Wednesday, September 27, 2006 a relative way at least in the blogosphere!

Hello to all of you who are reading this. Today I was honored with a top spot at Billy Mac's blog "Critique My Blog" and at least for the near future will remain there. Billy was really generous to give me the "Critique My Blog is Sponsored by..." space at the top of his blog to promote my blog Ripplefxs. This top spot is normally reserved for paying sponsors so thanks to you Billy for giving me some free advertising for a good cause.

Here is what Billy wrote:

“I had a website I edited up here for a while but in the meantime...until we get some sponsors...I want to post Blake's Blog about his work in South Africa working as an Aids Consultant/Trainer. He left America to help make a difference and has dedicated hi like to a cause and helping others. I think that's fantastic and I'd recommend checking out this blog because I think blogs can spread news and information like wildfire and that's the kind of help blogs can offer. On a personal note...I visited the website for TOPSY and went to donate but the donation was a fixed donation at R1000 ? I was wondering if you could translate that in American Money :) Good luck with your work and hopefully this will send some more traffic your way. Well done and keep us up to date!”

I also want to thank my brother-in-law Nate for alerting me to Critique My Blog. For those of you who don’t know him Nate is a standup comedian and improv specialist in addition to his day job and has a very funny blog called Nate Is a Blog which you must visit.

Finally, for others of you who might be interested in making donations to Topsy like Billy you can visit The Universal Currency Converter to figure out how much your donation in $, €, ₤,¥, or £ will be in R or Rands.

Monday, September 25, 2006

South African Heritage Day and Mozambican Armed Forces Day.

Yesterday, September 25th, was a holiday in South Africa and Mozambique. In South Africa Heritage Day was the 24th but it was observed yesterday and yesterday, the 25th, in Mozambique was a holiday for Armed Forces Day. I spent yesterday at the Funda Community Center in Diepkloof, Soweto as a guest invited to watch song, dance, drama, photography and other presentations by a youth group called "The Learning Together Project" who has spent the past few months learning about, debating and celebrating the South African Constitution which turns 10 years old on December 5th. This group mostly made up of teenage students along with adult leaders first started meeting at Constitution Hill and after a number of meetings there moved to Funda Community Center, where I took part in the celebrations yesterday. I hope to join this group in October after the school holiday this week and work with them as the discuss topics such as racism, education, violence and gender relations and use art forms such as dance, photography, acting and music to ponder these issues and communicate messages. I took few photographs but my friend Iqbal who invited me to the event was the official photographer and thus I hope to get some images from him that I can share with you. I hope to write more about this group in future blog entries.

As for Mozambican Armed Forces day and other national holidaysI think anyone who has spent a significantamount of time in Mozambique, traveled the country a bit and knows some of the names of schools, towns or streets would be able to easily tell you the dates of some of the holidays in Mozambique. From Maputo, the capitol, to Chókwè, where I lived, there is a town called 3 de Fevreiro and I know of schools named 25 de Junio and streets like 7 de Setembro.

To learn more about holidays in South Africa you can visit For more information on the historical significance throughout Africa of days of the year you can visit Also to see what other holidays are observed in Mozambique you can visit the Mozambican Embassy website.

“A Transition Plan for the United States"...sounds lie a good plan to me, I enjoy roadmaps!

A Transition Plan for the United States

Carolina Cositore

A comment by Venezuelan writer Roberto Hernandez Montoya, in response to the US throwing millions of tax dollars into a plan to force its "transition to democracy in Cuba", to wit the US and the world would be better served by a transition to democracy in its own country "scratched behind my ears" as a friend would say, or really hit the nail on the head.” Click to read more….

I really think that Cubans have some great ideas and the national government seems to be doing some positive things. When I look at Fox News or CNN, read the Washington Post or get information from most other US based news sources, I get a slanted view of Cuba. In looking at Prensa Latina and other sources I get another side to the story (yes, there are usually more than two) and who is to know which is right. This is one of the main reasons that I want to visit Cuba to see it for myself and be able to reach my own conclusions about this mysterious island so close to the US which still seems so far away. To me Cuba is a land of intrigue, contrast and promise and I hope to get there while Fidel is still in power.

There are some other interesting articles that I found at Prensa Latina a few weeks back and wanted to share now. The first, is titled “Two Ways of Getting a College Education” and it starts off by saying: “Cuban students have the privilege of having access to university careers whatever their social standing, they must simply have the aptitude and knowledge required by the specific field chosen.” The rest is just as intriguing as this first paragraph.

The second article tells of how Oliver Stone, famed US film director, says that the US is always at war. The articles starts off: “US film director Oliver Stone said Monday that his country is living a state of permanent war and President George W. Bush took a wrong turn after 9/11.

Finally, I don’t think I have previously mentioned on this blog about Pastors for Peace, a US based organization. “Pastors for Peace is a special ministry of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, and was created in 1988 to pioneer the delivery of humanitarian aid to Latin America and the Carribean.” My dad and I heard a talk given as part of the “Cuba Caravan” that was heading to Cuba last June. It was neat to meet with people that have been on the caravan before and others going for the first time to deliver aid to Cuba. The interesting thing is that the delivery of aid is not the real mission of Pastors for Peace but rather one of the by products of the work they do to raise the attention of people, especially in the US, about Cuba and the way in which the US Government is treating Cuba and its people. They know that they alone can not bring in all that Cuba needs but can raise Cuba’s profile and the plight of its people who are handcuffed in many ways by the US Embargo. The great thing about Cuba and another thing that intrigues me about it is that despite the embargo Cuba is flourishing in many respects and has learned to be much more crafty and self sufficient than the US for example. One short term goal is go be on the next caravan this next June with my dad if we can make it work. I think that the solidarity, camaraderie and inspiration from a trip like this would be great and would be a good way to meet Cuba.

On a less militant note I will be going to see the Afro Cuban All Stars this Saturday night with a friend who graduated from Principia College some years ahead of me. Her sister who followed her (black South African) along with another South African (white) were co-Presidents at Principia in the early 90’s, I believe just before Mandela was released or at least before he was President. Many of you have probably heard of the documentary Buena Vista Social Club which included many of the same musicians that make up the Afro Cuban All Stars. You also might have heard of another group from Cuba called Orishas which was formed in France and has more of a hip-hop/rap feel to it. You might have heard some of Orishas music in the cheesy (sorry Amy, Fiona et al.) film “Dirty Dancing Havana Nights”. I would recommend any and all of the music from these various groups/films.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

More Topsy tots…

Just wanted to share some more pics from my time at the Topsy Foundation with you all. As you can see Topsy gets much of its funding from various private organizations that donate funds and materials.

Here is Topsy’s main building which houses the crèche, dormitories, sewing shop, kitchen and more.

Monday through Friday the kids have chances after dinner to do art. The art time is led by the volunteers or staff if no volunteers are available. The children get to paint, make masks, draw, make envelopes and write letters and more. For those who don’t recognize it this child was making a mask that resembles the South African flag.

The boys and girls live in dorms sometimes four to a room, in this case eight or more live in this room. They normally have wooden bunk beds, thin mattresses and blankets to cover themselves with. 36 kids ages 2 to 17 live at Topsy and they could take many more as they have the staff, infrastructure and money to do so but this is the limit that the government has placed on them.

Beads used to make key rings, bracelets, necklaces and more as part of the bead making project. Some of the 30 women involved in this project work from home as they live to far or have some other reason to work from home.

If you go to you can see more pictures and learn more about the various projects that Topsy does to bring in money and train locals people in a variety of skills.

One of the seamstresses who works on one of the other income generating and skills building activities that Topsy created and supervises. This project is particularly good as two of the six people who work on it work most of the time making clothing for the kids who live at Topsy and the children who come to study at the crèche. It is a nice cyclical project in this way as jobs are provided to people in need and in turn they make clothing for less fortunate children so that they can go to school, etc. They also make some clothing for sale as well as handbags, quilts and more.

Ironing some of the newly cut materials being used to make a dress for one of the Topsy kids. I spent about 90 minutes talking with the six women working in the sewing project asking them about how long they have been with Topsy, what work they did before, about their families and more.

One of the dresses made for sale by the Topsy seamstresses. They take orders so if any of you who are in the States who I will be seeing next spring or summer are interested let me know and I can see about getting something made for you. They also do nice men’s shirts as well. The same goes for the beads that are being made I could buy some for anyone who is interested and you can pay me back upon delivery.

Who could forget Madiba bags to go along with the dresses and shirts made out of cloth with the image of this iconic figure of grace, forgiveness and persaverance.

A lot of interesting and innovative art adorns the walls at Topsy donated by various artists. It is a good way to recycle various used materials, making something that looks pleasing and bring in money.

If I could own this piece and fit it into my suitcase I would love to take it home. I think the photograph is great and the contrast with the metal is really original.

Someone’s has to be in charge of cooking for the staff, caregivers, volunteers and kids and there is a nice kitchen crew in charge of this and they do a good job with the food that they can afford. Some of it is grown in community gardens that Topsy has and if I am able to visit again I hope to see these gardens. Part of the agreement is that people who Topsy gives food to have to also be growing food in their own gardens similar in a way to what Heifer International does with cows, goats, etc.

No words are necessary to explain this other than to say that these little ones were waiting for the Topsy transport to take them home.

Nicely situated inside the back of this truck, without seatbelts but at least with a top, this boy gave me a last smile before the truck pulled away.

As always any photos with me come at the end so that if you are looking at this blog to see me you have to go through all that comes before to get your reward. As I mentioned before I would love to go back to Topsy and stay for a longer time maybe a week if I can get more time off of work so as to see the gardens, go out with the field staff and do home based care visits, play with more of the kids, etc. Maybe I could even teach a little with the older kids.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Babies, birthdays, beads, boys and girls.

Jennifer, one of the volunteers, plays with a crèche child during their recess. The kids are blessed with an extensive play structure including ladders, bridges, swings and much more. It was similar to an obstacle course used at camps or by the military but kiddie sized and more fun.

Topsy logo and website address on one of thevehicles in Topsy's fleet. They use their trucks, buses and vans for a variety of activities including transporting cr
èche kids, bringing patients to see the social workers, nurse and doctor to receive ARVS (anti-retroviral drugs), business trips and much more.

These crèche cuties couldn't resist the camera and really wanted to inch closer and closer and I and so I had to motion for them to stand back on the suspension bridge and smile for the pic.

This is one of the many halls in Topsy's Rufford House which is one of the buildings left over by an old coal mine that was in Grootvlei, the town where Topsy's sanctuary is located. At the sanctuary there are 36 children who live at the sanctuary which I referred to in my last blog as an orphanage. While some of the children are orphans and many have lost one or both of their parents to HIV, not all are orphans but are there for a variety of reasons.

One of the income generating projects that Topsy sponsors and manages is with 30 women from the surrounding area that are taught how to make various bracelets, key rings, hair pins and more out of beads. I will show more pictures of this in my next blog but just wanted to give you a visual to see one of the ways in which Topsy trains skills to locals in need and fundraises for the plethora of activities that it is doing.

Last night it almost felt like a going away party for me after spending less than 36 hours at Topsy but the fun wasn't really for me in fact it was a birthday celebration for a few of the children. Each month they wait until the final child is celebrating his or her birthday to celebrate the birthdays of all the children. I am hoping to go back to Topsy at another point during my stay here as 1 1/2 days was not nearly enough and while I did a lot in this short amount of time there is much more I would like to do such as joining the field staff as they visit patients living with HIV/AIDS, work in Topsy sponsored community gardens and more.

Like always I keep any photos of me until the end and this one is special and this little girl whose name I know but will choose to exclude due to privacy became one of my best friends at Topsy in my short stay. Her younger sister is a real cutie too and she is the little one on the bridge above with the light blue soccer jersey and shorts and her older sister works at Topsy. There were a number of siblings staying at the sanctuary which must be good to support each other. I wasn't asked by Topsy not to share names or take photographs but I think that it is important to protect the rights of the staff and the children even though most of them will never even see this blog, etc.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Let's give peace a chance!

If you build a house, you start with one brick. If you want to build peace, why not start with one day...and maybe that day has arrived.

21 September

In the midst of packing for Topsy (see previous entry) and finishing up things here at the office I am asking you all to visit Peace One Day to see what activities will be going on in your area of the world tomorrow to promote peace. The 21st of September is the “UN International Day of Peace and known as “an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence”. I will be spending the 21st learning more about HIV/AIDS orphans, volunteering my time and seeing what I can to do in this area where so much work is needed to be done. I will be sending peaceful thoughts to you all from Grootvlei, Mpumalanga, South Africa!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Back online and in the to volunteer at an orphanage.

That is right my friends as of tonight I have regained control of my accounts with PayPal, Yahoo and Gmail. Thanks so much for those of you who said a prayer to help with this or sent me a kind email with reassuring thoughts. It was tough not being able to check my email for nearly a week and knowing that someone was trying to steal money from my bank account using my PayPal account. It was also tough knowing that my last two blog entries with many errors to correct would remain untouched until I could regain access to my Google accounts. I must say that out of the three Yahoo was the best at responding quickly and following up in good time but the other two are lacking in speed and follow-up. Either way my bank denied the two withdrawals the “hacker” tried to make from my account and now I just need to finish cleaning up the mess, changing my passwords, etc. and going through the proper channels to report this, see about getting compensated for money I was charged for insufficient funds when the hacker tried to take $4,000 from my account (not getting a penny) and take the steps to ensure that this won’t happen again.

I will be going to an orphanage on Wednesday to visit for two nights and when I return on Friday I am sure I will have many stories and photographs to share about the experience. If you want to learn more about the orphanage please feel free to visit the Topsy Foundation and pay particular attention to the sanctuary as that is where I will be staying, volunteering, playing with the kids, etc. Last April my friend Lori and I considered doing our internships/practicums with Topsy and came upon the foundation because one of the people that started it, like my supervisor Linzi is also an Ashoka Fellow. His name is Duke Kaufman and you can read his Ashoka profile to get more information on him and the Topsy Foundation.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Mc $h!t....globalization gone wild.

McFree since 1998! I been avoiding/boycotting McDonald's for 8 plus years and people from Austria to South Africa to the US have wondered why. Some of my happiest years were when I lived in Mozambique, which as of yet has not fallen victim to McTrash. KFC has "colonelized"...uh I mean colonized Maputo after coming across the border from South Africa but so far Moz has remained McFree. If there is talk of moving there I will be at the front of the protest line against this multinational corporate giant that is more concerned with profits than people and promoting globalization over protecting the planet. You might say well it tastes good, their regulations ensure healthy food and it tastes the same wherever I go. But to me variety is the spice of life and I can’t see the reason of traveling in Europe, South America, etc. and stopping at McDonald's along the way just to satisfy your craving and passing up the “traditional/local” dishes wherever you may be.

If you haven’t seen Morgan Spurlock’s brilliant movie “
Super Size Me” I would highly recommend that you do. Some of you will look on the internet and find dissenting views to Spurlock’s such as Wikipedia’s* article on Super Size Me which lists objections and alternative views on Spurlock's experiment. Also of note is an article published just last week in the Guardian Unlimted called “Only another 5,500 calories to go ...” which tells of another recent experiment conducted in Sweden with interesting results.

Even with those that are against Super Size Me, I would still recommend that you see it. I have provided you alternate viewpoints so that you know that I have done my research and know that there is not always one side to a story. There are some other websites that are interesting to visit and read. First, is which highlights some of the underhanded and unethical things that McDonald's has done over the years. This site was born in part out of the infamous McDonald's Restaurants v Morris & Steel popularly known as the McLibel trial. I especially recommend looking at this page of Mc Spotlight to see how McDonald's is not alone as a multinational abusing the rights of the people and the planet.

Also, at you can find out more stories written over the years on McDonald's. For some fun go to play this McDonald's game and see how you too can contribute to global warming, globalization and world domination.

Finally, read this article from The Nation to see how the US treats Frenchmen who don’t agree with US politics or McDonald's tightening grasp on society. Read the following for a taste of what you will find.

“Jose Bove's Not Welcome in Bush's USA

Few figures have contributed more to the debate about corporate globalization than Jose Bove, the French farmer whose dismantling of a McDonald's restaurant that was under construction near his sheep farm was something of a "shot-heard-round-the-world" in the struggle against the homogenization of food, culture and lifestyles.”

* I am well aware that Wikipedia is a potentially dangerous and unreliable site on the internet due to being "open source", yet it seems to be a good place to start ones research.

Don’t forget or underestimate the little guys….

In trying to think stay politically correct and sensitive on this 11th of September, 2006, I have decided to avoid (for the most part) the topic on the minds of many today. Instead, I will focus on a place that has captivated me for many years and which I hope to visit sometime in the next year, assuming I can afford it and the situation between Cuba and the US does not deteriorate any further. The pressure I feel is to visit before Fidel Castro dies or is killed to see Cuba in as “authentic” a state as is possible. Before McDonald's and other corporate goons are able to move in I want to go and see Cuba for myself. I am tired of the biased news we get in the US on the situation and the Cuban immigrant community especially in Miami greatly influences US foreign policy towards Cuba much like the Jewish lobby does towards the Mid-East.

In striving to be a beacon for news and information that you might not get from the usual sources you rely upon I want to share about an important event taking place this week in Cuba which you may not have heard about. The Fourteenth Non-Aligned Movement Summit is taking place in Havana this week. The summit brings together 116 countries from around the world including 53 from Africa, 38 from Asia, 24 from Latin America and 1 from Europe plus representatives from other countries that are not yet members of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM). Some of what is being discussed in Cuba has ties to what we will be discussing at the World Social Forum when I go to Nairobi in late January. The “little people” as many seem to view the world poor mainly living in underdeveloped countries have a very big stake to play in how our world is run and their voices should not be forgotten.

Visit the Non-Aligned Movement site or read related articles at Prensa Latina which is a Latin American information agency based in Cuba. I find that this site has some good alternative news to that which you find at other sources and like provides "another side to the story” which is a good thing to have. I will write more later on Cuba as I have come across many other interesting articles that I wish to share.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Training, T-Cells, tools and treats.

This is the main tool that we use during our Peer Educator Training. This manual was developed by Linzi. It has 12 modules covering everything on training HIV/AIDS from behavior change models to communication skills to epidemiology to condoms to myths and old wives tales. After they have finished the training the Peer Educators also get an "HIV/AIDS 36 Week Programme Course" that they use with their peers to educate them.
Here is Ben training the group that he worked with over the past two weeks at an automotive company in the area. We did a six day training in four days which meant that we had to cut out a lot of what we would normally do with the full six days. In fact we would prefer another day if possible to make sure everything is covered
Here we have Douglas who had a group of his own. I worked mainly with Doug's group but also spent time with Ben's group so that when it came to training a module with them it was not as if I was walking in off the street for the first time. There were supposed to be 55-57 employees being trained as Peer Educators but over the four day training we saw maybe 35 of these people in all. The following few pictures were taken during the "CD4 Game" that we played with Ben's group. As you can see when the four CD4s were asked to protect the "human body" they first turned their backs to the outside and joined hands. We asked them how they would protect in this position, so......
....they turned towards the attackers but kept their hands linked and soon realized that to protect the body they would need to not hold hands.
This looks like a rugby or American football tackle here to keep Flu away from the human body. The game can get physical and even emotional as we play. This picture does some justice to the intensity of the game. It is a great way to get the blood flowing, drive away sleepiness and demonstrate for them how once HIV and AIDS has weakened the body diseases and viruses take advantage of the weakened immune system.
Here are two of our Peer Educators in training taking a break for treats and tea. It is funny to people that in addition to being a vegetarian I don't drink tea or coffee. I had similar experiences in Mozambique and even in the States.
Finally, we come upon a picture of me training with Doug's group. It was nice to finally get a chance to be facilitating various parts of the training. I will help some more in another training and then begin training on my own.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Go nuclear (NO!) ....nuclear is not the answer.

I recently received an email from Chad, a friend from SIT, who is doing an internship with an anti-nuclear coalition in Vermont. Chad said, "I'm now seeing how huge the "nuclear is the clean energy" debate really is." and "You're now seeing a lot of energy conglomerates getting into the nuclear game because they think this is the future and they can maintain their stronghold over the public and policymakers." He also recommended reading the July/August issue of "Ecologist" that has an in-depth 4-part story detailing the flaws of nuclear power being the answer for the future. Please read the article’s intro below and follow the link to read the whole piece. Chad also said that those of us in the US really need to think about nuclear power when voting this coming November. Your vote can really count on this one!

Heat Wave Shows Limits of Nuclear Energy
Julio Godoy

"PARIS, Jul 27 (IPS) - The extreme hot summer in Europe is restricting nuclear energy generation and showing up the limits of nuclear power, leading environmental activists and scientists say.

The heat wave since mid-June has led authorities in France, Germany, Spain and elsewhere in Europe to override their own environmental norms on the maximum temperature of water drained from the plants' cooling systems.”

Read more.....

Monday, September 04, 2006

Its my blog so I'll write what I want to...

I must apologize for having a mind of my own and choosing this blog as one way to share how I see and understand the world. Sorry, if I am not content to watch “reality TV”, accept all the lines that mass media and our governments are feeding us and live just to get my own “almighty dollars”. I have tried to balance my geopolitical persuasion (perversion to some) and view on socioeconomic conditions faced by people around the world with updates on my work in South Africa and photos of friends and happenings but it is high time I get back to sharing what I know and learning more through the process of this information exchange.

I am not afraid to say that in US American political terms I am a very left leaning Democrat bordering on being a Socialist. I think it is only fair to give you a general sense of where I stand so that you can read or not read what I write with this in mind. That said I don’t think it is fair to try and categorize people like I just did to myself but for simplicity's sake I chose to do so in this instance.

I just wanted to share a few websites with you that I think offer a good alternative to the mainstream and “alternative” media that many of you might be logging on to, tuning in to or turning on. The first is Dissident Voice which I came across while researching a blog entry that I will post in a few days. The word dissident is almost dangerous here in South Africa and for some brings up negative reactions due to Thabo Mbeki’s stance and approach to dealing with the huge and growing HIV and AIDS problem . Interestingly enough I found an article at the Dissident Voice on “The New South Africa…” which talks about “post apartheid” South Africa and the governments embracing of Neo Liberalism and the negative impact on everyday South Africans.

Also as previously mentioned I plan on attending the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya from the 20th to 25th of January. The World Social Forum (WSF) was started in Porto Alegre, Brasil in January of 2001. It has been held in various locations in South America, Africa and Asia but this is the first time that the entire conference will be held solely in Africa. The two main websites for the forum are and Both have valuable info to find out more about the history of the World Social Forums and the one coming up in January. Last January a dozen or so of my colleagues at SIT ( went to the WSF in Caracas, Venezuela which was particularly interesting due to Venezuela’s political situation with Hugo Chavez as president. Two interesting articles one from each of the main WSF sites are worth looking at and they areGlobalization of Civil Society” and WSF 2007 in Africa must build a mass movement against Capitalism. I hope you find these articles interesting and I will surely write more about the WSF in the coming weeks and months and give a full report when I go.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Training in Tembisa and the CD4 Game.

This is a picture taken last Saturday by Marcilio when he and I were watching/participating in a training that Ben was leading for a church group in a schools assembly hall in Tembisa. To the right is Ben wearing a tie again and overseeing the CD4 Game. We hand out t-shirts with words on them such as Human Body, CD4 (the normal CD4 count for a person is between 800 and 1200 and for people with HIV and AIDS it drops over time and when it goes below 200 that individual has AIDS. It is at this point that one is advised if the have the access to and can afford to take antiretroviral drugs (ARVs)) TB (tuberculosis), STI (sexually transmitted infection), diarrhea, flu and other opportunistic diseases and infections. These diseases and infections can have minor or major effects to people without HIV and AIDS but can be deadly to those with HIV and AIDS. The idea is that the four people with CD4 t-shirts are asked to protect the human body and then when time passes and the CD4 cells begin to die off they leave the human body unprotected one by one. Eventually there are not enough CD4s to adequately protect the body and this is when people will die from a variety of diseases.

This is a game that we play during our peer educator trainings and did with this group as well. It is a good way to get people up and moving around and show them a visual representation of a concept that they are learning about. The group had 17 participants most in their late teens and early twenties and a few elders of the church too. It was a basic information and awareness session but the group hopes to invite us back to do a more complete training so that they can spread the "word" on HIV and AIDS throughout their congregation and community. It was also great for Marcilio to be able to attend and learn more about HIV and AIDS. He was very interested in the training and would like to learn more so he can do peer educator work in South Africa and Mozambique.

Guests: invited and otherwise.

Since Marcilio's original visit a few weeks ago he has been back twice. He was here three weekends ago and last weekend as well. We got a chance during his second visit to talk to Tober who was my first housemate in Peace Corps and a good friend of Marcilio as well. It was nice to be able to talk over Skype and catch up.

I also spoke to Tober who I last saw in early June while en route to Portland from Brattleboro. I saw Tober in Boulder and it was good to catch up with him then. It was great fun to have Marcilio here, especially this past weekend when he stayed for two nights. We stayed up till after midnight the first night and past two the second catching up, reliving good old memories and just enjoying each others company.

Doug can be a real softy and he certainly does his best to encourage troublemaking by his closest friends which include birds and fish. Here you see one of his pigeon buddies who found its way into our office. I was worried about it at first and opened as many doors and windows as possible to try and help coax it out of the office without hurting itself. I was happy to have helped and snapped some pics at the same time. It was happy to be outside and no longer needed to be inside searching for food. Doug encourages these little "beasts", j/k, by feeding them and forces me to feed them when he is out of town.

I was not entirely pleased when just a few minutes later the same bird returned through the back door still in search of food. I couldn't believe how brave it was walking only a few inches from my feet. This time I chased it off and you can see that it decided to finally move out of the office and since this day a few weeks ago hasn't chosen to return.

Friday, September 01, 2006

More pics of my place....

Here is the office from the outside which I showed a few weeks back when showing pictures from around the property where the Smiths live and ETC is housed. This is the office where I work and live and try not to go stir crazy. My room (which you will see pictures of below is in a loft above the office.

In front of you is Ben’s desk to the left, the stairs that head up to my room/the loft and to the right past the stairs is my desk. Past the stairs and to the right is the kitchen and to my front and then left (in front of Ben’s desk) is Linzi’s office and the bathroom.

Here is Ben sitting at his desk and working hard for sure. Ben is always dressed up whether in the office or out training or doing sales.

Here are Ben's and my desks looking from the door that goes into Linzi's office. On the wall you above my laptop you can just barely make out a women chopping wood with a baby on her back. This is the infamous photo taken by Lazaro Chauke my photography student in Mozambique. He took it while participating in The World Through My Eyes and it was featured in the August section of the 2006 calendar put out by the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer group in Madison, Wisconsin. Marcilio also has a picture on this page but it is a smaller one. It was so great to have it up in August and the June page had two great pics from Tanzania my father and my sister!

Now lets go up the steep and small steps to my careful not to hit your head.

Here is my bedroom in the loft above the office. You may be saying to yourself nice room and I agree but.....

not necessarily a lot of headroom in my bedroom. That is right I would need about another foot at least to be able to stand up in my room. Yes, I am tall but the ceiling is low and at its highest is just over five feet high.

From my room/loft you get a view of Douglas at his desk working hard or playing cards....he loves Solitaire.

Heading back down the stairs and going under them we get to the kitchen where I fix my 5 Star meals. I do my own cooking and can’t believe how many more options I have here to when I was in Mozambique but yet I still love some of the special dishes from there and most of the fruits and veggies from there were better in my assessment.

Leaving the kitchen and walking across the office we come into Linzi’s office off of which we can get to the bathroom. Linzi has two big dry erase boards on the wall...

of the office which serve as an oversized calendar to help us keep track of coming trainings, sales calls, etc. She only had one when I first arrived and has added another since. I guess my presence has brought in so much business that we are always busy writing on the wall. j/k

I would have put a picture of Linzi here but she is rarely in the office as she is usually out training, doing sales calls, giving a talk or running errands. She is a busy women but in her absence I have elected to put another picture of Douglas so you can our resident I mean Zimbabwean up close. Doug was born in Zim but has been in South Africa for over 20 years now.

Finally turning to my left and taking a picture looking out of the windows by Doug’s desk you see his fountain, car and Jared’s car. I will post other pictures taken in and around the area tomorrow.