All posts tagged: Somalia

on a sigh

Disoriented and unsure what to write, but feeling the urge anyway, I’ll settle for theft: a smattering of lines written by friends, colleagues, family, to patch what’s broken and smooth what’s rough, sent from Japan, Somalia and Somaliland, Ireland, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, and the US. As well, images of Tunisia, one of my very favorite places, by a dear friend, also a food tour guide extraordinaire, observer of life’s humor and depth and, I can attest, a commiserator of great talent and persistence.

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on the dots that connect

One of my closest friends talks to me about “upward spirals” of life lessons: Our baggage is ours, our faults and failings won’t leave us, and they come around again with cyclical persistence. But we face each approach differently, with a higher level of understanding. Each time, it’s a newer, better, stronger us that takes on those tired challenges. This is how you manage to accept the stuff that haunts you: it’s never the same you, even if it’s the same stuff.

Are you familiar with fernweh? A German friend mentioned it to me the other night over pizza. It’s all the nostalgia and longing of homesickness, but not for home–for somewhere far away. In the dry, dusty capital city of Bamako, at the edge of the vast Sahara desert, I cried over stunning loss and dreamed of the lush greenery of Ireland. In fact, I longed for it, I felt fernweh for Ireland, though I’d never been. In my gut it was a place I had to see, a place of my ancestry, and an antidote to the sand pit (literal and figurative) in which I found myself. Years later, after I’d moved on to work in the Horn of Africa, the Addis Ababa to Washington D.C. flight route was rearranged to include a fueling stop in Dublin. Embracing serendipity, I extended my layover on the Emerald Isle, my first trip as a solo traveler. It was, indeed, the tonic I’d sought, albeit delayed…

what’s to eat #36

With contributions from staff, chef supreme Xukun prepares a daily office lunch. Our mid-day fare ranges from Somali standards like spiced rice and camel meat, to lentil stews, to my personal favorite, fried fish with chapati. Chapati is a bit time consuming, as it’s prepared piece by piece on the stove. But today we lucked out–Xukun turned out round after round of flaky bread. Around 1pm, we tucked into a goat stew, a creamy mix of chard, onions, and peas, along with chapati hot off the skillet, and salad. As they say around here, Qado wanaagsan – Bon appetit !!

on an upswing

Somewhere in there I lost myself, I tipped into the darkness that comes around every now and again, pays a visit without invitation, overstays its welcome. The darkness of old would shock me into submission, steamroll me to the point of immobility. And, looking for something to blame, I’d get lost in arguments with myself about the origins of my own depression – circumstance, coincidence, fate, dumb luck, or my own mistakes and missteps. I’d resisted the shadows as best I could, thinking I could hold them back. Once I realized I could not, I opened the doors and welcomed them: Let’s have a go, let’s make our way down the stairs, and sit for a while in the darkness at the bottom.

on Roda, and resilience

Roda invited us into her tea shop, a wooden frame of sticks and crunchy, curled, leaves shading customers from the sun. We had made our way into rural Somaliland for monitoring activities, and at one stop we chatted with Roda, businesswoman and single mother of six. A tea kettle sat on smoking logs, and we sat on woven mats on the ground. birds flitted through the leaves above us, chirping away. At the time, Roda was doing pretty well for her family: she had a decent income from her tea shop, and she owned a couple cows. She was making it work, holding it together. I’ve been thinking about Roda during the past few weeks as the drought in Somalia and Somaliland slides quickly into something much worse. Of all the things we’re able to control in the modern day, the weather just isn’t one of them (yet), and this corner of the world is especially vulnerable to climate change. I think also about community, and its power to manifest resilience in the individual. In this place, community is fierce; a Somali with …