Day 105 – Frustrations of a tech savvy blogger

Written 11 September 2021

I’m in Wichita, Kansas, USA as I write this.

I’m a bit frustrated. I’ve been trying to consider those of you who like images (photos), but for about a month now my image software (Olympus Workspace) won’t import the images from either my Olympus TG-3 camera, OR from copies of the photos on my Google Pixel 5. Both of them worked just fine until then. But now – just the message “Failed to import file(s).” results on importing from either device, or from any drive on my computer. Forums, tech support, etc. do not yield a solution, so being able to put images into my posts is harder than it was and needs to be. It is possible, but this just shouldn’t happen. I’ve searched and tried everything I can think of to find a solution, and I’m pretty good at uncovering stuff using the internet. But “no joy” on this problem as yet.

Yes, I’m looking at alternatives to the current software, but I need time and unplanned attention to make that choice. I really don’t like dealing with technical issues when I’m trying to look inwards, write outwards about it, and fundamentally assess where I’m going in life from here. Sigh…

It forced me to face something I’ve known for some time. I don’t tend to take pictures much – I’m very much more “inner experience” driven, and I know that doesn’t translate well for some people I care about a lot that clearly like the images. (Mike, Tim, and others particularly). But my desire to include images is holding me back.

From the beginning this blog was intended as my “outreach” trying to develop some writing skills and willingness to share my thoughts and feelings. I have zero interest in “monetizing” this blog to get money from it. It was also to help keep my friends in touch with my travels, and images are definitely desirable for that objective. But …

The result is that you may see, almost certainly will see, more text and fewer images for a while, at least. I hope I can write in a way that you still want to read, but if you require the images I won’t have those on the site as much for at least a while. At least I’ve decided that now instead of continuing to delay posting until I can “fix this problem”. Sheesh.

Sorry –

On a “news” note, I’ve found that crossing international borders is difficult, but the requirements are so changeable on short notice (due to COVID requirements from varying countries) that I’m giving up the idea of the international jaunting about envisioned in May when I left Namibia. I’m not sure what I’m going to do for a while until the COVID/travel situation eases up a bit. It is possible – but the time and energy it takes to anticipate details and change plans (and the cost of COVID tests!) simply doesn’t make it very attractive when the entire reason for me travelling was to meet lots of people and have time to think, ponder, and talk.

For instance, on the trip on the Canadian train from Vancouver to Toronto we were not permitted to be outside of our rooms (I had a one-person room) if we weren’t in the dining car for scheduled meal appointments, and we could not sit at the same table with anyone outside of the immediate group we shared a room with. It was like being in solitary confinement in a nice cell with an interesting view of Canada passing by. The Observation car, and the Lounge car, were literally closed. I’m still glad I made the trip, but it certainly didn’t meet the primary objectives of the travel – meet new people.

Getting back into the USA from Toronto, even as a US citizen, was actually harder than getting into Canada! More on that in a later blog. I don’t want to just bitch – I’m glad I’m doing this trip and never expected it to be “according to plan” – travel isn’t like that – but the Delta variant is really mucking things up.

More to come, not so many images, and I’ll do what I can to make this blog worth reading.


Day 099 – Too busy experiencing to write about it

There will be a future post with photos of my train trip from Vancouver to Toronto, and a bit of Toronto, but this post is really a brief explanation.

This afternoon I was having a coffee at café in downtown Toronto thinking about how much I was looking forward to sitting down and writing about the thoughts and feelings of the past week or so, particularly the last couple of days. What with one thing or another to do, all of them very valuable or necessary to my trip, it’s now almost 21:00 and I’m not in “shape” to write much. If I did, I’d be forcing myself to meet some kind of self-imposed deadline or promise.

The entire purpose of this trip was to give myself time to just be, to meet new people and experience new things, and to write about my inner and outer journeys in a way that a reader would want to keep reading the next post. While I’m well aware of the interest of people following this blog to see the images/photographs, and in the descriptions of what’s going on with me, I am (once again) putting the value of the personal experience ahead of the obligation to photograph, report or tell. I’m sorry about that – genuinely – for the sake of you, the readers.

Today I experienced a stranger/pharmacist going out of his way to help me get a COVID test in time for my flight on Tuesday because he recognized that (1) I had thought ahead, and it hadn’t worked because his own company’s systems failed, and (2) when he told me (after I called) that there was no way to get my test today I didn’t “panic” or get insistent. I did what he asked and it didn’t work. In short I was nice to him and didn’t blame him or make sure he understood how much this would cost me if I didn’t get the test. So – he was extremely helpful, generous with his time, and went out of his way on a VERY busy day for him so my test has been completed purely thanks to him. Another lesson in the practical value of just being nice to each other. I am very grateful to him.

Then I just “people-watched” on a café’ corner for a while and experienced nostalgia in hearing military jets pass over (an air show at the airport) while never catching more than, once, a very brief glimpse of the aircraft. I felt no desire to rush to get a better view and try to see more, or to go to the airport, it was enough to relish the memories that flowed through me as I felt grateful for having a first hand experience of being able to visualize what those pilots were seeing as they were flying. What a gift.

Literally a dozen such feelings and thoughts passed through my mind while I just sat and had a coffee after the COVID test. The woman with the old dog, the strikingly beautiful Indian woman, the old guy on the bicycle, the young asian couple with an hilariously active puppy on a leash, the couple wondering why I was taking a picture of a tree, the couple behind me wondering why I was rooting around in the bushes (my cup had blown off of the table) and us having a nice exchange and connection over the laughter, and on, and on, and on. All of it something to share.

Then back here to make a final adjustment (necessary) for my plans to return to the USA, and just as I was preparing to sit and write, a new friend I’ve made here at the BnB came up and wanted to talk. It was a sheer pleasure to spend another hour or two talking with her. She’s Japanese, and experiencing the joys and the difficulties of making decisions for herself and changing her cultural surroundings. It is tough – very tough. I have a tremendous respect for her, and find the time we spent just talking to be precisely the reason I undertook this trip. We both left this second conversation feeling enriched – and that is so valuable an experience to share.

In this BnB there are tenants from Japan, Algeria, Yemen, France, Africa (me), the USA (me), Turkey, South Korea, and I think I’ve forgotten one. I am in heaven – the mix of cultures, open minds (and the unavoidable occasional not-so-open one) are a delicious mix of experiences. It’s why I am making this trip.

And then there is technology. One of the reasons there are no images in this posting is that when one piece of software changed (not sure which of two) I can still copy the photos from my phone onto my computer, but my image processing software will no longer import them. It will take time to figure it out, and I’m sure I will, but I resent having to be technical in the midst of so much spiritual richness for my soul. Technical problem solving is an unwelcomed interruption to my musings, and relishing the experiences surrounding me.

So -know I am happy, bumping into the inevitable challenges of travel, and getting (most) of what I want to continue to get out of this trip. And it is FAR from over!

I’m considering heading back to Namibia pretty soon and laying low in my home there for 6-12 months to let this COVID situation settle out (I don’t think it will go away), so that international travel will be reasonably possible again. Or I may stay in the San Francisco area for a while and do the same thing. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do, but I do need to make some kind of a decision soon. I am so grateful to have good friends to talk over this stuff with to help me keep a perspective that is open, and useful.

One of my follower/readers messaged me recently saying “Don’t sell yourself short as a writer.” I can’t tell you how encouraging that was to hear. Thank you. Remembering that this blog is an attempt for me to show up in the world in a different way – openly and expressively – I hope you are finding it engaging and worth coming back to. I find it well worth doing, and will keep it up – at a pace that seems right to me. Thanks for being patient if you really like photographs.

And there will be images in the next posting – I promise.

I always wear a mask inside, or when people are around. Not so much in the open.

Day 089 – Oakland to Vancouver BC

27 Aug 2021

It has become clear to me that trying to synchronize posts with dates (kept sequential, of course!), travel, experiences, and thoughts is a Sisyphean task. So – I’m giving up on it. Posts will be titled with the day of my trip (not when I wrote the post) measured from 29 May 2021 – the day I left Namibia to “go travel” with one way tickets. While I will return to Namibia, I honestly don’t know when.

Getting here was really pretty pleasant after literally days of ensuring, tediously, that the COVID rules for entering Canada were strictly followed. Once I got over the panic of the original COVID testing site not being able to do the test, it was finally arranged with a new testing site two minutes before the deadline for Wed appointments. The test was done on Wed AM (for a Friday flight) and I had the (negative) results within an hour, for free! Nice start! Then my daughter took me to SFO…

At SFO waiting to check in for the flight to Vancouver.
An old volcano – not Mt. Saint Helens.
Another old volcano – again not Mt. Saint Helens.
This IS Mt. Saint Helens when erupting in 1980. Imagine both of the volcanos above looking like this! Aisch.
Vancouver before landing (obviously).
From the air just before landing in Vancouver. Note the logs in the river waiting for processing at some logging mill somewhere. I never saw it.

Landed and proceeded (slowly) through immigration, customs, health, etc. Canadian laws concerning crossing the border in this day of COVID are very stringent. I studied and prepared as much as possible, and it paid off. I cleared immigration, customs, and COVID screenings painlessly. Fortunately I was not randomly selected for post arrival testing so I walked out of the airport yesterday free to move and explore with no further travel obligations! One now-amusing event was convincing the immigrations official (who was delightful, just incredulous) that I really did come into Canada just to ride the train! She kept saying “what else will you do while you are here?”

On the way into Vancouver from the airport. A less-pleasant but “not a big deal” event was the Uber driver in Vancouver who I was assigned, then saw arrive at the meeting area, then got notified he had cancelled his availability – only to then notice that the fare had gone up 50% due to demand. He was very experienced, and I’m sure cancelled to take a higher fare. Oh well – I just moved over to a taxi. People …
The hallway to my hostel room. I was one of four in the room. The others were a group of three from Toronto in Vancouver for holiday. Very nice folks.
The Bar/Restaurant in the hostel. Actually it was quite nice/adequate!

This was my first hostel experience in many decades, and it’s interesting and welcome. The beds are comfortable, and the hostel was 100% full last night. I haven’t seen my three roommates at all since checking in about 19:00 last night and it’s now about 16:00 Saturday.

When I toured Western Europe on a motorcycle in the summer of 1971, and again in 1981 when crossing the USA from Connecticut to California dipping into both Canada and Mexico enroute (on a different motorcycle), I camped out most nights. On both trips, sometimes a friendly local would invite me to sleep in a spare room and take advantage of a shower (probably in self-defense), and often invited me to a meal with the family.

Somewhere in the USA between Connecticut and California in about October/November of 1981. My cycle was a Honda 900 on this trip. No hostels as explained above!

Travelogue interjection:
In one way, I think of my “real” travelling just beginning from the San Francisco area. I’m solo now, by intent for the first time. Three weeks ago I took the train to Chicago (discussed in the previous post), then was in Maize, Kansas visiting with a few members of Marilyn’s extended family for a few days, then visited with Roger and Kris, good friends for almost 30 years, who now live in, and are originally from, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, my high school buddy intending to go on the trip from Chicago to Seattle on a train had to cancel at the last minute so I flew to Seattle for a four day visit (in a later post) then back to the San Francisco area for some family events. Yesterday I flew from SF to Vancouver because wild fires had knocked out the train tracks heading up the coast so Amtrak cancelled my train. I’ll be in Vancouver for two days and depart here Monday on “The Canadian” train to Toronto – four days and four nights on the train.

Route for “The Canadian” train departing Monday from Vancouver. I get off in Toronto four days, and four nights, later.

Then a couple of days in Toronto, and taking trains through Niagara Falls to head back to Washington D.C. where I’ll see more friends, and then to North Carolina for a Peace Corps service friend from Namibia. After that – I’m not sure yet. Most likely (but not fully decided as yet) I’ll work my way back across the USA to end up on the west coast and put my boat back in the water to live aboard when I’m in the USA but keep my home and residence in Namibia, also. That’s the current plan.

Serendipity is often the result of the kind of coincidence that springs from planning and anticipation. A while back I purchased the ebook version of “Out of Instanbul: A Journey of Discovery Along the Silk Road” by Bernard Ollivier which I think is the perfect book to read as I start this journey. A two hour airplane ride slipped by in only minutes as the author – a journalist in his 60’s who was a journalist and teacher for over 30 years – described his inner life as he prepared for his solo trip of 3000 km walking from Istanbul to Tehran. I was moved by his writing as it related so closely to my own life at this moment, and had to share the experience. So I drafted my own inadequate prose to a new friend I’m making in Illinois and hope to meet on a trip back across the USA in mid to late September.

Note the book on my Kindle propped up on the seat table.

And therein lies the constant challenge for me: comparison. As much as I know there is ALWAYS someone that is “more” of something than I am – and there always will be for everyone – I can’t help but want my own ability to express a story or a feeling and capture a reader’s interest, and often am in awe of an author’s ability to do just that. Of course in Bernard’s case (I don’t think he’ll mind me calling him Bernard), he’s been honing that craft for many decades, he’s travelled all over the damn place, experienced the death of a beloved spouse, has memories of shared international journeys with her, and rejoiced in a close family. I don’t have those experiences – I have my own. I just hope to be able to express the depth of personal experience with a fraction of his skills, or of the skills of many “real” authors.

People often react to the number of life experiences I’ve had, but I feel it is a pale reflection of what I have been able to touch upon in yearning for a greater experience. The world, and life, have so much to offer but I live with the constant feeling of having fallen short in self-satisfaction with progress . In fairness, I am able to appreciate and cherish being able to do more, and learn more, in my 70’s. I would rather “get it” now, than never. Heile Selasse is quoted in “A man who says, ‘I have learned enough and will learn no further,’ should be considered as knowing nothing at all.” For example, I have never had the richness that comes from decades of building a relationship with a life partner, but perhaps there is still time to do what I can in the time I have left. And the deep friendships I am building with some are incredibly satisfying and challenging all at the same time. I am grateful, and fortunate and have had advantages that were not available to many, many people.

That’s MORE than enough “naval gazing” for now! Stay tuned.

040 – There’s just so much…

29 May 2021

Preface: This writing, and most of my posts nowadays, are pretty introspective and not focused. I warned you I am using this post as a way to get used to writing and staying in touch with friends. More skill in focusing, and focus, will evolve but this blog must serve my purposes primarily – and I’m honestly not looking to get thousands of followers and “monetize” the effort. More power to those who do that, and I learn a lot from what they have to say. But I’m marching to the beat of my own drummer, and this is the cadence that is driving me.

As usual, I woke up this morning and within the first 30 min was simultaneously energized and despondent. Going through my checklist of routines – trying to make the most of my life – I once again realized how much really cool stuff there is to be interested in! Riding along in the same coach with that thought, however, was the realization of how much I missed by not being aware of so many things until late in life. THAT, of course, is a road to nowhere good. It is a common morning response for me.

It was partly that recurring dichotomy that made me start meditating again, this time regularly. For at least a month now I meditate at least 10 minutes, sometimes more, and usually in the mornings, occasionally also for a longer time in the afternoon or evening. The first few minutes of which invariably involves me desperately wanting to write down the list of “stuff I want to look into or do” that goes through my mind, and has to be acknowledged and set aside. In the back of my mind is the knowledge that it will come up again when I’m not giving myself some quiet time to settle in.

After meditating I launch into the day which, also invariably, involves internet engagement. Damn, but “they” put some interesting links right next to where there is stuff I was originally looking for! No end of the encouragement for stimulation and distraction at the expense of actually getting something done.

Sometimes it seems my life is all about letting go. At this age, and position in life, I have to let go of the dream of …     Interesting, I just hit a blank spot and almost fell asleep. Maybe some avoidance? Maybe too much naval gazing?

I am developing a real resistance to looking back because “there be dragons!” I notice the energy that comes up with looking forwards, towards the “really cool things” there are to do. I don’t know if I will end up doing something I’ve never managed to do yet, which is to get really, really good at something. I’d like to. Three things come to mind easily: (1) Writing, (2) Traveling (which I’ll define in a moment), and (3) playing the guitar, or at least some musical instrument.

The latter recurring dream needs some work to turn it into a reality. I bought the first guitar I didn’t learn to play in my 20s, in college. Replaced another planned guitar purchase with a keyboard setup to put in my boat when I planned to be part of the cruising community wandering around the world. Just before I came to Namibia six years ago with the Peace Corps, I had purchased a basic, inexpensive, guitar intending to take it with me and learn. By this time I’d learned to not spend so much until I actually had made some progress on playing! I had heard PCVs had a lot of time on their hands in often remote locations and it seems like the perfect thing to do. When I discovered that taking the guitar on the flight overseas would involve more extra cost than the guitar cost me, I decide to pursue getting one when I got to Namibia. I then gave the guitar to a person (referred by a friend) who loved to play but had financial hardships and new medical conditions that were challenging. He was an older guy, and I’m sure he got WAY better use, and enjoyment, out of the instrument than I would have had I sold it. And I feel good about it. So I arrived in Namibia guitarless. And, as it turns out, I have been much busier than I anticipated while here. but the work and my life here has been rewarding at times and never something I regretted. Devoting my time to learning an instrument just never took priority. As fate so often does, a friend in Windhoek (the capital city) told me in January he had an older guitar he would give me on my next trip! Now I’m going back to Windhoek, but only for a few days before departing to return to the USA and start a longer trip. No guitar (once again).

Now I’m embarking on the “travel” dream. I honestly don’t know how it will pan out. For three months I’m going to be on a pre-defined (by me) schedule with lots of time to enjoy friends and trips in a place I’m familiar with – the USA. I am starting the trip prepared to continue it indefinitely if it works out that way come the end of August.

Come to think of it, I came to Namibia saying I was prepared to stay here if it worked out – but I wasn’t planning on it. I was planning for the possibility of it, and I’ve ended up owning a home and getting permanent residence status here. I’m glad I left the gates open to that six years ago. Now, my travel is being approached in the same way. Mostly my hopes for the longer trip involve meeting people that are interesting, experience new ways of living, and being able to have lots of engaging conversations. Seeing places is of interest, but it’s not the draw for me. Plus, for decades, I’ve dreamed of travelling without an end point planned. Since I was about 30 I’ve felt I could live indefinitely out of a suitcase. That belief hasn’t been tested more than business travel that sometimes had me planted in one country or another for several months at a time, but it still felt, and feels, right. I do enjoy having my “nest” to come home to periodically – maybe that’s what Oranjemund will come to mean for me. We’ll see. I’m looking into preliminary plans for continued travel starting in September but won’t commit to something for at least a month or so. It is fun to be starting a whole new life experience at 72!

One of the things I am good at is meeting people easily. Yet I still feel anxious about being able to meet and engage with people on an extended trip. I must be careful of a fundamental hope/expectation that I’ll bump into new lifelong friends that I relate to closely, or even (deep, dark and very private hope) a relationship that works for me for a reasonably long period of time – something that has eluded me for decades largely due to my own obstacles. That, also, has eluded me.

Interestingly enough, however, one part of the journey, the trip on the California Zephyr train from Emeryville California to Chicago Illinois I’ll have a traveling companion: my ex-wife from 40+ years ago! Since we divorced (I was about 30 at the time), we have stayed in touch off and on, sometimes more than a decade went by with no contact. But we both always felt we had been friends. The last few years we’ve reconnected and become very good friends. She’s flying out to California to join me on that trip, and will meet my daughter and her mom (my other “ex”) there! Knowing all of the parties involved I expect it will be fun and interesting for all. I’ll let you know.

And thus, in this writing, I demonstrate the struggle of writing when there are so many “really cool” things going on, and to be anticipated, in my life. I’m going to leave in the detail and stories even though I digressed from the “Just So Much” theme. It exemplifies the problem. I am so fortunate, and grateful, to have a life at 71 that is so full of interesting things to do and look forward to.

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033 – And another thing

Written: 2 January 2021

I am really struggling. Big time. I want to post more on this blog – the really way down deep kind of want. But it clearly hasn’t happened as yet. And it’s me. – nothing but me – that gets in the way.

Fundamentally (I think) the desire to make WITWIA.COM something much better than it currently is comes from wanting to connect with people who read it – by and large my friends, past friends, and acquaintances. It is not only great whenever I do talk or write with you, but it avoids the pernicious guilt I feel by NOT doing it! I have emails that are months old and still highlighted for me to reply. I’m so sorry.

While there are no reliable statistics easily at hand, I’m pretty sure (that is sarcasm) I’m not the only one that doesn’t stay in touch as much as I’d like. It’s not very consoling to be part of a crowd, however.

Also, maybe I can make a few new friends from people that bump into this blog and feel like responding because they relate to something here and want to connect, themselves. That would be really nice, and consider yourself encouraged if you fall into that category.

Getting started as a “writer” is hard or I’d do it better. (Doh) And at this stage in my life I want to continue to gain new skills, to take on the unusual (to me). I want to decide to change and do something about it, not just talk about it. Having a tendency to be judgmental, I am especially adroit at turning that tendency against myself which makes this whole process more complicated and slows it down.

And – as I am doing right now (damn it!) – I get immersed in rabbit holes very easily. Having a facile mind makes life in general very interesting, and also creates real hurdles to being expressive AND succinct. I’ve never been great at reining it in.

My imagination says this is already boring, but I’m going to persist and edit this down – it remains to be seen whether or not this sentence makes it through the revisions. But I WILL get it out, today! I can’t improve unless there is something “out there” to improve!

Part of the block that shows up about writing is that I have so MUCH to say! It all gets jammed up and ends up getting in the way of letting anything through. But others do it, so I will too. HOW is the operative question.

When my daughter was about 10-12 years old, maybe younger – I took her to the local library in Venice California and attended a lecture from Ray Bradbury who lived nearby to our great fortune. One of the things I remember him saying was that writing doesn’t get easier, he just wanted it very much and basically got addicted to writing. And he was GOOD at it! There’s probably something to pay attention to there. (‘Ya think?”) He always claimed he wrote 1000 words a day since he was twelve. (point of reference, this blog posting is 1194 words – I counted just before I published it. Well, MS Word counted.) I thought that was a LOT – until I Googled “how many words per day to good writers write?” Sheesh! Yes, I have set a goal – but I’m not tellin’! Announcing it makes it about performance or promises and I just want to change my skills and interests.

A friend who is a writer (professional) recently told me to start by being clear on what I wanted to say. That seems to be very useful advice – we’ll see how well it works on this first blog since he mentioned it. (Thanks, Roger. Let me know.)

At any rate – here goes, again. At least I’m going to put this “out there” and worry about getting it right later. Please forgive my ineptitude and encourage me anyway!

The challenge of writing would come up anywhere – it’s not unique to my experiences of being in Africa. Living in this small town is a lot like living in a small town anywhere except with more sand, oryx, jackals, ostriches and hyenas in decreasing order of exposure. But they are all here – plus a lot more. While I could write years’ worth of daily blogs about living in Africa, my purpose at this point is to talk about who I’m becoming, what I’m planning, and how writing fits into it.

Of course one of the reasons I want to develop this blog, and my skills in writing, is to add interest and purpose to my proposed trip starting some time in 2021. Details (such as they are) in a future blog. But I plan/hope to take freighters, trains, and avoid aircraft whenever possible. Airliners go too fast and too high to see what’s going on around me. At 71 I’m hoping to depart on a “voyage of discovery”, and of celebration. I mean what the hell – I can, so why wouldn’t I?

Very few goals have been established for this proposed trip, but one of them is to spend a month or two in California and see a lot more of my daughter. (No worries kiddo, not every day and not for a solid two months!) But when I leave I want my boat off of my life’s plate. I lived aboard that 42 foot (13 meter) sailboat for the vast majority of 25 years, and it worked really well for me. But that life is behind me. All of my “stuff” (For some fun, google “George Carlin on stuff”.) is stored on the boat and is inconsequential except for memorabilia and heritage materials I want to give to my daughter. I have everything I need here at my two bedroom home in Oranjemund. Actually more than I need.

There is a practical interest in writing also. It is strangely not difficult for me to “admit” (state is more accurate) that I’m getting older and my body just won’t do what it used to do. Writing seems a logical choice for staying engaged and challenged, and is within my physical limitations – at least at this point! And I’m hardly the first one to think of this! Lots of precedents. If “they” can do it, so can I.

So – I’m off, and you’re invited to go with me as I plan, dream, think, possibly grieve at appropriate moments, and generally try to make sense of my place in the world as I live in it now. Don’t forget there are 30+ posts before this one with a bit of history (albeit poorly documented) of my almost six years in Namibia so far. I have hopes for the next six years, or more.

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