Category Archives: Kenya

A different look at Mombasa

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stereograph viewer

Stereograph viewer (Image: http://www.opb.org)

Meet my latest addition: stereographs. A few weeks ago I found an intriguing stall in Washington’s Eastern Market and I was hooked after searching to my heart’s content through hundreds of amazing, century-old images from around the world. Before iPads, TV, and movie theaters there were stereographs. It’s a simple yet brilliant concept: a special camera took two images right next to each other, shifted slightly just the way the image that our two eyes see is shifted. The effect? When you look at a stereograph through special binoculars – a stereoscope – the image becomes 3D! Basic optics, magical result. In the late 19th and early 20th century stereographs were the craze. They were a way to see famous and exotic places come to life in a way that no ordinary photograph could create. They reigned supreme until the arrival of moving pictures but still today have a devoted crowd of enthusiasts – counting me. Read the rest of this entry

The sound of Nairobi

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Sauti Sol

Sauti Sol (Image: http://www.kenyan-post.com)

Listening to NPR this morning took me back to Kenya, musically speaking. When I was there last year I asked a friend to point me to popular music that young people listen to (other than Britney Spears and like =). Among the mix he recommended were songs by Sauti Sol, a great Afro-pop band that dazzled Kenya’s music scene in recent years. Bien-Aime Baraza, Delvin Mudigi, Willis Chimano, and Polycarp Otieno used to sing together in a high school gospel ensemble. In 2009, they released their debut album, Mwanzo, and became widely successful. They sing about everyday things – family, love, even education – but also about darker topics like police harassment. Their unique style reached receptive audiences in Kenya and beyond. Listen to this and you’ll know why: Read the rest of this entry

Where elephants roam

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Amboseli Park gate

Amboseli National Park is a very special place on earth. It means “the place of water” in the Maasai tongue and indeed while the surrounding area is all red dust and acacia bushland the park stretches across vast, verdant swamps. They are fed underground by the runoff and snow melt from Amboseli’s imposing neighbor right across the Tanzanian border: majestic Mount Kilimanjaro. The view of the highest peak in Africa and the tallest free standing mountain in the world is in and of itself unforgettable reward for coming here. I am not much of a mountain climber but I have always dreamed of seeing Kilimanjaro. Ever since I read about this faraway and exotic land in children’s books, my distant dreams of Africa became morphed into this one iconic image: a snow-covered peak rising high above the savanna. You get the image, right? Now add to it elephants. Read the rest of this entry