Thursday, July 23, 2009


Braai. South African BBQ is carried out in a different fashion.

No charcoal briquets. From what I've seen there is usually a braai area somewhere at a house which is basically like a clearing on a concrete surface. It is somewhat enclosed...almost like a fume hood in a wet chemical lab. I don't really know how they start the fire. I see logs of wood at the start..go off have a beer (or glass of wine) and hang out...and come back and see the wood magically transformed into uniformly red hot coals. From what I saw, it is mostly men who do the braai-ing. I went to my client's house for dinner with his family. One of my trainers was with me and they had an assortment of meats (lamb, chicken, boerwurst). My client's son was the one who created the coals...but the actual braai-ing of the meat turned into a father-son activity.

Over an even layer of coals, a frame is suspended to hold the meat. It reminds me of those Ronco roaster commercials..."Set it, and forget it!"...where they use a similar frame to hold fish, steaks, or anything you don't want to impale for roasting. The frame is laid over the coals with the use of bricks or anything else heat resistant. Like BBQs in the US, one must experiment and gain experience to understand how to cook the meat. And so we saw my client coaching his son from time to time. We sat outside, keeping warm by staying close to the coals, drinking wine, and shooting the breeze. Did my client learn his style of braai from his father? (don't remember) Do you ever braai some more exotic meats like kudu or springbok (yes). Springbok is apparently very stringy and so that must have been the reason I've only had it stewed. How do kudu or gemsbok compare to springbok? (better) What goes into boerwurst? (Everyone has different recipes and if you find someone with a good stick with them) How come biltong is so soft? (biltong is beef jerky in SA...and it is softer because it is not dried out as much as jerky). Apparently, biltong was developed over time when the boers (South African farmers) had to fight off invading armies. It doesn't spoil in a relatively mild climate like South Africa but probably wouldn't do so well in a really humid, hot environment.

When the meat is done, we go inside and eat together with the women of the household. My client has 3 children and they are all in different phases of growing up in the high school/college years. In talking to them at the dinner table, it seems as if they are still sheltered to some extent...much like I was when I went off to college and even when I started working. While enjoying the food, we embark upon conversation reflecting the state of South Africa. South Africa used to be a net producer of food and now it is mostly imported. There are different cultures in South Africa and their differences sometimes cause friction. The eldest daughter remarks that she has few if any black friends and that she is a little scared of them. I can understand the fear as she has not had much exposure to them. Her remarks take me back to a conversation with a black South African consultant-in-training. He recalled some of his past back to days where he hated white people partially because he had not known any of them. Fortunately, he was able to get past his earlier views when he got to know white people and now he able to help bridge gaps because he is comfortable with both. He even makes white people feel comfortable around him because of his evidenced by my client's level of comfort with him. Not having spent much time with black people in South Africa, I can see the viewpoints of white people about how the country has deteriorated and yet I know there are always different sides. Even my client characterizes much of the history of South Africa as a history of exploitation by various countries with much violence. South Africa itself is much like America in that it contains many cultures. In both countries, there is a self-imposed segregation because people of different ethnicities like to stick together.

Sometimes we in America like to consider our culture to be a melting pot of cultures. This is true in that people of different ethnicities are exposed to different cultures regularly and embrace them to some extent. We have names like twinkies or bananas (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) and I'm sure they exist for other ethnic groups as well. I've seen my share of black guys that act more white and I've seen my share of white guys that want to be asian. And yet, the color of our skin still seems to be a good reason to run in packs. I remember that Slope Day at Cornell was often a very self-segregated event at times. If you have no idea what Slope Day is...or was...

When I was an undergrad, Slope Day was the last day of classes for the whole school year. Everyone would congregate at at this relatively gentle slope in front of Uris Library and sit around boozing it up. I missed out my freshman year because I was so clueless. It turned into a mud bath because of rain and on the next day...I saw a couple guys slipping and sliding around in the mud with BMX bikes. No one stopped undergrads from going and the police and ambulances generally stayed on the fringes just in case someone needed help. Oftentimes, you saw people going around with plastic containers of "OJ" or plastic bottles of "water". There was a network of volunteers going around handing out water and a whole hand-raising system to help the paramedics localize people who had blacked out. The party progressed during my years at Cornell in part because they realized that parts of the slope were not so gentle. People sometimes snowboard down this slope and make jump ramps in the wintertime. And so after enough incidents of drunk people unable to stop themselves from rolling down this slope, the administration started fencing of the steeper parts in later years. Fond memories. Alas, I hear the university banned the celebration after I graduated.

Slope Day and segregation. From my mildly blurry and drunken memories back then...I remember seeing a lot of black people hanging out in a crowd...a lot of asian people hanging out in crowds...same for the latinos as well. Sure, there was some amount of mixing as well but it made me wonder at the time why we were segregating ourselves so easily. The melting pot of culture we call America still has a whole lot of huge chunks of unassimilated cultures...which is fine. Some chunks are just sort of hard to swallow. In South Africa, I see the cultural melting pot more readily apparent in the food. The social pressures and self-imposed segregation there are still more like braai-ing several different sizzling meats together.

Africa Cafe

On our last Saturday after the close of the venture, a bunch of us went out to Africa Cafe.

Some of us had been out that day exploring Table Mountain. Instead spending the whole time exploring the whole table top, we got engaged in taking different camera shots of ourselves again. Silhouette shots, action shots of us in the air...the usual silly stuff. The only somewhat heart-racing part of the trip was when we went up to edge of a cliff and looked straight down. Melissa sorta crawled over to the edge and wanted me to take pictures of her. So I take her camera and I'm looking over the cliff edge while standing up. It is a slightly disorienting feeling even though I'm generally not afraid of heights. I was making one of my teammates a little uneasy so I stepped back a little. But then to frame a picture shot of Melissa looking over a cliff edge on her stomach, I jumped over a small crevasse to get the proper distance. And then I jumped over it a couple more times for camera shots. It was only a couple feet wide but I'd be in for some air time if I tripped myself up at all. It got my heart beating. :)

It wasn't the first time...nor will it probably be the last time I take risks with a camera in hand.

I think I got a rep as an aggressive driver on the way down the mountain because I was enjoying the curves and g-forces. I suppose that the girls in the back didn't want to play Jello.

Jello is a game taught to us by our teammate Wilson. We started playing one day on the way to meet our clients with three guys in the back. I was in the middle seat (woe is me). Wilson was on my right. Gareth was on my left. The point of the game is when the car takes a accentuate the natural leaning that happens in one direction with a surreptitious (or very obvious) addition of force to squeeze one guy and make him give up (or cry). That day, Wilson got in several good shots because we kept turning right...and then Gareth got him back on some very, very slight left turns. And then there was me. Here I was in the center of the Jello match having two guys constantly leaning on me. Don't get me wrong...I love them like brothers...but enough was enough. Retaliation was in order. So I pressed my elbows outward in a feeble attempt to squeeze them both against the car doors (think Sampson pressing on pillars to bring the temple down). Retaliation served.

Anyway, we got back from Table Mountain and had some time before meeting other people at Africa Cafe so we explored this next door bar. Walking in, we see all these wireframe animals like springbok, leopards, and etc with paper draped over them and lit up like lamps. We go and order some cocktails, wine, and beer at the bar. It's a pretty nice place and it serves its own renditions of cocktails like most nice bars in SF do.

Africa Cafe. Like many restaurants we visited over the course of the venture, Africa Cafe had its own gift shop. Since we had finished our venture, several of us perused the gift shop to take presents back to our supporters and sponsors for our trip. One of these days I'm going to remember to give the presents I brought back to my supporters. Kudu pate anyone?

We sit down in our own room around tables set up as a square. The menu selection is already set and instead of regular menus, we are given pitchers decorated as a type of bird with the different menu selections imbued on them. It ends up being much like Spanish tapas. We keep sampling away on various dishes and we can request additional repeat dishes if we like as well. I end up spending a lot of time playing with a teammate's camera, playing around with views seen through a wine glass with candle lighting refractions. I wish I had a picture of the pitcher. I just remember dishes with chicken, ostrich, mussels, and other types of meats. Again, I had to stop myself after a while because I was getting to the point where I was really thirsty but didn't have the capacity in my stomach to drink much more water.

In the next room over, the bar, we hear loud cheers from an ongoing soccer game. Interestingly enough, even with mostly non-American influence on South Africa, South Africans say "soccer" instead of "football". Anyway, the loud cheers are due to the FIFA Confederation Cup being held in South Africa as a warmup to the 2010 World Cup next year. The South African team is in the semi-finals against Brazil and they seem to be getting decent shots on goal. Unfortunately, Daniel Alves goes on to break South African hearts on a penalty kick and the match ends at 1-0.

A couple teammates go off and talk to the workers at the restaurant. Another woman comes by and offers face painting to the girls. In contrast to Moyo, she paints with more colors, but with simpler lines and effects. We get caught up in conversation on relationships again. Perhaps because so many of us are single, we kept beating the topic like a dead horse throughout the venture. In contrast, the South African consultants seem to get married much earlier and it is a point of concern for them. Compared to them, we seem to be afflicted with singleness and we don't know exactly why and so it is a common point of prayer for them on our behalf. I know in the New Testament, that Paul indicates that it is good to be single. However, it seems most of us (if not all) do not have the longing to be single for the rest of our lives. Regardless, I'm done beating this dead topic to another death.

One of these days when I can find a picture of one of those menu pitchers...I will comment a bit on the food.

Monday, July 20, 2009

An Eroding Skepticism for Miracles

I apologize for taking so long to update this blog. Since there was not enough time to write during the venture, I am taking some time to outline events and write down new entries.

As the days pass, it is getting harder to recall the exact chronological sequence of events, so I'll start writing about things in a more event driven fashion. This is the pace of our life in South Africa. In our training, we were taught the difference between kairos and chronos as layed out in the Bible. My life in America is driven more by chronos. We are ruled by our schedules and especially in the bay area, we all try to fit in as much as possible perhaps without questioning whether we are doing the right things. Our life during the venture was dictated more by kairos, an event driven sense of time where you move on to the next event when it is the right time. Of course this sense of kairos was probably aided by the sense of chronos on the part of Sandra, our operations manager and a healthy dosage of options.

It was easy to see how the life of my client was driven by a sense of kairos. He has multiple talents and can count the ability to create new processes among them. However, he seems to do things when he sees it is the right time. Perhaps because he and his wife are both spread thin amongst 5 businesses, he takes more of a tactical view when deciding prioritization of his activities. I am not saying that he does not address the long term strategic view, but his experience in running businesses for 20+ years allows him to know when to switch between tactical and strategic views of his businesses. However, some of the strategic issues with the business I was consulting for were seemingly unassailable. He was expecting that it would take a miracle in order for this business to take off and was demanding no less from God.

Just to keep you apprised on where I am with miracles, I am more of a skeptic. I will acknowledge that they can happen but I am skeptical as to their frequency and the way they are interpreted most of the time. However, I was dealing with a man who had experienced minor miracles on a regular basis throughout the time he had been in business. He had originally started the business in question in order to make money. It has the most potential out of all of his businesses but has been thwarted by different things over the years. At the same time, he recognized that the way he had come to start the business was through a series of amazing coincidences that he felt could have only been set up by God. After interviewing him several times and hearing his personal struggles, his story does seem very unlikely without the help of God.

What makes his story more plausible to me though is that he did not just have everything dropped in his lap. Part of the secret sauce for his business was developed over a very intense period where he put in 18 hr days/6X a week for ~5 years. He has had to deal with the nitty gritty details of running a business in South Africa. He has to confront the current culture and work ethic of his workers in order to reform them into people who have a natural bent to produce high quality products. He has had to deal with the current political environment that seems to require that you have black people on payroll in order to become a supplier to the South African government. I don't pretend to know the exact implementation of the Black Economic Empowerment policy in South Africa but it seems that it does not fully extend to colored people.

Colored people? Let me clarify. In South Africa, there seems to be more than just white and black people. The actual indigenous people of the Cape area are known as the Khoi and they are a brown-skinned people. Most of the black people in South Africa come from the northern Zulu and Xhosa tribes. Similar to how many white people view asian people as a homogenous group (as opposed to being Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc.) in America, a lot of outsiders do not make the distinction between black and colored people in South Africa. However, it is not such a foreign concept in America. One of my former co-workers grew up in Texas during the civil rights movement era and he described the public restrooms there being divided into white, black, and colored (mostly hispanic) groups as well.

Anyway, my client has gone through much in order to keep his business afloat. He described to me situations where he felt compelled to do the right thing for his people rather than the right thing for the business and was rewarded each time. One example would be in a year where his incoming business was shrinking due to increased competition from overseas Chinese manufacturers (a continuing situation today) and he did not really have enough money to give his employees their customary yearly bonus paycheck and their customary 10% pay raise. However, he knew that withholding this money would have consequences regarding their loyalty as they typically tend to live paycheck to paycheck. Although financial wisdom is something he is trying impart to his employees, it takes time to change spending habits.

Long story short. With no prospects of being able to afford the bonus/pay raise, he receives an order a couple days later that allows him to keep everyone employed for another 3 months...and at the end of the 3 months receives another order for another 3 month extension. As a skeptic, I would be tempted to say that it could easily be coincidence, but the frequency of the type of things he is describing to me seems to indicate a whole lot of luck. Even though the secret sauce of his business was created through a lot of hard work, it is implausible that he could have developed such a thing with the resources he had. It is something that even other major corporations and conglomerates around the world cannot reproduce.

So as a result, my client is a man in whom God has built up much character over the years. Although by nature he likes to micromanage things, he has also developed this amazing dependence upon God for the things that he knows he cannot control. Keep in mind, this does not mean that he doesn't get frustrated or keep seeking out ways to change his situation (otherwise I wouldn't end up being his consultant).

Over the course of the venture, I began to realize that the frequency and type of miracles may depend more on the person to whom God is speaking to.

Visiting a Khoi church and Cape Point

In South Africa there is a distinction between black, white, and colored people. One thrust of our venture is aimed at effecting a reconciliation between the Khoi people and other peoples. They are the original people residing in the cape area of South Africa and were exploited when the first European settlers arrived. While most cultures exhibit some measure of xenophobia, the Khoi at the time actually embraced foreigners and were willing to serve as guides for settlers as they journeyed north. This brought them into contact with Zulu and Xhosa tribes migrating in from the north and inevitably led to warfare. Over time they diminished in numbers due to plagues and diseases until they eventually sought work at various mission stations and farms, becoming slaves in the process. In fact, our venture work is located at the historic Knorhoek farm where Khoi were forced into labor. In our conference room is a grind wheel for grain, serving as a constant reminder of past history.

Several of the ventures are aimed at a Khoi people restoration effort aimed at heritage preservation and creation of jobs for people. Involved in the efforts is a local Khoi pastor. Today we visited his church and I slow danced with him while praying for him.

We traveled a ways away from our lodgings, skirting the oceanside. Along the way, we saw shantytowns in the vicinity of nice beaches graduating to colorful housing reminiscent of the pastel housing dotting the San Francisco landscape. These houses blurred into newer cookie cutter housing reminiscent of the gated communities in California. One house even had an advertisement spray-painted on the side: "C&N Taxi services XXX-XXXX-XXX".

As we made our way to the church, we started driving into poorer communities where we'd see people walking around and dogs sniffing around on the sidewalks. We'd stare at them in the passing as they stared back. Unfamiliar expressions abound. One kid in particular had a half confused, half painful expression on his face. When we got to the church, we looked around at all the faces shuffling in. I sort of wish now that we had mixed in with the normal members just to be able to interact more with them. Instead, we sat together on one side of the church and looked on as the worship team got started.

The worship style is different. At my church, we generally have more dynamic contrast between songs ranging from the intimate to the energetic. At this church, that range gets shifted upward. The lead songbird is singing her heart out, doubled over in joyous agony to belt out the music. Though there are 3 backup singers, the congregation seems to know all the harmonies requisite to becoming a gospel choir. All of a sudden, this guy busts out a bunch of flags and prompts us to start waving them around. One of my teammates is waving around one red and one purple flag and I'm waving a blue one. Another one is hopping around with her flag and I wish that I could move around to get the proper angle for some shots on my film camera. We're singing our hearts out and I'm even feeling a little light-headed from all the exertion. Anointed with joy perhaps?

In any case, as the music ends one of our fellow South African consultants is invited up to give the message. He invites all the kids below 16 to come up and oil is brought out for them to be anointed. It is a declaration of the power of the Holy Spirit over their lives and a call to them for their purpose in God. And yet, traces of humanity creep out as a boy goes up into the circle to be anointed but he is holding his face in his hands. His expression tells that not all is well with him and he looks like he is struggling with something. Suddenly, he bolts out of the group to go sit down in the congregation. One of the adults moves toward him to shepherd him back into the anointing but he shies away as if he is afraid of something. What is he afraid of?

After the message, the worship team busts out into song again and we are asked to pray over the congregation in small groups. I am humbled as I am asked to pray for the church pastor. I put my hands on his shoulders and begin to pray to a background of worship music somehow we start rocking back and forth in prayer. I prayed for the pastor, I prayed for the Khoi nation, I prayed for whatever came to mind...more stream of consciousness rather than eloquence. I finish the prayer and I'm left wondering what else I could pray for. When I go back to our seats, we again are asked to pray for the worship team and again I go up. I start heading over to the guitarists since I know a little more about playing than I do singing but then it looks like other people are praying for them and I end up walking to the female vocalists. Again, I am humbled as I try to pray for them to find their purpose and calling, thanks for their gifts, and that they would continue to be songbirds for God and help facilitate a connection between the congregation and God through their worship.

I wish I were better at prayer and it is something I will continue to work on. I hope that with continued effort at praying out aloud that I might become more open to expressing whatever I feel and learn better what to ask for. I grew up in a Lutheran church and while we grew up with some standard prayers, it was also common for people to pray freely. Some people pray with a more formal language and others pray as if they are having a normal conversation.

In any case, after an intense session of prayer, the congregation proceeds to offering. Joyful offering. Again the worship team starts playing some music and people start going up in a line and circling the donation basket. After a while it gets a little more lively and people start dancing a bit while circling and circling and circling. It's not quite a conga line but there is a definite mood of joy in giving.

Service concludes with a lot of hugging and handshaking. Acting like a bunch of tourists, we proceed to take a whole bunch of photos with everyone before we head out to Cape Point. There are good opportunities for taking pictures as I am able to catch more people in natural candid shots. We'll see how the photos turn out.

Cape Point. There is an abundance of clouds along the way again offering a lot of contrasts in lighting for pictures. Along the way, I realize that I left my camera in the trunk and at a traffic stoppage, I run out back to get it and start snapping pics along the way. We stop alongside the road to examine the view out at sea contrasting with the waters closer to shore. There is a lot of seaweed and in places where the water becomes shallow, it takes on a beautiful emerald hue. Along the way, we traverse several seaside towns and stop for lunch at Kalky's, a seaside fish & chips joint. The former British influence in South Africa definitely paved the way for awesome fish & chips. The portions are generous and banter fun as we get taken care of by our server who we start calling mama. The batter is crispy and flavorful, the Hake is flaky, the yellowtail is grilled, the snoek is mouthwatering, and the calamari is tender. Damn...I'm hungry now.

As we close in on Cape Point, the cars slow down. Someone has been feeding the baboons as we see a family of baboons feasting on food on the highway. All the cars are slowing down and taking numerous pictures and I just know that some of the girls in our group want to get out the cars and go pet the baby baboons. We had already been warned that baboons are dangerous.

We come upon a parking area and are confronted with decision on whether to take a tram up or walk up to the scenic viewpoint area. I opt to walk up and am greeted by the sight of my teammate Helen walking upon the trail in boots with heels. It is not the easiest trail but we all make it up to the lighthouse area to be greeted by more stairs. We walk around and start taking pics of scenery, pics of us in the scenery, pics of us posing like we're some band for a covershoot, silhouette pics against the setting sun, action pics of people jumping, and action silhouette pics of us pretending to be in an Hong Kong martial arts action movie. So by now, tourists in South Africa think that asians all know martial arts and like to do flying jump kicks for fun.

Massive clouds, secluded beaches, the sun glinting off mountains. We see all these things but the cape is also a unique view in that it is the best place to view the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans together. The air is gusty up at the lighthouse and numerous photos are taken...I don't know how we'll be able to sort through them all. Some of us even jump the wall to get better pics of them taken against a backdrop of ocean and cliffs. We head back to the souvenir shop and load up on some more stuff to take back home.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The beginning of the second weekend.

Today we get an extra hour and a half of sleep and only have to wake up at 7:30AM. Only.

We wake up and trudge off to breakfast. At first, all the normal things...yogurt, granola, cereal...and then Rooibos tea, sausage, and tongue. Apparently Rooibos tea comes from a prickly red bush comprised of a bunch of spindly stalks. They drive over it tractors which pinches the stalks causing them to bleed their essence. After being dried out in the sun, they are processed into smaller bits that you can then steep. Although I've had Rooibos in the US, I only come to appreciate the taste and various benefits. Rooibos has an extremely high level of antioxidants, does not contain caffeine, and I really like how you can steep it for a long time because it has no tannin.

On the weekends we have a cold breakfast which still includes a great deal of meat. On the weekdays we've had some amazing breakfasts starting with a course of fruit consisting of a mixture of papaya, lychee, strawberries, passion fruit or granadilla, and various other fruits. We eat some gooseberry or orange & aloe spreads along with fresh cream better and bread. We also have a meat course which varies between lamb sausages, ham, sausage & asparagus savory crepes with a cheese sauce. Along side we have some nice cheese sauces as well.

After meeting up with everyone else, we drive out to the Capetown waterfront and do some sightseeing and shopping. It is now time to look around, relax, and find small gifts for some of our supporters at home. The malls are modern with an assortment of many higher end stores you would see in the US. A group of us walk around the mall and find a nice restaurant. One thing that we've particularly enjoyed in South Africa is the calamari. It is so tenderful and flavorful that I've tried to eat it at almost every meal since my first taste. The calamari in the US is rubbery by comparison and it will never be the same for me again. As we head back to our cars, we bring out our umbrellas to fend off the incoming rain only to have them collapse by unusually strong gusts of wind. One of our number has to wrestle his umbrella into submission but it ends up warping under the strain of the wind.

Continuing with our day of relaxation, we head over to Groot Constantia, the oldest winery in South Africa. It is old and famous enough that apparently Jane Austen mentions the wines of this place in some of her books. This tradition continues as we peruse walls displaying the latest trophies coming from international competitions and other art. The wines we taste are well balanced though maybe not as intense as some California varietals. We pause for a moment to buy a couple bottles of medal winning wine not available for tasting before heading outside to look around.

As far as I can tell, South Africa is a land with many different types of terrain. Always off in the distance there are mountains with their heads in the clouds. These mountains seem to jut out of a terrain of gently rolling hills and plains showing the different textures and patterns of the crops planted on them. The vineyard pattern surrounding us is reminiscent of Napa valley in California minus the majestic backdrop of mountains. As we walk the property, we become absorbed in taking various photos of ourselves against this scenery and exploring the land around us. There are various buildings echoing the architecture of an era long gone made all the more striking by the weather. Though the day is overcast, the sun bursts out of cloud cover at various intervals creating a deeper constrast between light and dark. The constant feel and sound of the wind is broken up by the cries of a small dog guarding his property as we pass by.

The relaxation of the day is in contrast to the intensity of the week. I've spent everyday of the week (including unstructured days) with my client, delving into his business and personal life in order to understand him. We've had intense debrief sessions each day to examine different clients and ask advice from some of the more experienced trainers. Over the week, we've seen people grow as they learn to connect to their clients and South African co-consultants. Though I am going solo as a consultant on this venture, the help of experienced roving consultants has been readily available. Perhaps we started out a little frazzled as a group early in the week as we sought to get our minds around the work facing our clients. However, it is amazing how well we are matched to our clients. We've seen some people start out meek and gain confidence over the week in their manner. I know that I'm learning to become freer and less formulaic in my prayer as I become closer to some of the concerns of my client. Things aren't perfect but neither should they be if we are to grow without stricture into a structure set by God. And yet, the intensity of the week is affecting us all differently. Some consultants seem to be energized by the lack of sleep and others (me) are beginning to pass out quite easily at night. And so the release of this Saturday is needed by all for different reasons.

It is a good day.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Leaving for South Africa: Tired and crazy in the ATL

So a bunch of us took the same flights and left at 10:50PM from SFO. We tried to sleep during the 4 1/2 hour flight to Atlanta but when we go there we were dead tired because it was still 3:30AM PST. We were so tired that we were hanging out by this dinosaur bone exhibit and we were really amused by the fact that it was called a "Yangchuanasaurus".

So a Yangchuanasaurus is a hybrid name because it was discovered in China. Trust me, this is an amazingly funny at 4:30AM PST so we resorted to posing like we were a predatory type of dinosaur. According to is somewhat similar to an Allosaurus. So we have evidence of ourselves being silly...and we also created some new amazing retorts like:

"You're such a Yangchuanasaurus."
"Stop being such a Yangchuanasaurus."


So I blame my teammate Karen who decided to buy us all a huge cup of sweet tea so we could experience the ATL. It is pretty sweet and not bitter on the palate. It must have been the sugar...

But we clearly didn't learn our lesson as we decided to visit the Coke museum. We walk around the museum, dropping in and out of consciousness at random intervals. There was a huge, fluffy Coke polar bear walking around that started looking extremely comfortable whenever my eyelids started drooping. We took quick naps in the flat, cushy seats of the Coke theater. We partook of the sugary goodness (and crashes) of the 64 different Coke products from different countries. A couple impressions:

Beverly. Sold in Italy, it initially starts out ok on the palate like habanero peppers. Like habaneros, after 2 seconds it will burst into full bloom on your palate. Unlike habaneros, it will burst into the taste of grapefruit rind. Everyone consistently tasted this one and broke out into blehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

African drinks. With the exception of Sunfill...these drinks were extremely IN YOUR FACE. Strong and sweet. Kiwi and Mango flavored Bibo from South Africa is a textbook case.

Favorites: Kinley's Bitter Lemon from England. White Peach Nestea from France.

After filling up on drinks from different continents, we made our way back to the airport to pass out on the plane.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Movin' to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches...

So I don't know why these words from a Presidents of the United States of America song popped up in my head today...but they did.

I remember seeing the music video to this song when I was a sophomore in college when I was in a music dorm. I had joined a rock band that year and was learning how to improvise music on my violin. Here are some of the lyrics to this song, which is mysteriously called: Peaches.

Movin' to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches

I'm movin' to the country, I'm gonna eat me a lot of peaches

I'm movin' to the country, I'm gonna eat a lot of peaches

Movin' to the country, I'm gonna eat a lot of peaches

Peaches come from a can, they were put there by a man

In a factory downtown

And if I had my little way, I'd eat peaches everyday

Sun soakin' bulges in the shade

Now I don't pretend to understand these lyrics. I saw some lyrics to some other songs by the Presidents online and they have a similar quality of nonsensicality about them. Brilliant!

But it does remain that I'm leaving this week to go to South Africa to help local businesses. As a team, we are actually staying on a technically I am moving to the country for a little while. Now I don't know if I'm going to go eat a lot of peaches but I will go enjoy whatever fresh produce there is to be had. Apparently, South Africans are big on huge meat buffets.

Now I know the trip isn't going to be all fun and peaches. In fact, my recollection of the music video has the one element that makes everything better. This element can even slice bread:


For some reason (brilliance no doubt), ninjas do backflips into the video from out of nowhere. I don't recall exactly how many there were or what they are doing to the guy moving to the country, but it is obvious to my perfect memory from back in '96 (or maybe '97) that they are threatening the peaches.

So you can see now that this music video may be a good allegory for what is going to happen in South Africa. I'm moving to the country to help people in local businesses there bear professional, personal, and spiritual fruit. And while I am going to help fruit to be borne, I will inevitably partake of some of it too and be changed when I come back to the US.

Now you may remember the story of the Tree of Life, where Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden for partaking of the fruit that would give them knowledge of good and evil. Continued access to this tree would have given them immortal life, but they were cast out to live by the "sweat of their brow" (Genesis 3:19-24)

It occurs to me that everytime we do things that build up our character and experience, we learn more about the separation between good and evil. We have the continued choice to choose between both but hopefully we would choose good. It seems as if our relationship with God allows us to toil to bear fruit on a spiritual Tree of Life where we learn over time to discern what to do. Sometimes our actions allow others to partake of the fruit we bear. Sometimes we are gifted with fruit from others.

And there will be ninjas. We learn to protect our peaches from ninjas with various skills. I fully expect to have to fight ninjas off while I'm out in the country. At some point in my life, I realized that I could not just study and read in order to gain knowledge. It took me a while to figure out that ninjas would just laugh at me if I threw books at them. So learned that I had to toil away in order to allow fruit to be borne and truth to be experienced.

Peaches, the song, even has a happy ending for us:

Millions of peaches, peaches for me

Millions of peaches, peaches for free

Millions of peaches, peaches for me

Millions of peaches, peaches for free...Look out!

Praise God.
Praise God for ninjas.
Praise God that I have a black belt in kendo to fight the ninjas off with.