Sunday, December 13, 2020


Meet Thomas, My Arusha Friend

I am happy to introduce Thomas Ratsim, a friend of mine who lives in Arusha, Tanzania. He and I first met by pure chance in 2006, as I was wandering around Arusha with Professor Jon Watkins of Colorado College, working on logistics for a course on Hemingway in East Africa that I had proposed for that college.

We were delighted to meet Thomas and to learn that he was the program manager for a tour company and was experienced in hosting Americans. Jon and I took him on board, and the rest is history.

For many years, Thomas has been guiding visitors to Tanzania, especially Americans. We became close friends and collaborators since we are both passionate about showing foreigners our beloved country, my specialization being study abroad programs run by American colleges and universities in partnership with Tanzania and other African countries.

Thomas and I like reading books, and we share a particular interest in Ernest Hemingway, especially his East African writings. Here in the USA, Americans returning from Tanzania sometimes contact me, raving about Thomas and telling me that he told them about me and my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences.

I am honoured and grateful to have such a friend, who is highly regarded by visitors to Tanzania. We took the photo above on August 26, 2018 in Arusha.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Mwana: A Collection of Poems

Mwana is a collection of poems by Jackline Waziri, a budding UK based Tanzanian poet. She happens to be a great granddaughter of Shaaban Robert, the most famous Swahili writer.

Away from her ancestral homeland, Jackline brings up images of village life as well as some references to cities, notably Tanga and Dar es Salaam. The serenity of the village comes through, though in realistic rather than idyllic terms.

The earth is a recurring theme as the ultimate anchor of human identity and being--authentic being. Humans gain from staying connected with it. This notion comes out clearly in the poem titled "Children of the Village," which describes village children 

as they wandered, bare feet
     leaving no footprints,
        they touched earth.

Normally, we think of bare feet as signifying a lack, but Jackline sees how bare feet touch the earth. They thereby make the desired, natural connection between the human being and the earth. By implication, shoes are a barrier, representing our alienation from the earth. 

Certain parts of Mwana touched me in a particular way, such as this description of a woman in the poem "Tanga,"

                          It was that mama,
                              with her scarf
                     folded round and round,
                              laid on her head
and the bowl of fruits sitting peacefully on top of it.
                      And her bundle of joy,
                             sweetly wrapped
                          under the colourful 
                          kanga on her back.

The language is simple, and the description vivid, like a painting, if I may refer to the notion of painting with words, which I learned from the great poet Derek Walcott.

Mwana takes us across a landscape of memories and reflections about identity, the idea of home and belonging, tinged with nostalgia. Jackline is a promising poet with a great future. 

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Thursday, August 13, 2020

A New Outlet for my Books

Two of my books, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences and Matengo Folktales are now available from Planting People Growing Justice

The founder and director of this organization, Dr. Artika Tyner, is a law professor at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota. She had asked me if I would like to have my books sold by her organization.

She got to know about my books in 2018 when we both attended a fundraising event in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. She bought a numbest of copies and used the "Africans and Americans" book on a program in which she took Americans to Ghana. She co-directed this program with Ghanaian educator Monica Habia. After the trip, Monica told me how useful the book had been as a cultural orientation resource for the trip.

You can visit the website of Planting People Growing Justice. The two books are available in Tanzania as well, from Soma Book Cafe and A Novel Idea.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

My Book Helps Build Cultural Bridges

In the 24 July, 2020 edition of the NewsLeaders newsletter, Juliana Howard, on behalf of Cultural Bridges, a central Minnesota organization helping refugees and immigrants settle and succeed in that region, says some good things about my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences.

Cultural Bridges has as its mission to increase understanding and build relationships with our neighbors who have landed here from another country. Some are brown, some are Black, some are white. All are welcome! says Cultural Bridges. We hope that changing the column’s name to Cultural Connections will broaden our mission. Because many new arrivals come from Africa, I suggest reading the excellent book by Joseph Mbele, “Africans and Americans; Embracing Cultural Differences.” Mbele, a Tanzanian, is a professor of English at St. Olaf College in Northfield. The book is at Amazon and you can explore his website and see the work he is doing at

Sunday, May 3, 2020

My Zoom Presentation to South Central College

On April 28, I made a Zoom presentation to SCC and other U.S. educational institutions use in their Africa study abroad programs. I have given several talks at South Central College
before, including a public presentation and class visits. I had initially been invited to the College to talk about issues in my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, which SCC and other U.S. educational institutions use in their Africa study abroad programs

Due to the current restrictions on gatherings, South Central College invited me to give a Zoom presentation, instead, on "Understanding Each Other: Brothers and Sisters from Two Continents." I did, sitting in my office at St. Olaf College. Let me only say that my presentations are always conversational and easy going.  Listen to me here

Monday, January 6, 2020

Book Added to the Peace Corps Library

 My book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, has been added to the library of the Peace Corps in Washington DC. The director's message includes these words:

We will add it to the Peace Corps library where our staff and visitors can enjoy it.

I look forward to reading more of it as I find the topic to be very relevant and important to our work. I have already begun reading it, and it has reminded me of my own experiences in Togo, West Africa. As I was reading, I was struck by the section on eye contact. I really love the verses you included from the poem by Sufi poet Ibn ‘Arabi about the veiled woman and eye contact, and I got a good chuckle at your stories of misunderstandings—as I, as well surely all of us, have had many such experiences and misunderstandings.

The director's statement of how my book reminds her of her experiences in Africa is similar to what other Americans say about this book after their stay in Africa. Within Africa, the book is currently available in Tanzania from Soma Book Cafe, located in Dar es Salaam, and from A Novel Idea bookshop in Dar es Salaam and Arusha. It is available in Kenya as well, from Bookstop in the Yaya Center Mall, Nairobi.