Grouping Climbing Devices on a Playground (Think Jungle)

While watching the children enjoying a playground in Uganda, I noticed that the students were crossing from one climbing device to another.  The school’s headmistress said that was an activity they enjoyed.

Two Climbing Devices That Children Enjoy Moving Between

On a recent trip to pick up my granddaughter who had just completed a mission in the Montreal, Canada, area, we came across a playground that had a grouping of poles with hand/foot holds.

Climbing Forest in Canadian Playground

Hand/Foot Holds on “Bamboo Jungle”

“Bamboo Jungle” in Eastern Canada

On the Internet, I found the structure below.

3-Device Climber

We tried something along the same idea near Lira, Uganda.

Monkey Rings Extended Between 2 Climbing Towers

Monkey Rings at Survival School, Lira, Uganda

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Traveling with 3 of My Granddaughters

In July and August of this year (2019), I traveled around the world.  On the first half of trip I traveled with 3 granddaughters and 2 of their parents.  We briefly played tourist in Hong Kong, then flew to 2 separate islands in the Philippines, before terminating in Cambodia.

We flew from San Francisco to Hong Kong.  My son had a connection there who introduced us to the ex-British colony.  We spent a day enjoying some of the scenic attractions.  We road the aerial tram and then hiked to the base of a hill crowned with giant Buddha.  In the afternoon, we road to a scenic overlook in the hills above the city.

My Son and His Two Daughters After Hiking to the Base of a Giant Statue of Buddha

From Hong Kong, we flew to the island of Mindanao, in southern Philippines.  We installed a swing set at one primary school, and a playground (including a swing set) at a second.  Our hosts were two families that were friends of my son while he was on his mission in northern Mindanao more than 25 years ago.  They provided great assistance with fabrication and installation of the playground equipment.  In the Philippines, we were joined by my daughter-in-law and her daughter.

Granddaughters Painting a Swing Set near Davao, Philippines

From Mindanao we island hopped to Panay.  There we installed a playground set at a school located about 45 minutes from Iloilo.  This activity is described in a previous post.  While in Iloilo we enjoyed visiting several small scenic islands located just a short boat ride from Iloilo.  The small islands were popular with Filippinos; there were few if any foreign tourists.

Purchasing Refreshments on a Small Island off the Coast of Iloilo, Panay

My Granddaughter Hunting for Seashells with Local Islanders

From Iloilo, we traveled to Siem Reap, Cambodia.  We were picked up at the airport by 2 local LDS Church members who owned tuk-tuks, rickshaws pulled by small motorcycles.  They were our transportation for the next 2 weeks.

Our first activity was to check on 2 swing sets that I and one of the tuk-tuk drivers had installed 6 years ago.  I wrote about this activity in a previous post.  We then identified 2 additional locations for playground equipment.  The first was a large school located in a Buddhist complex.  We installed a swing there.  The second was a small school nearby.  There we installed a swing set and monkey rings, and repaired their seesaw.

The Installation Crew at a Small School near Siem Reap (My 3 Granddaughters are in the Center)

While we were waiting for playground equipment to be fabricated, my family visited nearby Angkor Wat, a massive temple complex located adjacent to Siem Reap.  The granddaughters enjoyed scurrying around the massive collection of ruins.  Angkor Wat is truly one of the wonders of the ancient world.  And there are ancient ruins throughout Cambodia.

My Granddaughters at a Khymer Ruin near Siem Reap

For one playground installation, we headed into a small mountain range near Siem Reap.  There we installed a swing set and slide at a small primary school.  The slide had some welding problems.  The locals, however, found a welder to make the necessary repairs.  As at most of the schools we visited, we were well fed.  And my granddaughters enjoyed interacting with the children.

From Siem Reap, my family headed home.  My son and his two daughter headed home to Lehi, Utah.  After another week, my daughter-in-law and her daughter headed back to the D.C. area.  And I traveled on to Uganda.

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Is LDS Church Guilty of Hypocrisy?

The recent Deseret Books brochure has a full-page promotion for a book titled:  “Bill Marriott:  Success Is Never Final.”  The ad highlights “Bringing work and faith together” and “How a Man of Faith built an empire.”  A man to be emulated because he’s rich and famous.  The Lord has obviously blessed him (think Prosperity Gospel).

The hotel empire that Bill built includes bars, casinos, and until a few years ago pornography.  The latter, not as a producer, as a purveyor (at least I certainly hope).

So it’s okay to own casinos, but not okay to gamble.  It’s okay to make money on pornography, just don’t view it.  It’s okay to own a bar, but not okay to imbibe.  Its okay to make money off the “sinner,” as long as you don’t sin yourself.

The poor member who gambles occasionally for fun is a “sinner,” but the owner of the casino is not?  While I understand the need to serve alcohol in hotel restaurants, I’m not a fan of casinos and pornography.  The Marriotts are free to make money any way they choose, but I have an issue with putting them on a pedestal of righteousness.

A few months ago, a woman in our Ward in her testimony bemoaned the fact that her daughter worked for a time in a Utah State liquor dispensary.  During the 20-minute sob-fest, she was genuinely distressed.  But her testimony ended well, her daughter had quit her “sinful” job.  This conundrum is truly bizarre, particularly when you consider that the Prophet Brigham Young owned a distillery.  And Bill is a paragon of faithful virtue.

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LDS General Conference Talks Encourage Humanitarian Service

It’s October, and General Conference time for the Latter-day Saint faithful.  And this year (2019), 2 talks highlighted the importance of service.

Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf explained that life is an adventure and that we should make the most of it.

The only way for you to progress in your gospel adventure is to help others progress as well. …Faith, hope, love, compassion and service refine us as disciples. Through your efforts to help the poor and the needy, to reach out to those in distress, your own character is purified and forged, your spirit is enlarged, and you walk a little taller.

Perhaps more than any other Church leader, Uchtdorf understands the underlying message of the Savior.  Perhaps that is why he is so well liked.

Mother Teresa in India

President Russell M. Nelson did a followup on the same theme.  He listed the ways that the Church is assisting around the globe.  Nelson specifically mentioned fast offerings and bishop’s storehouse, donations through Deseret Industries, and LDS Charities:

The activities I have described are merely a small part of the growing welfare and humanitarian outreach.  And you are the ones who make all this possible. Because of your exemplary lives, your generous hearts, and your helping hands, it is no wonder that many communities and government leaders are praising your efforts.

Let’s hope that future GC talks will focus more on humanitarian service and global issues, and ways for members to be involved.

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My Recent Experiences with Elephants

My latest trip took me around the world.  Our third stop was in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  My family and I were there to visit Angkor Wat and install playgrounds.  One side activity was taking an elephant ride and feeding him afterward.  While I’m not a big fan of large animals performing, Asian elephants have a long history as work animals in South Asia and Southeast Asia.  And we were assured they are well taken care of.

The ride was okay.  It was short.  My daughter-in-law and granddaughter rode one elephant and I was on a second.  We lumbered by two small ruins in the Angkor Wat complex.  The fun came after the ride.  There was nobody waiting to ride one of the elephants, so we fed him watermelons.  The animal grabbed the small melon with its trunk and efficiently moved it to his mouth.  We could hear crunching as the elephant consumed the melon.

Riding an Elephant, with an Angkor Wat Ruin in the Background

My Granddaughter Feeding a Small Watermelon on an Asian Elephant

We also touched and petted his trunk.  The rough skin and sparse hair were amazing.  Just being that close to these giant, intelligent animals was an personal epiphany.

I know animal rights groups find these activities abhorrent, but I can’t help thinking that these close encounters encourage conservation by providing a better appreciation for the animals.  But I’m open to other opinions and willing to repent.

The last stop on by around my around-the-world trip was in Uganda.  There I observed African elephants in the wild.  First in Murcheson Falls National Park and then in Queen Elizabeth National Park.  These animals are wild, no feeding or touching.

African Elephant in Murcheson Falls N.P., Uganda

One evening after work we drove the highway which bisects Queen Elizabeth N.P.  To our surprise there was a large solitary male eating grass very near the highway.  We parked and observed for several minutes.  What an amazing animal.  The world needs to protect them.

Elephant Eating Near Highway in Queen Elizabeth N.P., Uganda

I’m lucky to have had the experiences I’ve had.

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Playground Climbers Made with Used Tires

On a recent trip to Uganda (eastern Africa), we checked out two climbers made from used tires.  Both installations were in playgrounds with equipment by East African Playgrounds.

The first climber is made of tires attached to a swing set frame.  The tires are bolted together and have chain used as back support.  Tire grids are attached to both sides of the frame.

Tire Climber Made with a Swing Set

Chain Is Used as Back Support for the Tires

The above tire climber is located at a primary school near the East African Playgrounds office in Jinja.

Another design for a tire climber is made of just tires bolted together.   The one in the photographs is located at a private primary school located just outside of Jinja on the road to Tororo.

Climber Made of Used Tires Bolted Together

Tire Climber Located Just North of Jinja, Uganda

We have constructed and installed tire climbers made with metals poles holding tires mounted two feet apart.

Tire Climbing Tower Installed at Sipasqanch, Peru

We’ve installed the above vertical climbers in Peru, Uganda, and Ghana.

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Gotta Love a Giraffe

I’ve visited Murcheson Falls N.P. in Uganda several times over the last 10 years.  It is a great place to observe giraffes.

Giraffes Posing for Photographers in Murcheson Falls N.P.

I’ve also observed them in Namibia, Tanzania, and Kenya.  They are truly unique animals.

Everything about the giraffe is stretched to the extreme.  According to Joshua Foer (writing in NG magazine):

There’s its famous neck, of course, but also its outrageously long eyelashes, its legs (the longest of any animal), its eyes (the widest of any land mammal), its elongated skull, and especially its purple-black prehensile tongue, which can extend over a foot and a half from its mouth and nimbly strip bare an acacia stem so thorny you wouldn’t want to grab it with your bare hand. Even its heart, which pumps blood over a greater vertical span than any other land mammal, can be more than two feet long, with ventricle walls more than three inches thick.

Giraffes Look Awkward when They Drink

The giraffe has the highest known blood pressure of any animal, and yet somehow it can manage to quickly drop its head 16 or 17 feet to the ground without passing out. Because it’s so difficult for them to get up and down, and because they’re so vulnerable when they’re on the ground, giraffes only seem to sleep for a few minutes at a time (a phenomenon difficult to observe in the wild). They can go for weeks without water by hydrating only with the moisture they suck from leaves. It took five years of observing giraffes in the deserts of Namibia before the [Giraffe Conservation Fund’s  Julian] Fennessy, perhaps the world’s leading expert on giraffes, ever saw one splay its legs and dip its head awkwardly to drink from a ground puddle. Witnessing this gawky effort to obtain the most basic sustenance makes one wonder if the right question to ask isn’t why the giraffe has such a long neck, but rather, why is it so short relative to such long legs?

My Grandson Preparing to Feed Giraffes at an Animal Reserve near Jacksonville, Florida

In truth we still don’t know why the giraffe has such a long neck. According to Nikos Soulounias, an evolutionary biologist at the New York Institute of Technology, the giraffe evolved on the Indian subcontinent and migrated to Africa from Asia some eight million years ago. Its closest living relative, the okapi, which lives in the equatorial rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, noticeably lacks its cousin’s long neck.

Giraffes on the Savannah of Murcheson Falls N.P.

Giraffes are naturally topiarists, eating the acacias into hourglass profiles that fan up at the top, just above the “browse line” where the animals’ towering necks and outstretched tongues can no longer reach, and so it would make sense that the long neck evolved to open up a feeding niche unavailable to shorter species. But some researchers have suggested that the giraffe’s long neck is actually a function of sexual selection. Its principal benefit is not for foraging in the upper reaches of trees but rather for males to more effectively club each other with their pendulous heads, outfitted with extra-thick skulls, when competing for females in heat. Or perhaps the giraffe’s long neck is simply to give an otherwise fairly defenseless animal a high vantage point to watch the horizon for predators.

Undoubtedly linked to the giraffe’s long neck is its eerie silence. Giraffes almost never make a sound and don’t communicate with each other using any kind of signaling audible to human ears. Their silence is especially bizarre given that they’re social creatures that live in a fission-fusion society, in which groups of individuals frequently get together for a period of time before dissolving. Other species with fission-fusion societies, such as elephants and chimpanzees, tend to be loquacious communicators. This has led some researchers to suggest that giraffes may emit low-frequency infrasound to communicate with each other over long distances (similar to the low-frequency rumblings of elephants), but so far the evidence has been mixed.

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