Archive for the Africa Category

The Art and Science of Hope

Posted in Africa, America, Clips, Culture, Parenting, Science, Travel on January 7, 2015 by frankbures

CutlerHopeFrom The Rotarian:

A few years ago, I was passing through the northern Nigerian city of Kano when I stopped at a roadside stall for some tea. The proprietor asked me where I was from. I told him.

“I want to go to America!” he told me, smiling. “We are just suffering here in Nigeria. If I go to America, I will not come back to Nigeria again.”

“Not even to see your mother?” I asked.

He laughed. “I will send her some money.”

I thanked him and drank my tea. After I left, I wondered if he was serious or just talking.

As I traveled through the region, I met several people headed north, on their way to Europe. It was a difficult and dangerous journey that tens of thousands of people set out on each year, many of them never reaching their destination. I often marveled at the confidence a person must have to embark on a trip like that, to leave everything behind, to be certain of somehow making it.

Like most people, I’d always assumed these travelers were the most poverty-stricken, the most hopeless. But now I can see that this isn’t the case – at least not entirely. Often, the people who leave their villages are the brightest and most ambitious ones, the ones with the biggest dreams. As one poet from Cameroun wrote after arriving in Spain, “No money in the pockets/But hope in the heart.” Hope, as much as anything else, drives them.

Hope may be our most important asset as a species. Hope is the thing that drew us out of our caves and around the world. Hope is what gets us out of bed in the morning. Hope lets us imagine our lives as more than they are. Yet when we talk about hope, we usually mean the vague feeling that things will get better. But that is not hope.

Read the rest here.

Beyond Borders

Posted in Africa, America, Clips, Culture, Travel on September 3, 2014 by frankbures

Cutler-cultureFrom The Rotarian:

Mara Egherman, a college librarian, was sitting at her desk when she saw an email pop up: Ryan Ahmad, a Muslim exchange student in Iowa from the Philippines, needed a place to stay. There had been trouble at his school, and he’d been beaten up by a fellow exchange student.

Egherman flashed back to her 16-year-old self, alone in a foreign country. “I knew I had to take this kid in,” she says. As a high school student, Egherman had applied for an exchange program in South Africa. But after arriving in Johannesburg in 1982, she discovered that her host family had racial notions that dovetailed with those of the apartheid regime. Egherman was forbidden from speaking to the help. The family considered Nelson Mandela (then still in prison) a terrorist. And they kept a cache of weapons in a closet for protection. For a teenager from the Midwest, this was disorienting – and eye-opening. Egherman saw people being treated in ways she’d never imagined.

Yet at school, she made lifelong friends, one of whom invited her home for the last few months of her exchange. Egherman’s new family couldn’t have been more different, with three sisters and lots of laughter. Because that friend reached out to Egherman, her exchange experience was a positive one. She came home a changed person, with an enhanced ability to imagine the lives of people in other places. That was the whole reason she’d signed up to go abroad.

Read the rest here.

Lean Out, Lean Back

Posted in Africa, America, Video on May 16, 2014 by frankbures

After seven years on Facebook and Twitter, it’s increasingly clear that they fill a need without satisfying it, and that time is too short and there’s too much to do.

Runner, Interrupted

Posted in Africa, America, Clips, Culture, Words to live by on January 15, 2014 by frankbures

Runers's WorldA story I’ve been working on for two years, Runner, Interrupted, just hit news stands in the February issue of Runner’s World:

The sounds of the city grow faint. The air smells of pine, and the wind whispers through the branches. The Alaska Pacific University Trail is rough with rocks, and Marko Cheseto struggles for balance as he runs. Looking for even patches in the dirt, he chooses his steps carefully. Each one is a decision. Once, when he had feet, he flew through these woods. He flew through them faster than anyone ever had.

Cheseto, 30, remembers how things once felt beneath those feet: the light touch of the track, the roll of the trails, the give of the red earth he grew up running on. He remembers how far those feet carried him—from a tiny village in the Kenyan Highlands across the world to Alaska and a new life as a star runner. He remembers how they propelled him to victory. Sometimes, he forgets he doesn’t have those feet anymore.

markochesetotrack300x200But not today. Today he remembers. Today he’s wearing metal feet inside his running shoes, and they are no match for real feet that slide over rocks and roots like water.

Cheseto has run this trail countless times since arriving at the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2008. It was through these woods that he pushed himself and his teammates and helped forge the Seawolves into a national force. And it was here that he took that last run, the one that transformed him from the greatest runner the school had ever known into… someone else.

Read the full story here.

RIP Tabu Ley

Posted in Africa, Arts in Africa, Music, Video on December 4, 2013 by frankbures

Very sad to say goodbye to one of the greatest musicians in one of the greatest musical traditions.  Tabu Ley Rochereau, 73, passed away November 30, 2013. Here’s some old footage of him with another of my favorites, his partner Mbilia Bel. (Via Africa is a Country)

On the Power of Money

Posted in Africa, Clips, Travel on April 12, 2013 by frankbures

From The Rotarian:

hiresfaksimile_5180572-1“America,” said the exercise in our grammar book, “is the (rich) country in the world.” It was a lesson about the superlative, and the answer was, of course, “richest.” I was teaching English in Tanzania, and it was strange to read such things about my home.

“You are a rich man,” one of my students was fond of telling me, exasperated because I wouldn’t give him the books, pens, pencils, and notebooks he asked for. “But you are a rich man. America is a rich country.” He seemed to take a certain relish in using the word as he rolled the r, drew out the i, and let the ch trail off. “Reech …”
Deutsch-Ostafrika, Aruscha, Boma
This bothered me. It felt like an accusation. It made me resent something that was larger than myself, something that I had nothing to do with – something that wasn’t my fault.

Why did I get so angry? I spent a lot of time agonizing over that question. It seemed to come from the guilt that many of us feel when we cross a border into a poorer country. After a lifetime of being average, we find ourselves bizarrely privileged. Suddenly 500rupienwe become one of the global elite.

This affects our relationships with the people we meet…

Read the rest here.

The Bridge of the Horns

Posted in Africa, Clips, Travel, Video on January 10, 2013 by frankbures

Here’s a slick, bizarre, unintentionally hilarious video promoting the Bridge of The Horns that I wrote about in Nowhere Magazine last year. Is the distance between rhetoric and reality greater than the distance between Djibouti and Yemen? Who knows? Maybe someday “the dream of seeing the future of mankind bathed in light,” will come true after all.

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