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Mama's Voice

by Nancy McDaniel

A few years ago, I was sitting on a rickety plastic chair in the courtyard of a little motel in a dusty small village in northwestern Tanzania. I was trying to listen to old men tell stories about a magic chicken and an epic folk hero.

That was why I was there: Helping to document these stories. But the problem was, they were talking in the Sukuma language and there was no interpreter.

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Giant Yellow Memory-Eating Beast

by Nancy McDaniel

The man from Omega (“The Last Word in Demolition”) told me it was called a “track hoe with a grappler.” He said it was a small one, only about 50,000 pounds. But to me it looks like a giant yellow beast. A very hungry one. First it bashes and crashes, then it munches and crunches, knocking down the house next door and eating it. Along with 18 years of memories of my next door neighbor, George.

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My Dad

by Nancy McDaniel

I’ll bet I wrote something with that title when I was a little girl. And I’ll bet it would have been pretty similar to what I’d like to say today about Daddy, or Johnny Mac, as you may have called him. Except now I think I have a few more insights about, though no less love for, this man, whom many of you called your friend. I also called him my friend. One of my favorite Father’s Day gifts to him was a plaque that said, “Happiness is having a father as a best friend.”

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Omigod, It's a Kudu!

by Nancy McDaniel

I was sitting on the observation platform at Nyamandhlovu, in Hwange National Park in northwestern Zimbabwe. It was in August 1995 and I was part of a group who was helping a scientist study elephants. We were counting and observing interactions between elephants and other animals at a water hole in a drought season. Fascinating work. Like a stationery safari, all day long, just watching hundreds of animals. I loved it.

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Be Friends & Heal

by Nancy McDaniel

In early August 1991, I spent two weeks in the small fishing village of Cordova, Alaska. It was about two years after the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill, which so cruelly fouled Prince William Sound. I was there as a part of an Earthwatch team helping two professors interview local residents. We were trying to find out how the spill had affected their lives, their hopes, and their expectations for the future. The professors had a theory that technological disasters (e.g., oil spills, hazardous waste accidents, etc.) would be responded to differently than natural disasters (e.g., earthquakes, floods, etc.) because there was “someone to blame” (versus it being “God’s will”), and there would be great uncertainty as to future lingering results.

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One Who Splits the Night in Half

by Nancy McDaniel

It still makes me smile. It’s one of my fondest memories of my two weeks spent in the northwestern part of Tanzania in July 1994. I was on an Earthwatch trip, helping collect data. Our Tanzanian leaders were both literature professors, one in Tanzania, one in Minnesota. They were studying Tanzania’s Epic Folklore and we were there to help them interview people in the villages in Shinyanga Province.

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