What is so important about the idea of necessary suffering? Why is it necessary? The question of why is suffering necessary is probably the greatest and most problematic question in Christian theology. Why is there suffering? How is God good if there’s so much suffering on this Earth? There’s no answer that appeals to the rational mind. The answer lies elsewhere; I’m going to therefore start with the psychology. Carl Jung and many others said that suffering is the only thing strong enough to defeat the imperial ego. In other words, when you’re in control, in charge, looking good, building your tower of success — which is what you expect a young person to be doing into their 30s — you get so addicted to it that you think it’s the only game in town. When that game falls apart, it’s because it’s largely a self-constructed game, a game at which you can look good, you can succeed, you’re building your own kingdom, which is not, in Christian language, what Jesus calls the Kingdom of God, so your little kingdom usually has to fail you. It has to fall apart. It has to, or you’ll remain narcissistic, egocentric well into your later years, asking questions like what makes me feel good? What makes me look good? What makes me make money? Many people do. It might feel like success, but no spiritual teacher would agree. First half of life preoccupations won’t get you into the great picture, the big picture, which Jesus would call the Reign of God. So, necessary suffering is whatever it takes to make your small self fall apart, so you can experience your big self–maybe what Buddhists would say is your Buddha self. We would say your Christ self, your God self. It doesn’t really matter. You can tell people who have passed over from the first to the second half of life, usually you can tell it within the first ten minutes, whether someone is still building their tower of success. And that isn’t even wrong; it’s just they have something else to experience, and you pray for them and you hope that they will be able to see suffering as a doorway and not an obstacle when it happens.


Nigh on 4 months ago I thought we'd be moving soon. How misled and naive I was back then. Yet even now I am too lazy to figure out how to get the double dots over the "i" in naive.

I haven't written about one single country in Africa, as I intended. Maybe I'll start doing that now that things are crazy and we're moving to Kuala Lumpur.

Did I mention we're moving to Malaysia?

I don't think anyone reads this thing anymore but I kind of figure that if I ever do get up and writing again some day, perhaps someone will start reading it again. Or maybe it will just turn back into my kind of weekly journal type thing. Who am I kidding, right?

Its nice to be moving to a new country with Caroline, not just on my own. It sucks that I'll have to leave her there for 3 of our first 5 weeks in country, but it is what it is. At some point I'll also have to come back to Nairobi to close out things like selling the car and so forth. What with the election timing this could prove to be more difficult than I thought.

In a way I'm kind of bummed that I won't be here for the election, but better than having to travel for work and having to leave Care back here alone behind. That wouldn't have been sawa.

I'm surprised how much Kiswahili I was able to pick up. I don't have a penchant for languages and the only other white people here that speak more than me are those who do have the knack. So that's something.

Maybe I'll pick up some Mandarin whilst bouncing around Asia.

Reading: Liar's Poker, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes
Watching: Sports Night Season 2, 30 Rock Season 3
Listening: Rat Pack music / Count Basie, and The Lumineers

I'm getting a motorcycle in Malaysia. I feel like I've been good about eating better this year. We're going to the coast here one more time this weekend - malaria, this may be your last chance to finally get me for a while.

I love my friends here and will miss Kenya.


It looks like my time in Africa may be coming to a soon end, at least for the time being. I didn't realize it this past August, but the middle of that month marked 5 years from when I first came over. That was a fast 5 years.

I won't go into what's next yet because it is still in the works, but I expect the works to work relatively fast at this point.

In the meantime, it is time to start writing again. I always said, at least in my head, that the purpose of coming here was to pursue some good thing, but then to be able to write about it. The writing part of me has been sucked dry by the work and insane amounts of travel over the years, but I have seen much and should have something to say about some of it by this point. I'm not sure any of it is congealing into a cogent thought or collection thereof just yet, but basic observations are at least in order for the moment.

By my count I've been to 22 of the 56 countries on the continent (if you count the small island nations). If I can mark one more at some point - shouldn't be too hard, I can claim half, and I doubt many can claim that of this place.

My short term goal is to write a post about each - in ascending order of my affinity for the country. Which means we will start at the bottom, with Tchad (Ou, en anglais: Chad) where I've been working recently and have very firm and fresh opinions about.

I have enjoyed my time here, in Africa, in general. It has been my first experience of living abroad, in 2 countries (arguably more, based on the sheer amount of time I stayed in some of them). It has been my first experiences as an expat, and I say they are plural because, well, they are. I hope some of these things gain more clarity as I write about them.

I hope to make the time to include some pictures, or at least do a few photoessayical posts on their own, if not including photos with every post. We'll see.

I'd also like to do some topical posts. Things that might help people understand the context of Africa in our modern world in a bit more detail. Things like languages, and politics, and security, and corruption. Oh yes, the corruption - so very much the corruption. But also things like hope and progress. It almost sounds like I'm running for office.

Stay tuned.


This isn't going to be one of those "I'm going to start blogging again!" blog posts.

I am tired. Really tired. The past 4 out of 5 weeks I have spent away from home, 2 in Pakistan, 1 in Chad, 1 here in Los Angeles. Islamabad wasn't that bad but being in the US again, albeit briefly and pretty much only for work, is so, so damn nice.

You have everything. Everything works. Nothing is broken. Big 12 lane wide freeways with not a single pothole. Not just for miles on end - not ever. Traffic flowing smoothly in both directions, with carpool lanes. People everywhere respecting hundreds of unspoken but mutually agreed rules. No passive aggressiveness. Just niceness.

Everything is possible. If you want cheese on it, you can have it. If you don't want the egg, you can not have it. If you want 10 of them, they aren't going to run out. If you want it at 10 at night, they are as open as they are at 8 in the morning.

Everything is at your fingertips. 16 different versions and flavors of the same thing. In single serving size, or regular size, or family size, or Costco uberfatty size.

The power and water never go out. Or the internet. The internet is freaking everywhere, even on your phone, and it is fast. You can even drink the water, right out of the sink.

So, that has been nice, in all its myriad forms. But I'm still tired. I think a big part of me is tired of not writing anymore.



From the moment the invaders arrived, breathed our air, ate and drank, they were doomed. They were undone, destroyed, after all of man's weapons and devices had failed, by the tiniest creatures that God in his wisdom put upon this earth.

By the toll of a billion deaths, man had earned his immunity, his right to survive among this planet's infinite organisms. And that right is ours against all challenges.

For neither do men live nor die in vain.

H.G. Wells


“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him — a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.

“It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed–out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. And even though I cannot find a Scripture for it, I believe God then puts a sign out there that says, NO FISHING ALLOWED.’

“The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.

“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back to me with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic piles of dresses and shoes in the center of the room; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

“The place was Ravensbruck and the man who was making his way forward had been a guard — one of the most cruel guards.

“Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’

“And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course — how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

“But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face–to–face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying. ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.

“‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein,’ — again the hand came out — ‘will you forgive me?’

“And I stood there — I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven — and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply by asking?

“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there — hand held out — but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

“For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’

“I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion — I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘Jesus, help me!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart.’

“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then. But even so, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Romans 5:5, ‘… because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.’”


“When we recall the distance and dissimilarity between us and God, it is easy to wonder whether we have the ability to pray and whether coming into God’s presence is a good idea anyway.

Not only does God know that prayer is daunting, but it is even a biblical doctrine that we are not in ourselves equipped for it: Romans 8:26 says, ‘We do not know what to pray for as we ought.’ That same passage goes on to say that ‘the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.’ And within a few verses, a second intercessor appears: ‘Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, indeed is interceding for us’ (Rom 8:34).

Christian prayer has double intercession built into it. The Father not only welcomes prayers, but he has provided mediation and perhaps even mediation of the mediation. Your prayer life is secure in the two hands of the Father.”

— Fred Sanders
The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything


Start with a cage containing five monkeys.

In the cage, hang a banana on a string and put stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana.

As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the monkeys with cold water.

After a while, another monkey will make an attempt with the same response - all of the monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Keep this up for several days.

Turn off the cold water.

If, later, another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it even though no water sprays them.

Now, remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one.

The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his horror, all of the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm.

Replace the third original monkey with a new one. The new one makes it to the stairs and is attacked as well. Two of the four monkeys that beat him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs, or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

After replacing the fourth and fifth original monkeys, all the monkeys which have been sprayed with cold water have been replaced. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs.

Why not?

“Because that’s the way it’s always been done around here.”


In a desperate attempt to defib my erstwhile blog back to some semblance of an animate entity, I uploaded a bunch of my photos taken with the blackberry, and they go back a long way (almost 2 years now). I present them in reverse chronological order, starting with this past weekend.

This is what trying to get a SIM card on a Saturday morning. In Addis Ababa.

This is what I'm hoping will be my next car. Not this exact one, but this model.

There is no happier day for the expat than that of the Care package. Especially when it has BACON!

Look what Brandon and Shannon hath wrought. Namely, Sienna, who has the bluest eyes of any baby of all time.

Pizza! In the DRC. I was just happy to have pizza there. Broke the monotony. Sometimes its kind of sad what you are resorting to for comfort in some of these places.

OK so this is from when I was back in the US, while I was up hanging out in MT with Care's family. Her sister and the younglings needed a ride to the Billings airport. Billings has a Cabela's, which is basically like a Wal-Mart sized hunting / fishing / camping store, which is basically awesome. The Billings one has a 25,000 gallon fish tank *inside the store* and this is that tank. It has all the local species of fish, and it is awesome.

My first proper meal back in the US - from an awesome Mexican joint in downtown SF. God bless Mexico.

Roadside snacks for sale in rural Malawi. They are mice, and you eat them whole. A delicacy!

This was at my hotel in Blantyre, Malawi. This guy was a solid 40 feet above the pavement, sawing off a limb on which he had the ladder leaned up against. With no rope or harness or anything. We had to leave for our meetings so I couldn't stay around to watch him die.

Kind of blurry but this is Sheila and Debbie, the latter of which has forsaken us Nairobite Americanos, and is missed.

Enough said.

OK so this one and the next one are from Accenture's ill-fated bid to bank all of their marketing on the media-elusive Tiger Woods, who I always ALWAYS knew had a dark secret waiting to burst onto the national media. Anyone that famous and that intensely private always does. Anyway, I was only able to capture a few of these in heaven-knows-which-airports when the whole scandal was blowing up, I'm sure by now Accenture's destroyed any evidence of them, but what I wouldn't pay to have one of these to hang in my garage when I some day have a garage...

Also, I think its kind of funny to play that game that people play with fortune cookies where you add the words "in bed" on the end of the Accenture tag line. Works much better post-revelation.

This one and the next two are from our massive (massive) warehouse in Harare, Zimbabwe. Used to be a tobacco warehouse. Now its a mainly food warehouse that we kind of vainly hope government officials won't show up to confiscate before we can distribute it to beneficiaries in the field.

Teton Gravity Research is one of my favorite extreme skiing video producing outfits, out of Wyoming, I believe. I saw this tire cover on the back of a car in Arusha, Tanzania. I am pretty sure I'm one of the few people in the world who's ever been to Arusha that even knows what TGR is. That group does not include the driver of this car.

Whilst in Arusha I found a nice backpackers type lodge that served a semi-American meal. It was nice to have what at least looked to be a "safe" salad. I eat a lot of "safe" salads. Its like salad roulette.

This is the motorcycle that clipped my front side panel when I was making a completely legal right turn (remember in TZ we are on the other side of the road, so that means across the oncoming lane, like a left turn in the US), with my blinker on, and this moron was buzzing down the median line taking his GF for a joyride. What ensued were accusations that he heard one of my colleagues tell me to hit him on purpose, which he apparently heard from his motorbike when all of our car windows were up. I moved my car out of the two lanes instead of leaving it blocking the busiest street in the entire town (also Arusha), which is what you're supposed to do legally while you wait for the cops to show up. I did this after photo-documenting that he moved his bike first, but to no avail - we would end up having to go to the police station, drive the cops back to the scene, be subject to endless lectures that I shouldn't have moved the car (the same one I had to bring them to the scene of the accident in), and then return the cops to the station and wait a couple of hours while they took statements for their report. I didn't insist on filing the report, they made me - I was willing to just leave with the scratch on my vehicle and pay for fixing it myself. The guy who hit me couldn't even afford proper shoe strings for his boots, and being that it was a work motorbike, he probably lost his job anyway.

Somewhere in TZ. "Mustle bound."

This was from Dagoretti School for Boys, which is outside of Nairobi. Jen and I were kind of investigating if it was "outside enough" that if we brought some of the street kids we were working with there, they might actually stay in the school instead of returning to the streets to sniff glue and beg. This is one of those glue bottles that the school kept on a shelf to remind the boys in the school where they had been, and encourage them to stay. I saw one of the boys that we were struggling to keep in a school back on the street the other day. I asked him if he'd let me take him back to the school, and he asked me for money.

This was right in front of my house in NBO. The dogs of war.

From a restaurant I had lunch at in Santo Domingo, D.R. when I got there for a weekend when I was working in Haiti. I took a lot of pictures of that weekend's explorations and have no idea where I put them. Maybe on a backup drive that caught a virus and ate all the data.

Pretty sure this is the airport in Port Au Prince.

This is the High Line Park in NYC, post-redevelopment. So in this case, I was exploring it legally, unlike the previous case. This must have been roughly August of last year when I was around for Dave's wedding.

Sometimes I look at you and wonder whether I miss friends and family more, or you. This makes me feel bad.

This was from right here in Addis, but from July-ish of last year when I was first here. The hotel we stayed in had a floor "-1." I never went to that floor for fear of ending up in a John Malkovich movie.

My first work trip after moving to Nairobi was to Uganda, where I met Ben, at a hotel restaurant where he was having lunch with some of the Save The Children folks he was working with. Why can't my organization work with Ben? Hmph.