True to Life


This advertisement for DSTV features a cut-out of Morgan Freeman from his role in the movie RED where he is pretending to be…

A corrupt African dictator.

Oh, Kenya…

Arbitrary Danger

I was shocked and saddened today to see that a photo journalist, Camille Lepage, was found murdered in the Central African Republic. I didn’t know her, and, while my study site in DRC was close to the border with CAR, I haven’t actually spent any time there.

So why was this story resonating so strongly with me?

My friend John made a comment that this girl was like a metaphorical sister, and that, perhaps of my over-empathy with her scenario, that it was hitting me harder because of my personal experience.

Blue Helmets – UN Peacekeepers

Lots of people could say that Camille died because she made dangerous choices, but that sort of blind safety netting irks me deeply. I live in Nairobi, and recently, we have been deluged with security alerts. Rumors have been running rampant, and when we arrived at work yesterday there were blue-helmeted peacekeeping forces doing double security checks at the entrance (not a normal occurrence).

No one is sure what is going on, aside from the receipt of the always nebulous term “credible threats.”

One could very easily argue that Nairobi is dangerous. But where do you draw the line between “kinda dangerous” and “really fucking dangerous”? Is there enough threat for me to get to bail on work? Of course not.

But today at lunch, when my colleague and I wanted to leave the compound for lunch so that we wouldn’t die of food poisoning   we did make the conscious choice not to eat at the Village Market because it is almost certainly a target, as a haven of wealth and expats.

At what point, though, are you living a life dictated by fear? Are you being smart, or scared? Where can you actually be “safe” by someone’s definition other than the moment’s?

In addition to the numerous emails I get from the UN’s Security department, I got an alert from the US Embassy here in Nairobi:

we would like to remind U.S. citizens that targets for these attacks could include hotels, nightclubs, shopping malls, diplomatic missions, transportation hubs, religious institutions, government offices, or public transportation.


Now, not to sound cynical, but is there a location that’s been left off this list, aside from LAURA’S BACKYARD? Or maybe the bathroom?

In comparison to the bulk of my colleagues and friends, I am generally nonplussed about the omnipresent dangers of living in Nairobi. I was living in NYC during 9/11, as I’ve mentioned, and it just makes me feel worse about something like Camille’s death.

She spent years in Juba, South Sudan. I spent years in DRCongo. I’m sure she felt, as I would have, that if you’ve already made it through something shittier and more dangerous that you’re probably okay in some place that is less obviously dangerous. But again, not only is the definition of “dangerous” completely arbitrary, but you’re using the same mentality as people who say they won’t get hit by a car because they never have been.

In today’s connected tech society, it becomes so easy to feel invulnerable and protected.  Your tendrils to the “outside world” make you feel like someone has your back, but it’s really just a fallacy. Here was Camille, tweeting away, 26, finding it hard to imagine that some instagram hipster filter would be the last view of her adventure anyone would ever get.

John suggested that maybe awesome stuff gets done by 20-year-olds because they’re unaware of how stupid and dangerous they’re being.

And maybe it’s because I’m older, but the thing that keeps resonating with me is how Camille’s parents must feel.  Proud of their daughter’s adventuresome spirit, and her ability to contribute things to the world view? To show a side of the world that few are brave enough to encounter?  Her killers will almost certainly never be found, and absolutely never be brought to justice. Does that mean that her parents must just mourn quietly, wondering why their daughter couldn’t have become a lawyer in Europe?

I’d ask my parents for their stances, but, as I’m currently living in a country that the State Department deems too dangerous to be in, I don’t think I want to know the answer.

RIP, Camille.  At least one person in the world will never question the choices you made.

African IMAX





That’s right, Kenya is among the only FOUR African countries to boast an IMAX theatre. And to be fair, South Africa shouldn’t even count since their theatre closed down and isn’t scheduled to reopen until November 2013.

The CRADLE of civilization right here — humans and their ability to wear ridiculous glasses and squeal at the technology that is THREE DEE.


Still cool, right?

I’ve now attempted to see 3 films at Nairobi’s very own IMAX theatre, located near the City Centre, on Mama Ngina Street.  Like some of the theatres I’ve visited in Uganda, this theatre also has the issue of film reels not always arriving when they’re meant to.

This theatre also has the odd distinction of being a 24 HOUR theatre — which might sometimes be really awesome for drunk people at 3am who really need someplace to go and have a craving for popcorn.  It also means that films that might be really awesome in IMAX 3D but not as popular as big action events — take for example the current battle between GRAVITY and THOR — are relegated to really awful showtimes.


I envision hot dogs sticking out of a cup of coffee

What? You don’t want to go to the theatre at 7am to see Gravity?  I don’t blame you. But having “morning” films does mean that you get the unique opportunity to have BREAKFAST of coffee and hot dog while watching the film.


It is likely preferable to some of their other offerings, which most notably include FLAVORED POPCORN.

I know everyone is all gaga about bacon, but seriously?  Stop.




The strangeness doesn’t really stop there, either… the place itself is lit a bit like a nightclub.  Last night when we went to see Thor 2, there was a live band playing in the lobby of the theatre throughout the film.

wpid-20131113_222723.jpgYou also get the addition of INTERNATIONAL films… like BOLLYWOOD action movies! I have no idea what happened in DHOOM 1 or DHOOM 2, but with a name like DHOOM 3 I’m pretty sure that I need to go and see this film, even if it is in Hindi.

Action? Adventure? Explosions? …SINGING!? Sign me up!

I am told by someone very smart that “Bollywood action films make Crank look like a calm film.”



And, like any proper movie theatre, at the side of the main IMAX theatre is a smaller theatre that is apparently the site of rap videos from the 1990’s.

Seriously, when we left Pacific Rim via the side door, there were old Biggie and Tupac videos playing on the screen there, a bar replete with neon runner lights, weird levels full of couches, and ladies booty tooching.

Maybe it’s a cultural difference? In a lot of theatres across Kenya you have to stand for the national anthem, and it shows before the previews with a low-resolution video of an undulating flag.


Of course, there are some things in theatres that never change.




The hot dogs look 300 years old and inedible











IMG_7585 The stairs to get to your seats are steep and of awkward height.











it’s a super place to go with friends.








Bottom line, we’re really lucky to have an IMAX theatre here in Kenya.

I can’t wait to see The Hobbit in its full format glory — and it’ll be here in BECEMBER!




Westgate today

I had the opportunity to visit the Westgate Mall site as part of my executive duties last week. It was extremely sad, which should go without saying, but for those in the West unsure of the extent of the damage of Westgate, the photos will make it very clear.

Please be aware that these photos may be upsetting

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