What’s My Plan?

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What am doing, where am I going, what’s the plan and … what about money?

Believe it or not, I actually have answers for these.
Although, as you would expect, they’re not conventional … and they’re pretty fluid. But I like to keep you in the loop, so that if I lose the plot, you can pull me back into my own loop.
Here goes …

First off, this trip is nothing like any of my previous trips; there are a number of new things going on, which promise new results. For example …
1. I have a new passport. All evidence of past travels are erased.
2. I have a new backpack, which is a HUGE deal, as I’ve said goodbye to my most trusted friend since 1995. Besides that, I’m no longer allowed to carry it, because of my back injury, which I will elaborate on soon. That’s new.
3. And I have a new man-bag … my first man-bag ever, actually … a gift from my crazy aunt who loves me very much.
And, related to my injury are new lifestyle changes, so you can expect to see a new story unfold … one (hopefully) without car accidents, brain injuries, divorce and a pregnant immigration officer’s daughter (did I just say that?) Moving along …

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Humility comes with a price tag

4 major back injuries in 9 months. All, ruptured discs along my vertebrae. Three of them in unique locations on my spine and one, repeated on the same spot.
That’s the price I have been charged, by Humility.
Let me explain …

I have carried my fair share of arrogance and pride with me, through my adult years. Self reliance has been a predominant form; trusting ‘me’, first and above, has been a particularly ‘strong’ trait.

I don’t need help, I can do this by myself

This is how it began.
Over time, without me noticing, it grew …

I’m the guy who helps others

This had its pros and cons, because I love this heart I inherited from my father, to serve others. Unfortunately my pride hijacked that a lot, to make ‘me’ and my good deeds more important than those who i served.
My bad.
So anyway, what’s all this got to do with my battered back?
Well … here’s how I see it:

I figure that the Universe (or God) has assigned now, as the time of my evolution when I adopt a more humble and grateful approach to life. And what better way than to chop down the back of a backpacker?

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Delicious Stuffed Squid or Calamari Tubes Recipe

So today’s recipe is on request from my first OMB (Other Mother Brother), who I’ve known since I was 10. He’s the dude who gifted me with Sherpa – my now retired backpack and closest friend since 1995. But that’s a whole other story.
As far as this meal is concerned, without prejudice, it’s a CRACKER for the weekend!!

Stuffed SquidSo here we go…
Medium/Large Squid (Calamari Tubes), stuffed with Spinach, Feta and Roasted Almonds; baked in an Italian Garlic and 3-Herb Tomato Sauce;
Served with a Mediterranean Veg Couscous …


INGREDIENTS

  • 4 Med/Lrg Calamari Tubes
  • 1.5 Bunch of Fresh Spinach. Finely chopped.
  • Greek Feta
  • Half a handful of Almonds. Slivered and pan roasted.
  • Dessert spoon of crushed garlic
  • 1 dry red chilli
  • 1 Fresh green chilli, finely chopped
  • A handful of fresh Basil, Parsel amd Chives, finely chopped
  • 4-6 Garlic cloves, depending on your preference. Smashed but still whole
  • 1 can (440g) Italian Tomato, whole and peeled
  • Teaspoon of sugar
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • Yellow, Red and Green Pepper, finely diced
  • 1 cup couscous
  • a handful of black olives, deseeded and cut in half
  • Salt, Pepper to taste
  • Pure (not extra virgin) Olive Oil.

DIRECTIONS Continue reading

Emigration, Brain Injuries and Addison’s Disease

Volcano_by_AndreeWallinFirst off, I am sorry for being absent for two weeks. I have had a head full of stuff clogging my thoughts, a one-week bad internet connection and a problem with WordPress … so I just have not managed to stay in touch.
Anyhoo … I’m gonna keep this one short because, with all the ‘stuff’ that has gone on to prevent me from writing, I’ve had good time to be with myself and to listen to myself … and all this has led me to a decision.

I’m taking time off …
going offline for a bit.

I have not been honest with you or myself, since 2007. Truly.

  • I still have severed nerves that connect my nasal cavity to frontal lobe, from my car accident. So I have not been able to smell or taste since then;
  • As my neuropsychologist explained to me, almost a decade ago, critical neuro-pathways that connect our frontal lobe to our emotional centre were irreparably damaged at that time too.

“You have the emotional maturity of a 5 year old child…”

he said to me, very gently. I really appreciate him … Dr. Digby Brown …

“There is nothing medical we can do here. You will relearn how to process emotions again, from childhood and as you do, your brain will build new pathways.”

  • And then, I guess, it’s all that trauma that stressed my adrenals into shutting down, until I was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease, which has sent me to hospital 3 times and, for which my treatment has doubled in the past 2 years, from 20mg to 40mg of corticosteroids, daily … an unhealthily high dosage that is not gonna help me reach a ripe old age.

But this is not spilled milk to cry over, and I blame nobody or nothing;
it is not a ‘bad hand’ that I’ve been dealt, or some kind of misfortune;
… but it is my reality …

I have pushed as hard as I could over the past 9 years, to ignore the damage and just ‘soldier on’. Taking on the responsibility of leading 100+ youths and young adults, of being their hope for a brighter future, probably wasn’t the greatest bit of timing, because I needed to keep myself shining as their example, to prevent them from declining into squatter camp hopelessness. It helped in a way, I guess, since there are many whose lives still thrive today, out of the squalor in which we met.
In the bigger picture, though, I wonder if it was a wise path to take.
Regardless, it is what it is, and I am here. Continue reading

Orhaned Children, Terrorists and Catholics. An Eye Opener

20140115_095327“Okay, Suresh says you should not speak or look like a foreigner when we are in Chhattisgarh.”

Anand on the left, with Suresh and two locals, as they ponder this piece of land for an orphanage

Anand on the left, with Suresh and two locals, as they ponder this piece of land for an orphanage

That’s Anand. He’s just spoken with Suresh who is stationed in Chhatisgarh, our first stop. Apparently, the area is a Red Zone for terrorist insurgents, and is the least politically and socially stable region of India.
And if that’s not enough, I get a mail from The Captain. He’s a school friend from 20yrs back, a British military officer with tons of experience and knowledge far beyond me. He’s in India and, under my brother’s request, has been keeping a watchful eye.

“Philen you cowboy. How are you doing? Don’t mean to get you into trouble with your bro, however, watching your FB page, I can see you are going deep into potential bandit country. My concern is that if anything happens to you;
1, nobody knows these people you are with,
2, you are not checking in with anyone to say everything is ok,
3, I bet you have no medical plan if you get hurt,
4, if the cops find out there is a foreign national in the area, they will get excited and maybe arrest you,
5, have you let the RSA Embassy know where you are traveling in case they need to assist you.”

Wow. I didn’t know. Typical of me, I just went off on a whim, following my heart and not researching anything beforehand. Medical plan, embassy …. seriously? I’ve never thought of this stuff before. If I did, I would’ve known that I was heading into the land of Maoist terrorists and Naxal bandits, where foreigners are kidnapped for ransom … especially by the police. Thankfully, I have The Captain. All I gotta do is check-in with him to let him know my expected dates of arrival and departure from places. If I don’t check-in when I say, then he’ll send in a team to get me out of trouble.

Andhra TourBefore I left South Africa, Nicole and her Mom connected me with Anand, a young Catholic Missionary in India. In January 2014, Anand invited me on a 3-week trip through India’s tribal lands, where he and two friends, Suresh and Antony, are still active in their ministry amongst orphaned and vulnerable children, in the region of Andhra Pradesh, where my GrandFather was born.
It was an experience that stays in my heart, even today. 21 days that culture-shocked the bejeezus out of me and kept me smiling like a child, throughout. Continue reading