Ready for a Golf Trip?

How about a golf trip for the ages?

There is only one golf course in Afghanistan — Kabul Golf Club. The course was opened in 1967, closed in 1978 and reopened in 2004. It is – to my knowledge – still open though I’m not sure how much traffic they are getting. The website doesn’t offer much (see http://www.kabulgolfclub.org/ ). But if you Google the term, there are dozens of neat photos! The Taliban have banned sporting events so not much is known about the Club’s current status.

Kabul Golf Club is a 9 hole course. The “greens” are actually brown or black due to their composition (sand and oil – to keep the sand from blowing). There is no irrigation system and fairways are mainly sand. In 2010, there was a charity tournament that brought out 44 golfers – each paying a $100 fee to play this hard-scrabble course 7 miles from downtown Kabul.

For those golfers looking for a challenge, none could be more daunting. First we need visa permits and entrance authorizations to travel to Afghanistan. There are still flights into Kabul on Turkish Air. While we are at it, we can cross the border into Pakistan where (believe it or not) there are 48 private golf clubs! The Pakistan Golf Federation oversees the golf community in Pakistan. Pakistani courses can actually be quite lush. A link to some of the better courses is https://www.golfpass.com/travel-advisor/course-directory/8485-pakistan/

The trip can conclude with a 9 hour flight from Islamabad to Shenyang and several train and bus trips to North Korea’s only golf course — Pyongyang Golf Course (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyongyang_Golf_Course ). The back tees are 6200 meters (6780 yards). This is the course where Kim Jong-il scored a birdie or better on each hole and had 5 holes in one — all in one round! The course restaurant is said to be the best in North Korea. That said, I think we still may have to bring our own clubs. And food. And tents. . . . .

Just Call Me Solomon

[A repeat from December 21, 2017] In my post of April 2, 2017, I discussed the gift of colorful and quirky “Happy Socks” that my granddaughters gave me last Christmas.  I have more than a dozen pair and I now wear them every day.  But as in all cases, the past is prologue. . . .   

My granddaughters had a sleepover at our house earlier this week.  I got dressed and then called out the door offering Eve and Elin the option of selecting the Happy Socks that I would wear to work.  The two of them (ages 3 and 6) bolted in, pulled open my sock drawer and began perusing the choices.  Each held up a different pair.  And insisted that I wear “their” pair.  I asked that they confer (something like the U.S. Congress) to come up with one pair that I ought wear.  No deal.  Each wanted me to wear “their” pair. . . . .

Please understand that I am not as dumb as I look.  So we reached a compromise.  For the first time in my life — I agreed to wear two highly different colorful socks to work.   My granddaughters looked at each other like – he really is as dumb as he looks.  And squealed.  Each peeled off one sock and handed it to me.  I sat down and put them on.   The good news is that I told no one else about my wardrobe issue.  No one looked at my feet.  And no one (that I could tell) noticed during the day.  I arrived home unscathed from my Solomonic decision.   That said – I tossed the two socks down the laundry chute for washing.  And I will await their delivery — to reunite them with their rightful partner. . . . .   

I Don’t Like Anybody Very Much

“They’re Rioting in Africa” – also called “The Merry Minuet” – was written by Tom Lehrer in 1958. It was first sung that year by Ellie Stone. It was later recorded by Harry Belafonte in a performance at The Greek Theatre in Washington. And it was popularized by the Kingston Trio in the early 1960’s (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCTdfo6T-u8 ). Great tune – which I remember well.

In less than 2 minutes, the Kingston Trio has summarized the state of our world, most countries, many towns, families and even friendships. And it sums up the attitude of many otherwise intelligent people – about anyone who disagrees with them on any issue, topic, subject or political affiliation. If you are on the wrong side of someone’s cause celebre, you may be thrown under the bus. And the door will be slammed shut. Isn’t that just ducky?

This is no longer funny. It is serious. And it is painfully sad. Can we do anything about this troubling situation? You can. I know you can. So can I.

What nature doesn’t do to us – will be done by our fellow man. . . . .

Brothers

Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.  It is like the precious ointment upon the head . . . . and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion . . . .”  Psalm 133

In July 2015, I posted on attending the 100th anniversary of the Gamma Alpha Beta fraternity at Augustana College.   Many of the brothers from my era showed up.  We have remained a close-knit group since graduation.  On this September 11, 2021, we had a GAB golf outing – with about 50 brothers from across classes.

I wasn’t destined for college (see post of October 13, 2013).  My future was to work (assistant plumber) after high school.  Frankly, it’s a fluke that I even applied (after h.s. graduation) and got in to “college.”  And that I came to know my brothers. 

There are amazing memories and stories (most of which are gladly remembered — and a few that shall not be repeated).  One I personally relish is the dark night when my entire pledge class was corralled by police and taken off to jail (it was nothing serious).  One quick-witted pledge escaped detention by launching himself over a window well and clambering up onto a fire escape.   Yeah.  That was me. . . . 

The GAB’s won the Homecoming Sing with the ballad I sang to Lauren every night when she was little — “Oh Shenendoah.”   It was that song I picked for the Father-Daughter dance at her wedding (see post of August 14, 2011).  We had tears in our eyes as the music played.  It’s interesting how when you meet old friends, you pick up where you left off.    It’s as if time stands still and you’re back being 19 years old again.  In my brain, I’m still 19.  Now if only my body would cooperate . . . . .        

Afghanistan

The United States has more than 500 military bases in more than 50 countries around the world. These bases are intended for logistical purpose, communications, intelligence gathering and as staging areas for actions in defense of allies or America. Lest you think America is alone in this regard, Canada, France, the UK, Australia, India and other allies have numerous bases on foreign soil. And of course Russia and China have many.

I am saddened by America’s catastrophic departure from Afghanistan. I’m not sure I would have called our presence a “war” per se. It was a strategic hub intended to maintain the dignity of the Afghan people. And to destroy the Taliban, ISIS and other terrorist groups whose evil and savage butchery have victimized the people of many nations – including America. In 20 years of presence, 2,430 American military personnel have been killed. None had been killed (until two weeks ago) in the last year and a half. While each life is sacred, the number of American military personnel killed in 20 years is just a whisper higher than the 2,000 American servicemen killed every single week during the nearly four years of World War II. Those men and women died to protect America and the world from the same kind of tyranny.

The sudden and precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan has unlatched the door to a darkness and cruelty that is quickly descending on Afghanistan. We have callously ignored the lives and dignity of the Afghan people and unlatched the door to a future investment of human capital around the world that could massively eclipse the investment to date.

The end is still not in sight. 

Henry Nouwen

(A summer repeat from July 12, 2012)
One of the great inspirational/spiritual writers of all time was Henri Nouwen (1932-1996). Henri Nouwen was born in Holland. At an early age, he felt a call to the priesthood. He was ordained as a diocesan priest in 1957 and studied at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, KS. Henri went on to teach at Notre Dame, the Divinity School at Yale University and Harvard University. He died suddenly — and all too early — in 1996.

For several months in the 1970’s, Henri lived in a Trappist community at the Genesee Abbey in New York. In the early ’80’s, he lived in Peru among the desperately poor. After a time of contemplation, he left the seemingly bright world of academia — to go and work with mentally handicapped adults at L’Arche Daybreak in Toronto. It was at L’Arche that Henri felt his greatest fulfillment. He was a prolific writer and in 2003, a Christian Century survey rated his works number one among Catholic and mainline Christian clergy.

I was referred to Henri some years ago by my dear friend David. On his recommendation, I have read most of Henri’s works. Wow! Spiritual. Inspirational. Moving. And somewhat melancholy – knowing that Henri died at such a young age. Return of the Prodigal Son is one of his most famous – and probably my favorite. I was given a copy by my friend and priest – Fr. Bob. Return is worth a second read. . . . which I’m planning. . . . . If you have to pick one of Henri’s books to read — this is the one.

[Afterword – I read it a second time.  It is now on the shelf for a third]

The Decline and Fall. . . .

[A repeat from March 29, 2018] Between 1776 and 1788, English historian (and Member of Parliament) Edward Gibbon published his classic 6 volume work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.   It is interesting to examine the causes of the decline – and fall – of the grand Roman Empire which expired in about 476 A.D. — not with a bang but a whimper.  Reasons for decline?  

Ongoing wars and heavy military spending

Failing economy and high inflation — and high unemployment among the working classes

Declining morals, ethics and values

Demand for blood and violence in entertainment (Gladitorial “games”)

Antagonism between the Emperor and the Senate

Political corruption

Hero worship of athletes and actors

Dilution of the Roman language

Look at America.   Frankly, look at the world.  The qualities listed above are present.  In abundance.  George Santayana in The Life of Reason commented “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.”  Is anyone surprised?  Is it too late?