivors of Polio in Namibia. He's not just proudly wearing the boots I made him last year, but also his school uniform as at Naankuse wildlife sanctuary they're teaching all the San kids at the new Clever Cubs School built there especially so the children will get enough basic education so they can enter mainstream schools in Windhoek. There's another  pair on their way to him now being delivered by Russell Frankish from Green Bushpigs Safaris, who stopped over at our home while on a New Zealand tour. We think it's great that Kanna gets an opportunity now in his life to learn at a school .Hopefully when I'm in Namibia next May I'll have the time to get to go kick a soccer ball around with Kanna and the rest of the children.  Perhaps I should clarify that I made them for him and donated them. Least I could do for Naankuse.





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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Why I'm Heading Back to Namibia: Or- Gimme more!

"Shit! There’s an elephant right behind you guys!" Sam exclaimed in wide eyed horror.

Freezing, adrenaline pumping, but fighting the rising fear, I turn my head slowly to see a monstrous black shape just 12 metres away, silhouetted in the moonlight next to the very tree we were sitting under. Alan and Earl froze also. Our first night at Base Camp on the Ugab River bed, Damaraland, Namibia, and we guys are yakking around the dying embers of the braie, late at night, getting to know each other as all strangers would. Now we four were caught off guard, up so close to a huge bull elephant with no chance of getting away if he'd chosen to charge. Those few beers we'd had wouldn't have helped us move either......

How on earth does such a huge animal walk up behind you so silently?


Strangely my fear subsides, and I began to appreciate the moment. This was unique. This was so unexpected. This was what I'd come for, an adventure! Time seemed to slow down as I sank into the moment, just to absorb every second, because there's never going to be another time like this again.

What a welcome they'd put on for their new volunteers at Base Camp!
Give us a thrill like this , and we'll want to come back for more.

Just a few hours earlier we’d been given our Safety Lecture by our Elephant-Human Relations Aid (EHRA) patrol guides, advising we 15 new volunteers never to approach within 100 metres of these beasts. They will charge. Recent encounters between elephants and locals, competing over scarce water supplies, had left the herds skittish, and there had recently been human casualties. Time to test their encounter theories now because this bull had walked right up so silently…..

2 short weeks prior I’d flown Qantas Airlines with my wife to join a Cape Town to Windhoek, Namibia, GAP Adventures tour. Then I had kissed Kay goodbye in Windhoek, as she continued on the tour through Botswana on to Victoria Falls. But I was free, off on my adventure. Getting right out of my comfort zone, joining a volunteer project with EHRA, an organisation at the coalface of human/wildlife conflict.


Volunteers, (you pay for the privilege of working hard..) are the key in enabling EHRA to build rock wall protection around village wells and water tanks, to stop desert elephants breaking down facilities in their hunt for water. Namibia, for most of the year is arid, with only a 2 month rainy season. Namibia’s desert elephants have adapted to this harsh environment, browsing the mopani thickets, and digging seep holes for water in the dry sandy riverbeds. But village or farm wells and tanks are irresistible, bringing them into conflict with locals. Just 2 months earlier, a local had shot and wounded an elephant while driving the small herd off. Soon after the herd had cornered that local, chased him up a kopjie, and killed him. They say elephants don't forget......

We built our wall. We cooked over campfires. We chatted and learnt about each other as the fiery orange African sun set over the stunning Ugab River scenery. We slept in sleeping bags on the ground and gazed up at the brilliance of the Milky Way covering the heavens. We didn’t mind not showering for 5 days! And we fell in love with the country.

We are scarred with those dreams, and of that first night encounter with Vootrekker, as we came to know that majestic beast, who had come to welcome our patrol. Perhaps he understood EHRA was trying to help his herd survive in this desperate but beautiful land.

But now it was just survival! “What the hell do we do if he walks right through the camp? There’s no way we can get out of his way!” We had been instructed to freeze and make no move towards that could be interpreted as a threat. It seemed  like ages sitting there,watching this huge elephant browse the tree we were under. I was hoping his calmly eating, was a sign he was comfortable with us. There was still the fear he would continue straight towards us through our camp. The local herds have often demolished parts of the camp on the way through. Strangely, my fear had vanished and I found myself enjoying every moment of being so close to the big bull of the area that we would later identify him as. This was Voortrekker, the bull that around 20 years ago had lead his small herd down from the Etosha area to re-establish the desert elephants in their old home range, before they were hunted out. This was his territory, and he was letting us know it.
Calmly, Voortrekker began to browse on the very acacia tree we were sitting under, keeping a stern eye on we, the intruders in his territory. Then with a look as if to say “Keep the noise down you guys. This is my patch.” he turned. Hitching up his baggy pants, he ambled away as silently as he'd arrived at our camp, across the dry, sandy riverbed to the other side of the valley where he continued to select dessert from other foliage.

When you’re up so close to Mother Nature’s greatest land beast, and your life is in the balance of his whim, there’s a moment when the greatest event in your life becomes etched upon your memory forever. Incredible, unforgettable and life changing.

http://www.desertelephant.org/
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Friday, December 3, 2010

Tomorrow's Leopard!

On my MatadorU assignment site - Resoled Holes In My Soles, I have posted my latest article for a Transition exercise. I hope you like it. It's an article about facing fear, even though that word is never used, and instead the 'leopard' signifies fear. He is very real. I 'saw' him in my dream that night, a very large animal, and a very dark coloured cat, possibly so because of the pale moonlight, or else a dark mutant colouring. When Hendrick came down from exploring the kopjie and told us about finding the paw tracks, a big shiver went up my spine. This story I'd like to expand a little from the basic two stage transition, 400-600 word article asked for in the assignment, and take you as a reader through to another level where we all get caught up in Hendrick's story. He held our attention that night. I hope I do also in the retelling of him telling his story, but he was a greater story teller than I, because story telling is part of their culture.


Tomorrow's Leopard.

Tomorrow is my big day.
”James. ” (Kay always calls me James when she demands attention) ” You can put the bathroom cabinet up tomorrow morning before you go off to hospital.” That’ll finish the new bathroom off in the morning…while I’ll be finished off in the afternoon!
“That’ll probably be the last thing going up in this house.” I reply.
The new bathroom was Kay’s birthday present….my Christmas present is- Tomorrow!

Our late breakfast together, on this warm, sunny morning and ‘Tomorrow’ intrudes upon my thoughts of the tuis calling outside. The leopard stirs…

How I wish this tomorrow never comes. I’m trying not to think about tomorrow – every man does not want to think about ‘Tomorrow’. But for 30-40% of men it draws near inexorably, as we age. Tomorrow is a Trans-Urethral Resection of the Prostate, .. a TURPS, ..a Rebore, and we men do not talk about it, let alone think about it. But tomorrow it is the reality. Got to face up to it, got to be staunch. Get into it, get over it, get on with it. Just like any problem in life really, I suppose. And the leopard stirs again….

Sure, I could go on drugs, Beta-blockers that help you pee, but hey, at my age I do not take any drugs and do not want to start. Just staves off the day when it has to be done, so I elected to have the re-bore now while I’m young and healthy and so nothing interferes with going back to Africa. When there is an elephant crashing around your campsite, you need to be able to get out and and have a pee quickly.

It was the leopard.
The image of that leopard above me in the rocky kopjie that made me think my time had come. Hendrick started it all off. Hendrik and his tales of surviving a leopard attack as a village kid. Around the campfire that night, on our Elephant-Human Relations Aid volunteer project in Namibia, he related his tale of his desperate struggle with and finally killing a leopard, and storytelling for Herero is an art, a tradition, a long, evocative and masterful affair.

"As a young kid all the village boys looked after the cattle, and flocks of sheep and goats taking them out from the kraals to graze surrounding hills and valleys wherever their was any grass.In dry seasons when grass is scarce, all the wild antelope would leave the area and the leopard would come in looking for food, our flocks. We had to guard them. Sometimes we would hear a leopard come into the kraal at night and take a goat or young lamb. We would be too frightened to stop it.But if we were to prove ourselves as men and no longer boys, we could not fail to look after the animals. That was manhood.
"So we made a plan. We would get all the boys, and all seven dogs and find the leopard and kill him ,and we made a pact to all stick together. The dogs tracked and treed this leopard, and all the dogs kept it there. We were all frightened as now we had to get it down and kill it. We would do it all together, I with my father's sword that I carry now. The other boys had sticks and clubs. We threw rocks at the leopard and it jumped down into the dogs. It killed and wounded 4 dogs and chased the others off and then turned on us, all in a matter of seconds.  I was afraid but there were many of us boys,,,,, until  I looked behind me ....and there was no one else! Just me. I am very afraid now.
"But  I also have learned about leopards. Leopards to attack always leap on to you, usually from in front so they can grasp your face in their teeth, and put a paw over your head and rake your scalp off and down over your face to blind you. At the same time their hind legs come up to your chest then jerk down into your belly to rip out your intestines to the ground. This is the way of killing baboons and why baboons are so afraid of them at night because a leopard hunts at night.
"So I run behind a bush to keep the bush between me and that leopard and it is too high for him to leap over. He runs around one way, I run the other way, and he goes other, I go this way. This goes on a long time. We are both getting tired. Then I see some boys coming back looking for their dead friend. I am not dead, just tired, but I must keep running around the bush or leopard will leap on me.
"Soon all the boys see I am alive, and they must help especially as I have done the hard part of tiring the leopard. So we all attack him and we kill him and I got some gashes from his claws."

Hendrick had us spellbound, each of us held by the images drawn in our imagination by that master storyteller with his sword hanging in his scabbard, and the leopard scars on his bare scalp.

Later I would struggle up from deep sleep busting for a pee, and in the darkness wander off to attempt to hose down a rock. If only….
Standing there hopefully, the realisation dawns to how vulnerable I was, of taking so long that a leopard could slowly steal up and launch itself at me in the dark from the rocks above. Yes, I was going to have to get to grips with this and get something done!

In the wee hours of the morning I dream - of a dark spotted cat looking down at a man while he is peeing. I am seeing the scene from above, just enough light to make out that leopard looking down on that man - me - each figure just visible between the shadows cast from the rocky outcrops by the half moon. Just a dream....

Morning’s coffee and Hendrick comes down from the kopjie, armed with his 2 foot long Damara sword: asking him about why he was armed with it had set off the story telling the evening before.
“Hi Hendrik. What did you see from up top?”
“Leopard country. There was a leopard up there last night. I see his tracks. He was watching us last night."
A shiver went up my spine as that leopard stalked into the shadows of my mind and settled there.
Tomorrow can’t come soon enough. Re-bores do not phase me, as long as I don't think about it, but that leopard scares the shit out of me! And I’m going back there.

If you ever read this story Hendrick, know that I tried to recapture the tension you yourself conveyed that night beside the campfire, but it is your story...only you could tell it better.


For anyone reading this story, concerned about benign prostate  enlargement, which affects 30-40% percent of men as we age, or if you're concerned about prostate cancer, the most informative site I have found written from actual experience is here- prostablog.wordpress.com/ I hope spreading this information helps others.


The following are comments upon the condensed story at Resoled Holes In My Soles.
 20 Responses to Tomorrow’s Leopard.

Kelly says:
01/12/2010 at 11:28 pm (Edit)
This really amazing Jim! I love the story almost as much as I love the way you wrote it. You took a somber topic and parlayed it into a tale of adventure, travel and lust for life. Bravo, my friend! I was hooked on this from the first few words.
I now also share in your fear of leopards. Eek! Good luck with everything.
Reply
nev says:
01/12/2010 at 11:43 pm (Edit)
I’m not thinking about it….LOL.
Thanks for your encouragement, nice to read. There’s hardly anything on the net about this condition, so I wondered whether I should even talk about it, but after a while I got my head around it and thought” Well why not? Might help another guy .”
But yeah, everytime I do think about it, that leopard crouches… I fear him more than tomorrow. Thanks.

Jools Stone says:
02/12/2010 at 12:31 am (Edit)
Good luck Jim, long may you leap ahead of the leopard!
Reply
nev says:
02/12/2010 at 12:44 am (Edit)
Thanks Jools, hold that train for me. I’ll be right on board.

John in France says:
02/12/2010 at 12:39 am (Edit)
Ten out of ten for this assignment Jim! Absolutely fabulous article. Good luck with the bathroom cabinet and the re-bore! You’ll be too quick for the leopard!
Reply
nev says:
02/12/2010 at 12:46 am (Edit)
Hiya John, yeah well the assignment called for a ‘transitions’ article , so they get a trans- resection one!
Flowers greatfully accepted!

Christy @ Ordinary Traveler says:
02/12/2010 at 12:59 am (Edit)
What a lovely story, Jim. Good luck tomorrow!
Reply
nev says:
02/12/2010 at 1:53 am (Edit)
You think so Christy, that’s so nice of you. Thanks and we’ll be up and around soon as .

Matt Hope says:
02/12/2010 at 1:25 am (Edit)
good luck Jim, I’ll be thinking of you!
Reply
nev says:
02/12/2010 at 1:39 am (Edit)
Don’t worry Matt, we’ll be up and at it again in no time. May be able to catch up with more blogging and following while taking it easy. Hey and thanks!

Cathy Sweeney says:
02/12/2010 at 4:33 am (Edit)
Good luck, Jim! Thanks so much for sharing this with us in such a wonderfully-written post.
Reply
nev says:
02/12/2010 at 5:51 am (Edit)
For you to say it’s wonderfully written is just so encouraging Cathy.

inka says:
02/12/2010 at 7:10 am (Edit)
You couldn’t have tackled a serious matter in a braver and – yes- more staunch way than with this great stroy. Good luck, you’ll be good as new in no time and elephants and leopards will have to look elsewhere for a morsel!!
Reply
nev says:
02/12/2010 at 4:57 pm (Edit)
Thanks Inka, counting down the hours….


 @#%$#^&%$@WSR&&*%#@WTF%!!!!!!!!!

Amy says:
03/12/2010 at 7:38 am (Edit)
I’ll echo the others here Jim – excellent post!

Reply
nev says:
03/12/2010 at 5:35 pm (Edit)
Thanks Amy. Gone better than I expected.Lots of inspiration for writing now!

taminchina says:
03/12/2010 at 8:33 am (Edit)
Hi Nev,
I read this with a view to commenting on “assignment 2″ stuff, but that seems just a little bit trite. I think you’ve tackled the tricky subject with humour and honesty that someone experiencing a similar “ordeal” will surely empathise with and take comfort from.
Good Luck with the leopard. Tam
PS: Great title, and great image on your blog header!

Reply
nev says:
03/12/2010 at 5:34 pm (Edit)
Hi Taminchina, Nice of you to show up from the ‘U’. Did the writing deliver though? Could it have n
been done better?
I may tweak a couple of things. I want the multi transitions a bit sharper.

Robin says:
03/12/2010 at 11:39 am (Edit)
Really engagingly written! An you have provided something to squirm about for any men of a certain age reading this…

nev says:
03/12/2010 at 7:03 pm (Edit)
It’s gone surprisingly well Robin. And for all those other guys out there heading down this track, it’s OK so far and any problems then I’ll blog them. But sweet as so far. No pain.
Just wanna get up and moving as soon as they unhook all the pipes.

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