Sunday, December 30, 2007
It was rather coincidental that I happened to write about relationships a few days ago and how some of them had settled upon new planes. Two in particular stand out for as one meandered away another appeared.
Sometime last year my path crossed someone elses' and the experience was exhilarating; for along the way I made a friend. But, nothing last’s forever, and life is a never ending series of change. That for a while we shared common ground is what counts and I am happy for that encounter.
But as paths split, they also meet others and in life, nothings forgotten, nothings ever forgotten…. Pleasant it is when a path that one thought had disappeared should suddenly find its way back. And the wonder of friendship is that the really good ones pick up from where they dropped with nary a skip. This unexpected encounter has made me sit back and think about lost opportunities, about the doors that we never knock on for whatever reason, of the 'what ifs' of the past.
Friday, December 28, 2007
This year has certainly been full of it's moments. I've been driven to the point of screeching (yes, I can screech) and soared like a bird at times. The lows of the early part of the year replaced by a high in this last 28 days.
The Mangroves is almost done, and though it has brought me almost to the steps of the poor house, I am so pleased with the fact that it is. Constrained though I have been been, the end result is something that I am happy with and that is ultimately what counts. It is with a sense of satisfaction that I contemplate having achieved this.
Friendships too played a significant role this year in my life, relationships redefined, some renewed, some to settle on a new plain. Ghosts of the past were laid to rest and I am at peace with many things that made me restless.
A few more days and 2008 dawns. As things are, I am looking forward to it! There are a few things that I need to adjust myself to fit in with a particular environment; working on it I am. I have to if I am to keep myself sane.
On the other hand there is Life, Hope, Wish and Desire!
I suspect that the next year will be an interesting one - the stage is set me thinks for an impromptu performance.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
The last week has been spent in another world, one very different to what my life is right now, and one that I am wishing was my reality. A chanced meeting, albeit brief, but the echos of that moment have rung across more than a decade to resonate again with the crystal notes of a ice cold mountain stream. My soul is dancing to the music of the cosmos, soaring in the sky....
Life, Hope, Wish and Desire..... this is what fills me......
Monday, December 17, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
December is traditionally a month during which I am inclined to goof off, a tendency which I suspect is not peculiar to me alone. Fact is that having survived 11 months of the year, I figure I deserve a little time off to recuperate, prepare body mind and soul for the new year to come.
My year..... was certainly an interesting one, that I confess to. It surely had its moments. The year started off on a positive note. Professionally I was given responsibility for something which I was able to put my heart and soul into, and six months of rather exhaustive effort on my part certainly paid off. On the flip side, my relationship with my colleagues deteriorated significantly. Perhaps my demands too exacting, perhaps my bluntness. End result though, certainly more against me than in my favour.
I consider myself to be a principled individual. And I believe that these are not compromisable. I am exacting when it comes to my responsibilities and expect no less from those around me. Commendable attributes I like to think, but the nett result rather discouraging.
To balance my professional life, my personal life was at a high. The woman I love filled me in many ways, and the fact is that I could not think of anyone else but her to be there, to share my life with.
Come the mid part of the year, the chicken entrails suggested that I needed to divert my energies into something tangible, something constructive. Taking the advice literally I embarked upon building a retreat. Numerous permutations later the final draft was rather different to what I had envisaged, but quite pleasing to my not too discerning eye. The Mangroves was born. The end result has been quite satisfactory, and while much remains to be done; what has been done warms the cockles of my heart.
Around this time I also got to hit the road and travel back to Africa. It's strange that I always think of it as going back, but the fact is that I have developed such an affinity that it always feels good to do so. This time around I think I set a new record of sorts, 11 countries in 40 odd days. Exhausting, but oh so exhilarating too!
This year was also about personal relationships, more so than the last decade has been I think. New friendships were made and old ones re kindled. I consider myself a lucky man, for over the years I have been blessed with the friendship of some exceptional people. I will never find the words to express my gratitude for that but believe me, I am grateful. To each of you, I can only say that I love you. Some of you I have known for years, others have appeared in my heavens just recently. Each one of you knows me for what I am in varying degrees, some more intimately than others, but all of you have touched me.
An unexpected turn of events and, disconcertingly, things at home took a dive. Right now, there seems an uneasy balance of sorts, Perhaps the calm before the storm for I sense that more is to happen.... we shall see. I have come to some rather depressing conclusions though. The first is that a greater proportion of marriages now are shams. Perhaps they start off right,, but then, the demands of life begin to take their toll. It also takes a special kind of person to make things work too.
Oh life's paths...... I don't regret my choices, but you know, since of late, I've been thinking back to a time where I could have taken another path..... and I am wondering where that would have taken me.....
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Mr Chilcot, is Britons envoy to Sri Lanka. And the gentleman recently delivered an address at which he stated that Sri Lankan Parliamentarians could be bought
Now what he said is in reality something that most of us already think and an opinion I shared too till I was corrected and in a manner which left no doubt that I had been misguided in my opinion. Sri Lankan Parliamentarian's cannot be bought. That's a fact, and I want to make it clear that this is my stand.
Sadly the truth is that they can be rented. Retained if you wish until the next round of talks come about, until someone offers more perks, be in a position, financial benefits, whatever. The so called elected members of our government are corrupt, unprincipled and in no way qualified to hold the positions that they do.
That is the state our nation is in
Monday, December 10, 2007
That the winds of change had shifted I am left in no doubt, the last ten days have been good days for me and I cannot recollect feeling so complete as I have since the dawn of this last month of the year.... much like the star that herald a great event 2007 odd years ago, a star has appeared in my sky too.... soon to disappear perhaps, but for now, it fills my heavens with a light that is bright and warm and so right. For now, for the little time that I have, I will hold it.
The lagoon is littered with little coves and inlets that meander for a little distance before petering out. This weekend found me at ease alongside one, my thoughts miles away... it was pleasant to be there.
The paddle is relaxing, the physical exertion welcome. My mind, my self at peace.
I dared the open waters too, an attempt to paddle the surf. Perhaps not a good idea to do so by myself; for my attempt was a failier,
beaten back by the violence of the surf as it crashed the shore. The kayak's bouyancy is too much for a single person to manage. A lesson learnt.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
I've never been one to make friends easily; truth is, I rub most people off the wrong way. I am what I am and my life is guided by a few principles that I am not willing to compromise upon.... If this is difficult for some to digest, so be it.
But I digress....
Point I am trying to make, is that I 've got some really good mates. Some of them started of as lovers, before time and circumstances took us on different paths and yet, we managed to stay grand mates.... In my more emotional moments, I'm grateful to them all.
Monday, December 3, 2007
A swing in the wind Sarturday morn brought with it a sense of purpose and determination long missing in my life..... a sense of power which was only to grow stronger as the weekend progressed. Its good to be back, to be me.
The early part of the day was spent down at The Mangroves, work goes well, things are coming along nicely. I continue to be amazed at the sense of calmness that place weaves around me.
A night out to paint the town red that evening, to meet with old acquaintances and best of all, a friend. Life is strange in that way, you could know someone for many years and find nothing in common, or you could meet someone for a brief moment in time and have them touch you in a way that your soul dances. She is one such person. Someone I felt a sense of affinity to the moment we met, a sense of friendship that has withstood a decade during which our contact was of a bare casuality; and yet, knowing that just beneath the urbanity of our meetings, a sense of companionship.
Perhaps we will meet again, perhaps not, but the meeting has in its own way, brightened the light for me.
Saturday night was also a milestone for me I think. Something tells me that during the course of the evening, something went 'click'. I feel a sense of greater purpose now, that something of significance is about to launch itself.
Sunday, a few chores before lazing the rest of the day way...
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
But this was not to be, the rot was soon to set in, initially a spot which over the months has grown, to blight my life professionally as well as personally.
What concerns me most is the state of my relationship with the woman I love.... it's spiralling down, and I fear the worse.
I don't know what to do...
Friday, November 23, 2007
I haven't given my thought to my little hobby in the sense never really tried to articulate what it does for me. A conversation along those lines with a dear friend got me thinking about it.
Shooting from the hip, of everyday life perhaps the easiest to do. The art lies in blending into the background to remain unnoticed. Fauna cetainly the hardest for the right shot requiring patience and the ability to move with minute movements. I say this as one who has no paraphanalia except for a standard lens.
Shooting people, individuals is what I like best. To try and capture the essense of a person, to preserve for ever one singular moment.
The difficulty lies in finding someone unhibited, un affected by the presence of a camera. But when you do, ah, the moment can be magical! Alex was outstanding in the sense that the camera loved her.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Quietly forceful, original, and sensitive. Tend to stick to things until they are done. Extremely intuitive about people, and concerned for their feelings. Well-developed value systems which they strictly adhere to. Well-respected for their perserverence in doing the right thing. Likely to be individualistic, rather than leading or following.
Counselers, clergy, missionaries, teachers, medical doctors, dentists, chiropractors, psychologists, psychiatrists, writers, musicians, artists, psychics, photographers, child care workers, education consultants, librarians, marketeers, scientists, social workers.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
An unexpected email let loose a flood of memories of a time gone by. The mail itself was minuet, five words of no great significance, but its very arrival was an event of note; bringing to mind a line, nothings forgotten, nothings ever forgotten.
Well, the flood took me back in time, to delve upon a small part of it, to contemplate how life’s path winds, how it meanders and forks. It’s at time such as this that I wonder what was down the paths I didn’t take. In life, unlike on a road trip, you can’t go back and take the next road.
The culmination of this was me re visiting an old friend – The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint Exupery. A gift from that time in my past, it’s a book I return to time and time again, to read in its entirety or to pick and choose passages from it. This time, this time I will read it as I did the first, slowly, loosing myself in its telling, discovering the hidden truths to be found within its pages. And, to that gentle soul that touched me, thank you. You are thought of with warmth and always with a smile.
If pressed I will confess to three books which have moved me profoundly – This, The Little Prince, Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Mister God, This is Anna. Two I was introduced to, the third I read for the first time in Readers Digest.
But I digress, me thinks I do.....
I guess what I really want to say is that I am fortunate
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
experience so in line with the overall theme.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
I am now fully returned from my trip, and reality has bitten a largish chunk out of my arse. It speaks much about me when I say that I wish I was back on the road again, doing what I do best.
Work on the Mangroves has gone well, close upon completion though I have already run well out funds to finance it. But I will manage, it will be done.
Since my return I've had an opportunity to add to my pics, a few decent ones, nothing outstanding I hasten to assure you.
My day's have not been without drama and a fair amount of tension, both personally and professionally things are not too good right now. As things are, I need to maintain a low profile, try to mind my p's and q's and hope to survive to fight another day.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Saturday, October 13, 2007
So, here I am sitting in another airport, my tenth on the 41st day of my travels having done a whirl wind tour of Western Africa and Angola. My passport bears two new stamps, Senegal and this. Regretfully the Ethiopian one is not there in spite of the fact that I spent a night in the city – transit passengers are not considered to have actually been there! But I was, Scouts honour, and I have some pics to back me up too!
Impressions of Angola are mixed…. The people are not as friendly as I have found in the South, the East and West. Perhaps their many years of isolation, language difficulties are a possible contributory factor. But somehow I get the impression that they are generally rather suspicious… A smile is not often returned, something which is virtually unheard elsewhere, for Africans are quick to smile.
Things should change, and quickly too if the government allows it. But somehow, change when it comes, will not benefit the man on the street…. Certainly the infrastructure will improve, perhaps housing will too, but unless there is an effort to encourage the population to move out of the city, reduce congestion, develop local industry, it will remain difficult.
So, homeward bound I am…. Ah, my country, and its own difficulties. Life is becoming hard there, in what was such a beautiful place. The economy spiralling downward, inflation at levels never seen before. Making a living there is hard…. So little to show at the end of the day for all one’s efforts. I live a frugal lifestyle, and my earnings reasonable. Yet, the quality of my life is poor; for once the basics are paid for, utilities covered, there is nothing left, to enjoy life.
Thinking back, I suspect I did more when I was earning 3% of what I do now. Sure, housing was provided, domestics too, but 20yrs ago, my life style was of greater quality than now – for this I have successive governments to thank, most especially this one lead by a man I thought would make a difference. He has, he certainly has, but worsening our woes instead of reducing them.
Come Monday I shall be back, to deal with the daily drudge. My job has lost its glitter, only because of the kind of people guiding it, narrow minded, petty thinking.
My weekends I shall look forward too!!
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
My visit to Luanda has been, how do I put it, contradictory?
Its all that I expected it to be, and yet, not at all what I thought. Language a huge barrier, it does make communication difficult.
The streets that are there, are wide boulevards, no other word to describe them. The ones that run between them are gravel, dust and cratered like the bad side of the moon.
The majority of the houses are built of cement blocks, hastily thrown together, asbestos roofs, in every direction, as far as the eye can see.
Drainage systems seem non existent, I see many carrying waste water to chuck it into the drains that line the main thoroughfares..... and yet, everyone has a smile and walks to a rhythm that you do not see in Asia.
Pictures of the city I shall add later on, perhaps tonight. I confess to have become rather lazy...too long in harness.
Till then, a good night...
Sunday, October 7, 2007
My own dabbling with the art go back to perhaps 16 or 17. I remember the first photograph I took, using my step dads Olympus. I was trying to take a picture of the ripples on the lake in N'Eliya and I can still remember the sound as the camera tried to focus on the moving surface.
From there I went on to a tiny Olympus of my own, shooting film and then slides over a year when I shot off something like a 1000 pictures....
For a few years I lost touch, taking up a camera again perhaps in 2004. The most recent enthusiasm stems from seeing, now a dear friends, own efforts - Radsmatazz's. Now she has an eye for detail!
I'm starting to think I need to up-grade my equipment... all this time I've managed by playing around with the exposure, and some digital cheating. Filters perhaps?
Managed to find another hotel, more reasonably priced and within my budget!
It comes at a cost, but no complaints from me.
The rest of the day looks quiet.... Sunday in Luanda, what else can I say? A welcome phone call from a dear friend was pleasant - thank you Lucy!
Country list update 27 now and 12%.
Angola, a country of contradictions
- 50% unemployment
- 50% GDP from oil
- 90% of exports are oil
- 50% of food is imported
- 90% of the employed are in subsistence agriculture
- 70% of the population lives in and around Luanda... not a hotel bed to be found. The few that are there on average $200/-
- 27yrs of war
- 5yrs of peace
- The continents second largest open market - Rouke - is here
And yet, business has boomed, imports of foods, white goods etc doubled in two years.... what drives it, I don't know, yet.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
For the first time on this trip I feel insecure, not in control of my surroundings. A new city, a new country, another language contributing to this sense of unease.
I was expecting a long drawn out process at the airport - but strangely, when other more seasoned visitors were held back, I was waved through. Perhaps the bundle of passports I carry had something to do with it, could not have been my smile.
A sense of loneliness fills me, melancholy and even mildly depressed. While I enjoy my solitude, I am a man who enjoys company. The past month has been difficult, and with each passing day, I find myself yearning for human touch.
This evening, as I watched the sunset upon the city, I looked upon the block of flats below my hotel. No different to the scores around me, all with a sense of poverty about them. All the tenants on the forth floor had gathered this Saturday evening for a brai on the walk way. As they prepared their meal, some cooked, others danced to music, it was a sight of such profound simplicity.
It also occurred to me that the less fortunate know how to enjoy life. I look at my own, and it's never enough at the end of the day. I am too worried about tomorrow that I forget about today....
I mean not to sound stupid, life is not easy and I have no doubts that mine is far easier than a majority of the people that I share this earth planet with. Greener grass on the other side? Perhaps. There is a story I read starting with a tramp, residing by the side of a building, and as the tale unfolds, it goes from his perception upward, from the doorman of the building, to the security, the mail man, the administrator, so on, so forth, ending finally with the chairman of the company, looking upon the tramp and imagining his life to be far richer than his own.
A few hours sleep, and back to the airport for my connection. The city of Addis Ababa is a colourful one, roofs and walls in multi colours, and the green, red and gold flag of the nation decked every where in celebration of the Millennium!
Ethiopia just celebrated the dawn of the millennium, September 23rd. Why you may ask, a little late isn’t it? Well the reason is simple; Ethiopians still follow the Julian calendar, one that the rest of the world dropped a few years ago in favour of the Gregorian. From what I have been reading, Ethiopians from around the world flew home to celebrate the event.
The Molo airport is in an amazing location, at the end of a small plateau it gives the impression of being at the edge of a cliff.
On my way in, I took a few minutes to indulge myself and give me a present. A few months ago on a rip that was an utter disaster I lost my old leather jacket. It was all very stupid how it happened, but it did.
My indulgence then was a replacement, not quite what I had in mind, but close enough.
Lined up to board, I make the acquaintance of an exotically gorgeous Angolan – Julian. A business and finance major at a university in Bangkok, she was returning home on vacation.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
I've been sitting on it for the last eight hours, and yes I know it's supposed to be sat on, but there is a limit.
Landed in Dubai at 6, after a random walk around the airport I found myself a nice quiet corner to surf the net.
Another three hours to go.
The hours have passed pleasantly spent in chatting with a friend, doing e mails and basically making a pest of myself.
A 12 hr wait in Addis, then on to Luanda, where I hear I don't have a hotel reservation - long story. I'm hoping some woman will pick me up and take me home. The truth is more than a bed, I am rather keener on a toilet. After all, by the time I land, I would have, effectively, been travelling for more than 48hrs.
Shall keep you posted.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
In 33 days I have traveled through nine countries by aeroplane, helicopter, cars and a hovercraft. I've walked in the markets of each place, tramped through the mud, seen and smelled so much! If I was asked to name the one thing that stood out, I could not; five I can:
- The processions winding along the streets of Freetown
- The gate of no return on Goree Island
- The birds wheeling in the sky at dusk in Dakar
- The dance floor at Macumba
- The look in the eye of the immigration guy in Gambia as he tried to hassle me
- Seeing my brand served at the business class lounge of the International Airport in Ghana
I've been delayed 8hrs for the want of jet fuel, been escorted to collect my luggage without passing immigration as well as to a departure lounge to meet a client in the process, seen some amazing things and done a few new things too.
I shall miss it.
From here I go to Dubai for a 12hr wait till my flight to Addis Ababa and another 12hrs for my connection to Luanda. ( I intend changing my travel agent by the way, this is a god awful schedule she's given me)
A week or so in Luanda and I am on my way home.
The black Africans personality is an open one. I am talking about the majority of them who have not become westernised. What you see is what they are - they are open with their emotions, they smile when they are happy, they show anger when they are so. Its in Asian and Western cultures that people mask their emotions...
Saturday, September 29, 2007
The music was quite alien to me, certainly nothing like the stuff that I can relate to, but it certainly did add to the atmosphere.
This was one club where the women easily out numbered the men, who were in the majority white, a couple of blacks, and as far as I could see, one brown – me.
The women, well interesting, in all shapes and sizes, from a questionable 21 all the way to what looked like a bad 35! The not so good thing was that all of them were probably there on a commercial basis.
The good thing? Well, some of them certainly were gorgeous. Black African women tend to be rather uninhibited, and you know, it’s quite nice to watch. The dance floor consisted mainly of the girls, all facing the far wall which was a mirror, dancing by themselves, totally unself-consciously. Five Smirnoff Ice’s and after watching a couple of girls doing a raunchy dance on the floor, I figured it was time for me to hit the sack – it was after all, closer to one than midnight by then and my hormones were raging! I wonder am I becoming a dirty old man, Black Stiletto’s?
A recommendation for anyone staying in Accra – The Blue Royal Hotel in Ossu is quite pleasant. The only minus point is that the damn Wi-Fi is buggered but everything else is good. I haven’t seen the single rooms yet – the day I checked in they were full and I was given a double out of which I am yet to be thrown out. The staff is friendly, the breakfast adequate, the atmosphere pleasant.
Sri Lankan women are generally un approachable, the attitude seems to be that any sri lankan guy who dare’s say ‘hello’ is either trying to get into their pants or is a psycho. What happened to social interaction, chit chat? That said, if a white guy happened to even sneer, well……!
Yesterday afternoon I met a woman, must have been in her late twenties, lovely legs – LOL. Well we got talking, and you know, I learnt a few things that I didn’t know. So you see, chit chat is nice, ladies, it doesn’t mean that every guy who says hi is trying to whatever.
I need a hair cut.
I need a nap.
I hate eating by myself.
I don’t like sleeping alone.
I go to Togo tomorrow – a three hour drive from Accra to the border. My clients have invited me to stay with them, decent off them, uncouth of me to refuse. Truthfully though, I prefer the anonymity of a hotel.
Friday, September 28, 2007
My journey, so far, has been productive. Some of the markets are doing well and show tremendous growth potential, a few have needed to be re assessed; all of them are doing ok.
I’ve enjoyed my stay in SL, but I say that of all the places I travel to! I wish that I could find something positive about Guinea, but so far, very little has really become apparent.
I like Freetown for it’s atmosphere, and perhaps because I feel closer to my client here. In second place comes Banjul, for its restaurants and bars provide some welcome distraction after a day’s work. Bamako next, the Accra followed by Ouagadougou and Lome. Dakar will eventually move up if I get opportunities in the future to visit it again.
And that future is a little murky. In spite of my efforts, I feel alienated from my organisation. It concerns me greatly, for I like what I do, and me thinks that I leave no real room for any concern about the end results. And yet, yet I feel unappreciated….
Last night I took sometime off. Ended up at what is supposed to be a landmark of Freetown, Paddy’s Bar in Aberdeen. It was awfully quite when I walked in late evening, and the first two hours were spent sipping beer watching CSI! But the place did pick up and it was quite an experience to watch the local life around me. T’was 1 am when I laid my head upon my pillow!!
Sierra Leone is another land with potential, and me hopes that with the recent change in government, it will be well on its way towards progress. The new president is reputed to be a hard worker, appearing at his office well before 7 every morning, making surprise visits to the various ministries – I wish him well.
By the way, I took my first Hovercraft ride today…. It was quite something. The motion once at sea is a gentle rocking as the craft skims over the waves, quite a relaxing movement marred only by the noise the mixture of low and high pitch sounds can be irritating after a while.
The trip lasted a little more than 15 minutes I think. Highlight was the moment the craft lifted
itself upon the aircushion, lovely!
On my arrival I used the helicopter service. I subsequently heard about the two crashes last year, both resulting in fatalities. That service is no longer functional and another one taken it’s place, supervised I was told by the UN. I think I will stay with the hovercraft though in future. – Occupational hazards I guess
I’m tired. This trip has been exhausting, one day running into another, the constant need to be alert, it can be quite draining. I think I reach home on a Saturday. I have HUGE plans for the Sunday – to do absolutely nothing, except to loll in bed, watch some TV, eat a buriyani for lunch and sleep some more.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Almost everyone I spoke to seemed up beat about the recent Presidential Elections and the manner in which they had been conducted - a lesson perhaps for more mature democracy's like my own?
I am happy to see that all is well.
Chopper ride across the riverm roads remain un passable. Its an amasing expeirience. The hotel is a known one, so its like coming home. The location is stunning, over looking Aberdeen Bay.
Well, the first thing that ran through my mind was ‘Oh shit, here we go again…..’ From there it was a to make a mental calculation as to how I was gonna make my connections… I really need to plan my flights leaving a little more leeway for such things. Fortunately, there is still some confusion. Apparently the airlines flight from yesterday didn’t leave due to bad weather. That flight left this morning and is expected back in an hour….. This could be true; this could be a lie…. I have an hour before I find out.
From Banjul I go (god willing, weather and the airline permitting) back to Dakar and then on to Freetown, Sierra Leone. I am looking forward to this part of the journey, for a particular piece – the mode of transport from Lungi International to Freetown itself – helicopter or hovercraft. Since I flew the former last time, I am tempted to take the later on this occasion, another first.
First’s are nice ain’t they? The first time you get turned on, the first time your heart pounded, the first time you flew….
And then, moments of perfection! I still vividly recollect a perfect drive. It was late one night; I had been to dinner at a friend’s about 10km away from my own place. I drove home that night, fast, changing down as I entered corners, gearing up as I pulled out of them. My trusty old station wagon, the car that I carried a sand bag in the first few months till I learn to handle a light weight at the back….
I’ve been checked in, though the skies are dark with clouds. Travelling during the rainy season is risky business here.
So far I have travelled Dubai, Accra, Ouagadougou, Niamey, Bamako, Dakar, Conakry, Dakar and Banjul. Over the next few weeks it will be Dakar, Freetown, Accra, Lome, Accra, Dubai, Addis Ababa, Luanda, Addis Ababa, Dubai and then Colombo.
Well, I’m en route to Freetown, finally. You never really know, not till the plane is up and off the ground that you are actually going to get to your destination – not that taking off is any guarantee that you will actually get there, but that’s another story altogether and far too morbid for now.
I’m glad that I am not using the same airline I did the last time, the one that managed to misplace my baggage on a direct flight between two points. There was actually one of them, flying this morning from Banjul to Freetown, was expected to leave an hour before my flight. The passengers were boarded, and I was actually thinking that maybe I should have taken that flight, when everybody comes back again, the flight delayed for technical reasons!!!!
So what finally happened was that I reached Dakar before that flight did and may have even got to Freetown first if not for the fact that my flight was 30mts late coming in. This is travel in Africa, almost always, full of ‘fun’!
The next scheduled drama would consist of immigration in FT, then to see if my check in luggage has come with me. Enough for now?
I landed here with a clearance permit, which had my nationality wrong. I thought all was well since I passed immigration, but ended up being hauled into a back office just as I was stepping out.
Long story short, I eventually got out.
Poor pay, corruption are just some of the factors which result in officials praying upon travellers, not a good thing considering the amount of money those on tourism and business pump into a local economy. That Western Africa is a spot for people jumping across to Europe is another factor that makes passports from Asia, flagged.
A lot of the businesses in the region, the importers, are of Indian origin. From South Africa all the way up the eastern and western coasts, it’s Indians who have played a significant role in the economy as importers, traders and wholesalers of a range of products – tomato paste, condensed milk, cooking oil, match boxes, mosquito coils, ajinomoto, biscuits, tea, coffee, the list goes on. Liked they are not, tolerated they are.
The model, across many countries remains the same though, and it is an interesting one which provides a fascinating insight into the psyche of Indians – NRI’s as they are referred to back in India, Non resident Indian.
The head of the business is lord, god and master. Under him are between three to six fellow Indians; either family or young men on a three year contract. Under them are the localites.
Now, interestingly, very few of the Indians live separately. The model more often than not is that the Boss man provides accommodation and food, usually at his own house. This not only keeps the costs down it also ensures that he has a complete hold upon the day to day lives of the people working for him. I cannot imagine being able to work/ live under such conditions, could you? Breakfast and lunch are brought daily to the business premises, where the team sit down and eat together. Dinner I presume follows a similar pattern back at the house. To have to live, day in and day out, with the people that you work with, to have to share almost every meal, every waking and sleeping hour over a period of two or three years to me is so alien that I cannot even imagine it for a day.
As it is, on this machine gun fire trip of mine, I am glad at the days end to return to the anonymity of a hotel room, and my privacy. I recollect on my last trip, being accommodated with a client over three days; a wonderful gesture on their part, but one which by the second day had me tense as a spring.
And yet, for an Indian, it seems fine.
People, so different……
Thursday, September 20, 2007
It is mind bending to think that this beautiful island, rioting in colour has such dark past, for Goree was one of the points from which Black Africans stepped aboard ships destined for the New World and a life of slavery.
Subsequently a fort, the island is now a tourist attraction.
I walked the narrow streets, shaded by close buildings and trees, lush in greens and reds. The streets of Goree today are quite ones, disturbed only by an endless stream of tourist from around the world, including such notables a Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton and even a Pope.
At the islands highest point is a monument, funded by Black Americans it is a stylised boat in two pieces – one to signify the Black Africans who were torn from these shores and the other half for those who remained.
Walking back I sit down with Issa to indulge myself in a little bit of bargaining over a piece of art. It’s an abstract he tells me, representing all the peoples of Africa and he goes on to tell me that though the material can be valued, the idea, the art itself is priceless just so that I get the point. Issa is truly a worthy man.
His first price is outrageous, I expected no less…. I express my disdain with a laugh, telling him that he must not think of me as a tourist. He responds with a 20% discount…. Sitting myself down on the road, I invite him to give me a reasonable price. Another 10%... I respond with a number, 20% of his figure.
We seem to be at an impasse, so I double my price. He remains unmoved, coming down a mite. I offer him my last price, he declines. I see my host getting impatient... I get up to go, thanking Issa for his time…. As I walk away he comes back with a figure I am agreeable to – the picture is mine. As he removes it from the frame I ask him for one thing, to sign the year under his signature.
As I leave Issa, poses for a photograph holding our painting. His smile is big, so I am fairly confident that he made a decent sum off me.
It’s never the value finally, but the sense of a win win situation, paying an amount that both parties are happy with. Rule of the thumb, never ever go back to check the price!!!
For more pictures of Goree, see my pics at Flickr:
I leave Senegal tomorrow. My 25th country and more importantly, I do so having stood at the Western most spot of Africa. What remains are the Northern most and Eastern most points – I wonder where they are.
And ahead, perhaps a hovercraft ride!
Yesterday was spent walking the market place, talking to the wholesalers, looking at whats there. The market place a far cry from the Medina Market in Conakry; the roads all paved, cleaner, hustle and bustle aye...
Dakar, I am told, is an expensive city to live in... relatively so I am sure in comparison with others of its kind in the region. But it seems to be well built, and there certainly is a lot of road works going one, highways, fly-overs... all good.
Last evening I decided to treat myself to a fancy meal, and with a recommendation in hand out I did step, hailing a taxi to Lagoon II. Alas, the place was closed, and going by the rubble around it, not opening while I was there.
Fortunately logic prevailed, and I went in search of Lagoon I (http://www.lagon.sn/anglais/presentation_lagonl.htm), which, in spite of the improbability, I found a few hundred meters away.
The restaurant proper and a beautiful pier, stretching out into the ocean. Built in the 1950's the restaurant has a nautical bent to it's decorations, fish tanks, pictures, maritime knick-knacks etc. (By the way, this would not be a place to wear a naval uniform to, you could easily get mistaken for one of the restaurant staff who are all decked out in various naval uniforms - Lucy, thy hat would fit in so well here, would definitely create a stir!!
A beer first, locally produced Castel.
By the way, of all the different beers that I have drunk, (and I have drunk quite a few!) I have yet to find anything to beat a
Windhoek Lager (http://www.kewego.com/video/iLyROoaftIcL.html)
So, there I am, sitting over the ocean, beer close at hand, in this really magnificent restaurant, in Dakar, Senegal, West Africa.
A perusal of the menu left me with little choice but to order 'Fillet de merou sauce legere au colombo', which turned out to be a rather bland sauce, no where close to the fiery city I know; this in fact was reminiscent of a 'kirete', with a touch of sweetness to it. But, all things considered, it was a lovely experience, lacking just one thing, company, for I detest eating alone.
And that, for now, is it.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Showered, packed, a couple of hours and I am off again. And the last 48hrs have not been without some drama.
Bamako International, Mali and the first signs of something not quite right when the airline refused to interline my baggage all the way to Conakry.
My connection is through Dakar, Senegal, where I have a window of 90mts to go through immigration, get my bag and check in for the flight to Conakry. Sitting in Bamako it dawns upon me that my flight is running late, an hour so far. Worst case scenario is that I miss Guinea entirely, having an additional day in Dakar – not too bad.
Dakar, an hour behind schedule. Walking into the terminal I find ground staff looking for more souls such as me… boarding passes already issued, I am impressed at the efficiency. But wait, our luggage? ‘We’ll try and get in on, but the flight is already late’ which translates into that our luggage is not gonna catch the flight even though we will.
A minor exaggeration on my part, and I am escorted across the terminal to retrieve my bag. That in hand I arrive at the boarding gate to hand it over to the boarding crew. I’ve done my best, the rest will happen as it does. The bag could get placed on board, it could be left behind. I am tired, it’s been an exhausting day and I am fatigued.
Conakry…. Immigration and then a block. That visa is questioned for a date has been over written twice, thrice….. It’s a scam I think; the embassy issues the visa for a little grease, doing so in a way it allows the immigration guys to also create a situation to encourage more greasing. I decide to sit it out’ but then, from behind me a voice asking of me; my client, bless the dear man, he’s driven across to the airport to pick me up. He enters the fray and soon enough we are out and at the carousal… my bag, it’s here!
My hotel, one of the worst I’ve been in, but, good enough for the single night I will be here. Guinea lacks infrastructure, it is one of the few countries on my tour that I actually look upon with some sense of distaste. Even Freetown for all its poverty has a spirit to it that I cannot find here.
Buildings look shabby, the roads are dirty, and hotels are few and way too pricey. The US$50/- per night here is robbery when the amenities are looked at – large rooms, but badly furnished. Peeling paint, an occasional creepy crawly running across the floor. Hot water on tap, rust colour… Fortunately I am made of hardier stuff, I am OK.
This day spent tramping the market place, looking at the competition, talking to the wholesalers, updating myself on the market.
The hustle and bustle of the market place never ceases to amaze me. It’s not a place that I go to in my own country, and yet I find myself doing so many thousands of miles away from home.
As I type this I can hear the rain again…. Me thinks it best I change my clothes, don my pair of boots instead of the comfy casuals I had intended to wear.
But wait, I must speak of my first glimpse of Senegal… it looked exotic as we flew in from the west heading in from the sea. The city struck me as a well planned, well developed one and I am looking forward to my visit there. Senegal, Dakar, the Western most point of the African continent…. One evening I shall keep, to go stand at the edge, watch the sunset into an ocean that I know stretches all the way to South America with nothing in-between.
So, two new things to add to my life’s experiences – a new country and another continental edge.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Stepping out on to the street, the first taxi driver was not too receptive, and I have grown rather cagey about such souls, harmless though they maybe.
Lady luck though was looking my way, for the next taxi to stop brought with it a driver claiming to be no less than a brother to his Excellency the Ambassador himself!
Obtaining visas in the region to travel within the region is relatively easy. The official fee, bolstered with a little buckshee does wonders and it is not unusual to get what you want in a matter of hours, a day at the most.
Well, we arrive with no further ado at the embassy; my ‘chauffeur’ accompanies me inside and seems quite lordly about it too. The Secretary to the Ambassador appears, I state my request, an exchange between my new friend and him and voila, in ten minutes I am in possession of the required document, signed and stamped! I am impressed.
There is a saying in these parts, ‘C’est l’Afrique’, the equal of ‘This is Africa’…. An exclamation that covers not only the good but the bad too, Murphy’s Law if you like. For anything can happen. A flight delayed due to the absence of jet fuel, luggage lost for a few days, only to appear in another country altogether…. The trick is in keeping a smile on your face, to walk in Africa, expecting the worst, hoping, praying for the best.
I am happy to be here, for I enjoy the opportunity to move with people, to have a hands on approach to what I do. I do not miss my office, the people I work with, I do miss my Lady, my friends.
There is a young man I know here. The first day we met, attired in an old t shirt, a pair of jeans and scruff ed boots. His office, a cramped, dusty dimly light room, cluttered desk….. The next day he was still attired as he was 24hrs before. That evening as we met for dinner, his wardrobe remained as it was. And yet, outside, his chariot a BMW X5 SUV.
He is bright, he is young and he is a star this man. But to see him on the street, you would not know him to be so. Yesterday I toured his new office, a warehouse downstairs, his office upstairs, it was good to see his success, his achievements.
The drive from the hotel took about fifteen minutes, through the city streets, past the museum and the zoo, gently climbing up. Past the hospital, along a gravel road to see Bamako below, stretching ahead and to both sides.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Tombouctou is two days drive from here by car, across the Sahara. Alas, my schedule will not allow for it as I move on to Conakry in Guinea tomorrow. But next time, next time I will make time for it.
For today, in an hour I meet with a client, and then, after lunch perhaps a trip across town to see the caves of Bamako... if I do see them, I will share the experiance I assure you!
For now, I am a mite homesick... age catching up with me perhaps.....
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Day one of my journey took me to the Middle East, the UAE and Dubai. A lonely visit this time, for I was, for the first time, without a friend, and Dubai is not a city to be in alone.
Work occupied most of what little time I had; the rest spent walking around looking at the sites and sound that make that city so vibrant!
From the ME it was off to WA, entering my favourite continent through Accra, Ghana. Two days there, to meet with clients, walk the market and see how the new product was doing before taking (8 hours delayed) wing to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and the first of the francophone countries I will be touching base in.
Ouaga is a quaint little town, laid out, at least in the city centre, along parallel streets, which means that even a mutt like me can get around.
Seven days there spent in meetings, walking the market and most importantly getting visas for the next leg.
My journey this time will take me on to Niamey in Niger (where I am right now typing this) by car, back to Ouaga to fly on to Bamako Mali. Hopes to travel this time to Timbuktu (just want a t- shirt from there, lol) will not work out though. From Bamako to Guinea and the city of Conakry, then Dakar, Senegal.
With that part completed I am done of the French speaking countries, for now. The Gambia is English speaking and a country I like. Perhaps it’s because of the party atmosphere of the area that my hotel is, Senegambia, a few km short of the city proper.
From Banjul I go on to my favourite, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Crowded, narrow, congested streets, it somehow has a charm to it that I relish. From Lungi International airport, I board a helicopter to fly across the Sierra Leone River , a big, old Russian troop transporter, now ferrying arrivals and departees to and fro from the airport, a ten minute journey.
Freetown, then on to Accra for a short drive down along the coast to Lome, Togo and back into a French speaking country; with this done, my journey in this immediate area is done.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
I'm in the UAE as I write this, in the desert city of Dubai. I've always liked being here, its been pleasant; till now. This time around, for the first time I find myself alone, and its not a nice feeling at all......
A little bit of shitty news on top of that - hence the double damn - has not been welcome, given the larger picture. Naff said.
I am on the road, finally. A long trip ahead of me, 41 days, ten countries in all.... I am looking forward to the challenge, for I am in my element in such an environment.
So, over the next few weeks, I will be living out of a suitcase, trying to keep my wits about me as I walk in my favourite continent. I like Africa, I like the smell, the hues, the people - for at their best, they are a happy go lucky people, with big smiles, with huge hearts.
Lots of pic opps I hope!
Friday, August 31, 2007
The long, and the short of it, is that after far too much effort I am to leave on my little trip, to touch skin, to up date myself on the situation at ground zero.
More to come, over the next few days....
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Put eight monkeys in a room. In the middle of the room is a ladder, leading to a bunch of bananas hanging from a hook on the ceiling.
Each time a monkey tries to climb the ladder, all the monkeys are sprayed with ice water, which makes them miserable.
Whenever a monkey attempts to climb the ladder, all of the other monkeys, not wanting to be sprayed, set upon him and beat him up. Soon, none of the eight monkeys ever attempts to climb the ladder.
Take out one of the original monkeys, replace it with a new monkey. Seeing the bananas and the ladder, he wonders why none of the other monkeys are doing the obvious. But undaunted, he immediately begins to climb the ladder.
All the other monkeys fall upon him and beat him silly. He has no idea why.However, he no longer attempts to climb the ladder.
A second original monkey is removed and replaced.The newcomer again attempts to climb the ladder, but all the other monkeys hammer the crap out of him. This includes the previous new monkey, who is grateful that he's not on the receiving end this time, participates in the beating because all the other monkeys are doing it. However, he has no idea why he's attacking the new monkey.
One by one, all the original monkeys are replaced. Eight new monkeys are now in the room. None of them have ever been sprayed by ice water. None of them attempt to climb the ladder. All of them will enthusiastically beat up any new monkey who tries, without having any idea why.
This is how any company's policies get established
People, nature, the mundane and the impressive, I have been rather flexible in my choice of subject matter. The first real camera I had was a Russian Zenit with a Zeiss lens, a camera which allowed me exposures as long as 2o minutes! Sadly, it fell ill terminally a few years later. From that I moved on to a camera which doubled as my cam for a couple of years, till buying a Canon Powershot S1 IS (http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canons1is/)
But 'Nice' is not about me hobby, 'Nice' is about a picture I took a couple of years ago, titled the "River of Stone". I was down in the south eastern part of the country, ahead of me the road arched by trees; the lone occupant, a stray dog - http://www.flickr.com/photos/sigmadelta/382517611/
A few weeks ago, Cheryl wrote me asking if she could make a painting of the photograph, to which my response was a cheery yes. The result being this, which I think is lovely.
Biased I might be, for I am quite pleased about it all.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
For a very long time my heart's desire, to have a little place by water - a river, a stream, a lake, even the sea. I confess that there was little that I did in terms of an active search, preferring to chance upon places on the way to somewhere from another place. During the course of the years I have considered plots on the beach of Nilavali, at the edge of Lunugamvehera, in Habarana, finally to this place, 90 minutes south of our city, by the side of a lagoon, 500m from the sea.
Credit for this find must go to my lady, who urged me down one by-road and another, till eventually we came across this little plot. So, for this moment of sheer bliss, thank you my love.
Looking out from what will be the main entrance, what lies before me is the open expanse of the lagoon, extending in both directions. The far bank, lush green with vegetation extending all the way to the waters edge. Were I to stand slightly elevated, its possible on some days to see the ocean swell in the distance, even hear the crash of waves upon the beach. In my little toy I have paddled the entire length and breadth of this body of water, adventuring along some of its narrow paths, till running aground. The paddle to the beach is pleasant, under one of two small bridges over which run the rail track and the main southern highway, around and out to touch upon the golden sands and a beach renowned for turtles who come ashore at night to lay their eggs
The rustle of the leaves as the wind caresses them, the squeak of a branch rubbing against another, a dog's bark, a cow in the distance, voices, softened by distance and space.... I feel at peace here, quietly contented with my lot. All that is seemingly of crisis proportions, made insignificant by distance, time and the charm of this little piece of earth, I am responsible for. Tree's I will plant, the soil I shall cherish, trying to conserve what little is mine to look upon.
What beauty lies around me.... a rat snake, winding it's way amongst the branch's of a tree, stretching it's body to it's limit, moving from one tree to another.... the hawks that dive upon the lagoon when low water force the fish up to the surface, the curious eagle that flew so close to me that I could almost have reached up and touched it's talons.
I am content when I am here........