The Wealth of Nations

Who’s wealthier, a Maasai elder or your average American?

A few years ago, my wife and I enjoyed a marvelous hike through the bush of Tanzania while on safari. After camping in the village of Nainokanoka, we set off early with Moloton, our Maasai guide, and we walked amongst the buffalo, gazelles, wildebeest, and zebra on our way to a campsite at Empakaai, a gorgeous crater lake that legions of flamingos call home.

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It was positively Edenic … I still can’t believe my wife did it while pregnant …

Anyway, as we walked through some of the villages, I noticed an abundance of domesticated animals grazing around the boma— cattle, goats, sheep, chickens.

Since this was a long hike, I had lots of time to get lost in thought. And I kept pondering the question at the top of this page. (more…)

Lagos: Reflections on the Epicenter of the Frontier Market Phenomenon

Nigeria is not a great country. It is one of the most disorderly nations in the world. It is one of the most corrupt, insensitive, inefficient places under the sun … It is dirty, callous, noisy, ostentatious, dishonest and vulgar. In short, it is among the most unpleasant places on earth!1

It’s dirty and an environmental nightmare, with piles of rubbish literally everywhere, and its natural resources have been stripped bare. Nothing works and everything is seriously dilapidated, the infrastructure is totally inadequate, there are frequent shortages of fuel, electricity and water, and vehicle traffic and human congestion are tremendous … It’s appalling and awful, fascinating and appealing, and funny and sad, all at the same time; Nigeria is that extreme … But if you’re up to the challenge, it’s one of the most exciting and engaging countries in the world and I have been treated with nothing but friendliness and helpfulness at all times.2

I would say that Ikoyi island is fine to wander but VI might be a bit dodge. I can only share the story of a [brewing company] employee who wandered home from a bar in VI drunk and, after a brief express kidnap, found himself deposited in the middle of the third mainland bridge wearing only his Y-front underpants and facing a long walk home …3

To say my expectations for Lagos, Nigeria were low would be an understatement. They were positively subterranean. Despite the intervening three decades since Chinua Achebe composed The Trouble with Nigeria—source of the opening quote to this post—virtually everyone I knew who had visited Nigeria believed it to be an accurate description of the country today, and they left me with the distinct impression that I (1) was an idiot; (2) had signed up for a miserable experience; and (3) may very well not make it home alive. I was half convinced I was going to be kidnapped by Boko Haram. (more…)

Rome

Il Colosseo, an evening before flying to Cairo.
Il Colosseo, an evening before flying to Cairo, 2008.

 

…in 1860 the lights and shadows were still mediaeval, and mediaeval Rome was alive; the shadows breathed and glowed, full of soft forms felt by lost senses.  No sand-blast of science had yet skinned off the epidermis of history, thought, and feeling.  The pictures were uncleaned, the churches unrestored, the ruins unexcavated.  Mediaeval Rome was sorcery.  Rome was the worst spot on earth to teach nineteenth-century youth what to do with a twentieth-century world.  One’s emotions in Rome were one’s private affair, like one’s glass of absinthe before dinner in the Palais Royal; they must be hurtful, else they could not have been so intense; and they were surely immoral, for no one, priest or politician, could honestly read in the ruins of Rome any other certain lesson than that they were evidence of the just judgments of an outraged God against all the doings of man … Two great experiments of Western civilization had left there the chief monuments of their failure, and nothing proved that the city might not still survive to express the failure of a third … Rome dwarfs teachers.  The greatest men of the age scarcely bore the test of posing with Rome for a background.1

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Note:

1 Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams (Oxford World’s Classics, 2008), pgs. 79-81.

 

Munich Nights

This was fun music, joyous music, not the austere minimal techno of downstairs, or the jazzy techno of Jonson and Minilogue, or the hardcore techno that would inspire one to press the dwarf. The bass rattled the empty tin record bins behind the d.j.1

To those who are into these sorts of things, the latest issue of The New Yorker has an essay on the techno music/club scene in Berlin (“Berlin Nights”). I’ve not been to Berlin, and the scene in the article is not my cup of tea, but I do enjoy electronic music and have managed to emerge from clubs bleary-eyed with ears ringing in cities ranging from Rio to Moscow.

The New Yorker piece brought to mind a relatively recent weekend layover in Munich that ended with a pretty sweet, impromptu techno music experience. (more…)