Alone in Namibia with Martha Gellhorn

“You are alone?” The young woman’s raised left eyebrow gave away her surprise.  It was Christmas Day during a pandemic and I had just driven 10 miles on a gravel road. The other woman behind the Hobatere Lodge reception didn’t bother hiding her alarm. Both eyebrows raised, she chimed in, “You don’t have children?” “No …

A Useless Doctor in Eswatini

When you travel a lot you become impatient with hotel check-in forms: I play the game of how little information I can get away with.  After all, do they really need my address? At a midrange lodge in the western hills of Swaziland, now called Eswatini, the receptionist returned my form. She insisted I should …

She Stares at Me – A Confrontation in Dakar

She’s on the third floor, next to a statue from Cameroon.   She’s young and beautiful, just a girl really.  Her expression is difficult to interpret.  We pass a loudly chatting group of Senegalese women, all dressed in a medley of primary colors. I wish I’d understand what they’re saying, what they think of the recently …

Powerhouse Women of Kampala’s Literary Scene

I’m on the back of a boda boda, Uganda’s ubiquitous motorcycle taxi, worried about being late for a meeting.  In a traffic jam, my boda driver passes cars and other bodas in a way that should make anyone scared for their safety.  The drivers have helmets but there are none for the passengers.  I am …

A Brief Encounter in Tanga, Tanzania

I really hadn’t planned my visit to Tanga at all: the previous night in Dar es Salaam I had randomly booked a cheap hotel online.  As soon as I got there after my 6-hour bus ride from Dar, I headed out to wander around in the afternoon heat in search of food.  Although a big city, Tanga …

High in Harar

The living room’s bright blue concrete walls glow under the fluorescent light. The air is full of cigarette smoke and the smell of coffee beans roasting. It’s Ramadan, Islam’s holy month. The old color TV transmits hypnotic praying live from Mecca. I’m in Harar, a historic Muslim town in Ethiopia, about 130 miles from the …