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To Die On Kilimanjaro, Part 5
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New RPCV Peace Corps Director Begins Tour!
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To Die On Kilimanjaro, Part 4
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To Die On Kilimanjaro, Part 3
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Driving Mrs. Shriver
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To Die on Kilimanjaro, Part 2
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To Die On Kilimanjaro, Part 1
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The Barber of Mozambique–The Man Who Made Theroux A Writer
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Theroux's Other African Fiction, Part 9
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Silver Dollar For The Peace Corps

To Die On Kilimanjaro, Part 5

Phillip and Gina arrived in Malindi together but not as a couple. It was crowded in the hotel and rooms were scarce, but because of the connection made by the teacher in Arusha word had reached the Blue Marlin about Arthur and Kilimanjaro. Gina was given the honeymoon suite that was isolated from the other rooms, overlooked the Indian Ocean, and just yards from the water. Phillip was given a small room rented by hikers, and without hotel amenities, [though breakfast tea was left on his doorstep early each morning.] Gina and Phillip stayed in the Blue Marlin for five days. On the third night they made love for the first time. “It kept coming at us,” Phillip explained to me on the beach that winter of ’69, eleven years after he had first arrived in Malindi with Gina. “It was like an approaching storm,” he explained, in the dramatic . . .

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To Die On Kilimanjaro, Part 4

Africa has always been known for adventure and romance and when the two clash, as they always do, there are many broken lives and hardships and stories that linger long after the couples leave the continent and become the legends passed on from one generation to the next. When Arthur left for Kilimanjaro, Phillip did not begin an affair with Gina, he told me immediately. [Knowing that was what I was thinking.] They continued the intense friendship as Gina prepared to leave Africa on home leave once her husband returned. Phillip said that on days when he could see the crest of Kilimanjaro he would pause and wonder where Arthur might be on his long climb. [This was years before cell phones, or even the well organized climbs. It was years before an Italian, in 2001, reached the summit and descended in 8 hours and 30 minutes. In 2004, a . . .

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To Die On Kilimanjaro, Part 3

Around 750,000 years ago, give or take a few centuries, an apocalyptic explosion along one of East Africa’s many fault lines, vomited up lava and fire for thousands of years, giving birth to the first of Kilimanjaro’s three separate but closely aligned peaks. Shira, the mountain’s first volcanic cone, eventually collapsed. Mawenzi arose soon after, then went dormant. Forty thousand years later came the last and most famous cone, Kibo. Kibo holds the summit and its famed and imperiled snows. The first non-Africans to see Kilimanjaro were mostlikely Arabs who traveled the contient’s caravan route in the sixth century C.E. However, Ptolemy wrote of a ‘snow mountain’ around 100 C.E. The next known reference to Kilimanjaro came from an Arab geographer and Chinese writer who, at the turn of the 15th century, wrote of a ‘great mountain’ west of Zanzibar. In the early 16th century, a Portuguese geographer noted the . . .

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Driving Mrs. Shriver

During the short, intense political campaign of Sarge Shriver, who was running as the vice presidential candidate in ’72 with George McGovern, I was – for one day – Eunice Shriver’s designated driver.   I was in Philadelphia and volunteered to help Harris Wofford; he had once been Shriver’s Peace Corps co-founder and now was his campaign advisor. I was assigned to be Eunice’s driver. She had a series of campaign appearances scheduled that day, mostly at colleges and universities. I was to meet her early in the morning at the famous Rittenhouse Hotel on Rittenhouse Square. I was on time, parking illegally while the Shriver Campaign Advance Man for Philly rushed into the hotel to call up to her room and tell her we had arrived.   Minutes, then more minutes passed. I kept the car motor running until a beefy Irish cop got on me for parking in the hotel’s no parking . . .

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To Die on Kilimanjaro, Part 2

Phillip was nineteen years old the summer he went to Arusha, he said, picking up his story on the beach of the Blue Marlin Hotel in Malindi. He was “down from Oxford and out in Africa” for the long holiday and to see his parents. He had spent most of his early years away at school, flying back and forth with siblings to visit their parents in Africa. In Arusha his father was the Headmaster of a girls upper school. His mother was the school nurse, among other duties. And it was in Arusha, at an end-of-the-year party, that he met Gina, the young wife of the young sports instructor at the school. His name was Arthur and he was, Phillip said, “a fine bloke really, just a bit thick.” Arthur was active and outgoing, a warm and friendly person. “One of those life of the party types that I . . .

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To Die On Kilimanjaro, Part 1

There was a wonderful piece in The New York Times, a year or so ago, a special magazine section called Play, on November 2, 2007, written by Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan 1996) and author of Chasing the Sea as well as two other books. Tom went on assignment for the Times to climb Kilimanjaro. What is it about Kilimanjaro that makes people want to write about it? Hemingway wrote a long story, The Snows of Kilimanjaro,that had nothing to do with Kilimanjaro, but nevertheless Hemingway began his short story, “Kilimanjaro is a snow covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and it is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai “Ngaje Ngai,” the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.” Now Tom had the . . .

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The Barber of Mozambique–The Man Who Made Theroux A Writer

[I am not sure where I found this short piece by Theroux, but it says it all about him, and why he is such a great writer.] I remember a particular day in Mozambique, in a terrible little country town, getting a haircut from a Portuguese barber. He had come to the African bush from rural Portugal to be a barber. . . . This barber did not speak English, I did not speak Portuguese, yet when I addressed his African servant in Chinyanja, his own language, the Portuguese man said in Portuguese, ‘Ask the bwana what his Africans are like.’ And that was how we held a conversation – the barber spoke Portuguese to the African, who translated it into Chinyanja for me; and I replied in Chinyanja, which the African kept translating into Portuguese for the barber. The barber kept saying – and the African kept translating – . . .

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Theroux's Other African Fiction, Part 9

Theroux would return to Africa in fiction in two other novels. My Secret HIstory (1989) and My Other Life (1996). These are fascinating accounts of how a writer uses his own life to create something else. I’ll write about these books in upcoming blogs, but first let me tell you one story that Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador 1965-67), author of the best book on the Peace Corps, Living Poor, told me. I had asked Moritz why he titled his travel book to Brazil, The Saddest Pleasure, taking the line from Paul Theroux’s Picture Palace where the Frenchman says, “Travel is the saddest of the pleasures.” Thomsen replied, “It was the Frenchman who said travel was the saddest of the pleasures. I wish you had asked him. Though now it occurs to me that perhaps there was no Frenchman and Theroux just made him up; he has been known to do things . . .

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