slow journalism

An intense, seven-year journey on foot, from the Rift Valley to Patagonia. Tracing our ancestors’ footsteps and telling stories along the way.

Can’t wait to follow along.

Via the Nieman Journalism Lab.

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chapter two

Remember Richard Turere, the 13-year-old Kenyan inventor who invented an automated system of lights to scare lions away from his cattle? When I posted about him back in April, I said he was exactly the kind of person whose story we need to share, when we talk about sub-Saharan Africa.

Here’s a second chapter for that book: 15-year-old Kelvin Doe, from Sierra Leone.

meanwhile in europe

One of my best friends is bumming around Europe for the summer. Just because. Check out her blog and join me in my envy. It’s ok to hate her, just a little bit.

yeah just hanging out at a French castle built into a cliff.

And of course, when I say “bumming around Europe” I clearly mean “eating her way across the continent”:

uh, yum.

takes time to tinker

“What is extraordinary about this story is that Richard has had no books or access to technical information. He says he does not know where he gets the ideas or the knowledge, and yes, he has given him self plenty of electric shocks.  His father James is proud of his son, and has given him space to tinker and collect bits of gadgetry.”

Things I like about the story I just read on AfriGadget, titled 13 year old Kenyan innovator saves cattle from lions with lights:

a) Richard himself, for being exactly the kind of person we need to hear more about when we talk about sub-Saharan Africa. And at age 13, no less.

b) The dangling modifier. I was really hoping he was saving his cattle from lions that had mastered electricity.

Richard Turere, 13, from Empakesi, Kenya, brings the cows home for the night. Photo: AfriGadget

the ultimate price

“This is who she was, absolutely who she was and what she believed in: cover the story, not just have pictures of it, but bring it to life in the deepest way you could.” – Rosemarie Colvin, mother of Marie Colvin.

Marie Colvin lived that philosophy to the very end. Her last dispatch from Homs — her last dispatch ever — is haunting and overwhelming. If you haven’t read it, do it now.

A baby born in the basement last week looked as shellshocked as her mother, Fatima, 19, who fled there when her family’s single-storey house was  obliterated. “We survived by a miracle,” she whispers. Fatima is so  traumatised that she cannot breastfeed, so the baby has been fed only sugar and water; there is no formula milk.

That baby must be wondering what the hell she’s gotten herself into.

A damaged house in the Bab Sabaa neighbourhood of Homs. REUTERS/Moulhem Al-Jundi

gardens and grenades

It’s been (dare I bring it up) more than a week since the last attack in Nairobi, and the new reality is becoming routine. Military guards stand sentry outside hotels and malls, cradling semi-automatics. Entering a grocery store or nightclub requires a swipe of the metal detector, although the screening seems a little selective. If you’re a muzungu trying to get into the popular downtown bar Simmers, the staff just waves you through. (Guess they figure white people are the targets, not the perps.) I think it’s a lot like airport security — it’s there to make the patrons feel safe, rather than serving any real purpose against a serious attack. For example, Simmers is an open-air club, bordered on three sides by sidewalks… not exactly difficult for a pedestrian to lob in a grenade.

The initial panic seems to have subsided, but I don’t know if that’s a return to logical thinking or a false sense of security. I ask my taxi drivers what they think of al-Shabaab and they shrug them off as hooligans. Some Kenyan blogs are covering how to survive a grenade attack. Others are even brazenly going as far as making fun of the whole situation. (Both via Paige.) But I honestly don’t know what to think.

Despite the new reality of living in Nairobi, life goes on. I have a new story in the Nation today. Gathering the material for this piece was really enjoyable — it reminded me of home. I’ve only recently begun to get my fingernails dirty, but I grew up on a diet of vegetables grown in my own front yard, and it’s nice to see people trying to bring some of those same techniques to an area that so desperately needs an agricultural revolution.

note the lush green that Gai has created against the background of a parched savannah

It was also just great to get out of the city — Gai’s farm is on the edge of Nairobi National Park. Canadians have squirrels and deer in their backyards. Gai has giraffes and cheetahs. And also a generally gorgeous home.

My bedroom for the evening.

Also — I finally went to the coast. And I approve.

Dear Canadians, you are suckers.

Breathing space.

But it’s not all coast and cocktails. Next up for me? Some dangerous women are showing Nairobi’s rapists the meaning of the word no. Aw, hell yeah.

perspective needed

“After two months debating what to do, Emily borrowed $10 from friends – the equivalent of two months’ rent – and sought treatment from a well-known local abortionist. The elderly woman inserted a plastic tube into Emily’s vagina and told her to sit for several hours on a bucket until she heard a pop… Her ex-boyfriend beat her when he found out about the abortion.”

I live in the same city as Emily. The challenges she faces — and the horrors described in this article — provided me with a much needed lesson in perspective today (and left me clutching my abdomen). I don’t want to devalue the lives of the three deceased and dozens injured in this week’s attacks, but… more than 2,600 women dying annually in Kenya because of botched backstreet abortions? That’s a September 11 every. single. year.

However, you can be sure that this man is getting more attention in the news.