Cyclicity of Life ??

In this pic except me everything else is more than four centuries old ??

Ever since I visited Braganza house and Kala Chitra in Goa last week, I have been thinking about:

Whole of life is cyclic! And that nothing lasts…

Take 1 Goa

Located in Chandor Village, Braganza House was built in the 17th century. This huge house is situated on one side of the village square. It has now separate houses, with a common entrance. The east wing occupied by the Pereira-Braganza family, has a small chapel with a relie of St. Francis Xavier, which is a fingernail. The artefacts collected by the family over a number of years, have added to the beauty of the house. There is a Great Salon, a big ballroom with the floor made of italian marble antique chanderlier from Europe adorning the ceiling, and heavily carved , ornate rodewood furniture. What stands out among the furniture is a pair of high-backed chairs, beating the family crest, which was given to the Perira – Braganza family by King Dom Luis of Portugal. Most of the furniture dates back to the 18th Century and is made from local seeso (martel wood), lacquered or inlaid with mother of pearl by craftsman from Curtorim Village. For antique aficionados, the house holds many delighful finds. 

The west wing of the house belongs to the Menezes braganza family. Apart from its exquuisite furniture and Chinese porcelain from Macau, it also houses a collection of family portraits, dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The library is believed to be the first private library in Goa .It has almost 5,000 leather bound books collected by Luis de Menezes Braganza (1878-1938), a reputed journalist, renowned for the part he played in Goa’s independent movement.  

The family has excellent lineage and awesome history. But today they don’t have enough to maintain this huge property. They depend on the tips/donations of the tourists to do the maintenance.

Nothing lasts. Whole of life is cyclic. What goes up, must come down.

Take 2 Family

I have seen this cycle in our family too. Our grandfather was very well off and our family lived in Lahore, now in Pakistan. All my older sisters were born there but I and my younger brother were born in India. Big family ??

My father had a decent government job and as it was a joint family and our grandfather was rich; my father’s pay was his pocket money! All was well and all of a sudden partition of India happened in 1947 and our family had to leave behind everything in Lahore and move to India.

To digress a little : My grandfather was an amazing person. Always calm and smiling. He was the one who should have been hurt the most, with the partition and loss of his fortune. But I never heard him complain and talk of good old times.

Fall from affluence to scarcity. The struggle started. We had a roof over our heads and decent food. Nothing else. We studied in Hindi medium, government schools. And slowly, very slowly in the beginning and pretty fast laterlife again went into an upward cycle. Because of my father’s insistence on education and no other diversions all the siblings did very well.

Nothing lasts.…Whole of life is cyclic

Take 3 Spiritual

That life is cyclic, I had known for a long time. I knew ups and downs is part of life. But two years back I was exposed to a new thought altogether. I learned that – Falling down is a MUST!!!

We had a discourse from a visiting YSS monk and one of the things he said was : “Spiritual path is never a straight line. Falling down is a MUST to learn and scale higher heights. I was a little shaken and surprised but realised that it was true. I could see this in my own life.

And I could also relate to it with the stock market. If it keeps going up it will lose all meaning. It must fall to scale new heights.

Yes my friend, nothing lasts. If good times didn’t, bad too won’t. Whole of life is cyclic.

And as I am writing this post, I am enjoying the monsoon clouds and the sunrise. The short cycle of day and night; and a little longer cycle of the seasons. Can’t thank God enough for His grace.

Embrace the Cyclicity of Life my friend and stay blessed

Dark Star Safari Part 2 – Into the Centre

The term failed states was thrown around regularly by politicians in the lead up to the Iraq War: the term generally applying to those states that the United States did not particularly like. Three countries fell into this category – Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, though the term ‘Rogue State’ would probably have been more adequate since these countries were openly antagonistic towards the United States. However there are a number of countries out there that could genuinely be considered failed states, and for a while (namely until I read this book) the only country that I could think of that could legitimately hold that title was Somalia. However, since travelling with Theroux on his trek across Africa I have come to realise that there are other countries that can, unfortunately, lay claim to that title – Kenya being one of them,
Mind you, if you jump onto Wikitravel and type in Nairobi, they tell you that the place has been cleaned up substantially, but then again that is not surprising considering that anybody (including the government of Kenya) can jump onto that site and alter it, especially if it means attracting more tourist dollars. However, when I typed in Kenya I got this big warning about how the northern region should be avoided at all costs due to a prevalence of terrorism and banditry (which suggests little has changed since Theroux travelled through here). Mind you, they also warned you against going to Mombassa, which I always considered to be one of those exotic places where Europeans can come for a cheap holiday (much like Australians going to Thailand or Bali).
No Man’s Land
Theroux describes the road between Addis Ababa and Nairobi as being the longest road in Africa. I personally won’t dispute that but I sometimes wonder how you can actually define a road. Having grown up in Australia I my understanding of a major road between two cities is one that is usually covered in bitumen and is regularly repaired by the government, however if you go to Europe or America, we are talking about a motorway. However this is not the case in Africa (though over the past ten years the flood of Chinese money could have changed that to an extent). In fact, according to Theroux these ‘main roads’ are little more than dirt tracks that are in sore need of repair, and if you happen to break down you are pretty much on your own.
In fact the further from the major city you get the less hospitable the land becomes. You don’t just take your own petrol (don’t expect to find a road-side service centre) but any equipment that might be required in a breakdown. In fact one of the trucks that Theroux was travelling on suffered a broken axle, which meant that they had to spend the night trying to fix so they could get the truck to the next major town (and this truck was being driven by a bunch of backpackers from Europe). Needless to say, Theroux decided to take his chances with the next truck that happened to pass buy; this one crowded full of locals and their cows.
Not only should you take your equipment, but you should also make sure you have enough provisions since water is scarce and food very, very unreliable. If you want canned meat you can forget it, and like the roadside service centre, don’t expect to find any 7-11s along the roadside as well. The other thing is that one is warned not to travel at dusk and especially at night because that is when all of the bandits come out of hiding to attack unwary travellers, and in the even more remote areas they will even attack during the day (as Theroux discovered much to his luck). There were villages and towns along the route, and he was even able to have a couple of beers, but these towns are little more than shanty towns, though they do provide protection, and you can even get supplies if that is what is needed (and if you are really lucky, you may even find a spare axle).
There was little to indicate that they had crossed the border from Ethiopia and into Kenya, with the exception that his lift in Ethiopia had pointed the border out to him. There was no border post, no fence, nothing to indicate that he had crossed from one country into another. This is the porous nature of the African landscape and the artificiality of the borders that were originally laid out by the European colonial powers. A border is little more than a line on the map that has no physical reality, with the exception of a sign welcoming you to the new land (or maybe even warning you of the dangers that you are about to face).
It is interesting how he mentioned the cattle trucks that were travelling along this road towards Nairobi. In fact the entire family would be packed into the truck along with the cattle, which would be the best of their stock. One sometimes wonders why they would take their best cattle to sell at the markets in Nairobi, but in a way it is not surprising because nobody wants to buy substandard stock, and the best cattle offer the best price. I remember when somebody once complained to me about how we exported the best of our produce, but that is not surprising because not only do the best get the top dollar, but you can sell your best – nobody wants to buy poor quality produce. However, the problem with exporting goods is that not every country wants them, because while they can get cheap cattle from Kenya, the local farmers would suffer, so they impose a tax on the imported goods, otherwise known as a tariff. Of course this hurts the poor Kenyan rancher, so a free trade movement arose which slowly stripped away all of these tariffs, which in turn hurts the local farmers. Thus to make them competitive, the goverment offer then subsidies. However, despite all of these attempts at market manipulations to assist farmers in poor countries survive in the end most of the mark ups go to the middle men, because in a place like Kenya the ranchers are competing with each other, which ends up driving the price of their cattle down (so while the farmer wants to get the best price, the purchasers want the cheapest, which means, in the end, the farmer gets screwed).
This is Northern Kenya, and while it might be surrounded by the Kenyan border on the map, in reality it is a land over which the government has little control. In this region there are no hospitals or schools – they simply cannot afford to pay anybody to work out here – and the places that aren’t ruled by the NGOs (non-government organisations – usually aid agencies) are ruled by the bandits. Sure, they have police stations, but the police aren’t here to keep the peace and uphold the law, but rather to rule their own little fiefdom. Murders aren’t investigated – there are just too many of them, and not enough resources, or even will, to bring justice to this wild region. Not even the villages are safe for the police really don’t care beyond their own comfort. No wonder Wikitravel issues travel warnings about this region, yet it does see its travellers, usually backpackers wanting to experience the real Africa, or hunters out to score a big kill.


Nairobi – Heart of Chaos
I probably shouldn’t be too harsh on Nairobi, especially since I am only going on the word of one man who was there fifteen years or so ago. Okay, I did have a friend from Nairobi and he didn’t seem to be too concerned about the place, however from his stories he did describe this place as a hive of corruption. His story was that once he was involved in a traffic accident and he went to do the right thing and report it to the police station. However the policeman really didn’t want to go to all the hassle of having to deal with it so took him out the back and pressured him for a bribe, something that my friend really didn’t want to do. My friend has now long left Australia, and is no doubt some warden at a game reserve (game wardens have an automatic shoot to kill policy when it comes to poachers), or arranging adventures for young tourists wanting to experience the romantic Africa.

Wikitravel does say that Nairobi has cleaned up its act a lot in recent years, but that is only if you stay in the safe areas of the city. Tourists probably shouldn’t visit the slums (and there are some crazy ones out there that would like to see a real slum, though no doubt going their at their own risk). There is no order to the city, at least not on the fringes, and the government doesn’t particularly care. The tourists never see this side of the city, they only see the clean and santised areas, however crime in Nairobi is at epic proportions. In some places it is not a question of if you will get robbed, but when. After dark is the most dangerous, though once again it really depends on where you are, and the police don’t care – if you get yourself killed then you probably did something stupid to deserve it.
Nairobi SlumThe government doesn’t care either, if one would consider the government of Kenya a functioning government. It is a government that survives on bribes and kick backs, and when they do receive aid money it isn’t for the benefit of the people at large but rather so that they can add an extension to their already humongous mansion. Mind you, when I say bribe, I don’t necessarily mean the lobbyist who takes you out to dinner, and plays a round of gold with you, before suggesting that their client will contribute to their re-election campaign if they vote on, or even introduce, a specific bill. No, this is not even the brown paper bag type of bribe. This is ‘here is $1000 so I can go and kill myself an elephant – just make sure the wardens have their back turned’ (though it might cost the big game hunter a lot more than just $1000).
Elections aren’t a question of who gets to rule, but rather who gets their hands on the kitty, not that there is all that much in the kitty since the country is burdened down with international debt, usually to the World Bank and the IMF, so any taxes that are collected end up being paid back in interest, not that there was anything to show for this money anyway because it had all been squandered by the government. There is no question of development, nor is their any question of funding for schools and healthcare since the money isn’t there, and even if it is it simply vanishes before it is even counted. Even the tax receipts are not even sufficient to pay the interest, let alone lift the country out of poverty, namely because there is no work, and those who do work don’t pay taxes because the infrastructure simply isn’t there. In a way it is little more than a feudal state that holds elections every few years to give a vague resemblance of a non-existent freedom.
This may all sound depressing, but unfortunately it is the reality of our world, and the reality of those who scrape through life living in the slums of the city. There is no council planning, no running water, no regular electricity, at least not outside of the city centre. Even then it is suggested that as soon as a community is planted it begins to act as a magnet for people and a once nice town quickly becomes surrounded by slums. It was suggested by Theroux that the United States once tried to help Kenya through a program to encourage industry in the country, however what ended up happening was that foreign countries would cycle goods through Kenya so they get could land up on American shelves.
The Rift Valley
Escape through the Rift
Theroux left Nairobi by bus to travel to Uganda, since that was the only transport available. The lack of infrastructure meant that the trains were not just not running, but not working, and the roads and tracks had deteriorated. It was on his journey out along this road, through the famous Rift Valley, that he saw these towns, and the deforested landscape, that blighted the country. Men would stand under trees, doing nothing because there was no work. In a way they were waiting for work to come to them rather than going out and looking for work themselves. This in a way is a contrast to others who do what they can to find work. Funnily the women weren’t doing that, namely because they were working, doing whatever work they could find.
Theroux says a lot about the Aid industry as he is travelling through this part of Kenya, namely because all of the aid agencies are prevalent in the towns and villages along this route. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big supporter of foreign aid, but I believe that it must be done in an intelligent manner. I have my charities that I support, namely TEAR, Amnesty International, and Mediecins Sans Frontiers, and I also have friends who work overseas in India, Nepal, and Asia as medical professionals, however we do need to be aware of the realities behind this industry. The thing with foreign aid is that what many of these organisations are doing is selling a ‘feel good’ experience. You research the agency and are satisfied that their money is going to developing nations, you make your donation, get your tax deduction, and feel good that you have done something to make the world a better place. However there is a dark reality behind the industry of foreign aid, and it is something of which we do need to be aware.
The problem with foreign aid is the problems that socialist countries face: if you give something to somebody for nothing then there is no incentive for that person to actually work. You see this if you wander past the food vans in any major city where you see all of the poor and homeless crowding around the van for a cheap, or even free, feed. They pay their small amount of money, money that they have no doubt scavenged from begging on the street, eat their meal, and then go off and buy alcohol or drugs. What a generous society does, unfortunately, is that it encourages people to simply live off of the generosity of others. Don’t get me wrong, I am not telling people not to be generous, but we need to be intelligent with our generosity because there are people out there that are in genuine strife. For instance, when a disaster hits a developing country, that country does not necessarily have the resources to be able to deal with that disaster, so it needs assistance from outside. These are examples of when we should show our generosity, and it shouldn’t be something to make us feel good, we should do it because, but for the grace of God, there would be us.
However, I speak of intelligent giving, and that is the essence of aid. Aid should never simply be giving something to somebody for nothing, nor should it be sending educated Westerners over to developing countries to do all of the work for the locals. In a way the locals should be doing their own work, with the westerners helping them out with the intention that one day, sooner rather than later, they can leave the locals to be self-sufficient so that they can help another community. In a way they should be working with the community to help build that community up and lift them out of poverty. However, that is not necessarily how it is done because, well, aid is big business. As long as there is poverty there is need for aid, and as long as aid is required, people in the west will give money. That is why the aid industry loves disasters, because it is disasters that pull on people’s hearts, and make them open their pockets and give generously.
There is another thing about the aid industry and that is being an aid worker, something that is no doubt really attractive to young people. Once again, I am not attacking aid workers in particular because some of my good friends are aid workers – they have sacrificed high paying jobs in Australia to take their families overseas to live in developing countries so that they can provide services that are severely lacking (one of my friends is a nurse in Nepal, other is a psychologist in Asia, and another one worked with street kids in Addis Ababa, after being evacuated from the Congo due to a deteriorating situation). However what the aid industry offers young people is a cheap, all expenses paid, adventure in a foreign land. Theroux was one such person who had joined the Peace Corps and travelled to Africa to teach. The other thing about the aid worker is that the countries that they visit are no doubt dirt cheap, meaning that they can live like kings on very little. One does sometimes wonder how much of that ‘admin cost’ that you see on these agencies websites goes to supporting such a lifestyle?
Uganda – Hell’s Back Door

I remember watching a couple of videos around this time about how a number of communities that were heading to rack a ruin had suddenly changed and effectively become Christian communities based on the teachings of the Bible. At the time I was really impressed with these stories of community transformation and how the gospel had the power to lift whole communities, not just individuals, out of destitution. The reason that I raise this is because at the end of the second video there was a case study on Uganda: how it had gone from being a brutal dictatorship to a community of hope in which the incidences of AIDs among the population was actually dropping. In a way Uganda had gone from being your typical basket case African country to being a poster child for the Christian Right.


Cash Crops

Theroux noticed a huge change when he crossed the border from Kenya into Uganda, suggesting that this is a country, unlike Kenya, that is on the rise. Infrastructure is much better, and there appears to be employment. However, a quick glance over Wikipedia suggests that the country is still plagued by corruption, it is still one of the most impoverished countries in the world, and fighting between the Ugandan armed forces and the Lord’s Resistance Army in the north continues unabated. Uganda is still, like many of the other African countries, an agrarian society where much of its economy is based upon what it grows. Most of the crops are considered ‘cash crops’, which means that they are basically grown for export. However, like most farming communities, only the crops that make money are the crops that are grown, meaning that if the price of one crop plummets, the farmer will replace them with crops that will bring in a higher income.


Cocoa BeanAs Theroux was travelling from the Kenyan border to Kampala he noted here, as well as elsewhere, how many of the farmers were moving away from growing cash crops to growing crops, such as maize, for their own personal use. In a way it seems as if the farmer benefits much more from being able to feed their families than simply being able to earn an income through the sale of produce. Obviously, as farmers begin to switch crops, this means that this will push up the prices of the crops that are no longer grown, which can result in farmers moving back to those crops in an attempt to capture the higher prices. This is what I suspect is behind the rumours regarding the cocao shortages (though according the the rumour website Snopes, this is mostly false – there has always been shortages of Cocoa), namely that as the price of cocoa drops, the farmers shift to more profitable crops, or subsistence farming, which then pushes the price up – which inevitably means that the farmers will then go back to growing cocoa.


A Democratic Dictatorship
Theroux once worked in Uganda as a teacher, after being kicked out of Malawi (namely because he upset the ruling regime by assisting one of their political enemies), so a part of this journey was a homecoming. Obviously when you return to a place years after you left the first thing you notice are all of the changes. Theroux left just before Idi Amin seized power in a coup and launched an eight year reign of terror. However it is interesting how the debates on political reform occur in a land where the democratic institutions do not operate in the same way as ours. For years after the removal of Amin, political parties were outlawed, and to be elected to parliament, you could not be a member of a party. I have at times thought that political parties are the problem with our democracy, until you realise that the lack of parties could simply be another form of one party state.
Ugandan WomanYet this is one of the things that Theroux encounters – the debate as to the usefulness of political parties. In a way people where actually talking about whether the country would function much better under a one party rule. To us in a modern democracy, the idea of a single party, or even no parties at all, would be anathema. My thoughts always rested on the idea that by removing parties the candidates would be more concerned with local issues as opposed to issues that effected the nation as a whole. However, if all members of parliament arrived to debate local issues, then nothing would likely get done, nor would there be any national unity. Another debate was along the line of what is actually a true democracy. Is it possible to have elections but not have a democracy? Well, this seems to be what people believe is the case in Uganda. Sure, they have elections, but in the end nothing changes. They cast their ballots at the box, wake up the next day only to discover that the same person who has been president for the last twenty years is still president. Sure, one may have an opposition, but the opposition has no power because the same guys always seem to be in charge.
Ugandan StudentsDuring his time in Uganda, Theroux was a teacher at one of the universities (or I should probably say – the university). He seemed to drop an awful lot of names as he spent some time in Kampala, but that is probably not all that surprising because the people that studied at the university, or even travelled abroad to study, will end up becoming the leaders of tomorrow. This is not necessarily the case in our country, where many of our university students study simply to go and get a job. In countries like Uganda, a university education is not so much angling for a better job, but rather taking hold of the reigns of the country to be able to steer it in the right direction. Whether this has happened over the last fifteen years since Theroux returned is difficult to tell, especially since Uganda is still pretty much a state racked by poverty.
A discussion of the politics of Uganda is not complete without mentioning the brutal dictatorship of Idi Amin. Amin came to power in a coup in 1971 after a rift developed between him and president Obote over control of the military (and Obote attempted to have him arrested on charges of corruption). Amin was able to do this due to strong ties that he had built within the military (which is not surprising when one is general), and pretty much seized the country while Obote was away at an international meeting. Sure, there was a lot of cheering the day Amin declared himself president (actually Commander in Chief) of Uganda, but the situation pretty much deteriorated after that into a chaotic free for all. His rule was ended in 1979 after a failed attempt to invade Tanzania.
Idi AminThe thing about dictators, especially those who seize power, is that they are always jumping at shadows. Shakespeare paints some beautiful pictures of the paranoia that dictators undergo in his plays Macbeth and Richard III. Both of these characters, like Amin, violently seize power, and once they are in charge of the kingdom, began to regularly look over their shoulders, just in case somebody is standing their with a knife ready to retire him. Such dictators do what they can to get rid of any form of opposition, but usually end up stepping over the line somewhere (and with Amin it was the invasion of Tanzania), which results in them being deposed. Mind you, just because one dictator has been deposed does not necessarily mean that the person that steps into replace them is any better, as was the case here. It seemed that people wanted to be rid of Obote, however the replacement was much much worse. In fact, with such people in power the rule of law breaks down and the country becomes a chaotic free for all. People from the time spoke of how you would never look anybody in the eye, but keep your head down, as to do so meant that you could be considered a threat and thus earn the wrath of the administration. Many of the people that Theroux spoke to said that they simply wanted to forget those days, however he disagreed, suggesting that it is the suffering that the people no doubt underwent that is the wellspring that creates a national identity (and also inspires great literature).
State of Decay
One of the problems with Africa is that while we Westerners seem to believe what is best for them, their their culture and ours does not necessarily interconnect. We Westerners generally live in established cities and towns and we look to progress to make our lives better. We are focused on time and are always looking forward to the future to see how we can better ourselves and our society. This is not necessarily the case with other cultures, especially cultures like those in Africa that still live with a hunter-gatherer and agrarian mindset. We send our aid money and workers into the country with the belief that by turning them into Westerners we can make their lives much better, however they may not necessarily see this as the case, yet our ideas have filtered into the continent so much that returning to the original mindset may not necessarily be possible.
One of the ideas that Theroux explores is that of decay. When we build something in the West we understand that nature of decay, and so we will continually return to what has been built with the intention of repairing and restoring it, or even rebuilding it so that it was better than before. This is not necessarily the case in Africa. In a land where for hundreds of thousands of years the people lived in makeshift huts and travelled along ever changing paths – building a road does not necessarily mean that they will maintain that road. Roads in Africa did not exist in the way that we understand them until the colonists arrived. The same is the case with buildings. Africans never built buildings the way that we built them – they were made from what they gathered, and if they were no longer used they would collapse to once again become a part of the land. Thus, when we Westerners arrived and began to build buildings, and then left, the locals did not see any need to maintain them, and as such returned to rack and ruin. Without the colonial hands, the African landscape no doubt would return to what it was like before.
In a way the Africans are very much like the Australian aboriginals. There is a connection to the land, and they lived in a world without the need of the past or any desire to record it. It was not the idea that every day was the same which resulted in a spiral of hopelessness – not like the Western World where every day seems to be a cycle of meaninglessness, but rather like an aboriginal dreamtime, where the world simply passes by and there is no past, no future, just the now. The clock is not required because their time is not divided in the way that our time has been divided – they eat when they are hungry, sleep when it becomes dark. They are not constrained by other people’s agendas, they just exist and go about their daily lives.
As we travel further south we leave the mainly Muslim states and enter into what is essentially a Christian heartland. Many of us see Christianity as a form of Western imperialism, however when we consider places like Ethiopia, we realise that Christianity has been on the continent long before the European settlers arrived. Christianity is not like Islam where you must pray at certain times, but rather it is a faith that can enter a culture and transform, and in a way be transformed, by that culture. It does not need buildings, it does not set out people’s days, or weeks, but rather just is. Unfortunately us Westerner’s have a particular view of how Christians should be Christians, and once again we go in to educate, to develop, and to attempt to turn this land into another European state.
Lake Victoria
Tanzania – The forgotten Land
After a lot of difficulties in trying to obtain passage across Lake Victoria, Theroux finally manages to obtain a berth on one of the ferries. In a way, to me, Lake Victoria is, and has always been, little more that a splotch of blue on the map of Africa. However, not only is it Africa’s largest inland lake it also feeds into what ends up becoming the Nile (and is probably one of the sources of the legend of the mysterious head of the Nile, despite it splitting to become the Albert Nile –  which comes from Lake Albert, and the Victoria Nile, which comes from Lake Victoria). The lake itself was named after Queen Victoria of England, and the closeness of Lake Albert indicates the approximate time that it was discovered.
The image that Theroux paints of this ferry reminds me in part of the riverboat that Marlow travelled on in Heart of Darkness, and in part the African Queen. However we are well off the tourist track meaning that those travelling in this part of Africa are really only going to encounter the locals. The difficulties that Theroux faced even getting his hands on a ticket (he had to sign a liability waiver) shows how remote this section of the land really is. In a way Africa is not for the faint hearted, it has never been, whether it be the modern traveller who shuns the commercialisation of the tourist industry, or the original missionaries and the explorers who travelled into this land.
DhowTheroux paints a picture of a lake that is not only a hive of activity, but also punctuated by islands and rocky outcroppings. In fact the islands form some refuge from the lands that surround the lakes, and the inhabitants travel out onto the waters, either to fish, or to conduct trade. The prevalence of the dhow indicates the Arabian influence into this part of Africa, and in fact the Arabs had penetrated this region long before the Europeans ever arrived. It was not until the Portuguese managed to wrest control of the Indian ocean from the Arab traders that this region was eventually cut off from the mainland. However, despite that the Arab influence on the region still remains. In a way I found it quite surprising that the Arabs had penetrated this far into Africa long before the Europeans. I had always thought that the Muslim influence pretty much ended in Sub-saharan Africa, however considering their mastery of the sea, and the ancient port at Zanzibar, this not not all that surprising.
The Ancient Slave Route
One of the things that I have noted in the Wikipedia entry for Tanzania is that they say very little about the Arab influence on the country. Mind you if you go to the expanded articles concerning the History of Tanzania and the History of Zanzibar, you do find a lot more detail concerning the history of the region before the arrival of the Portuguese. However, I won’t go any further into that here as I wish to leave it to when we arrive at the coast and the port city of Dar es Salaam. Still, it is interesting to note the Arabic influence in this region of south-central Africa.
Tanzania Railways
Theroux leaves the ferry at the lakeside port of Mwanza and then travels by train across Tanzania to the coast. Mind you this journey isn’t like the cool and comfortable high speed rail journeys that you get in Europe, but rather it is an old dilapidated train running on old dilapidated tracks. This line is the main route from the port of Dar es Salaam to Uganda, though the ferry at Mwanza links the two countries. The railway was originally built by the Germans when they had control of the region prior to World War I, though after the war the country reverted to the British. Like most development in Africa the railway system is been left rot and decay. While trains still run between Lake Victoria and the coast, as well as to Zambia, the route to Kenya has been closed for many years.
The route follows the ancient slaver route that the Arabs established long before European colonisation. In fact the Arabs, and other cultures, have been trading here for millennia. While Tanzania had a lot of exotic produce available, it was the slaves that were the most valuable resources. It is interesting how slavery in Africa has been evident long before the it arose in the Southern States of the US. In a way Africa appears to have long been a source of cheap labour and a haven for slavers, and in many ways it still is. Despite slavery being banned, it still exists in the dark shadows of the underworld. Mind you, I’m not talking about slavery in the sense of ‘I have to go to work every day and my boss is a pain in the neck’ – seriously, you aren’t a slave – you can walk away from that job anytime you want. I’m not even talking about ‘I owe all this money to the bank and I don’t know how to pay it off’ type of slavery either. No, I am talking about being kidnapped and locked in a dark cell and forced to work for a few scraps of food every day type of slavery. We don’t like to believe that it exists, but it does. Just in the same way that the British weren’t the first to raid the African coast for slaves – the Arabs have been doing that for a lot longer.
I guess there is a major reason why the Africans were the targets of slavers and the like, and that is probably because they were easy pickings. In many cases they lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle with little in the way of technology. Their tools mainly consisted of what they could cobble together from the land. They had no skill in metallurgy, nor did they build fortresses, or even walls around their towns, and when they did, it was generally to fend off other tribes. As such more advanced people could easily come in and carry them off with little difficulty. Also the lack of a centralised government meant that the slavers could play one tribe off against another, offering incentives to one group for bringing them slaves. When it became clear that the outsiders who ventured into the hinterland had come for no good, they would become easy targets – it was so much easier to get the locals to do your dirty work for you.
Tanzania is sort of one of those places that people really don’t know all that much about. I suspect if you ask the average person where Tanzania is located – without looking at Google Maps – they will probably say ‘somewhere in Africa’. Ask them to be precise, they will probably shrug their shoulders. Ask them what the capital city is I wouldn’t be surprise if they said it didn’t have one (though that is me being cynical – it does and it is Dodoma, not that anybody actually knows it). It is not that tourists don’t come to Tanzania, they do in droves, but namely to go and visit the many game preserves that dot the country. It is here that you can find the famous Sarengetti, and go on Safari to see all sorts of native wildlife. However, like other parts of Africa, the tourist regions are usually separated from the real Tanzania. The tourists arrive in the gleaming airports, jump on the mini buses and travel out on Safari to see the santised, romantic Africa. Rarely to they see the reality of the corruption, the poverty, and the decay. The Africa they see is the Africa in the glossy brochures that adorn the walls of the travel agent, not the sickly scenes of hunger and pestilence that are hidden in the papers – no, that is another part of Africa, the bad part which they have no desire to experience, though will give money to an aid agency in the mistaken belief that they are actually helping.
Ancient Zanzibar

As Theroux was getting closer to the coast of Tanzania, in particularly the city of Dar es Salaam, I was wondering if he was going to pay a visit to the ancient city of Zanzibar. As it turned out he did, however his visit simply took up a couple of paragraphs were he wrote about how some Africans were attempting to get money out of a very reluctant priest. In a way I was surprised since Zanzibar is one of those exotic locations that dates back hundreds of years. Stone Town, the old part of the city is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites, having been a major trading port while the rest of the region were little more than hunter-gatherer tribes.


The city itself was first established by traders from the Arabian Peninsula since it was an excellent harbour. The city was a centre from trade from the African Great Lakes region and would be a channel for commodities such as spices, ivory, and of course slaves. The Portuguese took control of the city during their incursions into the region (which dates the city to the fifteenth century, however since it was originally established by the Arabs, the original colony is much older), and then reverted back to the Arabs in around 1698. During Britain’s attempt to abolish the slave trade, the city then reverted to their rule and the transferred over to Tanzania during the 1960s.


Stone Town MarketsIt was quite surprising that Theroux simply skipped over this rather unique city, which in effect an outpost of civilisation in a region ruled by hunter-gatherer tribes. Obviously its location as a deep water harbour, and provided access to commodities not available in Europe and the Middle East, made it an important trading hub. However it is still a part of Africa, and I suspect that by the time Theroux had arrived he had simply become quite jaded in what he was experiencing in this land. In a way Zanzibar, despite its exotic local and ancient history, was little more than your typical African city with rampant unemployment and poverty, a lack of services, and beggars doing what they can to get money for food or whatever else they need.


On the mainland, connected to Zanzibar by a rather dilapidated ferry, is the city of Dar Es Salaam. This is Tanzania’s largest city (though not its capital). The city was first established by the Sultan of Zanzibar, and if the name sounds Arabic that is because it is. The name means ‘Residence of Peace’ though I suspect that these days the city is anything but peaceful. Okay, maybe it is not so much like Nairobi, but it is still an African city, where people simply migrate in the hope of finding jobs, but end up being relegated to the slums where the life simply continues as normal. In fact if there is one thing that Africans seem to want to do and that is to leave. As he travels through Africa Theroux hears time and time again how they with to leave and travel to America, as if travelling to the United States will make their life better – in many cases it won’t.


It is interesting to see his impressions as he travels through the towns and cities. There are no jobs, and there seems to be no incentive to work. The men simply sit under trees waiting for something, though is it unclear what they are waiting for – is it a job, because the jobs simply aren’t there. Sure, they could be given jobs, and even money for those jobs, if that is what the aid agencies are doing, but if all they are doing is driving around in landrovers handing out food, then that is not necessarily going to lift them out of poverty. Simply giving away food only creates a culture of dependance, and if they simply get money by asking for it, all it does is encourage them to ask for more money.


Dar Es SalaamTanzania, as Theroux suggests, was another failed attempt at Socialism. Obviously Marx’s original intention was for Socialism to arise from the advanced industrialised nations, however the lands where it ended up taking hold were far from advanced. Tanzania for instance is anything but an industrialised nation – it is an agraian nation that had no understanding of modern economic systems. For instance when the country underwent a revolution in 1963 they basically kicked out all of the foreigners (the Europeans, the Arabs, and the Indians) and handed the means of production back to the local population. They established collective farms, and with money from the Chinese, attempted to develop the nation. However that experiment failed. The people that were kicked out were those who actually knew how to run a country and how to farm, and those that took over had no experience whatsoever. For instance the experiment in collective farming failed simply because the managers of these farms were corrupt an took all of the money for themselves.


The Decaying Interior
It would be interesting to follow Theroux’s footsteps fifteen years later to see if much of Africa has changed, or whether it is still the decaying land where the people really do not understand, or appreciate, development. In a way it is not surprising because we see the same with the aboriginal population here in Australia. They are not so much a backward people that have been left behind as the white population of Australia progresses, but rather they are a people who live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and have never seen the need to adapt to the European way of life. For all the talk about closing the gap and lifting the Aboriginals out of poverty, the truth is that all we are doing is turning them into dark skinned Europeans.


If you travel out to the Aboriginal settlements in central Australia you will basically see decaying houses and abject poverty. The aboriginals have been moved into settlements, and their traditional lifestyle has been destroyed by the Europeans’ insistence that they must live a settled existence. Even now there is criticism about their choice to live out in remote Australia relying upon support by the government. As Tony Abbott famously said, there is no reason why Australians should subsides these communities who chose this lifestyle choice. In a way he is correct when looking from a European mindset, but what he is effectively suggesting is that there is no room in modern Australia for the traditional Aboriginal hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and in fact with the establishment of farms, and the fencing off of traditional hunting grounds, all they have now are a collection of decaying houses in the middle of the desert. Supplies are locked up in canteens, and they are then given small amounts of money to purchase what is in effect their means of sustenance, something that they used to get off of the land.


You also see this with their housing in that the Europeans go in and build them houses, and then leave expecting them to maintain these houses. However we are talking about people who for centuries, even millenia, never needed to live in an established house, and would simply wander around the outback following the game, and engaging in subsistence farming. They had no concept of a settled existence. If they needed shelter, they would build it from what was available, and when they moved on they would leave the settlement to return to the natural land. However the Europeans arrive with this concept of settlement, this concept of fencing off land and calling it ‘mine’. This is something the traditional aboriginals simply do not understand. It is only those who have transitioned from the traditional lifestyle to the European lifestyle, that have come to accept the concept of settlement. However this is the problem – we seem to think that by giving Aboriginal University degrees and good jobs, is helping to lift them out of poverty – it is not, it is simply turning them into dark skinned Europeans. Maybe there is just no room for the hunter-gatherer lifestyle in the modern economy.
Out of the Metropolis
Referring to Dar Es Salaam as a metropolis is probably a misnomer because I generally think of such places as huge industrial cities and financial hubs such as New York and London. However considering the size of some African cities, and especially since Dar Es Salaam is considered the largest city on the east cost of Africa, it is probably an apt name. Also it is a major transport hub with a huge harbour and also where the three main lines of the Tanzanian Railway converge. It is not the capital of Tanzania, that is located much further inland, but it still is the major economic hub of the country.
Anyway, the main reason that Theroux jumped on the ferry to Zanzibar is because he had to wait for the train to arrive. In a way that is one of the things about living, or even travelling, in Africa, and that is that you have to wait. You spend a lot of time waiting in Africa, especially if you are taking the journey that Theroux is taking. I suspect that if you are a tourist travelling to Africa for the safari experience, then maybe you don’t have to experience the waiting, but then again many of these safaris have been arranged by Western tour companies and are designed with the western lifestyle in mind.
Africans WaitingHowever, when you step off the tourist track you discover that the thing about Africa is that you spend a lot of time waiting. That is not surprising because many of the locals seem to simply wait – they are patient. What are they waiting for? Maybe they are waiting for life to get better, or for somebody to arrive to change things around. There does not seem to be that mindset of actually getting up and doing something, but that is probably because for most of the modern era everybody else has been doing things for them. It is not a question of going out and earning money, or doing things to make life better, because that is not what they have learnt. Rather, others have come to do things for them, and they have learnt to accept that.
So, Theroux jumps onto the train to travel to Malawi. The problem is that the train doesn’t go to Malawi, so he has to get off at another stop and then make his way to the border independently. Unfortunately the tracks are dilapidated, like much of the infrastructure in the region, so when they arrive at a station there is more waiting. Mind you, trains in Africa tend to spend a lot of time sitting at railway stations. They are not like trains in the west where they arrive at a station, hang around for a couple of minutes while everybody boards, and then heads off to their next destination. Sure, they might have timetables, but they are not strict – they can’t be because there are so many problems with the infrastructure that there are always going to be delays.
Tanzanian Train
Even when he arrived at his destination there were more delays simply because there is no reliable transport from Mbaya (where the railway station is) to the Malawi border. However, since Theroux once worked in Malawi it was his intention to make what every effort he could to get there. He had a problem with buying a worthless ticket, but when he did manage to get to the closest town the only option was to hire a cab, only to discover that when he arrived at the border the cab drivers decided to shake him down for more money. Mind you, he just got up and walked across the border which put paid to their scheme. However, he was probably very lucky that he managed to do this because, being a white man, he simply stood out among the crowd and the situation could have turned quite violent. In the heart of Africa a white man is royalty – it doesn’t matter how much money they have because if you are white, and you are in Africa, people automatically see you as being wealthy.
Malawi – The Homecoming


I would say that Malawi is famous for its lake, a body of water that stretches along its eastern border, however I had never heard of the place until I went to a church here in Melbourne who had sent a group over to the country to assist in building a church and providing assistance for a number of ministries. The country was also the focus of the Evangelical Environment Network for a while due to the impact that climate change was having upon this landlocked and poverty ridden country. Since attending my local church my understanding of this country have grown quite a lot, though in many cases it is no different to many of the other countries that Theroux had visited.


Theroux has a special attachment to Malawi though, since he worked here for two years as a teacher with the peace corps, and in a way he was hoping to return to see how it had changed. He had also sent notice to the US Embassy that he had arrived and was willing to spend some time providing lectures at the university. The problem was, as it turned out, nobody seemed to care. The country had changed, but not for the better. In a way the country had drifted much further down hill than he remembered, though this does not necessarily seem to be the case when you look at some of the pictures on the internet. However, no doubt the government is trying to promote the country as a tourist destination for people wanting to stay at some cheap, lakeside resorts.
The Rocky Road South
The sign saying potholes next 9600 kilometres may have been a joke that had floated around by email for a while, but in Africa that seems to be the case all to often. Once again this is the nature of the decay in the interior. There is no need, or even will, to try to repair these roads. They were built and at one time they were brand new, but due to the lack of will, they have been left to decay, which means that the inevitable potholes arise. Travelling by road in Africa is not the safest of ways to travel. Theroux tells us of how the buses are overcrowded and people hang on any possible protrusion imaginable. However it is true because I have spoken to people who live and worked in the African bush, and the roads are dangerous, not just because of the potholes, but because of the drivers as well. It is not uncommon to see overloaded buses careering all over the road endangering not just the passengers, but those around them. One friend of mine told me how they feared for their lives when an out of control bus hurtled towards them one day.
Entering Malawi was not easy for Theroux because he discovered the true nature of African corruption. At the border it was discovered that his vaccination certificate was out of date, and it wasn’t a question of when he was going to get it sorted out – people die of all sorts of diseases in Africa, it was a question of how much Theroux was going to pay the border guard to simply turn a blind eye. Theroux clearly didn’t want to encourage corruption, but sometimes there is little choice. Fortunately for him he could speak the language, and when the guard’s superior heard him, he managed to escape that rather sticky situation.


Language is interesting in Africa because there seems to be two major languages in the region – English and Swahili. Okay, they also have their local tribal languages, but it seems that most people understand English, and also understand Swahili. Swahili seems to be the lingua franca of the African continent, at least south of the Sahara. I guess that is not surprising, especially since the original local tribes have slowly dispersed in favour of settled communities and the slums in the cities. Still, even in a tribal society there needed to be a language that enabled people from different tribes to communicate, and in Africa that language is Swahili.
Boarded up shopsThe other interesting thing that Theroux has regularly noted throughout the book are the number of Indian shops that he encounters. These Indians hadn’t recently arrived in Africa but had come over during the colonial era and establish their businesses. In a way it seems that the only people in these parts of Africa that ran established businesses were the Indians. Mind you, they weren’t all that wealthy because none of the locals had any money to spend. However during the independence movement many of the Indians were kicked out of the country in the mistaken belief that they were taking all of the jobs from the local population (despite the fact that they themselves were locals). However when they left the shops ended up becoming empty, disused, and decaying. In a way there was no entrepreneurial spirit in the region to take up when the Indians left. It is the nature of the culture in that people lived in a subsistence manner and there was no real need for money. In was only when the foreigners were brought in that there was any resemblance of a modern economy. Once they left they took their culture and their ideas with them, and all that was left was the local culture that had no will to re-establish the businesses.
Missionary Crisis of Livingstonia
Livingstonia is basically a missionary outpost in Malawi. Dr Livingstone was a famous explorer and missionary that travelled the region establishing churches, however these missionaries were not only attempting to establish Christianity in the region, but also European Culture. Theroux tells a story of a missionary couple that he knew in Malawi (okay, they weren’t actually missionaries, rather they were school teachers working in Malawi on their retirement). He decided to pay them a visit only to discover that they had passed away a couple of years earlier. What he discovered was that despite all of their hard work, after they left their legacy appeared to be negligible. Even their graves were covered in weeds and decaying just like the rest of the community.
Theroux also met the wife of a missionary from Livingstonia whose husband was a medical practitioner. Unlike the aid workers in the area, they weren’t rich. She had to travel four days just to spend a week back in England, before spending another four days to get back to Livingstonia. They were supported by their church, which meant that money wasn’t all that easy to raise. They did not have the huge budgets, or the flash landrovers, that many of the other aid agencies had, they just had the contributions provided to them by their supporters back in England. It does make me wonder at times about the missionaries that I know in various parts of the world. The other thing that was evident was the lack of medical professionals in the country. These missionaries were there because they knew that there was a need for medical assistance, however her husband was the only doctor serving the entire north of the country, and by working there he was sacrificing a much higher paid job elsewhere.
The thing about the medical profession is that there is a severe skills shortage in the profession. It takes years, and a lot of money, to become a fully qualified doctor, and even in the developed countries there is a lack of skilled professionals. To become a doctor is an incredibly stressful process, and a lot of them simply do not make it out of their internship. Due to the lack medical professionals they are able to command high prices for their services, which means that in countries such as Malawi, where they cannot even afford money to spend on infrastructure, working as a doctor simply will not make ends meet. As such most medical professionals shun these places to work in regions where they can command much higher wages. This simply leaves places such as Malawi with waiting lists that make Australian hospitals look efficient. As I mentioned I personally know a couple of missionaries who are medical practitioners, and once again they simply do not have the skills that are required to provide the medical treatment that is needed (two of them are nurses, one of them a psychologist, and another is an allied health professional – none of them are GPs, or even surgeons).


A city divided

All cities have their rich areas and their poor areas, however in Africa this contrast seems to be much more noticeable. There are certain parts of the city that have simply been left to rot and ruin, and those who land up there have great difficulties escaping. Mind you, this is the case with most cities around the world, and I certainly have noticed this even here in Australia. Mind you, some governments solve this simply by sending in the bulldozers, however that generally doesn’t solve all that much because shanty towns tend to have that habit of being able to spring again up pretty quickly.


Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, is certainly one of those cities, where you have the areas containing the mansions of the politicians and the diplomats, and the slums where the rest of the community live. Crime is pretty high, but Theroux has suggested that this has always been the case. However, when he was here previously the violence was all political, being instituted by the state, however these days the violence is simply due to crime arising in the poverty stricken regions.


While I have already mentioned this, Theroux also comments on how Malawi is also trying to attract the tourist dollar by building five star resorts on the shores of Lake Malawi. Sure, while it may be a landlocked country, being on the shores of quite a large lake gives companies incentives to build luxury resorts, and since the economy is so bad, it makes a holiday here quite cheap. Once again this is the corporate world creating further divides within the African continent where the tourists are attracted, but are kept sheltered from the reality of the situation on the ground. As such, he decided to shun the corporate hotels and seek accommodation at one of the regular hotels, only to discover that there is a fee structure – there is one price for the Africans and there is another price for the foreigners, a price that tends to be substantially more. This he blames on the aid agencies and other corporate employees.


Theroux’s visit in Lilongwe took him to the American Embassy, if only to follow up on his previous request. However he discovered another complete disconnect with the reality on the ground. The embassy staff simply seemed to believe that the country is progressing nonetheless, especially with the provision of corps to assist the farmers in earning an income. The problem is twofold since the two cash crops available – tobacco and coffee, do not generate all that much money. However donor companies also provide stable crops, such as maize, however these plants have been genetically engineered to produce a greater yield. The problem with genetically engineered crops is that they are sterile. Sure, they may produce a greater yield, however the result is that these crops cannot produce seeds that will enable a farmer to plant the crop for the next harvest. As such they must return, cap in hand, to the donor companies for more. The cycle of aid thus continues.


There is also the thing about the roads. Sure, the government did built some good roads, however there are only three people who actually use the roads – politicians, foreign diplomats, and children playing ball games. The thing is that while they may have good roads, the average African does not have a car – they walk (or catch a bus). As such these roads, while providing good travel for the politicians and the foreigners, have no purpose for the locals. Then there are the landslides. Once again aid has not assisted, and in fact forced them to go backwards. Normally if there was a landslide that cut off a road, the locals would clear the road by hand. However, bring in the bulldozers and suddenly it is much quicker, and easier, to clear the road. The problem is that the bulldozers don’t do the same job as the locals would do – namely the drains wouldn’t be cleared, and when the rains come again, there is no easy way for the water to escape, and thus it would take out the entire road. Sometimes doing something manually is so much easier as it prevents further disasters down the track.


Back to School
Due to the horrendous experience that Theroux had travelling by bus and truck from the north of the country (there are no trains in Malawi) Theroux decided to take it easy for a while and hire a car to drive to his old haunts. Mind you, he was only there for a couple of years before he got into trouble with the government by smuggling a dissident out of the country, and then was kicked out of the Peace Corps for interfering in the politics of the country (and apparently bringing disrepute to the organisation). However, these events ended up turning out quite well for Theroux as he went from being a teacher at a school to a lecturer at a university in Uganda (where he also met his first wife). Mind you, while he was in Malawi, he decided to pay a visit to the Bureau of Censorship to discover that his book Jungle Lovers was still on the banned list (or at least it was back in 1991, which was the latest list that they had available, though he decided not to push any further just in case he landed up in even more trouble).


Anyway, he goes and visits his friend, and also his old school to discover that things had seriously degenerated. Okay, his old friend was still the same, but in many cases it seems as if he had become to accept what life in Africa was like. The school though had not been looked after – windows were broken, and many of the books in the library had been stolen. It seemed as if there was no desire to educate the people of Malawi, and even then they had so little resources that in many cases the schools seemed to be little more than day care centres. Sure, the aid agencies go out and establish these schools, and even provide materials and teachers, however like so much of Africa, they are not looked after – the materials go missing and the buildings simply collapse into decay.


Primary School


Personally I cannot say that there is much better schooling here in Australia. Like Africa, if you are wealthy then you can afford to send your children to the best schools and universities. Sure, the private school system does support the public education system by taking some of the strain, however for those who cannot afford a private school and don’t live in a suburb where there are good schools, the ability to become educated is much more difficult. I have heard of schools here in Australia as being little more than day care centres, which are at times woefully underfunded. In a way it does not matter how smart you are if you do not have the good fortune of going to a decent school you are always going to be left behind.


There was a scene where Theroux was sitting with some of his old friends, and many of them were speaking of how the Indians were kicked out of the country so that the locals could then run the businesses. However that never happened because they simply were not able run a business the way the Indians did. They laughed at how the Indians would spend all of their time tapping away on calculators and counting stock – yet this is an essential part of running a good business. In many ways we see this attitude here in Australia, were a smart child will be mocked and derided by showing intelligence and ambition. In many cases these people do not like to see people get ahead, and even if they do get ahead, they find it difficult being around friends who simply have no motivation.


School Building

In a way Theroux paints Africa as a nation of excuses – a common saying being ‘you see the problem is …’ This was very much the case in Tanzania. In a way they were seeing problems and simply believing that it cannot be done, as opposed to seeing a problem and then looking for a solution. We see this here in Australia, and I have known may people who hide behind excuses ‘I can’t’, ‘it’s too hard’, ‘they are not interested’. We even see this with these educated people who tell us how when somebody succeeds, suddenly all of their family swarms in through the door wanting a piece of the action. As Theroux was spending his last days in Malawi he had pretty much had enough, especially when an African came up to him asking him for money: why are you asking me for money, ask me for work! The African did not want to ask for work, he just wanted money.


Look, Theroux suggests that maybe aid is the problem, and I would suspect that there is a side of it that creates dependency. Look, I am very much a socialist that believes that there are services that the government should provide. Not everybody is lucky enough to be able to afford the basic essentials, however I am also well aware of the culture of dependency. If you hand out money for free them people begin to expect to get this money for free. I believe in the necessity of taxes, and also believe that everybody should pay their fare share. However it is not just the poor that develop a culture of dependency, but also the rich and the powerful. Corporations that receive subsidies begin to rely upon those subsidies, and they begin to factor them into their balance sheets, so that when they are removed they suddenly need to restructure their operations. It is not just the poor who become dependant, but the rich as well.


However there are times when aid is very important, such as during war, famine, and natural disasters. If crops fail then not every country is able to weather the storm the way that advanced countries are. Despite there being a drought in Australia over a number of years, we all still had food on our tables. This is not the case in a country like Malawi that not only has to contend with pests eating away the food that has been stored, but also when the rains don’t come at the right time the entire crop is destroyed, which results in famine. War is a no brainer, and with regards to natural disasters, the response time is critical to prevent the spread of disease and malnutrition. Look, disease is also critical, especially where a country lacks medical services, however sometimes disease can be preventable, and it is up to the individuals to live in a hygienic manner to prevent diseases.

Anyway, I’m going to bring this post to an end here simply because Theroux’s next destination is Mozambique and a journey by canoe down the Zambize. However that will be the subject of my final post on this book, namely the Southern Reaches.
Creative Commons License
Dark Star Safari Part 2 – Into the Centre by David Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.

Cash Crops source: Bjorn Christian Torrisen used with permission under creative commons attribution share=alike 3.0 unported
Ugandan Woman source: Dylan Waters used with permission under creative commons attribution share-alike 2.0 generic
Idi Amin source: New Zealand Archives used with permission under creative commons attribution 2.0 generic
African Tribe source: Aimee Tyrell used with permission under creative commons attributon 2.5 generic
Dhow source: Muhammed Mahdi Kamin used with permission under the GNU public license.
Tananzia Railways source:


Game On takes a win in the winter weather

Finding things to do with kids in the cold winter weather around the Upper Hunter is pretty hard. In fact even when it’s not cold there are limitations as to what’s available to do with small kids once you bump north of Singleton, add the almost snow like conditions and you hit a stumbling block of toddler entertainment!

With the winter chill well and truely set in yesterday, after playgroup in Singleton, I decided to take the kids to check out Game On in Muswellbrook as I’d heard they had added some toddler play equipment in.

Upon getting arrival I was pleasantly surprised to see it has changed quite a bit from when it first opened. They removed the putt putt golf and have replaced it with a toddler playground area that’s really quite cool.

There’s a slide and explore area with a ball pit, a mini merry go round, a really fantastic inflatable jumping circle (best way I can describe it) and a see saw. They have put a lot of effort into it as there’s also a collection of foam building blocks and a a chalk board wall.

The playground is cleverly positioned around a tab,Ed eating area so mums and dads can relax, have a coffee but have full view of the play area. Also the decor is fantastic, All kitted out with race cars to keep the sensory overload going!

It’s relatively pricey if you’re on a budget sitting at $7.50 per child but like many places the canteen is the extra kicker and they don’t allow you to bring in snacks which is fair play in my eyes.

We’d had plenty of food before we arrived and I had snacks in the car but I also wouldn’t have been against buying something there and supporting the place. I did grab a coffee and a water and with the entry walked away paying $25 for what ended up being a fantastic day.

The boys had an absolute ball of a time they were entertained for hours on a bitterly cold day and it was well worth the money! We will def be back only next time I’ll be taking my laptop to get some stuff done. It’s great to know that if you’re in the Upper Hunter there really is somewhere to take the kids in the cold!

Game On is located on Mill Street Muswellbrook. The entrance is on the side road behind the Chinese restaurant and a bit hidden away.

They also do bowling and laser tag and birthday parties!

The Literary Salon – Help Me

Help Me BookThis month’s literary review is about one woman’s humorous but perfectly disastrous journey through the world of self-help books.   

The Publisher’s Blurb: 

Marianne Power was a self-help junkie. For years she lined her bookshelves with dog-eared copies of definitive guide after definitive guide on how to live your best life. Yet one day she woke up to find that the life she dreamed of and the life she was living were not miles but continents apart. So she set out to make a change. Or, actually, to make every change.

Marianne decided to finally find out if her elusive perfect life—the one without debt, anxiety, hangovers or Netflix marathons, the one where she healthily bounced around town with perfect teeth to meet the cashmere-sweater-wearing man of her dreams—lay in the pages of those books. So for a year she vowed to test a book a month, following its advice to the letter, taking the surest road she knew to a perfect Marianne.

As her year-long plan turned into a demented roller coaster where everything she knew was turned upside down, she found herself confronted with a different question: Self-help can change your life, but is it for the better?

About the Author:

Marianne Power is a successful British journalist and blogger.  She lives in London, England.    She was a freelance writer at the time the book was written.

My Goodreads Review:

Help Me: One Woman’s Quest to Find Out if Self-Help Really Can Change Your LifeHelp Me: One Woman’s Quest to Find Out if Self-Help Really Can Change Your Life by Marianne Power

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marianne Power’s year long journey sampling the shelves of the self-help section is an enormously entertaining look at the self-help genre.    We’ve all read self-help books, except maybe those with perfect lives and non-dysfunctional families.    But are they…well…helpful?    We tend to read them and then toss them aside, so how intriguing to read about someone who spent a year road testing them.   I absolutely loved this book – it was brilliantly written, hilariously funny and when she spirals out of control into the depths of despair, painfully honest.   Not many people would be so revealing about their less than perfect lives and perceived flaws.  Fortunately, Marianne had her mother, so full of wisdom and sensible advice, to help her through her year of applied psychology.   I can just hear her mother sighing, “Oh Marianne, you’re fine, just the way you are.”   And she is.   PS.  I hope now that she has become a successful author, she makes enough money to pay off all her debts and buy a house.    


I noticed this book on the Just New Releases shelf at my local bookstore, because pursuing the self-help section is something I’m long past.   When you’re older, you realize that your life doesn’t need fixing…. you’re happy to be still living, reasonably healthy and mostly content.   If I do pick up a self-help book it’s more likely to be one about living with gratitude or something practical like how to get organized – Marie Kondo I may be revisiting you before I empty out those kitchen cupboards! 

The book was so engaging, I just could not put it down.    I enjoyed her witty style of writing.   The chapter on angels was LOL funny, but then I grew up Catholic so I could relate.    

‘My guardian angel was a daily companion who got me through exams and my ever-present fear that a burglar would break in while I slept.  Every night I’d pray to her, turn off the lights, and then when I’d be practicing playing dead, (I figured murderers wouldn’t kill me if I was already dead in my bed), I’d imagine her flying over me, her golden wings flittering, like Tinkerbell.   She was pretty.  As all angels should be.’       

While I was aware of some of the titles and authors she explored, I had only ever read Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway (which surely must be from the 80’s), and The Secret, (during my Gospel according to Oprah phase).   I knew of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and that Tony Robbins was a popular life coach but the chapter on his workshop was just too weird and cult-like.    Of all the books she mentioned, the one that seemed to resonate the most with her was The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.    She had tried to read it once but her therapist recommended it might speak to her now, as sometimes it’s a case of the right book at the right time.   I might check that one out as I tend to be a worrier and have trouble staying in the present.   (Edited to add – sorry to say but I abandoned Mr. Tolle at the halfway point,  although I did find him helpful those nights I had insomnia mulling over all  those kitchen reno decisions – it was so boring that after a few pages I was out like a light). 

She did see a therapist, and that brings up another issue about self-help books – many people turn to them because they can’t afford a therapist or a life coach and there’s only so many times your friends and family can listen to you moaning about the same old problems.   Not everyone has a wise sage of a mother dispensing sound advice, so to obtain nuggets of wisdom and fresh points of view from the pages of a book cannot be dismissed.  Discussions about how to live a good and happy life have been with us since the days of the Greek philosophers.    But is too much introspection a bad thing?   The last chapter sums things up nicely.  

Some Quotes:

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”  (Socrates)

“All this thinking about yourself is not good for you.”  (Marianne’s Mum – Chapter 11)

 Is there a particular self-help book which you have found helpful?

Sri Lanka, Trincomalee

Trincomalee –

My husband tells me that if you see an ants nest you should leave it well alone. The ants you see are the small workers and if you kill them the hive will send larger warrior ants to investigate the disappearing workers.

You might arrive at a place and maybe the sheets are dirty and the room is rundown, maybe the aircon is filled with cobwebs and there are strange footprints on the wall. Excusable you think, this is fine, this is workable, you have paid too much for this to not be workable… Then your wife goes into the bathroom and sees, running along the edge of the room, a line of ants. Just little ones, but enough. She might follow that line to a large hole tucked behind the door. Knowing your dislike of ants she might shut the door and lay a towel down to stop them entering the main room. Not long after you might notice the ants bringing their larvae to the towel, creating little bundles of egg nests. In moment of madness your wife might get some tissue and scoop up the little bundles by the door and drop them in the toilet. Then there are ants on the cistern and so she might grab the little arse hose attached to most toilets in Asia (and lets be real, these things are great and the rest of the world needs to catch on) and spray the ants down. Then maybe ants will start pouring from under the toilet carrying food, in blind panic she’ll hose them down too. Now ants are streaming out from all over, they cover your shoes, hands and every surface in the room. That little line of ants doesn’t look so bad now, does it? Because now your wife has to speak to the host and he is going to give her ant killer and the only way to solve the problem she has created is to cover the whole room in white killing dust and hope the Buddhists are wrong, because shes just committed a massacre, on Vesak of all days.

We stayed for 1 night on Nilaveli beach, Antmageddon proved too much for us. In comparison to Mirissa, Nilaveli was very underdeveloped and quiet. We stopped at one of the only open spots on the beach, a beautiful restaurant/bar called Memo’s. With prime position looking out towards the ocean, fairy lights, hammocks and weathered wood tables Memo’s was a perfect haven from the storm of our hostel. Serving really delicious Italian food, the owners have really made the place their own. They have several dogs and cats who are very friendly and well cared for, we had a lot of fun with some after dinner scritches, and they run an airbnb also. We had a great chat about Sri Lanka and were informed about the fact that the north of the island receives less funding and promotion of tourism then the south, which along with the lingering effects of the civil war is why it is less developed. The north of the island is a beautiful place, the sea is much calmer this time of year and easy to swim in, and the weather is drier and a little hotter. It might take longer to get to, but it really is worth it.

We moved out of the ants nest and went down to Uppuveli beach. Here we arranged a whale watching tour with a local guy called Eddi. He had a small 6 seater boat and his reviews and ratings said he was respectful of the sea creatures and made sure to give them space. I love the natural world. All creatures big and small are of great interest to me, but so is taking care of them, the planet, the environment, and the people that have to co-habit with them. I felt a bit weird about doing a whale watching tour but thought I was making the most ethical choice. Firstly it is the off season, at the very beginning of the migration, I knew this would limit my chances of seeing a whale, but it would also reduce the number of other people whale watching. Secondly I went with a small local business, thus ensuring that I was giving my money to a local person and not a big tour company. Third, I deliberately went with a guide with a small boat, I hoped this would limit any disruption to the sea life I was trying to see. Fourth, I choose to do a tour in the north of the island because that is a less popular region for tourists. I was happy to lower my chances of seeing a whale if that was the more ethical choice. However, what I learned is that even if you go in low season, even at the beginning of the migration, even in the weeks after a terror attack, even in the less touristy part of the island there will be more boats then I am comfortable with. Some of these boats will not keep a safe and respectful distance from the dolphins. Sometimes you can think you are making the best choices possible, but until you experience it you don’t really know.

As respectful as our guide was, seeing the other 8 to 10 boats chasing after this 1 pod of dolphins was kind of, harrowing? Uncomfortable? Sad? All of the above. We sat and watched the dolphins for about 5 minutes or so before asking Eddi if we could move on to somewhere else, which was a plus about doing everything off season, we were the only people on the boat, so we could ask to move on and not have to consider other people on board. Eddi took us further out to sea, in the hope we might find a whale. Instead we stumbled onto a shoal of flying fish, which was a really spectacular sight.

Uppuveli beach is a bit more lively place. With several bars on the shore and more tourists then we had seen in a while. We went on the hunt for coffee, and found a cafe called The 18th, which served homegrown Sri Lankan coffee but done the right way. Sri Lankan beans it turns out are really amazing, they have a rich caramel flavour and serve up a strong and smooth cup of coffee. The 18th also does smoothie bowls, porridge and rice pudding. The rice pudding and smoothie bowls are vegan, I am not 100% sure about the porridge, but the coffee is really great. We met two British guys here who had rented a tuktuk and were driving it across Sri Lanka, which sounded like a lot of fun.

There is a fun bar on the beach called Fernando’s bar, which has swinging chairs, bean bags and a sort of garden/beach/tree house aesthetic. We had a few drinks and dinner here (they have a vegan/vegetarian menu section, but its clear they don’t really understand the difference as a lot of the vegan options had buffalo curd on…)They also run a guesthouse/hostel and it looks like a pretty fun place. We were staying in a much quieter part of the beach, but it was nice to have a “night out” at this spot. Word to the wise, bring a torch with you…

There is a hell on earth. Nightmare eyes peering from underground. They burrow under the sand from Nilaveli to Uppuveli, thousands of sharp fingers hidden in wet holes. In the daylight you can walk from beach to endless beach without fear, but come sunset the scuttling monsters hurry forth. Our only protection the light from a mobile phone and a dawn summoned crow.

From hidyhole to hidyhole these 10 legged demons dash, eyes on stalks waiting for an unsuspecting toe. Beware the beaches from Upperveli to Nivalli for in the night the crab hellmouth opens.

From Trincomalee we got the bus to Kandy which took about 6 hours and cost between 500 – 600 rupees (£5.68/£6.81) for the both of us, we don’t really remember, but it was very cheap!

Osaka, Japan


Last year I decided to visit Japan for two weeks over Chinese New Year. I started my trip by spending 3 days in Osaka before heading to Kyoto. Osaka was a city I found easy to navigate and a great introduction to Japan.

The weather during the beginning of my trip was not the most cooperative. It ended up raining my first 2 days Osaka. I decided to check out the various shopping and food areas since most were covered or easy to dash between. One area I walked around was Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shopping Street. This street is well known for shops that sell kitchen and cooking utensils.

Besides exploring the shopping areas, I decided to take a food tour with Drink Osaka. This ended up being my favorite food tour in Japan, and possibly my favorite food tour in Asia. My tour ended up being just the guide (Rodney) and myself. Luckily, Drink Osaka didn’t cancel my tour since no one else booked for the evening I was there!

The tour explored the Dotonbori area of Osaka, which is home to hundreds and hundreds of bars and restaurants. I’ve never seen so many restaurants and bars in one area. Dotonobori is busy with locals and tourists trying the various foods and bars. During my tour I tried kushikatsu, okonomiyaki, and takoyaki. We also stopped at two local bars to sample sake and Japanese whisky.

Rodney then took me to a restaurant not included on the tour, where I had the opportunity to purchase and try fugu. Fugu (blowfish) is a poisonous fish and that should only be prepared by certified chefs. The restaurant had less than 10 seats and somewhere I never would have found on my own. Supposedly Jay-Z visited the same restaurant the year before during his visit to Osaka.

I tried fugu two different way. One version was roasted fugu in warm sake, known as Hirezake. The other was fugu served with soy sauce. I had the chance to try handmade tofu, which was some of the best tofu I’ve tried.


Accommodation: ANA Crowne Plaza Osaka

IMG_2906During my time in Osaka I stayed at the ANA Crowne Plaza Osaka. The hotel is located in downtown Osaka and overlooks the nearby Dojima River and highway. There are multiple subway stations nearby and a free shuttle to Osaka Station.

The ANA Crowne Plaza Osaka was modern and recently updated before my stay. Upon check-in I was upgraded to a queen room with a view due to my IHG status. The room was the largest and most spacious I encountered during my trip to Japan. There was even a small sitting area that overlooked the Dojima River and highway. The only downside was the noise late one night from the nearby highway. The highway is popular with the infamous street racing that takes place in Osaka.


Unchain the Chain or: Dat’s Good


Tonight, The BCPF, Beer Dad Paul, his wife Susan, Ray from TMWATT and his wife Whitney all went to hang out at Carrabba’s Italian Grill with my pal, the Proprietario Daniel Butner. You’ll read more about this later this week on the food blog.


Daniel Butner

I want to say that yes, I have a problem with restaurant chains. I have for the last 10-15 years. There are many reasons why. Inferior food. Usually crappy service. The money is generally part of some corporate entity that ships a great chunk of the revenue the restaurant makes to someplace in the midwest, removing most of it from the local economy. And, probably the biggest problem is that the restaurant is only about money and not about the community.

I can tell you that while Carrabba’s is a chain, Daniel is all about the community. I know what you’re saying, sure, Sure he is. Well, let’s go with this, then. His last name Butner and his 3-4x grandfather was one of the Butners that moved from Pennsylvania to Bethabra and then on to form Salem. He was the founder of the bakery in Salem and his great-great-great something uncles were Butner’s Hat Shoppe owners. So, fast forward these many years and he is owning a franchise in the town that his family helped to found. And, he does a lot of charity work for non-profits and other community needs. He’s a remarkable man. And, he has a beard that even I am envious of.

I’ve not really touched on the food because I’m saving that for the food blog, as I said. I just wanted to talk about how this “chain” changed my mind on what a chain is, or in Daniel’s words, “what a responsible chain looks like.” I will be back at Carrabba’s soon. I recommend you try it, too. Let me tell you one thing, the filet is to die for!

Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
Scorp out!

“Carrabba’s Italian Grill was founded in Houston, TX by Johnny Carrabba and Damian Mandola in December of 1986, who set out to create a restaurant experience where people felt like guests in their home.” – Carrabba’s

A trip to the USA: Part II

So here we go again! I wrapped up my official conference and it was time to visit GOOGLE campus. Being an Apple fanboy, I was excited to visit the competitor tech giant’s campus. ?? Madhur had already booked an appointment for our office tour and lunch. Though lunch pre-booking was of no use as we got late and had to wait for a little bit of time at the restaurant. Google campus was humongous and beautiful. Clean, Crowded and attractive. Well, if you come from middle-level MNC to visit world’s one of the best tech company, obviously there’ll be thousands of eye-popping things to witness. What I liked most was the campus, greenery, sculptures, colorful bicycles, and most important FOOD! There were so many options to eat. One gets confused to select one. Being a typical Indian, We pursued the option of Indian restaurant named BAADAL. I don’t remember the menu right now but we were served great delicious food. Later on, Akshay and Purva guided me to the campus tour and was a treat to see that. Clicked some cliche pics as well and it was time to roll. For me, it was time to join the office back while for them to connect remotely. We were going to meet again on Friday to leave for Los Angeles. First time I was cursing the existence of Wednesday and  Thursday as I was so excited to visit LA.

Time did its part and I did mine- WAIT and FRIDAY came. We were all set to leave for LA. We left from San Jose,  got the things for munching and all for the long drive of 6-7 hours. As a matter of fact, Wherever the gujjus go, Namkeen goes without saying!! ?? The driveway was full of scenic views and sunset never looked this much beautiful. Feel the wind,  enjoy the views and get lost in nature. Ah! what a mesmerizing experience! After a long 7 hour journey, we reached our booked stay. The lady welcomed us warmly with the gestures as she was unable to speak English. And we dozed off as we had to leave early in the morning to visit famous Universal Studios. We got up early, dressed in swag and left to have a blast. When I saw Universal Studios, was in awe and the face had the reaction “What the ….!”. It was HUGE!! As we were visiting the studio on the weekend, the crowd was there. We had experienced campaigners with us- Akshay and Purva to guide us as always. We kick-started the tour with Harry Potter ride which was arguably the best ride in the park. The universal studio app also helped to get the approx wait time of the rides. Well, who cared about the wait time. I was enjoying that experience. I never dreamt of visiting it in my wildest of dreams! So you can understand the excitement and the energy which I had at that time. We covered almost all the popular rides- Transformers, The Mummy, Walking Dead, Simpsons, Minions and others which I don’t even remember. The rides were followed by an hour-long studio tour. The tour was quite good. We had no idea about when the sun went down. In the night view, the studio looked gorgeous. Again captured some photos and it was time to say Ta-Da.

We left the studio and the next stop was to visit the downtown and the famous Walk of Fame. To our surprise, when we reached Walk of Fame, the academy awards preparation was going on. The Dolby theatre situated exactly opposite to walk of fame was glittering with lights and red carpet. We visited the local shops and did a bit of shopping. The hunger was at its peak level and we headed for dinner. A day was well spent with so many memories to take away and cherish.

On the next day morning, we went to visit the famous Hollywood sign placed at the peak of the mountain. Parking a car in the USA is big fat trouble. Somehow we managed to park the car and visited the famous sign. Watching that sign was surreal. Always had a glimpse of it in Hollywood movies but watching it live was unbelievable. Eyes just couldn’t believe that. On top of the mountain, there was a beautiful museum to visit. We visited that and left the beautiful city of LA.


While returning back to San Jose, we saw a snow mountain and decided to visit that place. The day I landed in California, I had put my demand to Akshay to take me to the snow places. Due to bad weather conditions, somehow that was not possible but luck took a U-turn surprisingly and I ended up visiting a snow mountain. That place is known as Fort Tejon. My word, the view at the snow mountain was just spectacular. Those 30 minutes stay at Fort Tejon can’t be described in words. The heart was jumping in joy and the eyes were pleased to see the all-white sight. Now I was left with only one weekend and had to fly back to where the heart belonged- INDIA. On last Saturday, we went to half moon bay but the weather had some different plans and ruined the experience as we were not able to visit it properly due to heavy rainfall. Though I don’t have the regret of that.

And that was wrapppp! It was time to say adieu to the extended family. I was all set to fly back and when Akshay, Purva, Raj came to drop me off to San Francisco airport, I was very emotional. That happens every time. Goddamn it! It’s quite irresistible. Anyway, with the promise of seeing them soon, I took their leave to fly back and that ended my beautiful experience of roaming in the USA. I want to express heartfelt gratitude to you guys for taking care of me, bearing me, my tantrums and fulfilling my high hopes.?? You guys are family! Thank you and Ciao until next time!!!!!

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”

Exploring Seattle

Hi everyone! Kristin here, writing the blog post for last week while in Seattle when Wade was working the conference with Scott. Tuesday the 28th was my first day of exploring on my own. I left the hotel at 11am, headed for the Klondike Gold Rush National Park but walking down Union Street I was distracted by the sight of the top of a Ferris wheel. My detour brought me to Waterfront Park, which I’d already planned to explore on a different day. Waterfront Park is where the Seattle Great Wheel (the Ferris wheel!) is at Pier 57/58 and the Seattle Aquarium is at Pier 59. Across the street the two level elevated road, Alaskan Way, is being partly demolished to convert the Waterfront Park into a Plaza.

Klondike Gold Rush National Park is located in Pioneer Square in the historic Cadillac Hotel building. The building itself has a history of being rebuilt of brick after The Great Seattle Fire of 1889, suffering low vacancy after the gold rush and World War II. The building was almost demolished after the 6.8 magnitude Nisqually earthquake in 2001 which caused large sections of the building to crumble. The severity of damage was presumably due to an inadequately cared for roof, exterior masonry, and unreinforced structures. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and Historic Seattle worked quickly to halt the demolition and over the next few years renovated the building and partnered with the National Park Service to reopen the building in June of 2006 as the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.

The exhibits showcased how the discovery of gold in Alaska and Canada jumpstarted the Seattle economy and revitalized the city. It all started in August 1896 when gold was found near where the Klondike and Yukon rivers meet. It wasn’t until July 1897 when Seattle would learn of the find and see the first 68 miners returning with almost two tons of gold! Exhibits gave examples of the Seattle Outfitters supplying everything from food, clothes, and tents to the impractical like Klondike bikes. Bikes said to be able to climb the snowy mountains of the Yukon. Others highlighted life on the dangerous trails from Seattle to the mining towns of Dyea & Skagway. The Chilkoot trail ended with a 35° slope gaining 1,000 ft of elevation over a quarter-mile climb up the “Golden Stairs” cut out of the ice. The White Pass trail was longer than Chilkoot but its summit was lower. The trail was quickly overused and its boulder fields and sharp rocks earned the trail its nickname Dead Horse trail as an estimated 3,000 horses died in the winter of 1897-98. These trails where used to get to Dawson City and on down the Yukon River to the gold fields. Another exhibit featured five people and their journey toward gold. One of these stories was of John Nordstrom, yes that same Nordstrom…

Wednesday I took the monorail over to the Space Needle. This was a quick 3 minute ride and the rail dropped me right in front of the needle. I didn’t go up in the Space Needle but I did enjoy its ground level sites walking around the park area including the Peace Garden, sculptures, and Museum of Pop Culture (MoPC). The MoPC was SO COOL! It had costumes, props, and memorabilia of all types from Horror, SiFi, Fantasy, music and band history of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Jimmy Hendricks, Prince, a Guitar Gallery, and a Nintendo sponsored video game room. Just check out the pictures it was FANtastic! ??

Thursday I walked back to Pioneer Square, which is actually a triangle, but okay! It was my day to go tour the Underground, literality. I had read at the gold rush museum part of the city was built right over itself after The Great Seattle Fire of 1889. Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour was only 75 minutes packed with cool facts and lots of potty humor. The guide for my group was funny and you could tell right from the intro he’d been doing this for many years. On this tour you go under the streets and below three of the buildings. Yes, we were warned there could be rats, mold, dust, and spider webs. The long and short of it is the city’s business district was built on the only flat area of the coast (at the time) which was swampy and muddy. The area would flood twice a day with the coming and going of tides thus adding to the mess. Logging was big industry for Seattle and thus wood was its source for construction supplies. Buildings as well as water and sewer pipes were all made of wood. A young apprentice accidently let a pot of glue boil over causing the whole business district to go up in flames…all that wood, including the pipes which is why there was no water for the fire hoses. After this Seattle set new rules that all new construction must be of stone or brick and they decided the build up the roads to take care of the daily tide flooding. This was great except for it would take 10 years to raise the roads and business owners needed to rebuild now. One picture said workers started rebuilding so soon after the fire they had to be careful not to burn their feet on buried embers.

So while the city raised roads the owners were told to include doors and windows on second and third floors because one day these would be the new entrances into their business. And it was true, in some places the road was raised three stories high. Our guide told us to think about this, shop at old street level and road three stories high, how do you cross the road from one block to the next? The city had an answer, one tall ladder up and over. He said now think about this, 1900’s ladies fashion was a dress weighing 30-40lb and a three story ladder… according to him no women died falling off the ladders but 72 men did.

After the Underground tour I walked Waterfront again and up to the Olympic Sculpture Park. Seattle likes their abstract art! Heading back to the hotel I found myself at the Pike Place Market full of local vendors selling their wares and fresh fish all around. Seattle is a neat city and I enjoyed it, but I’m still a country girl and need to get back to nature! We are headed to Olympic National Park and then Montana so stay tuned for more adventures!

Alle cinque della sera di Cesare Lanza: attualizzando…L’autobiografia di Simenon


Massimo Cacciari, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro (1646, la prima donna laureata al mondo), Ken Follett, Federico Garcìa Lorca, Michele Guardì, John Maynard Keynes, Enrico Ruggeri, Stefania Sandrelli, Adam Smith, Pancho Villa.
Morti il 5 giugno: Ray Bradbury.


Philip Tierno, microbiologo e patologo alla New York University School of Medicine, ha calcolato che un uomo di media corporatura può rilasciare nel letto fino a 100 litri di sudore all’anno e che i cuscini, di piuma o sintetici, possono contenere da 4 a 17 specie diverse di funghi.


“Maigret non somiglia ai poliziotti resi popolari dalle caricature. Non aveva né baffi né scarpe a doppia suola. Portava abiti di lana fine e di buon taglio. Inoltre si radeva ogni mattina e aveva mani curate. Ma la struttura era plebea. Maigret era enorme e di ossatura robusta. Muscoli duri risaltavano sotto la giacca e deformavano in poco tempo anche i pantaloni più nuovi” (Georges Simenon)

“Maigret è l’elemento cui la realtà reagisce: una specie di elemento chimico che rivela una città, un mondo, una poetica” (Leonardo Sciascia)

“Montalbano ha imparato da Maigret” (Andrea Camilleri)

“Non si stupiranno i miei lettori se oggi ricorro a quell’indimenticabile maestro di questo genere che è stato Georges Simenon e al suo celebre personaggio, il commissario Maigret, brusco eppur umanissimo scopritore del bene e del male in una Parigi spesso ovattata e immersa nella notte e nella nebbia” (Gianfranco Ravasi)

“Senza la sua pipa Maigret è un uomo nudo. All’inizio di ogni indagine, essa supporta le sue riflessioni e la sua percezione tattile del mondo esterno”
(Le Figaro)


Di Georges Simenon non si riuscirà mai a saperne abbastanza. Non mi aspettavo che due ammiratori del creatore di Maigret (Luciana Gregori da Pisa, Ernesto Milanesi da Como), mi chiedessero qualche approfondimento, dopo la nota che avevo pubblicato un paio di settimane fa. Ed eccomi qui. L’autobiografia di Simenon è un libro di centinaia di pagine (non sono riuscito a leggerlo interamente). La sua passione, universalmente conosciuta, per le donne è intrigante. Però è meno noto che ci furono anche rapporti difficili e tormentati.


Con la madre addirittura devastanti: lei, oltre ad imputargli la responsabilità per la tragica morte dell’adorato primogenito (il fratello di Simenon morì in giovane età), gli rimproverava di essere uno “scrittore fallito”. Ebbero rapporti difficili o inesistenti, solo davanti al letto di morte della mamma Georges ebbe momenti di riflessione e un lampo di tenerezza.


Nel matrimonio le cose non andarono meglio: dopo il fallimento della prima unione, Simenon visse una relazione dura e difficile con Denyse Ouimet la quale, dopo anni di profonda passione e intollerabili gelosie, proprio per i continui tradimenti del marito, si diede all’alcol, arrivando quasi alla pazzia.


Il 19 maggio 1978 la figlia venticinquenne di Simenon, Marie-Jo, si suicidò nella sua casa parigina sugli Champs-Elysèes, sparandosi un colpo al cuore. Simenon ne sparse le ceneri nel giardino della villa di Losanna. Tra i motivi del suicidio certamente il rapporto con il padre. Marie-Jo, dopo un’infanzia difficile, era entrata fin dalla adolescenza in un terribile circuito di cliniche, ospedali e cure psichiatriche e, prima di riuscirci, aveva già tentato più volte il suicidio. Sapeva che il padre frequentava un incredibile numero di donne e non riusciva ad accettarlo.
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Wonderful Wednesday

Count Your Blessings

Every week a gentleman from one of my churches tells me that there are too many blessings to count!  It would take too long.  And I always tell him that’s why I post a list of a few every week.  I’m by no means listing every single blessing.  I’m just trying to remember how very blessed I am.

So this week…

Time well spent the last 9 days with my darling daughter.  I know I’ve mentioned this over and over but having her home was wonderful.  She won’t be back till Christmas so those few days were extra special and I think we made the most of each of them.

A safe trip to take her back to her home away from home.  The roads were busy and full but we made it the 10+ hours safely.

A nice walk last night after we arrived.  It was a beautiful night!  The breeze was simply amazing.  Have I mentioned how much I love the wind?

One more day with my girl and then I’m off to spend a few days with my darling son and darling daughter-in-love.  I’m so excited to see them! Did I mention the grandpups?  It seems like it’s been forever. It’s only been 2 months but it feels like longer.  I’m excited to spend some time with them.  Before I know it, they will be too far away for me to drive alone to see them and it will be MUCH longer between trips.  I’ve got to take advantage while I can!

Cell phones.  They are the most amazing gadgets.  They are my lifeline.  I remember when I could only call home a couple of times a week and now I can call a couple of times a day.  DH used to couldn’t call but a couple of times week when he traveled but now, I hear from him every night.  I get to talk to the kids whenever they want and we don’t have to worry about how long we are on the phone.  We can talk for hours because cell phones give us unlimited calling!  I could probably use less smartphone though… that part can steal much of my day but that’s another post.

So many blessings, I can’t even count them all.  Health, happiness, home and more.  What are your blessings today?

Anima Series Animation 10.1

I would say this little random side thing is at a late midpoint.

For the most part it’s simply an experiment for a later possible project; sort of fine tuning a method, and process.

It’s not far off from the original photo series. There are things I like, and things I do not. With this, per se, I’m internally debating the look in terms of straying a little from the theme.

I’ve mentioned the history. In a general way they were kind of artistic re-imaginings of simply people I knew who kind of did sexy pictures for their significant other. There are different reasonings behind. Either the wanted the alterations themselves as the only one. Or they wanted one that could be shown that allowed their identity to be withheld, or even something that had lower “realism” anyone looking wouldn’t know it was an actual person.

I’ve noticed over the time of publishing some over here the ones liked the most are of a different type.

One backstory mentioned I can expand on..

It’s becoming more common, but the more overtly sexual ones where sex is involved relate to those who found publishing sex supplemented their income substantially. The issue comes later when they get married, have children, start a family, and people recognize them. These days it’s so frequent you’d argue people don’t remember anyone. The theme of the project in terms of this area is transformation where something is one thing, yet, the end result is vastly different while retaining the same base.

As with the actual design element where it’s fun to let the limitations define what is being done with “flaws” become the character, and personality; the fun of these are going that extra point where a person can take raw sexual visuals, and not have a conditioned sexual response. By that, I mean, it becomes symbolic and/or metaphorical instead of what’s going on itself. This is a very difficult balance.

There are things I like about them, there are things I dislike. One limitation with these is that the frame quality hurts the resolution in most cases where the theme falls apart out of necessity. One possible option is shifting it to more of a “dream” feel, realism is thrown out entirely.

By that, I mean haze. Washing out the color. I’m still in an internal debate mode with it. Getting the detail right on a pallet that isn’t welcoming to it is difficult, it’ll be hard to intentionally flush it out. Yet, it may make it more disorienting.

As mentioned, shifting from a word/philosophy blog to this project in part was to test the response of women to ensure the end results were not too “pornographic”. By that, I mean, pushing envelopes and not crossing the lines. By that I also mean the core base even when the person made them for this purpose, retaining those elements and removing the feeling of them. Replacing it with another.

I am finding through tests that making it look more disjointed works. I’m also finding through tests that flushing out realism is more interesting.

Instead of just posting slight variations over and over I figured I’d word a little out to give a little background. I’m still not in the mood to shift to a blog that’s more “analytical” and “serious” because I’m not in the mood to get into that mindset all of the time.

When I focus too much on life and current events, it’s kind of hilarious I end up at a point where I go off and fine tune this kind of project. Many of the “analytical” subjects are within these in a cryptic way, if you see it you’ll see it. If not, you don’t.

One detail that’s in the photos that’s easy to catch relates to what I just said which is somewhat humorous; nature photography reminds us we are human and part of nature. It’s always healthy to stop, go for a hike and remember the stress of society life is just a made up construct. Sex and sexuality is a primal natural drive, it’s not as strong as Freud paints it, however, but it’s high on the list and links to almost everything. Even if it’s family, you end up with one somehow.

With that, I’ll leave it there for now.

To close out “words”..

It should be obvious I’m not that concerned about “likes”. In general, I do my best to try to not be that way. With these things I do tend to try to pay attention because, simply, if men like them I’ll scan over it to decide if I have the “volume up” too high in some areas, and if women like it there’s something being done right. It’s more taking mental notes and looking at comparisons.

When it Comes to Walter, The Mind Boggles


It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned any of Walter’s indiscretions.  He’s been the subject of numerous posts here.  If you decide to pass this one by, I promise I won’t think less of you.  You see, I’m insufferable when it comes to Walter because I talk about him a lot and I’m like a grandmother proudly showing off photos of her grandkids in a grocery aisle, keeping all of the other shoppers from reaching the frozen asparagus that is always on the top shelf.  I’m sort of like that, only I’m not keeping others from frozen asparagus and I am not proud of him.  When it comes to Walter, one can only ask:  “What has he done now!” or “Can you believe he survived this?” or “How could my cute puppy turn into Destructo-Dog?”

Today it wasn’t bad.  When I woke up this morning, I found trash scattered around the kitchen.  This is rather common behavior for a dog if given the opportunity.  But it brought to mind all of the really weird stuff he’s chewed and/or consumed.  Mostly the latter.  I know I’ve mentioned some of these before, but it’s rather impressive seeing them in a very long list.  As long as it is, this list is abbreviated because I’ve effectively blocked out many of his more heinous crimes.

Anyhow, here it goes:

Toilet Paper,  Taking toilet paper off the roll and threading it through every room of the house without breaking it takes true skill.  Walter is a toilet paper genius.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner.  I have no idea why.

Leveling feet for the washing machine.  You know the things that are like big bolts that can be screwed in to make the washer level.  Yes, he ate those.

Orchids x 10?   I’ve already lost count.  Walter is a very experienced orchid-eater.

Houseplants  Many, Many more in addition to the orchids.  Maybe he thinks he needs more vegetation in his diet.  Speaking of which…

Virginia Creeper.  This vine covers his kennel fence completely.  Or at least it did until he managed to tear a bunch of it down and consume it.  Grapes are poison for dogs.  Since Virginia Creeper is a cousin of the grape, it was very bad.  I actually thought I might lose him.  But I should have known that he would pull through.  I swear he’s indestructible.

Lightbulb packaging. Disconcertingly, the bulbs were never found.

My Journal…there are no words.  Well, there were words in the journal before he decimated it, but there are no words to express how I felt about this one.  I didn’t take it well.

Knives.  Now before you get all worried, he did not cut him himself, he merely chewed the handles off.  He has now de-handled a set of four and he’s eying my other set.

Scouring pads. He particularly liked to steal and chew the plastic one I use to clean his water bowl…I must admit it’s in the shape of a dog bone, so I “might” give him a pass on this one.

Pens and Pencils.  Oh, so many pens, pencils; and other pen and pencil-shaped things that he has deinked!  They are truly innumerable.  He chewed so many markers till the ink bled that my old sofa was psychedelic!

Crayons.  Yes, he ate crayons.  Bill said he was pooping rainbows for a couple of days.  Perhaps he was trying to become a unicorn.

My previous sofa.  Thank goodness it was old and had already been through three puppies.  However, before Walter, it was pretty much intact.  Most puppies chew a small bit of the cushion.  Not Walter.  He would chew a BIG hole in the fabric and then proceed to rip the stuffing out!  Great Danes apparently suffer from EBS more than most other breeds.  Exploding Bed Syndrome is a real thing and I suddenly feel better knowing that I’m not the own Dane owner who suffers this.   Given enough time, Walter would have turned the sofa into this…




CD cases.  They have always been a favorite.  Poor Cake took the hardest hit. I suppose if you name a band Cake, you really should expect a dog to give your disc a chomp or two.

Cacti.  More than I care to count.  How he has avoided looking like he tangled with a porcupine INSIDE his mouth, I’ll never know.  He feels no pain.

Handsaw.  Recently he chewed the handle of a brand new saw, and then he chewed the cardboard safety guard exposing the very sharp teeth of the saw.  You would think that chewing a saw blade would hurt, but Walter truly must be oblivious to pain because he did it TWICE!

Bananas.  I only mention this one because he adores bananas, and he will go to all lengths to get them.  He eats them whole, skin and all.   He loves them so much that he has snagged them from a shelf seven feet off the ground.  Nothing is safe.

Cat food.  Typical, right?  Not this time.  He took unopened cans and chewed them until the cat food oozed out.  Then he chewed the cans into smaller pieces that were strewn throughout the house.  I am usually barefoot and I was not happy when I stepped on the tin shards.  And I really wasn’t amused when my rug smelled like ‘Salmon Entree’ even after three scrubbings.

Aquarium filter cartridge.  Now you might think that I left it out and he just grabbed it for a little chew.  Oh no, he actually opened the filter and snagged the filter cartridge from the running filter!!  Wet carbon everywhere!  I don’t know how he did it or why.  Walter is inscrutable.

Very dark chocolate.  This is another big no-no for dogs so I “encouraged” him to vomit.  Everything came up foamy…and blue!  Come to find out, he had grabbed a…wait for it…

Steel wool SOS pad!  The mind boggles.




Foodie Tuesday with Smarty Marty- Crispy Salmon with smashed sweet potatoes

Hi Folks! We are glad to be back to share with you another recipe inspiration from our Foodie Tuesday Food Blog Series. This week Smarty Marty brings us this delicious Crispy Salmon with Smashed Sweet Potatoes dinner idea. So if you are ready lets get started with the necessary ingredients to cook up this delicious delight.


Smashed Sweet Potatoes:

1/4 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons unsalted butter 

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered and cut into 1/4-inch wedges 

2 tablespoons maple syrup 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 


1 tablespoon olive oil

Four 3- to 4-ounce skin-on Atlantic salmon fillets, patted dry

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter 

3 sprigs fresh thyme 

2 cloves smashed garlic 


  1. For the smashed sweet potatoes: Heat cream and butter in a medium saucepan until melted together. Add sweet potatoes and gently simmer, covered, stirring frequently, until potatoes are super tender, about 30 minutes. Add maple syrup and mash with a potato masher until smooth and uniform. Season to taste with plenty of salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm.
  2. For the salmon: Heat olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper all over. Lay in pan, skin-side down, and let cook, undisturbed, until skin is very crispy, 5 to 6 minutes. Gently flip the salmon and add butter, thyme and garlic and cook until salmon is desired temperature, 3 to 4 minutes for medium.
  3. Divide sweet potatoes among four plates, then top each with a crispy salmon fillet. Add a handful of salad on the side of each, then top salad with orange segments and drizzle the salmon with the butter sauce from the pan.

Food Styled and Prepared By Smarty Marty 

Recipe By –

Atlanta Based Photography Elisha Akram (Kustom Kreation Photography) weekly food/recipe contributor Smarty Marty(My Older Sister) combines her love for cooking, photography and plating meals each and every Tuesday for this Segment entitled Foodie Tuesday. Join us each week for a variety of dishes prepared by Smarty Marty

An unexpected journey to Maldives: About Biyadhoo, budget and boats

I won’t lie. I have a thing for impromptu trips. But so far such trips have been within the radius of a few hundred Kilometers. Never ever in my wildest imagination had I thought that I would take one to the Maldives. Because us middle class people generally don’t do that.

But when the universe plans something for you, you have to just go with it.

It may sound pretty absurd but as our plans to visit a wildlife sanctuary in central India seemed to fall apart, thanks to inflated rates and overbooked safaris, we randomly started searching airfares to other places in and around India. We came across a direct flight from Mumbai to Malé which looked reasonably priced. Despite knowing that Maldives is infamous for being ridiculously expensive, we still decided to give it a go because we were desperate to go somewhere. So four days before the trip, we booked the plane tickets and began hunting for a resort that wouldn’t bankrupt us.

During our intense research over the next couple of days, we came across many surprises with regards to the expenses. Budgeting the Maldives trip was not as straight forward as we had initially thought it would be. Here are few of the things that we learned during this process:

  1. The island resorts can only be accessed via transfer services provided by the resorts. Each island resort has its own fixed transfer mode and rate which depends upon the distance of the island from the airport and the luxury rating of the resort. These transfer charges are ridiculously high, sometimes costing as much as $500 per person for a return transfer!
  2. The government taxes (Green Tax, GST etc) can make the expenses bloat up considerably. Many resorts collect the taxes separately before settling your final bill. So if you are not aware of these taxes you may end up with surprisingly fat bills. One needs to make sure prior to booking a hotel whether the charges mentioned are inclusive of taxes or not – especially so if you are booking through third party sites. These charges are not hidden but you need to mindfully consider them while budgeting.
  3. Drinking water is a luxury on these islands. Though you may get a complimentary water bottle each day per person, you may still need more water which can cost a lot. Opting for an all inclusive package that includes meals plus certain beverages and water instead of full board which only includes meals is the most sensible option here.
  4. The resort islands may provide complimentary snorkeling, scuba or other excursions. The non complimentary excursions can cost significantly and many times are not meant for amateurs.
  5. Staying on a non resort island can cut down the expenses significantly. These islands can be accessed by public ferries. If you are on a really tight backpacker kind of a budget then you may consider staying on these islands. There are a lot of local tour companies that arrange for excursions around nearby islands so apart from the luxury, you will not miss out much.

While searching for the right island resort we stumbled upon Biyadhoo. This 3 star property from south Malé atoll seemed like an ideal place for us to be. Biyadhoo is famous for an excellent house reef – probably the best in the atoll, is reachable by a speedboat (which means no need to splurge on a seaplane) and provides some vegetarian food options beyond fruits and salad. We booked it right away through makemytrip which was providing an all inclusive package at a really good price. I had no doubt that the universe was really orchestrating this trip for us.

Biyadhoo, Maldives
Biyadhoo, Maldives

Out of the 5 nights, we decided to spend the first one in Hulhumale (the airport island) taking into account any possible flight delays and immigration process. The island resorts generally have shared shuttle transfers at regular intervals. If there are any severe delays or if the shuttle gets canceled due to any other unforeseen reasons, one may have to wait until the next morning. We didn’t want to take any chances here so spending a night in Hulhumale and exploring the neighborhood seemed like a more sensible option to us.

We booked a homestay through airbnb called ‘Raintree Residence‘. They provided free airport transfer and breakfast. After some initial mess up with picking us up on time from the airport, we were greeted by a very friendly person who was our host’s cousin. He drove us to one of their other homestays called ‘The Orca’. This was a new property. The room was small but cozy with an attached balcony. The breakfast was continental so for us vegetarians it was just toast, butter, jam and cornflakes.

The host offered to show us around Malé the next morning at an additional $10 charge. We drove around the city for an hour and spent some time around the Islamic center. The whole city had a sleepy vibe. We decided to wrap up soon because we were running out of time and headed back to the airport where our island shuttle would pick us from. The overall experience at Hulhumale / Malé was pleasant but avoidable.

Our speedboat ride from Malé to Biyadhoo was of approx. 45 minutes. Blame it on the bad weather or the speedboat driver, I wasn’t having a good time. The bumpy ride was greeted by some winds and rains midway and my anxiety was shooting through the roof. Out of the zillion things that I am afraid of, water certainly makes it in the top 5. So even though, the Chinese toddlers in our speedboat were having a great time, I was fighting my fears and praying to all the Gods that I know really hard. My prayers were probably heard and we soon reached our island. The blue lagoon, white sands and a green piece of heaven beyond that welcomed us. It was a love at first sight.

As I stepped onto the jetty from the boat, I immediately looked down at the green lagoon which was glistening despite the sky being overcast. As I looked closely I realized that it wasn’t just the water. There were dozens of fishes- mostly fluorescent green and blue! I was literally smiling ear to ear and jumping like a lil girl ??

Over the next three days, we spent our days exploring our beautiful island and the magical sea life around it. On one of the afternoons we went on a small group excursion that included dolphin and manta ray spotting, snorkeling in the deep sea for turtles, visit to a very tiny uninhabited island called sandbank and a local island called Guraidhoo. This was a paid excursion. We also had a complimentary snorkeling excursion from the resort which only my husband availed the next day ( I chickened out. You will understand why. Read on). The weather, again, was not friendly. The wind and rains were not leaving us alone. As the sea was not calm we couldn’t spot mantas. Amidst all the drizzle and shaky waters, we parked our boat in the middle of the ocean and our guide declared that we would snorkel here. The sea here was quite deep and since I couldn’t swim he said that he would take me later separately. So while everyone else including my husband were snorkeling, I was blaming my father for never enrolling me in a swimming class while feeling sick in our wobbly boat. My husband came back in sometime as he was having issues with his snorkel. The other three – an Italian family of husband, wife and son continued to snorkel freely without assistance. The guide asked me if I wanted to come down. Uncertain of what I really wanted to do, I said yes and without giving it a second thought jumped into the water. That moment can be inscribed as the bravest moment of my life though I was regretting my action right away. The next few minutes were the most embarrassing minutes of my life. After having a glimpse of the reef I came back disheartened because I couldn’t see any fishes or turtles. On the other hand, the Italian family was gleaming with happiness and I couldn’t help but envy them.

Sunbathing and drying our clothes at the sandbank. This tiny island can be covered within 10 minutes of walk and has only sand with minimal vegetation. Amidst endless ocean, even this little piece of land gives so much relief.

The whole excursion experience taught me two important lessons:

  1. Amateurs or non swimmers should avoid snorkeling excursions in deeper waters if the sea is shaky.
  2. I need to learn swimming ASAP.

Our stay at Biyadhoo was very comfortable. The room was spacious. Every room had a private access to the beach. The restaurant and bar had a very courteous staff and nice ambience. The restaurant staff made sure that we get an extra vegetarian dish during every meal. The staff at the diving and water sports center too was very helpful. Surprisingly, the front desk staff was not so prompt or friendly either. Not sure why they were so indifferent towards the visitors. Nevertheless, I would still recommend Biyadhoo to those looking for budget resort and lovely reef in Maldives.

On the last day, as we were waiting for our shuttle boat to take us to the airport, I wondered if I would ever come back. It felt like the trip got over too fast… like I didn’t make the most of this trip. All the things that I couldn’t do started popping up in my mind and I felt like quite a failure. The pristine islands that still haven’t given into darkness of the human greed, that continue to shine in their primitive glory reminding us how petty our ideas and pursuits of happiness are, that make us loath our dull surroundings and crave for being part of them forever – My heart ached at the thought of probably not experiencing any of this again.

I wished I could swim. I wished the weather was kinder. I wished we could have planned earlier and better. But then as I bid adieu to the white sands and blue lagoons, I realized that these 5 days wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t universe’s wish. Why was I even complaining! It was time to say goodbye to Maldives with a grateful heart.

Tips For Android Users??

1. Tips For Great Battery Backup:-

Most of the Android users Face the Problem withe the Battery Life. So My Recommendation is use Your Phone with Minimum Running Applications. i.e. Recent Apps. Clear the Recent Apps Regularly Most Of the Apps Run in Background Drain the Battery. Charge Your Phone About 90-95% & then take the Phone in Working. Dont use Fake Apps Like Battery Save & All. Charge Your Phone By Removing the Back case. Due to this Phone Will not Heat during Charging. Use this tips for the Battery Backup.

2. Performance.

Android Users Looking For the Best Performance for their mobile. Whole the Performance Depend on the Processor. But Performance also depends on how we Operate the Mobile Properly. Do not us Run So many Apps at a time. Clear the Recent apps Regularly. Performance also Depends on the Ram usage. Due to Multiple apps Running Ram usage increase & the Performance will be Decrease. So Do not Run So many Apps at a time. & Clear the Ram Usage.

3. Camera.

Some Peoples Loves the Mobile Photography. Mobile Photography also a great Feature in Smartphones. If you want to take a Clear sharp or Right Picture use the Option Grid lines. It help to take the Picture with the Right Angle. Also For Low Light Photography in Mobile Decrese the Normal Exposure at Night time. Use Different views for Capturing the Picture.

4. Web Browsing in Android.

For web Browsing Android Mobile have Different Browsers. Set a Single Browser as a Default Browser for use. So if you get a Link on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter if you click on that Link you will Directly go on that Link by your Default Browser. Also do not Download applocations or Files from Untrusted Sites which are not secure. It will harmful for your Device. So Avoid that type of Websites for Downloading Applications or Files. Look at the Upper side of page on Browser you will see the Symbol like ?? Lock. That is it is the Secure Website.

Sixteen: The Hazel Wood (Melissa Albert)

Published by: Penguin Books
Reason it is on my to-read list: I had noted it down because its plot intrigued me: ‘a 17 year old’s mother is kidnapped by fairy tale creatures’.

This is a review of two parts.

The novel opens in a recognisable modern day America with a single mum and her teenage daughter engaged in a transient, mysterious lifestyle. I really liked it. The author does a fantastic job of weaving the curious isolated life of the protagonist’s writer grandmother and the family’s uncertain history into present day. The breadcrumbs of unusual characters and memories that fit better into fantasy than reality are intriguing and compelling.

The protagonist, 17 year old Alice, has little understanding of her family’s background and why she and her mother are plagued by bad luck that sees them moving constantly. She has a huge curiosity around her grandmother’s book of dark fairy tales that is virtually impossible to find, and when her mother disappears under suspiciously fairy tale circumstances, Alice knows that she will find her in the Hazel Wood: the mysterious former home of her grandmother.

The twists and turns of the hunt is wonderful, aided by Alice’s friend and Hazel Wood fan, Finch. It becomes clear that characters of her reclusive grandmother’s dark tales are somehow crossing over into Alice’s world, but the how and why are dangled tantalisingly out of reach.

Until they’re not…

This is where my opinion starts to crumple. Where I loved the teasing fantasy in reality, when Alice does find the Hazel Wood she, and the story, crosses over to high-fantasy, and I found myself liking this less.

The storytelling remains strong, and the unearthing of all the answers to Alice’s questions are given fully, which should be satisfying – and probably is if you’re a fantasy fan. I’m not that much of a fan and so found the back third of this book a little tedious. It was just a bit too much of a departure from the reality we started with and I didn’t really go with it. However, a fantasy fan would likely adore the cross over and should definitely give this one a go.
Borrow this title from your local public library, or purchase it from your nearest independent bookstore, Book Depository, or Amazon.

South India- A foodie tour

While your eyes are busy to grab the images, and your nose is in search of the smell, your unfortunate taste buds are getting betrayed. If you want justice, visit the beautiful southern states of India. Let’s begin our food excursion and we will start with Chennai and Pondicherry. We will take you through from breakfast to dinner one by one, so stay with us.

In a fine morning when you wake up in Chennai you need Coffee in Chennai! Don’t miss it! Please note I am speaking of coffee not tea. You will get two famous types of coffee in any state of southern India, 1st one is Filter coffee and the other one is Kumbakonam degree coffee.

Filter coffee is a mixture of high quality locally grown coffee powder, milk and sugar. The style of making filter coffee is different which makes it special. On the other hand degree coffee is special type of coffee is made with degree milk which means pure milk and this is the specialty of this item. This is very dense and really hard coffee and taste awesome. So don’t forget to try this one.

Once you are done with Coffee, you need a healthy breakfast. Lots of varieties are available for you. Let me take you to a famous shop which is named Murugam Idly shop. Although it named as Idly shop, you will get every item you need for your breakfast. Remember they serve pure south Indian style breakfast. You will get verities of Idly, Vada, Doda, Uttappam and delicious Pongal. Take your time and try to taste as much you can.

Not only Murugan Idly Shop, you will get good quality breakfast in SaravanaBhavan, Sangeetha veg restaurant and AnandaBhavan.Here I want to make a special mention. If you are travelling to Kanchipuram from Chennai, you will get Shree Adhinatha restaurant, and each and every item of this restaurant is simply WOW.

So let’s summarize, checkout below authentic restaurant list for your quick reference:

Restaurant Name Specialty Location
Murugan Idly shop Idli, Onion Uttapam, Sweet pongal, Dosa, Jigarthanda Park Town, Porur, TNagar, Ashok Nagar, Velachery and lot more
Shree Adhinatha restaurant Dosa, Filter Cofee, Ghee Idly Nazarathpettai
AnandaBhaban Dosa, Thali for lunch and dinner Mylapore, Velachery, Nungambakkam ,Triplicane and lot more

Now let’s move ahead for our lunch. Chettinadu lunch, rich in spices is the most popular cook method in Tamilnadu. If you are in Chennai and missed Chettinadu lunch, you will miss an important bullet from your checklist. There are several good quality restaurants in Chennai that offers you authentic south Indian food and you might be confused where to eat. Let me sort out top 3 restaurants for you and you can keep one for your dinner also. The top rated budget restaurant is Sangeetha Veg Restaurant, simply superb food with lots of Varity. Try there special veg Thali, you will get ten types of items in this Thali including Sambar, Rasham, Kuzhambu, Rice, Coconut rice, Papad, 2 types of sabzi, puri, kesarpayesam. You will be tired to finish the thali. The 2nd option is Hotel SaravanaBhavan, and it is simply WOW. You will get almost same menu like Sangeetha, but taste is a bit different. Both taste good. Sangeetha is more spicy than SaravanaBhavan. The third one is AnandaBhavan, foods of this restaurant is made of pure ghee and worth to taste.

You must be feeling tired right? All right now take some quick rest. We need to refuel us for other varietiesof foods. Once you done with enough rest and feeling refreshing, let’s move to street food section. Rush to ‘Fruit Shop onGreams Road’ to taste good quality Juice and Falooda. Falooda of this place is awesome. You can also try Juice World, Amudham Juice Shop and Aqua. 
Check out restaurant lists in details below for lunch:

Restaurant Name Specialty Location
Sangeetha veg restaurant Special south Indian thali Adyar, Egmore, Nandambakkam, Guindy and lot more
Saravanabhavan Special south Indian thali Egmore, T Nagar, Anna Nagar, Mylapore and more
Fruit Shop on Greams Road Juice, Falooda Greams Road, Besant Nagar, Meenambakkam
Juice World Mocktail, Falooda Alwarpet, Saidapet, TNagar

Let’s wrap up our day with a healthy dinner. You can try one restaurant which you didn’t tried in your lunch. Let me add more restaurant here if you want spicy food, Palm Jumeira, Savoury sea shell if you like sea food and 1947, Veg restaurant. These shops  serves good quality food.

Restaurant Name Specialty Location
Palm Jumeira North Indian food Greams road
Savoury sea shell Crab, Masala, Squid paper fry Annanagar East, Velachery, Perungudi, Greams road
1947, Veg restaurant Paneer tikka masala Khader Nawaz Khan Rd, Thousand Lights.

Here we are at Puducherry, a town ruled by French. Chennai to Puducherry is 160km. Pondicherry/Puducherry, a small town Kissing Bay of Bengal, full of energy, its food Variety is uncountable. Welcome to Pondicherry.

Start your day with Coffee and don’t forget to take some cookies with it. Get some good quality cookies from AnandaBhavan, Nuts and Spices and Auro Café. You will get good quality of breads and cakes also. Pondicherry is heaven for bakery lovers, in every road you will find bakery shops and all of them maintain their quality.Now if you are in Pondicherry and going for breakfast, you have two options. Either take south Indian food or take French food, French food is highly recommended. Let me take you to some good French restaurant. Rush to ‘Baker Street’, one of the famous French restaurants in Pondy. You will get plenty of verity which are enough to confuse you.

You will get Variety of sandwiches, Tarts, Pastry, Breads and lot more.Remember price is a bit high in this place but it is affordable for once or twice in your tour. Other good restaurants you can try are Crepe in Touch, Velo Café, Cafe des Arts.

Let’s move to Lunch and you should try Surguru Spot restaurant. Food quality and Variety of this place is superb.

Once you are done with your lunch, go ahead and take some rest by watching sea from your hotel balcony. I am sure you will be refreshed by it.

Now if you are in Pondicherry and haven’t tried good quality ice cream then you will miss a lot. So don’t waste your time and go to GMT ice cream shop. You can’t believe in your eyes how much verity of ice cream they have. If you eat 2 types in a day, it will take more than two weeks for you to finish all items. 

Ok it’s enough….. Really? Have you done your dinner? No right!!!!! Let’s go and have some mouthwatering sea food dinner. Try two restaurants Fish Aurant and De BlueFin. You will get all you need for your dinner. These places are heaven for Squid, Lobster, Crabs, Sharks and lots of other verity of sea food. If you are in Fish Aurant don’t forget to try chef’s special sea food platter, best in Pondicherry. It includes fish finger, chicken chips, soups, eggs, squids, fish fry, crabs, fish curry, rice, payesam and lot more.

Also try De BlueFIn, their Malabar Fish/Prawn curry and Lobster need special mention. Do try them all.

Restaurant Name Specialty Location
AnandaBhavan Dosa, Pongal, Uttapam 241, Mission street,
Nuts and Spices Local spices MG Road
Aura Café Cakes, Cookies, Organic tarts 16 Goubert Avenue, Beach Road
Baker street Tuna sandwich,Tarts, French breakfast 123, Bussy street
Creep in touch Brehat, Molene, Lorient, Ouessant, Batz 29, Needarajapayar Street
Surguru spot Special Chettinaduthali 12, JN Street, White Town
GMT ice cream shop Verities of ice cream Beach Rd, White Town
Fish Aurant Chef’s special sea food platter 37, Kamatchi Amman Kovil St, Near Tanishq, Heritage Town
De Bluefin Lobster, Malabar prawn curry 18/A, Sri Aurobindo St, Heritage Town

With all these varieties, I think, your taste buds got justice. If your stomach still cries, subscribe ‘Go and Explore Travel’. We will notify you with our next food excursion.

That’s all folks…. keep in touch with us for more mouthwatering foodie articles.

A Great Travel Experience Is Easy With This Solid Advice

Many people imagine themselves traveling the globe. It can be nice to dream about the places you can explore; however, and it is even more fun to start the planning process. The following advice will help you get the best trip ever.

If you are traveling in a foreign country, be careful of the taxis you choose to ride. Be certain that the taxi is a real taxi before you enter the car. Sometimes, people will try to defraud you with their credentials.

Sign up for a travel price watching site. This allows you of the prices of places you to any price change. When hotel or airline prices drop, the website will alert you with an email about the change. The alerts keep you from having to constantly check on the prices.

It is a good idea to register with a site that watches travel prices. This is offered by several websites and lets you input your most traveled destinations, and it keeps an eye on them for you. When the price drops, you will get an email alert. This takes the work out of your needing to check the prices everyday.

If you drive to any port city prior to going on your cruise, stay at a hotel with free parking and get there the night before you are to leave. Ask the staff of the hotel where you stay about parking deals.

You can save time when going to an amusement park by purchasing your tickets online. The small fee for such a service is worth it to avoid long lines. Some parks offer things, such as timed entry, which will allow you to skip the long lines at the admission gates.

A luggage tag hanging from the exterior of your luggage can easily lost in transit.

Prior to making any reservations, do your homework. Visit online review sites and see what others are saying about potential travel destinations. Talk to people who have went to your destination. If you do adequate research, there will be a less likelihood of a bad experience when you arrive at your destination.

You may be covered for cancelled flight that get charged to the card. It pays to conduct some research before you leave.

Bring a rain coat. Many times it is very difficult to predict how the weather will turn out. A raincoat can be used as a windbreaker if it is chilly or as a robe while in your hotel.

Travel can be a great educational tool for your family members. As long as you are careful, the developing world can be a good place to visit, as they can offer extremely enlightening experiences for your children and you.

A good tip to have filtered water is to melt the ice provided by the hotel and use that for your morning coffee. Tap water rarely tastes good, so place ice in the bucket for overnight melting. In the morning, the better-tasting filtered water will be ready to brew your coffee.

You never know what the weather will turn out. A great example of making the most of what you have is using a raincoat for cold weather, along with the bathrobe in the hotel.

There are many travel related forums for you to become a member of. Finding a community of fellow travelers to share experiences and socialize with is one of the best ways to prepare for a trip. This will put you in a group of people who share similar experiences.

Use hotel ice to brew your coffee in the morning. Rather than drinking tap water, fill an ice bucket to melt overnight. You can brew tasty coffee in the morning with fresh filtered water.

Work to stay out of rush hour when driving on a long trip. If you can’t avoid a rush hour in a city, stop at that time for a meal or rest. This can be the time to grab a bite to eat or let the kids out to burn some energy.

Join forums and social networks. A great way to get ready for any trip is to talk to others who enjoy traveling. This lets you make friends and share similar experiences.

If traveling with a little one, be sure to build in plenty of breaks. These stops can be used for leg stretching and bathroom breaks. In addition, getting a little fresh air can help keep motion sickness at bay. Your trip may take a bit longer, but the reduction in stress is worth the small delay.

Most automobile rental companies require the minimum age to be at least 18 years old, and some do not rent to those under 25. You may also need to bring a credit card if you’re not at least 25.There are some cities that do not allow seniors from renting cars. Find out about age restrictions when reserving a rental car.

One way to do vacation planning is by utilizing the power of the Internet. Booking travel has never been easier. The effort you have to put into travel planning is minimized when you use the right Internet resources. Hotels, flights, and rental cars can all be booked straight from the computer. Reviews and pictures of hotels are easily at your disposal. Travel websites also offer good deals in planning your trip, as well as discounts on last minute travel.

Pack a few small candles if you plan on staying in hotels during your trip. Candles will make a room smell good. It is relaxing and romantic, relaxing and could help you sleep easily.

If you want to adjust quickly to an unfamiliar time zone, don’t allow yourself to fall asleep until nighttime locally. Resist the urge to fall asleep too early because this will only prolong the disorientation of jet lag. Do your best to adjust to the new time as quickly as you can, so your jet lag will fade and you can enjoy your vacation.

When traveling via cruise ship, chat with other guests during meals. Many cruises will place you at tables with people you’ve never met. Have a positive attitude and talk with all the people you come in contact with. You are likely to see them often, so it makes sense to make friends.

Try thinking about different transportation methods. Buses have come a long way. You can get great deals on clean buses, and some of them even have free Wi-Fi and other perks. You might find bundle deals from some bus lines that will make your planning simple.

Weather is a huge factor in your trips. Be aware of typical weather that is headed your destination and plan accordingly.

Take an additional passport photo when you travel abroad. If your passport goes missing, it will be difficult to replace. When you have an extra photo with you, you’re one step ahead of the requirements. Be sure to carry extra copies of important travel documentation just in case the originals are lost or misplaced.

If you are going to other countries, write out some cards that contain dietary restrictions in the language spoken by locals in your destination country. This allows your server a good idea of what you are able to eat. These cards are very helpful and allow you to really enjoy your food much more pleasurable eating experience when you’re away.

Schedule an early flight to try and avoid delays. Airports are usually pretty full, so if one gets delayed, the one after may get delayed as well since it must wait for those gates to open. Morning flights have less chances of being delayed.

Make use of the E-tracking option found on some travel websites provide. This will provide you informed about the most current and cheapest methods of travel. You are able to receive alert via email alerts if the flight that you have booked or shown interest in has changed with regards to your travel arrangements.

When traveling to another country, make cards indicating the foods you have allergies to using the language spoken in that country. If you are vegan or vegetarian, this can alert your server to what you can eat. You don’t have to worry about the language barrier if you have them with you.

Now that you have read these tips, you know what you need to do. This knowledge can earn you respect from the people you travel with. If you want to make sure that your next trip is as free of troubles as possible, you’ll want to use these tips.

You can often go without luggage when traveling by air. You will save lots of unnecessary travel and time. Instead, have your luggage sent via FedEx or UPS to your destination. This is kind of pricey, but it may be worth it to you.

Many people would like to understand Alaska Airlines Flightsdont use others blog that belong to other user, but they don’t always know how they should go about it. This article definitely has the wisdom that you seek. Now, all you have to do is use this article’s tips.

Curried Pork Ramen

This curried pork ramen is made with spice ground pork, soy sauce marinated eggs, a broth flavored with miso, and, natch, ramen noodles. A truly slurp-worthy, satisfying, and Instagram-able ramen bowl that’ll satiate any noodle craving.

A black bowl filled with curried pork ramen, jammy egg, bok choy, sliced radish, and basil.

Curried Pork Ramen

  • Quick Glance
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • 9 H, 25 M
  • Serves 4
Print RecipeBuy the Ramen cookbook

Want it? Click it.


  • For the soy sauce eggs
  • 4 large eggs
  • Water
  • 2/3 cup dark soy sauce*
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin*
  • For the curried pork
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons toasted or untoasted sesame oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 fresh red chile pepper, such as serrano, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • Pinch salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
  • For the tare (this is what lends the ramen its characteristic flavor)
  • One (2-inch | 5-cm) piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 scallions, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mirin*
  • 1 tablespoon white miso
  • 1 tablespoon red miso
  • 2 teaspoons tahini
  • For the bowls of ramen
  • 7 1/2 cups store-bought or homemade chicken stock*
  • Sea salt
  • Water
  • 2 baby bok choy or pak choy (10 oz), trimmed and leaves separated
  • 14 ounces fresh ramen noodles, or four (3-ounce | 85-g) packages dried ramen noodles
  • 4 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 fresh red chile pepper, such as serrano, seeded and thinly sliced
  • Handful Thai basil or purple shiso* (optional)
  • Pinch Japanese pepper (shanso*) (optional)


  • Make the soy sauce eggs
  • 1. In a small saucepan, bring the eggs and enough water to cover to a simmer. Once it simmers, cook the eggs to the desired doneness, about 3 minutes for slightly runny yolks or a little longer if you prefer less runny yolks.
  • 2. While the eggs are cooking, fill a medium bowl halfway with cold water.
  • 3. Drain the eggs and immediately plunge them in the cold water. When the eggs are just barely warm to the touch, drain and gently roll them on a countertop to smash the shell. Carefully peel the eggs.

    TESTER TIP: It’s easier to peel hard-cooked eggs when they’re still slightly warm as opposed to completely cool.

  • 4. In a measuring cup, combine the soy sauce, sake, sugar, and mirin and whisk until the sugar dissolves.
  • 5. Pour into a resealable plastic bag, add the eggs, squeeze out any excess air, and seal. Place it in a narrowish bowl or container so the liquid submerges the eggs.
  • 6. Stash the bowl in the fridge for at least 8 hours and preferably overnight.
  • 7. Remove the eggs from the marinade and let them come to room temperature while preparing the ramen. If desired, reserve the marinade and use it to flavor the ramen broth.
  • Make the curried pork
  • 8. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the garlic and chile and cook for 1 minute. Add the pork, season with salt and pepper, and stir to break up any clumps.
  • 9. Stir in the curry paste and cook, stirring frequently, until no trace of pink remains, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to very low and keep warm, stirring occasionally, as you finish the ramen.
  • Make the tare
  • 10. In a food processor, blitz all the ingredients until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a small skillet over low heat and simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.
  • Assemble the bowls of ramen
  • 11. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the stock and tare and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and add more of any ingredient or, if desired, some of the reserved egg marinade.
  • 12. Fill a bowl halfway with cold water. Bring a large saucepan of salted water over high heat to a boil. Add the bok or pak choi and cook until tender, 2 to 4 minutes.
  • 13. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bok or pak choy to the cold water. Keep the pan of water boiling.
  • 14. Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes if using fresh ramen or according to the package instructions if using dried ramen.
  • 15. Use a slotted spoon, tongs, or chopsticks to transfer the noodles to serving bowls.
  • 16. Divide the pork and bok or pak choy among the bowls and ladle the hot stock over the top. Arrange the eggs, radish, and chile on top. If desired, sprinkle with the shiso and Japanese pepper. Serve with chopsticks. (Or if you’re like David and need a little help, use a spoon.)

*What You Need To Know About The Ingredients For This Recipe

  • If you’re going to bother to make homemade pork ramen, you definitely want to rely on ingredients that will ensure the most spectacular results. Here, a cheat sheet…
    • Mirin is a low-alcohol, high-sugar cooking wine used in Japanese cuisine. It’s readily available at Asian markets and most grocery stores although in a pinch you can substitute 1 tablespoon sake or white wine mixed with 1 teaspoon granulated or superfine sugar.
    • Shiso is a stunningly vibrant purple-hued Asian herb that tastes a little like basil with a tinge of licorice with a hint of mint.
    • Shansho (sometimes spelled sansyo) pepper, has a tongue-tingling and slightly citrusy lilt to its heat. It’s of referred to as the Japanese version of Chinese Sichuan (Szechuan) peppercorns although both are actually unrelated to black peppercorns.
    • Dark soy sauce, available at Asian markets, lends its rich color and flavor to the eggs. If all you have on hand is regular or light soy sauce, either will work, the color and taste will just be slightly less intense.
    • Homemade chicken stock may take a touch longer than opening a box or can from the store but not much more effort. The depth of flavor you’ll derive from it makes ALL the difference. Use your own fave stash of homemade stock or combine a whole chicken or chicken carcass, 3 carrots, 2 leeks, a roughly chopped bunch of scallions, and a pinch of peppercorns in a large pot and add enough water to cover the chicken. Simmer, partially covered, for 2 to 3 hours, then strain the broth.


St. Boniface

Rhine River

The Rhine River, crossing the heart of the Europe, is one of its great passageways for trade and transportation. The river was also a path Christian missionaries took centuries ago to bring the gospel to Europe. In the fall of 718, Pope Gregory II commissioned Boniface, a missionary monk from England, to evangelize the peoples who lived on the right side of the Rhine. Boniface–his feast is June 5– is the apostle to the German people and a founder of Europe.

St. Boniface

Boniface brought other missionaries to Germany, founded monasteries and dioceses and preached the gospel to various Germanic tribes and peoples, which were then often at odds and quick to fight each another. Boniface brought one faith to a divided people and their leaders and worked tirelessly to bring them together. He believed what Jesus taught– all are meant to be one– and so by letters and countless visits and meetings he reached out to Rome and to the Germanic leaders and their people. He’s buried in Fulda, one of the monastic foundations he founded. The city is the center of German Catholicism today.

Boniface became bishop of Mainz, a key city where he worked for the unity of Germany. In his older years he yearned to be a missionary to the Frisians, a Germanic people not yet Christian and so he resigned his see in 754 to bring the gospel to them. In 755, on his way to Dorkum on the River Borne to confirm some new converts, he and some 37 others, were killed by robbers.

Boniface, Missionary and Martyr

So much of Boniface’s work took place at a shifting, unsettled time in Europe, when there were no stable political or economic institutions to keep people together. At a divided time he brought a common vision to the people of his day.

As division threatens Europe (and ourselves) again, as our institutions have become unstable, let’s pray for people like Boniface, missionaries who work for unity and the common good.
He wanted to be a dedicated shepherd, as we can see in a letter he wrote:

“In her voyage across the ocean of this world, the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s different stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course…Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent onlookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf. Instead let us be careful shepherds watching over Christ’s flock. Let us preach the whole of God’s plan to the powerful and to the humble, to rich and to poor, to men of every rank and age, as far as God gives us the strength, in season and out of season, as Saint Gregory writes in his book of Pastoral Instruction.”

Ain’t it Funny How a Melody, Can bring back a Memory?

For those of you who never listened to country music in the mid to late 90s that is a quotation from a song by the great Clint Black.  When I was a kid country music was my life.  I listened to nothing but country, I wore cowboy boots and collared shirts (buttoned up if I could get them) and cowboy hats.  I answered to the name Tex.  I’m not quite sure why I enjoyed country music as much as I did other than it seemed to relay in simple terms the inner most emotions a human can experience from joy to sadness, love to despair.  I understood the lyrics of grief and cried at the right parts.  Maybe I didn’t understand the words, but I could feel it in the voice.  I loved it, and I felt it and as a kid that had so much sorrow locked away inside, I connected with the sad twang of the steel guitar and the drawling of the deep country twang.  So it’s no wonder this last week, when my heart was in it’s deepest throws of despair, did I turn to country music.

I’m not exactly sure what made me jump to the bottom of my soul and carve out a nook to hide away these past few days, or what caused a lump to form in the deepest recess of my chest where my heart once lived, it could have been a multitude of  events that all conspired to happen around the same time and cause me to come crashing down into a depression that seems will take a good amount of time for me to escape.  But at the forefront of all of it is loneliness. Normally fine in my solitude, when I finally crawl out from under my shell only to have a bright light shone in my face I wonder why I ever bothered to leave the safety of my home in the first place.  Love has a way of stripping us down bare.  Not just romantic, over your heels in love kind of love, but just the verb ‘love.’  The things we do to show the ones we care that we want them to be happy and a a part of our lives forever.  When we do these actions we become so vulnerable that it hurts so badly when these things don’t work out the way we hope.  We recede back to our shell and vow to never leave again.  In my despair a song by the wonderfully talented Wynonna Judd popped into my head called “Only Love.”  I remember listening to this song over and over as a child and crying because the feel a love so strong as the love that is portrayed in the song that leaves you feeling nothing but bliss had feeling hopeful because when you are in the midst of love and it surrounds you, it seems that nothing else in the world can touch you.  The lyrics are:

I have sailed a boat or two
Out on the wild blue
Yonder to dreams that rarely come true
As far as I can see
From the island of green
I can put my trust in just one thing

And only love sails straight from the harbor
And only love will lead us to the other shore
Out of all the flags I’ve flown
One flies high and stands alone
Only love


Peaceful waters, raging sea
It’s all the same to me
I can close my eyes and still be free
When the waves come crashing down
And the thunder rolls around
I can feel my feet on solid ground

And only love sails straight from the harbor
And only love will lead us to the other shore
Out of all the flags I’ve flown
One flies high and stands alone
Only love

Of course, it’s more than just the lyrics that make the song, it’s her voice, it’s the melody and the instruments blending together to create this feeling of longing.  Well, it led me down a road to my past.  I began listening to other songs by her like, “She is His Only Need,” and “Is it Over Yet.”  Soon I was over here sobbing when I came across the song “Bad Goodbye” by both Clint Black and Wynonna.  If you want to cry, just listen to this song, I mean REALLY listen to the voices, the lyrics, the pain, the sorrow, all of the feelings that we have all felt in our lives.

It threw me back to my childhood and the summers I spent at my dad’s house.  Every summer I went to Alabama.  My parents divorced when I was 3 and I have little to no memories of a time when they were together.  So every summer I visited Alabama and my dad’s side of the family.  I spent the days with my granny and my cousins and the nights with my dad and my half-sister and my step-siblings (whomever they may be at the time) and it seemed so carefree.  This was the country, were I would go outside and play baseball with my cousins and step-siblings, or hide and seek, or tag, or just make believe.  Where we would make disgusting concoctions and dare each other to drink them.  Where we would go down into the basement and then get scared that something was down there and run up the stairs really fast screaming and then laughing and making pallets on the floor in the living room and staying up late.  Where we would go down to the lake and fish and have bbq while the adults drank and played horseshoes or washers.  Where we would drive with all the windows down as we drove up the mountain to visit family with Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Brooks and Dunn, Reba McEntire and Wynonna all playing from the radio (and many more artists from the 90s).  And finally I found a 90s music station on Amazon music and on the way home from work today a song came on that just hit me right in my childhood, it took me back right to that place, I was there every way but physically, and it is not a song that I’m particularly proud of knowing all of the lyrics to. “John Deere Green” by Joe Diffie. I just remember riding in the back seat with my cousins singing this song with our twangiest country accents and I couldn’t help but cry.  I miss the innocence of that time and the long country nights and not giving a damn.  Above all else, I truly miss not giving a damn. And, if I was going to add anything to that, I would say that I miss that feeling of home.  There was never anywhere else in my life that felt more like home than my Granny’s house in Alabama on those summer days.

A melody can take you to another place in time, and completely change your state of mind.

Part 2: I am here…


I have been in Bali for roughly 3 days. Just needed to say that out loud first.

So it took me 4 days and 4 planes to get here. A total of 30 hours in the sky and roughly 15 hours in airports. I took so long to write this because I have been EXHAUSTED. I definitely underestimated how tiring traveling these distances with my heavy personal bag and 1 carry on to last me a month would be. I am a master plane sleeper meaning as soon as I hit the seat and buckle up I am able to knock out for the entire duration of the flight, usually waking up when the pilot announces the start of the descent. I messed up because in my overnight in London, I slept for 20 hours thus using up all my sleep for the 2 remaining flights. Before I shut up about flying, I should also mention that my first flight was delayed an hour, and my second flight was delayed (after boarding), due to a thunderstorm, for almost 3 hours. I, of course, slept. All this is to say, I feel like it took a lot to get here.

I arrived on Sunday night at 11 pm, finally got to the Unsettled Villa, Kertiyasa closer to 1 am, where I was greeted, given my key and welcome package and sent to my room, my home for the next month. Even in the dark, the place looked magical. My mother claims it looks like somewhere in Tobago, but we won’t listen to that kind of negativity (or positivity, depending on how you look at it lol).


I will admit, I was put off by the paint colour in my room, it’s that mint, light green we use in Trinidad a lot in public buildings, schools, clinics, etc. and it’s a colour that does not bring me joy. White walls would’ve been fine. And at 1:30 in the morning, my first shower in Bali was ice cold. Finally got to bed around 2 am, only for my body to decide 4 am was a good time to be awake. So let’s just say I was not happy to be here at first. The first day was rough. Sleepy, cold water, green walls. #irritated

I later found out that I need to let the water run for roughly 10-15 minutes before my shower gets hot. My solution: Fill up my bathtub every day and have a full on bath. (Random fact: Bathtubs make me happy.)

The group of us 18 women and 2 men (bless their souls) are so diverse it’s insane that we can all get along in close quarters for a month, or even that we all ended up in the same place at the same time, by choice. A question that keeps popping up is “What are you most excited about?” and my answer is always: Seeing who I will be on June 30th. I do not have a list (or want suggestions) of things I need to do while I’m here, I am not most excited about hiking the volcano (even though that will be happening in a couple weeks and I am looking forward to it), I’m here for personal development and the activities, adventures, family dinners, etc are all towards something bigger.

So here’s a quick recap so far:

Monday: Orientation

We met each other, did some ice breaker type activities and “getting to know you” uncomfortable things. Then we got a tour of Outpost, the co-working space we have a month membership to for 24/7 access for working . It’s perfect. It’s also where I’ll be doing all of the projects I’m working on this month. After this I ate an amazing meal at a restaurant near by and then passed out for 10 hours.


Tuesday: Explore

I finally did some work on Tuesday morning at Outpost, then I went to learn how to ride a scooter bike. For some reason, I hated it. I felt the same way I feel before jumping off the top of a waterfall where I have to convince myself it’s not that bad or scary, but my heart is racing a mile a minute and I’m just forcing myself to do the thing for the experience. I had all intentions of renting a scooter for the month I’m here so I can go where I want when I want. That plan has changed. I will be walking and paying drivers. (I’m sure my mother will be happy.)


After the lesson, I went to one of the swings. I’m not sure why these swings are a thing, like how they became associated with Bali, but it was an exhilarating (at times terrifying) experience. I had the most committed, animated swing pusher ever! It was interesting how many people came dressed up in flowing dresses and full make up for this IG worthy spot. All in all it reminded me of The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1767).


Later on we had our Welcome Dinner at this beautiful space where we got to set our intentions for this month. Then we drank a lot and sang a lot and had a good time.

Today, I work before the first of our weekly Lunch & Learn sessions and then maybe I’ll go finally take a swim in one of the 2 pools we have access to. Or maybe not. I have no plans and I like it like that. That’s all for now!

Real life of a flight attendant

I was carpooling with my roommate on our way back from our second trip as DFW based flight attendants when she asked me a question. She asked, “Do your friends from home ever get mad at you because you don’t see them as much?” I said no because I really don’t have any friends from my hometown. We all drifted after high school and I had moved to Florida after my first semester of college. After talking about it, I realized that people who don’t have this job don’t understand how our lives actually work. We don’t work from 9-5 on Monday through Friday. We can work 3 days one week and six days the next. We can take two weeks off because we feel like it or work everyday except for one day a week. We can work at 4 AM or we can work at 9 PM. The fact of the matter is, we are unique individuals who picked a career where the lifestyle we live can’t afford us the simplest things we want to do. Sure, I can go to Rome next week because the flights are open but I’ll miss Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s every year because my seniority can’t hold it off. I may be soaking up the sun in Jamaica on my layover but I also miss a wedding because I don’t get to have weekends off. I’ll miss birthdays, reunions, weddings and graduations but I might be going to a concert in Amsterdam. Yes, we get to do really awesome things and get paid to travel the world but we will miss the easiest things that people with normal jobs get to do. We can’t just go to our manager and ask, “Hey, can I go home early? My sister just had her baby.” I can hear their laughs in my head now as they send me right back to Hartford, Connecticut for 24 hours.

While our trips can be the best things we’ll ever do, we come back exhausted. I can’t tell you how many times I get off a trip and wonder how I won’t fall asleep on the way home. I’ll be getting off the plane after dealing with 150 different personalities the past three days for 12 hours and think, ‘Now I have to actually get home.’ I love all the passengers and crew members I’ve interacted with the past trips I’ve worked. They’ve made me laugh and kept me from going insane on trips with the craziest delays. This past month, I had a Fort Myers layover that was supposed to take off at 5 p.m. but it didn’t take off until almost midnight because of delays. My crew and I sat in that airport for nearly seven hours but I laughed so hard that I cried while I was waiting. We ate snack boxes from the plane and talked about crazy Game of Thrones theories. By the time we landed back in base, it was 2 a.m. I slept the entire next day away and my body refused to do anything.

When I finally have my days off, I curl into a ball and recharge myself by sleeping as much as I can and refocusing my mind on what to do to prepare for my next string of days on call or my next trip. That isn’t all the time. Sometimes, I bounce right back from a trip and hang out with friends, go to coffee shops and find new books to read. I might make a trip to Florida for five days and go to Disney or I’ll take that trip to Rome.

We don’t lead normal lifestyles and sometimes people try this job and realize that they need a normal lifestyle. They need to be home with their families to celebrate the holidays or they need to be able to ask their boss for specific days off and be able to go home early. That isn’t a bad thing. We’re human and we’re not all wired the same.

If you have a flight attendant friend and you see that they may miss some lunch dates or they don’t answer your text, know that they’re probably mentally and physically drained and need some time to recharge. Flight attendants are humans and just imagine yourself being put on 12-15 hour duty days, dealing with hundreds of personality types, being away from home 3-4 days at a time and working around delays and cancellations. It’s not just slinging cokes and wearing red lipstick, it’s literally our life. It isn’t easy for people who aren’t flight attendants to understand. To truly get what it’s like, you have to be in this industry.

Know this about us: sometimes when we get home, we want our own beds, our own minds and our own time to gain a little bit of what ‘normalcy’ used to be for us.

In love and light,


Rev. Timothy Dwight Hammond – 2nd Great Uncle

Harpursville Baptist Church Harpursville, New York Original Vintage Post Card

Harpursville Baptist Church Harpursville, New York Original Vintage Post Card

While searching for my information about my 2nd Great Grandparents; Sophronia and Chester Hammond, one of their sons, (my 2nd Great Uncle) caught my attention.

Rev. Timothy Dwight Hammond was a Baptist Pastor for about 40 years. The information below indicates he not only ministered at the Harpursville Baptist Church, but also pastored seven churches. Considering the time period, I wonder if he might have been a Circuit Riding Preacher?

He was – Born – 17 Aug 1837 and became – Heaven Bound – 15 Oct 1911

What an interesting story about my Great Great Uncle. This is from Find A Grave about Rev. Timothy Dwight Hammond. This was too interesting to to not share.

“A good man has fallen, a just man has gone from us, a righteous man has finished his work and a loyal minister of Christ has ceased from his labors and was no more, for God took him. Rev. Timothy D. Hammond was born in Chenango county, New York, August 17, 1837, and entered into rest Oct. 15, 1911, from the home of his daughter, Mrs. E.L. Poole on The Plains, east side of the Susquehanna river from this village. The funeral was held from his late home on Tuesday afternoon with prayer and from the Harpursville Baptist church with regular service at the hour of two o’clock. His pastor, Rev. C.A. Hubbell officiated assisted by Rev. R.E. Austin of the Methodist church. The music was furnished by a male quartet consisting of M.F. Marsh, Rev. R.E. Austin, F.H. Rogers and T.B. Lippencott. The burial was in the Harpursville Home cemetery [Broome Co., NY] under direction of Undertakers J.A. Kark & Son. The faithful service of this good man covers many years, and as a minister of the Gospel and of the Baptist faith and doctrine he was associated as minister and pastor with seven churches, viz: East Pharsalia, Page Brook, Harpursville, Carpenter, Trout Creek, Little York, Randolph and for a time supplied the church at Tunnel.

Harpursville Baptist Church Harpursville, New York Original Vintage Post Card

“His connection with the Baptist church of this village in the seventies will be remembered by the older citizens of the village and vicinity. His membership in this church covers four decades. His active ministry closed a number of years ago and for many years his home was on a farm not far from Doraville which in later years he traded for property near Tunnel where he resided up to the time he, with his wife, became a part of his daughter’s household, the place where he died. For a long time he had been afflicted with the palsy, but his general health was not seriously impaired and it was while at the dinner table that the messenger of transfer came suddenly and without warning, but like a good and true soldier he was ready. With the coming of the autumn the giant of the forest falls and the leaves, as sacred memories scatter, hold fragrance of a blessed life in their presence upon the active in today’s work. How the grand old men are failing; men sturdy and strong in faith and belief, with no compromise with evil and modern fallacies. Yes, they go and soon the last sheaf of those days and years of Bible methods and earnest activity will be garnered in. Our last tribute has been expressed and our brother rests while the world plods on and the workers are marshaled for duty. As neighbor and friend our sympathy goes out to the companion of his long journey on earth and all the bereaved and mourning relatives. [MHD notation: d. 1911]”

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NKJV)

My lineage to him is:

  • Me (Lee) –
  • Gertrude Viola Boles, 1900-1957 (Mother)
  • Horace Chester Bushnell, 1867-1952 and Julia Caroline Wood, 1862-1948, (Grandparents)
  • Lucius Townsend Bushnell, 1839-1905 and Rosetta R Hammond, 1842-1915, (Great Grandparents)
  • Chester Hammond and Sophronia P (Great Great Grandparents)
  • Their son – Timothy Dwight Hammond (Great Great Uncle)

Harpursville Baptist Church, now Bethel, Harpursville, New York

There is a Facebook page for the current Bethel Chapel

Day of eating Waitrose reduced food


Hello and welcome/welcome back to Cupcakes and Conundrums! Today I want to share with you all something that I have been planning for a while now, which is a day of eating food from the Waitrose reduced section. I thought that this would be really fun to do and would give us a chance to look at how much food was on offer at a reduced price. I got the idea from Mike Jeavons, who did a 7 part series on his Youtube channel entitled “A Week on M&S yellow stickers”; here is episode 1. I don’t have an M&S locally to me, but I do have a Waitrose 1 minute walk away, which regularly discounts food, so I thought this would be perfect. Jack also decided to join me for the day so there is enough food for two people.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this post and let me know if you’d like me to do it again or do something similar!

Food bought and money spent

I ended up going to Waitrose three times in order to get enough food, once the evening before, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

Shop 1

  • Mixed British Tomatoes: £1.83 ? £1.25
  • Carrot, Cauliflower and Broccoli bag: £1.00 ? £0.19
  • Tomato and Mozzarella Arancini: £4.00 ? £2.45

Shop 2

  • Pineapple: £1.00 ? £0.85
  • Small Mediterranean quiches: £1.26 ? £0.95 (x2)
  • Pain au chocolat: £1.55 ? £1.29
  • Mango: £1.50 ? £1.25
  • Parmentier potatoes: £2.00 ? £1.69

Shop 3

  • Individual cheesecakes: £2.00 ? £1.65 (x2)
  • Cadbury pots of joy: £1.00 ? £0.85



£20.40 ? £15.02

Money Saved



For breakfast, Jack and I each had a large pain au chocolat and half a small pack of pineapple. We ate this at 10am. The total cost for this meal for both of us was £2.14, and we saved 41p by buying the items reduced.

This breakfast was pretty filling and kept us full right through until lunch time.



For lunch, Jack and I had a small quiche each with half a bag of carrots, cauliflower and broccoli. We ate this at 1:45pm. The total cost for this meal was £2.09, making it cheaper than breakfast and making a bigger saving of £1.43.

I really enjoyed this lunch, especially as I don’t always have something hot. We did find that we had a chocolate craving after eating this though, which is why we took a third trip to Waitrose.



For a chocolatey snack after lunch, Jack and I had a Cadbury pot of joy each which cost 85p, giving a saving of 15p. We ate this at 2:45pm.

This did stop the chocolate craving, even though I would normally prefer a bar of chocolate.



For another snack we shared a whole mango. This cost £1.25, which meant we saved 50p. We ate this at 5:15pm.

Mango is one of our favourite fruits so I was really happy to see this on offer.



For dinner we had the arancini with the parmentier potatoes and roasted tomatoes. We ate this at 7pm. It cost £5.39 which meant we saved £2.44.

This was such a delicious dinner which we both really enjoyed. I was particularly excited about the arancini as I have been really wanting to try them and I can safely say I would definitely recommend them!




For dessert we had these little cheesecakes which have the calories written on the front and state they are a source of protein. We ate these straight after dinner and they were £1.65 each, and with both added together we ended up saving 70p.

I thought these were really yummy and I could not tell that they were meant to be low calorie at all.


Final Thoughts

So, in total the day of eating cost £15.02, which meant we saved £5.38. This meant it cost about £7.51 each for the day, which is probably more than I normally spend, but it was really yummy food and all pre-made so I didn’t have to make anything from scratch. I think that the total discount is quite good, so about 25% off which if you could get that off of your normal food shop every day would add up to a massive saving.

I liked the fact that I got to try some new things from Waitrose that I wouldn’t normally try as I would consider them too expensive even when reduced, but it was really good to have an excuse to try them out and means I will probably want to buy them again if I see them on offer, especially the arancini! The tomato mix with red pepper, red onion and a cheese crumb has inspired me to maybe make some kind of roasted vegetable gratin, so watch this space!

And there you have it, a day of eating waitrose reduced food! Let me know if you liked this post or any others by giving me a thumbs up and leaving a comment. Don’t forget to follow me to ensure you don’t miss out on any new content; I’ve got lots of posts planned for you all! My Instagram is @cupcakesandconundrums and I would love for you to tag me in any of your recreations or just come and say hello. I also do polls on my story to find out what content you want from me, so be sure to check that out too!

Talk soon!

?Rachel xoxo


As I have said, this post was inspired by Mike Jeavons.

Mike’s Twitter:

Mike’s Youtube:

Day 1 of a week on M&S yellow stickers:

London: “Edvard Munch: Love and Angst” @ the British Museum

I was intrigued by the advertisements I saw for “Edvard Munch: Love and Angst” at the British Museum, which runs until 21st July, so I decided to pop along to see it a couple of weeks ago. Before visiting this exhibition, my knowledge of Edvard Munch was pretty much limited to The Scream. I’m not even confident I can pronounce his name correctly (“Moonck?” “Monk?” “Monk-ch?”), which is why I ordered my ticket online, but the exhibition doesn’t seem to usually book up in advance, so there’s probably no need to do the same unless you share my fear of being laughed at by ticket desk staff.  I only just realised that the British Museum offers discounted tickets on Mondays; the exhibition is normally £17, but drops down to £14 on Mondays, so was only £7 with my Art Pass discount.

The exhibition was held in Room 35, which is one of the smaller galleries inside the big central column structure in the middle of the BM (their large exhibition gallery is currently hosting “Manga,” which I’m on the fence about visiting. I personally don’t care for manga, but I feel like other people might. Is anyone interested in reading about this?). I was surprised I was able to take pictures, since usually you aren’t able to in here, so I was unprepared for it (basically, I had neglected to bring Marcus and his camera), so I apologise for the poor quality of the photos I took with my phone. I would say the exhibition was medium crowded – easy enough to look at things, but a little more challenging to photograph the paintings without someone’s head in front of them. I tried my best!

Munch grew up in Kristiania, which later became Oslo, and also lived in Paris and Berlin for a time, so the exhibition was divided up into spaces that reflected the work he produced whilst living in each city. Like many artists, Munch didn’t exactly have the happiest childhood – his mother and older sister both died of tuberculosis, and his father was attentive, but was extremely religious, and would tell him that he was disappointing his dead mother in heaven when he misbehaved (yet would also regale his children with ghost stories that gave poor young Edvard nightmares and had an obvious influence on his later work). He also had a family history of mental illness – one of his younger sisters ended up in a mental institution, and Munch had his own struggles with depression and anxiety, which again, is fairly obvious when you look at his work.


He also had torrid love affairs, as artists tend to, including one with a woman named Tulla Larsen which ended with Munch accidentally shooting himself in two of his fingers, which were never the same again. He had painted a portrait of the two of them that he chopped in half after the shooting incident, as seen above (next to his drawing of Nietzsche, which I love).


Despite all this, Munch still manages to come across as quite a sympathetic figure, and I loved the work on display here, particularly his wood block prints. He manages to make his work bleak and beautiful, but definitely not soulless. I know the woman in the print above left is meant to be a bit of a succubus (“female entrapment” is the term they used in the exhibition), but they both look so damn happy that I can’t help but be drawn towards it.


There was work by other artists who had influenced Munch as well, like Acid-thrower by Eugene Samuel Grasset (acid throwing was also used by revolutionaries in Paris in the 1890s, and though she looks more glamorous than today’s acid-throwers, it doesn’t change the fact that it was (and is) a horrible, horrible thing to do) and Skull in an Ornamental Frame by Hans Wechtlin, which I just loved.

And yes, The Scream was here as well in its lithograph form, as well as an etching of a dead mother and grieving child who is using the same gesture as the figure in The Scream, sadly based on Munch’s own life experience, but it’s nice to know that although his life was not without more than his fair share of pain and suffering, there was more to the man than that.


Although he certainly fitted the archetype of the tortured artist for much of his life, after suffering a breakdown in 1908 that briefly hospitalised him, he stopped drinking, which led to improved mental health, and his paintings finally began to sell in Oslo, which further brightened his mood and led to more cheerful paintings (by Munch standards) with broader brushstrokes and increased use of colour. He lived to the age of 80, long enough for the Nazis to label his work “degenerate,” predictably enough, leaving Munch in fear his personal collection of his art, which he kept in his house, would be confiscated. Fortunately for the world it was not, and the Nazis even had the nerve to try to co-opt his popularity by paying for his funeral, even though they hated him in life, and he was definitely not a Nazi sympathiser.


I really enjoyed all the pieces in this exhibition, as well as getting to learn more about Munch’s life. I definitely consider myself a fan now! I think this exhibition was just the right size – enough space that I felt I got my money’s worth (£7, not £14), but not so big that I got tired of looking around before I finished. As usual, I could have done with slightly fewer people, but I’ve definitely experienced worse. Definitely worth a visit for the angst-ridden among us – weirdly, I find that when I’m feeling down, as I have been lately, it helps to look at slightly depressing art like this, and know that I’m not alone in my ennui (even though Munch was a lot more successful at it than I’ll ever be), so it was just what I needed. 3.5/5.


A mini tourist guide to Bratislava

Fun Travel Fact:

“You can take a day trip to Bratislava from Vienna, Prague or Budapest for less than 30euros!” – Knots about Travel

Lemme tell you a story of what we did when we found ourselves in Bratislava.

On our way to Budapest from Prague, 3 young chaps decided to make a quick stop at a little city called ‘Bratislava’. In case you did not know, it’s a city in Slovakia. We had only heard about the name but did not know what to expect of the city. Off we went, out of the bus and into the city… we had googled a few things to do, the rest we let our adventurous spirits be our guide. A few things we discovered.

What to see?

  • Beautiful cake-edible like-looking buildings: Headed to the old town to see the buildings which looked too pretty; they looked like cake, and were painted in fun colors! You can take a nice stroll in the city center.
  • The Blue cathedral: This we had heard so much about so we google-mapped our directions, with unstable internet connections- many thanks to downloadable city maps and translation apps to help with communication.
  • Street graffiti: we found one cute painting while navigating our way to the city centre
  • Statues: Ofcourse we had to take a photo with the statue citizens of the town, especially ?umil- the man at work looking out from the hole on the ground

Where to eat?

  • Food: We followed the crowd on this one… looking for where to eat we had to look at where the crowd was going (not always a good choice btw). We found a really cool spot to eat – Urban House, where the food and service was great.
  • Bratislava Letters: This one we bumped into unintentionally. While waiting on our bus to arrive, we saw the letters! With excitement, we turned the spot into a photo shoot!

Travel tips:

  1. Always download the city map and have google translation app available so you don’t get lost.
  2. The trip from Prague to Budapest becomes really interesting if you make this stop to Bratislava. It is also close to Vienna too.
  3. A bus ticket will usually cost less than 20 euros for the trip from Prague or Budapest. You can take a day trip from either destinations.
  4. Check the weather to know what clothing to pack
  5. Don’t forget to take pictures

Have you been? Is it on your bucket list? Do tell! I hope you get inspired to visit after this read. Thank you for stopping by!

Don’t forget: to stay updated on exciting cities or vacation packages, please follow us on Instagram or twitter. If you’re #KnotsAboutTravel we’ll be happy to have you join our family.

Until next time…

Bisous, Inma!

What Is Dark Tourism?

Dark Tourism is a term that describes the act of visiting places that are associated with the macabre. It has become a world-wide trend through the popularity of the Netflix show Dark Tourist, although its roots date further back than the show’s premier in 2018. Dark Tourism is a type of global travel that is perceived as exotic, adventurous, disturbing, and dangerous.

Dark Tourism Examples

There are thousands of sites all over the world that could be considered locations for Dark Tourism and reach all corners of the globe. But there are a few places in particular which are widely regarded to be the “hottest spots” for Dark Tourism.

As some of you may have guessed, one of these places is the Nazi concentration camp in Poland, Auschwitz. More than 1 million people died here during its operation between 1940 to 1945. It is a structural reminder of some of the most horrific times in history.

Other dark tourism locations include Chernobyl, Ukraine; Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan; the Killing Fields in Cambodia; and the Kumsusan Memorial Palace of the Sun in North Korea. The majority of the sites are places of genocide, prisons, natural and man-made disastors, war zones, and tombs.

Radar Pripyat Nuclear Power Duga Chernobyl

My favorite place to find out about Dark Tourism locations (as well as fun, unique, and quirky places and experiences) is Atlas Obscura. It’s a great website to sift through to get a preview of some of the world’s hidden wonders. In fact, that’s where I found the creepy German museum, Designpanoptikum. Give it a look if you can.

Why Is Dark Tourism So Popular Today?

Dark Tourism attracts a wide variety of people of all backgrounds and ages. So-called thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies definitely find a lot of entertainment in this. I believe that that’s what attracts the majority of recent Dark Tourists, along with the obvious need for people to feel “in the loop.”

People interested in and passionate about history have long taken a liking to this unique form of travel. They claim that it allows them to have a deeper understanding of the tragedies of history and refuse the notion of turning a blind eye to certain events. Additionally, it’s the desire to see these places for yourself.

Kumsusan Memorial Palace of the Sun in North Korea

We may have grown up hearing about these places and seeing them on TV or social media. But, out of all of the popular travel locations, these are the ones that you need to really see for yourself to understand what it was really like. It’s extremely difficult to convey the feeling and emotions that one experiences when visiting places of devastation, tragedy, and death. This is why I, personally, have partaken in Dark Tourism, along with the historical aspect.

Negative Impacts Of Dark Tourism

One of the issues that one finds with Dark Tourism is the fact that, at times, it can be offensive for some people. For example, I’m going to Japan for two weeks in November and have heard a lot about Aokigahara Forest at the base of Mount Fuji, which is most commonly referred to as “Suicide Forest.” This is because it is the second most popular destination in the world for suicide, following the Golden Gate Bridge. When I told my friend, who was born and raised in Tokyo, that I wanted to visit the forest, she told me that it wasn’t the best idea. It’s a really sensitive subject in Japan and there is a lot of resentment around tourists who go and “gawk” at a place heavily associated with shame and devastation.

Aokigahara “Suicide” Forest in Japan

The act of gawking or ogling at sites of devastation and the misery of others is what many people find offensive. Some people also consider this travel trend to be a form of unethical voyeurism, as well as being exploitative and insensitive. Quite frankly, I feel the same way when I see people smiling at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin or giving thumbs up in their photos of Chernobyl devastation sites.

It should also be said that there can be significant health and safety risks associated with Dark Tourism, especially in places where one could be exposed to radiation or harmful bacteria.

Besides the obvious motivations of these behaviors, I believe that by practicing respect and honesty during these travels can make Dark Tourism less taboo. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can be a great way for people to have a more realistic understanding of history and that will always have positive impacts on both individuals and society as a whole.

One Day in Málaga, Spain (Sunshine, food and stunning palaces on the Costa Del Sol)

Málaga is beautiful. Like, full on beautiful. My visit to the Andalucían city was as a result of my cruise-ship-working life, and although ideally I’d have had more time to explore this Spanish city of DREAMS, I feel like I really made the most of my one day in Málaga. A port city on the Costa Del Sol, I was mostly expecting to see high-rise hotels and souvenir shops (mainly as a result of the fact these things both featured highly in photos of the city in my year 10 Spanish textbooks), but the sight that actually met my eyes was something a whole lot lovelier: historic buildings, autumnal tree-lined roads (’cause, ya know, it was Autumn after all) and a day full of sunshine and good times. Here are the things I did in order to make the most of one day in Málaga.

Eat Málaga Salad

It goes without saying that tapas and sangria should most certainly be on the menu for you when in Spain; I mean, both of the aforementioned items are DELICIOUS. But a true speciality unique to this city is Ensalada Malagueña; and as a strong salad fan I BIG TIME recommend it, pals. Seafood in general is all the rage around these parts- thanks to the good old bountiful Mediterranean right on its doorstep- and Ensalada Malagueña features salted cod, potatoes, oranges, spring onions, parsley and olive oil. Sometimes maybe a boiled egg or two and some olives thrown in for luck.

We visited a restaurant in the port (which is a destination in itself, filled with bars, shops and gelaterías) to try a whole selection of Málagan dishes, and were not disappointed in the slightest, particularly as the owner gave us an entire bottle of very cheap sparkling rosé wine free of charge. I mean, what more could you wish for? Classy birds, we most certainly are.

Related: Oliva and the Costa Blanca, Spain

Ensalada Malagueña is a classic dish of Malaga. Definitely eat this in the Costa Del Sol!

The lighthouse, walkable from the port in Malaga

Hit the Beach

The beach here is so pretty. And to get from Málaga’s port to the city and subsequent seaside, it takes mere minutes my friends. Mere minutes I tell you!! They don’t call it the Costa Del Sol for nothing, and as soon as you leave the port you’ll be met with the awesome view of the beach, pastel coloured hotels and apartment blocks, and the mountains behind them. And hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to visit on one of the 320 sunny days per year that this part of Spain gets. Basically you’re almost guaranteed to get some sunshine, and in October when I visited the city, there were plenty of people sunbathing and swimming to their heart’s content. The cheery little buggers.

A view of Malaga’s beach from the port

Rooftops of Malaga as seen from the Alcazaba

Stroll through the parks of the city

The city is home to several green spaces, which in turn are home to a great many cackling parakeets, but the main city park is a very convenient walk away from Málaga’s harbour. Around since the end of the 19th century, the very large Paseo Del Parque runs parallel to it, meaning it’s really not hard to miss. Beautiful tropical plants and trees live here, as well as fountains and statues galore, and every Sunday the Málaga Municipal Band gives a little concert in the bandstand for all who fancy a listen. Jolly good job.

Back to the topic of parakeets, awkwardly there was recently talk of a cull of these brightly coloured chaps as they’re widely considered to be a very threatening species. Málaga has one of the biggest parakeet populations in Spain, and these little guys have become very skilled at driving away native birds after they began escaping from birdcages in the 1970s. Poor old things.

A beautiful park in Malaga, Costa Del SolArchitecture in the Spanish city of Malaga Autumn in the Costa Del Sol

A tunnel on the walk up to the Alcazaba in Malaga

Visit the Roman ruins

Málaga is one of the most continuously inhabited cities in the whole of Europe, and right in the centre of the city is evidence of its Roman past in the form of a big old theatre built in the 1st Century BC. Those Romans really did get all over the place, didn’t they?

Related: An Ancient Roman City…in Croatia

By the AD700s, the Romans were gone and the Moors ruled the roost in Andalucía, so they decided to use the abandoned Roman theatre as a quarry in order to get the stone needed to build their fortress on top of the hill (more on that later, folks). It wasn’t until the 1950s that the remains of the theatre were rediscovered and fully dug up for all to see, and nowadays it’s one of the only remaining ancient monuments in the whole city. Back during the days of the Civil War, Málaga was an unashamedly Republican kind of a place, so Nationalist sympathisers bombed it like there was no tomorrow and subsequently destroyed a lot in the process.

Related, especially if you fancy learning a bit more about that not-so-long-ago Civil War: Exploring the Port City of Ferrol

It’s easy to admire the theatre from the city square that it sits next to, but it’s also possible to enter the site via a visitors centre to one side if you fancy a proper nose around.

Teatro Romano, open Tuesday to Saturday 10am-6pm, Sundays 10am-4pm. Closed on Mondays. Entrance is free.

Ancient Roman ruins in Spain, easily accessible from Malaga port

A busker in Malaga, Spain

See the Alcazaba

I’m a right geek and I know it, pals, but the Alcazaba was what I was really excited to see in Málaga. There are two fortresses in the city, located very close together, but the Alcazaba is one of the most well-preserved Moorish palaces in the whole of Spain. The Moors lived in this area for hundreds of years, and the Alcazaba was originally built as a form of defence from pirates and other raging enemies who might attack via the sea.

Sitting high above the city and with a vantage point looking out across the Mediterranean to Africa, the atmosphere inside the Alcazaba is quite the peaceful one. More than 100 towers still exist, and within the fortress’ walls are gardens courtyards and rooms filled with elegantly carved wooden ceilings and alcoves, beautifully patterned tiles and amazing tranquil pools of water. English Medieval castles are great and everything, but the Moors who were building their own style of castles at the same time really understood the art of interior design, know what I’m saying!? When I visited the Alcazaba I felt as if I’d been transported across the ocean to Morocco, and I was altogether astonished by how extensive and beautiful this palace is.

In 1487 the Catholic Royals of Aragon held the Moorish city under siege, which lasted a mammoth four months, and after 700 years of rule from their beautiful fortress, the Muslims were forced out.

Alcazaba, open 9am-8pm April to October, 9am-6pm November to March. Entrance fee €3.50, or a joint ticket including entry to the Alcazaba and the fortress of Gibralfaro €5. After 2pm on Sundays, entry is free.

A keyhole archway in the Alcazaba palace, MalagaLike being in Morocco, but you’re actually in SpainRooftop of the Alcazaba, pink building in Malaga SpainBeautiful palaces in Spain: the Alcazaba in MalagaHistoric buildings in Spain- a detail from the Moorish palace in Malaga A girl exploring Malaga A view of the city of Malaga, Spain The ceiling in the Alcazaba- they really knew about interior design

A guard tower in Malaga, Spain

The ornate ceiling of the Alcazaba, Malaga View of the Malaga port


  • To walk from Málaga port to the city centre takes around 15-20 minutes. I.e. nothing whatsoever!!
    To get from Málaga airport to the city also takes a mere 15 minutes but taxi or train. Brilliant.
    Whilst it’s definitely better to have some knowledge of Spanish under your belt, it’s completely possible to get by without.
    When I visited in October I got sunburnt and also wished I hadn’t worn jeans because I was a sweaty mess. So. It still gets rather toasty in Autumn, although obviously by Winter things do cool down a bit.
    In case you’re interested- it’s fully possible to get a ferry from Málaga to Morocco. It takes around 5 hours, currently operates once a week, and heads over to the city of Tangiers on the North coast of Africa.

How to spend one day in Málaga, SpainMálaga cruise port guide- what to do with one day in Málaga, SpainMust see in Málaga- the beautiful Alcazaba