The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Praying to the part of You that is worshipped here

Steve was in India to teach at a training event.  Before the training started, he joined a G-Adventures tour of South India. 

I hadn't thought of her in years, my voice teacher from Berklee College of Music. The last time I spoke to Jessica it was the early 90s, and I learned she was following a guru.  In fact she had just returned from that guru’s tour across the United States, where she had been his assistant.  Thinking about Jessica makes me feel old, that was several lifetimes ago, and now back to the here and now, it is this ashram which brought her to mind. The tour has come to gawk at a large utopian golden golf ball, and I'm wondering could Jessica be here?


[The Matrimandir]

Officially this golf ball is called “The Matrimandir” and is for "those who want to learn to concentrate," which sounds like their word for praying. In Sanskrit, Matrimandir means "Mother Temple", which according to the literature, "is what helps the humanity to overcome their limitations to the supramental consciousness". I expected to be weirded out and cynical, but instead I feel curious. Not so much with the golden golf ball, but with the reaction of my fellow tour-ists. The Matrimandir is off limits to tourists, and even those who live in Auroville, the community surrounding it, can wait years to be allowed inside for concentration. On the walk back, I try to engage anyone in a conversation, but they go nowhere. Tour etiquette requires us not to speak much about our lives back home. I can know where people are from and what they do, or did, but speaking on matters of faith is as protected as The Matrimandir.


[Sign to the Viewing Point]

This region of former French India is Pondicherry. The architecture could be reminiscent of New Orleans but for the occasional Hindu shrine. Three story red brick buildings with wrought iron grill work, markets with elephants waiting bless you, priests blessing new cars, and then suddenly an absurdly quiet street. No honking, or hooting of horns. So quiet in fact I see twenty or more very mellow dogs in various stages of rest scattered on the street like rose peddles from a flower girl.  Normally aggressive Tuk-tuks slow down, and swerve around the reclining dogs like tires on an obstacle course. Like tires, the dogs do not flinch nor move. 

In the market at Pondicherry, former French India

[Elephant Blessings]


[Car Blessings] – I’ve prayed over cars, motorcycles, vans, trucks, and homes, but never used fire, nor flowers and dry paint. 

The source of this intense mellowness is Sri Aurobindo Ashram, of Auroville. Its the outfit that lau – I’nched The Matrimandir and if the street outside was mellow, the inside is nearly catatonic. Hundreds of of devotees or maybe jet lagged tourists sit in forms of the lotus position, meditating toward what I assume is the guru's grave.  There are flowers everywhere, and their smell is maybe what the poppies smelled like in Wizard of Oz, promising eternal peace and slumber or apathy and complacency.  I’m not sure which. 

Sri-Aurobindo-Ashram-Pond-001 (1)

[the grave people seemed to be praying toward, from] – sorry cameras were not allowed.

I join in the prayers, I mean concentration, but feel like an imposter. I go through the motions of praying Lord, I worship the part of you that is worshipped in this place, and appear to be in deep concentration until I look up and see someone watching me, and she winks.  Busted, and my concentration is gone.  I get up and poke around the bookstore until the everyone else is done doing whatever they are doing.  

Descriptions of this place  promise to transport your mind to a heavenly feel as if the eternity is here, but pretenders like me can’t reach that level of concentration, but maybe my old voice teacher had reached that place of heavenly abode.  I wish her well. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Like Summer Camp for Adults

    Steve is in India to help teach with a cross cultural ministry training. Before the training starts he joins a tour of Southern India.


    The tour I've joined covers Southern India running two weeks, and uses every form of transport but the space shuttle. I booked this trip when I thought my sister Beth would be joining me, but she delayed and ended up breaking her ankle, so wasn't able to join me. Too bad, I think she would have really enjoyed it.

    Tours make travel in new countries so easy. It isn't the travel that is so difficult, but the transitions. With a tour guide, or C.E.O. (Chief Experience Officer), as G-Adventures calls them, the transitions are easy, from to getting on the right train, and having a bus waiting for us when we get there. Knowing a good restaurant, and what to order.


    But that ease of transitions comes at a cost, and one might be tempted to say: people, but I actually enjoy that part. Its the lack of adventure.

    What makes an adventure is

    • the danger, that everything might not work out well.

    • the unknown, I don't really know what to expect, or if I'll be ready for it.

    • the serendipity, that a blessing awaits if I just put myself out there and be open to what happens.

      • Now I know that as a guy, it is much easier (and safer) for me to adventure-travel and I hate it that women can't have some adventures without a man around, and so its easy to see why the men on this tour are outnumbered more than 2:1.

        The tour stay in waning two star hotels, ones that have certainly seen better days. Usually the locations are good, and there was a day when these hotels must have been amazing, but when we check in, its easy to see they are run down, and nobody cares. But I don't mind, I mean I didn't come this far to stay in a fancy hotel, and the hours spent in their rooms, should be spent asleep.

        ADULT PEOPLE (1)

        Blue Valley Jungle Resort, Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary – looks nice, but some of the wildlife crawled across my bed around 3am (a large rat). 

        ADULT PEOPLE (2)

        The other part about being on a tour is mostly we interact with each other, and the products of the culture we are passing through, but rarely the people of it. I miss that. But the people on this tour are all well traveled, much more than I, and getting to know the 11 other people reminds me of summer church camp, its exactly like Summer Camp, but for adults. 

        Two young ladies have been traveling Asia for the past six weeks.  “What advice would you give, based on your experience?” I asked one afternoon, expecting a cool couldn't of done without it gadget answer. After a few minutes one says “learn enough of the local language to say hello and thank you.”

        ADULT PEOPLE (3)

        Oh, so that is what they have been saying, “Nanni,” which apparently means thank you, in the language of Kerala.

        Even though the trip is well scripted, surprises still slip in. Like when we were walking a street in Madurai and one the street venders was hawking a wire toy. Think of a Spirograph but in three dimensions that can be changed into a multitude of shapes.

        I made the mistake of looking at him murmuring to myself “Why I have not seen one of those in years,” and he followed me for the next six blocks, pushing them in my face. Dad must have picked up one of these on one of his trips to India in the 1970s. “Had he too been here?” I wondered giving false hope to the street vendor who kept dropping his price.   I guess I should also learn to say No in the local language, because shaking my head isn’t working.

      Monday, June 29, 2015

      What do you pray for: three stories from Mumbai

      The Two Dollar Umbrella

      “If it starts raining, you can always buy one.” - Dr. Andy Dearman.

      Andy was the seminary professor I traveled with in the Middle East and he was talking about umbrellas, and how you really didn't need to carry one and wouldn't you know it here I was walking around Mumbai without an umbrella, when it started raining, and thinking I sure hope Andy is right.

      It started raining, and suddenly there were umbrella salesmen.

      Funny thing is, they were still willing to haggle with me over the price...and it raining. They could be charging whatever they wanted. I know I will only use it today, but I figure there is nothing like having a $2 umbrella, in a $10 rainstorm. For the record that umbrella served me well all day until a windstorm overwhelmed it at dusk, moments after this picture was taken. Totally worth it.

      Monsoon in Mumbai

      30 seconds after this picture was taken, a blast of wind ruined my $2 Umbrella


      An Easy Mark

      I've always been an easy mark. I know that, but I enjoy playing along, instead of being rude. However, Mumbai's game is more nuanced than I'm ready for. Because people are so naturally friendly, I have trouble telling the scammers from the sincere, the hustlers from the friendly, until I'm too far into their game.

      Baboo is a typical example, though I could tell you about Ali, Azi, or Sham, but Baboo's story will do. I was walking around Colaba looking for a place to eat when Baboo strikes up a conversation with me as we wait for the light to change. People are so friendly here, and I always learn something even if it is only that they ask so many questions, I feel sometimes like I'm talking to myself.

      Baboo is a shoeshine artist, but because of the rain, isn't seeing many shoes to shine.


      He might be Jesus, or just Baboo

      Like many others, Baboo is concerned about me being in Mumbai during monsoon season, or really anywhere in southern India. Baboo insists I talk to a government travel agent to have him book the rest of my tour up north. Early on in this conversation I told him I was going somewhere I wasn't and felt bad that I had not mentioned the tour either. None of this was going to any use to anyone, but I couldn't find a way out, so I played along knowing all the while knowing it was a waste of time.

      I tried to get out of it, really but it would mean being rude. Its just the kind of thing that drives my wife and kids bonkers, but they are not here, so I plays along. It really is fascinating to me, partially because each time I begin to understand a little more about how things work here, but more importantly, because I worship a God who can show up as anyone, anywhere and who knows, I might actually be interacting who just happens to look like Baboo. So I won't be rude and quit the game, even if I know it isn;t going anywhere.

      After the failed travel agent booking, Baboo asks me to buy him a shoeshine box for 10,000 rupees, about $150. I actually don't have that much on me, so I can't. I try to buy him some street food, as he is hungry, but he wants a bag of rice, and then when we have the rice, he says he needs oil to go with it, and I swear I can see Suzanne laughing at me out the corner of my eye, mouthing “if you give a mouse a cookie...”

      Finally we negotiate 10 lbs of rice and a quart of oil; the rice will feed him for three weeks, but the oil for only one. I tell Baboo, he can worry about more oil next week.

      Besides maybe meeting Jesus, I like how I've learned a bit more about Mumbai, discovered where the food store is (from the imposing outside, I thought it to be a government building or aging palace) and enjoyed at least $7 of haggling in a pretty low stakes game. What it actually costs me is a bit of the natural trust I place in humanity, and how for a few days I find myself a smidgen more suspicious when someone is being friendly or kind.

      As we say good-bye he says “You really should by some Indian clothes, the ones you wear really make you stand out.” He was the third hustler person-who-might-be-Jesus to tell me that today.

      What do you pray for?

      On the taxi drive to the airport from Mumbai, I notice an elaborate shrine in my taxi. Actually, most taxis have a plastic Hindi god of some sort on the dashboard, but this one had pictures and orange marigolds around them. On the ride we talked about our families, what it is like to be a taxi driver in Mumbai (he was a teacher before), and I asked about his shrine. He told me he prays to it, and said “Praying makes me feel better.”

      Taxi Shrine

      “What do your pray for?” I asked.

      “I pray for good health, protection, my family, and for good customer, like you.”

      We both laugh, and I repeat what he said, without mentioning the good customer part and observe, “So we pray for the same things.”

      “Yes,” he said, “the same things” and I think we are not really that different, both fathers praying for their children:  for some that God will bless their lives, for others that God will become real to them in ways He has never been before, and their protection until that happens.

      Friday, June 26, 2015

      Greetings from India


      This summer Steve is participating in Maclin Training, the annual teaching in cross cultural ministry sponsored by The Mission Society. For those who have been with us a while, you will remember we did ours in Peru. This year its India.


      [Steve and the most of the congregation at Bowen Methodist Church]

      So why not go a few weeks early and see a bit more of the country, I thought to myself.

      You see I was raised in a family that never took vacations unless they were tacked on to my Dad's annual professional meeting, the ASAE, or American Society of Agricultural Engineers. Event today those initials, ASAE, elicit a Pavlovian response to excitement; they still mean adventure, and vacation to me.

      For a while Suzanne and I also followed that model, if something was taking us somewhere, no matter where, we would try to add on some adventure. It took Suzanne several years to convince me that vacations could be taken where that was the whole point, and we didn't always have to stay (or only go to places) with friends or relatives. My sisters and brother still shake their collective heads at us, marveling at our frivolity. I get that guys, it would never have occurred to me either.

      I was still wondering why more people from The Mission Society didn't come early as the plane landed in Mumbai, and kept on wondering right up to the point when the monsoon rains began pouring into the airport taxi area. Then it all clicked TMSers have learned not to do this because TMS only goes places when its off season...when the rates are low...when the weather is terrible… Then it all came back to me, Peru, 10,000 ft and the wet 24-7 damp cold. No heat in the hotel, no heat in the conference room, no heat in the restaurant (where we snuck out to eat). It wasn't a freezing cold, just a wet, slow, relentless chill that drained the warmth from our bones. Three weeks of cold and altitude sick cross cultural training. That why, splash!

      Now I'm outside the airport, waiting for the taxi I had arranged to the hotel; except it didn't come... the monsoon rains.

      An hour later, I'm still standing in line for the prepaid (shared) taxi line, but since no taxis were coming in, no taxis were going out... the monsoon rains.

      Finally the guy running the place asks if I would be interested in a private taxi. Are you kidding, YES! Then I asked the price,--about $12.50--still YES, and 2 minutes later I was off into those monsoon rains.


      [All Hopes Sink in Mumbai?  Really? Don't you think you're getting a little over dramatic?]

      The next day the papers tell us it was the heaviest downpour in a decade.

      Since my stay in Mumbai was over a Sunday, I decided to go to church and found a hotel near a local Methodist Church. Turns out there are actually two nearby, but the other one, now a Wesleyan Church, didn't greet you with a welcome sign, but unfriendly No Photography, and No Video Showing sign. I guess they had a problem with people showing videos? So I'm going to Bowen Methodist Church.


      [Bowen Methodist Church entrance]



      [the sanctuary of Bowen Methodist Church]

      It was a wonderful worship service.  Apparently the church was started by an American in the 1870s, and judging by the pictures in the fellowship hall (where we had chai after service), the church had been mostly pastored by Americans , or American looking men.  However on this day the pastor couldn’t make it… the monsoon rains.  So we heard a thoughtful Father’s Day sermon, and sang hymns from the previous Methodist Hymnal, and I felt right at home. 

      In general India feels much like Ghana, especially the friendly people and crazy traffic. Here they say a good car takes a good horn, good breaks and good luck. I see breaks and luck are important but its really the horn that make the driver.


      [Taxis in the Rain]

      I came expecting India to move at a faster pace and one gets the feeling it wants to move at faster, but realistically can't. For example the airport for-ex, exchanging $200 took about 15 minutes, and they acted as if they had never done this before though I would think they do just this kind of thing all day long. Still the electricity has not gone off once.

      Friday, May 22, 2015

      Like Coconut Water for Malaria (A Video)

      I remember when Coconut Water became a thing in The States.  Suddenly, you could buy it everywhere, and its benefits were highly touted.  Dubbed nature’s Gatorade, this isotonic drink has natural electrolytes, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium.  It is said to have anti-ageing, anti-carcinogenic properties, as well as dissolve kidney stones, and contains enzymes that help with digestion and metabolism. Maybe that why in Ghana, Coconut Water has always been a thing.  In fact in most cities/towns there is a dedicated coconut seller, with fresh coconuts on a pushcart, ready to hack them open to drink by the side of the road.  The only question is hard or soft.  This refers to the meat inside, after you have consumed its water.  The coconut seller picks a green coconut, whacks it a few times, listening to how the sound resonates, and then selects one based on your preference. 
      I prefer soft.  The coconut meat is gel like and easy to slurp down.  But if you’re making coconut crème with a blender, you’ll want hard.  The meat is much thicker. 

      Like Coconut Water for Malaria

      In Ghana, Coconut Water is the recommended treatment for Malaria (read our account of it).  A glass a day, makes the parasite go away, or something like that.  So while she was recovering, I made Suzanne a glass of it everyday.  If we lived in, or at least close to, a city/town it would be no problem because coconut sellers are quite common, but we live near a village, and our village generally doesn’t have a coconut seller, which is not to say there are no coconuts, just is no one selling them by the roadside. 
      Fresh coconuts don’t keep.  When I saw them in the next town over, I bought a whole week’s worth, but by the third day, learned coconuts go bad; they were shriveled, and had gone rancid.  Rancid coconut=not a nice smell.
      This video chronicles a typical trip to the village to find coconuts.  At first I thought I would find someone selling them.  I asked around until a man said “I have some” which meant he would tell his son to climb a coconut tree and knock some down.  I only needed two or three but he knocked down more than twenty.  I guess if you’re going to go to the trouble of climbing a tree, you might as well make it worth your while.
      Suzanne is all better now.  Through prayer and Coconut Water, she has completely recovered from Malaria.

      Thursday, April 30, 2015

      Video: Visiting Accra’s New Mosque


      Accra will soon have a new mosque in the Kanda area of Accra. A friend is visiting, and we thought it would be a fun adventure to see the mosque and try to get in. This is what happened.

      Visiting Ghana’s National Mosque

      The new mosque is financed by the government of Turkey, and replaces Accra’s old Central Mosque, which was razed in 1986[1]. That old mosque was part of the massive Makola open air market, which five years earlier had been razed [2] by Rawling’s and his AFRC (Armed Forces Revolutionary Council) in 1979.

      The Ghana National Mosque, as it is known, will be over 100 ft. high and have a main dome supported by half domes, and half domes supported by quarter domes. Even under construction, one can see it will be a handsome structure.

      Construction of a National Mosque has been a priority for most of Ghana’s previous presidents:

      • 1995 - President Rawlings allocates land for new Central Mosque.

      • 2006 - President Kufuor lays foundation stone. The Mosque was then a 4 million dollar project with hopes of being funded through a national effort (rejecting all foreign financial assistance, even an offer from Saudi Arabian of 18 billion old Ghana Cedis, roughly $1.8 million).

      • 2008 - Project was abandoned while Atta Mills was president.

      • 2013 – Construction begins under President Mahama’s Better Ghana Agenda, which seeks to create a harmonious relationship between Christians and Muslims. Funding for the 10 million euro project comes from the Turkish government and The Hudai Foundation (a Turkish philanthropic organization).

      The mosque is expected to be open by the time Ramadan starts, June 18, 2015.



      [1] “Central Mosque Goes Down At Last”, Daily Graphic, 20/10/1986.


      Thursday, April 23, 2015

      Honoring My “Big” Brother Rod

      If you want to blame somebody for the way I am today, blame my siblings, but mostly my brother Rod…
      RODNEY LYNN BUCHELE is my big brother, well really, my only brother, and as a 6 year old, my mystical hero. Mystical because he was so much older, and into cool manly things like cars and electronics. I remember Rod working on something at the Clark Street house with a soldering iron. It wasn't one of the small ones they make today, it was big and unwieldy, like the size those police flashlights that take four D-size batteries. It was big, and had a difficult electric cord. Rod had just soldered something and I overheard him say to the friends that were helping him, “this will heat up the whole world” as he stuck it in the ground to cool. They walked away, and after they were gone, ran over there to feel earth getting warmer. Problem was, I couldn’t feel it, so I inched a hand closer and closer, still not feeling anything until I got too close, and burned a terrific burn on my left hand.
      Of course Dad was furious, but it wasn’t his fault. For me, who always had difficulty in distinguishing left from right (and still does), I could now easily differentiate left from right by looking at the back of my hands, for the scar.
      We moved to the Parkridge house, and his Rod’s room was downstairs in the unfinished part of the house. It was a cool room full of manly older-person stuff: Mad Magazine, Popular Science, and stuff. I loved to hang out there even when he wasn’t around to kick me out.
      Rod Buchele
      [black and white Rod]
      The Story Begins
      Rod left for college when the rest of the family moved to Ghana in 1968 and never moved back. After college, Rod moved to Washburn, Wisconsin and that is where our story began. It was the summer of my 5th grade year, and the year before he moved into the bank. I took the Greyhound from Iowa, and Rod met me halfway, took me to 4H camp, and then I spent a few more days after in the exciting town of Washburn.
      The next summer, after my 6th grade year, Rod had moved to a former bank building and I was learning to play the guitar.
      I would take the bus up, Rod would meet me in Ashland (the “big” town on the other side of the lake) and we would go to Lake Galilee, where the 4H camp was held. Sometimes I drove with him, sometimes I rode in the back of the pick-up. We would go a few days early and get things ready for the campers.
      Camp was where I became who I am today. Iowa and I didn’t always get along so well, or maybe I should say Ames. For whatever reason, I never found my place there. Never felt like I belonged. But when I came to Washburn, and went to Lake Galilee, people liked me. Girls liked me, and we spent the next year writing letters to each other. I remember having to ask my sister Sheron, was does SWAK mean?
      After 4H camp was over and we went back to Washburn, my schedule was, well… there are basically three things to do in Washburn:
      • Walk down to the docks on Lake Superior and around “downtown”. Downtown was two blocks and 5 bars long (this was Wisconsin after all).
      • Play guitar and sing - it was a perfect place to, as Malcolm Gladwell observed, get my 10,000 hours in practicing guitar. Rod had a song/chord books, it was legal sized, bound at the top with a clip and had 256 pages. I learned every song.
      • Safe Cracking – Rod’s apartment was in a former bank building, and it came with its own vault. The Vault had a typical 6” thick vault door (I was always afraid of getting locked in it). Rod kept is his record collection, clothes and books in the vault (in that order), but those things were either not of interest or off limits. Inside the vault was a smaller safe—about the size of a large microwave--that was locked. Only the universe knows what was inside it, and how many hours I spent trying to find out, wondering what secrets it contained. I listened to the tumblers with my ear on a glass, I sandpapered my fingertips for more sensitivity (not a good combination for guitar players), and kept charts and combinations tried but that safe never gave up its secrets.
      So each day I walked down to the docks, played hours of guitar, and worked on cracking the safe. Of course, there was Rod’s famous record collection and some of the finest audio equipment in the upper Midwest, but initially, he wasn’t so keen on me touching it (the record collection). In the later years, I was allowed to play his records, but only play any particular record once per day, which made learning some of the songs in the 256 page songbook, a challenge.
      When Nixon Resigned
      By the summer of 1974, my third summer there, Nixon resigned. Rod and I were eating dinner and watching the president address the nation:
      …To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home.
      When suddenly Nixon said:
      Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office.
      And I never heard the rest of what he said because Rod was shouting: “I don’t believe it! The son of a bitch resigned. I don’t believe it!” It’s was the only time I remember Rod swearing, or what we took for swearing in 1972 Iowa:
      On special occasions we would have a Rum and Coke, and by rum, I mean a few drops of artificial rum flavoring, in coke over ice. It felt adult and exotic.
      And the Pizza. Over in Ashland there was a little pizza place that we used to go to after camp, and sometimes just cuz. Rod will remember the name, and also the name of the dreadful cook at Camp Galilee who had supernatural abilities to extract flavor from food. Where she put it nobody knows, but it certainly wasn’t in the camp food.
      After a few weeks of camp food sensory deprivation , this pizza was some of the best food I remember tasting. It was rectangular, and flavor exploded in the mouth (there were green olives). The first time Rod took me there, I ate all but two pieces of small pizza. For those who have not had the pleasure of eating with Rod, to say he is a slow eater, would be like saying congress might be a bit dysfunctional. To say Rod’s speed of eating is glacial, well let me put it this way, if glaciers melted that slow, we wouldn’t be concerned about the rising sea level.
      The next time we went for pizza, my own brother divided the pizza with a clear line of demarcation. There was my half, which would be gone in minutes, and his half, which would take hours. Even today when I order a pizza with green olives, I’m transported back to Ashland, and I have an unnatural desire to eat slowly, and divide the pizza in half.
      Rodney Buchele
      [The Sibs, circa 2007]
      Rod Buchele
      [and the rest of the family, the summer after our first year in Ghana]
      They Can Share the Blame Credit
      Of course, there were the in-between years, when I was in college, or my early 20s and not so communicative when Rod and I lost touch. So to Rod can’t take all the credit for how I turned out. He shares that with my sisters. My sister Beth, as the surrogate mother, when my folks were off on some year long adventure, far away and I could call and talk to her almost weekly. She was a good listener, and felt a little--what’s the word-- miffed, when our folks returned, and I called them instead of her. Beth flew to South Africa about five months after the  family pictures were taken, and stayed with me while I was recovering from injuring my shoulder.  I shall always be grateful for her rescue.  And my sister Sheron, who called me Tiger. Sheron encouraged the quirky, creative side of me, and always believed in me. She was fun to visit in Minnesota, when she was working at IBM, or in West Des Moines, working at Meredith Corporation, in Olympia, Washington, when she was in college, or in Loveland, Colorado, where she set up her studio. Her homes were places of healing even when the life she was sharing with others wasn’t. My soul could find its spirit when visited her home. Ask me if I resent Tiger Woods, taking my otherwise good pet name of Sherons and tarnishing it. I noticed after his scandal, she stopped calling me Tigerooo. But this is a blog about my Brother Rod.
      One time when our folks were in Australia, and I had run away to be a street musician in San Francisco, Rod visited me on his way back from visiting the folks, just to make sure I was OK. I was.
      I think it took us getting married, and then having kids for us to do a better job of staying in touch, and visiting each other. When Suzanne and I announced our wedding plans, Rod got in gear and made what we like to think was the best decision in his life, asking Mary Lou to marry, and they pulled it off a month or so before our wedding. They had been dating for years at that point, and we all loved Mary Lou. When he announced he was getting married, my sister Beth quipped: “Oh, anyone we know?” We were each other’s best men at our weddings.
      Rod Buchele
      [Rod at our Wedding, circa 1986, with Suzanne’s sister Mary]
      One final Rod story:the first time I had onions. For some reason, my mom didn’t cook with onions or garlic. One evening, we went over to Ashland to have hamburgers at a friend of Rod’s and she put grilled onions on my burger. It was something I had never tasted, and I was seriously concerned I would get sick. Now I had a pretty serious allergy to eggs in those days, and since we didn’t have onions around the house, I thought they might make me sick too. They didn’t. The next time I had onions was in college, when a first generation Italian came to my flat in Alston and made an authentic spaghetti sauce with onions and garlic (something else my mom didn’t use), and oh my did my world change.
      Rob Buchele
      [Rod and Steve chat at Grace’s Wedding]
      It is funny that I teach Leadership at Ashesi, because that was Rod’s field.  He got me started reading leadership books, and spent much of his career teaching others how to lead.  We study many different leadership models at Ashesi, and the one I think best fits Rod would be The Servant Leader.    He is a humble, servant first, type of leader.  In fact if you do a Google-image search of Rod, you see only two pictures of him.  I’m hoping this blog triples the number.
      In many ways it believe it was my brother Rod opened up my world, gave me a chance to see who I would eventually become, and for that I will always be grateful. Spending my summer in Washburn, saved me from Ames, and that person I was becoming.  Thanks Rod.
      This started as a comment on Rod’s CaringBridge site, after his daughter Mary Lynn wanted to hear stories about her dad.   I decided to expand and repost it because the rest of the world needs to know what a great brother I have.  --SWB

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      Thursday, April 16, 2015

      Living with Malaria

      Most days we don’t think about the danger of malaria, and in fact we went off our anti-malarials last year as it had been months since our last mosquito bite. You see, on the Ashesi Hill, mosquitoes are as rare as a quiet night in the village, and the side effects of the anti-malarial agents are sometimes troublesome. Ok for a few weeks, but for the long term, inadvisable. We didn’t think about malaria much until Suzanne came down with it on April Fools. No kidding.

      [In the 1960’s Ghana “stamped” out malaria]

      Malaria’s name comes from a time when they didn’t understand it’s cause. The Romans thought it came from Rome’s swamps, fumes that caused the illness and named it accordingly, the Italian mal'aria, meaning "bad air". It wasn’t until the 1880s that a French scientist noticed parasites in the blood of a patient suffering from malaria, and made the connection. Twenty-seven years later the Nobel committee awarded Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran its prize for the discovery of malaria’s cause: a parasite carried from an infected mammal to humans in the bite of a mosquito.

      If You Think You're Too Small To Make A Difference,

      You Haven't Spent A Night With A Mosquito.

      -African Proverb

      So this week, both of us went back to our anti-malarials, but the truth is, these agents won’t act as a true prophylaxis. They can’t prevent the initial malaria infection after an infected bite, but only kill the parasites after they mature and are released from the liver to make their way to the brain. These so called anti-malarials are more a suppressive therapy, killing them before they kill you.


      [We tried one of those home test kits, but it said she didn’t have malaria…twice]

      The average life span of a mosquito is 3-4 weeks, so I think the one that infected Suzanne is certainly dead. The thing is, we’re not sure when it bit her, or where she was. Malaria can have a fourteen day incubation period and two of the three weeks before she had been out of the country, and though Ghana is ranked 8th in Africa by number of malaria cases per 100,000, Berekuso has very few mosquitos. It must have been Accra. Between trips, Suzanne had been there for just two days, attending a quality assurance meeting, before going to South Africa for another meeting. The day after she arrived back in Ghana, she began not feeling well. On Palm Sunday we skipped church to go to the clinic. By Maundy Thursday we are back to re-check her. It was malaria.


      [Suzanne at the Clinic for Holy Week]

      Besides its deadly potential, the really scary thing about malaria is how debilitating it is, and how quickly it comes on. In fact, according to the national newspaper, 10% of Ghana’s GDP goes to malaria related expenses. One minute you’re feeling a bit off, and the next you have the chills, a mind splitting headache and feel lethargic. Suzanne didn’t so much have the chills--it is hard to imagine anyone having the chills in Ghana—but she was extremely tired, otherworldly tired, clammy, and her head was paining her. Thank God her symptoms presented here in Ghana and not South Africa. Our plan had been for me to join her, and we would spend the weekend exploring Cape Town. Those plans fell through, thank God. There is no place like home when you are sick.


      [Suzanne today, checking work email from our couch]

      Though Suzanne no longer has malaria (the doctor did a blood test several days ago to confirm), she is still extremely tired, and has no energy. It is now more than two weeks in, and she is yet to have two “good days” in a row, meaning feeling relatively lucid most of the day. Our friends tell us that the forwards-backwards recovery is typical of malaria. They say the effects are worse because it is her first time.