Leave her, Johnny, leave her: Top 10 things I’ll miss about Kenya & Tanzania

"Oh I thought I heard the old man say, leave her, Johnny, leave her..."

It’s time to sing sea shanties and lift the parting glass: I’m leaving East Africa. For now, at least.

I head to New York City this evening. I have plenty of thoughts about freelancing, opportunities and career decisions, but I’m going to save those for another post. I also have a bunch of undigested material from East Africa, so readers of this blog may feel like I am still here for a few weeks (I haven’t even put up the Uganda and Kenya sections to my Ridiculous Roadtrip (TM) account. I’ve actually been without consistent Internet for about the last 10 days, which has kept me from writing and engaging more.)

But now, here’s something in the way of goodbye to this beautiful region, which now firmly occupies a large place in my heart. (When you’re about to leave a place, you somehow begin to remember only the good things about it; and those things loom larger and larger as the hour of departure draws near.)

In a nod to the conventions of blogging, here are the top 10 things I’m going to miss, each, about Tanzania and Kenya, the countries where I spent the most time during the last six months. (This reflects my personal experience, so if you think something’s missing – make your own list!) Continue reading

In which I voluntarily embarrass myself

After reading this great little piece over at louder than swahili, I couldn’t resist posting this clip of me in a spontaneous dance-off at a Luhya wedding in Nairobi in December. We were all dancing in a group, then all of a sudden this guy came up to me and the crowd parted, and it was on.

I’ve always thought I could boogie when I needed to — I even got dubbed “Lil’ Turbo” as a four year-old by a band of roving breakdancers who stopped by hippie San Francisco preschool Rocky Mountain in 1985. But this clip definitively proves I am less of a dancer in real life than I am in my head. Continue reading

Rwanda: Please do not step on mass graves (Road Trip pt. 2)

A sign at the Kigali Memorial Center

Let me first say that Rwanda is much more than its 1994 genocide. It’s been 15 years since that terrible violence tore the country asunder, and everyone agrees that the place has changed a lot. With his pro-business policies and development efforts, President Paul Kagame has gained the accolades of Western donors and diplomats (even though there have been strong criticisms from other quarters). Even if it has come at a price, stability reigns, at least superficially. My first impression stepping off the bus from Kampala in the Kigali bus station as the sun went down was that Rwanda is the tidiest, quietest country I’ve been to on this continent. All the motorcycle taxi (“moto”) drivers wear matching helmets and green safety vests. Things are clean (plastic bags are banned in Rwanda). Loud music does not blare, hawkers do not assault.

However, many people reading this blog entry – and many first time visitors too, including me – will be understandably preoccupied with the country’s bloody history when they hear the name “Rwanda.” Being there, I wanted to gain some insight into what happened. But in the end, I think I learned a lot more from reading books like Philip Gourevitch’s We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families and Mahmood Mamdani’s When Victims Become Killers than I did from actually spending ten days in the country. Continue reading

Ridiculous road trip pt. 1: Burundi

Between November 10 and December 5, I went on a road trip that took me from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to Bujumbura, Burundi – via Nairobi, Kisumu, Kampala and Kigali. Hitting all five countries in the East African Community (EAC) in four weeks via bus is an endeavor I can only describe as ridiculous. I estimate that I logged more than 75 hours in buses; if someone could calculate the mileage for me, that would be awesome. (This is not counting at least 45 hours of trains and automobiles I undertook at the end of October, going from Dar es Salaam to Tanga to Mombasa, and then from Mombasa to Nairobi, and then back to Dar – see previous posts.)

For some reason, I’m going to start with Burundi, a country where I only spent three nights and didn’t do any real reporting. Burundi was basically my journey’s terminus, and maybe for that reason I can get a little sentimental about it. But for whatever reason, this beautiful, war-torn little country looms large in my mind. Continue reading


Apologies for the hiatus in blogging. I am on the road in the EAC (East African Community) with limited access to internet. Also not trying to put all my business on blast just at the moment. More interesting stuff soon, I promise!