Grundens Campaign Pt I – Guatemala

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

You go through the orders of meetings and conference calls. You wait and wait, a confirmation biting the nails. Will I or will I not? Because I can see it. The palm trees, an array of dancing heat waves rising from the sand. An illusion of adventure, wanderlust, a new pathway in what you love to do most. The fight. The fish. They pull your lines taut and fill you with cravings to want more. All that anticipation pulses your blood and boils down to one simple email. An itinerary. Departure dates, arrival times and the unknown expedition ahead. It’s your confirmation. Guatemala.

What transpires is a journey into peoples’ lives and the characters discovering about what they love most in this world; that is fishing. They travel around the world. They take hours upon hours, days to weeks to months of their lives to reach the furthest shoreline to cast a line, throw a leader, and let the water speak about its’ darkest kept secrets. These individuals are fishing. They do it for an occupation. They do it for recreation. They do it alone, with colleagues and family members, sharing in the thrill of the catch. This is passion.

And with Grundens’ new release of a warm-water recreational clothing line, whose tradition weighs in the dense northern waters of commercial cold-water fishing, I head south with them first to the evanescent blue waters off Guatemala to participate in the annual Billfish Invitational Tournament, whose goal is to educate the growing community about the ocean’s rich economic resources off Guatemala. We’re talking about catch-and-release bill-fishing. Giant black and blue marlin and sailfish being the two geese that lay the region’s golden eggs.

Hosted by Pacific Fins Resort in Iztapa, Guatemala, a cast of fishermen embark to share with people how much they appreciate the sea and its resources, for the sake of thrill or occupation, and the need to promote a sustainable industry for the local and global economy. Without fish, there is no sea. Without fish, there is no fisherman. For more visit Grundens’ Guatemala gallery.

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

The dry dock in Iztapa provides numerous jobs for the local economy.

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

The dry dock in Iztapa provides numerous jobs for the local economy.

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

The dry dock in Iztapa provides numerous jobs for the local economy.

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

The dry dock in Iztapa provides numerous jobs for the local economy.

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

The dry dock in Iztapa provides numerous jobs for the local economy.

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

The dry dock in Iztapa provides numerous jobs for the local economy.

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

The dry dock in Iztapa provides numerous jobs for the local economy.

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

The dry dock in Iztapa provides numerous jobs for the local economy.

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

The dry dock in Iztapa provides numerous jobs for the local economy.

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

The dry dock in Iztapa provides numerous jobs for the local economy.

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

The dry dock in Iztapa provides numerous jobs for the local economy.

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

Grundens recreational sportfishing clothing line in Guatemala

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Grundens’ Campaign Pt II – Norway coming soon…

 

 

Vodou Footprints: GEO Magazin Publication/TearSheets

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Thrilled to share the current issue of GEO Magazin, printed and distributed in Germany and parts of Europe. To secure this story, I traveled to New York to meet with GEO’s editors and presented a printed portfolio of my travels in West Africa exploring Vodou culture. Following up, I expressed the fact that this type of documentation of Vodou has never been done before, shooting both stills and motion within a long-form multimedia project covering the origins and evolution of one of the oldest and most misunderstood religion in the world.

The following are tearsheets from the current article, along with a video produced by GEO for the iPad edition and website of video footage shot while in Benin and Togo, West Africa accompanying a photographer’s interview discuss the project and experience within the culture.

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Photo Essay: Flora & Fauna of Indo

Film Share: Beyond Petroleum (Chief Oren Speaks)

Distinguished Guests: The Age of the Oil Drill (Location: Lagos, Nigeria, Africa)

Certainly out of our league.  When we entered the building, there was an air of leaving the world behind and indulging in the high-status frequency of world economics and infrastructure.  I passed a sign, or more a mural embedded within a wall like thick corrosive sludge in the shore’s seagrass.  It was iridescent, out of place, colorful within the drab building of white walls, symmetric hallways, and black electronics blinking, beeping, interrupting and heeding.   It stated:

Integral to everything we do is a commitment to valuing the uniqueness of the individual, harnessing the strengths of a diverse work force, and respecting and learning from the communities in which we operate.  As we succeed, so too should our partners in Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, and other countries around the world.

Hmm.

I gave some thought worth pause.

My camera was in hand.  I snapped a photo.  A security guard approached.

“You take no photo.  No.  No photo.”  His head shook.  It was black as night.  It was black.  It was beautiful.

I pointed playing dumb, “This?”

“No photo.”

Too late.

Here we were, average citizens, turned global, now becoming diplomats.  We were inside the headquarters of Chevron Nigeria Limited.  We came for a meeting with the senior managerial staff to probe, to understand, and of course, to “respect and learn from the communities in which we were operating.”  We were twenty Americans about to sit down in a boardroom with the decision makers of Chevron’s involvement within Nigeria.  We left this exact country behind as we found ourselves within leather- and cotton-cushioned seats in a room outfitted with top-of-the-line conferencing technology.  Where was Nigeria?

“You are citizen diplomats in the inner sanctum of Chevron!” Susan shouted in a belligerence of excitement.

As we waited, prepared, and sat in anticipation, our penmanship doodled in quick fury.  It jittered with the unknown that was about to arrive.  What would we say?  What would happen?  What would come about with this meeting, and how could we all benefit from it, especially the people of the Niger Delta?  Together, we felt like we were a world apart from the streets of Nigeria in which we had just left.  The madness, the horns, the heat, the people and the bodies—crammed crushed beaten—the charred metals of slashing motors and their bikes.  It was a pure black ebony traffic jam on our way through the streets of the once-capital—Lagos. With an estimated population somewhere between 10 and 15.5 million people, making it the second largest city in Africa (Cairo being number one), we drove across town with the hoards of traffic in slow crawl.  Buses, vans, sleek black Mercedes with chrome wheels and tinted windows, along with clunking heaps of metal, motto-bikes and foot-traffic allowing time to pass slowly.  People moved in all directions, against all civil rules in what often looked like a rumble of rusted parts held together by bolts and the people themselves.  And despite the exodus of everyday Lagos, we reached our meeting with the precision of planning after the hours of simply crossing town, staring out the windows at the revolutions of Africa’s intensity.  Here we were, within white walls, within silence, putting back on the layers we had been stripped of as a stern, stubborn vent hissed a chilled air over our heads.  We had only spent one night and one morning in the country, and now we were gone.  We were in the corporate country of Nigeria; a Wonderland entirely different.

I sat back.  My leather chair responded; bounced, squished, squeaked, and reclined like a rocket launch.  The air filtered.  It hummed.  Mr. Denji Hastrup and Mr. Simon Winchester entered.

There were short introductions, which seemed wholly fruitless in the scope of their ripening money tree.  Hands were extended as we greeted the senior management of Chevron Nigeria Ltd., and our attentions spanned, as did the tailored wealth of their headquarter lawns.  Susan spoke with a leader’s determinacy; “We’re not tourists, we’re delegates.  We’re here to learn and bridge all sides.  We hope with our presences, with loving hearts and open minds, we can create more trust.”  She paused.  “We’re really here to listen.”

Listening.  This was Susan Partnow’s thing, as well as the other facilitators of The Compassionate Listening Project around the world.  And this was a part of our journey.  How else to learn, but listen?

Alright, indeed there is experience, but within the act and art of experience, you listen.  This is the essence.  Within experience, you don’t just listen with the ears, catching sounds, but you listen with it all.  Your body listens to the environment.  It feels the senses.  It absorbs them with the input they receive.  It immerses itself within the energy of the atmosphere.  It sucks from it—a nectar, the bee.  The body and the experience, when in a union of totality, are one.  They compliment each other.  They feed from one another.  And in order to accomplish this awareness, the body listens.

The Compassionate Listening Project, in an esoteric perspective, is this bodily listening.  It is an awareness of your body to that which is before you—whether a person communicating, whether more than one, or whether the environment you are within—to best understand it and open up to the potential for growth and healing, if necessary.  Deeper, you reach the level of the heart and soul, where your love innately resides; waiting, stirring, believing.  In its patience, your love lingers for your own initiative to release and fill others.

“We’re really here to listen.”  Susan’s phrase extended to a whole source of purpose.  As I sat there, I could see it written and pasted on a refrigerator, one of those magnets of wise sayings and quotes:

We’re really here

to listen

-Susan Partnow

I could look at it as a spiritual meaning.  We’re here to hear—to hear the inner voice of our guidance to direct us to the most beneficial, most safe, most loving home upon this planet where we could operate from the source of love and peace where this precise guidance emerges.  We’re here to listen to one another—something called respect, which could solve any and all problems, each catastrophic war and each domestic dispute among family, friends and strangers.  We’re here to listen.

As Susan spoke of our project within the Niger Delta, Denji and Simon indeed listened, but they often checked their watches, flipping their wrists, or allowed their eyes to wander round the room’s walls as if marveling at the technological masterpieces in which they had at their fingertips.  “Damn we’re good,” the eyes spoke.

The two execs were businessmen and this was the air within that hissing, humming, chilling boardroom.  They spoke to us with diligence and professionalism.

“It is not practically possible to have a full understanding of the complexity of the Niger Delta.  It is a region of tribes and peoples each with a distinct history and kinship to one another.  And for us to operate within it, we face daily trials dealing with the tribes who compete and survive based on their own and their neighbors’ performance.  There is jealousy and often hostility involved.  It is a very, very complex situation we have.  Once you know the problem, it is only half solved.”

We knew what Mr. Denji was speaking of.  We had had our history lessons of the region.  We were aware of the violence, the suffering, between the peoples of the Delta, and we were also aware of the turning of a blind eye in which companies such as Chevron, Shell, ConocoPhillips and Exxon ignored, even instigated.

But it was never all bad, that is…their participation and operations.  Back in the late ‘90s, Chevron funded the construction and operation of a hospital near a platform called Escravos, but relied on the Delta government to supply the doctors from the nearby industrial port of Warri.  This was the high point with the local ethnic peoples.  It was a time when relative stability settled over and under the oil-rich region and both multinationals and locals sought to work with one another.  Many projects such as these flourished.  Or maybe the word flourished used here is a little to ostentatious.  How ‘bout developed?  On top of the Delta’s development in the oil industry and its exportation and sales, the communities within and surrounding the oil platforms developed from the broad opportunities for employment.  Relatively speaking, most were happy, or that was the feeling within those communities reaping the benefits off their own land, as it should be.

This was the high point.  The two separate worlds, one of developed business fueling the rest of the world and one of primitive African fisherpersons, working with one another and both coming out on top—or so most thought.

The hospital near Escravos was up and running.  Local people had medicine.  Pregnant women had a source where they could be cared for, supported, and children could have the chance for survival with modern vaccines when they faced the struggle against disease and virus strains.  Working with one another.  Both coming out on top—or so we assume.

In 1999, the hospital, the drugs, the whole project burnt to the ground.  It was charred, seared, a place of modernity and community within the raw world of Africa’s tribes.  A local group, apparently due to the inter-conflicts between tribes, torched it, leading one to ask, “Was jealousy involved?”  “Why did they get a hospital and not us?”  “My water’s spoiled, as is theirs:  What do we get?”

Chevron returned and helped to rebuild the community’s hospital, one open to all peoples of the region, but the region is big, taking hours, maybe days to cover through the narrow alleyways of water in what is called The Creeks.  So others were not pleased.  They wanted theirs.  It burnt down again in 2003.

Simon looked around at us.  He wanted us to know the complexity.  He wanted us to know the frustration they all face within the business when the people help fuel this adversity of fairness and just responsibility.  “We have to find stability in the region.  It does not make sense to throw money where it will not benefit the people, where it will not care for the children and those who are ill.”

So the leaders at Chevron Nigeria Ltd. developed a new model for sustainable development within the communities, for the communities.  They would fund representatives from each community to create and develop the communications necessary.  It would be termed Regional Council Development, or RCD.  Within this board, representatives would meet and discuss funding options to get input and educate the locals about the prospects for development.  Likewise, a priority among responsible business management is the transparency of the company and its operations.  Therefore, RCD would discuss the costs of the project to create an open and indistinct development.  Simon put the mustard behind the bread; “When we know the cost of a project, when we know the cost of a gift, we are less likely to destroy it so quickly.”

RCD incorporates four basic principles:

  1. Participate with partnership
  2. Transparency and accountability
  3. Community empowerment and sustainable development
  4. Conflict resolution

With the first principle, Simon reiterated the success between partnerships when each member is involved and active in the developing process.  Open communication is key, involving as many perspectives with those present.  In regards to transparency and accountability, if the information and knowledge is not clear, it advocates the spread of rumors from a third party source.  When each participant and community individual is aware of the operation and aware of the contribution to operation, those opposing it in any way are less likely to react in retaliation since all honesty among the other participating member is open and on the board.

As I was listening, I was thinking: Smart man, right?.

And the third point Mr. Simon Winchester highlighted was on empowerment.  We all know empowerment; its strength, its force, its lifting qualities to make one believe and be believed.  Empower the people, Simon emphasized.  “Unleash their potential to develop community in order to create sustainability and stability.  If Chevron leaves, the project and creation will continue in the hands of its successors.”  I was beginning to see Simon as the next Zig Ziglar of the corporate world.

Empowerment is complete power shift.  It is a giving of power, or the potential for realization of power, back to someone.  But was that power ever taken?

Power is in one’s own beholding.  If one has power, conviction, belief, it is only taken from one if that person allows it to be.  Power is yours to keep, and it always is yours.  No one can ever take it; it is only yours to give.  And in the frame of empowerment, empowering people, especially the tribes of the Delta, would be allowing them the opportunity to reclaim their strength and participate in the development of their own land—something they have never had in this emerging world of business.  The new process, according to Simon, would involve the action of both woman and child—another foreign concept in the eyes of village elders.  This is the transparency process of RCD.

Our eyes were open; our ears receptacles from abroad in a world of distinguished differences.  But we listened through each capable orifices of reception.  We learned.

“This is community engagement 101,” Denji finished.  “And always be on alert.”  That last remark jumped out from the bush, and I wondered its relevance to the new model, but he summed up his feelings, whether business to business, or just straight person to person—an equal plane.  “You’re a bridge to us.  You’re a bridge to them.”

As we left the room, we all had the opportunity to ask more questions in a casual, wondering, cocktail-party ambiance.  I chose to wonder and be an observer.

My thoughts burrowed deep within a conscious questioning with every other diplomat, searching for an understanding of the issues facing the oil-rich region of the Niger Delta.  We heard Chevron’s proposed programs in order to meet the local’s needs, needs that have been ignored, trampled and despoiled among the multinational corporations’ greed for revenue and demand.  Yes, their words were professional, understood to be addressing a group of twenty philanthropic workers.  They were shakers of hands, and we met theirs, grateful for the time allotted to us humble seekers.  I wandered and approached a wall near the south exit and stood before a large plastic poster inscribed with the Codes of Conduct.  How professional.

Chevron

Nigeria/Mid-Africa SBU

Operational Excellence

Safe, Reliable, Efficient and Environmentally Sound Operations

Do it safely or not at all

There is always time to do it right

Tenets of Operation

Always—

  • Operate within design or environmental limits.
  • Operate in a safe and controlled condition.
  • Ensure safety devices are in place and functioning.
  • Follow safe work practices and procedures.
  • Meet or exceed customer’s requirements.
  • Maintain integrity of dedicated systems.
  • Comply with all applicable rules and regulations.
  • Address abnormal conditions.
  • Follow written procedures for high risk or unusual situations.
  • Involve the right people in decisions that affect procedures and equipment.

Achieving World-Class Performance Through

Organizational Capability

Out the security borders and beyond the gated walls.  Out back into Nigeria, with Africa’s most populous nation at hand.

The Kenyan Spectrum: The Good, The Bad & The Just Alright – Part III

Paradise Lost

A conceptual image of Paradise is reality, but can only be found within the architectural framework of an idealist’s imagination.  Just like Happiness and Sadness, Good and Evil—these concepts do not exist, yet are everywhere.  They are undiscoverable, can’t be found, hidden from the materialistic world; though they simply wait, readily available to be experienced whenever the heart is open and the mind broad.

In The Island of Lost Maps, author Miles Harvey states:

“These days… not even the truest of true believers would dare to put Paradise on a map.  Yet despite the cynicism of our age, we humans have not lost our urge to quest after that place of perfect contentment, never quite finding it but never giving up hope, sometimes drawing so near that we can almost smell the faint sweet scent of its blossoms or spy the distant glimmer of its waters” (Harvey, pg. 234).

Our paradise began with a departure for Africa, leaving the ardors of daily living.  The smells of inky bills.  The sounds of scratchy cell phones in spotty reception.  The cluttered schedules boggling a mind of needs and necessities.  What a dream.  Then, their complete disappearance as paradise blossomed, thrived, and then wavered in and out of reality as we experienced the traveler’s lifestyle.  But the very concept continued to flourish.  We moved through life.  We felt the gift of the present moment, lost in distant lands and foreign cultures.  From Ethiopia to Djibouti, to Ethiopia and Kenya—three months with one backpack of amenities.  The simplicities of the very basic.

However, as suddenly as human life is extinguished, paradise can be lost.  For our African journey—presently exploring the Kenyan coastline of sand, sun and sea—this slippery concept fell from the rocks and crashed into the sea.  It came to an end as the same fate threatened our very own lives.

Saturday night.  The beach empty.  A moon neared its full capacity as the calm waters of Ras Kitau bay lapped at the shimmering sands.  There was a man approaching.  I watched him with a keen eye.  As he neared and greeted, he grabbed my hand and drew me in.  Suddenly, his weapon appeared and caught the moonlight above my head.  Lily screamed.

Akamba Buses carried us from Nairobi to Mombassa, east to the shores of Kenya.  From there we hired a taxi, took the ferry and continued south towards the Tanzanian border.  It was dark by the time we got to Ukunda, where we turned left and headed into Diani Beach.

For sixteen days we found home and lived a paradise at Diani Beachalets.  For 800ksh a night, Lily and I stayed in a banda, our small cottage, one without electricity, without a fan and with lots of monkeys.  When it rained it leaked.  And when it rained, the grasses turned green with the scents of earth filling the sea air.  We did much of nothing.  We read close to ten books a piece.  We lounged on the beach in the sand and up on the grasses upon wooden plank chairs.  We walked the beach.  We swam.  We met our traveling neighbors and exchanged stories.  We explored the strip of Diani Beach, shopped and prepared our meals morning, afternoon and evening, fending off the marauding primates.  It was rustic; that yearned for simplicity the traveler craves.  And with it all, we immersed ourselves in the local culture.

“Rafiki, rafiki! Jambo!”  A tall lean man slowly walked towards us.  “Howz yo day, brotha?”

“Good, good.  The ideal holiday.”  And it was.  Lily and I were sprawled on the beach under intense sunrays.  Heat penetrated and sunk into our bodies, causing perspiration to spew from every pore.  Every ten minutes we rose to cool in the crystal shallows of the Indian Ocean.

“Yah, brotha.  This is good, the good life.”  There was an awkward silence.  Then he continued.  “So brotha,” he started squatting next to me.  “I’m a business man and wanted you to promote me.”  His name was Alex, aka Coolio.  He was our trusty Kenyan Beach Boy.  Others exploited us, ran away with our cash.  Beach Boys like The Kenyan Busta Rhymes and Simple Max offered their services, granted us trust and then never came around again.  But Alex was different.  He was real.  I could look into his cloudy eyes and see honesty.  With most you couldn’t.

“You know,” he began, “Many Beach Boys smoke heroin and look for their money.  They will scam and they will run.”

“Like your friend Busta Rhymes?”

“No man, he is different.”

“Really?” Lily asked.  “How could he be different?  He took our 700ksh and left.”

“His family, you know.  One just died of malaria.” Alex nodded his head.  “Really.”

“Ohhhh,” we replied suspiciously.  Yet we trusted him.  We bought homemade sandals, which his mother made for us.  And we bought bracelets for friends, a personalized wooden sign and a keychain pendant, along with a batch of fresh coconuts.  One day, as I was stepping onto the beach, I saw him whistling to a shell.

“Alex, what the hell you doing?”  I figured he was just stoned, whiling away his time.

Alex looked up.  “Hermit crabs, you know, they like the whistle.  When you whistle, they come out.  They say hello to the whistle.”  Only in paradise can you find hermit crabs dancing to a melodic whistle.

We met more Kenyan Beach Boys in other places.  Vasco de Gama and Omar were brothers, partners in dhow sailing.  We became closer with them then Alex as the two Kenyan sailors helped us, supported our emotions in a time of need, and showed us their seas with respect.  Vasco was a local from Lamu.  Omar was a local from Pate Island.

Paradise can often be confined to a generalization:  Isolation.  Relaxation.  Serenity.  Peacefulness.  Even a Corona advertisement—sun, sand, turquoise waters, your lover, and (for me) a Negra Modelo with two lime wedges.  Paradise varies as often as the clouds of the monsoons, and each can be described differently.  Lily and I lived our paradise in Ethiopia within the metropolis of Addis Ababa to the desolate Hamer region, and on to the comforts of Nairobi towards the beaches of Diani.  Then we transitioned and came away with a little less baggage and a lot more awareness.

From south to north; Diani above Tanzania to Lamu below Somalia.  We bused it.  We ferried it.  And we arrived, carried away to a beach on an island in the middle of nowhere.  We expected another paradise and saw it.  It was Shela Beach on Lamu Island at the Sunset Guest House.  For six nights we had the top floor terraced-bedroom complete with electricity, multiple fans, a solar heated shower and refrigerator.  In fact, we had the entire accommodation to ourselves, and what often felt like the entire seaside.

Lamu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Narrow winding alleys, exquisitely carved wooden doors lining coral pathways and the bustling Arabs with the men’s flowing white gowns and the women’s mystic black bui-buis (traditional Islamic head scarves), each sparkling in the fierce village lighting.  The town is enchanting with scents of humanity harvesting, preparing and cooking spicy Swahili dishes.  Mix the aromas with various loads of donkey dung, cat shat, raw prawns and decomposing red snapper, and some squashed cockroaches into the perfume and viola—a rustic seaport ripe with tradition.  Only two cars exist on the island—one belonging to the hospital, the other to the police station—therefore the colony of donkeys dominate transportation, together with the fleets of dhows and long narrow motor boats.

Saturday was such a day for exploring the civilization.  Lily and I bought our groceries at one of the two shops and drank a fair share of fresh juices from coconut and sweet lime to tamarind.  It was late by the time we were heading back, too late.  We had to cross the DMZ between Lamu town and Shela Beach, a forty-minute walk passed the jetty, along a boardwalk and onto the sandy beach.  It was dark.  The moon was waxing.  The stars danced silently to the whispers of the sea.

As I stated, Lily and I were alone on the beach.  It was approximately 7:30PM.  I had on a backpack stocked with groceries and my camera was slung on the outside across my shoulder.  We were close to Shela Beach, too close.

Suddenly a man neared.  He approached, held out his hand in the dark and spoke, “Jambo!”  I returned the gesture and in a strange manner felt him draw me nearer.  As I looked into his white eyes, I felt his hands trembling over mine.  He was repeating something in Swahili.  He was expressing desperation, appearing possessed.  Then, he pulled me closer.  I tried to step back, withdraw my hand, but it was too late, too close, too dark.

The stranger was dressed in a traditional red-plaid kikoi (sarong), with a white tank top and a shirt wrapped around his head like a Sikh turban.  I remember his hands being strong, his biceps pronounced.  He was dark, a real dark black, and was wielding a panga, or an axe, in the local Swahili language.  Suddenly, Lily screamed as the man swung the weapon above my head and moved his other hand over my throat.

It was a blur, caught without Time, experienced on a supposed utopian island in the middle of nowhere.  Lots of money flowed to the island thanks to tourism.  Big hotels.  Fancy restaurants.  Old merchants descending from the rich Arabic economies of the 16th and 17th slave trade.  And adjacent to the affluence was desperation.

With happiness there is neighboring sadness.

Inside paradise exists hell.

For when there is light there is darkness.

Lily and I were momentarily shoved into the middle of these juxtapositions, where duality persists, the truth of our humanity flickers, as well as the fragility of human life.

My image remains to this day: a man trembling, chanting, bewitched with terror, swinging an axe toward my skull, threatening my life’s blood to spill upon the wet sands of heaven.  He was aiming for my head, my shoulder, my chest.  And he still spoke his mantra as I deflected the attempts with one hand, struggling to escape from the grip upon my throat.  Lily still screamed.  She shouted.  Her soul fought for comprehension through a decibel  unheard of.  The man was obviously thrown off by her reaction, which I hardly heard, for my world was silent, my head clear, my vision of the axe sharp in the moonlight.  Suddenly, with a push, the man stumbled back and his hand slipped from my throat.  The axe came down.

It was odd standing there, utterly calm and serene, conscious and at peak awareness.  Lily was still screaming fifteen feet away.  She was crying and began heaving.  The man was standing some twenty feet away in the other direction; the axe in one hand and an object dangling from the other.  I stared at him.  He stared at me.  Lily continued and began shouting.  Then, he turned and ran.  I watched him the whole way, sprinting from the beach up into the bush, until disappearing.  I turned to Lily and moved towards her, wrapping my arms around her sobbing body.  We turned into each other and then walked away briskly, grateful for living, for each other.

We were alive.  We were in shock.  Yet the man had obtained one important element of my soul.  That object dangling from his grasp, which had recently slipped off my throat was my camera—a Nikon D200 carrying a 28mm Nikkor lens with a polarized filter, an 8GB RiData Memory Card with over 300 priceless photographs of Lamu and one Nikon Li-ion Battery Pack.  Total value: $4000USD.  I felt as though I lost a limb.  I still feel the loss today—a creative eye devoid of expression, a career lacking the necessity to continue, but a life saved and another thief existing in darkness, another personal hell thriving in paradise.  The duality of Mother Nature exists in the paradise experienced and remains in a paradise lost.  The journey ends with a certain death; metaphorically in terms of creation and purpose, and literally among family and friends.