How much stuff do we need? Theo losing the battle…….


I have declared war on advertisement! And it looks like I am losing the battle. I have advanced to an age where I deserve and highly cherish my afternoon siesta nap at home. Unfortunately my wife’s office is right next to the bedroom and on her desk sits a phone. I am not a big fan of phones but I admit they are a necessity and occasionally useful. For several days now, just as I had dropped my book and fallen into my siesta nap, the phone rang and woke me up. Every time it was an 800 number with automated advertisement recording! Not even a person to shout at. Although I did shout and swear anyway– just in case! I don’t want to repeat my words! Usually when I get one of these low lives on line who have the great urge to sell me something I don’t need I ask them politely if they have a second, then put the phone on “mute” and let them wait. Trust me, it works! They have never called back.
While I slowly get the phone ad attacks under control I am still fighting with the flood of catalogues. And I hate to admit I am losing the battle. My wife once ordered something from a catalogue and that started an avalanche of catalogues of all sorts of things not even remotely related to the item my wife had ordered. Every time I empty our mailbox it is filled with catalogues. I always wondered what the connection between a t-shirt (that my wife had ordered) and a wheel-barrow or a small submarine was. It just doesn’t make sense. A friend told us we could go online and stop the catalogue subscriptions we had not subscribed to in the first place. It worked for some not for others and only for a while. Now the mailbox is full again. And going towards the ”Holidays” it will get worse – I heard “Christmas” is politically not correct anymore because….
Now, what can people like us do against this threat? Jami and I both love the environment and try our best to be as environmentally conscious as possible. I am a bit of an extreme when it comes to stuff. I hate stuff I don’t need. I greatly dislike shopping and only buy new shoes when the old ones have holes in the soles. I wonder how many processed trees have gone through our mailbox within the 3 years I have lived in the USA. Yesterday I went to the mailbox to see it once again totally packed with catalogues. At home the first thing I did is fish the personal mail out of the stack of junk mail. Since important letters had been hidden between catalogue pages before I have to shake each catalogue to make sure no cheque is hidden inside. (I don’t care about bills!) While doing this my eyes suddenly fell on a picture I knew very well. A polar bear mother with 2 small cubs that just had emerged from their den. It was the cover of the National Geography 2015 “Holiday” (not “Christmas”!) catalogue. And it was mine. I took this picture 10 years ago. It is a shame that National Geographic trying to be so environmentally conscious has to make money by filling my mailbox with junk. As usual I threw all catalogues into the recycling bin except for the NatGeo one. Not that I intend to order anything from it! But the cover photo of the three polar bears has sentimental value as I took it on the same trip I met my lovely wife Jami.

Theo Allofs

Last of Four: Meet Theo (I am German, so my name is pronounced “Tayo”, not “Theeyo”! I am very sensitive about this)

Theo_blogI was born near the Neanderthal Valley in Germany, a fact my wife loves to use when introducing me. “Look at his forehead” she says and smiles, “don’t you see his ancestry?” Years have gone by since my forefathers have left an important historical footprint on earth, in particular in the lower Rhine area. Although my appearance somehow differs a bit from the classic Neanderthal I still feel a strong connection to these cave dwellers. This has mainly to do with my life style. As a teenager I roamed the forests bordering the Netherlands, and – believe it or not – I built caves in them where my friends and I had our first cigarette puffs… the resulting cough attacks cured us for the rest of our lives. When finally grown up during and after my studies in Geology I left the German forests and exchanged them for the boreal forest of the Yukon in northern Canada where I dwelled in a self-built log home for 2 decades. I was known as the German hermit. Even after more than a decade hardly anybody knew me in the small town ten miles away. The only person who recognized me was the manager of the local liquor store. Being German, I love my beer. I am sure you understand. When I wasn’t home I was somewhere in deserts, rain forests, on glaciers or on oceans taking pictures for a living. In some years I covered all continents. During my visits home in Germany my parents kept asking me when I would finally start looking for a real job. They said a real job should cause pain and discomfort, money making should make you suffer. Btw: I hate suffering! Even during my last visit in Walbeck (during the first 5 years of my life the center of the universe – now only a small town famous for its asparagus growing) I heard my mother saying in an accusing tone: “You always only did what you wanted”. This statement is actually quite correct. What seems to be really embarrassing though is the fact that I not only did not suffer because of my work, I actually even made a very decent living with taking fun pictures. Sorry guys – I am getting distracted. My wife told me I just should write this blog. The other THREE of us have been waiting already since yesterday…..So back to the Neanderthal part, the story line of this blog. While the world around me used cell phones (first I mistook the hand at the side of the head as a world-wide headache epidemic) I had a seventh sense in locating a public phone booth – no matter where I was in the world. And my calls home were very cheap as I was equally apt in finding cheap phone cards. This went on and on until a dramatic life changing event 3 years ago. It happened in Namibia. In the very remote northwestern part of the country where the very traditional Himba people live. For a reference please see the photo on the right above this long blaba. A very traditionally dressed Himba girl (which means very limited clothes) is talking on a cell phone. This would have knocked my socks off if I had been wearing any. Already during our dating period my Californian wife had forbidden me to wear socks in sandals. She said it was a typical German thing. Well, I countered I was a typical German. But she ignored my protest. Anyway – I see this beautiful half dressed Himba girl chatting into a cell phone. This was the critical and life-changing moment when I left the path of my Neanderthal ancestors. My wife Jami gave me her iphone flow down. She regretted it soon because she lost her patience explaining to me how that thing worked. I can make phone calls now if I don’t forget to take it with me. In order to avoid feeling chained down I only switch the phone on when I feel relaxed and when I am in the good mood for a potential chat. Well, it gets even better. I started to feel civilized after all until I was visiting a Maasai village near Kilimanjaro where I took my powered paraglider for a ride up into the sky to photograph the Maasai village with Kilimanjaro in the background. (Please hold on, I am almost finished!) When I landed the Maasai surrounded me all being in awe! I enjoyed that moment. Then the chief’s son James (the guy furthest right in the picture above) approached me with his cell phone and asked me for my Facebook name. He wanted to be friends with me. I swallowed. It gets better. He told me he also liked “Whatsapp” but wasn’t a big fan of “Instagram”. I had heard these names before recently. But hearing them from a Maasai in his traditional outfit next to his mud hut showed me clearly that I still wasn’t too far off the Neanderthal path yet. And to be honest – I love that path and never want to stray too far away from it. I love the old way of communicating from person to person even though it doesn’t seem to be after writing this long blog. But mind you, I somehow had no choice. The other THREE of Focus Expeditions had been waiting.

Theo Allofs