Gregory Warner | New Hampshire Public Radio

Gregory Warner

Baruch Shpitzer, the reception manager at the Dan Jerusalem Hotel, prides himself on making tourists feel at home in his sprawling 9-story hotel and spa, built into a cliffside and featuring panoramic Old City views.

In March, though, his hospitality skills were put to the test. His reception desk was encased in plexiglass. His new arrivals were sometimes delivered by ambulance. None of them was staying at his hotel by choice.

"We speak to them to get them out from the shock that they're in when they're coming into the hotel," Shpitzer says.

The new coronavirus pandemic felt thousands of miles away, until it didn't. As cases in the U.S. skyrocketed, many noticed a shift — from watching the headlines, to watching what we touch. Listeners wrote in to our podcast, Rough Translation, describing feeling out of sync with their government, their friends, their neighbors.

But what about the disconnect inside one's own home?

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Mohamed Barud was a 31-year-old newlywed when he was sentenced to life in prison in Somalia.

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At 16, Roda Hassan was the top scoring girl student in her high school exams in all of Somaliland.

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To burn or not to burn? That is the question facing African countries in their fight against the multimillion-dollar illegal ivory trade.

Kenya, which introduced the world to burning ivory in 1989, still thinks it's a good idea. On Saturday morning, it hosted the most spectacular burn event yet: The tusks of nearly 7,000 elephants — 105 metric tons' worth — were set alight in 11 separate pyres in Nairobi's National Park.

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There's a stealthy nighttime battle taking place on the African savannah. It's a place where poachers stalk their prey — the animals that graze there. And they, the poachers, are in turn stalked by rangers trying to bring them in.

Now those rangers are trying out some new equipment using the kind of technology pioneered by the military.

It's known as the only national park in the world with a skyscraper skyline. Nairobi National Park, in the Kenyan capital, boasts elephants, giraffe, rhinos and lions roaming freely across a savannah a mere 4-mile drive from downtown.

But last night, the proximity of urban and natural environments got a bit too close.

When Netflix announced its expansion to 130 countries, including Kenya, Nairobi-based IT specialist Mark Irungu says he was thrilled.

He had never failed to find ways to stream Netflix, even when it was blocked in Kenya.

But, he says, touching his heart, "that morning, when I saw that Netflix is global? I can't compare it to anything else."

Political violence has engulfed the African nation of Burundi. The U.N. Security Council has passed a resolution to try and prevent potential genocide, while refugees have been pouring into neighboring Rwanda. Among them is a group of musicians who fled their homes without any instruments.

It's a recurring question throughout many parts of Africa: How long should a leader stay in power?

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame is the only president the country has had since 2000, and his tenure has been marked by stability and relative prosperity.

Now he's toying with the idea of running for a third term. Such moves by presidents in the neighboring states of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo have led to unrest.

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Africa will mark one year without polio on Tuesday. The last case was in Somalia in 2014.

But last week, a polio vaccination campaign in Kenya faced an unlikely opponent: The country's Conference of Catholic Bishops declared a boycott of the World Health Organization's vaccination campaign, saying they needed to "test" whether ingredients contain a derivative of estrogen. Dr. Wahome Ngare of the Kenyan Catholic Doctor's Association alleged that the presence of the female hormone could sterilize children.

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The billboard that President Obama will see when he exits the airport in Nairobi on Friday says: "Welcome Home, Mr. President."

Obama's Kenyan roots have been a source of pride, but at times a source of discord, too, in the land of his father's birth.

For example, when Barack Obama won the U.S. presidency in 2008, Kenyans were ecstatic. His victory was declared a national holiday.

Three high school students in Zanzibar have won a prize for a film that tackles a fierce debate in African classrooms: Should the teacher speak in English or the mother tongue? (This piece originally aired June 25, 2015 on Morning Edition.)

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Hundreds of mourners in Burundi spilled out of a funeral service Tuesday at a Catholic church, their hands raised and their palms open in what is now a global meme against police violence.

They were there to mourn an engineering student, Theogene Niyondiko, 28. He was shot last Friday by police during a protest against President Pierre Nkurunziza.

Traveling with the State Department in Africa, you feel like you're traveling in countries without people. Traffic-clogged roads are cleared in advance by security services. The two-hour drive from downtown Nairobi to the airport takes a beautiful 12 minutes.

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Secretary of State John Kerry has performed a secretarial first - the first secretary of state to set foot in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. Kerry's visit comes at a challenging time for that country, as most times seem to be. U.S.-backed African troops have taken back most of the major cities. But the Islamist militant group al-Shabab remains deadly. NPR's Gregory Warner is in Nairobi. He was with Secretary Kerry yesterday and joins us live on the line. And, Gregory, what was that visit like?

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At 16, Liz was beaten and repeatedly raped, then thrown unconscious into a pit latrine in Busia County, in Western Kenya. The local police doled out their own brand of "punishment": They ordered the assailants to cut the grass at the police station.

But after millions of people around the world petitioned for a stronger punishment, a trial began last year. And on Monday, three of her assailants were sentenced to 15 years in prison.

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Let's start with a spice quiz. One is a bean discovered in Mexico. One's a tree native to India. One's the seed of a fruit discovered in Indonesia.

Today vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg can all be found in any spice farm in Zanzibar — the East African archipelago that was used as a spice plantation by the 18th century Omani Empire.

I didn't travel all the way to Ethiopia just to meet a character out of the sitcom Seinfeld.

But when I heard Ethiopians describe a particular popular restaurant called Chane's, I couldn't help recognize a resemblance, in its owner and lead chef, to the famously brusque soup man.

Could a 12-step program, with its Christian roots, help addicts recover on a conservative Muslim island in the Indian Ocean?

Suleiman Mauly was desperate to find out. He'd been using heroin in his native Zanzibar since age 17. The island nation is a key stop for heroin smuggled from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Europe. An estimated 7 percent of the 1 million inhabitants are heroin addicts.

Mauly had tried to get clean a couple of times. It didn't work. Then he discovered a 12-step program in Mombasa, Kenya.

Hundreds of elementary schools were protesting the illegal seizure of their playground by a private developer in Nairobi, Kenya, when police fired tear gas into the crowd.

The incident sparked outrage across the city — and on social media, where Kenyans tweeted with the hashtag #OccupyPlayGround.

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