Dreaming of Africa – Again!

Africa Dreaming

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.

Africa Dreaming - Again

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).

Africa Dreaming - Again!

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.

Nearly a Month in Africa

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 Highliands

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.

Fluffy Trees and Ethiopia is 48 Hours Away

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.

fuzzy trees

fuzzy trees

fuzzy trees

fuzzy trees

fuzzy trees

fuzzy trees

fuzzy trees

fuzzy trees

A little listening…

Spring Evenings + Southern Magnolias

When I was a kid we had a sprawling Southern magnolia tree in our yard. Each year I would wait for it to bloom with its magnificent white, fragrant flowers so I could try to jump and reach one and bury my nose in it. I never did reach one, but I could smell the beautiful flowers all the time. I’ve been in love with Southern magnolias ever since.

Yesterday evening near dusk we went for a walk and again I tried my best to reach a flower when we passed a Southern magnolia, and again, I couldn’t reach one. But my camera lens could reach a few. The best, most beautiful flowers are always the ones high in the trees you can never get to.

Southern Magnolia

Have you ever smelled a Southern magnolia? If you haven’t, be sure to put it on your to-do list!

Southern Magnolia

By the way, I am so honored that my Tumblr blog got featured on Tumblr’s staff blog today. They also featured one of my photos from Tanzania. I couldn’t be happier!

Weekend Sounds + Good Reads

This is the first full week I’ve been home since Ethiopia. Of course, it’s been an adjustment, but overall I think I’ve done a pretty good job getting back into a normal routine. My body has transitioned to east coast time so although I am still going to bed earlier than usual I am still waking up around 6 AM. That’s definite progress.

New Coltrane Photos

I read a fantastic piece in today’s Smithsonian Magazine by Nelson George about newly found photos of John Coltrane in New Photos of John Coltrane Rediscovered 50 Years After They Were Shot. It’s a great article. Be sure to go through the slide show. I grabbed two of my favorite Coltrane songs to commemorate the occasion!


Contraceptives in Pakistan

PRI’s Ninth Month series covers pregnancy and childbirth around the world. Take a listen to Sonya Narang’s piece out of Pakistan about mothers-in-law who hold sway over a woman’s contraceptive choices: What if your mother-in-law decided when you got pregnant?

Kerry in Africa

As you may know Secretary of State John Kerry is in Africa on a diplomatic mission. Today he gave a speech in Addis about America’s commitment to the continent. The United States already has a large humanitarian and global health commitment to Africa, but as Kerry said in his speech I hope that the United States invests more in business and education as well as entrepreneurship and harnessing the bright, young minds in Africa. There is already progress in that direction.

Pharma Deals

I am fascinated by this impending deal between Pfizer and AstraZeneca. Pfizer wants to buy AstraZeneca for $100 billion (with a B)! That is a mind-boggling amount of money and shows once again how deep pharma’s pockets really are.

Ethiopian Beer

I have written here before at length that I love beer and everywhere I travel I find new-to-me beers to try.  This time while I was in Ethiopia I tried Meta beer. I had a few bottles during my few weeks in Ethiopia. Mainly I drank St. George which is the most popular in my estimation. Meta is good, too. And, as it turns out, I’m not the only person who enjoys a good Ethiopian beer.

Ethiopia’s Meta Abo Brewery was purchased in 2012 by Diageo, one of the world’s largest drinks companies, to grab a foothold into Ethiopia’s quickly growing beer market.

meta beer

Me, Elsewhere

All week I have been sharing photos on my Instagram and Tumblr. Some of them you may have seen before. Others you may not.

Where to Stay in Addis Ababa

Radisson BLU Addis
Whenever I travel – no matter where I’m going from Atlanta to Lusaka – I always, always Google where I will be staying. This is true whether I am making my own reservations or if someone is making them for me. I like knowing at least a little about a hotel before I arrive. Hotel web sites are, of course, helpful, but Trip Advisor is consistently my go-to online destination to find the best reviews of hotels and restaurants. In the off-chance I find a blog review about a hotel those are perpetually the most helpful to me. With that in mind I am sharing how much I love the Radisson BLU Addis in case you might be deciding whether to stay here or not.

First, I will say that I have stayed at a Radisson BLU Dwarka in Delhi, Lusaka, and now in Addis. They all have been phenomenal. The food is great with a diverse menu. The wi-fi works very well. The rooms are new. The service is exceptional. I have never had a problem at any Radisson BLU where I’ve stayed. They are well-decorated and also very safe. Each Radisson BLU I’ve visited has had security at the gate to get in. You have to run your belongings through the security scanner. In Delhi the guards even did a search under every visiting car with a search mirror. That is always comforting.

Also, if you will be spending a lot of time in Addis for work, the location is near most government buildings. There isn’t, however, much to walk to save for a few coffee shops and a bakery down the street from the hotel. You can also walk to the Hilton in case you’d like to have lunch there or need to make travel arrangements. The one thing about the Radisson BLU is they don’t have a hotel store, so if you forget anything like batteries, deodorant, aspirin, etc, you’ll have to find it elsewhere.

There is a bank on site, three ATMs, as well as an Ethiopian Airlines office.

While both the Radison BLU Lusaka and Delhi have swimming pools, the location in Addis does not. Some of the most well-known hotels in Addis have sprawling grounds and very large pools like the Hilton and Sheraton. The Radisson BLU has a very nice coffee shop, a patio where you can eat or smoke outside, as well as a cozy lobby area where you can dine or have drinks. The Radisson BLU Addis also has a fantastic spa and gym. The spa is extremely inexpensive. Facials will cost you about $20 USD.

Radisson BLU Addis

Unlike some hotels in the States that make you pay for water in your room, the Radisson BLU provides one complimentary bottle of water each day.  I love that each room also has a minibar especially for those moments when you just want a Coke, Meta beer, or Ambo, but you don’t want to order something from room service or go downstairs.

And finally, what I really love about the Radisson BLU is their “one touch” service. If you need anything just hit the “one touch” button and the staff will get you anything you need or help you in any way they can.

Radisson BLU Addis Ababa

Ethiopia Dispatch: My Last Days in Addis: Days 16 and 17

South African Red WineAfter spending over two weeks in Ethiopia it was time to decompress a little with some really great red wine imported from South Africa on my last evening in Addis. Today was spent interviewing potential translators, tying up loose ends, making phone calls and texts, and putting things in place before I leave.

As I mentioned before I am fairly astounded by how much I have been able to accomplish while in Ethiopia. I made it to four cities, went on countless site visits and meetings, met amazingly sharp people and ate really delicious Ethiopian food.

I haven’t mentioned much about food during my dispatches, but all of the Ethiopian food I’ve had has been delicious. Even though I am not a huge fan of injera, Ethiopia’s staple food made from the grain teff,  it has been quite tasty with spicy dishes. I have added chilis and jalapenos to everything. The spicier the better for me!


Throughout my travels north and south I have eaten everything from traditional Ethiopian food, to salads (never once got sick), to European food.


You might be surprised that Ethiopia has really fantastic Italian restaurants. I’ve visited two Italian restaurants in Addis and was floored by the quality of the food. But, it makes perfect sense: Italy briefly occupied, not colonized Ethiopia. So while the Ethiopians under Emperor Haile Selassie kicked the Italians out, some vestiges of the occupation remain, namely the food.  Pizza and pastas are amazingly good here in Ethiopia.

Day 17

My last day in Addis was spent in the field visiting clinics that were utterly fascinating. Now that I have been in Ethiopia for some time it is easy for me to see many of the differences in health care here.

One great thing about taking a late flight back home is you still have a full work day. But then when it’s time to get ready to go the time just whizzes by. My flight makes one stop in Rome on the way back to Washington.  In all, it will be about 15 hours in total.

Back to Washington I go. And then I’ll return in June. I miss it already!