Wednesday, June 16, 2010

June 16, 2010

I'm very pleased to note that Gwynn and I recently celebrated my 79th birthday, a month after we celebrated our first wedding anniversary. Unlike geezers who don't like to reveal their age, I feel so great, and greatly surprised, that I have lived this long that I'm now looking forward to octogenarianhood.

Considering the mileage and the roads traveled, with the daily assistance of several prescribed pills, a number of elective nostrums, and a healthy diet that often features Gwynn's creative salads, I'm in relatively good shape. Currently, there is just one annoying exception. I learned a while back that pains I felt in my shoulders and upper arms came from injured rotator cuffs. The left one had been strained and the right one had been irreparably torn. Exercises I do at home and some I do in a nearby indoor pool help a lot.

Health definitely has not been the most troubling issue in our lives. We would like to own a home near water where winters are warmer than those we have in Atlanta. We each own a house that must be sold before we can buy elsewhere. Both houses need some gussying up before they will be ready to compete in today's picky-buyers market. In addition, both houses contain accumulations of things that require decisions as to what should be given away - and to whom - what should be sold - and for how much - and what do we feel we must keep. Progress is slow. Meanwhile, we web search listings of houses for sale in warmer climes and try not to be frustrated knowing that it might yet be quite a while before we can begin to live happily ever after in a home of our own. It sometimes helps to remind ourselves that we're very lucky that neither natural nor man-made disaster has left us destitute as has been the utterly disastrous bad luck of countless others, especially in recent months.

I often think of you, my relatives and friends, and sincerely regret that circumstances keep most of us from being together more. One of my hopes is that when Gwynn and I finally have a more stable life that situation will change.

Now, as I prepare to close this rather long post, please forgive me for sharing an unpleasant concern I have when thinking about our country.

For decades I have waited for someone more knowledgeable and more influential to begin an eventually effective movement toward a constitutional amendment that will require short, relatively inexpensive political campaigns for the offices of President, Vice-President, Senator, and Representative. I suppose this could take as long as it took to allow women to vote, but movement toward those ends should begin now.

Many of our problems are the consequences of the lack of beneficial laws and regulations or, if they exist, their nonenforcement, and too many laws and regulations that are enacted and enforeced to benefit relatively few. Too many of those who govern us constitute a political class whose lives have little in common with the great majority of us and who are seriously influenced by large financial contributers. Because of the high costs of campaigns very few politicians can afford to ignore offers of contributions from those who wish to influence their legislative and executive decisions. Major contributors bankroll campaigns and accrue influence. They benefit greatly as do media revenues, especially television revenues. Politicians enjoy the privleges of their class. It is a well oiled,win-win-win game played by the winners' rules . Clearly, neither the contributors nor the media nor the politicians affected will want to dismantle this mutually beneficial system.

I see no way of significant change occurring without a constitutional amendment. As a politically independent,very concerned citizen, I ask: Where is "the Tea Party" on this issue? Does anybody know? I hope you care.

Oh,yes - while I'm being heavy - I also think about religion. Here's a seventeen-syllable poem (a haiku) that distills where I am today in that


A Hypothesis

Like the "subconscious"

- a bridge to infinity -

"God" teases reason.

By the way, although my postal address remains the same for the time being - 300 West Parkwood Rd., Decatur, GA 30030 - mail also reaches me when addressed to 1984 Jordan Terrace, Atlanta, GA 30345; my home phone number is now 404-634-9532; my cell phone number is 678-200-2474; and my e-mail address is now

Love, good health and happiness to all.

U No Hu

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2110

This blog has not turned out to be as I intended it mainly because it has not been convenient to post segments as frequently as I thought I would. Now, so much has happened since my last, in November, that it is difficult to know how to begin.
I'll just work with what comes to mind randomly in order to post something today.
On the evening of December 8th, Gwynn and I flew from Atlanta to Madrid, Spain, arriving there on the morning of the 9th. After checking into our hotel, we walked to the Prado not more than a mile away. It was chilly, but the sun was shining. The visit to the museum was exhilarating. Dinner in a hotel restaurant was very good. We retired early and awoke very early the next morning, checked out, got a cab to the rapid rail train station and boarded a train that traveled over 200mph. We reached Malaga on the Costa del Sol in the early afternoon, check it then explored the elaborately decorated parks and shopping plazas nearby. The next day,the 11th, we took a bus to Algeciras where we boarded a ferry to cross the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier, where Mustapha, Gwynn's son-in-law, was patiently waiting to drive us to Casablanca. That evening we attended a stage production at The American School, where Gwynn's daughter teaches and her granddaughters are students. They were among the performers in a celebration of Christmas. I hasten to insert that, although most Moroccans are Muslims, religious tolerance is very apparent in this constitutional monarchy. For example, in the upper-middle class neighborhood where Gwynn's family lives there are Christian missionaries living next door to Muslims,a Muslim school, and a very large Hebrew School.
We had thought we would enjoy the reunion by being together during the school vacation,seeing the sites of Casablanca, visiting Rabat (the capital), Marrakesh and/or Fez, depending upon the vagaries of winter weather there, then depart Morocco by ferry from Tangier, for visits in Seville and Cordoba before returning to Madrid, by bus or by rail, on January 9th, in time to depart for Atlanta on the 10th. That was not to be. On December 26th, Gwynn fell hard on a stone walkway fracturing her left wrist and right ankle. Thus handicapped, we decided to remain in Casablanca longer and to fly from there to Madrid on January 4th.
Madrid was colder than it had been earlier; it even snowed near the end of our six-night stay. Nevertheless, we enjoyed memorable meals, visits to outstanding art museums, shops, shops, shops (Gwynn enjoyed those somewhat more than I), and an evening of authentic flamenco dancing.
When we arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, we were greeted by Tony Peoples who put Gwynn into a wheelchair and, as though we were VIP's, wheeled us through the returning process and to a taxi.
That was on January 10th, more than a month ago. Gwynn has recently been able to return to work, and I more or less simultaneously recovered from one of the worst colds I've ever had. By now I could say that we've returned to what we experience aS "normalcy" if it weren't for the abnormal weather we're having. Today's temperature, beginning in the low 20's is forecast to rise to 20 degrees below normal.
Gwynn is at work as I write this and I am at my house, where I probably should continue to sort things that need to be stored when I sell it. So, this must be enough for now.
U No Hu

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A chilly rain keeps me from mowing the lawn and cleaning leaves and acorns off the driveway today.
If you read the last posting, I hope you will appreciate how disppointed I had been at not being selected for a position on a UN literacy project in Kenya. Not only was I unhappy, having had no income for months, I was almost broke. In March, 1971, much of the country was in an economic recession. It hit especially hard in southern California where I had been waiting for news as to when I'd return to Kenya in the home of an African friend and his family. (My friend's African-American wife, also a dear friend - They put me up for three months as though I was family. - later moved to Kenya with her husband and children, worked for the US State Department, and was killed in the 1998 terrorist attack on the US Embassy in Nairobi.) Reductions in federal and state monies caused programs to be cut. Aeronautical engineers were mowing lawns in order to make mortgage payments; colleges and universities were cutting back on hiring. Responses to my job search further deepened disappointment, as did the bus ride from Claremont, California to the homes of relatives in Maryland and Virginia from which I began to negotiate with the Peace Corps to fill the positon of language training coordinator for volunteers heading for Africa. Long-story-short, my education and experience included everything they required except an ability to use French. Meanwhile, while waiting for that news, I received a letter from Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA inviting me to teach Swahili there.
When I was the only student in an Advanced Swahili class at UCLA, back in about 1964, my teacher, M. A. Bryan, asked me to help one of her students. I did. That fellow went on the earn a Ph.D. and to become a professor of African history. He visited my wife and me while I was in Kenya. Both he and the chairman of the Morehouse department met at a conference in Texas. When he learned that Morehouse was looking for a Swahili teacher with training in linguistics and experience in Africa, he informed the chairman of my existence. There followed the invitation. It was sent first to Kenya, then forwarded to a California address, and eventually on to me in Virginia.
I received it in August, 1971, promptly called the college, negotiated salary and title with the President, packed a rented car, and headed south. I didn't have much to pack because almost everything I owned, including teaching materials, was still in storage in Kenya.
I took my first graduate level courses having to do with Africa in the late 1950's at American U, in DC. Since then, my life had increasingly been about internalizing as much as I could of African (and African-American cultures). I had achieved a measure of success at UCLA, so much so that when I accepted the offer to work on the Survey mentioned in an earlier post, I turned down an invitation to come to Stanford University to teach and do the Ph.d. and a request from the Defence Language School in Monterey, CA to apply for a positon there. I had married a Kenyan African and had lived more with "people of color" than with Caucasians (colorless people, I suppose). While away, from the US, things here had changed in ways I had no clue about. Following the murder of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., race relations had become such that many African-Americans mistrusted all Whites. That took some getting used to. I was used to being considered "one of the good ones," and - hard to believe but true - I didn't think of myself as White. Morehouse taught me that I am. Anti-White convictions were especially common among college-age students who had become radicalized and sought to learn about and identity with Africa and Africans. Thus the sign, "Why Is A Cracker Here To Teach Us Swahili?", that greeted me soon after I arrived on the Morehouse campus, where I had been provided an economical faculty apartment. Just as I started to write on the sign an invitation to discuss that question with its posters, a large, bearish, African-American, Viet Nam Vet rushed up, ripped the sign from the wall of the student union building, crumpled it, tossed it, and told me not to pay attention to it. Much more might be said about my brief, two-year visit at 'the House.' But I'll postpone doing that. In closing this note, however, I must add that I retain a warm place in my heart for Morehouse College, a place secured in the spirit of MLK,Jr. It was a much-needed haven, provided insights I probably could not have earned elsewhere, introduced me to people who became friends, and where I met the woman who became my beloved partner until she died of lung cancer in 2006.
There.... I've finally found words to adequately answers a question I'm often asked: "Why did you, a White guy, come to teach in a Black college in the South?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My work on the Survey completed, I applied for the number two position on a prospective United Nations literacy program in Kenya. I had long been interested in improving effective literacy rates in East Africa because of crucial relationships between literacy and economic and social development. Very well-qualified for the job, I was asssured by one in the highest realm of economic decision making in Kenya that, should my name be among those recommended for the job by UNESCO, I would be selected. I placed all my books, art, etc., in storage and departed certain that I had an excellent chance of returning to work on that project. In spare time I would continue field research I had begun toward a doctoral dissertation on Syntactic Commonalities in Selected Bantu Languages. (Incidentally: There are more than 300 Bantu languages in central, eastern and southern regions of Africa. Swahili is one of them and - another bit of trivia - in Swahili, Swahili and English are Kiswahili and Kiingereza respecively.)
Before I left, I was told that UNESCO headquarters in Paris would be able to tell me whether the US government had cleared me for the job in about six weeks.
I spent most of that time falling in love with Greece before moving on to Rome, Florence, and finally, Paris. There I was assured that I was among those being favorably considered for the position. With wind in my sales I was then on to London, to relatives in Maryland and Virginia and friends in Southern California, and some beach time waiting in Mazatlan, Mexico.
I departed Kenya in July '70; in March '71, I learned a mistake had been made. Mine was one of the two names recommended, but not the one chosen. I was later told that the person who promised that it would be chosen was so angry that he tried to get UNESCO to employ me in the number one position. He had failed.

This post is long enough, possibly boring, and I must move away from the keyboard for now. To be continued....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

After Frank and I left Greenland in the late summer of 1954, our lives differed increasingly. Almost immediately after I returned to my bride, I realized we had both changed during that year-long separation. Absence had not made that heart grow fonder. We should not have married when we did. She was 19, a secretary at Georgetown University, and I, 21, a sergeant in the USAF on my way overseas. The happiness we shared when we married was never regained. Though we both tried to get along, and had two daughters I loved (and still love) dearly, the constant friction between us began to affect them so adversely that we eventually agreed it would be better for all concerned if we separated. In the winter of 1957, I moved out to begin a legal process that eventually led to a cooperative, uncontested divorce in 1962.
Soon, she remarried, had another child, and I was relieved at the prospect of my daughters growing up in a loving home.
When we separated, thanks to the "Korean GI Bill," summer employment as an apprentice bricklayer, and part-time work during school terms in DC public libraries, I was in my third year at the University of Maryland, majoring in Foreign Service and International Relations.
Unable that summer to work in construction due to some lengthy labor strikes, but needing income to pay child support, thanks to my having done well during two years of Russian language study, I found employment at the US Library of Congress. When I resigned four years later, I had completed the BA degree in economics at the American University, taken a couple of graduate courses there, and had moved from a GS-4 Editorial Assistant to a GS-9 Research Analyst. I resigned in order to accept the award of a National Defense Education Act fellowship in (full-time) African Language and Area Studies. I could do that because it included an allowance for dependents that enabled me to continue the child support that had been agreed upon when we separated.
During the academic year 1961/62, I studied at Howard University in DC. That summer, the fellowship was renewed and I went to Michigan State University for a couple months of intensive studies. While there, I applied to transfer to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). There I did an MA degree in linguistics, with major emphasis on Swahili and Comparative Bantu Linguistics, and later earned a certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language. Differences of opinion regarding certain linguistic theories caused me to decide not to persue a Ph.D. in linguistics at UCLA. Instead, I intended to go to East Africa, work there teaching English and doing research that would lead to a Ph.D. with either the University of London, or an East African university.
Meanwhile, I taught beginning Swahili at UCLA. I did that for three years, before moving to Nairobi, Kenya in 1967 as a UCLA employee. It was my second trip to East Africa. During the 1966 winter break, UCLA paid for my visit to Kenya and Tanzania in order that I could become more familiar with their cultures and enrich my teaching. The next year, I was offered my choice of a position on one of the five research teams or as part of the administration of the Survey of Language Use and Language Teaching in Eastern Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia), a Ford Foundtion funded, UCLA administered project. I chose the administrative position because it would give me more time in Africa. That summer, I moved to Nairobi ahead of the Field Director to set up the Survey Office there and to consult with officials in Uganda prior to arrival of a research team that would promote scholarly activities and produce an informative book entitled Language in Uganda.
Much, much more could be said about my three years with the Survey, and I'll probably do that some day. But this post already is too long.
Next time: I'll explain how a forty-year-old White guy came to teach Swahili in a Black college in Atlanta, Gorgia in 1971.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My last post was more than a month ago. Sorry. I had intended to write much more frequently but life got in the way. That note was on my friend Frank's 80th birthday, August 29th, and I said I'd write more about our friendship next time. I had in mind writing briefly about how our lives travelled different paths after we left the Air Force in 1954. Both of us took advantage of the Korean GI Bill's education benefits. But personal circumstances and interests led us into very different life styles. He remained happily married to the same woman, studied journalism and marketing, became a father and grandfather, and eventually retired a creative executive of a very innovative corporation whose name you'd almost certainly recognize. Since retirement, in addition to growing into patriarchhood and fishing with former corporate buddies, he has delved deeply into a quest for wisdom, seeking and collecting samples of wise thoughts produced through the ages, inviting them to influence his own continuing evolution.

He was well into that project when I found his e-mail address on the web about fifteen years ago. We've corresponded frequently since then. We are living proof that even in today's political climate it's possible to remain a very close friend of someone whose political allegiences are not one's own. When last we chated about politics, Frank was an ardent supporter of that "compassionate conservative," George W. Bush, and deeply suspicious of Barack H. Obama. I doubt that he has changed since then, and am sure he'll let me know exactly where he stands after reading this.

Next time, I'll write about some of the highlights and lowlights of my own - I dare to call it progressive - evolution.