Pray for Paris

I was in Paris for Airbnb’s annual host conference and happened to be only blocks away from the attacks that terrorized the city on November 13, 2015. I previously traveled to places like Afghanistan and Somalia without any incident. Surprisingly, Paris was the closest…

Cuba: what's next?

Cuba remains one of the few nominally “Communist” states in the world. Government stores seem caught in a 1950s time-warp. Billboards extol the virtues of socialism. “La Revolution Marcha Bien” – “The Revolution is Going Well”, they assure us. Yet, at…

Cuba embargo car

Havana, Cuba — December 17, 2014 “Bienvenido, amigo! Que país?” A man in a tuxedo invites me into an opulent Old Havana hotel lobby. The man’s Victorian-era formal attire seems comical in the tropical Havana heat.  I am tempted to label him a huckster and…

Aid in Haiti

The man next to me on the bus strikes up a conversation during a rare smooth section of road from Port-au-Prince to Cap Haitien. “Are you a missionary?” “No.” “Do you work for a NGO?” “No.” “Then why the heck…

Downtown Port-au-Prince.

Wandering the bustling streets of downtown Port-au-Prince, my first question is, “where’s the rubble?” I can sense my host holding back an eye roll. “You know, it’s been almost five years.” In some ways, my question was ridiculous. But reports…

China Goes to Africa

“Nǐ hǎo!” I glance back as two Congolese children giggle and repeat the Mandarin greeting. This marks my third time hearing the phrase while wandering Brazzaville’s streets. The people around me are all clearly Congolese. The children seem perplexed at…

A Tale of Two Congos

“The tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky—seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.” —The Heart of Darkness Congo. There is something about the word. Of all the…

Eritrea: The North Korea or Naples of Africa?

African countries like Burundi and Somalia garner consistently negative press. Eritrea, on the other hand, garners consistently zero press. Perhaps this is because the International Press Freedom Index ranks Eritrea’s freedom of press as dead last in the world —…

It's Always Sunny in Somalia

In Somalia, killing is negotiation. –Black Hawk Down It is hard to think of a country anywhere in the world with a worse reputation for war, brutality, and sheer chaos. The moment Somalia’s poor reputation hit home for me was when…

Miniskirts and Music in Muslim Mali

By the time I exit the Bamako airport, I am drenched in sweat. My shirt clings to me like a sopping wet towel. On the bright side, the sweat is not the result of fear or anxiety. On the less…