I had jet lag. We arrived in Nairobi at 10:00 pm and had prearranged to meet the “boys” (actually men, I call them boys because they are about the same age as my son) at a bookstore in the Sarit Centre at 10:00 the next morning. Nairobi is an eleven hour time difference from Seattle and it takes about 24 hours to get there.

They call traffic in Nairobi “the jam”.  It took over an hour for our taxi to get to Sarit Centre from Gigiri but the boys bus ride was closer to 3 hours.  If I had realized how challenging the shopping trip would be I would not even have tried.

We had raised and brought with us $500 for them to use to purchase library books they thought would benefit high school students and young adults. Never has $500 been so carefully spent. They spent hours carefully picking, conferring and doing sums. I sat on a stool with my head on my knees, not comfortable enough to doze. I thought we were done, when the owner of the bookstore gave us a 10% discount so they could buy more books!

After shopping we had lunch in the food court and parted company. I was toast, but the reward:

African man smiling
African man smiling

Of course I would do it again…Just maybe on the second or third day.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Reward.”

What is local and what is global?

Several years ago there was a yellow haze in the air, noticeably different from anything I had seen before. It was very fine dust from the Gobi desert. It had crossed the Pacific Ocean. Amazing. The desertification in China showed up as air pollution in Seattle.

A funny thing happened when we went to the moon, we learnt that is wasn’t made of cheese…and we saw the earth from another point of view. I really believe that change of view was the most pivotal event that has happened in my lifetime. With our own eyes we saw that there is one earth, and from the moon it doesn’t look all that big. I was 7.

What changed? Our perspective. We really are on a tiny life supporting island in a beautiful, but harsh and shockingly empty, universe. .

Long before the moon landing Blaise Pascal wrote:

L’homme n’est qu’un roseau, mais c’est un roseau pensant. Il ne faut pas que l’universe s’arme pour l’ecraser. Une vapeur, une goute d’eau suffit pour le tuer. Mais quand l’universe l’ecraserais, l’homme sera encore plus noble que ce qui le tue. Parcequ’il sait qu’il meure et l’avantage que l’universe a sur lui. L’universe n’en sait rien.*

Man is but a reed, but he is a thinking reed. It is not necessary for the universe to arm itself to erase him. A vapor, a taste of water is sufficient to kill him. But when the universe erases him, man becomes more noble that that which kills him. Because he knows he is dying and the advantage the universe has over him. The universe knows nothing.

I learned that by heart in my high school French class. In my head it was always connected to pictures of space. Especially those with the earth in them. My personal favorite is call “earthrise”. That photo sends chills down my spine.

We are so interconnected. Our communities can consist of people around the world…and the world doesn’t seem as big as it once did. I spent an hour just hanging out with my son in China last night, a QQ video chat about this and that. It was nice.

I worked in the space industry. I’ve looked at more rivets than most can imagine, over-driven, under-driven and just right driven. Small gouges in very thin pieces of metal had to be analyzed to make sure the aluminum skins could still do their part. We were involved in getting satellites into orbit. Many of them, on some level all of them, were communication satellites. I suppose that is almost the ultimate local-global connection: small rivets that makes communication around the globe possible. Was I talking to James via a satellite I helped, in my own small way, to launch? I rather hope so.

I also hope that they help other mothers connect with their children, and other family and friends, old and new, all around this beautiful, and fragile blue marble of ours.


In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Think Global, Act Local.”

*This quote may not be perfect, I wrote it from memory and translated it myself.

The (Not so) Easy Road

The “carriage way” along the top of the Great Wall of China was used to get people and messages across China easily.

Carriage Way on the Great Wall at Mutianyu
Carriage Way on the Great Wall at Mutianyu


Yes I went up. I am in the top photo, my dad took the picture. Yes, it was nerve wracking. Being afraid of falling doesn’t necessarily make you a coward, just cautious.

Cee’s Which Way Challenge and Look up, look down challenge, as if the climb wasn’t challenge enough!

What makes us who we are?

Plants that reproduce by division are clones. They do not all wind up the same. How they come out depends on the circumstances in which they are planted: acid soil, a rocky area with little room for roots, shade cover. The list of variables that affect the outcome goes on and on.

Before cloning there are several questions I would ask.

At what age would the clone come into being? I was always fascinated by the idea that kids who skipped crawling had trouble learning to read. The occupational therapists would teach them how to crawl and then they could go on to learn to read.

So much of what one can do is dependent on experiences and how they shape us physically and mentally, apparently crawling created connections in the brain needed to read, even though the two activities do not bear similarity. How many connections like that do we not know about?

Also, how mistaken can we be about what is important? Parents with kids who are early walkers are usually thrilled, they don’t care if junior skipped the, seemingly inferior, crawling stage.

If a clone came into being at age two, what would they miss of the experiences that make us able to do the things we can? What about age five? Would they ever be able to do “simple” things like walk, speak, understand speech, read, write, do arithmetic?

Another question is how much of who I am is from genetics, and how much from my life experience?

“Nature versus nurture” is what they used to call the debate (they may still, but I don’t hear the phrase any more). Studies with identical twins separated at birth was the gold standard. When I was in college I did a paper about mathematical ability in women versus men, and I poured over article after article that talked about identical twins separated at birth. It made me wonder how many of these could there be? Even in my pre-parental life, I did not think that there would be that many sets of twins separated. Would I give up a child? Was there a higher incidence of giving up one child because there were two and they were the same? Did they do all these studies on the same sets of twins? Were those twins professional study subjects? If they were, wouldn’t that skew the results?… Would a clone digress as easily as I do?

A personal example: I fell off of our bulkhead when I was three. (I still have a scar, although it has faded to the point that only I see it.) I am afraid of falling. It is different from a fear of heights. It stands to reason that a clone would not have that same fear. How much different would a clone’s life be without that fear? Also, scars and other physical defects change how people respond to you. A clone without a scar might have had a different experience of people. Maybe a clone of me would be bold, comfortable with people and politically astute. Maybe my clone would be ridiculously successful.

On the other hand how much of my bookishness and subsequent learning was from not being bold and comfortable around people? Maybe my clone would have been a high school drop-out. I have a sister who was cute, bold and popular and she was.

As I see it there are too many questions and not enough answers to go for the cloning thing…but maybe that is my fear of falling talking.

This post was inspired by the moving post “Would Cloning Erase Me?”

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