Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · So you want to go to Africa
. . . .

So you want to go to Africa

Katie Huston - November 15th, 2007
“Going to Africa? Are you crazy?”
I’m sure that’s what more than a few people thought when I moved to South Africa for eleven months to study and travel. We associate Africa with poverty, corruption, violence, and AIDS. And I’m not here to argue that everything is fine and dandy on the Mother Continent; these are very real issues.
The problem is, that’s where we stop. When you hear about Africa, you hear about disease and failed aid schemes, starvation and war. But you don’t hear much about untouched beaches, hiking and trekking, exotic wildlife, vibrant traditional culture, lush rainforest, vast desert, and the kindness, generosity and resilience of the people.
What’s more, if we want to understand the problems of these troubled nations, we need to experience Africa ourselves and share what we learn. Simply funneling money into the continent is not the solution. Africa can be a fascinating and compelling travel destination for just about anyone, whether you’re a poor college student living like a local or you’re in search of a luxurious safari. Although the airfare’s pricey, once you arrive you can usually travel quite comfortably for far less than it would cost in the developed world; tourism is what supports many Africans, especially if you seek out local-run enterprises rather than profitable foreign programs. You’ll probably get a better deal, and get a much better sense of culture and place while you’re at it.
While in Africa, I traveled for eleven weeks: to Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zanzibar, and all through South Africa. It’s impossible to give general travel tips for a continent with 54 countries and 8,000 dialects. Africa is bigger than the U.S., Europe and China combined, and every country and culture is different.

Here’s a few stories, however, that may hold a few general words of advice...

Actually, in some places, a vice-grip would be more appropriate. Better yet, keep it hidden - a bra, ladies, is a surprisingly good place to store all sorts of things, up to and including your cell phone, and I did it regularly. Theft is economically motivated, and in Africa, if you’re white, you’re rich - it doesn’t matter if you’re a poor college student.
For the most part, I was smart and lucky, but on a deserted beach in Mozambique, of all places, I got myself into trouble. I’d left my cell phone (which doubled as my flashlight) in my pants pocket when I threw my clothes off one night for an impromptu swim in the warm Indian Ocean. It was great - until I returned to shore to find my cell phone, sweatshirt and long-sleeved shirt missing. At least the thieves were courteous enough to leave my pants and T-shirt.

It’s likely that your travel plans will change. A “three-hour” boat crossing to Zanzibar will last eight hours. You’ll get flat tires, and your bus will break down. You’ll end up someplace you don’t want to leave. It’s best to give yourself several days of wiggle room - and be prepared to wait. When I stayed with Marisa, a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Lesotho, she told me she spends at least a third of her life walking or waiting for taxis.
Sure enough, I woke at 4:30 a.m. on the morning of my departure to catch a 5 a.m. minitaxi to the nearest proper town, a three-hour ride away. And waited... and waited... until a minitaxi - an ancient VW van, packed with 19 people - finally spluttered by at 9 a.m., four hours later.
However, the experiences gave me a real taste of life for the majority of African people, who accept inconvenience as inevitable. I’m a lot more patient now, and I appreciate our public transportation and the value we place on timeliness. And I’ll never be without a journal and a good book.

Muzungu means “white person” in Swahili, as well as several other East African languages. And “muzungu price” means you’re paying more because you’re white. Sometimes, as in the case of the ferry from mainland Tanzania to Zanzibar, these prices are institutionalized, even legislated. But most of the time, you’re just getting ripped off. When I was sitting alone and ordered a Fanta soda, it cost me 500 Tanzanian shillings; when I was sitting with a local in the same bar, I paid 300.
Paying 40 cents for a Fanta instead of 25 doesn’t hurt me too much. But paying extra for every bus fare and cab ride can be frustrating - and can make a big dent in your budget. (Especially when you find out you’ve paid twice as much as everyone else for a ten-hour bus ride with no air conditioning and one bathroom stop; everyone’s staring at you, the only muzungu on the bus; and the driver keeps asking for your phone number.)
The best way to avoid being overcharged is to travel with locals, or ask people how much something should cost before you purchase it. In some countries, be prepared to bargain not only at markets, where the initial asking price is always too high, but with cab drivers, bus fares, and even hotel rates. However, accept the fact that once in a while, you will be ripped off, and choose your battles.

When you take a tour of the Cape Peninsula in South Africa, you’ll notice the sign: “Baboons are dangerous and attracted by food.” They’ve been known to break into houses in wealthy Cape Town suburbs, raiding fridges, upturning garbage cans, ruining furniture and defecating everywhere.
And despite all this, when I was on safari in Kruger Park, my friend Kunno - a Zimbabwean safari guide, who should’ve known better - announced, “These apples are too mealy. We’re never gonna eat ‘em,” and tossed one out the window as we passed a gang of baboons. Within seconds, the baboons had scrambled onto our car, a Citi Golf without A/C, as we frantically rolled up the windows.
A infuriatingly smart one planted himself right in front of the driver. We tried driving forward. Backward. Throwing more apples to distract him, which he caught without budging. It was 115 degrees, the sweat was puddling in our seats, and we began to panic. If we couldn’t open the windows - SOON - we were going to suffocate. We got away by tossing another apple several feet away from the car, but it was a close call.

This isn’t necessary if you take a South African Greyhound. But if you’re taking a bus trip on a cheaper line or in another country, there’s a good chance the stops won’t look like your typical American rest area. In fact, they might not even involve toilets.
When I took a cheap overnight bus in South Africa, a bathroom stop occurred when someone stood up in the back of the bus and bellowed in seSotho or isiXhosa (common black languages in South Africa) The driver swerved to the side of the road, people piled off, relieved themselves in an open field (and by “open,” I mean no trees or bushes), and climbed back aboard.
This is no problem if you’re a guy, of course, and it’s not too much of a problem if you’re a woman in a long skirt. Capri pants, however, are a bad choice, I learned when a bus full of Africans got a good glimpse of my hindquarters.

No matter what kind of traveler you are, Africa holds something for you. Travel in South Africa will be easier and more familiar than travel in most countries. Taking comfortable guided tours with other Westerners is likely to go more smoothly than traveling on a shoestring budget, local-style (although sometimes that leads to the greatest adventures).
Malaria is no reason not to travel if you take the proper preventative measures, but don’t underestimate the importance of using bug repellant to prevent infection if you’re in a malarial zone.
Get a travel guide - Bradt publishes an excellent Africa line. Talk to other travelers for destinations and tips, and make friends with locals if you truly want to experience Africa. Bring hand sanitizer and T.P., and don’t lose your earrings in a squat toilet.
Be adventurous. Explore. Uhamba kakuhle (“go well” in isiXhosa) and have fun.

From the plains of the Serengeti to the mountains of Lesotho, these were some of my favorite places in Africa.
Top Five Destinations

-Bulungula Lodge, South Africa
This eco-friendly backpacker’s lodge lies in the middle of a remote rural village, at a beautiful river mouth on the Indian Ocean. The lodge is a model of sustainable tourism, 40% owned by the vibrant local community. Locals guide village tours, horseback rides, canoe trips and visits to traditional healers - or you can relax and do nothing at all. It’s hard to leave. www.bulungula.com.

-Tofo, Mozambique
Think the beach is the life? Try Tofo. You can scuba dive with manta rays and snorkel with whale sharks, join the Mozambican kids playing soccer in the sand, or befriend the locals harvesting sea urchins just down the beach. Take a break to enjoy food or drink at a seaside bar. This is the life - and you can live it up, even on a student budget, at Bamboozi or Fatima’s, the two hostels in town.

This tiny country, the “Kingdom in the Sky,” is completely surrounded by South Africa, but it has a distinct culture of its own, marked by patterned Basotho blankets, bizarre hats and transport on horseback. The mountains and waterfalls are breathtaking, it’s much safer than its larger neighbor, and the people are the friendliest I met. If you visit South Africa, be sure to make it part of your trip.

-Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
It may sound silly, but when my safari truck bumped through the Serengeti, it was hard not to burst out singing “The Circle of Life.” This is the Africa of the imagination. The Ngorongoro Crater, a World Heritage Site, is breathtaking and packed with herds of wildlife; it’s hard to go on safari and not run into a pride of lions.

Stepping onto the “spice island” is like entering another world. Wander through Old Stone Town, where it’s easy to get lost among the old mosque doors (the island is 98 percent Muslim), and feast on local fish and fresh-squeezed sugarcane juice at the night market. And be sure to get away to the beaches, where the snorkeling and scuba diving is first-class. My five days in Kendwa, on the island’s northern tip - where I lived on the beach for $10 a night - were as close to paradise as I’ve ever seen.
For more African travel destinations and tips, visit www.lonelyplanet.com or

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5