One month into our Cairo to Cape Town adventure, Nathan and I have just arrived in Nairobi and are preparing to set out on a safari in the next couple days.
[NOTE: We have just settled in, and learned about the horrific terrorist attack at Westgate Mall in Nairobi. Nathan and I are completely safe. I’d like to send my thoughts out here to all the victims, survivors, and the families of both victims and survivors of this incident. As I read and watch what’s happening now — even now, the siege at the Mall continues — my commitment to future public service only becomes stronger. It pains me deeply whenever I learn of innocents cut down for no reason — be it remembering the Holocaust, Rwanda and other genocides since, 9/11 or today in Nairobi. I believe that the US and every other member of the international community has the responsibility to work together to stop such wanton violence. And, I think that if we do work together, we have the capacity perhaps not to eliminate, but to severely reduce non-state actors’ abilities to spread destruction and state actors’ abilities to impose terror on their own people. That’s my bit for today from Nairobi…I hope everyone’s safe, sound, & joyful.]
Looking back on the month that has passed, this trip has been everything I’d hoped for and more—the “more” mostly because I did not know what to expect in a lot of cases, and so there have been many awesome surprises.
Here I’ve listed some of the top highlights of the trip so far:
- Speaking Arabic daily, and learning quickly that I’ve really got to learn a’maaya (the local slang)—here’s to studying that next year!
- Galloping a horse for the first time in the Sahara Desert under the shadow of the Pyramids of Giza
- Breaking curfew in Helmaya (a Cairene neighborhood not oft-visited by foreigners) to drink chai, chat, and play backgammon with friends
- Making a ruckus on Ahmed’s mahraganaat motorcycle in Alex—a dream (finally!) come true
- Getting two of my favorite foods in the world—chicken and noodles with peanut sauce and chicken satay—at Bamboo with my great friends, new and old, in the Bamboo Crew!
- Watching how locals and soldiers interacted at Egyptian army checkpoints, and talking down the Revolution 2.0 with Egyptians, Vickie, and others
- Discovering a restaurant named “O’Canada!” which serves only Canadian food (including some of the best burgers in Ethiopia!)
- Visiting the Red Terror Museum in Addis where Nathan and I learned about the Derg’s brutal authoritarian rule over Ethiopia (1974-1987) and met a man who survived eight years of torture in the Derg prisons
- Meeting Yanush, a truly exceptional guy with a gift for writing, who I am lucky to now call a good friend of mine
- Enjoying the Ethiopian New Year (September 11th was the first day of the year 2006 in Ethiopia!) and Ethiopia’s win over Central African Republic in the run-up to FIFA World Cup qualifiers with local friends
- Walking through the tombs, stelae, and other ruins of the ancient Aksumite civilization which I never knew existed
- Exploring the Old City of Harar with Ruaridh and Julia—two other very exceptional people—and Ruaridh’s local mates, Yosi and Mandela
- Feeding wild hyenas raw meat shirtless on the outskirts of Harar—I now know how it feels to have a hyena climb on my back!
In the next three months, we have so many exciting things lined up, from Class-5 rafting in Uganda and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to bungee-jumping Victoria Falls in Zambia and diving with Great White Sharks in South Africa.
And [AN ANNOUNCEMENT!!], to make the next months even more exciting—which I didn’t think was even possible!—I recently decided to take a solo detour to visit Rwanda and hopefully(!) the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I will set off southward from Uganda in about a month!