Welcome to the blog for the book I am because we are: African Wisdom in Image and Proverb

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas in Lamu

Christmas Day, Lamu, Kenya   Bob and I would like to wish you a very “marry” Christmas as our young friends who handmade some lovely cards for us spelled merry.  We found it to be a new way to look at Christmas or more likely it just highlights how difficult English spelling is for non-native speakers.

Anyway it is a bit unusual to spend a Christian holiday in an Islamic place, though as one of the guides informed us Lamu is changing.  It now has about 25 churches as more Christians from upcountry come to work on the island.  Anyway I like the quiet non- commercial atmosphere with only occasional holiday greetings and music as we wander through the streets.  This place looks a lot like what Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, must have looked like back in time with its narrow streets; no cars and only donkeys for transport.   Last night the sky was dark with bright stars since Lamu is not a well-lit place.

Today we will celebrate by going to Shela beach with the family we are staying with, carry a nice home cooked meal for a picnic, and enjoy swimming in the cool water.

Save Lamu

Lamu Island on the Kenyan coast is one of our favorite places to visit but it is under threat as the Kenyan government is vowing to build a new deep-water port here along with a system of railroads, highways and pipelines to open up a commercial transport corridor to help develop northern Kenya, Southern Sudan, and Ethiopia.   It could be said that there is a need for such improvements in this underdeveloped remote area but is it the place to do it when Kenya already has an existing port at Mombasa which could undergo expansion to include the improvements needed to meet this demand. Lamu District, including all the surrounding islands, is a very fragile environment that could be seriously damaged without careful study of the impact of such a major comprehensive project.

Our friend, Hadija Ernst, whom we are visiting, in Lamu is trying to inform people of this project and its impact on the community she now calls home and is raising her family.  A coalition of local grassroots organizations has come together as Save Lamu.  Their mission is to engage communities and stakeholders to ensure participatory decision-making so as to achieve sustainable and responsible and preserve the environmental, social and cultural integrity of the indigenous Lamu community. http://www.savelamu.org/

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A friend in Nairobi, city of contrasts

After lots of delays we finally made it to Kenya.  It’s great to be back but always takes some adjustment.  Nairobi is a very populous city where more and more people are buying cars and the roads have not kept up with the increase in traffic.  More and more office buildings and apartment complexes are being built.  It would seem that this would be a good sign that the economy is doing well but it seems it is mostly making the rich richer.  The lower economic classes have not benefited that much though I think more people are moving into the lower middle classes. 

We went to visit our good friend Michael.  His story is very interesting and is a good example of the challenges that life can pose here.  He was working for the City Council doing roadwork for some 15 years and then got let go for no good reason.  He is in court now trying to get a settlement and I hope he gets it because he deserves it.  Meanwhile he is surviving with some short term roadwork contracts so life is not easy for his family.  He invited us for lunch  on Sunday.  It was great to see his family. His two older children are our namesakes.  Then he took in his sister’s two boys when she died of HIV.  Then his wife died of diabetes complications.  He remarried because he needed a mother for the children.  She brought a son the family.  Then she and Michael have just had a baby boy who is now 1 year old.   So in a years that we have known him his family has grown to include 6 children.  The oldest daughter from his first wife also suffers from juvenile diabetes.  Recently she has become the poster child on TV and radio to talk about living with diabetes.  Though all of this Michael has kept a very good spirit and outlook on life, making sure his children get a good education and get the care they need.  He was also lucky to marry a woman who loves his children like her own.  I have great admiration for Michael and his family. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Now flight to Kenya delayed

Can you believe it, now our flight to Kenya has been delayed by 5 hours.  Now we will arrive in Nairobi at midnight.  It is not the greatest way to start our holiday in Africa but once we get there all will be forgotten just because we will be so glad to be there.  We have been on the road for more than 3 days now.  Our host Edem Andah met us here in Lagos and helped us get through all the formalities and we did have a short night in a very nice hotel last night.  He also made it possible for us to stay in the business class lounge while waiting for our flight today.  Here christmas music is playing but I always find it strange to hear about Santa and the reindeer in Africa.  It's good to be back....yawn!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Flight to Nigeria delayed by a day

Well, we are still in Washington, DC waiting for our flight to Nigeria.  Due to mechanical problems the flight was rescheduled for tonight Dec. 14th at 9pm.  I hope we get off OK because we are connecting to a Kenya Airways flight on the 16th.  This means we will only have less than a day in Nigeria before we come back in January.  But meanwhile we are in a nice hotel getting some needed rest and relaxation after all the preparations of getting ready to go.  Michael Schafer has taken over shipping the books out so people still can order off the web site and get them before Christmas, though after the 16th the delivery before Christmas is not guaranteed.  In any case I hope the next post will be either from Nigeria (if we can get an internet connection easily) or from Kenya. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Review by The Christian Science Monitor

One of the veteran photographers of The Christian Science Monitor spotted Betty's book as one of the three best photo books of 2011 picked by the Monitor staff. Melanie has travelled to Africa many times. 
We are boarding a plane for D.C. then change for Lagos. www.csmonitor.com/Books/2011/1213/3-of-our-favorite-photo-books-of-2011/I-Am-Because-We-Are-by-Betty-Press

Monday, December 12, 2011

Off to Nigeria

We are madly getting ready to leave for Nigeria tomorrow where I have been invited to give a book talk in January.  We will only stay in Lagos for a few days and then we will go to Kenya to spend the holidays with good friends.  Except for all the stress of the preparations we are thrilled to be going back to Africa and being able to introduce my book to an African audience.   We haven't been back to Nigeria for almost 12 years...which is much too long.  With a little effort we have started reconnecting with friends there.  Stay tuned as we start our journey!!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Review of my book in the Hattiesburg American

I got my first review of the book, thanks to Ed Kemp at the Hattiesburg American, Thursday August 25.

though i would have preferred another headline, because my book is not about famine in Africa, I can't ignore the tragedy that is ocurring once again in Somalia and the Horn of Africa.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Free shipping only for USA orders

Free shipping for book orders for those people who want to pay by check is available through Aug 31. However, it only applies to USA orders. International shipping is just too expensive for me to offer free shipping. Sorry about not making that clear on the purchase page of the website.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Advance copy received.

The advance copies of the book arrived while we were in Sierra Leone and so were sent to Paul Tynes, the book designer. So when Paul brought the book by for me to see it was cause for a little celebration. Paul did a wonderful job with the design and I am so pleased with his work. He made the book look very elegant and special. Now I am waiting for the full shipment from Hong Kong to arrive.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sierra Leone

Our visit to Sierra Leone has been amazing. I can't say that I have achieved much in terms of my photography because a lot of my time has been spent reconnecting with people and getting involved in their activities. And I have fitted my photography time around those activities. Also being here is rather exhausting especially now that the rainy season has really kicked in. One person that we met said there is always a period in August when it rains for seven days straight. We are now in our fifth day so we shall see if we make seven. Right now as I sit on my hotel balcony the sky has cleared.

Each day here is an adventure and maybe that is why I like being here. And sometimes the adventure turns into a disaster like yesterday when we got so wet that our clothes and shoes had that mildewed smell like they will never be dry again. Then today we did a radio discussion with some human rights activists on Citizens Radio. The station was on a very bad road which was even worse with the rain and the last part we had to walk up the hill. The station is only miminally equipped and so we sat in a very dark sound proofed room responding to calls from the public about different human rights problems. The problems are very real here but also we keep meeting people who are trying in different ways to help make things better.

But one thing we always enjoy is when we get a chance to spend time with the children. Here you see me with some of the children at the opening ceremony for the new school built by Schools For Salone. I had just taken a break from taking some photos and the children gathered around me. When Bob took the picture the children had to take a pose for the camera.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On our way to Sierra Leone

We are looking forward to spending 3 weeks in Sierra Leone. While we are there we will attend an opening of a new school near Bo which was funded by Schools For Salone. When I was there last time I took pictures for SFS and one of those pictures I am using in the book. The proverb with the picture is "Ignorance preceeds knowledge." Though the children are not in the room you know they have just been there, the lesson is on the board, the potential for learning is there and becoming a reality.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The book is going to print.

I just approved the final proofs and the book is going to print.  Of course, it takes a month to print and a month to ship from Hong Kong so I won't see it for awhile.  Still it is a wonderful feeling to know my dream is coming true.  Now I am in promotion mode and hope to start lining up more events, book signings, etc. for the fall.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Book to be Published

After many months (and years) of working on my book, it is finally coming together.  I Am Because We Are: African Wisdom in Image and Proverb is in production with Oceanic Graphic Printing in Hong Kong with the target date for publication at the end of August. Already I am starting to schedule events based on that publication date.  The first one will be in Washington, DC at International Visions – The Gallery in September.