Valentine's Special Edition

Eric knows me as an anomalous American skydiver who loves Africa, teaching self-defense, studying kung fu, talking about politics, and interviewing arms dealers in remote corners of the continent. After living with me for a year, he is also in possession of important personal intelligence, like the fact that I panic when we run out of hot sauce and will rearrange my entire schedule to see old episodes of Law and Order on one of our four local TV stations. He has been my best friend during the most transformative episode of my life, but until December he had never met my parents, seen the school photos from my “awkward years,” or walked around the city where I grew up.

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Arid Lands

At times I was so sleep deprived I felt like I was on some strange drug, with the world moving by in slow motion like a movie montage. Elders waved canes at each other during cease-fire negotiations, assistant chiefs waved loaded assault rifles at perceived rivals, and yet another meal of goat stew and maize meal found its way to me for nourishment, day after day. Goats were ubiquitous and sometimes tasty: boiled, stewed, grilled, fried, hollowed out and stuffed with illegal AK-47 parts for shipment to Nairobi. In meetings with various people under trees and in urban, sewage-infested slum shacks, I was alternately blessed, cursed, begged, argued with, chased away, and welcomed, depending on the day.

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