Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Uganda. World AIDS Day 2004

Uganda: World AIDS Day 2004. We are counting on you too!
Photo by Susanne Behnke, Uganda 2003

Photo of rural village schoolchildren taken in Jinja District of southern Uganda near Lake Victoria. They look just great and very interested in having their picture taken. Is there a future professional woman photographer in this shot? Maybe a doctor? I sure do hope so.

Africa: World Aids Day 2004

Uganda: World Aids Day 2004. Don't forget about these children, they are counting on us.
Photo by Susanne Behnke, Uganda 2003

Tommorow, December 1st 2004 marks the Annual World Aids Day. The UNAIDS & WHO just released a new report on the pandemic which shows that women and children (like these sweet little Ugandan kids in the photo) are under unbelievably high risk of contracting, suffering, and dying of HIV/AIDS. Over 60% of AIDS infected people in sub-Saharan Africa are women and girls today.

Now I can't tell you if the children in the photo above are infected with HIV/AIDS or not, chances are that they have never been tested for the disease. I can't tell you if they belong to the enormous group of millions of children in Africa who have been orphaned because their parents have died from illnesses related to HIV/AIDS either, but I can tell you this:

Without the help from all of us around the world to help prevent and fight this devastating disease, particularly in the developing countries, these poor kids won't have a chance in Hell for any kind of a bright future. None of us the world over will have a chance for a bright future. Nobody.

Here are some useful links to resources on World Aids Day 2004:
Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria
BBC HIV/AIDS Debate site

If you can do anything to help, no matter how small it may be, do it. I'm sure that the little ones in the photo above would be mighty appreciative of your efforts to help them, now and in the future.

Friday, November 19, 2004

SUDAN: Good news for the Chai Lady

Sudan - A parting shot of the Chai Lady of Khartoum.
Photo by Tom Gething, Sudan 2004

I thought that it would be a good idea to share this full color photo of the Chai (Tea) Lady of Khartoum with my readers today. I'm sure that for many of us around the world who have been following the news and reports about Sudan and the crisis and atrocities taking place in the Darfur region of the country this year, the signing of a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) between the regime in Khartoum (GoS) and the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) representatives today is hopefully a big step towards a workable peace for the people of Sudan.

All the international newswires and television coverage is full of stories on the historic meeting of the UN Security Council & Co. in Nairobi, Kenya and the outcome of the 2-day negotiations to force a peace agreement to end the 21 year civil war in Sudan. Here is the latest article from the U.K. Guardian Unlimited which a lot of my liberal leaning left-winged blogger buddies read. There is also an excellent link at the bottom of the online article to a resource I have never noticed before in my research, The Rift Valley Institute's Sudan Internet Resources. These folks are good, look at all that stuff, yum-yum. It will take me weeks to get through all of that information, maybe years.

Nonetheless, there is some powerful medicine coming out of Kenya today, despite the backsliding and maneuvering from the Chinese, Russian, Pakistani, and French UN ambasstardors (did I spell that right?). Lot's of people will be working and praying for you over the next months Madam Chai Lady, working to help Peace break out all over Sudan and across Kenya all the way down to the Great Lakes Region. Yep, big meetings down in Tanzania this weekend too. Peace trying to break out all over the place, 'cause it's time! Peace is loooong overdue and we all want to see it in our lifetimes. I'd bet the Chai Lady would be real happy to hear that news, the streets of Khartoum and the folks around her little stand must be just abuzz with news and opinions today. Good sales.

Following is what the photographer Tom Gething had to say about the lovely photograph, before I added my 2 cents worth on Sudanian politics and issues:

"This tea (or 'chai') lady was operating her stall by a traditional brick making factory on the west bank of the Nile, in a district of Khartoum called Elacocu. It's part of a series on traditional skills that I am trying to develop.Taken handheld, in the first hour after dawn, I was attempting get an enviromental portrait. As I don't have a WA lens I decided to use an angle that put her in context. I was also very aware of not getting blown highlights on her face. I'm particulary happy with the orange tone of her 'tobe' (shawl). ..."

Saturday, November 13, 2004

SUDAN: Coffee with The Chai Lady of Khartoum

Khartoum _ Chai Lady Preparing Coffee
Photo by Tom Gething, Sudan 2004

I have been just dying to get back to posting to my blog about Sudan. O.K. so dying is not a good choice of words if you have been following news and reports on Sudan and Darfur lately. The more I read the angrier I get, and not only at the regime in Khartoum but perhaps most of all at myself for not being in a position to go in and help these people right now, and I am not only talking about being a humanitarian or an aid worker. Something bigger.

I would love someday to be able to extend the hand of friendship personally to the Sudanese people in the photos from Tom Gething on this weblog. It would be a great honor for me albeit they may think I’m crazy for thinking that it was so special to be able to meet them. Anyway, before I return to Sudan next week via this blog I thought that I would share another one of Tom’s beautiful photos with you today. Here is another B&W image of The Chai Lady (see my A Survival Study in B&W posting) as she prepares a coffee (or tea?) for us.

If I were there in Khartoum with her I would be excitedly trying to tell her (via a translator) that she is probably one of the most famous “Chai Ladies” on the planet and certainly in all of Khartoum, that perhaps 100,000+ people around the world will have seen photos of her on the World Wide Web, and that many of us just love her only by seeing images of her, and that it has helped some of us to learn more about her country, Sudan, and her people. I’d tell her all of this while she was busy preparing my coffee (she nervously thinking to herself, “Who is this crazy guy? Do all Americans act this way asking all of these questions?”).

And when my coffee was ready I would pay her for it, I would pay at least 100 times what she normally charges for the glass of coffee (which is $00.01 or 1 cent a glass), I would pay her about $1.00 U.S. Dollars. At this point she would be totally convinced that I AM DEFINITELY CRAZY, but also that I am a rich American and too loose with my money. I would be spending 300-400% less for a cup of her coffee than what I would pay at Starbucks, and the service and company is undoubtedly better with The Chai Lady by far.

Then I would try to strike up a conversation with The Chai Lady, to learn a little more about her life and her people and try to tell her things about my country and my people and about other people I’ve met around the world, while enjoying my wonderful cup of coffee with her. Can you see it? I sure can, clear as day, what a wonderful experience that would be.

And after we had finished our coffees and our conversation I would bid The Chai Lady farewell and tell her what an honor it has been to be in her presence after having only a photo image of her in my mind for so long. Perhaps she would be happy also to share such an experience and be anxious to see me again soon so that we may swap stories and so that she could sell her coffee at premium prices.

Then I would bow my head to kiss her hands and then walk away, and as she watched me go my eyes would swell with tears to the point that my vision would blur, tears of happiness and sadness at once, and my heart would be full of joy at having the chance to finally have met her, The Chai Lady from Khartoum made famous by a photograph and a blog and a very long war.

Can blogs and bloggers and their readers help change the World?? I believe the answer to that question is an emphatic YES, and we are already well underway down that road. This is the greatest social dialogue and collaboration experiment I’ve seen in many a year, and I’ve been around for awhile. Thanks to a posting from Ethan Zuckerman over at Harvard here is an article about the affects bloggers are having on the international media scene and global politics already____ and we bloggers are not even out of the race starting blocks yet!

While reviewing the ONA site (ONA= Online News Association) today regarding the prestigious award to BBC News Online for Best Online News Website 2004 I also ran across an excellent piece on blogs and bloggers vs. mainstream international media. Here is an excerpt about a speech by Alan Nelson from The Command Post - Newsblog Collective delivered to the Associated Press Managing Editors on the subject of blogs (weblogs):

"Alan Nelson of Command-post.org gave a great speech to the APME a couple of weeks ago. He talked about the Law of the Flow, the Law of the Fast, Law of the Few, and the Law of the Many. It's fascinating reading. Here's one quote: There’s a very important lesson here: bloggers should not be underestimated. They are not just average people … they are people who, long before blogs came along … had the ability to surface information and present it to others in a persuasive and compelling way. They are opinion leaders, and weblogs have only served to exponentially increase their reach and their power." I encourage you to read the full text, and the comments attached at the end."

This is a "must read article" for my fellow blog authors and avid blog readers by the way, as we all try to get a grasp on what this is really all about and why we do it. The folks over at The Command Post have a real hot blog by the way, and you can find their permalink in my blogroll "Hot Blogs and Sites To Go" along with some very fine new blog additions to Jewels in the Jungle i.e. Crooked Timber and Ambiguous Adventure.

Now, I wonder how I could explain all this stuff about blogs and bloggers to The Chai Lady of Khartoum?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Intro to American Politics 101: U.S. Elections 2004

This is one of those agonizing postings to my blog I don’t want to really do but I feel somehow that I have to do it ‘cause everybody’s talking about it and most people have no idea whatsoever about the subjects but they feel they have to say something anyway even though what comes out of their mouths most times is totally GARBAGE irregardless of their political leanings and preferences.

What am I talking about? The U.S. Elections 2004, that’s what!! Personally, I am sick of hearing about it and I don’t necessarily want to see this subject on Jewels in the Jungle. However, being a true-blue red-blooded American citizen whose family has heaps of history and a fascinating heritage in the good old U.S. of A. it would be unpatriotic if I didn’t say something on this subject. So here goes:


Never say never. What is done is done and the best thing to do is to get over it and move on. All of that expert commentary, opinions, analysis, tea leaves and crystal ball predictions, polls, live T.V. coverage by 10 million journalists from all over the world, foreign air mail voter manipulation and harassment from our “concerned cousins” in the U.K., jumping up and down at conventions and rallies waving flags and wearing stupid looking T-shirts and hats and campaign buttons and laughing and crying and literally making a damn fool of yourselves on international T.V., not to mention threats of foreign invasion and economic boycotts and breaking of diplomatic ties and all kinds of other B.S. from our long-time traditional allies and partners” overseas (many by the way who were our “mortal enemies” just a few years or generations ago but that’s a long time in most people’s minds due to chronic memory problems) ….. all of this stuff didn’t amount to more than a hill of beans. If you were against G.W. Bush, you lost. Period. BUSH IS BACK AND THAT’S THAT. If you need some consoling or something, see my links in LESSON NR. 2 below.

As a matter of fact, he never left and he is "startin’ to take a likening to Washington D.C." as they say down in my part of the country, The Heartland. Now the problem for a lot of people who have no idea about America or Americans (this includes an awful lot of U.S. citizens by the way), the problem with all of these folks is that they don’t understand the term “Heartland” nor do they respect or understand the millions of Americans who hail from these parts. Most people around the world cannot even find the place on a map including a whole lot of so-called experts on America.

So to answer that pressing question I get here in Europe from far too many absolute strange people who say they have a “genuine concern about the United States of America" since the first day I got here to help save their disgusting butts from political and military catastrophe years and years ago, that question which goes something like this:

By the way, what do you think about the results of the U.S. Elections 2004 and the re-election of President George W. Bush?”

My answer often time is like this:

Nothing, it’s over, we have another President. Why, you don’t like it or something? You’ve got something to say about it? You from the States, pay taxes over there or something, have sons and daughters dying on foreign battlefields in U.S. uniforms? No? Who is your president? What is your government doing to “save the world”? Oh really, I don’t believe you because the facts and evidence shows that your leaders aren’t doing Squat to help anyone other than themselves. Don’t leave, what is it, have I insulted you or something? Good, because that is what I intended to do. Goodbye and don’t come back!

Now if I like you and think that you are really intelligent and well informed on global issues including those which affect Americans as well as the rest of the world and you are the type of person with which one can have a good dialogue on politics I might answer in this way:

The American Elections for 2004, interesting wasn’t it? Looks like Bush and the Republicans just fooled all of the experts, must’ve have really pissed a lot of people off. Actually as a rule I almost never discuss who I actually voted for, but I am more than willing to discuss issues with you. Where you from? Oh, I’m from _______”


Before you open your mouth, make sure that your brain is engaged. American politics is really complicated. Politics anywhere is usually complicated unless you live in a country where decisions are made for the people vs. by the people. I would guess that most people in the world have never had the opportunity to vote, although I believe that all people of the world have the Right To Vote. A lot of government and business leaders in foreign lands making all of this racket about the U.S. Elections are working very hard to make sure that their people CANNOT VOTE.

I personally use various sources of information from broadcast media, the Internet, real experts on political issues (a rarity), and even my own gut feelings to help me determine who should be the President or Senator or Congresswoman/man for my country or home state. This is particularly important when you have lived abroad amongst absolute savages (albeit well dressed savages) here in Europe as long as I have___ which is too long by the way, way too long.

Here are a few of my favorite info resources for the recent U.S. elections:

1. CNN U.S. Election 2004 Coverage
2. BBC U.S. Election 2004 - Don’t miss their Guide to U.S. Government.
3. Internet Public Library - Online news sources from around the world.
4. My Mom - She says she "hates Bush" by the way, although she is trying to be a good Christian. Don't arrest her Mr. Ashcroft, she doesn't mean it. Mom is just highly emotional about politics.
5. Priorities & Frivolities - Tagoda is at the John F. Kennedy School of Government - Harvard University. You can learn a lot about U.S. politics if you spend some time on his blog. I think he is a progressive Republican with immigrant roots in the Phillipines.
6. Cox & Forkum Editorial Cartoons - This is a good place when you begin to take politics and yourself too seriously. Everybody needs a good laugh now and then.
7. German media and press - I occasionally checkout these news sources in order to keep up with the well-oiled propoganda machines the Austro-Germans perfected years ago. These guys are good and much of the German-speaking public doesn’t notice a thing. I hope that somebody in the U.S.A. is analyzing these sources in order to help us ammend foreign policy strategies for the 21st century and beyond.
8. The African Viewpoint - Interesting and diverse views from Africans. Also checkout various news and commentaries expressed on AllAfrica.com.
9. Barack Obama - I have yet to see any coverage of this story in the German media. Here are two articles from the BBC and CNNI. Obama is a Big Story and I’m delighted for his win in Illinois.

10. The Blogoshpere - Technorati's Election Watch 2004 lists the top political blogs on the U.S. Elections. The Berkman Center at Harvard is a good place to track politics and blogging as well. Blogger of course covered the effects of blogging on the U.S. Elections 2004 in their posting Blog The Vote.


No matter how the election turns out, whether your candidate(s) have won or not, it is very important that afterwards everybody just calms down. Go home and do some reflecting or go out with your pals and have a celebration or cry in your beer or whatever makes you happy. Then wake up the next day and go about your business. Here are a few more tips for those of you feeling low about the results of the U.S. Election 2004:


2. DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT GO NEXT DOOR AND BURN DOWN YOUR NEIGHBORS HOUSE BECAUSE THEY VOTED DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU. If you want to burn something down, then burn up your own stuff, or burn yourself in effigy or something. Make sure you leave a note to save the taypayers money on police investigation costs.



Find something you like to do which helps you to relax. Focus on what your nation needs to be doing and make sure that you are part of the solution and not part of the problem. Go out and do something other than "running your mouth like a clatterbone on a Goose’s rearend" as my Grandma used to say, God Bless Her Soul. Make the American Dream work, and the dreams of your own respective country work and those of people who can still dream all over the world. Make it work by getting your butt to work on their behalf.

So, that is the end of the first part of the course "Introduction to American Politics 101".

Next time I will cover the 2nd part of this course,

How to Politely Reject Foreign Influences on National Political Matters Without Losing Your Temper, Your Mind, and/or Your Religious Upbringing and Beliefs”.

Thank you and Good Night.

Monday, November 01, 2004

The Fans

The Fans at the Big Game
Photo by Tom Gething, Sudan 2004

I would have titled this photo "The Boyz at The Big Game". It can be said that I tend to favor girls and women in the photos on this blog, that is true and there are lots of reasons for it. However, my love for "The Boyz" all over Africa is in reality no less than for the girls, particularly when they are young like these little guys.I want to do some more work this week with Tom's images and I am going to favor the men and boys of Sudan in the series.

I read in various news reports that the negotiations for a peace deal for Darfur is unravelling pretty fast, and that is terribly sad for all of Sudan. These little guys are growing up in a refugee camp several kilometers outside of the capitol city Khartoum. Their families have been in these IDP (internally displaced persons) camps for years and years as a result of war(s). How long must these kids wait for peace and a chance for a better life? How long???

Here is what Tom had to say about this photo and this day:

"One of the best things about living in Khartoum is that because the international community is so small you tend to know everybody. A group of us from all over (Italians, Dutch, French, Americans, British and others from Cameroon, Egypt, and Ethiopia) have a football team that play once a week on a dust pitch (no money for grass!).

The best part of this was in April when we went out to a displaced camp about 50km from the city where about 40,000 people live. We played a match against the 'Juba Allstars' - a team made up from the southern Sudanese refugees who have lived in Jebel Aulia for over 9 years. About 3000 people came to watch - it was absolutley fantastic.

As with everythig in Sudan we had to have official permission and pass through road blocks but it was worth it. I've just heard we are going back at the end of Ramadan for a rematch so when I fly back on Saturday its back to training.

In case anybody is interested the locals hammered us 6-1."

An Note from Black River Eagle:
"Well Tom, looks like Ramadan will be drawing to a close soon and the Big ReMatch should be coming up fast over there. Make sure that you get another great photo of "The Boyz" if you can."