Family-Size Ponds to Ease Starvation in East Africa

At the age of 26-27, my work with growing fish as a protein source eventually brought me to East Africa where I tried to put into practice some of our theories in regions where the people’s diet was poor in protein. I had many humbling attempts to alleviate suffering and starvation by developing small, family-sized fishponds where the fish were entirely fed by agricultural and kitchen waste.

Running Water & Destroying the Village’s Heart

During my time in East Africa I also helped develop a running water system in order to improve the quality of sanitation and eradicate malaria. With the help of a wise old man of the tribe, I came to realize, to my chagrin, that this project, however well intentioned, also destroyed one of the most important institutions of the village . . . the Well, which forever had been the heart and gathering place of the community. It was painfully ironic.

Driving Safaris in the Serengeti in East Africa

In addition to my scientific activities (age 26-27), I also drove safaris in Kenya and Tanzania across the vast savannahs and landscapes of the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Nakuru, and Lake Turkana. The parade of life and the seemingly endless herds of lions, giraffes, zebras, elephants, wildebeests, rhinos, hippos, crocodiles, and buffalos were everywhere. To this day, I vividly remember the hundreds of seasonally migrating zebras and wildebeests that did not make it to the next watering hole. This significantly influenced me and much of my psychology work as I thought of the interconnectedness of life and death and how often thoughts of mortality unconsciously influence our actions and thoughts.

Cultures’ attitudes towards life, death, destiny & community

I learned a great deal about different attitudes towards life and death during the time I spent in remote areas of the Somali desert. I watched in bewilderment as tribesmen let their only source of water in that desert area be polluted with a seeming disregard for their own lives or the consequences: the inevitable, rapid destruction of the community. These new realizations regarding different cultures’ varying attitudes towards life, death, destiny, community, responsibility, survival, and spirituality initially baffled, confused and, at times, upset and depressed me. Later on, they humbled me and irreversibly impacted me for the rest of my life. I have learned not to assume anything about other cultures and to always stay anthropologically open, deeply respectful and able to honor and approach cultural diversity with a sense of awe.

Fishing Nile Perch, Tilapia and… Crocodiles in Lake Turkana

Spending time by Lake Turkana (age 26), also known as Lake Rudolf, fishing for Nile Perch and Nile Tilapia and encountering Nile crocodiles was another transformative experience. The surrounding desert was harsh and awe-inspiring, as were the crocodiles found in great abundance in the lake. The scorpions and vipers that ring the rocky shores completed the cruel and truly inhospitable scene.

Walking to El-Molo Island in the Crocodile Infested Lake Rudolf

Some time later, I returned to Lake Turkana as the driver of a safari (age 27) made up of Israeli tourists, where, against my judgment and instincts, I followed the guide as he walked the entire group through the crocodile-infested waters of the shallow lake to El-Molo Island, rarely visited or touched at that time by Western or even Eastern Africa civilizations.

Living w/ the Maasai – Watching their ‘Blood & Milk’ Ritual

Living among the Maasai in Kenya and observing their relationships to the land, animals, each other, and the spirit world was a fascinating anthropological adventure. The photo depicts a ritual of drawing blood from a cow and mixing it with her milk to come up with the ultimate ‘protein shake’.

When the Giraffe Joined the Family Dinner

There’s never a dull moment living in Africa, and not just in the wild. One can encounter wonders in the urban landscape, as well. On one of my morning jogs in a Nairobi suburb, I bumped into a woman feeding a … giraffe. In this photo, her family was visited for dinner by the young giraffe, which they had rescued and taken care of.

Contracting Severe Malaria in the Most “Ideal” Place

I was around 27 years old traveling in East Africa, hiking, climbing mountains, scaling rocks, riding small motorcycles (pikipiki), studying fish-ponds, driving safaris, canoeing on the Indian Ocean and Lake Victoria and ‘socializing’ with crocodiles in Lake Turkana. I found out that, apparently, the anti-malarial Chloroquine pills that I had been taking were no defense to the disease carrying mosquitoes I encountered after crossing the border into Tanzania, as I ended up coming down with a serious case of malaria. It was fortunate as I got the illness while visiting a friend who happened to be researching malaria at none other than the East Africa Institute for Tropical Diseases. I was fantastically cared for medically and felt super safe as I was seen by several highly experienced doctors and researchers who were top experts in the treatment and study of malaria. There was a surreal atmosphere as they had seen thousands of cases like mine over the years and could predict to the second when the high fever (107°F) 🔥 would turn to chilling cold 🥶 and visa versa.  After a couple of weeks of intense sickness, I recovered enough to where I could continue to travel throughout East Africa. It took me many months to gain my full vision and strength.

Beautiful Car-Less Lamu Island at the… End of the World

Spending time on the car-less island of Lamu, situated off the coast of Kenya in the Indian Ocean, was a remarkable experience. Built of coral and mangrove timber, the unique town of Lamu, is the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa. I still vividly remember the simple and beautiful construction of the city with its hearty inner courtyards, pleasant looking verandas and elaborately carved wooden doors.

Staying consistent with how I have traveled in the past, I decided that I wanted to explore further than the already remote location of Lamu. My precious fellow traveler and I got a tiny 20 ft. sailing boat to spend the day on the next island, that not only did not have cars, but in fact, did not have houses, animals or people either. We could not even identify its name on the map.

Watching Legendary Rudolf Nureyev & Margot Fonteyn in London

After my adventures in Africa finally came to a close, I spent some time in England and northern Europe. In London, living in the Kilburn area, I spent a few months exploring this historic city in all its surprising variety. I had many memorable moments there – afterall London is a world center of all the Arts – but the pinnacle perhaps was when I saw the legendary Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn in one of their dazzling ballet performances.

Getting a Tattoo from a One-Legged Tattoo Artist in Amsterdam

From England, I took a ferry to Holland. On board, I met a young British woman who offered me some ‘real’ English tea on the upper deck of the ferry. We spent the next couple of weeks in the swirl of beautiful, intriguing Amsterdam with its burgeoning, multicolored sub-cultures. It was there that I got a tattoo from a one-legged tattoo artist in a tattoo shop in the famous and infamous Red Light District. Tattoos are very common today, but in 1977, they were still quite rarely seen and, because of an ancient biblical proscription, a very un-Jewish, un-Israeli to do.

A splattering of color
A mosaic of sorts
Painted on my skin
Reminding me of the trip
To Amsterdam
A postcard on my arm
Sent from a faraway place
A memory sewn onto my skin.

Shifting from Oceanography to Limnology by the Sea of Galilee

After my time in Europe I returned to Israel, this time as a limnologist and found an interesting job at a fresh water fish pond research lab located on the shore of the Sea of Galileenot far from where Jesus walked on water and ‘healed’ Mary Magdalene. It was a scientifically stimulating and inspiring locale in which to work. My main scientific work was to explore some aquaculture ‘myths’ or commonly held beliefs among the fish farmers in Israel regarding the nutrition cycle in the fish ponds. (See scholarly articles.) Exploring commonly held beliefs was a theme that I grew up with and carried with me throughout my life, whether I was researching fish, war and peace, men and women, or ethics in psychology.

Living in Ancient Rosh Pina Overlooking the Jordan Valley

During the years of studying fish, I lived in the city of Tiberias and then in the charmed, ancient village of Rosh Pina, one of the oldest Jewish villages in Israel, where some streets were still paved with old Roman stones. I loved living in Rosh Pina and my daily commute down the mountain to the Sea of Galilee to research the fish ponds. During that time, I also played and coached basketball in the neighboring town of Hatzor HaGlilit, where certain racist aspects of Israeli culture became painfully obvious by the way the referees and other teams, who were ‘Ashkenazi’ (i.e., of Eastern European origin, with generally lighter skin) treated my team, who were ‘Sfaradim,’ (i.e., of North African origin, with darker skin). Anthropology again.

Playing by ‘playful’ rules 😊

My spirit soared during the era when I worked by the Sea of Galilee and the view from my home took in the magical Jordan River Valley. Daily, I made the gorgeous commute to work in Kinneret on my huge, old, classic BMW bike. I was excited to be doing research on ways to promote a huge protein resource from fresh water fish ponds to feed humans all over the planet. I routinely cooled off by swimming in the Sea of Galilee, which added to a delightful way of being. As in many other periods in my life, I felt unbound and free to live, explore, wonder, love, create, imagine and, of course, risk. It was a Friday afternoon when I picked Ganit, my niece (11) and Tal, my nephew (5) at the local tiny airport to bring them up the hill to my Rosh Pina home for the weekend. The fact that I needed to bring both of them to my home on my bike inevitably led to the ‘only’ solution where Ganit sat behind me on the standard passenger seat and Tal, enthusiastically, sat in-front of me, on the prime available seat… the motorcycle’s gas tank. As we were heading slowly up the hill on the curved road toward Rosh Pina, we suddenly saw in the distance a police car slowly zigzagging its way downhill towards us. As was discussed in the ‘pre-ride orientation’ of needing to ‘hide from police’ protocol, Tal leaped off the gas tank into the thorny-prickly-thick bushes on the side of the road where, scratched with some light bleeding, he hid perfectly until the police car went by. The image of Tal jumping from the gas tank into the thorny bushes and being picked up scratched and with some bleeding, yet proud to complete our ride home, has stayed in our collective memories for many years to come.

Jesus, Magdalena, Jean and… the Thermometer

It was 1978 and I was conducting fish pond research at a lab by the Sea of Galilee. The lab was situated in a uniquely historical and spiritually potent locale. Just a quarter mile to the south was a monument marking the sacred place where Jesus healed Magdalena and Magdalena, according to some, graciously reciprocated and, in her own ‘Magdalena way,’ ‘healed’ Jesus. A quarter mile to the north was the location where Jesus walked on the water and miraculously multiplied two fish and five loaves of barley bread into enough to satisfy 5,000 people with twelve baskets remaining. This is when I met a bright and creative woman, Jean, in Jerusalem and we embarked on a few months of intense, creative and often hilariously creative letter writing (it was 1978, before e-mails and texts). After a few months Jean moved in with me in the gorgeous historic village of Rosh Pina. I was still magically and mysteriously drawn to East Africa. I knew that when I could no longer run my fish pond experiments in the winter when the water temperature in the experimental ponds would dip below 70°F, I would be heading back to East Africa for the summer there. Creative Jean, who could write a good story of any interesting life event, made a habit of coming down to my experimental ponds with a thermometer in hand every few days, precisely and systematically detecting how many degrees were left for our relationships. She regularly announced, in a sad yet sweetly accepting or even romantic tone, “I have 2 degrees left before my relationship with Ofer is over” or “My love with Ofer has barely half a degree left.”

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