Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Thorn Among Roses

When I returned home in July I had a unique experience: for the first time I met 'Someone from the Internet'.

Leslie, (left in pic), is a dynamic American lady who, through an Aid Organization, volunteered her time and money to do a stint teaching Computer Literacy in a rural school in Northern Namibia.

She was thrown in at the deep-end when, upon arrival, she was asked to teach English instead - seemingly because the previous teacher had suddenly bailed-out, unable to handle the challenge and tough living conditions.

Undaunted by the sorry state of our education system and the cultural obstacles facing the pupils, she has bravely set about her task, determined to make a difference in the lives of the kids.

We started communicating through our Tumblr accounts before she arrived in Namibia and our paths crossed when she attended a workshop in the town close to my home. Together with her colleague Elise, she was able to visit for a few hours.

I was pretty nervous about the meeting - I recalled how, as a teenager, I had met-up with a Pen Pal from a wealthy family and had felt uncomfortable in my ordinary clothes and ways. I needn't have worried with Leslie and Elise; I dunked my cookies in my coffee and all was cool ... they were just people like me.

Also, being aware of the dangers of meeting strangers from Cyberspace, I appreciated the risk that they were taking and felt a certain angst to somehow demonstrate that I'm not a creepy old perv.

Mind you, I probably did come across as a bit of a Dufus because I'm a little hard-of-hearing and sometimes had trouble processing their Southern accents - heavens knows what I sounded like to them in my flat Effrican Inglish.

Sadly, our time together was too short to get into any serious conversations.

I have two vivid memories of our meeting. The first is that Leslie listens to Bob Dylan - I would have loved to explore her interest in his music further because Dylan had a defining influence on my thinking when I was about her age.

My second memory is that she had on the coolest pair of shoes I've ever seen - they looked like a snug slipper but they had toes, like a foot-glove. I couldn't believe my eyes but have since heard that these shoes are not uncommon - maybe I've been in the bush too long.

Anyway, if she had a quiver of arrows slung across her shoulder and a bow in hand, the picture would have been complete - now, whenever I think of her, I have this recurring image of a fleet-footed Huntress or Warrior popping into my head ... yeah, I know, ... that's just the way my mind works.

I would have liked to have taken a photo to show you her shoes but that might have seemed weird, ... eh?

Before she arrived, Leslie asked in a mail if I thought it safe for her to travel solo around Africa and I replied "No!", it's too risky ...

Well, I've changed my mind - I think she would breeze a journey through this Continent ... go places where I would fear to tread.

Leslie will be in Nam until December and I hope we get the chance to sit and chat around a fire before she returns home.



  1. When I'm going to meet blogger friends I worry that I might come over as weird or flaky, i.e. anything other than a normal person - I think because there are too many people out there who prefer to be someone else when they blog.
    The picture of the fire is gorgeous - really love it.

    Take a look at this link

    Lacey blogs from the US, and this post is just a picture of her running shoes - is this what you mean?? I was taken by surprise too, because I didn't know such things existed.

  2. You are no thorn :-) great photo and good to see you. Those shoes with the toes, we have been trying to get them for Nigel as they should help to sort out his foot problems. We tried ordering from America but they would not accept the order from the UK!! They are available in the UK but at double the price!!! Still looking!!!
    I have now met 4 bloggers and I have to say, each and everyone I felt as if I had known for years and we chatted for ever.
    I would have also said not safe to travel around on her own, and I will still say that......
    Hope you get to meet up with Leslie again before she leaves. Diane

  3. You have a grasping mind. And you are the medicine man! Like Sean Connery with Bob Dylan's eyes :)

    To me, in the blogylon, as you call it, we are not strangers because our minds are friends.

  4. Lovely photos Graham!

    I'm so glad you got a chance to meet a cyber friend and Leslie seems like the perfect first person to meet up with. I love the enthusiasm and bravery of the young people.

    I'm hoping you will have a chance to meet again and shoot the breeze. Personally I don't meet too many people like me who also loves Bob Dylan. I'm not heavily into music but he is a fav of mine.

  5. Hehe ... yes Caroline ... the shoes looked something like those in the link you provided, except they were black ...

    Glad you like the fire pic, it's one of my favourites.

  6. Hehe Diane ... and I was feeling kinda sharp today ...

    ... is wearing these shoes therapeutic? I can imagine they must be quite expensive, especially here in Nam (if they're available).

  7. A Medicine Man who looks like Sean Connery with Bob Dylan eyes Fazlisa?

    hehe, I like that description, makes me feel important ... :)

    ... well, having a cool accent like Connery would certainly be an improvement on the one I've got now ...

  8. Thanks Penny - it certainly is inspiring to meet young people who're prepared to sacrifice their homes and comforts in order to help others ...

    ... at that age I was too wrapped up in myself to care about anyone else ...

  9. Reading the earlier comments, you are certainly a big hit with the ladies! Great photos as always and certainly no thorns amongst the roses but every one fascinating and interesting. Good to see ya, Graham.

  10. hehe thanks Calvin - I wish I was a hit ... glad to see you up and about after the near-death experience ...

  11. HAha..yes Graham, you are a hit with us ladies. You just have a way about you..Gentlemanly boyish charm, and always considerate with a comment.

  12. Hehe ... thanks Monica ... you folks make me feel special - I think it's all about mutual respect and, as I said in my previous post, the feelings of affection and goodwill we have for each other.

  13. Long time not coming here and I have found such a surprise Graham. So good to meet people you knew about by internet. My experience has been wonderful. I hope your too. To be between these beautiful girls can be considered as a priviledge. Lucky man!Regards!

  14. A privilege indeed ... thanks Oswaldo ... are you back home yet?

  15. Great that you got to meet. I have seen pictures of those shoes recently - weird amazing looking things they are too :)

  16. Yeah, Jackie, they're amazing hey - I'm trying to visualise myself wearing a pair, trotting through a desert landscape, wind in my hair ... :)

  17. Just getting back to checking some online stuff.
    Great fire pic and post title.
    Enjoyed the story of your meeting.

  18. Thanks lisleman - I've been wondering why your blog was so quiet ...

  19. Yes it is a bit daunting to meet people you've only known in the internet but I have found it is like you've known them already. I've done it quite a few time now and I've never had a bad experience.

    And I want to see those shoes!!

  20. Whew! Laurie ... well, it's a relief to know that I'm not the only one who hadn't seen these shoes before - if you do a search 'shoes with toes' you should get quite a few examples ...

  21. Yeah Graham, I am back in town (Caracas). Back with my relatives and friends. It´s good to be around. God bless you!