Tag Archives: africa

Let’s go Pembroke!

When I was going to St. Andrews School, in Kenya, 20 years ago or so, one of our arch-rivals was Pembroke House, another boarding school.

Here at the conference, one of the meeting rooms is named Pembroke, and every time I see the sign, I can hear their Rugby coach yelling “Let’s go Pembroke!”

Analog Blog 2: Mt. Longonot

** Transcribed from the original manuscript **

In 1986, I think, my class from Nairobi Academy went to Mt. Longonot for a field trip. No zoo or chocolate factory for us, no sir. We climbed a mountain. And not just a mountain – a volcano!

A few thousand years ago, Longonot blew its top. Literally. Its top – Mount Suswa – is several miles away, where it has no business, geologically speaking, being. The crater that remains is Longonot.

We left the bus at the bottom and climbed up to the crater rim, where we could look down into where Suswa once was. Then we set out to circumnavigate.

Jens and I, of course, had to be first. We had to run. Remember when you could run forever?

The highest peak lay directly opposite from where we had climbed, and we ran along the narrow path around the gaping crater, with certain death on both sides. What is certain death in comparison to the need to get there first?

Just for the record, I got there first.

From the peak of Longonot, you can see the whole world. At least, the important bits. Naturally, we had to get back first, too, but I wished we could have stayed a little longer. So many wonderful moments rushed past on the way to the next one.

We three – who was with us? Modupe? I can’t remember for sure. – slid down the scree in the best roller coaster in the world. An avalanche of boys. Jens. Me. Modupe – yes, surely it was Modupe. Jerome missing. Forever missing. So recently missing. Always with us.

We return to the starting place, and wait for the return of our friends. Isn’t that the way it always is?

Then, back home, knowing that we had conquered the ancient giant, and could conquor any other. Knowing that we would some day, very soon, climb Kenya, Kilimanjaro, Everest! (One of out three’s not bad!)

And so, forever after, in every hike, climb, camp, I’m trying to return to Longonot.

Analog Blog 1: The Rains in Africa

** Transcribed from the original manuscript **

Yesterday I discovered that the word in the Toto song ‘Africa’ is ‘bless’, not ‘miss.’ I always knew it as ‘miss.’ Obviously, it should be ‘miss.’

I miss the rains in Africa. Every afternoon at 4pm A.T. they would sweep up from the lake, hundreds of miles away. A.T. That’s African Time. I shall get there when I get there. You will know it is time when it is time.

Like a gray curtain, woven of dreams and memories, the rains approach over the field, hiding what is behind them. The curtain climbs laboriously up the hill until it pauses on the other side of the road. It is dry here, and pouring over there. Looking both ways, the rain crosses the road, and now it is all around me, soaking me, hiding me, whispering secrets brought up from the lowlands.

And then the rain passes, the back side of the curtain climbing the hill, and now it is raining there, and here is only the sweet smell of wet grass and the drips from the big tree.

I miss the rains.

The rains bless me.

Good old E.A.R.&H.

In my ongoing quest to convert my old LPs and tapes to usable formats, I came across the tape “Roger Whittaker in Kenya”, and now I’m very homesick, listening to “Good old E.A.R.&H.”, “My Land is Kenya”, and “Shimoni.”

Oh the good old E.A.R.&H. will get you there on time
Those mighty engines rolling down the line
And no boy ever had a railway quite as fine as mine!
Oh the good old E.A.R.&H.

It’s obvious from the songs that Whittaker was from the very privileged class. As, I suppose, was I, while I was in Kenya. One of my favorite songs on the album (except for E.A.R.&H.) is “High” which, although I guess he never says it, seems to be about a hot air baloon ride over the game parks. And so of course, my Kenya isn’t the real Kenya, and I suppose I’ve always known that. But I miss it anyway.

You only have one childhood, and the memories that spring
When you see your house, the tree you climbed
And all those precious things.
The faces of the friends I loved, the images of home
When I close my eyes in the land I love
The land that I call home
My land is Kenya, right from your highlands to the see,
You’ll always stay with me, here in my heart.
My land is Kenya, so warm and wild and free
You’ll always stay with me, here in my heart.

I sure hope I get a chance to go back home some time, and take Sarah with me. It’s been so long.

Just hope that maybe tomorrow, you can come back home again.

Unity day

Today was “Unity Day” at Sarah’s school. The kids were learning about different cultures, particularly the different cultures represented in thhe families of their classmates. I talked about Kenya, and also read the book When Africa Was Home to them. They were very good listeners, and very respectful, and asked great questions. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.

Later in the day, they had visitors from Japan, who taught them about origami, and some visitors from England, who gave them 10p coins.

As always, I was very impressed by Sarah’s school principal. When I arrived at school, I stopped in the office to announce that I was breaking school rules by bringing a deadly weapon onto school grounds – namely, a 6-foot long Maasai spear. They went off to get Ms. Simms so that she could tell me whether this would be permitted. She took one look at it and said, “Well, of course, we *have* to. The kids *have* to learn about other cultures. It would be wrong to deprive them of the opportunity.”

It is very very *very* refreshing to encounter someone to whom education is so important, and kids are so important, and someone who is smart enough to distinguish between when rules help the kids, and when rules need to be ever-so-slightly circumvented for the benefit of the kids. She’s awesome, and Sarah is very lucky to be in this school.


Turns out that, as of roughly a month ago, there is in fact an Ethiopian restaurant in Lexington. It’s right at Euclid and Ashland, near Chevy Chase, just a few minutes from UK. They are only open for lunch on Sunday, so I’ll probably go there for dinner tomorrow.

By the way, just in case you are tempted, the “I thought they didn’t eat anything” jokes aren’t funny. Not only that, but they mark you out as being unaware of your world. That being said, I’m sure someone will make the joke anyway.

Hotel Rwanda

I just saw Hotel Rwanda.

I simply don’t have words to express how it affected me. If you care about justice, or about peace, or about Africa, or, indeed, about your fellow human behing, you need to see this movie.

I remember so clearly the day that the airplane was shot down, killing the president of Rwanda, and the days of horror that followed during which the information was hard to come by, and the US government was spouting content-free nonsense about “acts of genocide”, but it was clear that we, the people of the United States of America, didn’t care any more about the people of Rwanda than we care about the dogs being destroyed down at the humane society.

And yet, after that atrocity, we then allowed the same thing to happen again in the Sudan, while more than one of my friends said to me, why do we have any responsibility to those people? They’re not Americans, after all.

And, what’s perhaps worse is that while history will look back and say that the Nazi holocaust was a monstrous thing, it will look back to 1994 and remember OJ Simpson. Rwanda? What’s that?

Pass around the coffee and the chapatis

Yesterday I had thanksgiving dinner with a very international crowd. Most of them were Kenyans, but there was also a Swede, several USAians, and a Bolivian. We had the traditional Thanksgiving meal of empanadas, samosas, chapatis, and, of course, turkey. Before dinner we sang “Umwema,” and Moses prayed in Swahili and English. We sat around the table for perhaps 4 hours, talking, laughing, joking in various languages, and reminiscing.

My parents were out of town yesterday, and got back at about 1 this morning (Just in time to get in the line of shoppers outside of Target! … Just kidding.) so we’re going to have Thanksgiving dinner again, this time with more of our family, tomorrow.

I do, indeed, have much to be thankful for.