In July, 2008, I, Princess Rachella, Intrepid African American Girl International Journalism Consultant, pulled up stakes once again and headed to Nairobi, Kenya. Through my various adventures, I've concluded that if I get any MORE explosively fabulous in these prequel years to "THE BIG 5-0," I will have to register myself with the Pentagon as a thermonuclear incendiary device.

Friday, February 27, 2009

American Beauty

Dear GOD, how I wish Miss Eloise and Miss Winky were alive to see this day.

Sasha, Slam Dunkin'!

I just got an email from my brother-in-law Ron, containing some gorgeous photos of President and Mrs. Obama, and their beautiful young daughters. It reminded me of something I meant to mention earlier this week.

It was a news brief I'd read about The First Couple attending their first school activity outing, to watch one of their girls play basketball. Naturally, I assumed it referred to Malia.

At 10, she is a tall, reed-thin beauty who I could easily see giving her dad a run for his money on a basketball court. She's at the age where she'll probably start trying out for the middle school girls' basketball team, and I figured this was maybe one of those events.

So when I finally saw a longer story about the outing, at first I thought it HAD to contain an error. It said the Obamas had gone to see 7-year-old Sasha play b-ball.

But then I remembered the supremely attitudinal photo-op with Dick Cheney, and quickly envisioned Sasha drivin' down the lane to the hoop. That is one baaaad baby girl....

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This...

All too often, there are days in Nairobi when this is the only thing that makes even the slightest bit of sense.

'Nuff said.

"Smoke Gets in Your Eye-yi-YI....."

I am starting to detect a pattern here....

This was the view from the front of the Nation Centre this morning. About two blocks in the other direction from the site where a raging inferno destroyed a grocery store and killed 28 people, there was another fire overnight.

Official word is that arson was involved, but it's anybody's guess at this point. All I really know is that I probably better start investing in some asbestos bloomers.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Ray of Hope....

Remember the other day, when I wrote about being so scattered in recent weeks as I try to figure out whether my being here is making any difference??

It's been a seriously lingering malaise lately, as I make suggestions in news meetings, and maybe one gets followed up on and the rest fall flat. Or I try to play cheerleader and rally some reporter to pursue a story, but then nothing happens. You begin to feel like a voice in an echo chamber, only in this setting that feeling is aggravated by another impenetrable layer of "outsiderness."

Even though I'm feeling a lot more comfortable after 8 months here, I'm still "The American." (Or the loudmouthed American, or the American strumpet who needs to remember her place, or some variation of said concept, I'm sure.) Oh, I stopped feeling sorry for myself a long time ago, but it doesn't ease the sense of being on the periphery of things.

In fact, I had just about concluded that my sphere of influence is shrinking, and maybe there's not much left to be accomplished in this particular newsroom. So yesterday afternoon, when the new managing editor asked me to edit a story about promising new gene therapy related to AIDS research, I expected it to wind up eviscerated and buried deep inside the paper, or on the back page...just like always.

Well, it was like Christmas came early this morning when I saw it on today's front page, AND saw that even more context and background information had been added! And I didn't even get bummed when I got an email from a colleague complaining that the story hadn't been featured as the lead on the front page, as opposed to the usual corruption saga.

As I told her, it's a step in the right direction. We all just have to keep on pushing, and maybe next time, health news will lead the paper.

Oh, yeah, THIS is why I came over here!!!!!!

Monday, February 23, 2009

"I'm Just Sayin', Dawg..." Part 3

So I've been following the New York Post cartoon controversy whenever I get a chance over here. Granted, by the time I viewed it, I'd already read a couple dozen news items about how offended and upset people were over the image of a policeman shooting a crazed chimp and suggesting that said chimp had written the trillion dollar budget rescue legislation.

When I finally saw the drawing, I could understand where they were coming from. America's racial legacy is like a noose whose knot is still loosening. Anybody who thinks it's been fully removed because of President Obama's election
is either hopelessly naive or downright stupid.

But a part of me stopped just short of jumping into the breech with the rest of the howling protestors. A part of me couldn't help thinking, "What if that cartoonist wasn't a racist a**hole advocating violence against our President? What if he's just a hamfisted hack who tried and failed to shoehorn two wildly unrelated news events into the same panel???"

"I'm just sayin', dawg..."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

"And the Award Goes To......"

Hands down, the prize for the most beautiful sight on Zanzibar would be the throngs of Muslim girls carrying backpacks and books on their way to and from school.

Watching them laugh and play, I couldn't help thinking that just 10 or 20 years ago, this would not be happening. It was a truly awesome sight.

Revenge of the Choco-Bunny

As the number of my natal anniversaries continues to grow, and the length of days when I feel like a bloated chimp increase alarmingly, I will strive mightily to remember that, deep down inside, I am a Queen.

At least as envisioned by my dear friend Ron, aka the "Hoosier Scavullo." He also says I am "one fine piece of chocolate," even though HE isn't interested in doing anything about it. I still love him anyway.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The View From A Broad.....

This is how I intend to live the remainder of my life, lying back and enjoying the view, supported by a subtle yet strong safety net composed of Higher Power, the love of friends and family, and the belief in my own ability to make what I want to happen happen...while also accepting that which I have no control over.

I mean, I know it sounds corny, but that's where I am these days. Life is too short, and as much as possible, I must remember that I am too blessed to be stressed.

If I can just remember the perfect peace and relaxation of this particular moment in a hammock on Zanzibar, at least a couple of times a week, I'll stay ahead of The Game.

(A girl can dream, can't she???)

Rekindling Kendwa

I'm still finding it hard to believe that just two weeks ago, I was lolling around the beach on ZANZIBAR, of all places. It just doesn't seem possible.

When people told me that the beaches at Kendwa, on the northern tip of the island, were fantastic, I was skeptical. I wondered if they could match some of the other amazing tropical vistas I've been blessed to visit in my lifetime. After all, just one year ago, I was perpetratin' like "The Girl from Ipanema" on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. After the majestic vistas that are beaches on Maui, I'd rank the Rio experience as my Number 2 All Time Fantabulous Beach Vacation.

Well, Kendwa quickly claimed 3rd place. But that's probably because of the overall Zanzibar vibe. The spicy food, the mystical Arab influences in art and architecture, the bottomless margaritas, the Indian Head and Neck Massage and Pedicures by a woman named Catherine at the Mama Africa "spa", which is really just a thatched hut out on the beach, but which will transport you to orgasmic levels of relaxation...

Zanzibar is off the hook, y'all. I'm already planning to go back in early June.

Friday, February 20, 2009

"Bachelor Bidding a Bust....Bored Beyond Belief..."

First off, let's get one thing straight. The only "charity" involved in the event I just got home from was the fact that I even agreed to show up. And I was the oldest thing in the whole damn building.

Turns out the bachelor "auction" wasn't really an auction, which is a good thing because they should have paid ME. I mean, God bless the chaps on display, but my bids for their "charms" wouldn't have risen much beyond $10 USD. (I know that sounds cold, but you had to be there.) Besides, the 8 guys in question weren't even there in person; their pictures were stuck to the walls, and me and the other hapless "bidders" were filmed staring at their one dimensional visages, pretending that we really wouldn't rather be somewhere receiving electroshock treatments instead of trying to choose between them.

After filming brief intros describing what we are looking for in a man (for me, "Great Laughter, Great Travel, and Great Food" top the list), we were each given 4 numbered stickers and told to place them on the pictures of the guys we were interested in. Without exception, each of us wound up inquiring what to do if we weren't interested in any of them. (My own response was a bit more direct...I said, "Sorry, none of these guys float my boat.")

But when I saw the desperate look on the face of the production assistant who'd likely be canned if she returned to the studio without tape of women slapping stickers on dude's faces, I took pity. After carefully reading the brief profiles written by each guy, I was able to eke out 3 picks.

Here's the thing. The oldest guy in the lot was 39, the youngest 28. I wound up picking that young 'un and two 33 year olds, because they'd all mentioned liking travel, adventure and cooking. One guy said he loved Diani Beach, south of Mombasa, and I had been there myself back in August and raved about it.

I would PAY to see their faces when they're informed that a 47 year old woman chose them as potential dates!! In African culture, I am one seriously old broad...more than comfortably old enough to be the 28 year old's mother, but could easily have birthed all three of 'em by Kenyan standards.

But then I compared myself with the other women at the event. I'd guess the oldest one was in her late 30's; most of the rest were 20's and early 30's. If I'm capable of being objective about it, I'd say I was the most attractive based purely on physical appearance. But see, I've been alive long enough to realize that "looks" don't necessarily mean anything. The reasons people connect and fall in love and commit are so complex and mysterious, to me anyway, that I've never really put much personal stock in how I look or whether I'm more attractive than somebody else. After all, I'm still alone, right?

What made me the catch of the crop WAS the fact that I'm a 47 year old woman who's had one hell of an amazing career, who's travelled extensively, who has a delightfully warped sense of humor, who can take care of herself, whose ass doesn't need it's own Zip Code yet, who has a HUGE heart and an insatiable intellect, who can whomp up a mean wild mushroom pasta, who's kind and caring and committed to making a difference in the world...and who's been celibate for so long that the next guy she dates seriously better buy stock in Viagra.

So it didn't matter that 3 or 4 of the other women there were 20-something babes with vulcanized rubber pelvises and bodaciously bouncy boobs and ovaries that haven't passed their sell-by dates yet. I had it all over those gals, and THEY knew it too, and I was lovin' every frakkin' second of it!!!!!!

Come to think of it, I WOULD pay to see the faces of those guys when they watch the tape of me selecting them as potential dates.......

"Going Once, Going Twice...."

Lately, you may have noticed that the blog has been completely devoid of my usual dose of rampant neuroticism. Mostly it's because I've been super busy, and somewhat scattered, as I try to figure out how the hell to actually make a difference at what I'm doing over here. It's also because I had such a blissful, relaxing experience during the Zanzibar journey that I haven't been as fascinated by the strange inner-workings of my hormone-addled brain.

But never fear, gentle readers, because things are about to get just as obsessively OCD as they ever were before. NFAND just would not be the same hypnotically hilarious read without me picking at every bleeding, throbbing psychic wound and pontificating about the supreme existential challenges of being a single middle-aged African American woman thousands of miles away from home.

So I'll throw y'all a bone by announcing that this afternoon, I'll be attending a charity "Bachelor Auction" in Nairobi, part of a segment that's being filmed for a local Cable variety program called "The Patricia Show." There's even an interesting story about why I'm going. Last December, during one of my usual rounds of aimless channel surfing, I saw a listing for the show and wondered who the heck Patricia was, and why she had her own show.

Turns out Patricia is a former big-time radio "personality" in Nairobi who took time off to have a baby and now has her own Cable show. She's this tall, striking Kenyan woman with cheekbones to die for, flawless chocolate skin and a killer British accent.

Ironically, just a few days after I stumbled across the show, I actually wound up meeting her in person as I drooled over some of the clothes she'd had custom-designed in a local boutique. I kept trying to get the owner to sell the stuff to me, or make me something just like it, when in walks Patricia, all regal and tall and skinny and making me feel like a bloated chimp.

After I gushed like an 8th grader for about 10 minutes about how ironic it was to be meeting her, we traded business cards and I left the shop thinking of all the lovely networking possibilities that lay in store. Then just a few weeks later, my friend Jackie landed a gig as a producer for Patricia's show. When they decided to do the Bachelor auction, Jackie conveniently dropped my name as a potential bidder....and the rest will soon be history.

I predict an extremely hilarious blogpost in the near future. I mean, let's face it...most of the guys will be in their 20's and 30's, I'm guessing, so there I'll sit, as old as a few of their mothers, bidding on a date with them....


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dhow Jones-ing.....

One of my most enjoyable experiences during the trip to Zanzibar was watching dhow sailboats drift along the horizon. There is something so lyrical, so Aladdin-ish about them. Their billowly sails are magical, somehow. I was mesmerized whenever one came into view.

One thing is certain...that trip convinced me it's time to invest in a grown-up camera. Those point-and-shoot babies just don't do justice to some of the vistas I saw. But I tried to capture a few pics of the delightful dhows...check 'em out on my Facebook page...

Monday, February 16, 2009

"Where Do I Begin, To Tell The Story Of How Great A Trip Can Be?"

.....Well, how about beginning with how my so-called Zanzi-buddy Ron "accidentally" managed to take 3 close-up pictures of my below the waist "problem areas" as I walked in front of him on Kendwa Beach one morning??

I know, it's been almost 2 weeks now since that incident went down, and I should be over it. Actually, those frightful images, and a close brush with botulism from some tainted Tuna sashimi, were the only two blemishes on one of the most perfect vacations of my entire life. So I guess I can forgive Ron's momentary lapse into photographic sadism.

(Once again, don't even PLAY like you're going to ask to see those damning cellulite celluloids. It ain't gonna happen.)

Zanzibar is just an amazing, amazing place. Maybe it's the collision of cultures (Arab, Asian, African and a smattering of European) that makes it so unique. I'm still trying to put my finger on what makes it so relentlessly quaint and magical; perhaps the peeling, faded buildings in Stone Town that would be considered urban blight in Baltimore but which seem to house a million secrets. Maybe it's the mysterious dhow sail boats that dart across the horizon when you least expect, their white sails billowing like puffy Pillsbury biscuits with pointy pinched ends. Maybe it's the Muslim influence, with the women and tiny little girls in their full headdress and gowns.

But for me, the best part of the trip was getting to spend some time with Ron. Twenty-five years ago, when we met as interns at the Washington Post, I couldn't have dreamed we'd still be friends, and that we'd go off on an amazing vacation to a magical island together. Life can toss in some really lovely gifts amidst the sturm and drang, and Ron's friendship has definitely been one of them.

Anyhoo, I know I've been off my feed with the blog, but it takes time and effort to work through a massive overdose of Zanzi-bliss, and that's what I've been doing since I got back to Nairobi. I'll share bits and pieces of the experience along the way, as I get back into my blogging groove.

But before I do, I must clear up one outstanding matter. Several people have queried me about Ron, and even chided me for "holding out" on them about the new man in my life. Indeed, looking at the photo above, it might appear that Ron and I are an item of sorts (though I would never consider dating a man willing to be photographed wearing a cap stolen from Gilligan's footlocker). However, as I've already mentioned on my Facebook page, Ron is a dear FRIEND, nothing more. I did not exhale, or get my groove back, during that idyllic Zanzibar vacation.

Keep hope alive for a sista, okay?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Screen Saver

I am back from the vacation of a lifetime on Zanzibar, and am still picking grains of sand out of my buttcrack. I'm also exhausted from an overdose of bliss, and overjoyed at having spent so much time with my good friend Ron.

I had hoped to blog while I was on the road, and actually got to post some vacay shots on Facebook using my spankin' new BlackBerry Bold phone. But sadly, I wasn't able to log in to the blog, and was forced to drink bottomless margaritas to ease my frustration at being incommunicado.

I gotta go jump in the shower now, but I thought I'd share this first glimpse of the beach at Stone Town was literally like Dorothy opening the door of her crashed farmhouse and getting a gander at Oz. I'll start blogging about my adventures tomorrow.

Meanwhile, check out some of those mobile upload Facebook photos at:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Life Goes On.....

I am literally headed out of the door to my first vacation since arriving in Kenya. My good friend Ron and I are headed to Zanzibar, and hopefully loads of fun, sun, and spicy food.

I haven't written much lately because after a while, you just don't know what to say. So far, about 28 deaths have been confirmed from the supermarket blaze that occurred near my office downtown. In all, 50 people are suspected to have died in the fire. Some bodies will never be identified.

But that was just the first fire. Last Saturday evening, an oil tanker overturned about 2 hours away from Nairobi. As people scrambled to collect the spilled fuel, police officers at the scene decided to start charging them for access. Someone protested that fee, and decided to teach the greedy policemen a lesson by lighting a match.

So far, 120 people are confirmed dead, and about 130 hospitalized in serious condition.

After a while, you just don't want to think about it anymore. That's where I am at the moment. And watching the people going about their business downtown today, or standing near the burned out store as workers sifted through the rubble, I realized that the only solution to the madness is to remind yourself that life DOES go on. It has to.