Andy, Move Over!

April 21, 2016

So former slave Harriet Tubman is moving to the front of the $20 bill, and slave owner Andrew Jackson is moving to the back.  You go, girl!

Of course, with the slight excursion toward Susan B Anthony, all the people on our money have been Dead White Men Presidents.  So Susie B and Harriet T also represent the first “real” people on our money, celebrated for what they did but not the political heights to which they rose.

As readers of this column know, Frank and I travel a lot, and we often have a chance to handle foreign money.  I always smile when the coinage or bills highlight something about the country or someone known for other than his (it’s always a “his”) politics:  In Guatemala there’s a bill that honors literacy, for example, and a coin that honors traditional garb.

Our Dead White Men money definitely needs a shaking-up, and anyone who knows Harriet Tubman’s story knows that she’s well qualified to do it. “Moses” also goes down as one of the bravest people in our nation’s history, since she returned time and again to the South to help others escape.  And then served during the Civil War as a spy. If she had ever been caught …

But she wasn’t.  And now, school kids of all colors will grow up with a better appreciation of her story and her legacy.



Charleston and Family Memories

April 13, 2016

IMG_1872My father’s ship returned from the Mediterranean in late July, 1945, and came to the Naval Shipyard in Charleston, SC for retrofit preparatory for duty in the Pacific.  I assume, without knowing exactly, that “retrofit” for the Pacific meant adding more fuel tanks.

He had shipped out almost immediately after my parents’ marriage in June 1944.  He arrived, phoned (or maybe telegramed?) my mother in Connecticut, and she hopped on the train to come and meet him in Charleston.  She has two memories of that trip – first, that her father roared at her about young brides taking valuable space on the trains to follow their husbands when important businessmen couldn’t get seats and couldn’t get done the work that needed to be done to win the war.  He told her it was her patriotic duty to stay home.  I don’t think that argument went very far.  The second memory is that she stayed at the Francis Marion hotel, with a room on a high floor, and looked out at the city and fell in love with Charleston.  I suspect her guy’s recent arrival home from the war might have had something to do with that sentiment!

At some point, Dad was given 10 days leave.  The young couple got on a train for Denver so he could visit his family.  They made that visit and were on their way back to Charleston when the news flashed that the war was over.  Dad promptly asked/got an additional 10 days leave!

IMG_1827THey returned to Charleston, and Mom took an apartment while Dad waited for the Defense Department to decide what to do with the ship.  It took a year for orders to come for the ship to go to Boston; in the meantime they lived in a furnished apartment on St. Michael’s Alley.  Today it is millionaire’s row and in the historic district; at the time it was the patriotic thing to do to rent rooms to returning servicemen.

That is one family story about Charleston; it turns out there is another.  For you see,  one of the fun things about genealogy is that you find ancestors … some of whom are not the kind to brag about.  I always knew we had a pirate ancestor – a collateral, actually; he didn’t live long enough to have direct descendants.  “He wasn’t a very good pirate,” my mother has always said.  What I forgot is that he met his end here in Charleston.  Anyway, yesterday on the Battery we came across a plaque that describes the end of Richard Worley’s career  … and his public hanging … Ah, family!IMG_1853

Lost and Found

March 11, 2016

Stephanie from Boston Logan called at around 5:45 last night — apparently my talk with the customer service rep in Chicago had an affect — and anyway, she called to say that the bags were found and would be delivered to the hotel in an hour.  And in exactly one hour, they were.  And the bag that had been delivered in their stead was whisked away, presumably to its rightful owner.

Frank and I left the cocktail reception long enough to change into more suitable getup and returned just in time for dinner and RI president Rick King’s address.

There’s a customer service lesson here.  Two of them, in fact.  The actual error wasn’t made by British Airways, but rather, by whatever delivery service they contract with.  But their web system doesn’t seem to reflect this. Nor does whatever training they give to their call center.  And second, because their call center is trained only to take messages, not to actually, you know, do something, its agents did not leave me with a warm and tender feeling.  Quite the opposite.

All is now well.  PETS 2016 has begun! Let the games begin.


Travel Adventure and Lost Baggage

March 10, 2016

Julie took us to Entebbe airport, and put us on our long flight home.  The plane stopped in Kigali, Rwanda, and then began the long journey north to Brussels.  We arrived, and were in the waiting lounge when we learned that our flight to Newark was delayed, which would have meant we would miss our connection to Logan.

United took care of us, and transferred  us to a British Airways flight to London, where — with a short connection and a race through the airport including two security checks and some very un-English bureaucracy– we got on a BA flight direct to Logan.

We congratulated ourselves, in fact, that because our flight was delayed we got in two hours early.  Unfortunately, our baggage didn’t make the connection, but by the time we reached the British Airlines window the clerk had the info on which flight the bags would arrive on and we made arrangements to have them delivered. We reconnected with the car and drove to Framingham and PETS, the next Rotary event of some importance.  And we got here about 30 hours before PETS will begin – plenty of time to recover from our trip.

But this morning, we learned that one bag — and not one of ours — was delivered to the hotel. Here’s where the system is showing clear signs of not working.  I immediately used the web-based system to let British Airlines know that their delivery service delivered the wrong bag.  I called the 800 number — turns out it’s to a call center in India.  I called three times, in fact, because each time the response I receive suggests that my previous conversations did not get updated information into the computer.  The most recent time I called, I was told to call back in 24 hours; that no one would call me in the interim with any updates (and I already know that updates won’t appear on the website – at least, they haven’t done so to date.

British Airways, please return our bags.  But don’t expect us to fly with you again!

The Pearl of Africa

March 9, 2016

IMG_1801IMG_1456Where to start?  I’ve been having WiFi “issues” here in Uganda, and also — despite having a “universal” converter plus one I picked up in South Africa — a converter issue.  It’s been like, you know, the 1980s.

Juliet and the Kajanssi Rotary Club have treated us to a wonderful time.  First, Julie — my African sister — her home, she says, is our home in Africa.  I stayed with her two years ago when I was here with the District 7780 cultural outreach, and it is because of her leadership and obvious competencies that the Walter Foundation has invested in the technical training center.

Along with Alex, another Rotarian, she met us at the airport on Saturday night and we went out for dinner – fried tilapia, from Lake Victoria.  When I say fried fish, I mean the whole deal, head to tail.  Then to her house, and to bed. But not for long.

Sunday morning we were up early for a road trip.  Enid — one of the RC members from two years ago — showed up in a van, and we set off, stopping along the way to pick up or at least meet with various Rotarians, including the Assistant Governor and Governor Nominee Ron. It was Sunday morning, and the radio was blaring soft-rock African gospel music.  You can’t make this stuff up. By now we were a parade of several cars, and given the state of Ugandan roads, it was probably inevitable that one of them developed a flat tire.

We finally reached the Rotary Technical Center, now under construction.  The local people and chairman of the local community were in force, and there were speeches. Many speeches, times two, because everything was translated into or out of the local language for us.  We admired the buildings, and planted trees to mark the future entrance of the center.

And oh, yes.  Juliet has been the driving force behind this project, and she has taken much time off from work to make it happen.  I had arranged a Paul Harris Fellow for her – the funny thing is that she had checked her Rotary account just recently, and noticed that she had “more” credits than she thought.  So she had just fired off an email to TRF telling them to “fix” their mistake.  For once I am glad that TRF is so slow in getting back to Rotarians who send emails like that.  Anyway, suffice it to say, she was very pleased, and so, I am glad to say, was the entire club, which broke out into a rousing rendition of “For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow.”

IMG_1546IMG_1629And then to the existing primary school, which was built with Catholic money and has been around forever, but has grown in the past few years as a new head teacher has made the program more enticing and so more parents are enrolling their children.  Most recent development  — new since I was here two years ago — is an apartment block for teachers, so that they can live as well as work at the school.  More speeches, more translations, and by now we were well behind our schedule.

Some of the Rotarians returned home; two cars drove on to Jinja and lunch.  By the time lunch was finished it was nearly 6:00 p.m., and by prearrangement, Julie took Frank and me to a five-star resort on the Nile.  It is owned by a Rotarian, and she had arranged with him to put us up for the night.  Meanwhile, the Kajannsi Rotarians bunked somewhere else, I never did learn where. We watched the sun set over the Nile, and quickly went to bed.

Monday morning Julie, joined by Peace, another of the Kajannsi Rotarians, joined us for breakfast.  We went to the Source of the Nile and a boat trip on the river, and then made our way back to Kampala.

Back in town, Julie took us to lunch at a restaurant where we could enjoy Ugandan food — Makoto (mashed banana), rice, sweet potatoes and “Irish” potatoes, green beans, spinach, chicken, beef stew, ground nuts.

We had an appointment with Ernst and Young, who Frank has hired to do an audit of the Technical Center project, and also tea with the District Governor.  And then to Enid and Alan’s future retirement home; a (mostly) vacant lot with a view of the Lake and a picnic supper arranged by Enid and enjoyed by the entire club.

And only after another sunset, another big meal, another set of speeches by the Kajannsi Rotarians did we return to Julie’s home, exhausted, and sated, and filled with African cheer.


A Great Big Zoo

March 9, 2016

Thursday afternoon we visited a game park — a privately owned reserve with an upscale lodge and lots of game.  I had assumed at Kruger that the fences around the perimeter are there mostly for show  — after all they are clearly there only as long as the elephants decide to tolerate them; the warthogs go under them, et cetera.  But the animals in this preserve  — at least the big ones — are clearly being managed by the humans. So it’s no Kruger, but it was also a chance to take better pix of rhinos and cheetahs than we had been able to so far.

IMG_1252 IMG_1335Also, the hippos.  In Uganda I saw rivers full of hippos basking in the water, and I caught the beady eyes of one hippo wandering through our campsite, which they do because they feed on tiny green shoots after dark.  But I had never seen the full girth of a hippo.  We watched as the sun set and the hippos lumbered out of the water and up the bank.  Amazing.

I had known that hippos killed more people than lions, but I was under the impression it was mostly due to their size and poor eyesight and curiosity.  But apparently it’s not a good thing to get too close to a hippo.  I’ll leave it at that.

The sun set, we returned to the lodge, and then back to our camp. Friday was an all day trip back to Jo’ burg, and then our South Africa adventure was over.  Tomorrow:  Return to Uganda and Rotary projects.


The Other Side of Human Involvement

March 5, 2016

How do you top Kruger?  I’m not really sure, and not about to try.  Yesterday, after our day at Kruger, we were off for a morning at the Maholoholo Rehabilitation Center, a refuge/veterinary service for animals that have been poisoned/snared/injured.  They are nursed back to health, and then either returned to the wild — assuming that an environment can be found for them that is not already territory for another of their kind — or the Rehabilitation Center becomes a home for them.

IMG_1093That’s the more likely scenario, because for too many of these animals, either they remain permanently impaired by their injury, or they are imprinted by humans and can no longer live on their own.  This is the case with babies that are nursed by humans, or wild animals kept as pets until they are too large, or animals born in zoos that haven’t been taught how to hunt.  And it was these animals — the ones that have already had human contact — that we met at the Rehabilitation Center.

Among the animals that we met was a cheetah.  He had been found as a pup — I forget what happened to his mother — and had been imprinted as a human, so he can never go back to the wild.  He is a wild animal, of course, but a reasonably friendly one, and so we petted him … under close supervision.

IMG_1170IMG_1155We also went into the vulture enclosure.  It turns out that in India (I think) it is believed that eating vulture brains will give you a high, and that while you are in that state you can foretell  your own future.  The result is a lot of vulture poisonings and trappings.  We fed these guys — well, they fed themselves.  We we told not to worry about our own fingers – vultures only go after dead (or playing dead) meat, so as long as we remained active and upright, all would be okay.


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