In the current issue of Scientific American Mind is a short story I did about the strange biology of the alpha male (and female!), which I am seldom accused of being. But that may change! New research points out that how you stand can affect where you stand. More here.
Last year, I ventured into the woods of northern Minnesota along with 41 others to look for Sasquatch, Bigfoot, that big hairy guy who isn’t your neighbor in his underwear. It was part of the first-ever public expedition held in the state by the Bigfoot Field Research Organizations. For four days we scoured the woods for evidence and discussed our findings, such as they were, around the campfire. It was an incredibly fun story to report and write, but believe it or not even harder than finding Bigfoot is finding the right tone to write about Bigfoot, without careening into sneering, pseudo-omniscient sarcasm or white-knuckled, lapel-grabbing credulity. In the end, for me the fact of Sasquatch’s presence or absence isn’t nearly as interesting as our need to believe that such a thing may still be out there waiting to be discovered. But for what it’s worth, you can read more about twig structures, ghostly footprints and things that go knock in the night here in the September issue of Minnesota Monthly.
Last year I spent a few weeks in Nigeria looking into the state of the Nigerian film industry known as Nollywood, which I’ve reported on before. In the new issue of Afar magazine, there is a short piece I did about that trip, along with some brilliant photos by Marco Garofalo. While there, I spent a little time with Kunle Afolayan, who was filming The Figurine, which earlier this year swept the African Movie Academy Awards. It was amazing to see how much the industry has changed in such a short time, how it was transforming, and how it was taking its first few steps onto the world stage. Nollywood looks set to be a serious cinematic force yet. For more on that, stay tuned.
It was getting dark. Paulo had been walking with me for half an hour. He’d invited me to dinner at his house, up near Mount Meru, and now we were going back down the dusty road to my neighborhood in Arusha, Tanzania. I wondered when he would turn around. I kept telling him I knew the way. But he kept walking.
“It’s okay,” he said. “I can escort you.”
The last thing I needed was an escort. I enjoyed walking by myself. But I didn’t realize how much had been lost in translation between Paulo’s chosen English word, “escort,” and the Swahili word for what he meant, kusindikiza.
In my dictionary, kusindikiza signified “to see someone off” or “to accompany someone part of the way home.” I had read these definitions, but I didn’t really understand them. Why would you want to accompany someone part of the way home? That is often the problem with learning new languages: You are taking an idea from one world and transporting it to another. The edges of the word, the shape of the idea, do not fit neatly into their new box.
Most travel writers venture into the world and make it home in one piece, but over the years, a few have not made it back. Here’s a look at several whose journeys took unexpected turns. May their memories and words live on a little longer.
While primarily a photographer, 22-year-old Dan Eldon also kept strange, beautiful, obsessive journal collages of his travels. In 1993, he and three others were killed by a mob in Somalia. Four years later, his journals were published as a book called “The Journey is the Destination.” The story of that journey will be told in a film starring Daniel Radcliffe as Eldon, scheduled for release in 2011.
In May 2000, a 29-year-old writer and editor named Claudia Kirschhoch was scouting a guidebook for Frommer’s at a Sandals Resort in Negril, Jamaica. One afternoon, she left her hotel room, walked down the beach and was never heard from again. Despite a reward of 1 million Jamaican dollars and a suspect, investigations languished and she was never found. In 2002, she was declared dead.
In 1941, just four years after writing the second greatest travel book of all time…