Iceland

IMG_6445Writing about past travels during stay-at-home time may cheer me up or it may make me even more angsty… We shall see.

Onward! Onward backward, I should say.

This past October, I went abroad with six of my oldest, dearest friends, to enter middle age in a land where more than half of the people believe in elves. It was exactly what I needed. Continue reading

hello from D.C.

foggy new yorkI’m not in Washington. It’s just that COVID-19 seems so globally significant, so life-altering, so biblical, that the years ought to be ordered according to their relationship with the disease. Now we are in the D.C. era: During COVID-19. Everything that came before this novel coronavirus is B.C.; everything that will come after is A.C. Continue reading

a Kenya addendum

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Yesterday I told you that I was done with my Kenya posts. That’s not entirely true. I am done writing about Kenya itself, but I am not done (over)sharing about my bodily functions while there. Much as I felt compelled to tell you about my vacation-induced gastro-intestinal dilemmas, I now feel compelled to tell you all about my Kenyan pee fail. (39 was a momentous year.) Continue reading

Kenya: Masai Mara safari

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The Masai Mara National Reserve is a relatively small triangle of land on the Kenyan side of its southern border with Tanzania. On the Tanzania side,  the park continues southward as the much larger Serengeti. I had been on safari in the Serengeti and surrounding areas of Tanzania three years ago, and it was wonderful. I didn’t feel the need to repeat the experience in Kenya, except for two things. First of all, we had hoped to see the annual wildebeest migration in Tanzania but just missed it – the herds had already moved north into Kenya by the time we arrived. I happened to be in Kenya at the beginning of August, prime time for the migration, and so I felt compelled to take another shot — after all, I had heard that the migration is truly epic. Secondly, even though the Tanzania safari taught me that it is impossible for me to commune with wild animals when surrounded by a million other safari cars and the people leaning out of them to snap pictures, it also taught me that the scenery in that part of the world is breathtaking. I wanted to go back not to see safari animals but to see the landscapes around them. Continue reading

Kenya: Hell’s Gate, Naivasha, and a magical animal paradise

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When I tacked a week of vacation onto the end of my work trip in Kenya, I didn’t realize that it would be impossible to decide what to fit into that one week. In the end, rather than cut anything I deemed essential out, I squooshed everything I wanted to do into the time available. And so, I made a recklessly overambitious plan to fit Hell’s Gate and Lake Naivasha into barely two days when I should have given them four. No regrets – it was the most amazing, stunning, wonderful two days. Continue reading

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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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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