Final Letter from South Sudan, I post one last photo gallery and fly out.

September 8, 2012 Dear Friends, I got out of Africa last Friday but it was a struggle.  When I got to the radio station I noticed two rips in the bottom of my brand new, “lifetime guarantee,” ultra-light, ultra strong suitcase.  Turning it over I found another rip in the bottom and one of its “feet” coming loose.  Getting a new suitcase in Juba on short notice was not an option so I used the whole roll of duct tape I carry to hold the suitcase together.   Suitcase patched, Christina came into the office looking stricken.  “I have a … Continue reading Final Letter from South Sudan, I post one last photo gallery and fly out.

Letter 8 from South Sudan, where I wonder if I am getting too old for this.

August 30. 2012 Juba, South Sudan,   Dear Friends, My mother once asked me why I didn’t stay home like she did, close to her parents.  I told her it was because of her father, my grandfather, who at 13 was apprenticed to trade as a grocer in Derry City, hated it, and ran away to sea.   His travels took him across the North Sea to ports exotic to him (Rotterdam and Hamburg) and then across the Atlantic to Halifax, and New York, and finally, coasting the Eastern Seaboard.  He told me his favorite port was Baltimore, “A man can … Continue reading Letter 8 from South Sudan, where I wonder if I am getting too old for this.

Leopards and Cows and Making Gravel in South Sudan (Letter 7)

August 25, 2012 Juba, South Sudan Dear Friends, Navigating Juba roads after two days of heavy rains is like navigating a large, ever shifting, river.  The course of the road changes, what was high ground two days ago is now a sink hole, and when you enter a large mud hole you have no idea of how far down you will sink.  I almost think I should sit on the hood of the Land Cruiser with a pole, poke it into the brown opaque water to see if there is a bottom. “Mark Twain” would be a bad thing on … Continue reading Leopards and Cows and Making Gravel in South Sudan (Letter 7)

South Sudan, I return and am “attacked” by two leopards. (Letter 5)

August 17, 2012 Dear Friends, My camera case has a hole in it left by a leopard tooth.  If you look closely, my crocks also have a little chew mark from the same leopard.  The leopard is the last of the “big 5” (Cape Buffalo, Rhino, Elephant, Lion, Leopard) that I’ve seen in Africa. But I didn’t expect to meet two so up close. Two leopard cubs were orphaned.  They would normally have died but someone rescued them, and then left on holiday, or assignment, or something, and they ended up at Yei Road Camp (co-owned with the Jebel, where … Continue reading South Sudan, I return and am “attacked” by two leopards. (Letter 5)

South Sudan, Letter 4, Flying Out of Juba.

April 20, 2012 Nairobi, Kenya Dear Friends, Suzi and I were upgraded to a suite at the Fairview in Nairobi, which is a good thing because every possible surface on which I could lay out clothes is full and any hook like object has clothes hanging from it.  Everything I have is soaked, but that’s the end of the story of today’s travels. On Thursday the Germans working on building a brewery (one of those “peace dividends” after years of “dry” Islamic rule in South Sudan) were ordered out – now.  So they left.  Then we learned that Ethiopian Airlines … Continue reading South Sudan, Letter 4, Flying Out of Juba.

South Sudan, Letter 3, Learning history and current events.

April 14, 2012 Juba, South Sudan Dear Friends, On Friday the thirteenth the newsroom was full for our morning editorial meeting. South Sudan had captured Heglig, a region just north of the border, in Sudan (an area that happens to have a major oil field.)  This came after several weeks of (North) Sudan bombing towns and refugee camps in the South.  The African Union (AU) and the UN had asked South Sudan to withdraw its troops.  On Thursday South Sudanese President, Salva Kir, had given a stirring and bellicose speech in Parliament to a romping and stomping floor, no withdrawal.  … Continue reading South Sudan, Letter 3, Learning history and current events.

South Sudan, Letter two, Small Road Trip

April 8, 2012 Easter Sunday Juba, South Sudan Dear Friends, Friday, April 6:  Everyone is waiting for the rain. When the rain comes this area is very productive, if not, famine.  It looks encouraging.  On Sunday the barometer dropped and we got thunder and lightning signifying, for that day at least, nothing.  Monday and Tuesday the clouds teased us.  Wednesday night we got our first downpour.  I sat on the verandah looking at kids running in the rain, but the rain was short. On Thursday afternoon we got another brief downpour, followed by more sun.  Thursday night the rain on … Continue reading South Sudan, Letter two, Small Road Trip

Juba Letter 1, First Impressions

April 1, 2012 Juba, South Sudan Dear Friends. At the bar Saturday night (anti-malarial gin and tonics or Stony Ginger Beer) an American raised as a missionary son now working for a USAID funded fish farming project building ponds along both the Nile and Congo said, “Welcome to Africa.  Kenya and Uganda are just ‘Africa lite.’ This is the ‘real’ Africa.  You’re not in Nairobi anymore.” I’m staying at the Jebel Lodge, a fenced compound of metal pre-fab buildings.  I have my own cabin near the fence on the far side of the compound from Rock City, which is a … Continue reading Juba Letter 1, First Impressions

South Sudan

When it comes to media in South Sudan — radio is king.  Radio plays to the country’s oral tradition.  Further, there is limited electric power distribution.  The country is poor and TVs are expensive.  Finally TV coverage has not reached much of the country.  Radio is perfet for a country like this.  Radio sets don’t require much infrastructure.  Radios can be powered by batteries, solar cells or hand cranks. South Sudan had just become the world’s newest nation after decades of civil war with the North.  The infrastructure was ruined and radio is playing a central role in nation building, … Continue reading South Sudan

Sea Arabs, Oman, Qatar and Zanzibar

I rewrote this post from three family letters, written in 2010 from Dubai, 2011 from Doha and 2012 from Zanzibar. People think about Arabs as a desert people, riding camels, “The ships of the desert” as I was taught in school, across waves of sand.  But in my travels I learned that Arabs were also master seafarers taking their dhows all around and across the Indian Ocean, carrying trade goods, culture and Islam to East Africa, India, Malaya and Indonesia just as the ships of the desert carried the same across Arabia and North Africa.  Along the coast of the … Continue reading Sea Arabs, Oman, Qatar and Zanzibar


May 2, 2012 Zanzibar airport Waiting for a plane that is way too late. Dear Friends, Four thirty in the morning and my mobile phone is ringing.  I am tangled up in the mosquito net protecting me from malaria.  Worse yet, not only the phone, but my glasses and the light switch are on the other side of the net.  The phone stops ringing just as I get to it. The display shows a Stillwater, Minnesota number.  When we finally connect it is an old lady trying to call her brother in California.  She forgot California was in a different … Continue reading Zanzibar

Wildebeest Migration, Kenya

August 6, 2012 Nairobi, Kenya Dear Friends, Sometimes the much awaited second novel or record album (am I showing my age?) is a disappointment, the first was so good.  Suzi had some fears that if we returned to the Mara after the wonderful safari of discovery we had last April it would be like a second novel.  I shared some of those apprehensions but wanted to go anyway, seeing the same land in a different season. As it happened it was spectacular.  We arrived just as the annual wildebeest (we called them Gnus when I grew up) arrived.  Had we … Continue reading Wildebeest Migration, Kenya

Nairobi National Park

May 6, 2012 Shihipol, the Netherlands Dear Friends, When we got back to Nairobi from Mt. Kenya and still had not seen a lion I thought I would give us one more chance.  I booked game drive through Nairobi National Park, which is just on the outskirts of Nairobi, for dawn on Thursday.  It seemed like a good idea at the time but our flight from Zanzibar was canceled and we had to book a later flight getting us into Nairobi too late for dinner and too late to get a good night’s sleep before the dawn trek to the … Continue reading Nairobi National Park

Roadside Kenya

This is a letter about the drive from Mt. Kenya back to Nairobi. April 28, Nairobi, Kenya Dear Friends, After rain most of Friday, Saturday Morning was gorgeous.  I got up at about 6:15 to watch the sun rise behind Mt. Kenya, and while the day stayed sunny the mountain progressively pulled its cloud shroud around its peak until about 8, while we were eating breakfast, the peak was completely gone.  By 10 we were on the road back to Nairobi. Our first stop was the equator out on the highway where a tourist trap has grown up around “The … Continue reading Roadside Kenya

Mt Kenya

This is the second half of that family letter from Mt. Kenya. We’re on the second half our safari now, at the Mt. Kenya Safari Club in Nanyuki, 7,000 feet up the slopes of Mt. Kenya, which is 17,000 feet high.  Yesterday morning I stood, jacket on, outside my room, 75 feet north of the equator, looking up at snow. Snow in the equator.  The equator runs through the bar.  The dining room is in the Northern Hemisphere, reception, the gift shop, and services are South of the line.  The Safari Club was started by the actor William Holden and … Continue reading Mt Kenya

Masi Mara, Kenya

This is the first half of a letter from Mt. Kenya National Park.  It deals with our trip to the Masai Mara.  The second half of the letter will be in the post from Mt. Kenya.   April 27, 2012 Nanyuki, Kenya (Mt. Kenya National Park) Dear Friends, Victor, the deputy chief of the radio project for South Sudan, asked me why Americans want to come to Africa to see animals.  It’s people he is interested in.  I gave some feeble answer about how we had seen elephants, (Barbapapa) lions (Lion King) and hippos (Hungry, Hungry Hippo) in kids’ books … Continue reading Masi Mara, Kenya


March 24, 2012 Nairobi, Kenya Dear Friends It’s not what I thought.  I’m sitting just a few kilometers south of the equator.  It is the time of the equinox with the sun directly overhead, and it is pleasant 78 degrees midday.  Sundown comes like switching off a light switch.  No twilight at all.  Evening breezes mean I sleep with the windows open with no need for air conditioning.  The birds and the sun wake me after sleeping well.  Welcome to Nairobi. Nairobi is over a mile high.  The combination of proximity to the equator and the altitude makes sunburn a … Continue reading Nairobi