Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Week of Food

The Aboubakar family of Darfur province, Sudan

Our friend Joe sent an e-mail dispatch showing families from various cultures around the world along with the array of food that each family eats in one week. These photos, it turns out, are from the book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, by photographer Peter Menzel and writer Faith D'Aluisio.
NPR's Michele Norris reported on the book. The NPR website provides that broadcast, along with photos of some of the families . Also, the site lists exactly what each eats in an average week. The contrasts are stunning. The four-person family that spends the most is German (375 Euros or $500), whereas the Aboubakar family pictured above in a refugee camp in Chad spends $1.23. The total local value of their food is about $24. Presumably much of it is provided by relief agencies.
Certainly, most German families don't spend $25,000 a year on food; nor does the average Chadian or Sudanese family survive on such a subsistence diet. Still, the point is made with the fascinating photo illustrations.
Yesterday I went out and bought a low-end ACER laptop computer so that we can check e-mail and access the internet during our summer travels. Though it is a reasonably-priced model, what I paid for it would provide food for the Aboubakars for five or six months.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Senegalese Poet Amadou Lamine Sall

Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, Paris

Amadou Lamine Sall

A recent Newsweek article asks, "Is poetry dying?" Perhaps not in Paris. Our final night in Paris, March 20, while four members of our travel group took a boat trip on the Seine, five of us attended a reading at Shakespeare and Company Bookstore by Senegalese poet Amadou Lamine Sall. His English translator Jim Haenlin was there to read the translation first, followed by Sall's subsequent reading in the original French. Given that this historic bookstore sells books only in English, the audience consisted largely of English speakers. The reading was held in a small, crowded upstairs room. I was seated next to a window which offered me a gorgeous view across the Seine of the illuminated Notre Dame Cathedral. After the reading there was a Q and A session, followed by wine, cheese, and crackers. I spoke to the writer briefly, telling him that his mentor, the Leopold Sedar Senghor (a former president of Senegal and its most famous poet, who died in 2001) was a great favorite of mine when I discovered West African poetry in the sixties. From the reading, we proceeded to our final French dinner together as a group. It was a fine way to conclude our nine days in France.

"Wild Veins," a sample of the poet's work, translated by Jim Haenlin
My colleague and fellow traveler Pamela showed me a recent article on the bookstore and its distinguished history.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Our group and Notre Dame

Sacre Coeur through the Musee d'Orsay Clock

Luxembourg Palace

At the Opera Garnier

The "overseas trip" mentioned in the previous entry occupied the better part of March. I accompanied a group of four students, three faculty members and one Board of Trustees member to France (Paris and Normandy) for nine days. Then on March 21 while the others flew home, I grabbed a flight to Berlin and spent the remainder of the month familiarizing myself with Germany, or as much of it as I could manage: Berlin, Dresden, Nuremberg, Rothenburg, Munich--even a brief foray across the Austrian border to Salzburg.

It was a pleasure to introduce the students to Paris in the off-season, when there were no crowds of tourists waiting to get into the major sites. We breezed right into Sainte-Chapelle, Notre Dame, the Musee d'Orsay, and the Louvre, where I remember long lines when my wife and I were there in May a few years back. We all spent one memorable evening at the gorgeous Paris Opera House at a chamber music concert while sitting in opera boxes surrounded by velvet and staring up at the 12-ton chandelier and the bold Chagall painting on the ceiling.

For more pictures, see My Flickr Photos.