So Long, Farewell

More than four years, 1400+ posts later, it's time to say so long, farewell to this blog. Actually, I should have written this post a long time ago, making this blog's end all the more evident. It has been wonderful learning about and sharing so much creativity coming out of the continent. When I started this blog, I was sitting in a tukul in South Sudan with no idea the road that life and writing this blog would take me down.

While I am saying goodbye to Out & About Africa, I am very excited about exploring and sharing my own creativity through brandietendai.com. Yup! That's where I'll be starting from today. In addition, I'll still be on twitter and pinning all the things you would have found here and more on pinterest.

Thank you so much for sharing this journey with me and I hope we can continue together on the new site.

(Photo: Abby Ross)


Samuelsson Pictured

Love the coloring in these photographs of Ethiopian-Swedish chef Marcus Samuelsson.

{Photo: Bullett}

Shoes to Safety

Beautiful photo by Shannon Jensen of shoes worn by Sudanese fleeing the Blue Nile State into South Sudan for safety.

{Photo: The Lightbox}


Through the Lens: Chloe Sells


Based on the earlier photo posted this morning, I was so intrigued by the type of photography done by Chloe Sells, I decided to share a few more that she took in various parts of Africa...

{Photos: Chloe Sells}

Zanzibar: Another look

A very cool "view" of Zanzibar by photographer Chloe Sells.

{Photo: Lightbox}


Simply Egypt

Over the past year almost all the images from Egypt have been...urgh...is the only word I can think to describe them. So here are two simple and beautiful images that say something else about that African country.

{Photos: (a) and (b)}


This Building....

Love the colors and scenery in this shot. My love for abandoned spaces (this one in Southern Africa) knows no end....Can you imagine what this building must have looked like when it was originally finished?

{photo: barefoot traveller}


On Travel: This Pink Unit

I'm not sure why, but something about this soft pink unit in Monrovia kept grabbing my attention. I could see it from the office window the entire time I was there so, maybe it's consistent presence is what stood out the most....

{Photo: Brandie Tendai}


On Travel: Iron Ore & Rubber

One of the interesting things about visiting a place like Liberia is that one cannot run or hide from the blessing (and definitely curse) of the abundant natural resources that are available. It's something that I never even thought about as a kid but it's literally all around you here! While there is obviously the whole diamond opportunity, one cannot forget good ol' gold, timber, hydropower, iron ore, rubber and most recently oil.

As a kid rubber and iron ore were the main resources that held any meaning in my world and coming back here has brought back memories while also allowing me to see the extraction of natural resources through adult eyes. While I was in Buchanan, it was very interesting to a glimpse of the iron ore business in action. As a kid, this was done by the Liberia-American Swedish Minerals Company or LAMCO as everyone called it. The company started in Liberia in the late 1950s and ran operations straight through the early 1990s when it had to stop operations because of the war.

This company was at the very root of why I grew up in Buchanan in the the first place (i.e. my mom worked for the company) and why my entire sense of Buchanan is linked to the company (e.g. we lived in company residential housing, went to the company school, etc.). My friends were all children whose parents worked for the company and came from many places already Sweden was heavily represented.

As a kid, I had no clue as to why the company was there nor could I link iron ore to just about every aspect of how we live our lives (ummm just a reminder: iron ore is the main component in good ol' steel so imagine how much steel is including in the construction of just buildings around the world...not to mention all your old ships, etc.), but I did know that it was important. Today the company ArcelorMittal has taken over operations in this area while other companies that are known for their work in natural resource extraction and producing are also staking their presences here.

Equally important as iron ore, rubber and particularly Firestone, has a very salient place in my memory. If you have ever had to buy tires for a car, you'll know that Firestone tires was always an option. The company has been around just about forever, forging a close relationship with Henry Ford back in the day. Their presence in Liberia started in the 1920s and the company continues to have a major presence here today.

One always knew when you were approaching Firestone (and therefore were close to Monrovia) because you could smell the processing of rubber (which really stinks). What I had forgotten and was reminded off on this trip, was just how much of a plantation it really is. As you approach Firestone, you pass a gated area and the entire landscape in front of you changes. The grass is no longer wild and looks even greener than outside the plantation, rubber trees are all properly lined with their cups attached to capture the dripping sap, the road is paved and there are even sidewalks (clearly a rarity in this native land of mine)! There are housing units for the rubber tappers, schools, a hospital, grocery store and more. In fact, the whole operation makes the LAMCO area appear like they are only "playing" in the game while Firestone has clearly mastered the game! As we drove along, my nose was on full alert for the smell, and while it wasn't as overwhelming as I remember it, as we passed the processing area the stench of rubber was hard to miss, bringing back more nostalgia.

As an adult, what now stands out is how much the presence of these companies tell about the other side of the story. In U.S. history, I learned about the various American tycoons who made their fortunes on railroads, steel factories, etc. In the news, American communities continue to lament the bygone era of manufacturing where, just like here, everyone they knew worked for one or two factories (not to mention the simple fact that these companies provided jobs for low skilled workers). Well, just like those communities, Liberian communities (and those communities in so many parts of the world where natural resources are extracted) also have a long tale to tell about life on their end of that value chain. While communities on both side of the chain may not always be able to relate to each other, their fates are always linked.


On Travel: The Sandpit, Buchanan

These kids were having blast in a pile of sand and it was just too cute....

{Photo: Brandie Tendai}


On Travel: Buchanan, Liberia

Local Buchanan Beach

Some of you may remember that I grew up in Buchanan, Liberia until about a year before the war started. This is one of the main places I remember (or thought I remembered...) from my childhood. I have talked about this place with the sense of nostalgia that most people have when they remember a pleasant childhood including posts such as this.

A few days after arriving in Monrovia, I learned that I would get the opportunity to go to Buchanan for the first time in over 23 years. Needless to say I was dying with curiosity. It isn't often that one gets to visit their childhood home, especially when that area is far away in a war-torn country.

As we drove along the highway, I tried to see if I would recognize anything but besides Firestone (more on that later), the scenery was just a beautiful blur to me. Lush tropical trees hugged the paved highway and then the highway turned into a red dirt, pot-holed road bumping us along to our destination

Almost three hours after leaving Monrovia, the driver annouced that we were in Buchanan. Whatever sense of "aha...'home'" I was expecting to feel most certainly did not hit me! In fact, there was nothing about Buchanan that felt even remotely familiar! The streets were packed with the typical vision of markets lining the street and people, dogs, motorcycles, trucks, gutters, trash and everything in between all meshing into one mega chaotic blur. In my memory, "Buchanan" was a clean quite area where I ran along between housing to visit friends and this version most certainly was not measuring up.

I told the driver that I use to live in the old mining community area and he promised that we would pass the area known as "The Loop" - on our way to a local community that we had come to visit. As we approached the area (now run by a new mining community), the "Buchanan" that I knew started to take shape. The guards at the check-point to enter the Loop seemed familiar, or maybe it was just having the check-point there in the first place that triggered familiarity.

As we drove along, things became even more "normal looking" with neat little signs popping up and most importantly, everything related to the mining and the transportation of iron ore coming into view including rail cars loaded with sparkly black dirt, helmeted workers and most importantly, the port where ships awaited their precious cargo. This is clearly a community owned and managed by foreigners who are strictly here for business - big business - and the chaos of the real Buchanan has no place in this area!

We passed the main area and started to bump along some back roads and before I knew it, the beaches appeared just to my right. We would sink into one pot-hole and upon coming out would sneak another look at the coconut tree-lined beach front. Imagine miles and miles of untouched beaches with the Atlantic crashing unto the shores and coconuts awaiting for anyone with a panga! One meeting later, we were taken to this beautiful area where a river protecting a mangrove forest clashes with the Atlantic ocean (a place were some serious fish, sea turtles business takes place). While of course I couldn't remember this specific beach, just being on the coastline brought back memories of weekends spent in similar nearby beaches.

As we drove through "The Loop" again on our way back to "downtown" Buchanan, I noticed the sign for the residential areas. I knew that behind that second "inner loop" laid my old house, my old school, the old tennis courts, and more. A huge part of me was dying to see that inner "loop" (translation: I wanted to bust the second layer and run around people's private homes and lives to see my past), and was slightly heartbroken when we turned left toward Monrovia instead of right toward that area with the driver taunting "you'll see it the next time you come back!" Of course the "next time" is much easier said than done.

Nevertheless, the experience was brilliant, most of all because it really hit me that my memory of Buchanan was so completely limited to "The Loop" which had nothing to do with how those from the area really lived. Of course as an adult I knew it was a secluded experience, but the reality could never have hit me any way other than seeing the real town, and getting to speak to some of the local people and hear their experiences. Back then, I knew my experience as "the norm" and I was amazingly lucky enough to live a childhood where I could literally run around in blissful ignorance of the poverty surrounding me. While the reality does not taint the memory of my experience, getting to visit Buchanan today has put that memory into a more realistic context, allowing me to see so many things that I was too young to understand back then....

{Photos: Brandie Tendai}


On Travel: Monrovia, Liberia

hi all. this is really just a quick note to let you in on an amazing adventure I'm experiencing. You remember this post about my visa hassle from last week? Well that visa hoopla was all to return to LIBERIA! for those of you who either don't know or have forgotten, my family is from Liberia and this is where I grew up until I was 10 and the civil war led me to a whole different set of adventures.

despite my little visa hiccup last week, on Saturday, I flew off to Monrovia arriving on Sunday evening. It's been about 2 full days since I've been here and I really wish I could explain everything I'm experiencing. However rather than over analyzing everything, I'm trying to focus on just enjoying being back in Liberia after over 22 years.

but just to give you a tiny snippet of my trip....over the last few days i've subconsciously noticed my english slipping into "liberian english." I can see the curious look on the faces of my Liberian colleagues, many of who don't know i'm "from" here and then start asking. this is particularly funny because in the U.S. i've reached the point where i couldn't even fake a "liberian english" if i wanted to. but here, i've immediately felt comfortable speaking english the way it's "suppose" to be spoken, broken. as a mini reward, I walked to the reception desk of my hotel to "quarrel" because they hadn't replaced a blown extension cord in my room and the guy asked me how i learned how to speak liberian english! The swell of pride that overcame me cannot be described, nor can i properly explain why one would take pride in someone telling me I can speak the most broken version of the english language, yet nevertheless my eyes grew moist with joy!

I can't wait to share more with you, but for now, here are two mini photos that I've taken when I haven't been attending the meeting that I'm here for...the first a sign that I thoroughly enjoyed especially the "mama" liberia part, and the second taken while enjoying a sunset (rainbow included) on golden beach in Monrovia.