Monday, February 9, 2009

Nimekula Asali Udogoni, Utami Ungali Gegoni

I chose this Swahili saying for the title out of a little phrasebook I bought in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. It means "I ate honey in my childhood, and its sweetness is still in my tooth". The "honey" I ate in my childhood was international travel, particularly to developing countries. It is still in my tooth, and so I am returning to East Africa, where I visited briefly when I was 8, to bask in this personal and family love.

I am also here for another reason, though. As I recently learned, Kenya was home to one of the least-remembered mass crimes of European colonialism--an eight-year reign of terror unleashed by the British against the local population that left hundreds of thousands dead and a generation shattered*. The country is still recovering today. While my family had no direct connection that I know of to these events, I have grown up in the privilege of a society that was built upon the backs of colonies, and my life has been shaped by this privilege. Coming to terms with this privilege has been a difficult but important process, and Kenya presents me with an opportunity to act.

So what can I do with this awareness? Maybe I can come (humbly) to say I'm sorry. Maybe I can come to try to make ammends. I don't know the answer. So I'm coming to find out. Is there a place for someone like me in Kenya's future? Is there anything I can do to help? And if so, should I?

These are some of the questions I want to look at in this blog. If you're interested, I would love for you to follow my exploration. It won't all be so heavy. If you want to just hear about my life here, there should be some of that too. Please comment, and feel free to send me emails at Thanks for reading!


*It was in response to the Mau Mau Rebellion. If you want to read more, check out Caroline Elkins' Imperial Reckoning.

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