“July” – Poem (Damaged Roots, 2016)

Lakes are a thing in Poland. I spent many summers on lake beaches, swimming, diving off wooden jetties, paddling around in row boats and pedal boats, and going on kayak excursions. People talk about the sea but lakes have their own understated magic. This is a poem about lakes and homesickness.

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Over the past couple of years I’ve been working on a solo performance project about my journey to understanding home and belonging as a TCK. It’s taken SO long but I just couldn’t figure out how to tell the story on stage. The project has gone through countless possible incarnations in my mind and on paper but it is now – finally – nearly there. I’m so excited. I’m tired of writing – I can’t wait to start rehearsing! I’ve written so much material that I won’t be using, so I’ve decided to publish some of it here. Monologues, poems, vignettes , fragments of a fragmented identity. I would love to know your thoughts.

“Red Berries” – Poem (Damaged Roots, 2016)

I wrote this as part of a creative processing of my childhood memories of Poland. Nature and seasons in Poland are something that bind me to my roots. The sensations of autumn are strongly etched in my brain and always take me back to a time when it was still easy to call Poland my home. I’ve always had a deep connection to the land and the rowan berries are a big part of that connection – seeing them decorating the trees, and making necklaces out of them.

Redberries

Over the past couple of years I’ve been working on a solo performance project about my journey to understanding home and belonging as a TCK. It’s taken SO long but I just couldn’t figure out how to tell the story on stage. The project has gone through countless possible incarnations in my mind and on paper but it is now – finally – nearly there. I’m so excited. I’m tired of writing – I can’t wait to start rehearsing! I’ve written so much material that I won’t be using, so I’ve decided to publish some of it here. Monologues, poems, vignettes , fragments of a fragmented identity. I would love to know your thoughts.

Monologue (Damaged Roots, 2017)

It’s common for people who grew up across and between cultures to wonder who they would have been if they hadn’t moved. I have often wondered if I would be different if I had never left my home city, if I had stayed and taken part in all the rituals and rites of passage of a more traditional, monocultural life. Would I feel happy and settled, or would I still be as restless as I am?

The Other Me

I’ve thought about her a lot over the years. Sometimes she is exactly where I left her, perched on the windowsill of that second floor apartment, dusty net curtains pushed aside, watching with fascination the boys and girls in their white dresses and robes in the Holy Communion procession. She can’t wait until it’s her turn to wear the white dress and white shoes with little heels, but most of all she wants to wear the flower wreath with the veil. She wants to scatter flower petals out of a little basket. She presses her nose against the glass, counting how many years she has to wait: Four or five. Too long! A lot can happen.

Other times she’s older and walking to school. This is already after… you know… so I can’t picture her that clearly. She looks like someone who maybe doesn’t have that much money and there’s really nothing interesting or unique about her appearance, but she looks perfectly happy the way she is. She crosses the street and enters the park and I know she is a whole person, with nothing missing or out of place.

I find it even harder to picture her later in her life. There are too many possibilities, too many questions. What became of her? Who is she, this other me? The me that stayed, was never pulled from the earth. Was there ever a time when I stood at the crossroads and I was both me and her at the same time? Then, when I left, she stayed behind and now here I am, in another dimension, wandering around like a restless phantom, searching the world for answers. Or is she the phantom, hovering just outside my peripheral vision, walking behind me, tapping me on the shoulder and then disappearing. She whispers in my ear, ‘It’s not too late, you know,’ she says. ‘Whenever you lose something, all you have to do is retrace your steps and you’ll find it eventually.’ But I ignore her because I’ve grown accustomed to travelling on roads that lead to places, not times.

 

Over the past couple of years I’ve been working on a solo performance project about my journey to understanding home and belonging as a TCK. It’s taken SO long but I just couldn’t figure out how to tell the story on stage. The project has gone through countless possible incarnations in my mind and on paper but it is now – finally – nearly there. I’m so excited. I’m tired of writing – I can’t wait to start rehearsing! I’ve written so much material that I won’t be using, so I’ve decided to publish some of it here. Monologues, poems, vignettes , fragments of a fragmented identity. I would love to know your thoughts.

Schifanoia : Escape to the land of not being bored

In mid-February I had an opportunity to escape for a little while a life that has become too mundane and routine of late. Thank you to Florence, Siena, Pisa and Como. To K. Krohn, E. Galdini and ‘Westie’. To Ali Smith and her incredible novel ‘How to Be Both’, which I quote below, and to Francesco/a del Cossa whom I have not met.

“Art makes nothing happen in a way that makes something happen.”

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Libreria Piccolomini // Siena duomo

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Inside Siena duomo

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Siena

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Florence

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Florence

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Mary Magdalene, the most real and human I have ever seen (Luca Signorelli // Uffizi gallery)

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Siena

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Pisa

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Siena

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Tuscan rooftops in the rain // Siena

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Lean in.

“Cause roads that look set to take you in one direction will sometimes twist back on themselves without ever seeming anything other than straight…”

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Infinite shades of blue // Lake Como

 

An Indelicate Balance

Gran Canaria. Officially a part of Spain but so close to north Africa that it feels strange to hear Spanish spoken. Like so many beautiful places, the island relies heavily on tourism, often at the expense of the environment and traditional ways of life.

And yes, people do live here. Actual Canarian people, many of whom want complete independence from Spain. In Las Palmas, they live in little sea-facing apartments with tiny balconies overlooking the Playa de Las Canteras, or in swanky white villas draped with pink bougainvillea. On the outskirts of the city, they live in brightly colored, slightly ramshackle houses on the cliffs – houses which the Atlantic ocean beats relentlessly on one side, while laundry flaps in the wind on lines stretched across roof terraces.

Just outside the harbor at Las Palmas, foreign oil tankers and trawlers sit and wait for repairs and maintenance before heading out again to the west coast of Africa. One of these ships, a Russian trawler, caught fire one night and was promptly towed away from the harbor to burn and spill its oil far from the cruise ships that happened to be there that night. The fuel that leaked from the ship affected coastline and wildlife.

In the south of the island, the tourist emporiums cling to the volcanic earth like barnacles. Or like some kind of skin disease. Cancer, shingles scabs, eczema. The hotel complex we briefly visit is all whitewashed concrete and glass. Empty shops advertise Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Ray-Ban. Muzak tinkles. I am terrified. I feel like I’ve been sucked into J.G. Ballard’s Cocaine Nights. In Maspalomas we pass a hotel called Palm Beach on our way to the dunes. Behind its fence, tourists lie sprawled on sun loungers. I wonder if it makes any difference to them where they are. And then I feel bad for looking down my nose at people who have just earned their right to relax in the sun.

We run for the hills, literally. First to La Aldea de San Nicolas de Tolentino, where we stay in a hostel run by an environmental conservation activist. She tells us about how the hordes of tourists who flood the island have little respect for the environment, littering and trampling the dunes at Maspalomas, a protected natural heritage site, and how the local government isn’t very proactive in educating people.

At La Playa, we climb to the top of a cliff and watch a man scamper over the slippery rocks beneath us with a bucket, looking for shellfish or crabs. The wind blows ferociously but the plants and shrubs growing out of the rocky ground barely flinch.

We drive up a steep and winding road, past hidden lakes and rivers, to Tamadaba Natural Park. Here the climate changes completely. We are in the clouds and white mist swirls eerily between the pine trees. It’s amazing how evocative smells can be: I roll down the window and smell Norway, where I haven’t been in over 15 years.

In the tiny town of Artenara, we sit in the town square and Rosario serves us fried cheese and chorizo. She chats to us about the various hiking trails in the area and encourages us to flip through a guidebook she keeps behind the bar. We finish our food in the company of several old men and a cat. The air is crisp but the sun is shining and for a few precious minutes it is utter bliss – until several busloads of French tourists arrive.

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Ramen for the Soul

ramenMy curiosity about Japan and Japanese culture has gradually grown into a mild obsession. I think it really started when I read Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen. It’s a dark, depressing little book — and beautiful, because there is beauty in melancholy. I felt the same about Norwegian Wood, which I read a few months later. After that, I knew I was hooked on… something, I’m not quite sure what. Maybe the mono no aware – that gentle sadness – that permeated the characters’ lives in both books.

I feel like every aspect of Japanese culture that I have come across has had this perfect balance of sadness and and beauty, and this balance fills me with a sense of joyful calm. In modern Western culture we are so accustomed to excess, sweetness and complexity that we have forgotten how deeply satisfying simplicity can be. We recently discovered Tamago, a small Japanese restaurant in Canterbury, and the meal we had there reinforced my love of the Japanese simplicity and balance. I had a bowl of spicy ramen with kimchi, bamboo, seaweed and perfect, perfect fresh pork. The ramen was so beautiful that I didn’t want to eat it and destroy the presentation. Let me add that this was my first ever proper ramen, and I never imagined that simple noodle soup could be so aesthetically pleasing and exciting to eat. To drink, we ordered iced green tea, which we thought was going to be sweet (Western expectations!) but wasn’t. It was surprisingly delicious and delicate. For dessert, we had goma (black sesame) ice cream, which, again, wasn’t as sweet as the ice cream we were used to. Instead, it had this subtle nutty flavor that went really well with the tea and was the perfect way to end a meal without overdoing it. We left feeling satisfied in both body and spirit.

Lessons From Malawi

I like to think:

That I am less ignorant now than I was two years ago.

That I know what it’s like to live with less–to live without these things we think we need–and that happiness in its essence comes from material lightness and a richness of spirit. I know, also, that to be able to recognize this is a sign of my privilege.

That I understand that I can apologize all I want for the privilege that comes with my skin color, but it won’t change the inequality that exists in the world.

That in order to really learn, we must sit back and observe without judgement.

That I am wiser because I’ve made an effort to be.

That I have so much more to learn.

I want to know:

Why the word ‘azungu’ made me so angry.

If the negative perception of white people will ever change in Africa (and will white people do something to change this?).

If I am allowed to talk about race.

If I will ever wake up to the same kind of bird cacophony again anywhere else.

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A Lilongwe Symphony

I wake to the urgent allegro of a house alarm piercing the pre-dawn darkness. My pounding heart is a kettledrum solo that jolts me into alertness. I am programmed to remember that 3:30 AM is when most break-ins happen; a time when everyone is sure to be deeply asleep. Even the night watchmen in their booths, bundled up in their too-big, second hand winter jackets, their fires dwindling to silent embers, are not likely to be awake.

Somewhere nearby, six desperate men have scaled a barbed-wire wall and destroyed a door with a sledgehammer. Six men desperate enough to beat a groggy man till he bleeds, then tie him up; desperate enough to push his wife against the wall with such force that she hits her head; desperate enough to terrify two small children in their bedrooms, not knowing if they should run to their mother’s side or hide. All this for a couple of laptops, a phone and a wallet.

Behind a wall of barbed wire, behind a splintered door, a mother of two sits trembling and asks Allah why. ‘What have I done to these men?’ Allah is silent, but if she had asked one of the men, he would have said: Done? It is not about what you have or have not done. You yourself are irrelevant. My children need to eat and yours won’t starve for want of a laptop.

The alarm stops its accelerated portamento shriek and I let my head sink back into my pillow. The recorded muezzin starts his call from an empty minaret, letting me know that I have one hour left to sleep. The droning adagio slithers down from the mosque on the hill and dozens of street dogs join in in response. Their anxious howls sometimes match the pitch of the prayer call, and sometimes diverge from it. Somewhere in the distance another mosque pipes up with a different chant. Two voices interlaced with a dog chorus mark the beginning of a new day in Lilongwe.

The sun makes a quiet entrance, sending out its messengers first to push back the black sky with gradients of indigo, azure, pink and yellow. With daylight comes the sound of car horns — used so liberally here — impatiently commanding the traffic to keep moving. The lights are merely decorative. They change from red to green to red; signifiers abandoned by their signified.

Later in the day, the cars will return to their iron gates, each one beeping out a unique monotone Morse code, demanding to be let in. They keep up their klaxon allegro until an overall-clad houseboy-guard-gardener, on the tenth hour of his twelve hour shift, begrudgingly unbolts the gate with a series of clangs. They drive in: proud, invincible, shiny, white Land Cruisers. Behind tinted windows a foot presses the accelerator. A majestic roar of the engine, a cloud of exhaust, a widening gap.

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Area 2, Lilongwe, Malawi

The Great Divide

This is the best thing about expat life I have ever read. I love this post because it expresses so well the contradictory experience of living in a place, and trying to be a part of the place, but instead just finding yourself involuntarily sucked into or pushed into a bubble of familiarity.

The Squeaky Robot

For our purposes let’s steal a casual definition of dissociation from Wikipedia: “a mild detachment from immediate surroundings.”


The expat community in Hanoi is so large there is nothing I can confidently say about it, other than it is small. Meaning five thousand expats have only a few well-known places to congregate on Friday nights when the state curfew takes hold and the xe oms and cabbies belong to a different state, the one known as red-faced inebriation. It is no surprise, then, that in the confines of Hanoi proper, white people collide with each other on dance floors, in restroom lines, waiting for drinks at bars. Even on the road, I kid you not, I was once driving north on Au Co and an acquaintance caught up on his bike, gave me a nod, and zoomed off.


In the beginning they ask me about my marital status, and I…

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Upon Mount Mulanje

Mulanje-5As we approach, Mount Mulanje looms before us like the Wall in Game of Thrones, simultaneously comforting and intimidating. It rises high above the smaller hills and mountains dotted around the area, and disappears enigmatically into white clouds. I am excited about the prospect of climbing into those clouds, but relieved that we will not be climbing the massif’s highest peak and the highest point in central Africa, Sapitwa, which in Chichewa means ‘don’t go there’. This is my first significant mountain climb and I am suddenly daunted by the size of Mulanje.

We will spend three days exploring the east side of the plateau that rests beneath the massif’s twenty peaks. On this plateau, leopards are rumoured to still live, though one has not been spotted in years. I wonder whether what William Atkinson saw when he climbed the mountain in 2011 to retrace the steps of Laurens van der Post was a leopard or an equally elusive serval cat, also said to inhabit the plateau. During van der Post’s 1949 Mulanje expedition, forester Fred France, who lived on the plateau with his wife and daughter, died tragically when he fell from a precipice. His cabin still stands and can be rented by visitors. Another fascinating story is that of the Batwa people (known locally as Akafula), pigmy-like hunter-gatherers who were the first inhabitants of Malawi and created some of the rock paintings at the Chongoni rock art site in Dedza. The Akafula were gradually exterminated by the Chewa people, but reportedly still lived in small numbers on the Mulanje plateau into the nineteenth century.

It is early May and bushes of huge yellow daisies spring out at us from the side of the road. The cassia trees are also in full bloom, their branches laden with upward-facing bunches of yellow flowers, like children holding ice cream cones. While northern hemisphere seasons are marked by the sharp changes in temperature and the cycle of life, death and rebirth, in Malawi, nature lets everything have its turn in a never-ending cycle of bloom. It seems that every season here is decorated with the colors of its flowering trees: purple jacaranda in September, red flamboyant in November, pink bougainvillea in January, and the explosion of yellow in April and May.

As usual, I am filled with mixed feelings as I sit in the car and watch the landscape slide past. Two years in this beautiful country and it hasn’t grown on me. I have not been able to get used to the array of colors, the heat, the sun I yearned for so much in Europe which I now find oppressive. Two years I have spent pining after what I call ‘real seasons’: the tangible transition from summer into autumn; winter relinquishing its chilly hold and yielding gently to spring’s warm nuzzle. I harbour a vague sense of unease and frustration, a feeling of distance, like there is an impermeable boundary between my soul and Malawi and I’m not quite sure why it’s there. Yet, another part of me is in awe of the unfamiliar beauty of this country. The way it works in a way that is completely different from what I am used to—which can be infuriating but ultimately commands respect. There is a reassuring serenity in rural Malawi, a feeling that everything functions because it has to, and although it is unfair and ignorant to say that there is happiness in the comparative simplicity of life, I wonder if we would be a little happier in the industrialized world if we weren’t burdened with materialism.

Our plan is to take the Skyline path up to Chambe Hut, spend the night there, then continue across the plateau to Lichenya Hut. We will begin our hike at Likhubula Forestry Station at the base of the mountain. Upon our arrival at Likhubula, we are accosted by porters looking for employment and vendors selling wooden walking sticks. ‘Do not buy them,’ my friend warns. ‘They’re made out of the endangered cedar wood and it’s illegal to sell them.’ At 1000 Kwacha apiece (£1.50), it’s hard to resist, especially when one considers how far 1000 Kwacha can go for a rural Malawian family. I can see why the walking sticks are an attractive souvenir. The clean, light brown wood is carved with beautiful designs and has a distinct, sweet, woody smell. The Mulanje Cedar (Widdringtonia whytei) can only be found on the Mulanje Massif but has been seriously depleted due to timber felling. The vendors are aggressive and argue that the wood was given to them by the government, but we are too indoctrinated with Western environmentalism to allow ourselves to support this controversial trade.

We spend the first night at the CCAP (Church of Central Africa Presbyterian)-owned Likhubula House, where we bathe in the nearby rock pools, into which ice-cold water rushes over igneous boulders from high up on the mountain (‘If you think this is cold, wait till you get up there,’ our guide says, pointing up).

The next morning, we set off up the mountain at 7:30am and enter a forest of slender pine trees, which lifts my spirits. For some strange reason I have been dwelling on the fact that I have not been able to connect with Malawi’s trees. The Brachystegia woodlands of Malawi just don’t resonate with me the way coniferous forests do. I know this is silly, but being in such a drastically different environment has made me realize how deep my connection to the land of my childhood is. Among the pines are smooth eucalyptus trees, called ‘wax trees’ by the locals. We climb up a steep path of packed red dirt, with grass on either side of it so high and dense that you can only see the person in front of you for a few seconds before they are swallowed up. The path is scattered with pine cones, lichen-covered sticks and pieces of bark. Occasionally, a small cluster of yellow daisies greets us shyly—they are nowhere near as large and populous here as they were on the side of the road, probably due to the limited sunlight.

As we climb higher, the air becomes cool and crisp. The boulders are pleasantly cold to the touch, and covered with furry green moss. The ascent becomes steeper and rockier, at some points the rocks form steps which we have to scramble up. We hear the gurgling of water and drink from a tiny waterfall trickling down the rocks, half hidden by vegetation. The water is cold and refreshing, with no unpleasant taste, unlike the heavily chlorinated water in Lilongwe.

After a four-hour climb we reach the plateau, which lies approximately 1,830 m above sea level. Up here, purple, green and yellow make up the color palette. We wade through feathery purple grasses gently swaying in the wind. Among these grow clusters of yellow ‘everlasting sunflowers’ (Helichrysum asteraceae), which I have seen in abundance in Poland. Another pleasant surprise.

Near Chambe Hut, directly across from the renovated and quite charming France’s Cottage, is an abandoned village. Rows of white huts stand amid rusting machinery, their windows and doors agape. Our guide informs us that the village was built for Chinese (or Japanese, he isn’t sure) workers who were going to start mining for minerals in the area but the project was abandoned. We return to poke around the village before dusk and the atmosphere is eerier than it was in the early afternoon. The sun is going down and a cold wind rustles some dry maize stalks growing in a small patch next to one of the huts. Suddenly, we hear a loud clanging, as if someone is banging on one of the corrugated metal roofs. We look around but the place is deserted save for a few abnormally large crows tearing aggressively at some maize husks on the ground. More crows swoop in and land on a roof, their talons making the loud clanging noise we’ve been hearing. These crows have a menacing, territorial presence and they are not intimidated by us being there. We peer into some of the huts and see the remains of three-stone fires and rudimentary straw bedding. Someone had clearly been using them for shelter. Behind the village, a mysterious plastic greenhouse flaps in the wind. It is intact and the door is held shut by a small stone. We feel like Mulder and Scully as we push it aside and slowly open the door. Expecting to find what? Marijuana? A secret laboratory? Nothing as exciting, it turns out. We find rows of cedar seedlings, their little plastic pots huddled together. This is most likely part of the cedar reforestation effort by the Forestry Department. It’s good to see a conservation effort first-hand.

That night, we sleep outside on the deck of Chambe Hut. The temperature drops significantly, to only a few degrees above 0˚C. This is the first time I see so many stars in the night sky in Malawi, and although most of the constellations are unfamiliar, I can identify Orion’s Belt and that’s enough for me. As I lie in the darkness, I think about the nocturnal leopards and serval cats. Maybe if I stay awake and really quiet, one might wander close to the hut. Wishful thinking. Elusive leopards, like the elusive snow leopard in Peter Matthiessen’s book. I suddenly remember that he died not long ago and this makes me sad. I stopped reading The Snow Leopard halfway through and never returned to it. I wish I had it with me now. It would be the perfect companion for this trip.

On the hike to Lichenya Hut the next morning, there is plenty of time to reflect on the emotional journey that living in Malawi has been. Our stay is coming to an end, and for the first time I am starting to feel sad about leaving. I have spent all this time trying to adjust to new rhythms, a new climate and the stark inequality of Malawian society and the world, that maybe I haven’t taken the time to truly appreciate the privilege of being able to live here. That’s one way of seeing it, I guess, if I want to make myself feel guilty. But then, I am an imperfect human and this has been an intense journey of self-discovery. I have not always reacted with patience and poise to the challenges Malawi has thrown at me. I have spent a significant amount of time letting myself be unhappy. I have cried, a lot. Although these two years haven’t been perfect, I got most of the answers I was looking for when I set out on this journey. I am excited that in six months’ time I will be sitting in a heated flat wearing a thick sweater and staring through a rain-streaked window at a monochromatic world, because it will be familiar. But I will probably cry because I will miss the flamboyant, the jacaranda, the bougainvillea and the yellow, yellow cassia. New journeys, old journeys, new journeys… A season’s end is never truly an ending but a slow turn of the eternal cycle. What I see now that I didn’t see before is that the same cycle exists everywhere, it just reveals itself differently. I found flowers from my childhood on a Rift Valley mountain. Perhaps I will find a new color in an old place.

I already know that I will return here, with wiser eyes. Next time, also, I will climb Sapitwa.

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Mama Afrika, Forgive Me

An excerpt from a story I wrote for an anthology published by Casa Africa, a Spanish online resource for Spanish-African diplomatic and cultural relations. The idea came to me as I was sitting on the beach in Senga Bay one day, watching a newly-arrived American volunteer being chatted up by a Malawian boy. How did I know she was new here? After a while you just know these things. I remembered when I first arrived in Malawi, brimming over with enthusiasm for a new culture and new experiences, eager to learn, mingle, and make new friends. At first I was amazed by how friendly the Malawians were: people would stop me on the street just to say hello and ask me how I am; one guy, about my age, would even walk to work with me, talking to me in a way that at first seemed very genuine. But with time came the realization that most of these people’s intentions were not altruistic at all.  The cultural exchange I had been hoping for does not exist here, at least not in the way I had expected. We come to Africa, assuming that we have something to teach, something to give, and that people will eagerly take a piece of our culture in exchange for a piece of theirs. A piece of culture may be valuable to us but it is worthless currency here. People in Malawi live day to day and do what they have to do to feed their families and survive.

It’s a truth that is difficult to see by many Westerners but it’s a truth I urge everyone to accept: Africa never belonged to us.

Mama Afrika, Forgive Me

© 2013

From the shade of the flame tree I watch them arrive at the spot Innocent and I agreed on. I am shocked. The mzungu he has brought is hardly a mzungu at all! Her skin is darker than the others’, like tea with milk, and her hair is short and frizzy. She has Mama Afrika’s blood. I curse Innocent. What was he thinking? We cannot steal from a sister. I almost turn to leave but curiosity stops me.

They sit down on the sand, with Lake Malawi and the blue mountains of Mozambique in front of them. The girl removes her chitenje wrap to reveal a skimpy bikini.

‘I can’t believe I’m finally in Africa!’ she says, loud enough for me to hear. She takes a camera with a big lens out of her bag. ‘Do you mind? It’s for my blog.’ She points it at Innocent, who stretches his lips into a gap-toothed grin.

[click here to read the rest: p. 51-52]

Hello Blantyre

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Taking advantage of a long weekend, we spent a few days down in Blantyre. Javi had some interviews with people he’s writing articles about, and I tagged along just to get out of the house. Compared to Lilongwe, Blantyre is great. It’s a bigger, busier city and has life pulsing though its veins. Lilongwe seems to be in a permanent state of hibernation. Here are some fun things we managed to do, although I’m sure there are a lot more.

Things to do:

Visit La Caverna in Mandala House for lunch, coffee and a browse through the arts and crafts shop. The food in the cafe is to die for, the coffee is real Italian espresso, and there’s even gelato.

Eat dinner at Casa Mia, an Italian restaurant on Kabula Hill. Just don’t go before 9PM, which we did, and found ourselves to be the only customers, with the waitresses breathing down our necks.

A burger and a dance at Blue Elephant. There’s a great vibe in this lively bar / restaurant and the classic ‘Ely Burger’ is surprisingly good. Again though, don’t go before at least 8:30PM or you’ll be the only customer(s).

Spend a day lounging by the pool in La Hostellerie de France. This place is run by an eccentric and hospitable Frenchman. It’s a little piece of provincial France in Malawi- a very strange sensation but pleasant. Be sure to order the Basque Chicken or Chicken in Red Wine Sauce for lunch / dinner. We were blown away. After some disappointing meals at Chez Maky, we couldn’t believe our luck when we found La Hostellerie.

Go for some live music at Mibawa Cafe, opposite the Protea Hotel. This is a really nice local club with an outdoor seating area serving grilled meat.

Drink garlic and ginger tea at Alem Ethiopian restaurant. Sit outside on the terrace and people-watch.