A year-in-review

2009 kinda kicked ass

2009 kinda kicked ass

This past year pretty much rocked. And the New Year came in fine manner.  No kisses, but a bonfire amid the palm trees (above), new friends, lobster, a decent cigar (thanks, C!), champagne and even the Harry Connick, Jr., band playing Auld Lang Syne at midnight (never leave home without the iPod).

I meant to post this sooner, but here’s a little look back at my new life (as chronicled on this blog):

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Published: Kenyan males line up for circumcision

circumcise

This story, datelined Katito, Kenya, was published this week by GlobalPost.com.

The story contains photos, text and video, as part of a larger series on the issue of male circumcision as an HIV prevention tactic in sub-Saharan Africa.

Bits and pieces of the project, reported in early fall during my stay in Kisumu, have appeared on the blog. Now it’s all available in one place.

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Things Africa taught me

I’ve now arrived in India and am getting settled and spending a little time with family in Pune. I’ve also been coming up with a list of lessons learned from seven weeks in Africa. In no particular order, here goes:

  • French, that language I really thought was useless, is so not useless. Especially if you’re in Madagascar in non-tourist towns, trying to report and the only people you meet competent enough in English to be a translator are either employees of the company you’re writing about or  activists in the community.
  • mudReef flip flops are awesome. Seriously. Reef. Write it down. Best sandal I’ve ever worn. Damn near the best thing I’ve ever put on my foot. For example, when I accidentally stepped into two and a half feet of quick mud and lost a flip flop (again, thanks Sara from London, for a great laugh), I immediately paid the local who pulled me out another 500 shillings (a little more than $7, probably his weekly wage) to get back in the mud and retrieve my flip flop. (Dear Reef, I’m hoping for an endorsement deal. “Backpack journalist in Third World swears by Reef sandals.” Sounds good, no?)
  • I like parentheses.
  • Eat bananas. Leg cramps suck.
  • Save some bananas for the lemurs.

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Video/photos: Circumcision gaining ground in western Kenya

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Kids in the night

All the wanted was candy

They just wanted candy

The train from Kisumu cuts through beautiful Kenyan bush as the sun sets over a low but sharply rising line of mountains. I was in the second-class sleeper cabin, but the third class cars are filled with Kenyans, many of whom get down at small villages in the dead of night.

At each stop, motorbikes line up like taxis at the airport hoping to ferry passengers and all manner of goods off into the night.

And kids run along side the upper class cars shouting “Sweets!” at the rich people. The four German women in the compartment next to mine were happy to oblige.

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A day in an HIV clinic

Researchers say circumcision can protect against HIV infection

Researchers say circumcision can protect against HIV infection

Augustine Philip "faces the sword"

Augustine Philip "faces the sword"

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Window shopping for a machete

Sharp objects anyone?

Deadly objects anyone?

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I love the smell of fish guts and fresh vegetables

Kenya’s major cities boast gleaming shopping centers and 24-hour big box marts (detailed previously).

Bush villages however rely on a more traditional option: sprawling open air markets.

I visited Ahero‘s weekly market last week to see and smell and taste. There, I met Tom Odero, a 56-year-old retired Army sergeant major, who is active in politics and now farms rice in his quiet days.

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Welcome to Wal-Mart…er… Nakumatt

Nakumatt is the Kenyan version of Wal-Mart. It’s everything you need, in bright clean aisles — food, clothing, bicycles, motorcycles, cheese graters, camping gear, stoves, refrigerators, hair gel (the mohawk is going strong).

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Kenyans love a fat, tattooed Mzungu

My stalkers...

My stalkers...

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