Sunday, January 28, 2007

Kili photos

Friday, January 26, 2007

On January 25th at 6:49 AM, I successfully summited Mount Kilimanjaro (19340 feet, 5985 meters)

PS- new working address
Michael Le Chevallier
PO Box # 27336
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Saturday, January 20, 2007

the snows of kilimanjaro

"wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun." (the snows of killimanjaro)

Riding the bike down the high, beautiful extending countryside to the right, picturesque green mountain to my left, I kept my attention focused on avoiding crossing the yellow line. Crossing such a yellow line at the wrong time could mean an unfortunate meeting with a “luxury” bus speeding down the highway at 120 km an hour, braking for no man, woman or animal. Riding a bicycle is a dangerous activity, but like everything from sampling the food to taking a night time stroll, Africa is fraught with risk. It is part of life here, and only when my literary dramatic side takes over do I ever think to contemplate just how many ways there are to die here. Granted, this all comes to my mind just one day before I climb kili, a mountain which claims about 15 lives every year. Taking the six day climb, with adequate clothes, I am more at risk of a bruised ego than anything else. Maybe I should bring the voice recorder just to catch all the huffing and puffing. Nous retournons a nos moutons, however, the bicycle and I were following behind one former school mate of mine from the seminary in Berkeley named Daniel Hendrikson. Daniel is a newly ordained young priest from the Wisconsin province. I did not see Daniel often when I was at Berkeley, although he was a bit of a household celebrity amongst my female roommates, but when on a continent where your friends are few, you tend to be a little more liberal with your acquaintances. Lucky for me, however, for I was in for a treat as I got invited to spend just 2 days with him before he made his way to Nairobi for the World Social forum. Already tempted by the great mountain passing it on a bus on the way down to Morogoro, Daniel further encouraged me to climb the mountain.

While my time at the novitiate was relaxing, it was wonderful being in a pace of life more familiar to my American ways. The speed of it prepared me for the next two weeks which will include climbing kili, heading to Dar, going to zar, maybe getting an interview in and finally heading to Ethiopia. Welcome back to the life of the traveler my packed bags say to me. Daniel was the picture of Jesuit hospitality as he showed me around town good restaurants, invited me to attend classes, took me bike riding and even shared beers as we shared our own personal African stories.

I also enjoyed the company of his friend Stephanie, who left on a moments notice to fill a language position at the philosophy institute there. I also met Bart. Bart is an Oregon Province Jesuit who has been in Africa for nearly 17 years.

Visiting a swank hotel in morogoro named the acropolis for some scotch, Daniel couldn’t help but referencing the poisonwood bible and the one glamorous spoiled sister who ends up running a hotel in Congo. Enjoying fine scotch and a brownie (my first since getting here) at this swank place with dead animals or artist depictions of dead animals throughout the place I got a feel for life in the colonies.

Daniel also offered me, to enable my literary travels, the snows of Kilimanjaro by hemingway.

Now as I prepare to ascend the mountain, fear has certainly struck my heart. Am I fit enough? Common sense would say that I should be quite fit given that I have to walk every day. A lack of adequate hiking opportunities however and many hours on busses might have sent my muscles into atrophy. I almost envy those travelers arriving directly by plane from America or Europe. No parasites or worms have mined there way into there body. Living here at times can make you forgot what it feels like to be in full form and complete health. I’ve even taken to talking to my body at times as if it were a separate entity. I tell it that it knows how to deal with such problems and to deal with them quickly and quietly. Sounds crazy, but it works, even if it sometimes has dangerous consequences later.

Perhaps climbing a mountain shouldn’t be something you do on a whim…. I don’t need to worry you with my own worries however. Keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I ascend this mountain. Anyways, love you all!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Climbing Kili

well, I'm gonna do it. Leaving Saturday. See you at the top.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007



Yesterday I made my way to the International Court Tribunals For Rwanda.

I sat and was watching the appeal for a man who was a businessman and
"counselor" in Rwanda during the Genocide. He had already been sentenced
to life in prison and was now trying to appeal the case.

Sitting before me was a man who caused and incited violence. He had
personally, raped, murdered, disemboweled and decapitated. It was a
personal shock to compare my emotional experience in Rwanda as the
genocide penetrated into real life as I had realized that my very
residence was the site of the murder of 18 people, and to see this case
being so coldly and objectively examined. I know that this is how law
must work, but to hear the words "defile" (the French word for rape) and
decapitation being used by the defense like common household words
seemed somehow wrong. I understand the court is not the place for a
purely emotional argument, but the cold bureaucracy of the proceedings
seemed ill fit and unnatural.

Even worse, however, when the prosecution was rebutting the claims of
the appellant, and in fact describing the many crimes this man
committed, I saw a smirk on the appellants face. I later confirmed that
this was not just my imagination with a lawyer from Seattle Washington
who was attending the case with his son. He was smirking! The whole
thing felt like a farce.

I indeed later found out that it was, to some extent, a farce. After
being sentenced and finally sent away, these men are put in prisons in
Rwanda or whatever other country is willing to take them into prison.
These are often overcrowded and would not compare to the confinement
standards of the UN. The longer these men stay before the judge and
court, the better their lives are.


The Rwanda situation is not simple however. Following the case, I had
the opportunity to talk to a French Press agent who is a main
correspondent concerning the tribunals. He disclosed to me some of the
complications with the proceedings.

There originally was talk of reconciliation when the tribunals began.
This is no longer being considered. A man who is sentenced is often not
welcome back in Rwanda even as a prisoner. If a man is acquitted, the
same is true. They also are not welcome in other African countries. One
of the few places that will accept them is France, which causes its own
diplomatic issues.

Furthermore, it was not only the Hutu's who committed war crimes. The
Tutsi's did as well. The current president of Rwanda, however, has
control over all the witnesses. Should the UN indict any Tutsi's then
there would be no more witnesses. The genocide, while terrible, was not
one sided. Being painted as it is, however, by media, film and the fact
that only Hutus are being tried and convicted, one can see how this will
be a point of future tension. Reconciliation will fail.

Following the trial, I was taken out to lunch by a Seattle environmental
law lawyer named Gerry Pollet with his 10 yr old son, Hank. Hank shares
the same dislike for all food that I had as a kid. For lunch he ordered
spaghetti, butter and cheese, still a favorite dish of mine. It was
great to bond with another person from the North West.


I have spent the past week living at the Jesuit Novitiate. I decided to
come out here to Arusha for a little bit of vacation. Well, I seemed to
have plopped myself down right into the middle of more research. I am,
however, taking it at a relaxing pace. I think the only way I'll ever
get a true vacation from the research is if go to a mzungu resort or if
I go to a Muslim country. Well, I am going to Zanzibar next week!

Anyways, while out here I did make a trip to Ngorogoro crater and Lake
Manyara. It was a two-day safari. I booked it the day before and ended
up leaving with two Japanese girls. Our drive was a man named Joshua who
was from Bukoba. As we were leaving we stopped by his home to leave some
money for his brother, who suffers from HIV.

Lake Manyara was a wonderful jungle. I saw elephants, monkeys, baboons,
giraffes, gazelles, hartebeests, hippos, and wildebeests. At Ngorogoro
crater I also saw buffalo, lions, zebras (living and dead) and hyenas.

Ngorogoro Crater was truly something else. It is the inside of a
mountain about the size of Crater Lake. There are two small lakes inside
and the rest is savanna. You can see animals from a great distance away.

I don't know who has more herding instinct, the wildebeest or the
tourist. Whenever there was a suspicion that one of the big five might
be in an area, we swarmed. Soon you had a line up of about 10 tour cars,
all trying to get their glimpse of the lion.

Such seemed to be the case when we saw about 15 cars stopped in the
road. We drove over to see what the occasion was. Well, it seems that a
truck had gotten stuck in the mud and was half submersed in the water.
Pretty soon there were 20 cars stopped in the road, all blocked in by
the cars behind them. I warned the people in the back so that they might
turn around. What happens? One tourist says, oh neat, I'm going to go
take a photo. It was very much like the scene of an accident. Everyone
standing around, no one doing anything. None of the trucks had wood or a
shovel to dig them out. They tried dragging it out with a chain, but to
no avail.

I also got to see a pack of hyenas feasting on a dead zebra. I guess
they eat everything, including the bones.

After two days of standing out of the sunroof of a truck, lips burned
and face a nice shade of pink, I returned to lovely Arusha.

Pics will be up on facebook soon.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

more photos up at both links on face book

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Arrived alive, if a little sore.

Arrived alive, if a little sore.

I have arrived in Arusha! After 18 hours of sitting in a bus, I finally made it here at midnight. Fortunately, the novice master is a good friend of one of my old Jesuit friends and he came to pick me up. I certainly was quite exhausted, and my bum is a little sore. The trip was, for the most part, quite comfortable. I had enough leg room, and even though the road was in bad condition, sitting in the center of the bus, I didn’t feel the worst of it. I had a window seat that looked down directly to the compartment where my bag was stored, so I had no anxiety over my possessions. Moving by land, I also got a sense for the country here. How many times I wished I could just blink and take a photo of what I was seeing. Perhaps I’ll become a painter someday and capture it all. I was sitting next to two gentlemen from Mwanza who are Catholics from the mabatini parish. I know the parish priest there and we forged a connection. After some conversation, we each settled in our space and rested. Thank god for a 12 hr battery life in my ipod. Between switching it off to converse and zoning into it as the countryside passed by, the battery lasted the entire trip. What does one listen to on an 18 hr bus ride?? I began with some “life stories” from the New Yorker. The Duke of his Domain, written about Marlon Brando by Truman Capote, a story about Katherine white, former editor of the New Yorker and a story of Floyd Patterson, the boxer. This was followed by about 3 hours of poetry from The Garrison Keilor, good poems collection: poems read and remembered by his listeners on his show. I gave a try at John Paul II’s Rise, let us be on our way, but I found it to be to biographical and frankly, a little boring. This came out while the pope was quite incapacitated. I wonder who wrote most of it. I finished the night with Dante’s Purgitorium. Books on tape are a wonderful thing!

Now at the Jesuit Novitiate here I can see Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro from the fields. Mount Meru is 14,000m and Kili is 19,000m. I likely will not have a chance to climb, as it is quite muddy here, but there is a group of Franciscans who lead tours up the mountain for only $300! That is a much smaller figure than the price prescribed by other companies of 1000! I will likely take a short safari into the national park here and the Jesuits have a friend working with the International genocide tribunals.

Where will I go next? I have just heard back from Zambia, so I might make a quick trip down there before flying to Ethiopia. Life seemed a lot more settled, before the war in Ethiopia opened my mind to all the other possibilities. Well, that’s all for now.

Kwaherini (goodbye (pl) in Swahili).

Monday, January 08, 2007

leaving mwanza

can hardly believe it, but i just booked my 12 hr bus ride through the seregetti to get to arusha. i head out tomorrow leaving like a thief in the night...... leaves alot of packing in the meantime!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

time for a recap

Time for a recap.

It seems I have been slacking a little lately on the blog. The last mass email I sent was a little extensive and it always takes me some time to recover my stomach for writing and reflection.

I spent my New Years holiday research in a village called marampaka. This is about 150 kms from Mwanza. With the roads here, however, the 30ks between the tarmac road and the village can take about 2 hours and rattle most of the contents of your stomach. On New years day I attended some 4 masses! I went to the first mass at Marampaka and then followed Bundu to the 2 parish outstations, both about 40 km away. There is a phenomenon here in Tanzania where choirs are celebrated as the most wonderful thing since sliced bread. These dancing singing machines, with their exaggerated movements and loud organ often render a congregation silent for an entire mass. While seen as the tools of inculturation, they tend to work against it, as one of the purposes of inculturation is a greater participation of the congregation. In Marampaka, however, they seemed to have been able to partial strike a harmonious chord between congregation and choir. The choir sits in the front pews of the church. Rather than being a group to be observed, they are meant to be followed. Furthermore, Bundu has established 2 inculturation groups. The first is of younger children, who dance and sing in the very front row and then a group of older folks who dance and sing in the middle. This way a person in the congregation can feel some connection to at least one of the groups. Overall, it was quite successful.

New Years eve I attended a mass. It started at 11 PM and did not finish until 2:30 in the morning! From start to end it was liturgy. The congregation, priest and choir turned it into a real celebration. At many points the choir got up and danced in the aisles and before the altar.

Attending mass the next morning (Swahili mass number 5… my brain was a bit fried), my folks called at midway through the 2nd reading. I left the building and took the call. Upon returning an hr later, the priest was just starting the liturgy of the Eucharists! Only in Africa…..

In discussing inculturation with Bundu, I realized that it is indeed a life and death situation at times here in Tanzania. That sounds a bit dramatic, but what inculturation is doing is opening a dialogue between church and culture, and addressing issues that would be important to local communities. Within Tanzania and amongst the Sukuma in particular, there is a great fear of witchcraft. A person who has died from illness or accident before old age is purported to have been cursed. Someone would then go to a diviner to figure out the cause. As bundu has said, they don’t ask what, but who. This diviner identifies the source of the calamity, often pointing out a witch. Someone is then hired to kill this person. Between 1994 and 1997 some 399 people were accused of being witches and were killed. According to a survey done by the Tanzanian Media Woman’s Association, 99% of these were old woman. One of the markers of being a witch is red eyes, which a woman would often have from years of cooking over an open fire. Bundu told me that within a period of 2 days 7 women were killed within his parish alone. Inculturation is more than just dancing and drumming. It is taking the context and culture of a community seriously as one proceeds with theology. There is no mention of witchcraft in the catechism here and often the response of the church was to just tell people that it doesn’t exist. People know and believe the case to be otherwise however. What needs to happen is a greater research done of this topic by a qualified person, interested in the topic and willing to face the dangers of entering into to this world so they can give a better response as to how the church can respond. These are real issues and real fears that the church needs to help address.

12 hrs back in Mwanza and then on the road again.

This time I was returning to retired Maryknoll priests Dan Ohhman and Don Sybertz. I drove down to Ndololeji Village with Hung, a maryknoll seminarian originally from Vietnam and Fr. Tim, who is the rector of their Chicago seminary. In Ndololeji I feel like I am at black Butte Ranch resort. With little else to do but enjoy the company of the folks there, I relaxed, unwound and got plenty of rest. 2 days in to our trip we drove to the rift valley, where the Wataturu live. The Wataturu are a semi nomadic tribe, who have only begun farming within the past 10-20 years as an effort to keep their land from being taken over by the Sukuma. The Wataturu are known to be fierce warriors.

Everyone of these herders seems to carry a walking stick with him, whether she or he be 8 or 62. While they may be wearing nothing but a blanket, they would feel naked without their beaded necklaces.

Having a sundown beer with Dan, Tim and Hung while watching a spectacular array of rainbow colors beautifully and chaotically spewing through the top of the clouds, I couldn’t help but feel I was getting a glimpse of paradise....

Monday, January 01, 2007

more photos up on facebook!

Just got back from a whirlwind weekend in marampaka. In two days i went to 5 different masses. In one of them my parents called, so i caught the phone (about at the second reading). When i came back one hour later they had not started the liturgy of the eucharist yet! Only in Africa.... More to come later. I am off to live with nomads for a week.