Conde Nast Traveler Dream Trip

22 09 2009


Earlier this year I started receiving issues of the Conde Nast Traveler.  I had never subscribed to the magazine, nor do I know of anyone who has subscribed for me.  Its monthly arrival is still a mystery to me, but it has become my favorite magazine of all time (yes, even better than Metropolis, my ex-favorite).

July’s edition featured a Dream Trip competition.  $25,000 for five nights in Sardinia, why not?  So… I set the magazine aside and jotted down “send the Kenyan homie photo to Conde Naste” on my to-do list.  I tried to upload my photo to the website this evening, but the ten finalists have already been selected.  Boo hoo!  There goes my $25,000 dream vacation.

To see the finalists’ photographs, CLICK HERE!


One Design Fix

21 09 2009


2010 METROPOLIS Next Generation Design Competition


Good design determines how well products, spaces, and systems work from the beginning. We think that great design ideas can make things work even better. One Design Fix for the Future challenges you to prove us right—whether you are an architect, interior designer, product designer, landscape designer, graphic designer, communication designer. We’re looking for ONE design fix you can make now in your designed environment—the products you use, your home, your workplace, your city, or any commercial application—that, in scale or as inspiration, can improve our future.

To enter, provide one small (but brilliant and elegant) fix—leading to an incremental (or dramatic) change in sustainability. Your fix needn’t have anything to do with “environmentalist engineering” to make a difference. Concentrate on what you know best, are aching to improve in a way that deploys your training and imagination.

DEADLINE: January 29, 2010

For more information visit:

Apendae Hajali Lawama

20 09 2009


This pretty khanga hangs over my bed…

A khanga is a colorful garment worn by women and occasionally by men throughout Eastern Africa.  The piece of printed cotton consists of a border, an overall print and a Swahili message or riddle known as a “jina”.  Each jina is unique to the design of the khanga…

African Languages tells me that my pretty khanga’s jina means “Love is a need to be blamed”.  Say what?!  Someone please explain this to me…

Every time I glance up at the cloth that hangs over my bed, I’m reminded of the balls that the kids at the CDC used to play with.  Plastic bags and khanga rags are all they needed to make a soccer ball… how creative… and heartwarming.

plastic bag football

There is an abundance of khangas throughout Kenya, which behooves me to use it in some form or the other in the design/construction of my school… I’m still brainstorming… but if you can think of an innovative use, by all means, share your ideas.


18 09 2009

I woke up this morning and realized that my room looked like a Kenyan shrine!  I have a purple Khanga hanging on my wall, a mahogany carved elephant on my armoire, a safari painting on my shelf, and a giraffe bookstands holding my African themed books.

I miss Africa… and so I plugged in my external and browsed though 1000 pictures and a couple hundred videos.  Here are a few that I have FINALLY found the time to upload…  I leave for Ohio tomorrow morning to visit an underground home with my friend and colleague Hillary.  If I’m not too exhausted when I get back, I’ll post some of my most memorable photographs.

A Day in the Slums of Mombasa

15 07 2009

Today we visited the slums of Bangladesh, Mombasa.  We played with the children and kept them occupied as the adults got tested for HIV/AIDS. 


Our friend Jose took us on a tour through the narrow streets of the slum.  We were told that we would find a breathtaking suprise at the end of our tour.


We came across this… A little boy taking a bath outside of his home with just a bucket of water and a sponge in his hand.  He obviously didn’t mind me taking a picture.


We reached the end of our tour and were taken aback by the most beautiful view of the island of Mombasa, right from the slums of Bangladesh.



I absolutely love Kenya.

HIV/AIDS has no Cure

13 07 2009

Today was our first working day at the Child Development Center, a primary school in Kilifi, which is about 45 minutes away from our hotel in Mombasa, Kenya.


We are trying to accomplish two main goals by the end of our three-week volunteer program: construct a dining hall, kitchen and storeroom (that’s one goal) and teach a few classes that are not offered in the student’s primary education cirriculum (like art and first aid).

I was deeply moved by a student’s response to the first assignment I distributed in class.

To get to know the students a little better (and get a feel for their artistic abilities), I asked each one of them to complete the following sentence “When I grow up I want to be a…” followed by a quick sketch of themselves.  Doctors, pilots, teachers and drivers were amongst the most common career choices. 

This is one student’s elaborated response on her career choice:

“When I grow up, I would like to be a doctor, so that I can come and help other people in treatement when they are in troubles.  Or maybe they are sick some suffer from malaria, cholora and HIV/AIDS.  By the way, I will just be helping them with HIV drugs for some days, but HIV/AIDS has no cure.”

Goodwill Academy

10 07 2009

I have been in Mombasa for five days now. My life has already changed.

I don’t know whether I should tell you about Jackson, the nine-year-old street boy who carries a small cardboard box stuffed with all of his belongings? Or about Ashoora, the three-year-old girl who ties a rag around her head to hide her beautiful baldhead?

Every experience thus far has touched my heart in one way or the other, but it was my visit to the Goodwill Academy that restored my confidence in my thesis project. In fact, I have decided to work with the Goodwill Academy and provide them with an educational facility that would support their academic efforts and celebrate the harmony and respect that exists amongst the Muslim and Christian student body.

To get to the Goodwill Academy in Likoni we had to cross the ocean to the mainland of Mombasa by means of an industrial ferryboat. George, our driver, friend and gifted writer, drove our decrepit bus onto the ferry’s platform. Once all the cars had been loaded, the gate of queued passengers was released and a storm of workers, mothers and children ran towards the ferry, cramming themselves between cars and every other inch of free space. Our group of volunteers decided to leave the comfort of our parked car and join the people on their journey to survival. The crisp wind blew through my hair and the smell of the ocean filled my lungs. The ferry glided over the still surface of the ocean. We arrived at our destination and began to disembark onto the meek terracotta earth.

Our bus made its way up the hill and took a sharp turn onto a dirt road. Concrete structures, no larger than a car’s trunk, lined each side of the serrated trail. Some were used as an open kitchen, some as homes for families of six and some as a backdrop to a kiosk adorned with colorful fruits and vegetables. Barefooted children ran towards our bus, jumping and screaming for joy at the sight of foreigners visiting their humble terrain. I slipped my hand through the crack in the window and waved my hands enthusiastically, saying “Jumbo, Jumbo” to every beautiful child sitting on the side of the road. We were minutes away from our destination.


I will do my very best to describe to you the first glance of the shabby school in the heart of Likoni:

The landscape enveloping the school was a deep and unkempt emerald green. Nestled in the effortless beauty was a field of reddish-brown earth. The children, in their buttoned down shirts and navy blue skirts and shorts were anxiously awaiting our arrival. Their uniforms were stained with the residue of the earth. Behind them stood a proud ram shackled structure with a sloped tin roof and a baby blue façade. The children stretched their arms out to shake our hands, proud to be able to say “hello” and “fine” in English. I held each child, touched by their warm and genuine welcoming.



A little girl, slightly out of uniform in her navy blue skirt and bright pink shirt, tugged on my hand until she acquired my full attention. She raised her arms to the sky, motioning for me to pick her up and wrap her around me. Her scarred legs, innocent smile and youthful trust filled me with compassion. Untangling Ashoora off of my body must have been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. The headmaster of the school was ready to give us a tour of the classrooms so I placed her on the ground and promised I’d be back in a bit.


The headmaster walked us through the dark and dingy classrooms. Each classroom contained a few wooden benches, a blackboard, plastic bags for backpacks and a small window that emitted an ounce of light into the dungeon of a classroom. The teachers expressed their gratefulness for the books that were donated the previous year. Apparently, the books had become the talk of the village, and now the school is known for it’s exceptional resources. This  year they are requesting new uniforms and desks.  Unfortunately, K4K’s budget doesn’t permit us to provide them with everything they need, but we will do our best to supply them with essentials.


I have been reflecting on my life and the life of the people I know. We complain about everything; our meal, the weather, and the noisy next-door neighbor. At the Goodwill Academy, a handshake, a smile, a piece of sugar cane the size of a pea, and a game of “Camel Walking” brings the children stupendous amounts of joy.

From this day forward I will make an effort to appreciate the little things in life.