Friday, July 4, 2008

My Most Memorable July 4th

This morning as I sat outside drinking my morning coffee and appreciating the silence, I was so grateful for my life. I love it when there's a legal holiday because the sound of commuting traffic echoing in the narrow canyon where I live is absent.

I am grateful for my home, my garden, my current life. I know I am lucky compared to other people. I have seen some of those other people, both here and in other countries.

I began thinking of past July 4ths and the one that stood out was 1976. At the beginning of the year, I was in Africa in the Peace Corps. I regretted not being home for the Bicentennial, but my contract was not yet completed and there was no way I could leave for a vacation at that time of the year.

One thing led to another and I got so ill I had to be "med-evaced" out of the country and ended up in George Washington University Hospital in D.C. having surgery. The night of the July 4th celebration, a group of hospital staff and I watched the Bicentennial Celebration out of the window of my hospital room bathroom. I sat on the toilet seat, the best and only seat in the house, and marveled at how Fate had brought me home for this memorable event.

That night I was proud to be an American. I was glad to be alive (since I had gotten so ill in Africa I didn't know if I would live). And I was relieved to have been able to leave to get the medical attention I needed (which didn't exist where I was). It had taken days to get out of the country, because they would sell tickets but not make reservations. Each day it was first come, first served. People just lined up and pushed and shoved until they got on. Each day, accompanied by someone from the American Embassy, I would go to the airport, wait, and not get on. It was getting drastic as my medical condition worsened.

Finally my chance came. They thoroughly searched my belongings and when they found a coin that I had kept for a souvenir, they accused my of taking their currency out of the country, which was against the law. Fortunately, the embassy person intervened. The plane was already beginning to taxi along the runway. It stopped as I ran towards it. When I got on that PanAm jet, I cried. I felt like I was already on American soil.

My time in the Peace Corps did more for my patriotism than anything else I have ever done. Even though the country I was in was not so bad off (then), it was still such a drastic change from home. I used to dream of being in Safeway. I'd reach for something and it would vanish before I could touch it. In my PC country, "super-markets" had row after row of empty shelves. Sometimes there would be a whole row of one thing, because they had gotten a shipment. We expatriots stock-piled and hoarded. If something came in, the word got round and everyone would run to the store to get it. We had money, but there was nothing to buy.

We had to go to a nearby country for sugar, coffee, flour, gasoline. I had a friend with a land-rover and we made supply runs every few weeks for ourselves and other people. Nothing illegal, just basic foodstuffs. The locals subsisted on manioc, greens, palm oil and pilchards. But few Europeans or Americans could hack a diet like that on a regular basis.

I think that all young people, when they graduate from high school or reach 18, should spend at least one year in a third-world country, so they can appreciate what we have here. Not just the material wealth, but all of it. I have written before about how my students in Africa were hungry for knowledge. They didn't let "poverty" get in their way. They were enthusiastic about learning. They didn't mind if they had one pair of shoes as long as they could get to class. Many people had no shoes.

What does it take to keep America strong?

For me it takes education, appreciation, understanding, compassion and acceptance of differences. It does not take killing, maiming, torturing, force and fire-power. We will never regain the world's respect the way we are going, nor will we gain its love.

These days when I travel, I find myself in the position of having to explain why America is so evil and corrupt. I feel I have to separate myself from the policies of my government, when I live in a democracy. How can we possibly be an example to the rest of the world - which used to look up to us? People in other countries can't understand why we had a coup d'etat and didn't run into the street to stop it.

Now they are talking about Iran.

What are you doing today? Having a BBQ in the backyard with your family? Enjoy. It might be your last.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Another part of us has moved

I started an astrology blog -

I moved the astrology posts that were here and added some new ones.

As a give-away, to promote this blog, I am offering a free report called The Sky Within to the first three people who make a comment and include their birth data and email address. I will not publish these comments, they are only for the promotion. Include your date, time and place of birth (name or gender not required) and your email address, so I can send you the report. The report is by Steven Forrest, a well-known astrologer. To win this report, you must include all the required information.

Go the blog and read the post about a New Day, for more information.

For those who don't know, the first part of us that moved was the herbalism, which can now be found at

Here we will continue with cultural commentary, travel, movies, books, ideas, and observations.