Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Africa Command’

West African Rhythms

March 30, 2011

Deborah Robin Croft, U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs Office

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 Mbalax (or Mbalakh), is the national dance music of Senegal and Gambia, and you can hear it swirling in the air wherever you go in these West African countries.  During a whirlwind three-country visit to Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and The Gambia, we had a chance to hear some of this music that was traditionally only sung by the Griots–combination mistrels-folksingers-oral historians–who played their special stringed instruments and sing in their native language, Wolof, to the accompaniment of the riti, balafon, tama and sabar drums. While in Senegal, I had the opportunity to visit a restaurant/art gallery where an excellent Griot musician interwove each of the names of our small entourage,  into an ancient serenade while we ate fresh Senegalese seafood.  

 Later, we went to the local Mali Market in Dakar, where we saw vendors plying all kinds of handmade wood carvings, colorful traditional fabrics, and beaded jewelry.  Of course, haggling is de’riguer for those of us who want to fit into the ways of the Senegalese people.  Everyone bargains in the marketplace.

After Senegal, we flew to Guinea-Bissau and heard Portuguese spoken as the main language.  Of course, the Portuguese also have a talent with cuisine so some of us had the Portuguese Steak with an egg on top. One of the secrets to Guinea-Bissau’s wonderful flavors is their fresh, local produce. One of their crop staples and main exports to India is the cashew nut.

After taking off and flying from Guinea-Bissau,  we went to see the Gambia. In the Gambia, we went to a local hospital in Banjul where the U.S. non-profit organization, Mercy Ships at has been working with their all volunteer medical staff, to repair the cleft palates and cleft lips of mostly children. The doctors perform about two surgeries per day, not only putting a smile on these young patients’ faces, but changing their lives for the better.

After visiting the hospital, we had lunch at the residence of the US Ambassador for The Gambia, Pamela White. I wish I could say we had a dip in the Oceanside pool, but we had to fly back to Senegal instead.

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Lagos Nigeria Travel Blog

February 7, 2011

Deborah Robin Croft wrote


Deborah Robin Croft, a member of U.S. Africa Command’s Public Affairs Office, is on temporary assignment in Abuja, Nigeria working at the U.S. Embassy.


Recently, during my TDY at the US Embassy in Nigeria, I had the chance to go to Lagos for a few days. Abuja is a planned city and was declared to be the capital of Nigeria in 1991. The streets are wide and there are median strips between the lanes with planters and trees and grass. The buildings are well built with architectural flourishes and there is quite a lot of green space around these buildings. There is even a natural landmark, Aso Rock, on the north western border of the city and Abuja is surrounded by rolling hills and has creeks and streams running through its center.

Not so in Lagos. Although Lagos is on the coast and there are coastal vistas as far as the eye can see on the southern end of the city, Lagos is a huge, sprawling urbanization with smoke and smog filled air, limiting visibility even on a sunny day. Another major problem for the almost 8 million inhabitants is the unrelenting traffic that clogs all of the roadways of the city from 7 AM until well after 7 PM daily.

As an American diplomat, my mobility was restricted to Victoria Island and I was allowed on Lagos mainland only to go to and from the airport. During my short stay however, I was able to convince the embassy drivers to take me to several areas where I could stick my head out of the window and shoot a few pictures from an overpass. We were able to go to one of the neighborhood markets as well but only for a very brief time. What I saw was both vibrant and inspiring and in some cases, deeply sobering. Here are some pictures of Lagos from my recent trip.

See also: Volunteering in Abuja, Nigeria Over the Holidays

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Colorful, Vibrant Nigeria

December 10, 2010

Deborah Robin Croft wrote

As we were flying over Nigeria, I couldn’t believe the diversity of the landscape below me. First, flying over the Northern part of the country, the desert below stretched endlessly for hours during the flight, with vast tan and ochre expanses sprinkled with ant-sized communities of human habitation. Slowly, the terrain became hillier and greener. Finally, muddy, rain-swollen rivers and pockets of water that must be lakes appeared. But the country is enormous and the flight seemed never-ending. When we finally stepped out of the plane, we were greeted by torrential rains because, at the end of October, it was still the tail-end of the rainy season.

It’s wonderful how green the planned capitol city of Abuja, Nigeria is during the rainy season.

Nigeria has many different tribes with their own languages. Some examples are the Yoruba in the northern part of the country and the Ibo in the South. One Saturday, our team at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja took a field trip to the Nike (pronounced Nee-Kay) Art Center where we were treated to a performance of traditional dances.
Nike is a famous artist in Nigeria. She is known for her hand-dyed cloth creations. So, our group of 20 had a class in tie-dye using dyes made from indigo, ground bark and vegetables. Nike’s artisans also showed us how to do wax paintings on the cloth using bird feathers as paint brushes.

In the month of November, right before Thanksgiving, the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Terence P. McCulley, traveled to several northern Nigerian towns to meet with local officials and leaders and to visit some USAID-Nigeria partnership projects. The experience was extremely rewarding and some of these projects are producing excellent results in fields as important and diverse as human health, international trade, and education. The best thing about Nigeria for me however, is the warm and vibrant culture and people.

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Supporting Shared Accord in Mozambique

July 26, 2010

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On 7/26/2010 9:18:42 AM
Sergeant Lydia Davey, Marine Forces Africa wrote

I thought I knew what to expect from the continent of Africa. Granted, my feet have only touched soil in seven countries here, but somehow I felt that I had it all figured out. However, Mozambique is full of surprises and newness.

The first surprise was the weather. I disembarked from the small aircraft yesterday morning into what can best be described as a tropic chill. Winter along the coast of southern Africa consists of temperatures typically ranging from 50-85 degrees Fahrenheit, and yesterday’s cool morning air begged for a jacket. No hot weather here.

The second surprise was the easy fusion of Portuguese and African styles in food, language and architecture. Although Mozambique gained its independence from Portugal more than thirty years ago, this place has certainly retained elements of that influence. Portuguese is still spoken here, the food has a distinctly Mediterranean flair (lots of grilled fish, simply prepared vegetables, and fresh fruit), and many of the homes and buildings here are constructed with red tile roofs and beautifully worked wrought iron.

Today’s events included a military brief to members of the local press about an upcoming combined exercise, SHARED ACCORD. One of the things I love about being a journalist is the sense of community that exists within our world. As U.S. and Mozambique military leaders spoke, the photographers, writers and videographers moved effortlessly around each other. With facial expressions and improvised sign language, we easily communicate our need for certain shots or angles. It didn’t matter that I don’t understand Portuguese, or that they might not speak English. We all had the same mission and a similar understanding of the courtesy and effort required to make that mission successful. That type of understanding is what I believe SHARED ACCORD will provide for Mozambique and the U.S. during the coming weeks.

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4th of July Blog

July 7, 2010

How did your family spend the 4th of July?

(MAJ Steven Lamb is Social Media Chief for U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs)

This is our first 4th of July in Germany and we have a family friend visiting from the states so we didn’t celebrate the Fourth in the same
fashion that we normally do.  We have been doing the tourist thing running our friend all over the Rhein River, to museums and shopping so
on Sunday we slept in then went to the market to grab fresh meats, cheeses and fruit for a buffet -style finger food dinner.  I am from
Texas and this is a big break from our traditional BBQ dinner of ribs and burgers.  I have been told this is a much more accepted version of
dinner in Europe anyhow and I have to admit it was very nice and not nearly as difficult to clean up……. Don’t get me wrong though, NOTHING beats BBQ ribs!

Our children were all off with friends for the day but we all gravitated toward Huskey Field on Patch Barracks in Southern Stuttgart to enjoy a
fest and fireworks that evening.  The fest was fun with a great band and lots to eat and the fireworks were pretty cool.  Having spent six years
at Ft. Knox and three at Ft. Hood we are somewhat spoiled though. Nothing quite compares to “Thunder Over Louisville” or the great show
they put on at Ft. Hood on the Fourth.  It was however a very nice show and a superb effort by our friends over at USAG Stuttgart Garrison to
bring a little slice of home to us here 6,000 miles from the US.


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