Archives for April, 2012

Travel is such a personal thing: one man’s art museum is another man’s prison. Personally, I can feel highly entertained just browsing in a bookstore (though if you want to kill me with boredom, plop me in the middle of a golf course.) This is precisely why I shy away from instructing readers what to…

Show me your graffiti and you’ve shown me your city. What people scrawl on the walls of the place they live says more about that place than any guidebook. That’s why I love good graffiti — I look for it almost everywhere I go and when I find it, I rejoice. In that vein, the…

Good Hope

Six hundred and fifty shipwrecks lie off the Cape of Good Hope. I prayed that we would not make it six hundred and fifty-one. I had already read enough to be good and scared—I knew about the oil tankers and cargo vessels, the clipper ships and iron-hulled battleships of old and not-so-old. Many large and…

The slower you travel, the more you see. That is why walking is the best way to know a place. And when the place is as magnificent and gigantic (almost 4 miles long) as Noordhoek Beach, then you can save time and get a horse to do the walking for you. Giffie sounds like an…

Pink, yellow, green . . . . . . orange, red, purple, pink, white, mustard, turquoise. My mind reads each new color my eyes encounter, this wonderful wall of bright stripes along the street–each one a different house with a different family living inside. The Bo-Kaap is a bouquet of flowers–from the first time I…

I offer my sweat as a gift to the earth. Jethro tells me that my sweat is enough—the important thing is to always give back. If we take something, we must also give. We take water into our bodies and we give it back. He says this while pulling out the fuzzy black end of…

Hello! Goeie Dag! Molo Kunjani! Welcome to beautiful Cape Town, where I’ve landed my feet for a good little while. From the moment I stepped off my ship and ventured into this city by the sea, I’ve been amazed at how friendly everybody is. And I really mean that. Cape Town is a city of…

Welcome to Cape Town . . . again. I’m back! So welcome back to this colorful seaside port that I only just recently came to know and which I’ve been desperately missing ever since I left. Since first landing here two weeks ago (aboard the National Geographic Explorer), I have clocked some 25,000 miles by…

Sometimes I choose my destinations and sometimes they choose me. Malawi was a little bit of both: first and foremost, there were some wonderful children that I needed to meet. However, as a lifelong reader of National Geographic, I have always harbored a wish to see the great Lake Malawi for myself and if possible,…

The boy on the swing has tiny legs—much smaller than most. They are two spindly black sticks, dangling awkwardly as he hangs on the swing set, unmoving. I offer to push him, and he only smiles as I put a hand on the back of his tiny body and push forward, again and again, until…

Music might be global but every place in the world has its own unique melody. In Africa, there’s a very special way of singing with leading calls, an echoing chorus, and a kind of rich, soul-warming harmony that brightens any mood. Along with dancing and painting, singing is an important part of education at Save…

Read the full news report from Nat Geo Newswatch. Yesterday, the President of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika died from a heart attack. I first heard the rumors about the president’s failing health outside a sugar ration line in central Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, where I was told that the he had collapsed and was…

In Africa, to dance is to live. Ever since I arrived in Malawi, it seems that I have been surrounded on all sides by impromptu dancing. Just clap your hands or bang a drum, and someone within earshot will start dancing. Dancing is also one of the principle education methods for  Save The Children’s HEART…

I admit that my job at National Geographic is a lot of fun. One minute I am blowing up snowdrifts, the next I am dusting away the secrets of Mesoamerican doomsday prophecies, rapping in Japanese, or cuddling wolves. Every day is different and unexpected—as travel should be. But travel is not always fun. Sometimes it…

I forgot that it was Palm Sunday today. That is . . . until I saw the hundreds of green palm fronds waving in the air, held high by a procession of believers on the outskirts of Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe. As a traveler, happening upon great spectacles in the street is part of what I…

At first I saw green—a blanket of green land stretched out to the far edge of every horizon. My heart was happy and my mind took a picture. Here was a new country and my glimpse down through blue sky and broken clouds was our first real meeting. Meeting a country for the first time…