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change of plans

Even though D’s parents came to visit during the Great Migration, we opted not to take them to the Maasai Mara. While it is true that the Mara is unparalleled in its number and diversity of wild game, it is also hot, dusty, crowded, and very far away. Wanting a more personal and intimate safari experience, we opted for a small conservancy hidden away in the Matthews Mountain Range north of Isiolo. As we sat at the roadblock, watching the situation escalate, D had a momentary pang of regret for not flying to the Mara. Thankfully, our plan B proved every bit as good as the idyllic safari experience we had envisioned for his parents.

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trouble brewing

Heading out on safari with D’s parents, we ran into a bit of trouble. We were cruising on a wide, recently-paved road outside Isiolo, four hours north of Nairobi, when we came upon a small cluster of cars stalled in the middle of the road. We too stopped and D got out of the car to ascertain what was going on. We had just crested a big hill; at the bottom of the hill, less than a quarter mile away, people were busy dragging giant rocks onto the pavement. Kindling and old tires followed the big rocks and before long the road was aflame.

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cleared for travel

Nestled about 100km below the Somali border, Lamu’s white sands and historic heritage make it one of the most popular destinations on the Kenyan coast. We had been hoping to visit during the annual Lamu Cultural Festival last year, but two violent kidnappings on Kenya’s north coast raised the island’s threat profile and caused the Embassy to add Lamu to its no-go red zone. The travel advisory stayed in effect until April and once it was lifted we started looking for a suitable opportunity to go, before something else happened to make Lamu off-limits again.

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unhealthy obsession

Our blog has fallen silent in recent weeks in large part because D has relapsed into an old addiction. While our friend Cam has the distinction of being the one who turned D onto what at times has been an all-consuming obsession, he is not to blame for getting D completely hooked. That dubious honor goes to Stefan Fatsis.

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happy new year

Even when she is unable to celebrate with family or friends, for S it has always been important to find some kind of Jewish connection while abroad. In Latin America, there was always a synagogue or Chabad (a sect known for their outreach) but on this continent, outside of South Africa, one has to get more creative. In Ghana, for example, S visited a Ghanaian Jewish community and attended impromptu services when a set of Chabadnick boys unexpectedly showed up in Accra for the high holidays.

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ivory wars

On her trip to the Mara with Niki, S met Chinese conservationist Zhuo Qiang, who recently hosted NBA star Yao Ming on his visit to Kenya. The two men have become united by their eagerness to show the world – particularly the Asian world – the devastation poaching has wreaked on dwindling populations of elephants and rhinos all over the African continent. Zhuo, who now goes by Simba (the Swahili word for lion), is an even-tempered man who left behind his government job, wife, and 8-year old daughter to dedicate himself to animal conservation. He has worked at 20 wildlife reserves in 12 countries throughout Africa over the course of 6 years before settling in the Maasai Mara to start his own conservation project.

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fresh wounds and painful memories

September 11 is a dark day in American history, and yesterday’s events added a new layer of sadness to our nation’s collective grief. On the eleventh anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in our history, two of our diplomatic missions suffered violent assaults, one of which claimed the lives of four courageous members of the Foreign Service. While thousands of unarmed protesters overwhelmed Embassy security in Cairo and entered the compound to destroy the American flag, the Consulate in Benghazi, Libya endured a much more lethal attack. As we reflect on the tragedy of eleven years ago, let us also remember and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country.

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slavery footprint

The last few days, D worked to support the visit of the State Department’s Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. In addition to ambassadors who are assigned to lead U.S. Missions overseas, the Department has several functional bureaus headed by Ambassadors-at-Large, which address cross-cutting issues that impact not just our foreign policy but also the world at large. Trafficking in persons encompasses everything from forced labor and involuntary domestic servitude to sex trafficking and child soldiers. It is estimated that there are 27 million people in the world who are victims of at least one form of human trafficking; in essence, these people are modern-day slaves.

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administrative promotion

In the military, a promotion is often met with pomp and circumstance. Not so in the Foreign Service. A cable goes out after the promotion boards meet, informing everyone whose workday is slow enough to actually read HR cables of who got promoted. Moreover, not everyone receives HR cables, so quite often a person getting promoted will only learn his or her good fortune after someone in the HR office forwards the cable with a note of congratulations.

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babies on the mind

D used to joke that he could hear S’s baby clock tick across state lines. When we first moved to Nairobi, the ticking seemed to have become muted, likely due to the combination of excitement over our new lifestyle and the travel opportunities it afforded, as well as the stress of settling in and finding gainful employment. Although her yearning for motherhood was as strong as ever, S found herself vacilating between wanting kids soon and postponing pregnancy to make the most of our first tour abroad.

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