A link to my Facebook page…?

January 25, 2022

It seems some years ago since I added anything to this blog. Perhaps I need to get back to it, since a lot has changed over those years. Though I am composing this at Telal Al Sokna in Egypt, I now usually reside in Oakland, California, and plan to return there early February, 2022. Before then I hope to make changes to this site, maybe linking it to my efforts to post photos to Facebook. So look for some new items soon at theFolksinger.me.

Prince’s Death, and Chris Bishop’s, and a Wukari Jukun Proverb

April 23, 2016

Some time ago I uploaded a video about tone languages and intonation languages. I referred to Wukari Jukun, called Wapan by native speakers in Nigeria, as a fine example of a tone language.

In this video/essay I will resort to this language again, this time to note another sort of beauty besides that of tone.

Wapan is monosyllabic, each separate word being a separate syllable. It becomes obvious that, if this is so, there must be a rather severe limit as to how many discrete words can be produced in this language. Yet, as in perhaps every real language, most everything one thinks or discovers can be described in words. How does a language with a tightly prescribed word structure manage to convey infinite thoughts and descriptions?

One way speakers of Wapan do it is by encasing deep meanings in terse sentences, often thought of as proverbs. In such sentences the words themselves have meanings, but the combination of the words into the single sentence expresses far more meaning than the same words used in ordinary conversation. Here is one example.

A wo pa ta ka wo cu.

I heard this sentence more than thirty years ago while driving by car from Wukari to a nearby city. Three Jukun passengers were with me, and they were discussing a recent death in their community. I must have said something about how sad I felt about this death. One of the passengers, a local pastor, said, “ci numa, wapan ka nda dan ‘a wo pa ta ka wo cu.”
I had no Idea of the purpose of the sentence, although I knew every word in it. In English it would have been something like this:

“You’re right, because the Jukun have a saying: a person wind hits harder than a rain wind.”

wo = wind
pa = person
ta = hit
ka = more than
cu = rain

wind-person-hit-more than-wind-rain

The meaning? I had to ask for it, and the explanation was simple and clear.

How do you feel when it rains and a cold wind blows? You feel chilly. But if you begin to feel really cold, you wrap a blanket or cloak around you, and you feel warm again.

But how do you feel when a person you care for dies? It’s almost the same sort of cold, and you feel it deeply. You feel colder and colder. But there is no cloak or blanket you can wrap around you to make the chill go away.

I began constructing this presentation a day or two after the untimely death of Chris Bishop, husband of Kimberly Lambe Bishop, and a loved son of my wife’s sister Sarah and her husband, Doug, and a day or two before the announcement of the untimely death of Prince, on Thursday April 21, 2016. Today is the day after, and the airwaves are filled with reports of his death and the many, many thousands of persons who are lamenting his passing.

So this Wukari Jukun proverb comes to mind twice, and helps describe the way I and many other feel. No cloak or coat removes the cold chill that strikes us when we face untimely deaths.

Thank you, you Wukari Jukun people. M mbu mykin. Mgbaye ni, ani pajukun.

theFolksinger

(the video of this essay will be posted to my page on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/thefolksinger)

A True Telal Tale

March 10, 2016

I’m Here to Tell the Tale:

It may be that after yesterday afternoon, I owe my life to a half dozen or so burly friendly fishermen who were willing to turn their boat in my direction.

I had been watching the Red Sea waves all morning from my balcony at Telal Al Sokna. Telal is a resort community-a-building on the seaside about 2 hours drive from Cairo. Many flats are unfinished, but enough are completed so that day by day new individuals or families arrive to take possession of their property. Our flat was one of the first completed, and we have been using it from time to time for several months. The Red Sea is a bit cold during the winter months, but in the sunny March weather it is warming up. I was waiting for an opportunity to take my new standup paddle board out for some exercise and enjoyment.

I’m 77 years old, and fairly fit, but paddle boarding is new for me. I’ve learned to climb aboard, stand up, navigate in the directions I choose. But still I’m at the stage that needs a smooth untroubled surface, and mild winds or none at all.

The morning wind was off the sea, just a bit brisk, and the waves had small whitecaps on them, so I held off. But around 3 in the afternoon the wind died down, and began to change direction, blowing from the hills behind Telal toward the sea. From my balcony the sea appeared becalmed.  I pulled on my neoprene shorty wetsuit, tied a life jacket round it, and wrestled my paddle board off the front balcony. The carry down to the waterside is not far; in about ten minutes I was at a point where I could push the board ahead of me into the oncoming waves and deeper water, and then slide on.

I got to my knees and paddled forward, seeking the perfect smooth water where it would be easy to stand up. What I had not noticed at first, but noticed now, was that the waves were bigger than I had anticipated. More importantly, I had not noticed before, but noticed now, the wind was increasing and the waves were changing direction, basically heading away from the seaside into deeper water. And just as I was making my first attempt to stand up, a confluence of changing wind and waves flipped my board over and tipped me into the sea.

I had my paddle in my left hand, and my board was secured to me by a plastic rope secured to my thigh. It took perhaps 30 seconds to head the paddle board into the wind, and flip it right side up, and then another 30 seconds to wriggle aboard again. This time I stayed on my knees for stability, and surveyed the situation.

I was surprisingly far from shore, so I decided it would be best to simply head back to where I had started. And that’s where the adventure turned a bit grim: I could choose the shoreward direction, but after a while I realized I was making no real headway to shore. Worse: the waves were much larger now, and the wind had increased. I was slowly being carried out to sea. I could see workmen busy on the beach, but I could not hear them, and I was quite sure they were not noticing me.

I’m pretty optimistic, and, as I said, fairly fit, and I thought I could paddle harder and find the right channels toward the shore, so for perhaps a half hour I kept trying to head towards where I had entered the water. But slowly it became clear that I could not get there; I could see the place, but I could not get closer to it.

I was calm, but at the same time it became clear to me that I could not keep paddling indefinitely. I changed position on the board, straddling it as one would sit astride a camel. My thigh muscles began to protest, but it was a better overall position for stability in the waves. However, my legs in the water would impede my forward progress. I put the paddle on the board and lay on the board, trying to paddle with my arms.  But that impeded my view of where I was, and when I returned to the seated position, I was further from shore than before.  And I was beginning to tire. I started to think about whether I was going to survive; it was almost sundown, and I would surely be blown out to sea the moment I ceased to paddle.  I was giving it all I had, and it was not enough.

Then I saw the fishing boat. It was several hundred yards from me and would soon pass between me and the shoreline. This seemed odd to me, because I did not think such a large boat, perhaps 70 feet in length, would be able to navigate so close to shore. Now I realize that I was much further out than I had estimated, and that the fishing boat was pulling its net at a normal distance from the shore.

Too far away for me to shout to it, the boat passed between me and the shore, from my left to my right, and then slowed speed. I thought I could see fishermen at the stern, working the big net. Did they see me? I did not know.

For several minutes I paddled to keep in a position facing the boat and the shore, and the boat seemed to stay still,  or maybe it was moving seaward in the same direction I was.  But at length the boat began to pull away. I remember saying out loud “Oh, don’t leave me!”  I felt pretty sure that the boat represented the only chance I had to avoid a night alone on a fairly rough sea, and I wondered if this might be the last night I would experience at all.

I raised up my paddle and tried to wave it vigorously, and almost immediately the boat turned in my direction.  It took a few minutes to reach me, but the fishermen grasped the situation immediately. They were calling to me in Arabic, and I was answering with the little I know, but when they held up a long green rope, I knew they were asking if I wanted them to throw it. I nodded my head and they started moving the boat closer to me.

It was touch and go to stay on the board when it neared the side of the boat.  They threw the rope and I was able to get hold of it. I tried to secure it to the holding strap of the paddle board, but the sea was tossing me about and I only partially succeeded. The fishermen pulled me to the side of their boat, and now gestured that they would lower a tire to me, secured by another rope. I was able to grasp the tire, but could not figure out how to fit myself into it. But strong arms were able to lift the tire, with me hanging on, to the point where they could grasp my hands in theirs, and then get arms under my own and pull me over the steel side of the ship onto the floorboards. Fortunately, the line from my paddle board to my thigh had held, and a sailor was able to haul the board up behind me.

Essentially my life was saved, and both they and I knew it.  They had to figure out what to do with me, because I could tell them where I wanted to go, but they were on their way to Suez, and there was no place for them to stop.  They could see I was fatigued, and they gave me water and soda. I drank that, but had to insist that I was not famished, because they clearly wanted me to eat food as well.  They gave me a huge fishing coat to wear, and a pair of trousers meant for a person double my size. They in fact all seemed to be double my size, though I am not a small person. They were superbly kind, humorous, interested in knowing where I came from, and whether I had a wife and children. My poor Arabic amused them, but somehow we kept communicating.  They soon had cameras out, and a cellphone for me to call shore. I could only  remember my own number, and of course no one was in the flat where my phone would ring on and on.  But they took the number, and made several calls so that when I got back home I would have their missed calls on my list.

Because they could not stop to drop me off, they called the coastline police, and a motor boat soon arrived with space enough for both me and my gear.  After profuse thanks, a lot of smiles and photographs I was lowered into the boat and waved farewell to my saviors.

The boat took me to the Marina at Porto Sokna, some ten kilometers down the coast from Telal. There I was interviewed by the police, to make sure I was not an illegal alien.  I had no identity cards with me, but they were able to call the management at Telal Al Sokna and give them my telephone number. When I confirmed the number of my flat, the managers there agreed to send a pickup truck to get me and my board and bring me back home. About twenty minutes later they were there, and in another twenty minutes I was in my flat again.

In Cairo my wife, Nelle, was soon relieved, because she had called me many times during the late afternoon, to no avail. I was able to call her at 7 pm, from our flat, using my own phone.

Now it is a new day, and tomorrow I will return to Cairo.  From my balcony I see that the waves are a bit brisk, so I will not be trying out the paddle board today. That means it will wait until a week or two later, when I return to Telal again. I will surely choose a no-wind, no-waves day, and I will surely stay close to the coastline.

I will reflect a lot on this incident. I think I have a new respect for the fragility of life, how we owe ours to others, and the importance of thinking ahead before trying to “go it alone”. Everything seems a bit more valuable to me than it did before this adventure, and I will try to maintain that sense of value in the days to come. I am specially thankful at the moment for those days.

Trip to the National Geographic Museum in Cairo

March 6, 2016

March 5, 2016.  A really nice tour of this venerable building, which houses thousands of books and maps centering on Egypt and its history both ancient and modern.  I posted a set of photos on Flickr which is available to anyone interested.

https://www.flickr.com/gp/thefolksinger/6V455D

 

 

To Blog or To YouTube? That is the Question…

June 7, 2013

A few days ago I obliged my wife by walking round the corner to get a watermelon, two kilos of oranges, and two cantaloupes from the lady who parks her donkey cart for an hour or so by the SunShine English School. I bought the stuff, paid for it, and was turning homewards when a nicely dressed young man, perhaps thirteen or fourteen years of age, offered to help me by pushing my grocery cart home and carrying it up six flights of stairs, since the lift in our apartment building was out.

I accepted, and we began walking the two or three minutes round the corner to my home.

My impressions of the young man changed quite quickly. He was fluent enough in English to tell me that he needed a job.  I sympathized with him but told him I had no jobs to give him, other than that I would pay him a small amount for carrying the groceries.

Then he asked me if I needed a fuck.  Taken aback, I said, What?

A fuck, he said. He put his right hand down towards my crotch.  I pushed the hand away and said No.

He continued to talk. He was hungry, his parents were poor, he had no money, was I American?, America was a great fucking country. Did I need a fuck? Again he gestured, this time mimicking masturbation.

I rebuffed him again. We entered my apartment building, and he carried the groceries the six floors up to my door. I opened the door with my key.

He made a move to enter the apartment with me, but I cut him off. Again he gestured as if he might sexually service me. I rebuffed him in more colorful language.

Nelle, my wife, came to the door. I placed the groceries inside, on the floor and then paid the young man about twice what I would normally pay.

He kept his hand on the door jam, as if we should invite him in.

I pushed his hand back, and told him he should leave.  He smiled and backed into the hallway. I shut the door.

A rather unsettling experience. I never felt threatened or in danger, but simply disappointed. A “nice” young man by appearance, seemingly eager to assist a seventy three year old American with a heavy load. But instead obviously willing to be less than nice to make a dollar or two.

I have not seen him again on the street. But this is Cairo today. Perhaps he is still hungry, still looking for ways to make a bit more money than he would get from a guy like me.

About a year ago I posted a YouTube video about a similar encounter. It has received a fair number of hits.  No one reads this blog.

Should this be another video post? Or should I publish to Facebook?

Christmas Poem After Connecticut Massacre

December 15, 2012

Christmas Poem After Connecticut Massacre

We killed God somewhere
Between inventing gunpowder
and researching DNA.

Evolved animals
Kill to eat
Few species advanced enough
Not to eat each other

Pigs are forbidden because
Their meat looks like ours
And tastes the same, some say

Jesus ate pork, or if he didn’t
Would have, if challenged
By priests

And Mohamed and the Buddha
Knew enough
Not to spawn religions

You and I spawn them
Let them rise and kill
And sow hatred

Who among us
Will not kill
A perceived enemy?

We learn lessons well
So advanced we are:

The real princes sowed peace
If one can believe them
And even if

God couldn’t stop our guns
Jesus weeps
With Obama on TV

theFolksinger

Restarting the Blog

December 4, 2012

I hope to reactivate this blog, posting every few days. I begin with an original poem based on a moment in my life some years ago when my parents were still living. It becomes a sort of Christmas poem by a person who, formerly a fairly fundamentalist Christian, has become an agnostic committed to trusting reason and science and discounting the claims of churches and competing faiths. Still, a residue remains, and Christmas and the child who promises peace is still attractive.

 

My Father On His Knees    

a Christmas Poem           

Bill Evenhouse

 

In this evolving universe you often feel  alone

A billion stars obliterate the Christmas star that shone.

I grew up with all my Sundays and my life chock full of love

All based on my believing that there was a God above.

 

Now I’m an evolutionist quite sure that I can know

W hat I believe has evidence, but not so long ago

I followed in my father’s steps; creation was for me:

The moments when the great  I Am just told the world to “Be!”  

 

Today I sense relation to the birds and to the bees

I know we’ve all emerged from the ancestors of trees

And all things otherwise and where; and yet my mind’s eye sees

In main and misty moments, my father on his knees.

 

Now I’ve lived more than seventy years and the folks are gone, but I’ve

A memory of my parents’ home when they were still alive.

I’m fifty then, and talking to my mother in the gloom

Of night, my dad has gone into his dressing room.

 

Her back is to his doorway, she’s listening to me,

Her somewhat wayward son, who’s come to stay a day or two, or three.

And while we’re talking round about the things that we should say

I see my father by his bed, he’s bending down to pray.

 

His hands are folded on the sheets, his knees are on the floor

And I am sure I know exactly what he’s praying for:

After all the thanks and praise, he asks his God above

To bless his children with Christ’s sovereign love.

 

Dad knows the kids are different, some keep the faith, some don’t.

He wishes they would hold on fast, although he fears they won’t.

But still he asks his Lord of All, who surely will do right

To keep his children safe through every day and every night.

 

And after more than twenty years this unbelieving son

Holds on to Christmas dreams, long after faith has gone.

And though the tinsel turns me off, I know I truly share

The import of my dad’s and mother’s prayer:

 

The universe expands, bring peace at home and over seas

Grant safety from the guns and bombs and, maybe, could they cease

For wives and sons and daughters, may Heaven bless them, please

And for their children when we’re gone, we humbly bend our knees.

 

So 

 

Merry Christmas, all of you who serve a Christ above,

And Merry Christmas, all who simply sense a need for love,

And Merry Something every one who in their minds eye sees

Their parents praying for them on their knees,

Their parents praying for them on their knees,

Their parents praying for them on their knees.

 December 2012

Country guitar, Folk guitar, and blues guitar and Hugh Corbin

October 12, 2005

Today I am off to teach some difference, or differences, between the styles of country guitar, folk guitar, and blues guitar.  That’s a bit tricky, because I have my own style, which is an eclectic mix.  So we will see what happens.  It is not my own class, but a world music class taught by Professor Emma Zevik.  If anything interesting happens, I may remember to note it later.

The program last night with Hugh Corbin was a fine success.  Good crowd, terrific response.  Hugh reads just like he did twenty years ago, and simply fills the room with passion, energy, and humor.  And protest, since he knows how to read that sort of poem. Nelle found his reading of Bob Dylan’s lyrics to Masters of War (I strummed a background, while Hugh declaimed the words) to be as effectively condemnatory today as it was so many years ago when Dylan first sang the song.

The program was videotaped, so hopefully some who missed it will still get a chance to see it.  Hugh and his wife Maris will return to Barbados in a few days. 

A few words about Hugh Corbin

October 9, 2005

Twenty some years ago, round the time son Eirik graduated from Hillcrest in Jos, Nigeria, Hugh was an educator working with the ministry of education in Jos.  He, Nelle and I performed a well-received program at Hillcrest one evening, Hugh reading poetry and Nelle and I singing folksongs. Now Hugh is visiting his son in Cairo, Egypt, and has consented to repeat the performance.  We spent time Friday going over the planned content, and Hugh’s voice and vibrant energy has not diminished over the years. Hope our energy is up to his; then the program will be a special event at AUC.

The Folksinger’s first Blog

October 9, 2005

Early Sunday morning in Cairo, and I am just writing a few words for a first blog on the wordpress site. Some brief intro material: I am an American male, married with grown children who have flown the coop and are raising families in various parts of the world. My wife Nelle and I are retired, but keeping our hands in education projects in Cairo. Nelle tutors children from a particular family that sends them to a school where both of us used to teach English. I am now an adjunct professor (or intstructor, it’s not quite clear) of music in the Performing and Visual Arts (PVA) Department of the American University in Cairo (AUC). Adjunct here means half-time, local contract, and low pay, but lots of interesting experiences. I teach two courses: playing the guitar aid piano by ear, and intro to pop American music by genre. I also present one concert per term, where I share the stage with other musicians from Cairo, usually folk musicians from various countries.

Tuesday next, October 11 will be an “extra” performance. A special one. Hugh Corbin, an American/Barbadosian poet, artist, educator, and general wonderful person, will be reading from various poets at the AUC’s Howard Cafe, at 8 PM. Nelle and I will be with him, presenting some folksongs between the poems. Should be a great night.

I hope to develop, soon, some podcasts where any interested folk can subscribe to songs I develop and record. At present, the only website where I have my “adult” material is http://www.thefolksinger.com. A cd for children and learners of English is found at http://www.cdbaby.com/evenhouse.