Archive for the Africa Category

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.

The Year in Words (or 2012 Recap)

Posted in Africa, America, Art, Arts in Africa, Books, Clips, Culture, Science, Travel on January 9, 2013 by frankbures

IMGP3346It can be hard, as a writer, to watch your stories slip into the past, particularly the ones you love because there is a piece of you in them. So if I  can steal a page from Teju Cole, in a vain attempt to rescue a few from the flow, here are the ones with the most sweat and blood on them, the ones I will miss most from last year:

1) The Crossing (Nowhere Magazine, Djibouti, 5,494 words)
This story is about a tiny, desolate county where humanity took its first steps out into the world, about my traveling to that place, about Bruce Chatwin, about restless genes and ultimately about what pushes us beyond the horizon.

2) The Reunion:  After teaching there nearly 15 years ago, a man learns new lessons about change. (Washington Post Magazine, Tanzania, 2,954 words)
A sort of bookend to a piece I did years ago called Test Day, about teaching English in Tanzania. For this story, I went back to Tanzania and caught up with my students to see where life had taken them. I was as surprised as anyone to find out.

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3) Inner Space: Clearing Some Room for Inspiration (Poets & Writers Magazine, Portland/Cyberspace, 3,167 words)
This was a story about my own struggle to find a quiet place to let new thoughts be born, and about the nature of creativity.

4) Fall of the Creative Class (Thirty Two Magazine, Madison/Minneapolis, 3,743 Words)
This story caused the biggest waves of any story I’ve ever done, taking aim as it did at Richard Florida’s so-called Creative Class Theory. It even evoked a defensive response from Florida, which I addressed here and here.

5) Time Travel (The Rotarian, Kenya/Tanzania, 1,074 words)
An essay about something that has vexed me all my life: The feeling of time as it unfolds before us, and how the so-called “timescape” differs from place to place and affects us all.

6) A Very Particular Place: Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria (The New Republic, Nigeria, 1,109 words)
A look at Noo Saro-Wiwa’s book about Nigeria, and about the aspirations of the diaspora.

images-17) Notes on the Affairs of Man (World Ark, Kenya, 1,282 words)
A short piece on my struggle to understand how to deal with the many things beyond our control.

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