Theresa got an engagement ring, and I got you. It wasn’t that explicit a deal, but like every newly engaged woman, Theresa couldn’t stop staring at her ring, so I took the opportunity while she was distracted and in no condition to argue. I spent hours deciding what kind, I mean, obviously HD, but what other combination of letters would I get? DLP? LCD? But it was a labor of love, and I finally decided on your 46″ of high definition DLP goodness.
I took you home, set you up, and stared at the beauty. Even before I turned it on, it fit perfectly in the room, matched our colors and completed the apartment. And when I turned it on, my jaw dropped. The color, the intensity, the sound, the fluidity. I sat back on our couch in awe. The immersion I felt was unprecedented. Watching sports felt like having tickets to every game (except when I had to listen to Joe Morgan). The Discovery Channel was suddenly the best channel on TV.
As the years have past, you have been the focal point of Super Bowl parties, Kentucky Derby parties, and Rock Band parties. Now, I’m not your biggest TV addict out there, I barely have to time watch my Lost and NBC Thursday comedies, let alone sporting events or video games. But when I have time and want to watch, I like knowing that you’ll give me the best picture out there. And that you look good and balance the room even when you’re not turned on.
I will miss my TV and all of the entertainment it gives me while we’re gone, but I have a feeling that I will find more entertainment in the adventures we’ll be having. I’ll have to be more proactive about it, but hey, that’s a good thing. And I know that when I return, you’ll still be there for me to put in my basement and once again be my center of mindless and stationary entertainment.
Taking a trip outside of the United States is a little bit like going to kindergarten—you have to be sure you have your shots or you might not be admitted. Whether it’s from having a member of the opposite sex touch you on the playground (the formally established way of getting cooties) or having someone poop on their hand and then touch your food (the less established but much more terrifying way of getting cooties), no one wants to get the bug.
So I’ve been doing a bit of research on the Center for Disease Control’s Travel page to determine just how many times Jeff and I need to get stuck in the arm before we set out and what the various concoctions will protect us against. By using their destination list to investigate every possible country we might visit on our round the world trip, I came up with a comprehensive list:
Tetanus: Also known as lockjaw, tetanus is a disease that causes tightening of the muscles. It enters the body through a break in the skin and leads to death in 10-20% of cases. Though we were immunized against tetanus as a child (as part of the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine), a booster is recommended for adults every ten years.
Polio: Though eradicated in the United States for decades, polio is still out there, and outbreaks have recently occurred in countries we plan to travel to such as Cambodia, Madagascar, and Indonesia. In extreme cases it can lead to paralysis and death. Though again, we were immunized against this as kids, a booster is recommended for adults traveling to countries with known outbreaks.
Hepatitis A: A viral infection of the liver, this disease can be spread through fecal matter as so kindly mentioned above, through contaminated water, ice, shellfish, fruits, vegetables, or other uncooked foods. It’s common throughout the world, but easily prevented with the vaccine, which is given to pretty much every traveler. Fortunately, both Jeff and I have already received this vaccine.
Hepatitis B: This version of hepatitis is spread from blood to blood or sexual contact, so it’s harder to pick up, but it’s still pretty prevalent around the world. Jeff and I have also been vaccinated against this disease.
Typhoid: Typhoid is a nasty gastrointestinal disease caused by exposure to the bacteria Salmonella enterica, usually through contaminated food and drink, particularly in the developing world. It can be life-threatening if not treated with antibiotics, and though the vaccination is highly effective, it is not 100% effective as there are multiple strains with various resistances.
Yellow Fever: This virus is transmitted to humans via mosquitoes in South American and sub-Saharan Africa. At its worst it can cause hemorrhagic fever. Areas infested by yellow fever carrying mosquitoes require proof of immunization before you are allowed to enter this country, so this is the one immunization that we absolutely must have. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. The vaccine is good for ten years.
Japanese Encephalitis: This is another mosquito-spread disease, and it’s similar to West Nile Virus, although the survival rates are much worse. In fact between 1/5 and 1/3 of people who get the disease die, and 50% of survivors have major neurological disorders. The upside, however, is that the disease is rare, with only 50,000 cases a year at most. In general, it’s restricted to rural areas in China, Japan, Korea, and eastern Russia (none of which we plan to travel to), but cases have also been recorded in rural areas of other Southeast Asian nations.
Rabies: We all know how this one works. Rabid animal bites you and gives you the infection, you start going crazy and foaming at the mouth, you have hydrophobia, delirium, convulsions, and then go into a coma and die. Once symptoms show up, it’s too late. You’re dead. A series of shots given post-bit and pre-symptoms is effective, however, in preventing the onset of rabies. The vaccine for this does not prevent rabies, but is basically the first couple in the series of shots you would need, thus buying you a bit of time to get the rest.
Additionally, we need all the standard immunizations, the ones we had to get as kids—diphtheria, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella… Fortunately, we didn’t have crazy parents who thought vaccines were evil, so we’re all good here.
So what this breaks down to is eight vaccines. One—yellow fever—is required. Two—hepatitis a and b—we already have. Three—tetanus, typhoid, polio—are recommended and we plan to get. And two—Japanese encephalitis and rabies—we aren’t certain about.
Why not just go ahead and get them all, you ask? Well, for one, I don’t really like getting stabbed in the arm and I don’t want to risk side effects if the vaccines aren’t necessary. Am I actually going to be somewhere where Japanese encephalitis is prevalent and will I be there in the season when the mosquitoes that carry it are active? Since I still have to get all the rest of the rabies shots, will having one really do me any good?
The second issue is simple, money.
Even though Jeff and I are lucky to have fabulous insurance, we’re left high and dry when it comes to adult immunizations. Apparently they’d rather treat the typhoid after we get it. So how much is it going to cost us to get all these immunizations? Well, oddly enough, figuring that out is tough. You’d think one dose of yellow fever vaccine would have a set cost, but you’d be wrong. I called various clinics—public and private—in DC and Maryland and even one in Kentucky, and I got a range of prices—from $90 to $150 for yellow fever. Obviously, go with the cheap one, right? Well, um, not necessarily, because while they might have a low price for yellow fever, their typhoid price could be sky high. And don’t forget that office visit charge. I’ve outlined the price range for each vaccine that we definitely plan to get below:
Yellow Fever: $90-$150
Office Visit: $0-$48
And though it looks like we could get away with it costing $225 each, that’s not the case, since no one place offers all of the shots at the lowest price. If we get vaccinated here in our area, we’ll each be paying a minimum of $310. (I got these price quotes a few months ago, so they may have gone up.) In Louisville, we could get them for $281 (but of course, we’d have to pay to get there, so that’s no savings, unless we’re already in town for some other reason). Ouch! And that’s the cost, not the stab in the arm.
Add in the vaccines we’re not sure about and the cost soars. Japanese encephalitis requires three jabs, at approximately $90 a piece, and the rabies shot also requires three shots, priced at over $150 a poke. So you’re looking at $270 for the Japanese encephalitis and $450 for the rabies! I’m not one to take health concerns lightly, and I do value my life very highly, but you have to wonder where to draw the line. What’s being smart and what’s being paranoid?
We’re in the entertainment and education business. That’s what this blog is. It’s information in a (hopefully) entertaining form. Maybe that’s a bit high minded. Maybe we’re just entertainment. And on that note, calling it a business is pure folly. It’s just something we enjoy. But that’s why I’m putting up this post. We’re taking a look at the site and trying to make it a better experience for you readers out there (like, for starters, the addition of a favorite posts on the sidebar). So with that in mind, we have a few questions we’d love some feedback on.
What else should be highlighted for new readers in the favorite posts?
What do you want us to write more about? Options include nostalgia over our past trips, logistic planning for this trip, romantic musings about inanimate objects, more pictures (or “picture of the day” type posts), the insanity in our daily lives, commentary on travel news, or anything else you think would make this site more enjoyable.
What do you hate? What could we make disappear from this site? What types of subjects should we never post about again?
What features could we add to the site as a whole to make it a better browsing experience? All ideas, whether a specific plugin or a general thought, are highly encouraged.
This website being a dictatorship and all, this may be your only chance ever to provide us with feedback, so let loose, fire away, seize the opportunity. Much obliged.
I saw you in my head before I ever set eyes on you. I knew exactly how you should look–red, but not fire engine red; long, but not abnormally so; deep, but not so much that you wouldn’t fit through our door–but for weeks I couldn’t find you. I found ones that wanted to be you, but they were made of the microfiber that neither Jeff nor I liked, or they were the wrong color red, or they were so overstuffed that you couldn’t sit on them without sliding off. I almost gave up hope. I almost settled.
But then…then I walked through the door of Bassett Furniture and there you were. Cushions that were just the right compromise of soft and firm. Pillows that could be taken off but stayed put when you wanted them to. Deep brown legs. And the perfect red color. It was love at first sight. But you refused to go home with me that first night. Instead I had to wait eight long weeks for you, but when you arrived, I realized the wait was worth it. You completed my room.
And now, 3.5 years later, you are still perfect. When I’m tired and want to do nothing but veg out, you welcome me into your embrace, and encourage me to relax, read a book, watch some TV. You don’t tell me that I should be productive or make me feel guilty for my pleasures. You’ve been a surrogate all those weeks when Jeff has been gone in Sweden, providing a cozy alternative to the emptiness of the bed. You’ve opened yourself to friends and family, even allowing my brother to call you his bed for an entire summer. You’ve weathered spills and crumbs without complaint. I couldn’t ask anything more of you. You’ve never once let me down.
Oh couch, what will I do without you? To what will I turn after a long, tiring day? The communal hostel couch—icky with god knows what—can never take your place. The worn hotel bed can never be an adequate replacement. Oh couch, how I will miss you. But I’ll survive, knowing you’ll be there when I return, as comfy and embracing as ever. On the hardest of days, I’ll think of you waiting for me at home, and that alone will get me through.
This is the first in an occasional series titled “An Ode to…” in which we will reflect on things we will miss while we are traveling.
We’re going to continue the domestic trend of our Travel Take Two series with a look back at our 2006 trip to the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon, much like Hawaii, is a worn travel destination for most Americans. Most people head to the South Rim, spend a night or two up there, look out over the magnificent terrain and maybe hike a little ways down the trail. But we’re not most people. Our idea of seeing the Grand Canyon was from the bottom, rafting on the river that carved the canyon, the Colorado.
Destination: Grand Canyon: A 6 day expedition–5 days rafting down the upper half of the Grand Canyon, from Lee’s Ferry to Phantom Ranch and 1 day hiking out the Bright Angel Trail to the South Rim
Date: August 25-30, 2006
Travel Partners: Guides/Oarsmen from Moki Mac and fellow passengers.
1. Rafting the rapids. It’s incredibly exhilarating to plow headlong through ten foot high walls of freezing water in a small rubber boat, drenching you and everything in your boat, but perhaps even more exhilarating is the building anticipation of hearing the rapids well before reaching them, feeling the sound build and build until there is nothing else but a roar and your imagination of what rests around the next bend.
2. Kayaking in the ducky. I had read before we left about getting to paddle an inflatable kayak yourself, and knew immediately it was for me. They finally pulled it out on day 3, when we were going through ‘calmer’ waters, and though it took some doing, I convinced Theresa to get in with me (she may describe this experience as more of a lowlight). She was cursing me as soon she sat down in the self-bilging boat and soaked her bottom in the freezing brown water. As we pushed off into the river, they called out “They call that the divorce boat, you know.” After our first (small) rapid, yelling back and forth about who was paddling on what side and that we weren’t hitting the waves properly, we quickly understood why. Nevertheless, we quickly got the hang of things and at least I had a great time controlling my own fate through the rapids.
3. Hiking the side canyons leading to beautiful vistas, Indian ruins, and waterfalls. We went on a number of afternoon hikes up side canyons, which, in addition to getting us out of the hot afternoon sun (most times), led us to relics like an ancient Indian city along the banks, some granaries built into the side of the canyon at Nankoweap. We also we treated to a number of waterfalls (including a sideways waterfall!), getting to dip into the clear and refreshing water. All in all, they were a very rewarding change of pace from life on the river.
4. Staring at the night sky every night. With nary a light in any direction for a hundred miles, the night sky included the Milky Way in addition to millions of stars you never see. There is such a stark delineation of pitch black canyon walls and the star-peppered sky. We tracked satellites and shooting stars from one side of the canyon to the other nightly. We’ve been in some places with some amazing views of the night sky, and at the bottom of the Grand Canyon is definitely one of the best.
1. The bathroom situation. It wasn’t quite au natural, but it was close. There was a bucket and a whole orchestrated set of rules pertaining to the bucket. At least we did have toilet paper. I’m just glad I wasn’t the one who had to take care of the bucket.
2. Crossing a murky Little Colorado. This isn’t so much of a lowlight as a missed highlight. The Little Colorado if often crystal clear, warmer, and really fun to float down in an upside down life jacket. At least this is what we were told and were really excited about. When we got there, a recent rain had left it murky and at too high a level to safely navigate. So we were left to enjoy watching two muddy rivers merge together from the river bank. Not nearly as much fun.
1. Some things are worth the cost. I’ve deliberately avoided mentioning how much this adventure cost, because as you may suspect, it wasn’t cheap. Though for what we got, it was certainly reasonable. All meals were included (and were quality meals … we’re talking steak and chocolate cake on day 4 quality). The guides rowed and navigated us safely through rapids the entire time, leading side hikes in their spare time. The full experience they provided us was worth our money.
2. A different point of view is a good thing. As I alluded to earlier, most people see the Grand Canyon from the South Rim, never even seeing the river the carved the canyon. After we hiked out and experienced the typical Grand Canyon experience as well, it became really clear how different and unique a perspective on it we really got. It’s such a different world descending into and then ascending out of 1.2 billion years of schist, shale and limestone.
3. We get along with diverse groups. We were one of 15 passengers on this trip, people from all different backgrounds from all over the US. We enjoyed everyone’s company and got to know many of them quite well in the five days. Since we’re not always the most outgoing people by nature, it’s comforting to know that we can =).
4. Preparation breeds success. The hike out was quite daunting — 9.5 miles long with almost a mile of elevation gain in Arizona in August heat. Needless to say, we were somewhat concerned with our physical conditioning for such an outing, so we trained a few times with our packs in nearby Shenandoah. This helped immensely. I’m sure our spry young legs helped, but we were able to make it out of the canyon each carrying our 25 pound packs in under five hours, before the worst heat began. Who needs mules?
If you want to read more, Theresa wrote a story about this trip for the San Antonio Express-News that you can read here. Also, you can look at all of our pictures from this trip here.
Because I am incredibly self-aware and always completely unbiased, I thought I’d follow up last Sunday’s post on the traits that make us good travelers with the other side of the coin. I already laid out some of my travel issues in an earlier post about why I wouldn’t be a good contestant on the Amazing Race, but here are four traits that both Jeff and I share.
1. We Like to Change Our Underwear Daily.
Jeff doesn’t always like to change his clothes every day, and I’ve been known to re-wear a thing or two, especially if I’m not going out in public or am unlikely to be seen by the same people who saw me wearing said outfit the first time, but we both agree that changing underwear daily is a good–and essential–thing. We own those Ex-Officio Underwear with the slogan “17 countries, six weeks, one pair of underwear,” and we’ve seen the many packing lists that claim there is no reason to take more than 4 pair of underwear. The reasoning being that if you take the right underwear (such as the Ex-Officio ones) you can easily wash them in the sink, dry them overnight, and put them right back on the next day. Sure, sounds good. But what about when you’re on that 7-day trekking trip, or you’re on an overnight bus? Yeah, you’re wearing dirty underwear. So though it’s good to know our underwear are up for the challenge of everyday wear, for our round the world trip we’re still packing 7 pairs each. We’re such over-packers.
2. We believe in the concept of the line.
Orderliness is good. Lining up…to buy tickets, to gain admission, to place an order…is a good idea. It imparts order to the process, keeps people from getting hurt, and promotes fairness. And though I think most Americans would agree with me, we are still a small minority. Other countries seem to like mobs and stampedes. Or if, by the grace of God, there is a line, people from these other countries see no need to stand in it. This is even true in Germany, which is, to many, the epitome of orderliness. Just go to Mass once there and see what happens. When it’s communion time, there’s no pew by pew procession to the front. No, sirree. Instead, it’s a mad dash, everybody at once, elbows flailing, as if the priest is going to run out of wafers. In a post about Latin America, fellow travelers at WanderingWhy confirm that this is also true in the countries south of the border.
3. We aren’t good at bargaining.
The bulk of the world expects you to haggle–over prices in the market, taxi cab fares, hotel rates…pretty much everything. Having grown up in a world where you pay the marked price period, we’re not used to that. Being averse to all forms of confrontation, bargaining is a true nightmare for me. And though Jeff is a bit better at it than I am, neither of us is particularly comfortable with it. Adding to the discomfort is the fact that almost everywhere we will be traveling, we’re far better off than the people who live here, and often what we’re haggling over is no more than a couple of bucks. It just seems wrong. But at the same time, it’s not good for us to hand over whatever amount is asked. We’ll feel like we got a raw deal, and we’ll also be negatively affecting the overall economy of that place. Though the seller will be a bit better off, every time he makes that first price, he’ll feel more and more justified in raising the cost until the market price is more than the citizens of that place can afford. Economics is weird.
4. We quickly get tired of eating out.
There are people who eat out every day. There are even people who eat out every meal every day. Others eat out a couple of times a week, once a week, once a fortnight, etc. We probably eat out about once a month. The rest of the time we cook. With eating out only about once a month, I look forward to it. I pick some type of food that we don’t prepare at home (usually sushi…mmm), and I enjoy the whole pomp and circumstance of eating out. But make me do that a few times in a row, and I’ll be annoyed. I get sick of the whole process…the looking through a menu, the waiting for your food, the dealing with the wait staff. I just want to cook what I want, put as much on my plate as I want, sit with my legs crossed under me if I want, talk about anything I want without fear of people overhearing me, get up from the table when I want, etc. After a week of vacation in which most meals are eaten out, all I want is my pantry, my dishes, my kitchen, my table. And while we do plan to cook when we can, it won’t be as frequent as I’d like I’m sure. It also won’t be the same. We won’t a stocked pantry to choose from–herbs and spices, jars of random things like fish sauce and curry paste, a selection of cheeses. We’ll only be able to buy what we plan to use immediately, and we’ll also have to work within the confines of the diet in the place we’re at…which will probably mean many things that we’re not familiar with nor have no idea how to cook. Hopefully we’ll learn. Otherwise, there’s always street food and picnics.
It seems we’re back in full swing here at LOW. This is because Theresa came home today with a stack of books about eight high, covering the full scope of South America. So it seems she was serious about her request to get things more organized once I got home. Anyway, stay tuned for plenty more updates and we get further and further planned. But that is not what I want to discuss today. I want help from all of you in internet-land.
We have decided to take a computer with us. This, in fact, has been decided for a while, but thinking about it again has been sparked by the current inability of our desktop computer to stay powered on. Like a teenager (in fact, that might actually be how old it is), it’s getting very touchy when you ask it to do anything. So its time to start looking for a new one. Anyway, having a computer with us will make blogging so much easier, Theresa will be able to do some freelance writing, and we’ll be able to look at our pictures as we go, and perhaps watch a movie now and again.
So as the technically inclined one of our little duo, it pretty much falls to me to figure this out. But I’m struggling to figure out what type of computer we’ll want to have, let alone a particular model. Here’s what we’d ideally like: an easily portable, incredibly durable, powerful, long-lasting laptop for a minimum of dollars. These, unfortunately, don’t exist, and we’re going to have to compromise somewhere. Let me lay out some of the options I’ve been researching for you.
Ultra-portable: These are all the rage lately, like the eee pc and the samsung q1. They’re tiny, shiny, relatively inexpensive, and … not very useful at all. They combine tiny screens with poor processors and very little memory, which, with the amount of pictures we’ll take and work with, probably won’t cut it. Combine that with a tiny and uncomfortable keyboard and I don’t think we’re in business.
12″ and under: Businessman love these workhorse type computers. Small and light, pretty durable, relatively powerful, but very expensive. We’re talking over 2 grand for a computer that isn’t much more powerful than our finicky desktop (though hopefully they have much less sass). A top of the line computer in this class probably would be our choice if money was no object.
14″ and under: Now we’re getting into the relatively larger laptops (though the MacBook Air technically fits in this category). Nevertheless, as we’re just backpacking around, size and weight is a big issue. These are the laptops that are more inexpensive and more powerful, but with every dollar you save you sacrifice a little durability and a little size. I’m a big fan of Macs now that I use one at work, so a regular MacBook is definitely in the running. Its funny to talk about Apple as a value purchase, but the basic MacBook definitely represents one to me. I don’t like the lack of an SD port though. The MacBook Air doesn’t have enough ports in general to make me happy, and frankly, I’d be scared to break the thing.
So not that that is a complete review, but I’m sure many of you out there know much more about this than I do. Right now the competition seems to be between a MacBook and a higher end 12″ or so laptop. We’re looking for something that will have a quality, long lasting battery, an SD slot (I know the MacBook doesn’t have this =( ), decent power, all the internet connectivity ports you can cram in, durable construction, and low price. Does anyone know the magic solution? Has anyone traveled backpacker style with a laptop? What did you find to be the most important factors? Thanks for all the input guys.
1. We don’t let a little rain (or snow) on our parade ruin the day.
While in Denver for the birthday celebration, we had free time on Friday, so we decided to head to Red Rocks, on the outskirts of town. It wasn’t a particularly nice day–overcast with a few flurries though the sun would break through brilliantly every now and then. However, once we got there, it was looking decent, so we decided to do a 1.5 mile hike. We weren’t wearing hiking clothes, nor did we have winter coats on us, but what we had was suitable for a short hike in cold but okay weather. Unfortunately decent turned to blizzard a few tenths of a mile into the hike. We could have turned around, but we didn’t. There were cool things to see…gorgeous rock formations, lots of mule deer, and interesting plants. So we forged ahead, laughing at the total ridiculousness of the situation but in general enjoying ourselves…even though Jeff ended up with a hat of snow by the time we finished. (At which point, the sun promptly came out and the snow disappeared.)
2. We have an uncanny ability to entertain ourselves.
One thing you’re unlikely to hear from either of our mouths is “I’m bored.” (Unless I’m lying on the beach.) If we’re not busy with a specific activity, we always find some way to be engaged and/or amused, whether it be discussing things we have read or heard or capturing our very best sides on camera.
3. We get lucky more often than not. We’re still waiting to win the lottery, so I guess we’re not the luckiest people out there, but we do seem to have luck on our side most of the time. Like when we managed to outrun the bus and make it aboard so that we could get to the Metro before it closed down for the night. Or the time we showed up at a sold-out Paul Simon concert without a ticket and were given two for free. Or the time the guy at the Phillies game handed us free tickets for seats 10 rows behind home plate. Or the time…
4. We have a knack for meeting *interesting* people.
Though I consider myself a fairly reserved person, I must look like a very open person, or else someone has pinned a “Please talk to me” sign to my back, and I haven’t figured it out. When I worked in Dupont Circle and ate my lunch in the park every day, I met everyone. I met the first black Grandmaster of chess. I met a really interesting musician named Raccoon who gave me his CD with the awesome song “Sandwiches” on it. And obviously, best of all, I met the Lord, at least that’s who he said he was, and really, who am I to disagree?
We’re off to Denver tonight to celebrate Jeff’s grandmother’s 90th birthday! She’s a pretty amazing lady. She has a college degree…a rarity among women her age…and she’s rather well traveled. In fact, she spent a number of years living in Turkey. We should all hope to have lives as enriched, fulfilling, and full of adventure as Farmor (the Swedish word for your paternal grandmother) has had. Anyhow, I’m not sure whether we’ll have any Internet access while we’re away, so you’ll just have to miss us for a couple of days. Hopefully, we’ll have a new post up on Sunday, but if not, one will come shortly after that, so keep checking back. Happy weekend.
During Mugabe’s rule the average life span of Zimbabweans has fallen from 65 to 30 years, the lowest in the world? Mugabe himself is 84.
Mugabe was inspired by Gandhi’s passive resistance movement and once vowed to use similar principles to help his own nation gain independence? He has, however, killed tens of thousands of people in ethnic cleansings since taking power.
Zimbabwe, under Mugabe, has the highest inflation rate of any currency in the world? Current estimates put it at 100,000%. Money is virtually useless.
Zimbabwe was once called the “breadbasket of the world”? Since Mugabe began his program of forcefully taking farms from white farmers and redistributing them (primarily to friends and political cronies), 1/3 of the population has had to rely on the World Food Program to avoid starvation.
In 2005, 10,000 of the poorest Zimbabweans were left without a home when Mugabe had the shantytown to which he had has his administration relocate these people destroyed? One of Mugabe’s many palaces was only a mile down the road.
Zimbabwe has the potential to be a wonderful place. The marvelous Victoria Falls lies on its border. Splendid African wildlife roams its plains. The land is arable and has a history of abundant production. The education system was once one of the best in Africa. In the 28 years that Robert Mugabe has ruled, however, Zimbabwe has been brought to its knees, virtually destroyed by a man the world once thought would save it.
Things do not look good, but on April 2, there was a ray of hope, as word leaked out that Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change had garnered over 50% of the votes in the March 29 election. A run-off was supposed to occur within three weeks between Tsvangirai and Mugabe. It looked like regime change might be on the way. However, Mugabe, not surprisingly, has not been cooperating with the process. Official results have yet to be released, and Mugabe has cried foul in regards to the counting of votes. He has also begun to crack down harshly on opponents, arrest journalists, and instigate violence in order to derail a run-off.
The future of Zimbabwe is at a crucial point. We must hope that the pendulum swings in the right direction. We must also do more than hope. I strongly urge each of you to contact your congress person, your president, and the United Nations to ask them to do everything in their power to see to it that this election process can continue and continue peacefully.