Comparing Notes

July25

A well-worn dollar bill and a similarly distressed twenty dollar bill arrived at a Federal Reserve Bank to be retired. The twenty dollar bill reminisced about its travels all over the country. “I’ve had a pretty good life,” the twenty proclaimed. “why I’ve been to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the finest restaurants in New York, performances on Broadway, and even a cruise to the Carribean”.

“Wow!” said the one dollar bill. “You’ve really had an exciting life!”

“So tell me,” says the twenty, “where have you been throughout your lifetime?”

The one dollar bill replies, “Oh, I’ve been to the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, the Lutheran Church …”

The twenty dollar bill interrupts, “What’s a church?”

- Author Unknown

Cross

July21

Whatever your cross,
Whatever your pain,
There will always be sunshine,
After the rain…

Perhaps you may stumble,
Perhaps even fall,
But God’s always ready,
To answer your call…

He knows every heartache,
Sees every tear,
A word from His lips,
Can calm every fear…

Your sorrows may linger,
Throughout the night,
But suddenly vanish,
At dawn’s early light …

The Savior is waiting,
Somewhere above,
To give you His grace,
And send you His love ..

Whatever your cross,
Whatever your pain,
“God always sends rainbows”
after the rain …”

(All the words and images above are extracted from a forwarded email message from a friend. Thanks!)

The Flag Post Solution

July21

A story is told about two boys who were given the assignment of measuring the height of the school flag post. When the teacher saw them standing below the flag post with a measuring tape for the third morning in a row, she decided to help. And so, she went over, unscrewed the flag post, laid it on the ground, measured the distance between the two tips and reported it to them. Feeling happy for having given the boys the solution they might never have figured out for themselves, she gave them a satisfied smile, and then left them with a puzzled look on their faces. After a short while, one boy said to the other, “What is up with that teacher? We wanted to find the height and she gave us the length!”

This narrative reminds me of the various moments that people have insurmountable problems, but dismiss straightforward solutions simple because they are too simple. This is perhaps more applicable in the area of faith than in any other. Take for instance, God’s solution to most of our problems: prayer. Many people have gripping testimonies of having grappled with problems for days, months, and even years, only to have them solved when they presented them to God in prayer. Ironic as it might sound, I suppose what makes prayer the last resort for most people is its simplicity. The formula for prayer contradicts what most people have been taught about the solution to problems.

Praying in faith requires a person to present the petition to God, and then let Him handle it. In fact, it is only possible to benefit from prayer if after saying it, a person then went ahead with business as if the solution had already been found. This is easy to understand, yet difficult to put into practice since most of the training that we receive tells us that we need to do something. And so, when we feel helpless to do anything about a problem, we resort to worrying. Have you ever been so confident of finding a solution to a problem that another person accused you of not being worried? Worry is as useful as opening the eyes wider in a dark room to find a box of matches – instead of giving a person time to focus on a solution, say grope for the matches, it just adds to his or her fears by starkly confirming just how dark the place is.

Watching a person locked in earnestly prayer to God, one cannot fail to see the air of openness that such a person exhibits. Often, arms are open wide, palms spread open, and the face looks up, all pretences are dropped, and even tears are allowed to flow unchecked. When that picture comes to my mind, I only think of one word: SURRENDER. Why has this word always seemed so demanding when considered from a spiritual perspective?

Incidentally, surrender is not as impractical as it sometimes sounds. We often surrender to our doctors, telling them details we would never dare tell another soul. We often surrender to the will of a taxi driver, trusting that he or she is competent enough to deliver us to the place we need to get. We surrender our children to other people’s care when we go to work. Isn’t it surrender that enables a person to take down medicine, read the newspaper in a cab, work diligently without a care for our children’s safely while in the office? We surrender without even thinking about it! Surrender is programmed into our subconscious and we practice it all the time. Surrender gives a chance for faith to do its work.

I wonder how much longer the boys stood below the flag post before finally deciding to take the teachers solution.

Earthquake Survival Guide….Maybe Not

July19

When I decided to check if the information in the Doug Copp’s article on the “Triangle of Life” has been vouched by anyone else, I came across a rejoinder by Rocky Lopes, PhD, a Manager in Community Disaster Education at American Red Cross National Headquarters. According to Rocky, hiding under a desk or under a bed (referred to as “Drop, Cover, and Hold On”) during an earthquake does save lives based on the design of the building under consideration. Rocky writes “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” is CORRECT, accurate, and APPROPRIATE for use in the United States for Earthquake safety. Mr. Copp’s assertions in his message that everyone is always crushed if they get under something is incorrect.

According to Rocky Lopes, Doug Copp based his findings on the results from buildings damaged an earthquake in Turkey. Being that the building construction standards, techniques, engineering principles, and construction materials are quite different in Turkey as compared to the United States, one survival technique might save lives in one country and fail to save lives in another.

From these two articles, it is clear no one survival guide is foolproof in every county. It is therefore prudent for every individual to assess the types of buildings (based on construction standards, techniques, engineering principles, and construction materials) in the country he or she resides in, and make a decision on which survival guide is adequate.

As Rocky Lopes concludes: The Red Cross is not saying that identifying potential voids is wrong or inappropriate. What we are saying is that “Drop, Cover, and Hold On!” is NOT wrong – in the United States. The American Red Cross, being a U.S. – based organization, does not extend its recommendations to apply in other countries. What works here may not work elsewhere, so there is no dispute that the “void identification method” or the “Triangle of Life” may indeed be the best thing to teach in other countries where the risk of building collapse, even in moderate earthquakes, is great.

Here is the full article from Rocky Lopes:

American Red Cross response to “Triangle of Life” by Doug Copp

Sent from:
Rocky Lopes, PhD
Manager, Community Disaster Education
American Red Cross National Headquarters

Recently it has been brought to my attention that an email from Doug Copp, titled “Triangle of Life,” is making its rounds again on the Internet. “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” is CORRECT, accurate, and APPROPRIATE for use in the United States for Earthquake safety. Mr. Copp’s assertions in his message that everyone is always crushed if they get under something is incorrect.

Recently, the American Red Cross became aware of a challenge to the earthquake safety advice “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.” This is according to information from Mr. Doug Copp, the Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of American Rescue Team International (a private company not affiliated with the U.S. Government or other agency.) He says that going underneath objects during an earthquake [as in children being told to get under their desks at school] is very dangerous, and fatal should the building collapse in a strong earthquake. He also states that “everyone who gets under a doorway when a building collapses is killed.” He further states that “if you are in bed when an earthquake happens, to roll out of bed next to it,” and he also says that “If an earthquake happens while you are watching television and you cannot easily escape by getting out the door or window, then lie down and curl up in the fetal position next to a sofa, or large chair.” These recommendations are inaccurate for application in the United States and inconsistent with information developed through earthquake research. Mr. Copp based his statements on observations of damage to buildings after an earthquake in Turkey. It is like “apples and oranges” to compare building construction standards, techniques, engineering principles, and construction materials between Turkey and the United States.

We at the American Red Cross have studied the research on the topic of earthquake safety for many years. We have benefited from extensive research done by the California Office of Emergency Services, California Seismic Safety Commission, professional and academic research organizations, and emergency management agencies, who have also studied the recommendation to “drop, cover, and hold on!” during the shaking of an earthquake. Personally, I have also benefited from those who preceded me in doing earthquake education in California since the Field Act was passed in 1933.

What the claims made by Mr. Copp of ARTI, Inc., does not seem to distinguish is that the recommendation to “drop, cover, and hold on!” is a U.S.-based recommendation based on U.S. Building Codes and construction standards. Much research in the United States has confirmed that “Drop, Cover, and Hold On!” has saved lives in the United States. Engineering researchers have demonstrated that very few buildings collapse or “pancake” in the U.S. as they might do in other countries. Using a web site to show one picture of one U.S. building that had a partial collapse after a major quake in an area with thousands of buildings that did not collapse during the same quake is inappropriate and misleading.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which collects data on injuries and deaths from all reportable causes in the U.S., as well as data from three University-based studies performed after the Loma Prieta (September, 1989) and Northridge (January, 1994) earthquakes in California, the following data are indicated: Loma Prieta: 63 deaths, approximately 3,700 people were injured. Most injuries happened as a result of the collapse of the Cypress Street section of I-880 in Oakland. Northridge: 57 deaths, 1,500 serious injuries. Most injuries were from falls caused by people trying to get out of their homes, or serious cuts and broken bones when people ran, barefooted, over broken glass (the earthquake happened in the early morning on a federal holiday when many people were still in bed.) There were millions of people in each of these earthquake-affected areas, and of those millions, many of them reported to have “dropped, covered, and held on” during the shaking of the earthquake.

We contend that “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” indeed SAVED lives, not killed people. Because the research continues to demonstrate that, in the U.S., “Drop, Cover, and Hold On!” works, the American Red Cross remains behind that recommendation. It is the simplest, reliable, and easiest method to teach people, including children.

The American Red Cross has not recommended use of a doorway for earthquake protection for more than a decade. The problem is that many doorways are not built into the structural integrity of a building, and may not offer protection. Also, simply put, doorways are not suitable for more than one person at a time.

The Red Cross, remaining consistent with the information published in “Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard Messages,” (visit http://www.disastereducation.org/guide.html ) states that if you are in bed when an earthquake happens, remain there. Rolling out of bed may lead to being injured by debris on the floor next to the bed. If you have done a good job of earthquake mitigation (that is, removing pictures or mirrors that could fall on a bed; anchoring tall bedroom furniture to wall studs, and the like), then you are safer to stay in bed rather than roll out of it during the shaking of an earthquake.

Also, the Red Cross strongly advises not try to move (that is, escape) during the shaking of an earthquake. The more and the longer distance that someone tries to move, the more likely they are to become injured by falling or flying debris, or by tripping, falling, or getting cut by damaged floors, walls, and items in the path of escape. Identifying potential “void areas” and planning on using them for earthquake protection is more difficult to teach, and hard to remember for people who are not educated in earthquake engineering principles. The Red Cross is not saying that identifying potential voids is wrong or inappropriate. What we are saying is that “Drop, Cover, and Hold On!” is NOT wrong — in the United States. The American Red Cross, being a U.S.-based organization, does not extend its recommendations to apply in other countries. What works here may not work elsewhere, so there is no dispute that the “void identification method” or the “Triangle of Life” may indeed be the best thing to teach in other countries where the risk of building collapse, even in moderate earthquakes, is great.

Earthquake Survival Guide

July19

I have to admit that before reading the article below, I would have sworn that hiding under a table or under a bed is the safest way to survive an earthquake while inside a building. Apparently not! The document was forwarded in an email by a friend, and I suppose you might learn a few things from it too.

EXTRACT FROM DOUG COPP’S ARTICLE ON THE “TRIANGLE OF LIFE”

My name is Doug Copp. I am the Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of the American
Rescue Team International (ARTI), the world’s most experienced rescue team. The information in this article will save lives in an earthquake.

The first building I ever crawled inside of was a school in Mexico City during the
1985 earthquake. Every child was under their desk. Every child was crushed to the thickness of their bones. They could have survived by lying down next to their desks in the aisles. It was obscene, unnecessary and I wondered why the children were not in the aisles. I didn’t at the time know that the children were told to hide under something.

Simply stated, when buildings collapse, the weight of the ceilings falling upon the objects or furniture inside, crushes these objects, leaving a space or void next to them. This space is what I call the “triangle of life”. The larger the object, the stronger, the less it will compact. The less the object compacts, the larger the void, the greater the probability that the person who is using this void for safety will not be injured. The next time you watch collapsed buildings, on television, count the “triangles” you see formed. It is the most common shape, you will see, in a collapsed building. They are everywhere.

TEN TIPS FOR EARTHQUAKE SAFETY

1) Almost everyone who simply “ducks and covers” WHEN BUILDINGS COLLAPSE are crushed to death. People who get under objects, like desks or cars, are crushed.

2) Cats, dogs and babies often naturally curl up in the fetal position. You should too in an earthquake. It is a natural safety/survival instinct. You can survive in a smaller void. Get next to an object, next to a sofa, next to a large bulky object that will compress slightly but leave a void next to it.

3) Wooden buildings are the safest type of construction to be in during an earthquake. Wood is flexible and moves with the force of the earthquake. If the wooden building does collapse, large survival voids are created. Also, the wooden building has less concentrated, crushing weight. Brick buildings will break into individual bricks. Bricks will cause many injuries but less squashed bodies than concrete slabs.

4) If you are in bed during the night and an earthquake occurs, simply roll off the bed. A safe void will exist around the bed. Hotels can achieve a much greater survival rate in earthquakes, simply by posting a sign on the back of the door of every room telling occupants to lie down on the floor, next to the bottom of the bed during an earthquake.

5) If an earthquake happens and you cannot easily escape by getting out the door or window, then lie down and curl up in the fetal position next to a sofa, or large chair.

6) Almost everyone who gets under a doorway when buildings collapse is killed. How? If you stand under a doorway and the doorjamb falls forward or backward you will be crushed by the ceiling above. If the doorjamb falls sideways you will be cut in half by the doorway. In either case, you will be killed!

7) Never go to the stairs. The stairs have a different “moment of frequency” (they swing separately from the main part of the building). The stairs and remainder of the building continuously bump into each other until structural failure of the stairs takes place. The people who get on stairs before they fail are chopped up by the stair treads – horribly mutilated. Even if the building doesn’t collapse, stay away from the stairs. The stairs are a likely part of the building to be damaged. Even if the stairs are not collapsed by the earthquake, they may collapse later when overloaded by fleeing people. They should always be checked for safety, even when the rest of the building is not damaged.

8) Get near the outer walls of buildings or outside of them if possible – It is much better to be near the outside of the building rather than the interior. The farther inside you are from the outside perimeter of the building the greater the probability that your escape route will be blocked.

9) People inside of their vehicles are crushed when the road above falls in an earthquake and crushes their vehicles; which is exactly what happened with the slabs between the decks of the Nimitz Freeway. The victims of the San Francisco earthquake all stayed inside of their vehicles. They were all killed. They could have easily survived by getting out and sitting or lying next to their vehicles. Everyone killed would have survived if they had been able to get out of their cars and sit or lie next to them. All the crushed cars had voids 3 feet high next to them, except for the cars that had columns fall directly across them.

10) I discovered, while crawling inside of collapsed newspaper offices and other offices with a lot of paper, that paper does not compact. Large voids are found surrounding stacks of paper.

Spread the word and save someone’s life…

By Doug Copp,
American Rescue Team

University Sages To The Rescue

July19

It is now 5.30am, and there was another very slight tremor jarring things around the house and I wonder how the situation in town will be today. Yesterday morning, someone played a prank by sending a cell phone SMS to a few people claiming that a major earthquake would hit the city within the early part of the day. Within a short time the message had circulated everywhere in town bringing instantaneous results. Several tall buildings were evacuated, and the government had a tough time convincing people that it was just a rumor. But as one news reporter interestingly noted on the evening news, the government had the toughest time persuading its own employees, for almost all the buildings where people evacuated house the various government agencies.

The TV news footage showed throngs of people walking from tall buildings, gathering at the parking lots just outside the buildings and staring up the buildings to see if they would detect any movement. A case was reported where people in a residential area spent the night out of their houses after feeling the earth tremors at about 3am. Meanwhile, the government insisted once again that there is no apparent danger since the aftershocks being experienced are coming from some volcanic activities at a mountain far away from Nairobi. To calm down raw nerves, the government Public Relations office roused slumbering university professors from the Geology Department and presented them before the cameras even before they had a chance to properly comb their loooong gray academic beards. This however did not stop the heroes for the day from doing excellent presentations, with flipcharts, felt pen markers, and overhead projectors during the press conference. And then at some point in the much watched news programme, a spokesman for the association of Architects un-rang the government’s bell by claiming that with a slightly stronger earthquake, 90% of all the buildings in Nairobi are likely to collapse due to inadequate structural design.

One employee from the Ministry of Education must have had the idea of an impromptu holiday while being interviewed on TV as she evacuated herself from the relatively short Jogoo House. She said, “It looks like it is unsafe to work in town any more! So, I will just go back home and stay in my house!” And as she said that, a man with a megaphone could be heard imploring people to go back to their offices and work.

It is disheartening to see genuine worry in the faces of many people who seem thoroughly shaken by the unexpected instability in their worlds. However it is also easy to notice that for others, the adrenalin that the unexpected brouhaha has caused in the last few days is a welcome break from daily drudgery. You can bet that quite a number of Bibles have received a good dusting as their owners attempt to get reacquainted with God after a long while. All this panic is contagious and it is interesting to see how various people are reacting; some not quite in the way one would expect. It reminds me of the yet to be verified story of a pretty young lady who paid a visit to the doctor after having suffered considerably in silence:

In confidence she told him, “Doctor, I have a very embarrassing problem.” Setting his spectacles firmly on the bridge of his nose, the doctor asked, “What is the problem?” and the distressed lady replied, “My breasts seem to always want to point to the sky!” After scribbling down a few notes on his writing pad, the doctor said with professional interest, “Can you show me how that happens?” With that, the girl stood up from her chair and unbuttoned her blouse, revealing perfectly normal breasts. However, within a short time, the breasts quickly lifted on their own volition and the nipples pointed to the sky. Looking puzzled, the doctor stood up and said to the young lady, “Madam, I cannot tell you what your medical problem is, but I can assure you that the condition is highly contagious!” He said as he pointed at his massive erection.

Two Sides Of A Coin

July18

The most effective way that I know of transporting my mind through time is by playing music in my head. The reason is because every song that I know has the ability to enable me go to a particular time and place so vividly that I remember details that I could not visualize in any other way. For example, the song Imagine Me by Kirk Franklin puts me squarely in an afternoon traffic jam in December at the Uhuru Highway roundabout near the Nairobi Railway Station and I can clearly hear myself tell my friend to listen to the short violin interval that appears in the song, doing what a beautiful necklace does to the overall looks of a well dressed woman. On the other hand, the song She’s Got The Vibe takes me back to my days as a student in the early 1990s when I was first introduced to the singer R. Kelly by a friend called Chris Mbogo. Back then the now bald R. Kelly used to have long hair shaped into the “box” style that ruled the day, and I can still see that image on the cover of Chris’ cassette tape.

These two musicians – Kirk Franklin and R. Kelly are similar in a way, and yet quite different. A few years ago, they came together in a collaboration that included other music greats like Bono of U2, Crystal Lewis and Mary J. Blige to record a very inspiring song called Lean On Me. The refrain of the song says:

I am here
You don’t have to worry, I can see your tears
I’ll be there in a hurry when you call
Friends are there to catch you when you fall
Here’s my shoulder, you can lean on me

In his public image, Kirk Franklin is best known for his gospel music and also as a saved Christian. Several years ago, Kirk came out publicly to share his struggle with pornographic addiction. This bold move came in the midst of legal battles that primarily centered on the millions of dollars that came after his breakthrough success in the music industry. All in all, Kirk confesses that this was one of the darkest periods that he had to go through as a Christian and as a human being. In the song Imagine Me, he candidly says:

This song is dedicated to people like me, those that struggle with insecurities, acceptance and even self esteem, you never felt good enough, you never felt pretty enough but imagine God whispering in your ear letting you know that everything that has happened is now gone! Gone! It’s Gone, All Gone!

In his public image, R. Kelly is best known for his “bump and grind” brand of music that promotes the typical image of a booty obsessed, virile, hard partying, black male celeb. To date, if there is anything that is yet to be sang about sexual exploits, you can be sure that R. Kelly is already composing a song to make up for the oversight. R. Kelly is notorious for his lusty designs on young girls. He is best remembered for wooing and wedding the late singer with Aliyah Haughton when she was just 15, and more recently for a court case involving sexual offences on a minor. His thug image belongs to the R&B genre that is not to be confused with the firearm violence prone gangster rapper.

Once in a while, R. Kelly pops into the studio and sings phenomenally inspiring music. You might know such songs as The Storm is Over, The Worlds Greatest and I am your Angel (with Celine Dion). Personally, I consider You Saved Me – a song in which he passionately talks about the grace of God – to be the epitome of R. Kelly – inspiring music.

It takes a lot of courage for anyone to break formation and publicly do something that conflicts with the image that he or she has cultivated over the years. When a “thug” like R. Kelly records music that talks about the Love of Jesus Christ, it perhaps takes as much courage as it did Kirk Franklin to publicly talk about his addiction. Anyone who rates courage highly would consider these two musicians similar in that score.

These two artists remind us of the human nature that seeks to experience different aspects of this life. One cannot be all bad since even the worst person desires to warm his or her cold heart with the tiny flame of goodness that forever burns inside. This is in much the same way that once in a while, even the very best falls far below the score line. If life were a coin and the head and tail sides represented the “good” and “bad” aspect in each one of us, let us agree with ourselves that once in a while we will fail to make the correct prediction. Knowing that we still have another chance to rise up when we fall keeps us trying. Hopefully, at some point we can all join Kirk Franklin is singing the following words from the song Imagine Me:

Every Sin, Every Mistake, Every Failure
It’s All Gone!
Depression Gone By Faith
It’s Gone!
Low Self Esteem, Halleluiah
Its Gone, All Gone, It’s Gone!
All My Scars All My Pain It’s In The Past , It’s Yesterday
It’s All Gone ( Can’t Believe It’s Gone)!
What Your Mother Did, What your Father Did, Halleluiah
It’s Gone, All Gone!

Tremors And The Election Year Prophesy

July17

The prediction has come true once again. Kenya is currently experiencing yet another notorious spell of senseless killings that happen every five years, just before the national parliamentary and presidential elections. These killings of innocent people are usually instigated by amorphous terror gangs that seem to have the ability to permeate through a tight net of crack security personnel, kill using crude weapons and automatic rifles, burn, loot and rape, before slipping though the same cordon. On being questioned, the well armed security personnel often promise that they will diligently hunt down the assailants, and promptly disappear into the bush before they can answer any questions. The arm of the government responsible for security seems just as vague about the nightly orgies. Unfortunately, reports on the ground often seem to indicate that the terror happens in the full knowledge of the government sponsored security. In some instances, the raiders are even ferried using government vehicles!

And now, it seems as if nature has borrowed from us. In the last few days, Kenyans have lived in terror as mild earthquake tremors rock various parts of the country. No one seems to be quite sure just what is happening. On Sunday, the government department responsible for such occurrences reported that the tremors are being caused by seismic activities originating from a neighbouring country. If we did not know any better, we would assume that the government has failed once again to protect its people from outside aggression as often happens when raiders from across the border attack its citizens.

Anyway, on Sunday people rested with a sigh of relief, but as the tremors continued yesterday and today, worry is almost turning to panic. Every radio station is jammed with calls with anxious listeners wanting to know exactly what is happening.

Part of the reason why the mild tremors have caused a lot of hullabaloo is because a few months ago, a self proclaimed prophet appeared on prime time TV news to inform the public that the Nairobi City will soon be destroyed by a powerful earthquake. The reason he gave was because God is angry especially because of the rampant sexual immorality in the society – including the church. The prophet mentioned the area that will suffer the most damage. I wonder how many people are considering moving away from Westlands?

I stayed late in town last night, and just from a glance I could tell that it is the wrong people that are worried. I was tickled by the fact that while the church going, sexually moral people were horrified in their beds as they wonder what fate God has for them, in town the party was still kicking as strong as ever. Despite being a Monday, clubs were jumping and the prostitute infested Koinange street’s red light was blazing full on. This reminded me of the politicians whose concern never seems to go beyond issuing press statements when the election year killings are going on. At that time, each one of them is busy planning their campaigns and aligning themselves with political parties to pay much attention to anything else. And yet, it is an open secret that some of them sponsor the terror gangs. In the meantime, innocent men, women and children cower in their tiny houses waiting for the next attack.

We are all hoping that the prophet on TV was misadvised and the earthquakes will not go beyond the current murmurs. Let us also hope that the violence that is currently taking many lives in our society will come to a stop, once and for all. In the meantime, we can find courage in the remarkable words that were uttered by Abdullahi Yusuf, the president of Somalia during a peace meeting held on Sunday in Mogadishu: “Do not fear,” Yusuf said, as anxiety spread through the packed hall after three explosions rumbled in the streets outside “You will only die when your stated time comes.”

Eating My Swine

July17

It is quite late in the day and I still have not had lunch. The reason is because I do not want to spoil my appetite which I am reserving for Justin’s home made meal of pork. Justin is my Zimbabwean friend who works in Somaliland. With Somaliland being a Muslim county, Justin has to wait until he comes to Nairobi before indulging in this delicacy. And so as I run errands on an empty stomach, I look forward to going home to “eat my swine”.

The fact is that I only eat pork when Justin is around. And I suppose the reason why both of us look forward to enjoying his special home cooked meal of pan fried pork is because we have glamorized it by borrowing the words of one of Oliver Mtukudzi’s songs. I am not sure if anyone else will consider it glamorous, but to us, “eating our swine” is as appealing as the wrongness of one man saluting his friend, “What’s up my dog!”

In the song, Oliver Mtukudzi, the popular Zimbabwean musician and a much celebrated African artist laments the life of too much drinking, partying and socializing. In the song, he moans:

I just wanna get home and kiss my wife
I just wanna get home and drink my wine
I just wanna get home and eat my swine

Due to religious and cultural sensitivity, Justin has never eaten pork or other products made from the pig while in Somaliland. However, like many people who stay for a considerable time in that country and other Muslim States, Justin acquired and incorporated the term “Inshallah” in his day to day speech. Inshallah is an Arabic word than means “If Allah wills” or simply, “God willing”. For an average Somalilander, no sentence that contains a promise for the future is complete without “Inshallah”. For example, when people are leaving the office at the end of the day, they will say to each other, “Let us meet tomorrow, Inshallah!”

I have seem many people – even some who show open disdain in matters of God – seriously consider the implications of daily use of “Inshallah”. I suppose the fascination lies in the simple yet attractive way that people in Somaliland resign all the activities that are out of their hands to the fate of God. Without a doubt, using “Inshallah” is as effective as continuously asking for God’s will in one”s life. Did you know that many people want to know God’s will in their lives, yet do not ask for it?

For now, I just wanna get home and eat my swine.

The Headbutt Revisited

July17

Last night, my friend watched a re-run of the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals between France and Italy. So today, he was excited to give me a commentary of the match, including the infamous Zinedine Zidane headbutt. But the commentary did not move past the fateful 110th minute since we spent the rest of the time just discussing the reasons that might have triggered Zidane’s unexpected behavior.

Having prior knowledge of the headbutt, my friend was keen to observe the circumstances that Zidane was operating under throughout the match. He concluded was that the player appeared tired from physical exertion in addition to being frustrated by the play in the field.

When a person is under considerable stress, he or she consciously or unconsciously looks for an opportunity to vent the pressure. In such circumstances, the end is so important that the means often become secondary, and might not always be acceptable to the person or to those around him or her. For example, in the common case that we are all familiar with of stress at the workplace; the Boss might end up quarrelling the subordinates, a spouse might be unkind to his or her partner, and a parent might become impatient with his or her children. All these undesirable behaviors might be uncalled for, and hence leave the victim feeling hurt and confused and the aggressor feeling guilty and angry. The guilt would be as a result of the misdeed and the anger would be directed to self for lack of constraint.

I suppose that one of the things that puzzle many people is the reason why Zidane lost his cool during the most significant game in his career. Wasn’t it unpardonably stupid? I suppose the importance of this game, plus the fact that the expectations of a whole nation, not to mention millions of soccer fans around the world lay on his shoulders, only added to the pressure he was under. If all the players were balloons at a child’s birthday party, Zidane would have been the biggest, most colorful and most conspicuous. When you were a kid, perhaps you noticed that it was only the biggest and most beautiful balloon that popped for no apparent reason? Did you also notice that it made an unexpectedly loud clapping sound, startling everyone? Of course you now know that the reason is because the more pressure there is in a balloon, the easier it is to pop, and the louder the sound it makes on bursting. Clearly, it would be unfair to dismiss Zidane’s headbutt as just another case of being buttheaded.

Everyone has a button that when pressed could result in a fit of stark, raving, mad rage. If that button is pressed when a person is not ‘himself’ or ‘herself’ ‘” say when a person is drunk, or depressed, or stressed ‘” the results are not often pleasant. For example, every guy knows just what depths of insanity a ‘your mother’ insult could stir when delivered when one is drunk ‘” even by a best friend. And yet, the same joke might be taken with just mild discomfort under different circumstances. Given the right mix of circumstances, the most coy and puny would take on a WWF wrestler resulting in perhaps another monumental song in the league of ‘Coward of the county’ by Kenny Rogers.

‘Coward of the county’ is a country song about a young man ‘” Tommy – whose father had died in prison. Before his demise, the father made Tommy promise to stay out of trouble, by avoiding doing the things that his old man had done. Since the age of ten, Tommy had kept the promise until the day when a group of local toughies took advantage of his girlfriend named Becky. When Tommy found Becky crying after the ordeal, he went to confront the gang, but found himself incapable of doing anything. At the face to face encounter with the gang, his father’s reasoning prevailed and he decided to walk away from trouble. But then, one of the boys made a grave mistake: As Tommy walked away, he taunted loudly, ‘Hey! Look old yellow’s leaving!’? With that, Tommy froze half way across the room, turned around with fire in his eyes and a crazed look on his face. In an unexpected fit of fury, Tommy sprinted across the room and lunged his whole self on the bullies with kicks, blows, bites and headbutts. By the time he was done, none of the bullies was standing. And as he gained his composure after the orgy of violence, Tommy boldly said to the voice of his father, ‘sometimes you’ve got to fight when you are a man!’?

When anger takes over and we find ourselves in situations that we had not planned to be in, we should lay aside our pride and apologize. That kind of humility is what would be required for an employer to apologize to his employee, a partner to say ‘I am sorry’ to the other partner, or a parent to ask for forgiveness from a child. A sincere apology to those we have wronged elicits understanding from them. This is especially important since we so badly need them to do so. Apart from that, we should continue asking for and receiving joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are the gifts of the Holy Spirit promised in Galatians 5 in the Christian’s New Testament Bible.

« Older Entries