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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summer trips, in and close to NYC

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It looks like I’ll be using my free time in Senegal (and Côte d’Ivoire, where I’ll be heading on Monday) to write about other places I’ve been this year. It’s ironic in some ways, but it’s also reflective of what I find so lovely about being here. This part of the world helps me to slow down and provides me with the headspace to sit still and think, and eventually, to write.
So, even though we are half a year out from summer, I’m going to post pics from a few days trips that I took from and in NYC in August(ish). I mean, next summer is halfway here! What better time to daydream about the possibilities than as winter sets in. (That is, for those souls unlucky enough to actually be in NYC at the moment. I’m sitting here in 80 degree weather listening to Youssou N’Dour and feeling like I have somehow cheated winter yet again.)

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catching up

Mermoz_bougainvilleaHello from Dakar! Here again for work. I’m so glad to be back in Senegal and at Chez Lo, but I’m also feeling quite snacky at the moment and there are no snacks to be found. A couple of unripe bananas and a half-eaten bag of who-knows-how-old chips are all I could find. It also took me a week to recover from the jet lag this time around. I arrived on Sunday morning and only today did the clouds start to clear from my head. I had begun to think I had developed a physical imbalance.

I guess my brain is still a little foggy because I can’t think of one thing to write next. I want to post some interesting links that I’ve been amassing for months, but I have no good transition to get there. Oh well, here we go:

A colleague recently shared this amazing grammar-checking tool with me. It feels like magic and in addition to correcting what you’ve written in French (or another language), it also explains why, so you can learn (or re-learn, in my case) the language rules.

And here are some new mind-blowing translation devices that I can’t believe actually exist.

The famous Strasbourg Christmas market is coming to New York in December.

A fascinating photography series showcases kids around the world (including a few from Senegal) surrounded by the food they typically eat in a week.

Fuhgeddaboutit! Sorry, but there is no Brooklyn accent.

This article compellingly explores how in the Instagram age, enjoying natural wonders (and being “morally sound”) is secondary to getting the perfect shot.

Common English phrases with unexpected origins.

An interesting map for French learners and linguistics enthusiasts, that shows dialectical variations of “intensifier” words in European French.

Inclusive writing, or l’écriture inclusive, aims to make the French language more egalitarian.

A new study shows that thinking in a foreign language can reduce emotional biases.

A holiday shopping guide for UNESCO-designated crafts (that only seems to feature European traditions, unfortunately).

How children evolved to whine (and how to respond to it).

As a lover of midcentury West African architecture, I appreciate this round-up of African architectural gems.

And finally, this has nothing to do with languages or travel and everything to do with poop, which as of late has become another theme of this blog. It also happens to be one of those articles that makes you feel less alone as a woman.

Have a good weekend! I leave you book-ended with Dakarois beauty.

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