August 21, 2011

Strange Gifts

My mother (who's on a roll - see this post) has just put out a book of vignettes entitled Strange Gifts: Reflections on Aid in Africa. It is available for purchase on Amazon. I put together a little website for her, where you can see all the books and calendars she's produced, and read a few of the occasional papers she put out in her career as a music educator.

August 20, 2011

A Life on Paper Review

My wife, Sofia Samatar (whose first novel, A Stranger in Olondria, recently sold to Small Beer Press - more about that later!), has written a nice review of French Borgesian-fantasy/slipstreamish writer Georges-Olivier Chรขteaureynaud's A Life on Paper.

August 10, 2011

I Am Because We Are

For a number of years, my lovely mother, Annetta Miller, has collected proverbs from around Africa. She now has over a hundred thousand, neatly arranged by category on her desk. She has put the collection to use in interesting and creative ways. Her themed calendars, which are put together by street children at Don Bosco Press in Kenya, are perennial best sellers at Ten Thousand Villages. Proverbs also complement the vignettes in her book Sharing Boundaries.

My mother and her photographer friend Betty Press have put together a book entitled I Am Because We Are: African Wisdom in Image and Proverb, published in partnership with Books for Africa. You can learn about the book, and buy it, here.

August 4, 2011

Longonot and Naivasha

photo: Kalense the Kid

My family and I spent the month of July in Kenya, where I grew up. One of the things I wanted to do (besides eat murg makhanwala and nyama choma!) was climb Mt. Longonot, a dormant volcano, with my kids.

I went to high school at Rift Valley Academy, which is on the side of the escarpment. Longonot dominated the landscape, and I used to draw it constantly. Its slumbering form has inhabited my dreams.

Longonot, which last erupted in 1863, is a classic caldera. It took about two hours to climb with the kids (aged five and eight). My son basically had to be dragged up the steeper sections, and a couple times I didn't think he was going to make it. But it was all worth it for the stunning experience of reaching the top and peering over the rim, which is only a couple paces across. The floor, several hundred meters below, is carpeted in bush. Sulfuric steam rises from a fissure in the wall. On the outer slopes, one can see very clearly where the lava spilled over the edge and pooled.

photo: Tambako the Jaguar

From the top of Longonot, we could look over at Lake Naivasha, which is just an hour and a half from Nairobi, and used to be a favorite vacation spot when I was a kid. The lake is now surrounded by huge greenhouse-type structures, where flowers are grown for export to Europe. Planeloads fly out daily. This generates a lot of cash, but growing flowers requires a huge amount of water, and the lake is rapidly shrinking. When I was young, we used to take boats to Crescent Island. As you can see in the satellite photos below, the island became a peninsula about ten years ago (though, amusingly, it's still called "Crescent Island").

But now the open end has almost closed up, creating another, smaller lake. One effect of this shrinking is that there is now about a mile of new, pristine parkland beside the lake, where giraffe, impala, zebra, and waterbuck gambol. It's lovely to stroll there in the late afternoons. But in a few years, unless some sort of action is taken, Lake Naivasha will be no more.

photo: mckaysavage