Friday, November 28, 2008

Flat tire

This certainly a week of 1st's for me!

First 1st was driving cross border from Burkina Faso to Niger - a distance of some 360 odd km covered in 6hrs including stops for breakfast, border controls and toll gates.

1st number two was changing a flat tire in Niger - I've changed punctured tires before, just never did it in Niger till yesterday

Number three was a ride in a pirogue along the Niger River... paddle by a boatman who promised me hippos.

Returned home this afternoon, feeling rather pleased with myself and the fact that the car survived the trip too. That I drove there and back again, navigated the streets of a new city and managed not to get copped (well I did, twice but talked my way out of it)

And best of all two photographs I've been wanting to take for quite sometime - a Baobab tree at dawn and the border between Niger and Burkina Faso.

The two countries maintain their respective cross points about 10km apart, each one well withing the borders of their country. Perhaps its got to do with advance warning if an army invades I don't know.

Towards the center though are two boards, one welcoming you to Niger and the other to Burkina - and yet they are far apart.

The real point as far as I am concerned is the road. The two surfaces are discernible to the eye!

Take a look, to the right is Burkina and the left is Niger

Monday, November 24, 2008


The weekend was spent in the outskirts of Ouaga, a little hotel in the village of Koubri.

A guest of my client here I was part of a group of 30 people who meet every year in celebration of birthdays and anniversaries.

For a loner such as me, such events can be painful and I am glad of the excuse I have to hide behind my lens...

Sunday morning I woke before dawn to stroll down to the lake and out on to the water. The next couple of hours were pure magic as I alternatively sat and stood, watching the light emerge, the sun come up. As I treated myself to this outrageous sunrise I listened to Ali Farka Toure, the ideal music for the moment.

My thoughts drifted into the past, the present and I wondered where my path would take me... certainly not where I thought it would six months ago... for that seems a dream now, that which seemed so attainable now so far beyond my grasp...

There is a new future ahead, I have to believe that, and I have to believe that I can make it, whatever it is

Thursday, November 20, 2008

its strange

You'd think that if you were poor, you would eat anything, right? I mean I eat what I can afford to, and there is little that I would say I don't eat if it falls into the list of 'usual' things I eat.

I employ a cook - a girl of about 25 who came highly recommended - and truth is she is good. The deal is pay plus lunch provided.

This afternoon I decided to have cous cous as an alternative to rice. The fare was cous cous with diced tomatoes and sardines in a sauce - wholesome, tasty fare.

Tempted as i was to tuck in, mindful that there was one more to eat I restrained myself - you can imagine my surprise a little later on when I was asked for money to eat from out. The reason was that she did not eat cous cous! I was flabbergasted to say the least. Cous cous here eaten often enough, I could have understood it if it was a food completely alien to the culture, but its not!

Its attitude I presume, and its sad because I see it as an impediment towards bettering oneself... if you aint gonna manage with what you have how do you get the things you wont? This afternoon I got into a discussion over a jobless man washing windscreens at traffic lights. As I made to tell him to stop, my companion stayed me saying its better he does this than rob. I see the sense, but what he is trying to do is of no value to me, so why would I pay? because he 'worked'? I demonstrated my disdain for the argument by running my wipers and asking my friend to now pay me as I had performed the same service

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I'm gaining an appreciation for:

- People who can cook

- Sharp knives

- Spices

- Coconut milk and the powder ( I still don't know where it all fits in, but I'm sure it makes a difference)

- For all things fried!

- For dishwashers

- for all the things relating to cooking that I don't know

Help, anyone.....?

I've just made rice boiled with salted water, cloves and a chicken cube - it looks like kiri bath, I'm sure its supposed to be fluffy, drat, its burnt!

I'm boiling pieces of pork in salted water into which I've thrown in curry powder... I have this vague idea of frying after that with tomatoes, onions, garlic and parsley... having survived a premonition of a plane crash I might just do myself in trying to cook.

Wait, no need to panic, I have beer at home... a few of those and anything I cook should taste good - always, ALWAYS have a back up plan.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I survived my dream

I'm keeping that 200/- close to me, just in case...

Ali Farka Toure - "Talking Timbuktu"

The fifth CD of African music I've began to acquire - this one considered one of the continents renowned musicians who past away in 2006

'Talking Timbuktu' is a collection of music that "....shoved Ali Farka Toure to the forefront of African music paradoxically isolated him from his African roots and drove him to retreat from the world for years after its release. It was also, incidentally, a long-overdue synthesis that connected the dots between Delta Blues and West African music, with the help of co-conspirator Ry Cooder...."

One video link on the right


I have internet! Someone's wi-fi, hey as long as I'm logged on, what the heck eh?

This is my forth time through this airport, the last not too far back, in October. Not much has seemed to change. Its a strange feeling to be thinking that I'm on my way home, to Ouagadougou Burkina Faso and not Colombo Sri Lanka - I don't know when I'll see the later... depressing, I've always loved SL, in spite of or perhaps because of my travels I've always loved coming back. Perhaps the only time I felt otherwise was returning for the last time from South Africa.

An ode to me - just in case

I lived

Certainly not perfectly

Not in style

Fumbled along the way

Laughed more than I cried

Spoke less than I listened

Regrets I have

For not being a nicer person

Grateful I am

For not being worse than I am

I lived

My way

Of death

For a few months now I've been troubled by my mortality and the eventuality of death. Its as if with the running of the sands of time, my thoughts are turning towards the fact that I have but one life of which 50% is done.

Plagued with respiratory problems for a year now, suffocating to death, unable to draw a breath has occurred to me - and given my occupation, the chances that if it does happen I'll be all alone even more morbid.

A few months ago I had a dream in which I was told that 'my end was near'... it must have been playing at the back of my mind for last night I dream't along the same lines where this old woman predicted my death today! Somehow the sum of Rs 250/- came up and, as the dream went, there was a chance that I might avoid the fates if someone were to give me Rs200/-.

And in my dream I received it - two hundred rupee notes from two people, old woman included. Two people who obviously could not afford to give such a sum. That I live in a part of the world where life is cheap, that death during the course of travel is not unusual is not a help. That I am scheduled to fly this evening is a little scary, given that I flew in on the same airline to one of the worst landings I ever had.

On giving, I am a believer in doing so, in what manner I can, however small it may be. I am not indiscriminate in doing so, choosing to evaluate carefully the impact more often than not.

To return to my dream; I woke up with these images in my head and to the thought that I had 200 bucks in my bag, that I needed to carry it with me. I probably sound real silly for doing so, but I just stuffed the two notes into my wallet; just in case they do help.

If shit happens, and someone reads this, well I guess there is a thing called premonition after all. If it does happen, I just want you to know that I so wish there had been another way of proving it and living to tell the tale too.


Friday, November 14, 2008

I do this too often...

... sit in hotel rooms, watching tv, waiting for the hours to pass by...

On the road

At my pâtisserie, well the only one I know - Le Relax - in Bamako, Mali. Arrived late last night, crashed out after a cold beer to spend a not so rested night tossing and turning. I think I am a little annoyed with my hotel, time to change my patronage.

A meeting this morning, another later this afternoon, one more tomorrow - I wonder if time permits me to do a little site seeing? Have found an amazingly interesting Taxi Driver by the name of Alpha who's history is colorful to say the least. A Emerald trader now fallen on hard times. Fluent in English after many years in Zambia plying his former trade, deported now, legalities separating him from his Zambian wife and children he dreams of going "home' to them one day. In the interim, he ekes a living driving on the streets of Bamako.

Life eh?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I've been here, what, almost three weeks? The semblance of a life coming together little by little, the trappings of civilization acquired one by one - most recently a tv!

My last Sunday was easily one of the most depressing days in my life, one where I found myself questioning my decision to move out here into Africa. Alone at home the entire day sans stimulation of any sort I raced into the bluest if funks leaving me curled up desperately trying to keep myself from screaming.

Imagine if you will finding yourself alone in an empty house, empty of books, music, a television, even decoration.Imagine being all alone with no one to talk to, the heat gradually rising to the its norm of 34c, not a soul around, not a sound but that of a buzzing fly. Imagine if you will, this situation for hours on end, endlessly slow hours one after the other. It speaks volumes that my mental status was such that it did not even occur to me to find oblivion in a bottle!

But I survived.

Me thinks the lack of work was it. Fortunately I am off tomorrow to Bamako Mali to see some clients.

Hopeful by the end of this week or early next I will have a car to call my own, ti sit in and pretend I am on the road somewhere.

PS: By the way, I had my first complete conversation over the phone in french today. So ok, it was like how are you and I am fine and by the way, I'm leaving for Mali tomorrow for a couple of day's. I'll call you when I get back... and no, I'm sorry but I will be out this evening kind of conversation - but hey, it was in french!

Friday, November 7, 2008

My new home

Time now perhaps to pen a few words about where I find myself - Ouagadougou (wa gaa doo goo), in Burkina Faso, West Africa.

The geographical heart of the region Burkina is a land locked country sharing its boundaries with 6 other nations - Ghana, Togo, Benin, Niger, Mali and Cote d'Ivoire. It may be one of the poorest nations in the world, but it's also one of the most stable in the region.

My markets, well the ones I'm responsible for are here in West Africa - Ghana, Burkina, Niger, Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Senegal, The Gambia, Togo... Over the last three years I've traveled here, once a year for four to five weeks, awhile wind tour, meeting clients, looking at how things fare.

Along the way, I decided to make this hope and was rather surprised when things actually worked out in that fashion!

So here I am, and I am wondering today if I made the right call! Its damn hot, it was 40 this morning at 10am, and I just found out that the max temp hits 45 - 50 in May!

Truth though, I'm kind of happy... I like Africa and to live here is a just so great. Have rented a house a few km away from the city center, a decent enough it is - three rooms, living and dining, a small garden. I'm not gonna stave for I found a cook, though I've also discovered a liking to potting around the kitchen.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Up date

Thursday night finding myself at a loose end I decided to stroll along Ave. Kwame N’Kurma and find a beer, not that difficult a thing to do on any given evening. With the fall of dusk, little eateries double in size as they take over the pavement scattering tables and chairs for diners.

Castle beer in hand, I found myself living Brooks and Dan’s Neon Moon as it played in my ears – it was not long before I found myself lost in my memories.

T’was an hour or so later that I looked up a rather well endowed lady, who wanted to know if I would like some ‘companionship’. It was only after I had responded in the negative that it dawned upon me that there was more to the Avenue that I had realized in spite of the fact that I have been here so many times before.

It was kind of genteel really; a courteous question, a polite answer and life went on. I have to confess that I sat there downing one two many beers as I watched the activity around me, it certainly was an eye-opener!

Rolling to bed around mid night I, all was well till I decided to wake up the next morning to the mother of all headaches! I must be getting old if three bottles of beer do this to me.

Later that morning, walking back from the market place I was exhausted. The combination of heat, dust and my late night carousing found my energy sapped.

Damn landlady is still clearing the house up! I kind of had a nasty feeling that this would happen, but this is now and I am still penning yesterday down.

This was probably the first time in all these years that I’ve traveled Africa that I actually felt the effect of the heat – a combined effect I hope of my hang over, the lack of sleep, the heat and possibly age?

This morning (Friday the 1st of November) was spent picking up the bare essentials for survival – but I anticipate a few hungry nights ahead of me till I sort out the cook.

In a few hours from now, I’ll sit back and let my mind drift 11 months into the past and the 1st of December 2007. To a night that is indelibly a path of all that I am… I’ll never have the words to articulate that night, no matter how many times I draft the words they can never capture the essence of those hours and the path that it was to take me a long. If you read these words, know that I love you in ways that I can never love anyone else.

The arrangement was for me to take possession of the house this afternoon at 1530. Well I was certainly on time, regretfully my landlady not. I think I threw a spanner in the works for her by refusing to turn back, I’ve basically forced myself into the house and taken over a bedroom while they solder on! Damn if I’m gonne fork out another 80 bucks on top of the rent I’m paying for the house.

Been looking at vehicles too, a car is essential not only for work but for day to day existence. I’m too far away from the main road to be able to make hiking an option – a reason why I suspect there will be a few days that I go hungry for no other reason than having forgotten to plan my meals. Ce la vie and eat well when I can!

Sunday morning and I am mighty pleased with my new home. I’m yet to have it completely to myself but I have a extremely good feeling about the place – this feeling augers well for the future indeed.

Cook/ maid required, Night watchman required – two recommended, but at double what I was told to expect to pay…

A letter

Me thinks that it hath been awhile since we last had an exchange of thoughts of a more sedate variety; IM has much in it’s favor I grant, but there is nothing quite so satisfying as taking time to contemplate individual words, stringing them together to make sentences that in turn carry the innermost thoughts, the flavor of the personality crafting them.

I’ve wished I could write lucidly, passionately, meaningfully, alas, this ability seems beyond my reach. My attempts at prose have been, staid I would say with some qualification, that it has be uninspiring closer to the truth. It matters not really, for though I could not write a story, I do believe that I can write a missive of some elegance.

I must tell thee that as I tap away at the keys of my laptop I am nibbling away at what is an exquisite chocolate – a Mirabell. Soft, creamy, sweet…..

It’s hard to imagine that we are seven months through this year…. The days, weeks and months have flown and it seems that we are rushing pell mell towards the dawn of another. I wonder what our lives will be like 12 months hence. It’s a year since my return to this fair isle of ours, though that fairness is fast becoming tarnished given all the skull drudgery taking place.

The month of July has much to offer – the final Harry Potter, the third Pirates of the Caribbean, Transformers last week, a weekend down south, roofing timber for the retreat and an invite up to the cool climes of the hill country, the proverbial cherry upon my cake!

I envy westerners; I envy them for their ability to enjoy life. I seem to spend far too a great proportion of life on everything but life. It was Lennon I think who said that life is what happens while one is making other plans – isn’t that true?! So, what do I intend to do about it? For one thing, I think I will try and give greater expression to my creativity through prose and the capturing of images. And for this, I believe I should hold thee responsible…