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All in a Trip to Kenya: Visiting a Refugee Writer, Plus Election Night with Obama’s Grandma

 by Julie Hanus

Tags: reported writing, essay writing, Kenya, Andy Isaacson, Abebe Feyissa, Kakuma Refugee Camp, Traveling Souls, Kogelo, Barack Obama, president elect, Slate, U.S. News and World Report,

Abebe FeyissaUtne Reader contributor—and extremely well traveled journalist—Andy Isaacson dropped us a welcome line today: Isaacson recently had been in Kenya, where he met Abebe Feyissa, an Ethiopian refugee living in the Kakuma Camp and author of “Traveling Souls,” an essay about camp life that we excerpted in our Sept.-Oct. 2008 issue.

“I came across the article online while I was searching for Kakuma,” Isaacson writes. “I then visited the camp, last week, and found Abebe Feyissa. We spent several hours together over a couple days, talking and walking around the camp. I took him to the camp’s only cyber cafe so that he could see the article on Utne’s website—I wanted him to know where his words are reaching.”

Feyissa is an interesting, thoughtful man, writes Isaacson. “His predicament—he’s been in the camp for 17 years, and will not be leaving in the foreseeable future—was rather saddening.” All the same, we were heartened to hear that Isaacson had visited him.

During his month-long journey to Kenya, as it turns out, Isaacson also spent some time with U.S. president elect Barack Obama’s grandmother. Read his pre-election story on Slate, and then check out Isaacson’s account of post-election jubilation for U.S. News & World Report.

Isaacson’s previous stories for Utne Reader concerned indigenous medicine, the social significance of tea, and better design through biomimicry.

Image courtesy of Andy Isaacson.