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!!