Travis Smith: my resume, bio and photos back to the main blog page

If it was size and not number that counted in a locust swarm, then I’d be justified in saying I’d witnessed a plague.

As it is, I’ve seen about 15 of them in the two days we’ve been in Grahamstown, South Africa, and they vary in size from double-grasshopper to kitten.

It’s a scary thing, to see an insect with mandibles that could pick up a quarter and fly off with it. It’s even worse to see one in the road when it’s been run over by a car and think that the car might have actually felt the collision. (“What was that bump?” “Oh, just another of those damned locusts—I better get my front end realigned.”)

Susie wondered if these locusts were part of the native South African diet before McDonalds came along. I wondered if they might have become part of the diet after (or because) McDonalds came along.

I then mused that, if everything odd tastes like chicken, isn’t it equally correct to say that chicken tastes like locust?

Since then, we’ve avoided chicken.

Which isn’t hard here—the preferred South African diet is a cross between the U.K. and Texas—large quantities of very good meat, often beef, for every meal, cooked in myriad of bland ways.

The conference is going well, and I’ve met a number of interesting people. Most interesting is how comfortable South Africa feels. It’s much more familiar to North Americans than many of the European countries I’ve been to. Everyone speaks English, the top TV show right now is Big Brother (will Bradford the accusatory isolationist be the next to go?), and the stores sell P & G soap, antiperspirant and shoe inserts. The biggest variation is in the chocolate bars and the fruit—frozen food and canned goods are Del Monte and McLeans.

The other thing that is obvious even from such a cursory exposure as I’ve had, is that while adults struggle with racism and poverty, with changing attitudes and social structures, the children and youth here play together, go to school together, get pissed together and in general are completely past, if not unaware of, the difficulties the country has gone through.

Incidentally, if you think it’s a kick to sit at a computer in California and connect to a Web server running in Kenya with a live Web cam of the African savanna, it’s an even odder, more inspiring feeling to sit at a computer in a lab in Grahamstown, South Africa (probably the equivalent of Whitefish, Montana, or Moorpark, California), and connect to a server at the University of Southern California to chat to students there.

One is a feeling of being a virtual tourist on the cheap, the other is a feeling of true involvement and integration in what is becoming a level global playing field.

On the ‘Net, truly, it’s not where you are or what you are, but who you are.

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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