Kenya: Karen and the Ngong Hills

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This post will cover two different excursions in the same general geographic vicinity – one was a full-day outing to Karen, a beautiful and posh suburb of Nairobi, and one was a half-day trip to the Ngong Hills, which are just beyond Karen. Both places were refreshing and delightful.

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give a word, get a word

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Yesterday my colleagues and I took a break from our shoot in Boundiali, Cote d’Ivoire, to eat lunch at a hotel restaurant. While we waited (and waited, and waited) for our food, a television played a Mexican telenovela overdubbed in French at a volume that I found annoying. I annoyed myself further by mindlessly complaining about how much I hate overdubbing, how loud the volume was, how dumb the show was, how much I wanted to turn off the TV, etc.

Finally I snapped out of it and apologized for being even more obnoxious than the show. I explained that in English we have a word called “hangry” — hungry + angry — that explained my behavior. I asked whether there was a similar word in French. My colleagues didn’t think so. (I later googled and confirmed there is not.) And yet, the word is simply begging to be created: faimché = faim (hungry) + faché(e) (angry). The only question is whether you would say “j’ai faimché” the way you say, “j’ai faim,” (literally: I have hunger) or whether you would say “je suis faimché” the way you say, “je suis faché” (I am angry). I guess if you are faimché enough you don’t care about grammar, so either way would work.

To balance out my gift of a new word to the French lexicon (not that the French want it – they are well-known neologism haters), I received a new-to-me word in return, one that I love.

At lunch today (same restaurant, same ridiculous wait time, but thankfully the TV volume was lower this time around), I wanted to bring up the objectification of women as relevant to the conversation we were having. Since object is objet in French, and since English words ending in -tion and -sion usually have French analogs, I assumed that I could expound upon the objetification des femmes and that everyone would know what I was talking about. They did not. One colleague caught my drift and corrected me, though. He told me that in French they use the noun chosification and the verb chosifier to say what I had meant. Chose means thing; chosifier literally translates to “thingify.”

I love this. It has such a Dr. Seuss-like ring to it, doesn’t it? If you catch me using the word thingify in future, you will know where I got it from. Just trying to add to the richness and variety of the English language, which unlike French, welcomes new words with open arms.

While I’m here, and since it’s Friday, I’ll share two articles (one of which coincidentally references the other) that I found fascinating this week:

Around the world in five kids’ schoolyard games.

A dazzling map shows NYC’s incredible linguistic diversity.

Have a good weekend!

[Photo of thingified, hangry man: Mike Tungate]

Kenya: Mombasa

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Mombasa is a fascinating Swahili city, which, like Zanzibar’s beautiful Stone Town, was influenced by a variety of different cultures, religions, and societies, due to its situation as a trade center on the coast of the Indian Ocean. I had about four hours to explore before heading to the airport to return to Nairobi from my field trip, and I saw a surprisingly large amount of Old Town (and some bits of the newer city as well) in that time.

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Kenya: Diani

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After the field trip to Western, we returned briefly to Nairobi before heading for the opposite side of the country – the coast. I was excited to visit Mombasa, but that would come at the end of the trip – for now we just drove through the island and took the ferry to Diani, a popular resort town and the jumping off point for our field visit.

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Kenya: former Western Province

IMG_2619Apparently Kenya chopped up their big provinces into small counties more than five years ago, but everyone referred to where we went as Western. It was easier than specifying the three different counties we visited in the southwest corner of the country.

I promised pictures from (former) Western at the end of my Nairobi post, but I just realized I barely took any with my phone. I did take a ton of images and footage with my camera, but it was all work-related and I like to keep that separate from what I post here. In any case, I mostly just want to show you this tiny plane I flew in.

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It had ten seats including the two seats for the pilots. I felt airsick before take-off, I was so nervous. But it was actually one of the smoothest flights I’ve taken, even though the wind was going crazy before takeoff (look at the tree in the photo above!).IMG_2546

We landed on a tiny airstrip in Kitale, which was also a first for me. And I must say, I’m hopeful it’s also a last. Even though it’s illogical, I just feel like the bigger the plane, the safer I’ll be.

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Western is super, super lush and green, as you can see from the top post. It felt like a place that does not lack for rain and abundance. My colleague told me that it is indeed known as Kenya’s vegetable basket.

Because I don’t have much to show you, please humor me and allow me to present to you yet another first for me – popcorn on the cob.

IMG_2560We stopped on the roadside for grilled corn, and the vendor asked me what kind I wanted. I can’t remember what options she gave me but I know nothing about corn so I was confused by them. I ended up pointing to a piece that looked tasty, and I was shocked to find that it was by turns chewy and crunchy.

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Did you know that young corn — the kind whose kernels are a little bit milky — is better for roasting? The older the corn, the harder and dryer it is, which means you may just end up with popcorn. Who knew? Not I.

Finally, I leave you with my one good picture from Western, of Lake Victoria. We stopped by long enough to take a picture, basically, because we were running late to the airport.

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Incidentally, Obama’s grandmother lives about 35 miles away. I wanted to go visit her but a. we would have missed our plane (thankfully not a tiny one on the return trip) and b. apparently after Obama was elected the Kenya government gave her a 24-hour security detail. So you can’t just drop in.

My next Kenyan dispatch will be overflowing with gorgeous beach photos and happily lacking in rambling thoughts about corn, I promise.

Kenya: Nairobi

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Finally getting around to Kenya! I’ll start with Nairobi, my base of operations so to speak – it was the city I popped in and out of perhaps ten different times over the course of my three week trip. I’ll cover everywhere else I went in other posts. There will be many, many pictures and much rhapsodizing.

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the TWA flight center

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I forgot to include my TWA jaunt in the previous post about my summer trips in and out of NYC. I guess going to the airport doesn’t seem like a trip per se, especially because the only plane I got on was firmly stuck to the ground, having been converted into a bar.

We gathered at JFK just a week after the grand opening of the TWA hotel complex in the former TWA Flight Center, which had been closed for nearly 20 years. For lovers of mid-century design, fashion, and history, hanging out in this whopper of a space designed by Eero Saarinen in the early 1960s is a mind-blowing, nostalgia-inducing experience, even if you weren’t born until the very end of the 70s like me. The interior of the lobby / bar / restaurant area has been painstakingly re-done, inducing the feeling not that you are in a retro set-piece, but rather that you are in an exact replica of the Jet Age splendor that was the original TWA terminal.

I almost cried when I heard that once-familiar sound of a million birds flapping their wings and realized that they had rehabilitated an analog arrivals / departures board (which was later programmed to ask, “Will you marry me?” — someone’s clever marriage proposal that I missed while busy trying on TWA-branded sneakers in the hotel store). 

Anyway, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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