It’s a little ridiculous to dream about going back to Africa especially when I just got back from the continent a little over a week ago. I understand that. But, as ludicrous as this sounds I am already thinking about traveling to Africa again. I think it’s because Africa is so expansive and there is still so much for me to see. Plus, I’m not getting any younger. I want to be able to climb mountains and walk in the rural areas whenever I want and not be hampered by my age. OK, I’m only 39, but still.
Another thing that is bothering me terribly is that I have only visited east African countries and South Africa. That’s it! I’m not sure how that happened, but I have never visited west Africa and I have traveled to the continent seven times. Now, I’m itching to see that side of the continent.
I really want to visit west Africa, but that’s out of the question now that ebola is running rampant throughout Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Even though ideally I want go to Dakar, Senegal, I can’t take any chances. People travel extensively throughout the region and you just never know if someone is flying with ebola. When I go to Africa I am always worried about malaria and dengue fever. Ebola shouldn’t be on my list of disease worries, so for now, west Africa is out of the question.
I have heard from many people that Rwanda is a fantastic place to visit. And I know I can get really great stories there. Even after the genocide, great strides have been taken to make Rwanda whole again. Kigali is supposed to be extremely safe and clean, so yes, Rwanda is intriguing to me. I also really want to visit Namibia because of its deserts. And Botswana and Mozambique would also be interesting countries to visit. Above all, however, I really want to visit Mali (always have!), but because of the instability there I will have to wait until it’s safer (at least in my mind).
I have no doubt that I will visit Africa again this year. It’s just a matter of where and when. I do need to stay put for awhile. That’s for certain, but there’s nothing wrong with a little “Africa Dreaming” from time to time.
I spent nearly a month in Africa, again! I went through a period last year when I also spent a month in Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa. This time Ethiopia and South Africa were my temporary home throughout June and the early bit of July.
I’ve been home now for about a week and I have adjusted quite well, surprisingly. I haven’t had really weird jet lag problems. The only day when I was ridiculously tired was the day I came back (on July 4th) and I slept like a rock! No one could wake me up for anything. I missed FIFA soccer and Fourth of July fireworks, but I was with my family so that’s all that mattered.
There were a few days when I still desperately missed my family even though we were all in the same place – at home! That was really weird, but that feeling also passed. I am so glad to be in North Carolina without any pressing global jaunts in the pipeline. Although for those of you who know me well, it will probably be a few months before I am on another jet plane with passport in hand ready for another adventure to report on women and girls in unknown places.
Typically when I travel I post updates when I am away, but this trip was a little different. I was co-leading a group of stellar US journalists throughout Ethiopia to report on newborn health on an itinerary I put together in the spring with the International Reporting Project. If you recall, I went on two IRP trips last year as a fellow. This time the tables were flipped and I was the program manager for this Ethiopia reporting trip. It was intense, to be sure, with a lot of moving parts. To make a long story short I concentrated on ensuring the trip went smoothly instead of blogging here every day. I did post pictures along my journey that you can see on my Tumblr blog - short and sweet.
Guarang Women in Ethiopia’s Southern Highlands
Ethiopia is definitely one of my favorite countries to visit. In fact, I love it so much I will figure out a way to live there if only for a few months at a time. There are a lot of stories I would like to tell about women and girls. I want to push my reporting to visit those who I can’t easily get to and places where I might need two translators – one for English to Amharic and another who specializes in Amharic to some other lesser known Ethiopian language; they have several.
In the meantime, it’s back to life and back to reality. I’m thrilled to be back in my own time zone, sitting at my own desk right now, looking out of my own windows.
Addis Ababa often puzzles me. As big, largely populated, and urban as Addis Ababa is, I’m always left scratching my head that any time day or night you can see a herd of goats traipsing through the crowded streets. I am used to seeing herds of goats walking amongst the UN and NGO vehicles, city and mini buses, and private vehicles during the day. But, I had no idea goats would be herded through the Addis streets during the wee hours of the morning. It’s 3 AM! I suspect they’re going to the market and will be someone’s lunch today.
It’s so early, they’re up with the party-goers at the open-air bar on the street below my hotel window. Only in Addis!
It’s Sunday. 48 hours from now I will be en route to Addis Ababa. I’ll be in Africa until July. That’s a long time, but I’ve done it enough now to know the days fly by in one big whirlwind. I’ll be there and then the next thing I know I’ll be home. That fast!
Today is a day for me to rest, but most importantly remember to bring everything I’ll need when I’m in Ethiopia. Inevitably, no matter how prepared I am and how many times I look at my lists, I always forget something. Last time I went to Ethiopia in April, I forgot my travel adapters and I had to buy another one at the airport. In fact, I have a ton of travel adapters just because I always forget to pack mine when I’m traveling abroad. They’re packed now.
This morning, we got up early to take photos of this amazing tree we see when we’re out running. I have no idea what it is. We just call it the “fuzzy tree”. I know, very scientific! To me it’s oddly ethereal and as long as I’ve lived in the south (my entire life!) I’ve never seen it before.
This tree has lost a little of its spring newness since the first time we noticed it last week. That’s why we rushed to take photos today before the flowers are all gone. And certainly by the time I get back home next month it will only be bark, twigs, and leaves. Isn’t it gorgeous?
Do you know what this tree is? We saw one in pink and white.
A little listening…
I live in an old tobacco town. I haven’t lived here all my life. In fact, Charlotte, North Carolina, a beautiful city in itself, is my hometown. But for the past four years Winston has been home.
We’re a fairly busy family, so we haven’t explored much of this city even though we live in the heart of the historic district. This morning we decided to drive around and look at the old vestiges of what brought this city massive, unbelievable wealth in the early twentieth century and still does: tobacco!
R. J. Reynolds is still headquartered here. Many of the old tobacco factories have now been turned into residential lofts with high ceilings and prodigious windows and the big tobacco plants have long since moved away from the area. It’s still interesting that a lot of America’s smoking history is housed right down the street from us and I’ve never taken a moment to give it a second look until today.
Old train tracks that brought the tobacco to and from the factory.
…and I will be back in Ethiopia.
Going to Africa is a little second nature for me now. This will be my eighth time traveling to the Continent in three years and my third time traveling to Ethiopia, one of the countries I truly love! I will be in Africa for quite some time again. It seems like I have these massive opportunities to visit Africa, but I’m staying there for longer and longer stretches at a time.
I look forward to sharing photos when I travel around the country throughout June.
Biksharing in big cities is an extremely easy and fun way to see a city. It’s far cheaper than taking a cab everywhere and more expansive than simply walking around your hotel’s two to three mile radius.
Most major cities I have visited have bikeshare programs and, of course, when I am in Africa (particularly in the rural areas) I see bikes everywhere. Bikes are still relevant even when it’s sometimes easier to simply hail a taxi.
Here are some bikshares I’ve seen in Berlin, London, and DC.