Thursday, February 19, 2009


[Note: I have so many pictures from my African trip I will include them for a while even though they have nothing specifically to do with the subject I'm writing about.]

I woke up about 4:00 this morning, which is not unusual. I realized I was hungry, this is not unusual either since I've been fairly seriously dieting and often eat a light supper. Yesterday it was vegetarian, probably about 450 calories, definitely sufficient. Previously during the day I had about 800 calories. But I was hungry and, as on other occasions, told myself to go back to sleep because millions of people in the world are hungry in the middle of the night -- and maybe most of their waking hours too. A little hunger is not a bad thing. I went back to sleep until the clock alarm began playing music.

That hunger is one of the constants in the life of humanity on earth is not a consolation. So much food is produced that hunger is almost an obscene fact of life in the 21st century. Many stupid political and economic barriers stand in the way of distribution of food to those who need it. I was in Zimbabwe and the world news was telling us about actual starvation in that once very prosperous country. I did not see it [we tourists would have been shielded in any case] but we visited a town near Hwange Park. People were all slim -- as were most people in the streets of Indian cities hat I visited. But that town was luckier than most others in the country; many of their people worked in the park, they had a market where tourists were brought 2 or 3 times a week to shop. The town, because of where it was located, had regular infusions of American money that most towns do not have. The only hint of starvation were two dogs that wandered about, their ribs clearly visible, their gait slow, their heads hanging listlessly. No one feeds them, I thought. No one has food to spare.

Here in NYC hunger is increasing; the soup kitchens are busier than ever and donations are fewer. I think this is true in most American cities as the economy becomes worse and worse. Few Americans think much about hunger, few have actually experienced it except voluntarily as I am doing. There have been nights when I gave in, got up and ate a granola bar or made a piece of toast -- I always know there is food to be had. Why think about this kind of problem when I can do so little about it? I give a dollar to the guy on the street asking for money for food; if I give him the apple or granola bar I'm carrying I sometimes think he doesn't really want it, he'd rather have money that could be used for drugs. But I could be wrong. Certainly he [or she] is more desperate than I've ever been and giving is the least I can do.

As to these photos: Above is a baobab tree, the fattest, usually largest tree in the African forests. It is not a tree, actually, it is a succulent, related to cactus. And below are baboon skulls at the entrance to Hwange Park. Most parks had collections of skulls and antelope horns.

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