Agnieszka Flak, a member of Washington and Lee's Class of 2003, is carving out an adventurous career in journalism, as an energy and commodities correspondent with Reuters. She's about to leave her most recent posting, in Johannesburg, South Africa, with fond and vivid memories of this excellent 2011 adventure: a 5,600-mile round trip from Johannesburg to Dar Es Salaam—on a Vespa scooter.
Agnieszka kicks off her June 10, 2013, piece for Reuters with style: "It sounded like a shotgun: bang, bang, bang. The back wheel swirled in a slalom and my Vespa scooter came to an abrupt stop. Not even halfway through my two-wheeled trip across parts of Africa and the back tyre burst. I steered away from the traffic that trailed behind me on this pothole-littered mountain pass, just as a truck gently nudged my back license plate. The 200 kg (440 lb) piled on the seat, two carriers and between my legs were too much for the seasoned two-wheeler and I got stuck: on top of a mountain in Tanzania's Baobab Valley, surrounded by baboons, possibly lions, and without a spare."
She and traveling companion Alberto Rinaldi also kept a blog about the journey: "Sharp Sharp, Vespa! Africa in Slow Motion on Two Little Wheels." That catchy name, writes Agnieszka, derives from the phrase South Africans used "to salute and cheer—we use it to tell our beloved Vespa: 'Don't give up!' "
At W&L, Agnieszka majored in theater and in journalism and mass communications. The year after graduation, she held a Watson Fellowship that took her from Croatia to Australia. She began her career with Reuters in 2007, and has since lived in Warsaw, London and Helsinki. She even did a temporary stint in Kabul. You can keep up with Agnieszka's Reuters stories on the company's website.
Her four years in Johannesburg may be coming to an end, but she and, presumably, the Vespa, are headed for a new Reuters assignment in another fascinating corner of the world: Italy.