#BuckFiftyADay Since March, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay Since March, 2014

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Angola: Day 10

Tonight we cried a little.

Ricardo and I, we both miss our families. And this is what we talked about at the end of a long day. But we'll get to that later.

Ricardo picked me up in the morning and drove me out to the the fancy hotel at Talatona, where I was able to get a few good interviews with "the important people" of this big event. At this point in the trip, I have one friend who has been with me from start to finsh, Ricardo, so it feels awkward to have him drop me off in the front of the fancy hotel and tell me he will wait for me. But this is what we do, even though I'd prefer for him to come into the lobby and hang out with me. He says he cannot.

Thankfully, it was not long before we were back on the road to downtown Luanda, blaring the same music and watching the same busy scenes. The reason I was happy that I was able to get my work done promptly was because Ricardo had mentioned to me earlier in the day that he'd been asked to play in a 5 v. 5 game with some of his friends. "But only if there is no work for Mr. Jeff," he said.

I was, in fact, done with my work so early that I asked Ricardo if he could take me by his apartment, because I knew there would be pickup games going on in the nearby "court." I figured I'd end this trip the way I began it, with the story of "the ball."

Maybe it's naive, but the people of Africa that I have spoken to believe the ball brings people together, that the ball solves problems, and the ball can be the answer to so many issues these people face on a day-to-day basis. So, I needed to see the ball in action. It was just pickup game on a sheet of asphalt. A game amongst boys of limited skill, but indeed, the ball had done the job of unifying a neighborhood. If only for a while. "This is most days," Ricardo said. "There's always a game."

I looked at my watch and asked Ricardo if he could now take me back to my hotel. "I have work I can do," I said. "Just give me a call after your game."

So Ricardo dropped me off at the Roux and I spent the afternoon transcribing tapes and watching Premier League games (and my nephew's game on the internet) and thinking a little bit about tomorrow's Cup of Nations final between Egypt and Ghana. And around 6:30, my phone rang and it was Ricardo. "Do you want to eat?" I asked him.

"No, Mr. Jeff," he said. "I have already ated" (I hate to show Ricardo's grammatical mistake, and it's not meant to be disparaging, but I found it endearing. He had gone home and eaten something after his game.) When he picked me up, Ricardo was limping. "I got kicked hard during the game," he said. "It hurts very bad."

Our normal drill went on. Ricardo opened the truck door for me, made sure my door was locked, and drove me to my rice and beans place, Sindicato. I loaded up my plate, asked Ricardo if he was hungry. "No, Mr. Jeff," he said. I gave him the look that said, "are you sure?" He finally relented and filled himself a bowl of rice and beans.

And then, the moment of this journey that I will not forget. I ordered a beer, a Cuca, of course, and Ricardo ordered a water. When he asked me if I wanted a second, I said, "Only if you will have one with me."

And Ricardo said, "I do not think I can do this, Mr. Jeff."

"I think you can..."

When the waitress returned, she had two mugs of beer. We toasted our friendship and our families. "I do this, Mr. Jeff, because this is the last night we will eat together," Ricardo said."

"That's right, Mr. Ricardo," I said, bringing out a huge smile.

And we drank our beers together, talked soccer as the highlights of the African Cup of Nations were being shown on the restaurant's big screen. Ricardo and I will both pull for Ghana tomorrow, as we agree Egypt seems arrogant. We agreed that Lionel Messi is the best player in the world right now, better than Cristiano Ronaldo, and we differed on who is the greatest player of all-time (one said Pele, the other said Maradona). And we talked about our wives and kids, and how we miss them...as Ricardo says, "A loat (rhymes with boat).

When he dropped me off, Ricardo and I discussed tomorrow's agenda. "I will watch the news before I go to sleep, Mr. Jeff," Ricardo said. "I need to know how early we must leave." And then he paused. "I want to say I'm sorry, because I should not have had that beer while I was working, Mr. Jeff..."

And I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "No, no, no, Ricardo," I said. "I am so glad we were able to have a beer together, my friend, don't be sorry."

As I said the final word, I could feel tears welling in my eyes. And Ricardo had the same look. We shook hands and gave each other a brief "bro hug double-back-tap."

I'm ready for this trip to be over, but I'm going to miss this guy.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Angola: Day 9

A weird day, for sure. A day of mixed emotions.

It was a day spent with the muckity-mucks of FIFA and CAF (Confederation of African Football) at the official CAF Hotel. Ricardo and I got lost on our way out there, stopping for directions a few times, before ultimately finding it.

"I was here when I was younger," Ricardo said. "I fought here in the war, but it was nothing but bushes and sand." When we finally found the hotel and convention center, I wasn't sure what to think. It was brand new and gorgeous. Some officials from FIFA and CAF were emerging from the fitness center in their green adidas gear. Others were having coffee and breakfast in the swanky cafe.

Outside there were freshly planted palm trees, valets, fountains. The lobby was nothing short of spectacular, with marble floors, crystal chandeliers, more fountains. For a while, as I sat waiting for the press conferences and interviews to begin, I thought, "How much easier this trip would've been had I gotten a room out here." I mean, I could've eaten in the cafe, had drinks at the bar, worked out in the gym...

But as the day wore on, as each packet of information was handed over, one glossier than the next (one was Qatar's 1022 World Cup bid propaganda), I started to realize, if I'd stayed in this hotel, I'd have missed out on all the long trips in the truck. It took us forever to get out there this morning, and the trip home was no picnic either. And it has been on those trips, I think, that I've learned about Angola. Two hours after I told Ricardo I was ready to be taken home, he and "Boy" (aka Payzin) showed up in the truck, ready to begin the trek back to the Roux.

"We call Friday, 'the Man's Day,'" Ricardo said as we crawled through a the mass of traffic. "You can see all the men are out together, having some drinks." Ricardo was right again. The streets were lined with men. In the earlier hours, men were doing pull-ups, sit-ups and push-ups in one of the "fitness parks." As night fell, yeah, they were drinking beer from the bottle. Toasting the start of the weekend.

I had not eaten all day, not wanting to sneak into the fancy luncheon (I think I saw lobster) that Qatar was throwing for all the delegates. I asked if we could return to "Sindicato," where we've eaten rice and beans. "Of course, whatever Mr. Jeff wants to do," Ricardo said. So Ricardo, Payzin and I sat down to dinner together.

"The Man's Day," I said to Ricardo and Payzin, raising my Cuca.

They simply nodded.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Angola: Day 8

So little I can write about today.

Ricardo picked me up at 1 o'clock to take me to the stadium for a 5 o'clock game. Traffic in town was bad as usual, but traffic out of town was nothing like it was the day Angola played Ghana, so I arrived at the stadium very early. For my non-soccer-writing brethren, there is no pre-game clubhouse access in soccer. You get to the park early, basically, you hang out 'til game time. So I hung out, ate a "Fahita" (very chewy) for 600 kwanzas, nearly fell asleep, and chatted with my Ghanaian friends.

Ghana beat Nigeria 1-0 to advance to the final. The non-biased Ghanaian press corps, dressed in team colors, waving flags and screaming at the top of their lungs, were pretty happy. I posed for a bunch of pictures with them. I'm big in Ghana.

Always good for a sports scribe covering a soccer game when the guy who scores the only goal in a 1-0 game (Asamoah Gyan) decides he doesn't want to talk to the press. Maybe the fact that half the press corps was hugging him left him speechless, I dunno.

Ricardo, as always, was there to pick me up after the match. Only he had a "very good friend," who was standing in the back of the pickup.

"What's his name?" I asked Ricardo.

"I'm not sure, I just call him Boy," Ricardo said.

"I thought he was a very good friend," I said.

"Well, he's done a lot for me today. He keeps the truck clean. He helps me," Ricardo said. Well, that was good enough for me. So I opened the window and asked Boy in Spanish what his name was. "Payzin," he said with a smile.

"His name is Payzin," I told Ricardo, who was now in stitches.

When we hit traffic, Ricardo shouted something to Payzin, and wouldn't you know it, Payzin jumped out of the truck, ran into a gas station and emerged with some cold Cucas for Mr. Jeff. We began the long trek home, through Luanda's dusty roads, always filled with people, always filled with life.

Ricardo blasted 50 Cent, which was cool, because I got to explain to him what an "Oompah Loompah" is what a "P-I-M-P" is...see, me and Ricardo help each other out.

Three days to go. Ghana and Egypt in the final Sunday.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Angola: Day 7

All I can do is smile.

If you read yesterday's post, well, it was more of the same today. Only worse. Won't bore you with all the bad-day-at-work stuff. Just know, I've never seen anything like the city of Luanda in terms of congestion and chaos.

I had two tasks to accomplish today and I was 0-for-2, sitting in traffic for almost the entire day before telling Ricardo "Enough, just get me back to the hotel. I can't take it any more."

That's not to say we didn't have a few laughs along the way. The first good one came when I told Ricardo I was just going to take out a wad of Kwanzas and start buying everything that was offered to us as we sat in traffic. Shower heads. Cell phones. Batteries. Brushes. Pots and Pans. Remote Controls. Plastic Toys. Watches. Car chargers. Art. CDs. DVDs. Fruit. Coca Cola. Gum.

"No, no, Mr. Jeff," Ricard said, laughing. "Don't do it!"

Then I threatened Ricardo that tomorrow, I would bring my entire stash of candy and power bars out on the road and do a little selling myself. "You make me laugh, Mr. Jeff," Ricardo said. "And this is good for me, because I am very stressed."

Ricardo and I got our best laugh, however, when we finally made it to Ghana's team hotel. No one from the team or the press was around, but former U.S. (and Mexico, Costa Rica, Nigeria, China, Honduras, Jamaica, Iraq) coach Bora Milutinovic immediately saw me as I got out of Ricardo's pickup. "I know where we need to go," Bora said, excitedly. "I go with you!" Bora threw three suitcases in the back of the pickup. When Ricardo told him it would likely be stolen as we sat in traffic, Bora said, "No, no, my friend." Then he hopped in the single-cab pickup, crashing his knee into the stick shift. Yes, three adults across the one seat.

If you've never met Bora, I'll just describe the language he speaks as Span-Eng-French-ish. He told Ricardo the name of the hotel and Ricardo had no idea what he said. He took out a piece of paper and said it again. Still, no clue. Ricardo asked to see the piece of paper, but Bora's writing was nothing more than scribble.

When I told Bora my goal was to interview some of the Nigeria players, he got very excited. "Give me your phone, I will call Kanu for you. We will go talk to Kanu!" I gave Bora my phone and he took out his checkbook, which was filled with more scribble. He handed me the phone and started calling out numbers for me to call. None worked.

When Bora finally communicated where he needed to go, Ricardo whispered to me that it would take us all day to get there. Instead, Ricardo called his friend who owns a cab and told him to come and pick up Bora. We waited a half hour and sent Bora on his way.

Then it was back into traffic.

Game tomorrow in Luanda. We literally have to leave the hotel six hours before kickoff. I believe the stadium is 15 miles away.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Angola: Day 6

Guess it's time for me to send home a dose of reality.

And the reality is, this is a tough place.

I've traveled to many countries in my 20 years as a journalist, but this is the first time I've ever been in a city for this long and cannot tell you even where I am staying. Each time I come back from any part of Luanda, the return trip is like putting a 1,000-piece puzzle back together. I could be a block away and I couldn't tell you where I was in this town of narrow, dirt and mud roads, crumbling cement and incomplete construction projects.

I've focused on the people throughout this trip, in particular my friend Ricardo, because I've tried to look for the good while I"m here. I'm not giving that up, but I don't want to paint a completely inaccurate picture of where I am.

When I mentioned to some South African businessmen who are staying in my hotel that it doesn't look like the city has recovered well from the 28-year war, one looked at me and said, "Twenty-eight years was just the civil war. More wars preceded that."

It shows. Any beauty in the old architecture here has been covered with dust. There are piles of concrete at the feet of nearly every building. And in the day to day hustle and bustle that defines this place, it seems there's no time left for clean up. Garbage bins overflow. While there is certainly some wealth in Luanda due to the oil business, the overwhelming majority of people are poor. Very poor. I've read that 60 percent of the people here live on two dollars a day. You see a lot of desperation.

Today, Ricardo even showed frustration with the city he grew up in, as he got stuck in yet another traffic jam, got cut off by yet another car or scooter. "When will people start to follow the rules?" he asked. "It is chaos. I am embarrassed."

He said he had a long talk with his wife last night. She is South African and they've spent their entire married life together in Johannesburg. "I told her I feel very bad for Mr. Jeff," Ricardo said. "I feel very bad for this man who is trying to work."

Of course, I told him it's not his fault, but I am reaching a frustration point because I am not used to being able to accomplish so little in the course of a day. The streets are choked with vehicles and pedestrians and riders on scooters. I could walk more perhaps, but Ricardo would not hold up in the heat. And that's not what he was paid to do. Go out on my own? I have thought about it, but not a single person here has given me an inkling that I could negotiate this city on my own safely.

"I'd just like to have a place where I could walk for coffee," I told Ricardo today. He just shook his head and said, "I am very sorry, Mr. Jeff. There is not that place."

And with that, Ricardo slammed his hand down on his thigh. A man was tapping on his window, trying to sell us DVDs. Decaying, dilapidated buildings surrounded us.

I drew a deep breath.

"No worries, Ricardo," I said, even though that happens to be one of my least favorite cliches. "It is what it is." And that happens to be my very least favorite cliche.

I did not know what else to say. Tomorrow is a new day. Five more to go.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Angola: Day 5

Probably my least-interesting day so far.

Talk about a sentence to suck the reader in, eh? Honestly, it was a work day not so different from an off-day on any American sports beat. There was a hotel lobby. There were journalists waiting for some time with players. There were PR guys calling the shots. Didn't matter if it was Luanda, Angola or Kansas City, Mo.

When that drill was done, I asked Ricardo if he could find us a decent place to watch the quarterfinal match between Cameroon and Egypt, so we took the road-less-traveled...literally, the road with less traffic...to the part of town known as Ilha.

Ilha looks quite like so many coastal places I've been before, in some ways. In other ways, it's like nothing I've ever seen before in my life (except for maybe Asbury Park eight years ago). You've got wide beaches bordering next to shanty villages filled with trash and stray dogs. You've got a few night spots that look nice. One is called Chill-Out Luanda, though Ricardo pronounces it "Sheelout" and he warned that it's pricey, which is saying something here in Luanda, which I've learned is the most expesnive city in the world. Seriously, you will get raked in this place if you're not careful.

"If you would like, I will take you there one night, Mr. Jeff," Ricardo said. "But these places, I don't like them too much." Without going into much detail, Ricardo explained that in these places his job becomes very difficult. I think he had visions of me drinking a bunch and dancing. Go ahead, I'm laughing too.

We watched the game at an outdoor cafe called Ponto de Final and I enjoyed a couple of cold Cucas, which I must say is a pretty nice beer. I let Ricardo order for me and he ordered me a piece of beef covered with a fried egg, french fries, a salad, and he also ordered up some rice and beans because he's heard me say I like them. Understand, Ricardo had a secret plan to pick up the check, but I would not let it happen. Because I had described a piece of meat I'd eaten at my hotel as "shoe leather," Ricardo asked me, "Is this meat soft enough for you, Mr. Jeff?" Indeed, it was soft enough.

Ricardo watched me like a hawk as I took some photos of local scenery, including a filthy flea market that bordered some woods that Ricardo described with one word. "Drugs." Still, my spirits were lifted by the youngsters on the beach, playing pickup soccer and doing things I did as a kid, before XBox and PS3. They played leap frog. They played tag. I saw a little girl just spinning around, making herself dizzy. She had a beautiful smile. "You love children, Mr. Jeff," Ricardo said. "I can see that."

I told him he was right. And I could tell Ricardo was sad. He misses his daughter, Lolly and his son Tony, who are back in South Africa with his wife Rita. He has explained that he is here because he thinks in Angola he has more opportunity to provide for them. "As you can see, Mr. Jeff," he says. "Money is spent in Angola."

It's got a chance to get a bit tedious here the next few days. Training sessions and waiting on players who don't want to be interviewed. I told Ricardo I might just drink 10 Cucas and do the "Kuduru" for him. He laughed hard.

"I'm going to miss you very much, Mr. Jeff," he said. I think he knows how I feel.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Angola: Day 4

A long day for me and Ricardo.

I could moan and groan about the traffic here in Luanda. It's like nothing I've ever seen before in my life. But it's here and it's not going away, so we'll deal with it.

I'd rather focus on other things.

The people of this country continue to amaze me. I look around and see so many depressing things these folks could harbor and turn into sadness, but instead today, they decked themselves out, from head to toe, in their country's colors and sang and danced and tried to will their team to victory.Every car, every building was seemingly bedecked with a flag. "If Angola wins," Ricardo said as we stood still in our Toyota pickup on a dusty road that led to El Estadio 11 de Novembre, "tomorrow nobody works." He thought for a second and said, "Of course, Mr. Jeff, I will work."

For a second, he was worried that I might be angry with him. If he only knew.

Silly things have made me smile on this trip. Every morning, I eat toast in the lobby/lounge (there's no bar, so it's hardly a lounge) area of the hotel. And every morning, a five-song John Denver CD plays over and over and over. For some reason, I think Farah and Fuad, the hotel owners, think I enjoy it..."Follow me, where I go..."

Every time I get into Ricardo's truck, he has the same four or five songs blasting. He explained to me that the music is for the "kuduru," which he translated as the "hard ass" dance (that's not my photo, it's google's). It's a cultural thing, for sure, because to me it sounds like the CD is skipping. At any rate, I pump my head up and down to the beat, tap the dashboard, and it makes my man Ricardo laugh. And that's cool.

I'm repeatedly amused by the array of American sports jerseys that seemingly have no real significance. A Mike Singletary Bears shirt. A St. Joseph's hoops jersey. A Vanderbilt T-shirt. A Troy Aikman jersey. A Dodgers Little League shirt from some American town, with the name of some local sponsor on the back. I'm guessing the folks who throw these items in the Salvation Army and Goodwill bins in their hometowns can be happy they're being put to use.

Ricardo was sad on the long trip home, but I'm happy for one thing, he went inside the new stadium (his first time) and watched the game with his countrymen. He had not planned on attending the game because he did not think it was the professional thing to do. After I told him I'd be angry if he did not go on account of me, he changed his mind, found some kids with extra tickets in the parking lot and was able to be a fan.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Angola: Day 3

It was day of joy and sadness...and ultimately, hope.

We began the morning in search of football and it was easy to find. Maybe 100 yards outside the gate of "The Roux," around 10 a.m., a group of men were playing a pickup game on a patch of asphalt that was sprinkled with sand, pebbles and glass.

It hardly mattered as they flicked around a half-deflated "bola" as one of the goalkeepers, muscles glistening with sweat, barked out instructions. I knew this would be the case coming into Angola, having traveled to places like Guatemala, Mexico and Brazil. A ball can do wonders.

As we drove around the streets of Luanda, you couldn't travel far without seeing a ball. A boy dribbling along the sidewalk in his flip-flops. A street vendor selling replica game balls emblazoned with the logo of the African Cup of Nations. (The streets are already on fire for tomorrow's clash between Angola and Ghana, a quarterfinal that will bring this country to a 90-minute-plus-stoppage-time halt). And a group of young boys playing on the beaches known as "Ilha."

Caked in sweat and sand, but full of pure joy as they played their games, with no parents around to tell them to "spread out!" or "shoot!" No, it was their game and their game only.

The tallest boy in the group came over and showed me a notebook he was keeping. He explained that this was his "league," and the teams, though not uniformed, were all named. A.C. Milan, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Chelsea were some of the names I was able to read. He said the boys all contributed money, and the winners of the league would take home the kitty. I was impressed, even if it was only his dream.

As we drove away from the beach, I told Ricardo I might want to buy an Angola shirt and he told me, "We shall see, Mr. Jeff." About an hour later, after we'd driven by dozens of shirt vendors on the street, Ricardo asked if I could wait a moment while he went into his apartment. When he came out, he handed me a shirt. His shirt. "This is a gift from the heart," Ricardo said. When I said it was unnecessary, he said, "I'm honored you want to wear the shirt of my country." When Ricardo told me to wear it to the game tomorrow, I didn't have the heart to tell him that would be inappropriate for a journalist to wear a jersey (though many Angolan writers will surely be wearing their country's colors tomorrow), I think I will wear it tonight when we go out to eat.

Ricardo has been my greatest gift on this trip. A true friend. Over lunch, I learned that he recently lost his mother, who died at the age of 49. Ricardo says it was the stress of the war that killed her. Stress of the war that took her husband over 30 years ago. The war that had Ricardo fighting in the streets as a young man. "She was forced to be my mother and my father," he says as we eat big plates of rice and beans. "It's very hard now for me without her."

I am happy that Ricardo likes to talk, to tell stories, because it keeps me from getting too lonely. He does ask, however, that most of what he's telling me remain between the two of us. There's still not a lot of trust here, for sure, even though the country has been at peace for eight years.

I will say that I've never met a 33-year old man in my life who has been through so much. Who has every reason to be bitter and angry. But who repeatedly says to me, "I believe, Mr. Jeff, that if I work hard and live an honest life, good things will happen. This is what I want to pass on to my son and daughter. That an honest man can go far."

Tomorrow is game day. I came here hoping to see Ghana and Ivory Coast advance. But it will be hard now not to root for Ricardo's country. Forca Angola!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Angola: Day 2

Meet my "Fixer." His name is Ricardo.

"I would like you to see that the people of Angola are beautiful and peaceful," Ricardo says. "Because this what I believe in my heart."

It is Ricardo's job to make sure I get where I need to go, which is no easy task here, because of the choking traffic and less-than-adequate roads. Today I had two tasks to accomplish. I had to get my media credentials and I wanted to register myself as a visitor to Angola at the American Embassy, just in case...well, ya know.

We left the lovely Hotel Rouxinol around 9:30 after a satisfying breakfast of toast and toast. Six hours later, I was back at the "Roux" having procured my credentials and taken Ricardo (the Fixer) and Mauro (the Driver) to lunch.

I believe we drove about 10 miles total.

Ricardo apologized profusely for the traffic (as if there was something he should have been able to do about it), explaining, "This is the way it is here, Monday through Friday. You can see the people are busy. The people are working." When a policeman stops our car at a traffic circle and asks to see Mauro's license, Ricardo does not want to hear Mauro express any anger or frustration. "He is doing his job," Ricardo says. "He is only doing what he's told to do."

As we putter along, Ricardo tells me that he was once a champion in Karate, beginning at the age of 5 or 6, but when he reached the age when he would truly begin to compete, he was called into a different kind of fighting. The Angolan Civil War ended only eight short years ago and Ricardo says that he and many other young boys were running the same streets we now drive, "We had no shoes and no shirts," he says. "But we had AK-47s. You had to learn to fight or you would become dust."

Ricardo's father died in the war when Ricardo was only three months old. He had many other relatives who also died in a war that ran from 1975-2002 and killed half a million people. "What's especially sad," he says, "is we were fighting our brothers."

Ricardo moved to South Africa for a while, met his wife and had two children, and now he's back, "Because I want to see this country, my country, to succeed." He looks outside the window and says, "Ten years ago, this was all sand. It's getting better."

I look out and see poverty as extreme as anything I've ever seen in person. Shanty villages and mountains of trash. Kids wallowing in mud. Pregnant women carrying bushels of bananas to sell on the streets. I guess perspective is an amazing thing.

When we stop for lunch of rice and beans, Ricardo tells me, "Try a Cuca, it's our national beer." He then adds, "Of course, The Driver and I cannot have one."

I take a pass and tell him to order three Cokes. "Are you sure, Mr. Jeff?" Ricardo says. "I am here to make sure you are doing everything you want and need to do."

As you can see, my Fixer is doing a great job...and before this trip is over, I am going to insist that we have that Cuca together.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Angola: Day (Actually Evening) 1

Twenty hours all told, from Newark to Brussels to Luanda.

Arrived to a clean, new-ish airport with tight security. Took me a long time to get through customs, but a nice fellow named Joseph, an employee of the Nations Cup Organizing Committee, provided some nice chit-chat as they went through all my paperwork.

My theme for this trip is going to be about seeing how good people can be.

Honestly, my existence here is spartan. My room is the size of a closet (though I do get a bunch of English language TV stations and high-speed internet). It's not going to be safe to wander outside the hotel (really, it's a "guest house") grounds after dark. (Here's my home for the next 11 nights.) And I am guessing the food is going to be atrocious (I packed a lot of meal replacement bars...and some Swedish Fish too). And it's going to be lonely.

But so far, from Joseph to Alves and Ricardo (my "fixers") and Farah (the Iranian woman who runs the guest house...and who lived in LA for a long time), it does seem like there are a lot of good people here who will make sure I'm safe and can get my work done. I have faith that the people here are going to make this positive.

The blogging will be personal because I don't think my bosses would be too happy if I wrote my magazine story on Jeff-Bradley.com, but hopefully they'll keep my friends entertained.