Cyclone Hits Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique

In 2017, a friend Bret Berger and I spent several days in Gorongosa National Park, in northern Mozambique.  The park is directed by Greg Carr, a high school acquaintance of Bret’s.  Northern Mozambique was recently devastated by murderous cyclone (Stephen Leahy, NG):

[Cyclone] Idai made landfall on March 15 with winds up to 100 miles an hour and a storm surge topping 20 feet. Heavy rains accompanied the storm and have continued with six more inches forecast for today, March 19, and not expected to end until March 21, according to the Mozambique National Meteorology Institute forecast.

Flooding is widespread throughout central Mozambique, with roads and bridges washed out, said Gregory Carr, president of the Gorongosa National Park, an area roughly the size of Rhode Island that is located 100 miles inland from Beira [a city that was almost totally destroyed with over 200 confirmed dead]. “We’re right in the middle of the impacted area,” Carr said.

“I’ve been on the phone all morning trying to arrange for U.S. food aid to be helicoptered to our airstrip so we can distribute it to neighboring communities,” Carr said.

At Gorongosa, the stated purpose of the park is to both protect wildlife and meet the needs of nearby communities by providing employment, health care, education, and other services, Carr noted. Now they’re doing disaster relief. “The roads are out but our 260 rangers are great walkers,” Carr said.

Some of the park’s 260 rangers are waste deep in water delivering supplies to people stranded on termite mounds, one patrol leader told Carr today. They plan to return with canoes to rescue them.

Flooding in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique

About half of the park is underwater, but Carr expects minimal impact on animals as they will likely move to higher ground. However, a flooded park means there’s less water to flood local communities. In fact, flood prevention is one of the big benefits of national parks, forests, and natural areas, he said. During droughts, parks and forests are often sources of water and cooling for local regions. “We need wilderness to moderate the impacts of extreme weather events from climate change,” said Carr.

While the park itself is largely not impacted, the surrounding communities have been.  The Carr Foundation is raising money to assist its neighbors.

 The major national emergency response currently cannot focus on our park neighbours, as they focus on the Buzi floodplains further south. In the meantime hundreds of people are trapped along the upper Pungue near the park and are without food and safe water. First signs of disease spreading have been reported. Gorongosa National Park is dedicated to set up its own emergency “Food Programme” and we now have organised our own helicopter and are now working with our rangers in saving our neighbours. We keep you updated as the situation evolves.

You can contribute to the relief efforts here.

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How Important Is It to Obey Laws and/or Rules?

I respect the fictional Robin Hood.  In a system skewed toward the rich, how far should we go (in the way of rule breaking) to assist the poor, damaged, incapacitated, mentally afflicted, etc. I tend to push the system.  But there are always issues.

One example of rule breaking involves the Law of Tithing, because of the way the funds are probably allocated (the leadership doesn’t provide info on Church finances), is it okay to pay 5% and give the rest to Doctors without Borders, Oxfam, Playgrounds Everywhere, or a similar humanitarian organization? Robert Kirby, humorist for the sltrib, suggested that he paid a full tithe, but it didn’t all go to the Church. I have no problem with this rebellion. However, there are obvious drawbacks (ie. loss of a temple recommend).

JKC, commenting on bycommonconsent, made the following observation:

I think it’s clear that Jesus broke rules.  You can argue that those rules were man-made, not God-given, and they were corrupt, but the point Jesus was making is that the rules were corrupt precisely because they exalted obedience to rules over love for our brothers and sisters made in God’s image.  You can reduce Jesus’ teachings to principles and rules, but to say “no he wasn’t breaking the rules he was just restoring the real rules” seems to me to miss the point.

Thus portraying Christ as a rule breaker.  And is Jesus setting an example for us to follow?

On a similar note, the latest Time magazine quotes the Dalai Lama:  “So if some teaching goes against reason, we should not accept it.”  You could substitute law or rule for “teaching” in his quote.

I few years ago, I retired from working for the federal government. I was frequently discouraged with the way money was allocated.  Federal assistance seemed to gravitate toward the haves at the expense of the have-nots. I tried to compensate by pushing the boundaries of programs to assist those in the most need.  I didn’t violate the founding principles of the organization I worked for, but I did liberally interpret modern “rules.” Some might argue, I broke them.

Paul Farmer, Founder of “Partners in Health”

Paul Farmer, founder of one of America’s premiere humanitarian organizations (Partner in Health), admitted in a bestselling book that he sometimes stole from the hospital where he worked so he could help his medical projects in Haiti. I believe that it is important to have an inspired conscience when dealing with important social issues.  It’s critical to push the envelope to assist those in real need.  But to each his own.

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LDS Church Leaders: Please Fix These Problems

There are problems that continue to fester in the Church.  Despite a continuous barrage of negative newspaper articles, blog posts, TV stories, etc., many of them in the national press, nothing changes.  The following problems need to be resolved now, not years from now:

  • The honor code at the Church’s universities.  In it’s current form, it’s a disaster.  University officials tried a half-assed fix a year or two ago and pretty much missed the mark.  The result, another barrage of bad publicity.
  • Worthiness interviews for youth.  The Church system of bishop interviews with adolescent members continues to be problematic.  And the solution is not to excommunicate those highlighting the problem.
  • Word of Wisdom and coffee and tea.  There is nothing nutritionally wrong with coffee or tea.  They both contain a mild stimulant, but so what?  The substitute for the pair–soft drinks–is nutritionally much worse for you (think sugar and fizz).

Is This Better for You Than Coffee or Tea?

  • Complete disclosure of Church finances.  Unless we are happy with behaving like a cult, the leadership needs to have an open account of finances.  There needs to be transparency.  The membership needs to know how much is being spent on temples and other infrastructure, lawyers, lobbyists, public relations, CES including the colleges and universities, humanitarian services, etc.  Clearly the membership needs a say in how money is spent.

The above problems are much more important than the distractions involving name and nicknaming changes, length of church services, and the other trivial issues that we are currently obsessing over.

And the above list doesn’t even include discrimination against LGBTQ+ community and women.  Or the problems of having an oligarchical, right-wing, and elderly white leadership.

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Traveling with My Grandchildren

I’ve traveled with my grandchildren a lot, sometimes with their parent(s), but frequently without. All of my experiences have been great.

On my most recent expedition, my grandson James and I traveled to Jacksonville, Florida, to explore the local game parks. James is fascinated with the wide variety of animals roaming the earth. Two of the Florida parks we visited were particularly notable: White Oak Conservation and Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

My Grandson with Komodo Dragon at the Jacksonville Zoo

On a trip last year, we traveled to Belize and met up with a group from Arkansas, “Share the Lovies.” Our first job was to help install a swing set at a school in Belmopan. After the work was over, we toured Mayan ruins, tubed down jungle rivers, and rode on zip lines. James and I also spent a couple of hours at the Belize Zoo. My grandson enjoyed checking out the Central American animals. The small zoo is very cool.

Last summer, my son and his daughter Madeline spent 10 days in Peru. Our host was a Quechua indian family who lives in Sacred Valley and Cuzco. We alternated between installing playground equipment in remote mountain village schools and visiting Inca archaeological sites like Machu Picchu and Pisac. We also spent time learning about the Quechua culture. A year earlier, James and I made a similar trip, just the 2 of us. On our trips to Peru, assisting our Quechua friends, we’ve installed playgrounds in 10 rural schools.

My Granddaughter Learning about Quechua Culture

A year ago, my son-in-law and his son Rees (James’s older brother) traveled to Uganda. My grandson was working on his Eagle project for Boy Scouts. Our principal purpose was to work with a new school located just outside of Mbale. Rees and his father installed solar lighting systems and a Raspberry-Pi-based, offline internet system. I worked on the school’s playground; the Mbale school now has one of the most extensive playgrounds in Uganda.

My Grandson Teaching about Computers in Uganda

On an earlier trip to Uganda, 5 relatives traveled with me: son, daughter, daughter-in-law, and 2 granddaughters (Alexandra and EV). In addition to installing playgrounds, we visited the animals at Queen Elizabeth National Park.

My Granddaughter Constructing a Swing Set in Uganda

To date, I have traveled internationally with 7 of my 11 grandchildren. My grandkids have visited the Galápagos Islands, explored Machu Picchu and Tikal, safaried in two African wildlife parks, rafted and boated on the Nile, and communed with mountain gorillas.

Take your grandchildren on exciting trips, particularly to developing nations.

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Private Playground near Gunnison, Utah

During a recent trip to Gunnison, UT, to examine the prospects for automating the area’s irrigation delivery system, I had the opportunity to examine a large private playground unit belonging to the Boore family.  It was constructed and installed by the father of the local watermaster.

Private Playground Unit Located South of Gunnison UT

The extensive unit, contains several interesting developments:  a table/bench on the tower;

Table or Bench on the Highest Elevated Fort

a carpeted climbing wall with monkey rings at the top;

Carpeted Climbing Wall with Monkey Rings

chain climbing ladder using quick link connectors; and

Quick Link Connector Used to Fabricate Chain Climbing Ladder

stepped monkey rings (see top photograph).

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Animal Parks Around Jacksonville, Florida

My grandson James enjoys studying animals.  So on our way to Washington DC, we took a brief detour to Jacksonville, Florida.  There we visited 3 wildlife parks.

The first was White Oak Conservation north of Jacksonville on the Georgia border.  It is a privately run affair that specializes in okapis, rhinos, cheetahs, and other endangered species.  They have a beautiful, well-run, plantation-style layout.

The first part of the tour unfortunately dealt with the lifestyles of the rich and famous.  Something I have little interest in, and a subject that bored my grandson.  The second part was a minibus ride through the vast wildlife pastures.

It is impossible to overstate how impressive this sanctuary really is.  The fields are large and the wildlife is healthy, and well-cared for.  White Oak has a large number of rhinos and we spent half of the tour time observing and talking about the 3 varieties they have at the sanctuary:  white, black, and Indian.

White Rhinos Grazing at White Oak

When the guide was asked how many rhinos they have?  He responded that he wasn’t allowed to divulge that info.  But he didn’t say why.

The tour is expensive, but worth every cent.  James got to pet rhinos and feed giraffes.  He also learned a lot about the various animals at the facility.  The only drawback:  we were unable to see the okapis.  A major disappointment for me.

Feeding the Giraffes

There were only 10 individuals on our tour and the the animal portion lasted approximately 2 hrs.  This activity is highly recommended.

Next we visited the Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Refuge, located a few miles east of the Jacksonville airport. We attended the night feeding of about 20 large cats, mostly Siberian tigers.  The cages are crudely constructed and relatively small.  But the tigers appeared healthy.  It is a one-way facility.  Once an animal arrives, it is there for life.

Healthy Siberian Tiger at the Catty Shack

The nightly feeding involved distributing meat to the cats.  This activity attracted a fairly large crowd.  Unfortunately, the feeders seemed to enjoy teasing the cats in order to get them to roar.  I found this distasteful.  It’s too bad the Catty Shack doesn’t have the same financial resources as White Oak.  Skip this activity unless you really want to see Siberian Tigers.

Crowd Gathering Around Caged Tigers at Feeding Time

We also visited the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.  We were rushed for time, but we were able to observe some animals which are not common in zoos:  an okapi, bonobos, a komodo dragon, and lowland gorillas.  All the animals looked healthy and the zoo appeared to be well-run.

Komodo Dragon Enjoying Unseasonably Warm Weather

I was particularly impressed with the bonobo area.  In involved climbing facilities and elaborate running tunnels.  Bonobos are Great Apes and a close relative of the chimpanzee.

Bonobo at the Jacksonville Zoo

As far as zoos go, the Jacksonville Zoo and Garden is worth a visit.

My grandson had a great time perusing the various wildlife facilities in the Jacksonville FL area.

My Grandson and His New Best Friend (BBF), a Lowland Gorilla

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Impoverished Primary Schools in Rwenzori Mountain Villages

We first started traveling to Rwenzori Mountain villages to install playground equipment.  However as we got higher and higher into the mountains, we found the village school facilities to more and more primitive.  It became extremely obvious that the schools needed a lot, in addition to our playgrounds.  The parents are trying hard to provide a future for their children, but they have limited resources.

Rwnzori Mountain Village School

Many schools are made of sticks, mud, wood slats, with metal sheeting for roofs.  And they have problems besides structural:

  • reed mats are used as dividers between classrooms
  • classrooms are seriously overcrowded
  • many without benches, desks, and blackboards
  • schools supplies are very limited

When I was in Uganda in November 2018, I visited 3 such school.  First was located in an Anglican church.  There were no dividers between classrooms, the blackboards were extremely crude, with not enough benches and few desks.

Classroom Located inside an Anglican Church

The second school was the worst I have seen in all my travels in Uganda.  They couldn’t use the church because it didn’t have a roof.  The classroom structures were poorly constructed, some with missing walls.  There were few benches, desks, and blackboards.

Missing Walls, Desks, etc. at Rwenzori Mountain School

The third school was the best.  But it was still primitive with overcrowded classrooms.

Swing Set with Primary School in the Background

School Children Posing inside Their Classroom

When I go back to Uganda in May 2019, I will concentrate on the school structures and interior accoutrements.

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