Returning to Africa

I leave for Lesotho in eleven days. The picture here is a scan of a badly scratched film print of M’e Mpho Nthunya and me in 1992 under a rainbow in the mountains of Lesotho. She was 62, I was 47, and we hadn’t yet written her book, Singing Away the Hunger. Her book is the biggest thing either of us ever achieved. We’re not likely to top that. In this picture, she’s wearing my jacket, one I still have, still wear. The jacket is the only thing in either of our lives that hasn’t changed.

Now I’m older than she was then, she’s eighty, and Lesotho has changed profoundly. AIDS has proved a plague on the whole population. Most of the people I knew are dead. Random violence has increased. Poverty is worse. It’s unlikely that I can fix anything, and as Thomas Wolfe knew, you can’t go home again. Six years I lived in southern Africa, and it was my home for those years. I left at the end of 1998, and now I am returning, and I need to go, and to the extent possible, to bear witness. To document. To record. To preserve the stories and the voices and whatever is there: because it’s what I can do. If all goes according to plan, I’ll come back to Oregon at the beginning of November. I’d like to stay longer, but that’s all the time I can afford. I’ll be moving in on my dear friend Chris Dunton (more about him later), and I expect a month of my company is as much as any human being can stand.

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Starting again

Let go of the fantasies. Return to the breath. Begin a new blog.

Given circumstances: free, single, with enough money to get by and no need to earn it if I’m very frugal. At home in a sweet little studio apartment in subsidized housing in NW Portland, Oregon. I hear the rattle of the streetcar, the hum of traffic, boat whistles and train whistles, voices in the street. My windows open onto tree tops. I smell the Moroccan restaurant on the corner, the coffee shop across the street. It’s an urban life, but peaceful. A few friends but no companion. Just me, restless. Continue reading

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