Thursday, February 28, 2013

More of Africa in the city

As we mentioned earlier, we have a marvelous Game Reserve near our home here in the city.  Here's a few more photos.
Vervet monkeys everywhere!

A monitor lizard over a meter long.
Kudu are BIG, but have good camouflage.
It's pretty amazing to be living so close to a herd of impala, kudu, warthogs, ostrich, and zebra.  I have been told that there are a few more species that we didn't see.  We'll try again when the grass and leaves die back a bit.

I often feel, as I was sharing with some Christian students last week, that I am blessed above all men.  To be able to live in Africa, even though it has its challenges, is amazing.  To be able to get paid whilst doing this, is even better!

G^d is good, when it seems that way, and when it does not.  Our ability to see what G^d is doing and why, is no better than was Job's.  That's why we must live by faith.

Thank you L^rd!  Now how can I express that?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Keeping it short

Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening.” Dorothy Sarnoff.

I try to keep these blog posts short.   I am not that good a writer to be able to hold your interest for more than a few lines.  I’m guessing most of my posts are under 300 words; or hopefully, just long enough.

A friend showed me a book on Friday.  Title was Affluenza.  It was over 500 pp!  I would have thought he could have said it more concisely, but maybe it is a big topic.

The disciple, John, tells us, that if they had recorded everything that Jesus said and did, not even the world could contain the books.  That is a big claim, but if we consider what is recorded, and what has been written about what was said, done, and recorded, that would be a pretty big pile.

Much of what I say is fluff, but not so of the Word of G^d.  Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “The Word of G^d is alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, sufficient even to the dividing asunder of the soul and the spirit (that’s a fine cut), the joints and the marrow (that’s a strong cut), and (here comes the big one) is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  Wow!

L^rd thanks for Your Word.  Thanks for its power and fine cutting.  L^rd, Holy Spirit, hide G^d’s word in our hearts, that we would not sin against Thee.

Here is a photo of Brenda in my office.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Free to Obey

One of my best Christian friends and I have had a long and hard disagreement.  My friend is hostile towards the Law, particularly the Foundational Testament (most call Old Testament, but I think that leads us the wrong way) law.  He puts great emphasis on the Christian Testament (I eschew use of New for a book written over 2000 years ago) passages alluding to being no longer “under” the law.

And, on this point, I totally agree.  We are no longer UNDER the law.  Paul talks about this in Romans, and I think we misunderstand these passages.  But that does NOT mean the law is gone, or useless. 

There should be NO doubt that we are NOT under the law, but under grace.  Which I think is crucial.  We have been given, as a gift, unearned, a great treasure of MERCY and GRACE.  When we realize that G^d gave us these gifts at GREAT COST to Himself, it should stir immense gratitude.  And when I feel great gratitude, I am compelled to express that gratitude somehow.

What to do?   I could write a thank you note or email.  I guess I could buy a thank-you gift.  But this somehow seems inadequate.  Perhaps G^d himself has advised us on how to show Him gratitude.  Hmm, maybe He has said something about obedience.  Maybe he said something about keeping His commandments.

Perhaps, perhaps, we ought NOT to be looking for the minimal obedience towards the minimum set of laws.  Perhaps we ought to be so excited about obedience that we are constantly looking for ways to be MORE OBEDIENT.  Perhaps.
I have blogged this topic before, it seems familiar.  Perhaps it bears repeating.  Perhaps.

Monday, February 25, 2013

I Love Trees

I love trees.  I am thrilled that Gaborone, and UB have an abundance of trees of many varieties.

by: Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)
      THINK that I shall never see
      A poem lovely as a tree.
      A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
      Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
      A tree that looks at God all day,
      And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
      A tree that may in Summer wear
      A nest of robins in her hair;
      Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
      Who intimately lives with rain.

      Poems are made by fools like me,
      But only God can make a tree.

Only G^d can make a tree... and do a LOT of things far beyond us mortals.  As Dirty Harry said so well, "A man's just got to know his limitations."  It's about G^d; not me, not us, not humanity.

"But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.  He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."  Jer 17:8

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Africa at Last!

Early Friday morning I awoke to a wonderful... sight- dreary overcast skies.   The Gaborone Game Reserve doesn't open until 0630 and closes at 1830.  There is too much light for good animal viewing this time of year at opening or closing.  So overcast was perfect for seeing animals.

We hurried out the door, and drove 10 minutes to the Game Reserve Entrance arriving at 0637.  I expected they would open late, but they were ready when we arrived.  I paid the $4 to get Brenda, me and our auto into the park.

We drove down the lane and hadn't gone 400 m when we saw our first warthogs with an ostrich in the background.  We eased another 2-300 m and came upon a herd of zebra with a colt, along with a warthog mom and piglets.

That's a prized sighting behind those three ostriches, a female kudu. The warthogs are neat to see too.

G^d's creation is "writ bold" in Africa, at least the parts I have seen.  Brenda and I have loved seeing wildlife from Costa Rica to Alaska, to Northern Sweden, and now in southern Africa.

Will post more photos of local fauna soon!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

UBots Students

I have an NEW teaching experience.   I have 184 students on the roll in my Tests and Measurements class.  It can be near-chaos at times.  The students can get very quiet, and they all can get very noisy.  I have never been LESS in control of a class than this.

Botswana has a terrific concept of  Higher Ed-- it's free to all.   This has positives and negatives.  It could lead to a highly-educated populace; or not.  Perhaps it is noteworthy that Sweden has had the same system...until just now.   I suspect that Botswana is one of the few countries left with free Higher-Ed.

Let me tell you, it is an enormous challenge to try to teach basic statistics to anyone.  Tests and Measurements is a required course.  Those in teaching know what that means.  I have some very good students in this class who will do very well.  I also have some other students.

On the other hand, I also teach a class of 20 very sharp students in an Exercise Physiology II class. It is optional and perceived to be hard, which may explain the smaller class size.   Thus far I have been very impressed with the strong foundation of these folks.

I suspect this is a metaphor for Christianity.  Some folks are here because of compulsion, others are involved because they want to be; they see the value.  One group may be there rather begrudgingly, one group is there with joy.

I guess the key Christian question is,  which group am I in?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Food and Fat

In the USA, our dietary goals often include reducing fat intake.  Most of us do NOT realize that this is a very recent phenomenon.  In the USA, our problem is getting too many calories.  We live sedentary lifestyles, and we burn few calories.  When caloric intake exceeds total expenditure, the extra calories are stored as fat.  It’s really not so complex as to require tons of books and billions of dollars in research grant funding.

Most of us forget that it hasn’t always been that way.  In some countries, like our own 60-70 years back, and some in southern Africa, the problem historically has been in GETTING SUFFICIENT calories, not getting too many.

Fat happens to be an excellent way to store calories because it is relatively light and compact.   So, if you are in a situation that NEEDS calories, eat fat.  The Inuit people are known for this.  The same is true in some parts of Africa.  High fat food was necessary for survival just a few decades past.  Food culture apparently changes much slower than activity culture apparently.  It did in the US.  I'm going to call it "the grandmother effect".

So, last week, I was wearing my favorite pair of light Khaki trousers for the first time.  I bought lunch in the student refectory (cafeteria).  As I was walking away with a BIG plate of food, I inadvertently spilled a few drops of liquid on my trousers just above the knee.

Guess the constituents of the liquid.

I was able to verify the high fat content of the liquid, first when I ate the food, and later when I tried to clean off my pants.  I suspect that the caloric consumption of Africans will soon cause public health issues.  Diabetes, reportedly, is already too common here.

"But where’s the spiritual connection?" you ask.

We are…. Spiritually sedentary, with a high-calorie consumption of entertainment, ego-centrism, and self-improvement.   Fat is a dietary necessity, and a little fun, selfishness, and self-improvement are necessary.  Just don’t let over-consumption become a Spiritual public health issue.

See, these two are really closely connected.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bathrooms vs toilets

For several days now, I have been trying to get a key that will let me in the bathroom three doors down from my office.  Since I can't hold it for several days, I have trekked to one of several bathrooms available a few blocks away.  These LOCKED bathrooms look really clean and convenient, so I have persisted in my efforts.

Finally yesterday, I learn that I must fill out a form to get a key.  Of course!  After some trouble, I obtain a form and fill it out.  Whereupon I discover that I need my Department Head's signature.  Only a few hours later, I have the form signed and ready.  Now I learn I must transport it to maintenance, wherever they are located.

On my morning run around campus, I make a two or three inquiries and discover where maintenance is.  I am 15 min early, so they guy there, Sagha, grumbles that it is only 0730, but he reluctantly accepts my form anyway.

An hour or so later, there is a knock on my office door.  A man, who turns out to be a key shop guy, asks me where these mysterious "bathrooms" are.  I then learn, sort of, that there is a BIG distinction between a "bathroom" which has to have bathing facilities, and a "toilet" which just has a toilet.  Regrettably, and apparently unforgivably, I have called a toilet a restroom and thereby caused considerable confusion.

Please forgive me everyone, everywhere.  I meant no harm, I am merely a simpleton.  Now, if I could just have a key, my bladder would be so grateful!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

It's Official: Not an Idiot!

One of the things Brenda and I had to do for the Immigration Office here is get a medical examination.  I got mine right after arriving and Brenda got her's last week.  Just like in the USA, the wait was substantially longer than the visit with the Doc.  But it had to be done.

Brenda was especially proud of her results, and wanted me to share them with you.  See:

Brenda and I are proud to announce, We are officially not:
  • idiots, 
  • feeble-minded, 
  • or imbeciles;
no matter what evidence to the contrary may suggest.

Some people have suggested that I (Phil) would have to be crazy to do some of the things I have done.  Others suggest Brenda is crazy to have let me, and to have gone along on some of the adventures.

But, we are in good company.    King David feigned insanity at one point just to survive (1 Sam 21:13).  On some occasions G^d called on people to do what appeared to be crazy things.  E.g. Gideon attacked 135,000 Midianite warriors with only 300 Israeli troops!  But G^d gave the victory anyway!

As someone once said,  "I am a fool for Jesus, whose fool are you?"

Hey, we have a piece of paper to prove we are mentally ok, what do you have?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pastoral View

Our apartment in Froson, Sweden had a terrific view.  Most mornings we awoke to a postcard like view of fresh snow covering evergreen boughs.  Our main window faced East, so we saw the morning sun.  It moved from south to north with the season.  We saw the main government building, the onion across the frozen lake.

Here, the view isn't so good, but could be a LOT worse.  Here is what we see now:

Now, it's not Sweden, but it could be a lot worse.   Here we are in the MAJOR city of Botswana, just a few hundred meters from the Uni, and we see trees and grass.  Not bad.  Few city apartments have such a pleasant view, I'm guessing.

As we sit with morning coffee, feeling the cool morning breezes, we see and hear birds calling all around.  There is NO parking lot or busy street visible from our patio window/door.

G^d's creation trumps man's every time.  G^d's plans trump my plans every time.  G^d's gifts surpass our desires, every time (Eph.3:20, "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us...)

When will I act on the truth of these observations?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Making a Mountain out of an Ant Hill

 Ants, I was once told by the venerable E.O. Wilson, a Pulitzer Prize winner and native Alabamian, are the largest animal, by mass, on earth.  Ants also supposedly, outnumber us by about a million to one! Allegedly, ants can lift a weight twice their own! So, don't mess with them!

 Indeed, one of the most prevalent animal signs in and around Gabs are the enormous ant mounds.  Like these pictured here, all of which and more we photographed in a single morning drive of less than 3 hours.
In truth, a couple of these could be termite mounds, we haven't yet learned the nuances that distinguish them, but they are impressive nevertheless.  We finally stopped filming them, there were just too many!


According to Scripture, we can learn something from these ants.

"Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest." (Proverbs 6:6-8)  And builds magnificent edifices (Phil).

"Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer..."(Proverbs 30:24-25And build magnificent edifices (Phil).

G^d's creativity is amazing!


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Batswana Burgers

Pricing in Botswana is pretty tricky.  Some things, mangos, hair clippers, are very inexpensive.  Other things, like computers, are pretty pricey.  Hamburgers are pretty pricey, similar to the prices we saw in Sweden, but with lower GDP.  Most of the goods on the shelf have been shipped in.  Because Botswana is landlocked, and because rail is unreliable, lots of goods come in over the highways.
Last Sunday, we were hungry at lunch time and stopped in a grocery deli counter.  They had a Batswana “pie”, a flaky pouch of good bread wrapped around a meat interior.  They look like a fried pie, and come with a variety of stuffings including:
  • Curried beef (good)
  • Russian (a thin sausage- not a favorite)
  • Chicken (probably the most popular meat, along w beef).

There may be others too, but this is all we have seen so far.  They cost about $0.75 each, and they are quite filling.  They seem to be available lots of places, and seem pretty popular.

 But, keep in mind, Man cannot live by bread (or burgers or pies) alone.