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IMG_9037What I’m looking forward to:

Family & friends: Dinners with people whom I share a lifetime of history with (with wine, haven’t had that in six months). Talking about our experiences and hearing about everyone else’s six months. And simple banter with the guys, where a crass joke follows a crude one.

Being back in a system that works, where people have real choices, where you find innovation, creativity, culture… a million different ideas from people who try to create something every day.

My electric guitars, musical friends, and a massive amplifier. Concerts and nightclubs, where the bass pulsates through every bone in your body.

Fresh food… Mozzarella di Bufala, antipasti, feta, salads, a freshly baked ciabatta.

Driving in the hills around Zurich.

City visits (first London, then Florence, hopefully Paris, Berlin, Helsinki…)

Less sweating

What I’ll miss:

The simplicity of life lived at a totally different pace.

The 1000 exhausting greetings every day… acknowledging everyone you see, even if it’s from a moving car.

Amazing Indian curries for 1/6 of the price

The archetypal, awe-inspiring, Avatar-trumping nature of this cradle of life.

Our fellow volunteers and all the other great people we’ve met here.

My many street kid friends…who will replace that humor, that enthusiasm, that perseverance of the toughest people I know?

-B

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162 down, 12 to go and I’m looking forward to…

Long , lazy dinners with friends and family. Meeting our two new nephews and their proud parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles

A glass of good red wine and a delicious cocktail or two (you won’t get past a rudimentary G&T here)

Vietnamese food

Good chocolate

Going to the movies

Riding my bicycle

Walking around town without being covered in dust, choking on the fumes of (probably) toxic burning trash or dodging deranged street chicken. Wearing unreasonable shoes on even road surfaces

Cool, fresh air plus a dusting of fresh, powder snow (too much to ask for in March?)

Reliable power and ipso facto, reliable internet and refrigeration

Long walks with Billie, the Danielsson family dog

Having a healthier relationship with mosquitos again (I find the whole ‘kill or be killed’-type situation over here a little draining)

But I’ll miss…

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IMG_6129Our mighty and ever-so-slightly imposing neighbor is more often than not hidden away behind high, fluffy clouds. But as afternoon turned into evening today she suddenly revealed herself, dressed in the very finest clothes Mother Earth could provide: a full, fresh coat of blindingly white powder snow. The impending end of the long dry season has brought daily storms around the mountain and this one seems to have left a particularly enchanting mark. The glaciers may be receding at an alarming pace, but snow still caps this beautiful mountain every now and then, reminding us that the roof of this hot and heavy continent is still as white and light as ever.

Even the usually blasé locals (“oh, that thing again…”) seemed in awe of her mountainous majesty and we couldn’t help but to stand there and stare at the humbling beauty of it all. A friend is climbing the mountain this week and I have to admit a smidgeon of envy swept over me: shouldn’t we be up there too? Next time, maybe. And that’s a pretty strong maybe. Can’t think of a better reason to come back sooner rather than later: Kili and the kids…

Good night from the foothills of this beast of a mountain. She’ll watch over us tonight.

-K&B

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If you’ve ever found yourself wondering about the global dominance of Coca Cola (Is it really the most recognized and valuable brand in the world?) look no further than Africa. Again, I may be extrapolating based on one sample country, but it’s hard not to be struck by the sometimes surprising ubiquity of the red and white cursive script on this one billion-strong continent. You find it on billboards, street signs, shop signs and on the clock tower of the main roundabout; entire houses are even painted in homage to this all-powerful, all-knowing brand. In absence of money to make signs or buy paint, Coca Cola has cleverly stepped in and found an easy and effective niche for its branding: Don’t bother advertising through media, just sponsor people’s daily lives.

And they’ve been extremely successful. Not only are bottlers of Coca Cola products local big-wigs – they even came to Amani before Christmas to donate food and gently persuade/bribe our former street kids with candy and warm Cokes – but their drinks are absolutely everywhere. From bars and restaurants to family celebrations, soda bottles are not merely vehicles for quenching one’s thirst, they’re gifts, very minor status symbols of sorts; a sign that the buyer and the receiver have bought into the candy-colored Coca Cola dream of a better life, perhaps even a better world. This subtly aspirational message resonates in still-poor, but forward-looking Africa; a place where the small joys in life – the new set of pens, the crisp new shirt, the joyously orange Fanta bottle – mean so much.

As long as local governments lag behind in providing both the material and psychological building blocks for a better tomorrow, millions of aspirational Africans will look to corporations, and outsiders like China, for help.

-K&B