Hey ho everybody, and a hearty happy new year to all our Jewish readers out there. I am freshly back from Zanzibar where I spent four days easing myself into 5779, and I can safely say that, thus far, shofar sho good…. 😉
Anyhoo, why was I randomly in Zanzibar, you ask? Beaching it up while the other members of The Toa Nafasi Project kept hard at work?
I’ll tell you!
My dear friend, Nia-Malika Henderson, came to Tanzania for a long overdue visit!!
Friends since the summer of 1999, we met at the Radcliffe Publishing Course (still on my resume, not on Nia’s – “It’s a certificate course!”) where we were schooled in all things relating to book, magazine, and a soupçon of online publishing – remember, it was the ’90s!
Not long after that, we were both hired at Harcourt Brace where Nia was an editorial assistant and I was a publicity assistant. During those salad days of our careers, we became fast friends and have remained thus ever since.
Late bloomers, us, we each hit our strides in the last decade or so albeit in very different ways. I wound my way through publicity jobs at various publishing houses until a fateful job prospect that ended up hiring from within led me to Tanzania…. and to Toa Nafasi.
Nia left publishing much more quickly and went to Columbia (my alma mater!) School of Journalism, quickly rising through the newsy ranks as a beat reporter for The Baltimore Sun, Newsday, and The New York Times Magazine to political reporter for Politico and The Washington Post. Today, Nia is a bona fide superstar on CNN, a senior analyst who waxes political alongside Wolf Blitzer, Gloria Borger, and Dana Bash. (Can we all tell how proud and awed I am by her accomplishments?! How often do you get to turn on your TV and basically have one of your best friends tell you the news??!!)
Early on in my Tanzanian life, I welcomed many, many, MANY guests from home: family and friends from all walks of life. By about 2010, I’d say, people were kind of over it. “Sarah lives in Africa.” Only my parents kept coming back for more and, let’s face it, they kinda have to, Mom being secretary of the U.S. board of Toa and Dad general counsel. The excitement of hosting new peeps in Kilimanjaro had pretty much worn off.
Then came 2018…. and Nia! Late again, (I jest, I jest), she finally made her way over for two glorious weeks and I got the opportunity to show her around Moshi, visit the schools in The Project, send her off on a grand safari, and accompany her to Zanzibar.
In Swahili, nia means “purpose,” and, while I’m not sure the it was the purpose of her trip to bring us closer, it certainly was the outcome. We had such a great time, telling stories and reminiscing on our youth, that I felt that old excited feeling of welcoming people from another life into this new one I’ve created, not so new anymore. Nia even got to meet my cat Drogo, a dead ringer for her on-air colleague, Wolf.
She’s returned home now and I’m back at work, having traded in my beach towel and novel for this desk and laptop. But I still have my tan and the warm memories of my friend’s visit.