Friday, December 16, 2011

Cowrie shells and the unknown!

Cowrie shells play an intimate role in west African society as it is often referred to as a source of divination since they play a part on the rituals and beliefs of many religions in the region.

The general pattern followed is that a number of shells are cast upon the ground after the practitioner invokes and saluted Orishas - a spirit. The pattern of the then cast shells are interpreted to convey a message.

In the recent past, out of curiosity I've gone and sat down with a couple of readers in the vicinity of Ouaga, one an elderly woman who is called by one and all as "Tanti" (Aunty) and the other an old man who lives in a mud hut a few km away in a little village.

The messages conveyed have been quite interesting to hear - and let me tell you that in both instances my decision to go see them were made on the spot, leaving no time for my guide to fill anyone up with any details about me.

Of the two however, the old man has impressed me the most nt only for the telling but for what he can do. Twice he's demonstrated something which I have absolutely no idea how he does it, even though I have tried to keep a close eye upon the ensuring events.

The first 'wonder' was when he fashioned a ring out of a piece of string, wrapped it up in a ball of paper and lit it up. Allowing it to burn for a few minutes he then extracted a metal ring from the burnt paper - and I have no idea how he did it.

On the second occasion he stuffed an empty tin with cotton waste, closed it and asked me to place my hand upon the lid and to speak out what my wish was.

I did, thinking out aloud what I needed. Taking my hand away he then opened the lid to now reveal it full of a black powder and absolutely no trace of the cotton. Having taken a smidgen of the powder out, he re closed the tin and tapped it twice, opening it to now revel the cotton back and the powder gone!

The readings themselves have been amazingly accurate, indicating the present and the future to come. Depended on the latter, the practitioner offers various ways of enhancing ones future or protecting against it, not that much different to how a someone with a similar practice would do so in SL.

All in all, I have to put this down in the list of things I dont know how they happen!

Monday, December 12, 2011

I'm still around....

Its been a while since I've posted, been enough reason for this, so caught up in getting through 2011 that there has just not been the space to sit a reflect on something to type.

As I come to the end of another year I have to confess that this is easily one of the most outstanding one's I've had. Now, I need to make it clear that it has not been an easy one, instead, truth be told, its been one of the hardest one's to deal with, but amazingly I have never been happier.

First off, if anyone is reading this, early in the year I made the decision to quit my job because work suddenly began to feel like work, which was kind of messy because I like my fun. So I quit, just walked away with no idea of where I was going next. This act was shortly followed by the news that I had a new responsibility to take care of which resulted in me having to delay my retirement plans by 20yrs.

In between act one and two, an angel appeared and made me an offer I could not refuse, resulting in me deciding to take off on my own and set up shop. Which I did, and while things have not been easy at all and look like they are only going to get harder in 2012, I have been having fun again.

So all in all, its been a great year and I hope its been just as good for you too!

In closing, a few of the latest pics

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bang Bang and life goes on

Sometime last night members of the Police force at one of the barracks on the eastern side of the capital stepped out on to the streets to roam the neighborhood  firing in the air.

This the latest in a string of protests about pay and the rising COL that Burkina has seen in the last few months.

The police "mutiny" then spread to the barracks of the Republican Security Company who are billeted right in the middle of the city, just two blocks from where I am accustomed to work from and 5 blocks from where we live.

Its a surreal situation with an area of one block around cordoned off to vehicular traffic, those businesses in the vicinity shuttered and closed as periodically the sound of gun fire can be heard from within.Beyond that point though, life goes on - businesses opened, trucks unloading and loading goods. goods being moved from point to point.... and yet, not 500m away from all the hustle and bustle guns are going off.

We live in strange times

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Travail's of living and working in Africa

In addition to the hardship factor - lack of amenities, poor infrastructure etc. there is also the possibility of 'situations' developing either as a result of a crack down on protests or in fighting amongst the powers that be,

During the course of the last three weeks, students marched the streets in protest of a killing two months ago, burning tires, throwing stones. This resulted in ALL schools being shut down for a three week period.

Last night disgruntle elements of the army took the streets firing into the air in a protest of their own. 5 colleagues had been sentenced to 18 months in jail for assaulting a civilian, a judgement apparently  they disagreed with.

From what I hear the shooting started around 11pm going on till the early hours of the morning. In the process shops looted, goods stolen as these elements ran through the centre of the city.

Going to work this morning, things seemed normal on the periphery, but shops remained closed in and around the Grand Marche. The only other  indication really that things were not quite as they should be was the closure of Filling Stations.

As I stood there, a few meters away from ground zero the tension in the air spiked; people began running, throwing glances over their shoulders, car's screeched away, pandemonium as pavement hawkers threw their goods together - clothes, shoes, food - and joined the flow; tables disappearing  in a twinkle made me think that this was a well practised routine.

Torn between taking out my camera and recording the events around me and the potential risk of doing so against the prosaic act of leaving actually took me some time to decide... I chose the later, deciding to return to the relative safety of my accommodation.

I don't quite know why I did that...

The latest is that these guys are threatening to hit the streets again this afternoon

Friday, March 11, 2011

I quit...

Nov 2010

Over the last few months I've logged a few miles between here and Colombo, with a short trip across to Gay Paree

That trip was notable for nothing more than an opportunity to fly aboard an Airbus A380 and what an aircraft it is!!

Take off and landing barely noticeable on this 'Super Jumbo' so smooth is its flight. Seating 525 people in a typical 3 class configuration, to fly in one an experience indeed!

All that done, to the east and back, I am back in good O'le Ouaga, and pretty much happy to be so...

Mar 2011

Item #23 on my Bucket List was "to walk away from a job" something that I never really thought I would do, ever. Well, I did just that last week, and amazingly feel wonderfully liberated by the experience of having done so.

I love my job, its taken me to places I could never imagine, showing more of the world than I could ever hope for and all the time I've done it with a passion and a fire determined to do the best that I could. Ha, not for a moment did I imagine where life would take me when I sat for an interview with the State Plantations Corp so many years ago!

A job is worth doing only as long as its fun, I've always maintained that if you found something you loved to do, you would never have to work a day in your life, and to me, tea was just that. From the tea gardens of Sri Lanka, to China, Darjeeling, the Blue Mountains of the Nilgiri's, the gently undulating tea fields of Kenya, Uganda and South Africa, been there, seen it all.

So, making this decision was not an easy one, but there is always a time and a place for everything, and this was my time to move on, it felt right, it feels exactly right, so much so that I've taken to asking myself if I should be worried that I am not worried.

I've quit my job, walked away from it because corporate policies and people's agenda's were getting in the way of me having fun, doing something I loved doing. I upped and said now enough, deciding that for once, I would dictate the terms.

The first question of course is what I quit this for - the short answer is "nothing". I now have a little less than 45 days to figure this all out.

I'm free-falling, having taken the plunge without a parachute I'm enjoying this exhilarating feeling I have... and in spite of it all, I know that just before I hit the ground, there's gonna be a gust which will send me soaring up up and away, off on another adventure.

                                          Salif Keita concert - 5 March 2011 In Ouagadougou

Handicrafts at a Trade Fair, Ouagadougou

High protein?

Regional traditional masks

Exquisite I thought

                                                                           High fashion

Monday, January 17, 2011


Four African kids, four lives.... wonder where they will be 2yrs from now....

Friday, November 26, 2010

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here

Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Bold those books you've read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read an excerpt. State how many you've read in the title. Tag other book nerds. Tag me as well so I can see your responses!
1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen 
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien 
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte  
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling  
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible                             
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte  
Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell  
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman 
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens 
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare 
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier 
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulkes
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger 
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck 
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy           
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens 
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis 
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - A thur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown    
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery 
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood 
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan          
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel         
52 Dune - Frank Herbert             
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck 
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo- Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy       
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce              
76 The Inferno – Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
 80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker 
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute 
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl 
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rainy season

The last month has been spent more or less on the road, and the last two days were spent in finding my way from Freetown in Sierra Leone to Monrovia in Liberia. With no direct flights between the two cities even though they are adjoining countries I had no option but to take the land route, an interesting trip I was told

The drive from Freetown to Bo, SL's second city with a population of 150,000 was uneventful and would have been singularly boring if not for the landscape along the way. This trip by the way was done in a Mahindra Bolero, a vehicle that seemed to have been built sans a suspension - the seats reminiscent of those little wooden chairs we see in pre school class rooms. Bo is a commercial town, spotted with diamond merchants who buy rough stones and then sell them on to clients in Europe and Dubai.

                                                      From Freetown to Bo, Sierra Leone

                                         Everyone works, irrespective of age -  Sierra Leone

                                                 Colored bolts of clothe - Bo, Sierra Leone

From Bo the next morning we set off for Kenema, a 30mt drive from Bo, where we needed to take a ferry across a river. But this being the rainy season the ferry was grounded forcing us to take an alternate route through a 'lightly' populated part of the countryside and jungle.

For the next 8hrs we rocked back and forth, left and right as Alfa battled the Bolero and the muddy road that meandered its way through a lush green countryside, thickets of forests, paddy fields and neat little villages along the way. These little plots of habitation, many miles from anywhere struck me most for their cleanliness, neatly cleaned yards, swept paths, smiling people and children absorbed in their own little worlds as they played under watchful eyes. These are little kids with big responsibilities, carrying water, minding livestock, planting crops, taking care if even smaller kids. They carry knifes and axes with a dexterity that even I dont posses!

                                                        The road to Liberia - Sierra Leone

At Sierra Leone's immigration & emigration facilities 28km short of the actual border, we were greeted with smiles from everyone including a barefoot man in the traditional grab of a Muslim carrying an infant in his arms. As the officers flicked through my passport this amiable man strolled across to jest with me about my name. It was only then that it began to dawn upon me that this man was in fact the senior office of this post!

The actual crossing was over a bridge and a river that had broken its banks to flood the adjoining areas, including the Sierra Leone police post on the border! On the Liberian side were met by 'Big Dada' the immigration officer dressed in desert battle fatigues a patch with the Liberian flag sawn on the sleeve of his right arm - this made an impression upon me as it was so similar to a US flag barring the fact that it bore one lone star as opposed to fifty

                                                  Border crossing Sierra Leone to Liberia

                                             The Liberian flag at  Bo Waterside - Liberia

The drive to Monrovia Liberia's capital was on a well built tarred road, our journey interrupted only by frequet 'check points' which offered the officials manning them an opportunity to make a pass for gifts. This is something to be expected in a country where the population is supposedly getting by on an average of US$ 1.30 a day. And the economy is the USD, the most used form of currently everything is priced in US$ in spite fo the fact that Liberia has its own 'Liberty' dollar.

The effect of the civil war that raged across this country from 1989 to 2003 devastated the population and cities, refugees streamed into adjoining countries, US warships anchored off the coast, an ECOWAS Peace keeping force tried to keep the warring factions apart. Charles Taylor ironically is being tried not for what happened here but for his role in Sierra Leone's civil war even though it was his 1989 Christmas Eve invasion of Nimba Country with a few hundred rebels that tore this country apart.

The UN's military force (UNMIL) and a number of NGO's still manage a large part of the country, though Liberia's government is headed by Africa's first elected female president - Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who came to head the nation in 2005.

There are still bullet holes to be seen in the facade of many buildings, abandoned buildings sit along side occupied ones, not much a difference between one or the other really except for a fresh coat of paint. Last night after dinner I stood by my hotel's door watching a torrent of water rage down along the street under the weight of a rain storm which lasted for three hours.

All said and done, there is yet a sense of liveliness in the people, smiles and animated chatter fills the streets, kids commandeer side streets for games of footie, like in the rest of Africa, the people still laugh and smile and face each day as a new one