A few of my favorite essays

Seeking a way to get more personal without getting less objective

While on assignment in Somalia a few years back, I found myself sitting in the waiting room of the Mogadishu mayor’s office alongside a dozen Somali men—some in white robes, some in baggy suits. One of them—an old man with a cane who was clearly blind—started talking in Somali to my translator. The man had heard me speaking and wanted to know what the “beautiful woman” was doing there.

Five days of peacemaking for an army squadron, then a bomb

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan — The honeymoon at this base in southeastern Afghanistan lasted five days. The first day on base, the squadron commander met with the border police chief. They chatted about security while sitting in overstuffed armchairs, shook hands and toured one of the Americans’ light-armored Stryker vehicles together. The massive Strykers look like tanks, except with wheels instead of tread. Back at the chow hall, soldiers raved about ice cream bars kept somewhat frozen in a tub of ice, praised the hot water in the shower tent and looked forward finally getting “outside the wire.”

Nigerian oil country: Where'd the traffic go?

The normally congested streets of Nigeria's oil capital were amazingly free of cars during this morning's rush hour. I've spent much of the my past two days in this city stuck in traffic jams, so I asked my driver why we were able to speed down a nearly open expressway at 9 a.m. His answer? "No fuel for the cars." Port Harcourt is a hub for drilling operations by oil majors like Shell, ExxonMobil and Italy's Agip, but the city itself experiences regular fuel shortages.