Tag Archives: Africa

Sierra Leone–Malaria meds and a touch of Melodrama

I sat on the balcony of a nice restaurant having dinner with a Doctor and his wife who were serving a medical mission in Sierra Leone.  A large orange sun was slowly sinking into the cool blueness of Freetown bay, and, in spite of the heaviness in the tropical air, I felt a relaxing peace.  The blaring horns and raucous city noise below us were quieting. If it wasn’t so hard to get there, I thought, this might be a nice place to come on vacation.

“Did you take your malaria meds?” the Doctor asked me.

I began to notice the tiny whine of mosquitoes joining us for dinner.

“I did. Yes. Of course.” I had to think back to whether or not really I did take my pill that morning. I thought so, yes, maybe.

“When we first arrived, we had over thirty cases of malaria each month, among the missionaries. Now, with better precautions and proper meds, that number is down to only four.”

My skin began to itch. I buttoned the collar of my shirt, even though I was sweating in the heat.

“We no longer allow the missionaries to hang their laundry outside to dry,” the Doctor continued, “because a certain type of fly they have here buries it’s larvae in the wet laundry. When you put your clothes on, the larvae buries into your skin. You develop a sore and then, two-weeks later, the flies come out.”

Gross.

I looked down. To be honest, I wasn’t even really sure what was on my plate. A few moments ago it had tasted okay, acceptable, good even. Now, I wasn’t hungry.

I looked up at the doctor. “Here,” he said, handing me a packet of pills. “Take these if you start to feel sick. They’ll help. Then, go to the doctor as soon as you get home.”

“Would you excuse me,” I said, “I think I’ll turn in early.”

He smiled. His wife smiled. I rushed from the table as the Doctor said something I couldn’t quite make out.

Later that night, after brushing my teeth with bottled water and taking another malaria pill, just to be sure, I turned out the light and climbed into bed, pulling the mosquito netting close around me. Closing my eyes, I heard it again, that unmistakable tiny whine. That’s when it came to me, what the Doctor had said as I left the table.

“There are many ways to die in Africa.”

As I slowly fell asleep, I was sure there were giant mosquitoes landing on the netting surrounding me. I vowed never to hang my laundry outside to dry. And, I thought that a staycation might be a good idea this year, just as soon as I got home–if I got home.

Sierra Leone–Tragedy and Prayer

IMG_4914_Freetown Sierra LeonSierra Leone means Lion Mountains. Legends say that when European explorers first arrived in Sierra Leone, they could hear thunder in the mountains and thought it was roaring lions.

In 1991 the roaring changed from thunder to rockets as civil war broke out in West Africa. The “blood diamond” war devastated Sierra Leone and killed over 50,000 of its people. The war ended in 2002 but the country is still recovering. The people still remember. The scars are very real.

Now, Sierra Leone faces another crisis.

Ebola.

According to the World Health Organization, this recent Ebola outbreak began in neighboring Guinea, and then spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The Associated Press reports that over 1,000 people have died in the outbreak, with Sierra Leone losing over 300 people to the deadly virus. Many more are infected. There is no cure. Two Westerners and one Spaniard have received treatment using an experimental drug and appear to be recovering; however, no one from Africa has yet to receive this treatment.

Fear, heartbreak and anger are growing. Neighboring countries are closing their borders. Quarantine and containment appear to be WHO and Government best practices.

I’ve been to Sierra Leone, twice. Recently. It is a beautiful country, with beautiful people. Yet, it is also a West African country. And, there are many ways to die in West Africa.

As I won’t be going back to Sierra Leone anytime soon, I share these pictures from my recent visits.

I offer prayers for the safety of my friends in Freetown along with prayers for the healing of the sick and the healing of the land.

Utah Travels Photography Exhibit

Mud Bath
The secret to such smooth, smooth skin could be found in the mud of Lubumbashi River.

I am excited to announce that two of my photos, The Tree of Life and Mud Bath, were selected for the Utah Travels Photography Exhibit. The exhibit runs from March 7 through April 30, 2014. There is an opening reception Friday, March 7 from 6:00-8:00 pm. Come see a great exhibit and say hello. The reception is open to the public.

The Tree of Life
The legendary tree of life thrives in Africa.

Utah Travels Facebook

Utah Travels is a photo exhibit highlighting remarkable photographic images captured by Utahns during their diverse travel experiences.  These photos reflect the beauty, richness and diversity of people, events, nature, culture and all that celebrates humanity and planet earth.

Utah Cultural Celebration Center
1355 West 3100 South
WVC, UT 84119

www.culturalcelebration.org

Photos From Around the World

I thought, since it is New Years Eve, I would post a photo gallery of shots from some of the places I’ve been around the world. Sort of a “Best of” gallery from previous posts. I’ve been only blogging since August, so I have yet to post shots from everywhere I’ve been. And, I have yet to even start posting video from all of these places. That is what 2014 is for. Resolution 🙂

The world is a big, beautiful place, filled with interesting people, amazing sights, random coincidences and occasional tender mercies. I have been blessed to travel. I have been blessed to make friends on every continent. I hope to keep the friends I have made and make more as time goes by. However, my greatest blessings are found at home, with a warm fire, a good meal and my family, who love me.

I hope you enjoy the photographs. Happy New Year.

Nelson Mandela’s Home, South Africa

Having recently visited South Africa, I was reflecting on my experiences there in light of Nelson Mandela’s passing. A courageous, inspiring leader, he had an influence on a people, a country and a world. As I met the people, talked with them, broke bread with them, photographed them, Nelson Mandela had an influence on me. I came to admire his commitment to moral principles which elevate the human condition. I found, in Johannesburg, a complex and complicated city with contrasts not entirely in keeping with Nelson Mandela’s vision for how things ought to be. In other parts of the country these contrasts were even more apparent. Things are not how they should be. Yet, I also saw hope, commitment, energy and progress. I’m sure Nelson Mandela didn’t accomplish all he hoped to accomplish in his long and influential life. Yet, his vision took root. His commitment and perseverance inspired others. Nelson Mandela made a difference. South Africa made a significant impression on me well beyond the images I took.

African Eyes–in Lubumbashi, DRC

They say Africa changes you. If you’ve been to Africa, spent time there, visited the people, you will understand.  I’ve been to Africa four times. This was my first time in Lubumbashi. I was surprised. My own stereotypes were both reinforced and shattered. In Lubumbashi, a fragile peace hung over the city as oppressive as the heat and humidity, infusing a cultural angst almost as heavy . I was the outsider. I was different. The children called me “Muzungu”, white face, not a compliment. They smiled and laughed, not with me. My camera lens brought them running, surrounding me, dancing, playing and posing. In their eyes I saw joy, and innocence. The adults looked on, skeptical, questioning, challenging. Their eyes were reserved, hooded, holding back, keeping their stories from me. Many turned away. Some shouted insults. Those that did not were watching to see what I would do with their likeness. I took their pictures. I took them with me. I took them in, a part of me. I will not forget. In their African eyes I will never be the same.

Alexandra Township, South Africa–The People Inside

From a distance, Alex looks interesting. The closer you get, the harder it is to see. It can be beautiful, in a flowering African Thorn Bush kind of way. The flowers are pretty–sort of. The thorns can do some real damage. Among the thorns in Alex, there is an energy, growing, changing. In spite of the harshness of conditions, there was a softness in the faces of people. Not all were willing to let me take their picture. Some approached with angry words. Others turned away or hid. But, for those who stood their ground or gave permission, I could see a light, hard light perhaps, in their eyes. The noon-day sun did not make for the best photographs. However, in the hard light of the noon-day sun, when I put on my sunglasses, I could see hope.

Alexandra Township, South Africa–Conditions Inside

It was noon and the sun was directly overhead. Hot. And Humid. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The hard light cast hard shadows. Appropriate–in Alex, life is hard.  One of the poorest urban areas in South Africa, Alexandra Township is part of Johannesburg and is home to nearly 200,000 souls. Many do not have running water, or proper sanitation. Many live in informal shacks made of corrugated metal or cinderblock brick. Unemployment is high. Drugs are rampant and gangs compete with law for control. When I entered Alex to take pictures, I stood out dramatically–white on black, with hard shadows. The harsh light was not what I would have chosen for good pictures. Nevertheless, the time of day was a metaphor for life in Alex–harsh and hard. In this post I wanted to show some of the conditions inside. Partial understanding comes through knowing. Tomorrow I’ll show their faces.

On the Banks of the Congo River

The heat was oppressive. The air was heavy, barely breathable for one not used to the nearly 100% humidity. I was given 5 minutes to take pictures on the banks of the Congo River, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. The Policeman who accompanied me, told me where I could point my camera. If he listened closely, he could hear the shutter click. After three clicks I had to move on.

The Congo River
Young men work the land on the banks of the Congo River, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Men and Children of Bande Village

About a half-hour drive outside of Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, is a little village called Bande. They grow avocados and fruit and sell them by the roadside to survive. We stopped for a visit. The children immediately surrounded us. They spoke Swahili and French. I spoke neither. With help, we asked the village Elder for permission to take this photo. He smiled and nodded agreement. I thought, for a moment, that the one woman in the shot was the mother. Not so. She is the older sister. The women of the village would not come out of their termite-clay-brick huts. The three men in the shot were the older brother, the uncle and the neighbor. The Elder also would not be in the shot. He was standing beside me looking at my view finder. With a small purchase, you can make friends for life in Bande Village.

Bande Village
The men and children of Bande Village.