Thursday, August 21, 2014

Le Sud de la France

Disclaimer: I´m tired of clogging facebook with pictures with little to no info so I shall again make an attempt to blog. Mea culpa - I´m out of practice. Bear with me!

Living in Belgium makes a spontanious visit to France slightly easier, though it is still a bit of a drive... but since the storm headed for Hawai´i a couple weeks back has left us with disgusting summer weather here as well we decided to make like hockey players (get the puck outta here).

And it was a good plan as we had 3 days of summer.

Good morning sunshine! I guess most people have the bad luck that I usually bounce out of bed before them in the morning -especially when the sun is out!

The boy made me coffee and breakfast and was my ever patient model (am I turning into my mom?)

We did some nice exploring, found us the path less travelled by and wandered into a hunting area (no worries, it is not hunting season). Of course as per usual we found critters and had to closely inspect them and I found some old trees that captured my attantion. Also, I got to pose while Michael experimented with picture taking. (see below)

So yeah that be me- the lion in the high grass!  That afternoon we had a stroll around the nearest town. I love about France that you can drive through towns by passing one farm/ village entry sign- 1 or 2 farms or even abandoned buildings- village exit sign.
We had dinner, listened to so,e French dude perform with his band who did really well except butchered the Rolling stones as his english was terrible and he forgot to stay on tune trying to pronunciate the words.

Finally we went to see some caves. close to Lascaux, which is famous for it´s first form of drawings on a cave wall this cave also had some horses and two figures. Being a limestone cave however the images were slowly being covered by new sediment and only just visible. Do you interfere with nature to maintain the art or do you allow nature to cover up history? 
Anyway, no horses in this picture, for those of you who were looking, I snuck this picture (without flash) as picture taking was not allowed. Noughty me.

Then we had a musea day, well sorta; We visited a castle built into the rocks which they had used to shoz all the historical evidence that had been left around this area throughout the ages. One room had all the mideival torture equipment- so glad I got to be wierd in this age and not a couple hundred years back.

The semi-caves around the corner had been used as settlements, to escape to romans, other enemies, and had been used by bears as well as people. a room with a view so to speak.

We had a marvallous late lunch in the sun with a bottle of wine, a little kayak trip down tha river that led along the caves and a castle and eventually turned in. Time to go home!
Picknicked on the way and spent too much time in traffic around Paris but it was a marvellous little getaway.

Oh my- and did I inform you all that I fell in love with this boy... yeah, the one in the grass! yeah! good stuff.

Now let´s see what life brings for the next post so I can get back into bloggin shape.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Travel Guide (Lebanon Inside and Out)

Above the clouds there was till some sunshine, sinking through them there was no below as they caressed the earth in a thick blanket of mist connected to the earth in a thin film of ice. Welcome home...

Below a small guide to traveling, my way, possibly your way, with a focus on Lebanon, my most recent source of exploration and mind triggering creative imagination... Feedback appreciated as always :)

Travel With a Friend
Traveling with someone makes the experience so much more enjoyable. No one ever sees what you see exactly in the same light. Have someone there to challange and broaden you views it makes the experience so much more intense. The memories you make will always be ones you can share, ones that are there to recollect and spinn off. (I imagine one day being old and telling my kids about those days and they will roll their eyes- that story again?! and secretly hope to have an adventure like that as well.)
I was lucky to travel with Alain, a Lebanese boy (should I say man?) I knew from Hawaii (Volleybal). Lebanon is his home and once he suggested to one day show me his country. An idea that grew into a reality. Traveling with him opened up doors for me through knowledge I simply didn't have before, gave me insight to a culture I didn't know anything about and tought me to appreciate my friend in a new way, set against the backdrop of home. Thankyou Habibi.

Walk Places
When you walk you find things that you didn't plan on. When you visit a landmark or attraction explore the area around it. Familiarising yourself with routes and sites creates a sense of belonging. Personally, I really like to get myself lost and then find my way home again...
These broken wartorn walls are not uncommon to the city scape between high rises and fashionable stores. It is for a reason they call this phoenix country. It rises from the ashes again and again.
morning rays
the phoenix ashes
as they grow

Walking through the souks in Tripoli you emerge yourself ino the past, old structures that may have been part of roman or byzantine buildings, renovated by the mameluks and ottomans. There are shops in little nooks with cultural pleasantries originated in different habits and religions and people. Oriental art is abundantly found, designs are generally done on brass, copper, china wares, lamps, carved chests, Persian Carpets and painted furniture. Various perfume stores sport beautiful rows of bottles with naturally produced smells of musk and gardenia and go under names that indicate their effects on others. Furthermore people smoke (hookah) waterpipe a lot... it is a common passtime in bars and though I'm not always a fan of the smoke I love watching it. It holds a certain charm. If you ever wanted buy one they are quite easily found, whole shops dedicated to the tradition.

Always be in for a Surprise
Don't expect to know what people think and why they act like they do. There are plenty stereotypes in the world but as soon as you get to know someone they usually break with theirs. In my experience people are generally kind and curious unless you mess with their values.
People in Lebanon have a tendency to really stare at me but in a harmless way. Generally curious and welcoming (those who spoke English and didn't feel awkward talking to me often told me welcome and asked how I liked Lebanon). At some point in the souks(market area) Alain commented on people staring and I told him he was just jealous. Not long after, -I was waiting for him to buy some treats- I got quite irritated by someone staring who just didn't look away. No shame at all! I mumbled to Al I was going to punch that boy in the face if he kept that up.
Al told me "I would do it for you but then you might accuse me of being jealous again."
To which I replied: "No worries I can punch him myself if I really feel the need.
To which a scarfed lady who had been standing next to me replied: GOOD ANSWER! and walked off. Can't say I had expected that and it definitely put a smile on my face.

Know Some History (Religion)
Knowing history helps you know what to look for. Sometimes you have to be pointed in a direction to see what there is to see.
The coastal plain of Lebanon is the historic home of a string of coastal trading cities of Semitic culture, which the Greeks termed Phoenicia, whose maritime culture flourished there for more than 2,000 years. Byblos, believed to be the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, built by Cronos, was given it's name because the Phoenician city of Gebal was named Byblos by the Greeks, because it was through here that papyrus Bύβλος (bublos; Egyptian papyrus) was imported into Greece. Hence the English word bible is derived from byblos as "the (papyrus) book.

The Byblos castle was built by the crusaders from limestone and ancient roman structures. Interesting to see the different influences (and museum) on it's inside and fortification on it's outside. Spending some time on my own there I wandered into a bookstore and bought "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran (famous Lebanese author), sat at a little cafe and read most of it. Little book on life's wisdom. The site he loved and was later turned into a museum to comemorate his works of art and writing we visited a couple of days earlier. Researching Gibran you find he stayed in Paris (you can see a new technical skill and trend in his paintings) and he was a traveler finding his way amongst his people and those abroad. Sound familiar?

In Beirut I wandered into what originally was the Crusader Cathedral of St John (1113-1150 A.D.) the building was transformed into the city's Grand Mosque by the Mamlukes in 1291. Next to it stands, also quite grand, a church. I took a picture of course and dared to the door. They were prepared for visitors. Could I please wear this?! Inside it was spacious and cool. The lightfall form the ceiling impressive. This Mosque also contains the biggest chandelier in the middle east?? I wonder what a mosque needs something so pricey and glamorous for. It was a strange sensation to be inside and while looking at the people studying and citing the koran churchbells called the christians to mass next door. Somewhat like the Koran and the Bible standing next to each other in our living room book case. In this case the minarets (design) were the same, the two books have the first three pages in common (and much of the rest).

The Romans occupied Lebanon around the time of the birth of Christ and allowed some cities Roman citizenship. due to this reign the country now holds one of the best preserved Roman temple structures Baalbek situated in the Beqaa valley. The Gods worshipped were the Triad Jupiter venus and Mercury, superimposed on the indigenous deities Hadad, atargatis and a young male god of fertility and there are still local influences to be seen that deviate form the Roman style.

Talk To People
When you talk to random people you get bits and pieces of information about a place but not only that. You start understanding reactions and human logic set to the way people live, their hostory and their dreams.
I really wanted to take a picture of this boy but he was scared and ran at first. Alain asked him why and apparently the boy was afraid we would the gouvernment and he would not be allowed to work anymore. Who would have thought...

After entering a Maronite church and wonderign what difference this aspect of religion meant for christianity I asked the man outside what the deal was with the maronites (okay I used politically correct english but you catch the drift). He called down another man who in pretty decent english explained to me that saint Maroun was a preist and hermit who did missionary work and performed miracles and who had gained a lot of folowers. The people are direct decendants of those who recieved the faith from St. Peter. He also thanked me for asking and taking the time to listen to him. Nice man...

The Cedrus libani (Ceder of Lebanon) is native the mountains of the mediterranian region. In the past many have been harvested but being Lebanon's pride and national emblem the remaining cedars are held in respect and preserved. These trees are Giants of thousands of years and the air walking around the area was refreshing, giving one somewhat of a high, the air being cool after the first snowfall earlier that day, and the views through lebanon's heights only emphasise the majestic tree. (yeah it;s me at the bottom)

At the beginning of trip Al, Shady and I went hiking into Kadisha valley. Quite the trip with amazing views. Lucky for us it was still rather warm weather (very unusual for this time if the year in Lebanon it was dry and warm where there should have been cold and snow (in the picture where the light hits the mountain peaks there is usually a thick coating of snow). However it allowed us a hike. Down the valley past one of the meny monasteries that line it (the maronites took refuge there and up the other side. Right we went to that cave you see between our fingers. Not just to the cave, but INTO the cave. Crawling through the icy water on hands and knees wriggling through narrow edges and simply exploring. I absolutely loved it! thought these caves were nothign compared to the Jeita grotto's which were stunning and I have no pictures of (not allowed but please google!!!) this was quite an adventure! Coming out of the caves we had a campfire going and made soup in cans and ate other randomness we brought. Shadi and Al used to do this when they were boy scouts. Not bad, not bad at all!

Other than finding nature Tripoli is a trading city and on the mediterranean sea. Since it was becoming too big they devided it calling the other half El Mina, the port. Watching sunset at 16:30 over a calm sea on the first day and one over a stormy one (surf waves) the last day was a relaxing and meditative thing.

Usually the first thing I do is learn some of the local words. I must say Lebanese was not too hard to pronounce having many similar sounds as in Dutch but was a disaster to remember. It doesn't help if you have (a) friend(s) to do the talking for you. However it is nice to be able to thank and greet in another language. Another word for loved one: Habibi was used a lot and even though I dind't understand the langage it quickly became apparent that you use this in many ways, real love, friendly love and often with a high dose of sarcasm when needed.

Go Local
Hummos was already a favourite, now so is manushi and hmmm Alain's fathers fish sauce. Fattoush is yummy and the Baklava in Lebanon is to die for. The dates are amazing and I definitely should have eaten more of those but you know, there are only so many times you can eat in a day. Alain told me right at the beginning: They love you when they feed you, any visit, moment, occasion is a good time. Visiting many people and many people visiting Al, there was plenty of eating to go round. But going local is not just about the food, allthough those who know me know I love to eat :). It was also great to be part of a family. Alain's father and I got along well and we both had a love for books. He also told me stories about the war, the family, the people in their family which I met and quite a lot of and funny facts about Al. Alain's mother and I got lost in translation a lot, both of us speaking some kind of French but doing quite well with pointing smiling and an English word here and there. It is impressive how much a facial expression can say, good fun. She took good care of the family, with a passion, like moms tend to do. I got lucky.

There are many more things we did, saw... went wine tasting, walked through Beirut some more, we tasted all sorts of of food and explored childhood sites, I talked to all sort of people and it was altogether a beautiful trip. All I can say is GO and have a look for yourself.

Now I'm home. The clouds are still hugging the earth but after some snow we have a beautiful winter landscape with frosty trees and snowy roads. There is beauty wherever you want to see it. (But wave another opportunity to travel in my face and trust me to be tempted!)

Music: This Light between Us, Armin van Buuren
Quote: Certainly travel is more then the seeing of sights; it is the change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. - Miriam Beard

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Small Talk

Hippo Talk
She sailed away on a happy summer day on the back of a crocodile... Okay really old song that ends up with the lady inside the croc and I was not that unfortunate, but I was on a boat floating dow the Nile, the White Nile mind you. It was rediculously hot and since all the spots on the lower deck were taken I sat in the front on the floor. Quite comfortable actually since by nature I am a floor dweller. I also had a great view and coud stand or sit without anyone in my way. Saw plenty of elephants and hippoes to end at the Murchison Falls. Gotto love water! On the way I fell asleep, soon to be fully engaged in my Larium (anti malaria drugs) dreams. I was exploring some dark corner of my mind when nearing the falls a wave of water came onto the boat. Though up and standing within seconds it took some time befor the mist of dreams wore off gradually I found myself in the middle of a group of people looking to see if I was functional. It was a long boat trip and on the way back I had a very interesting converstation with Tom, a friend I made on the trip, an interestign character with an interesting reason to visit Uganda in the first place. Man do I love people... funny too how I keep running into Germans everywhere ;)

Gulu and the Lord Resistance Army...
So after my wildlife trip I decided to leave the group and continue to Gulu. ad them drop me off a little (half hour drive) past Masindi, where two big roads intersect and all thebig busses come by. I sat under a wooden contraption wtaching people fry potato and goats meat to sell to anyone who slowed down around the area. The bug bus I wanted though took it's time and I started wonderign what I would do if it didnlt show. I contemplated sleeping there which the little boy I was talking to, who spoke english reasonably well and who had just questioned me about Buddha and Jesus and weather Iw as Christian or not asked: Are you now afraid of night dancers -ancestor spirits that come at night to take your life-.
After arriving in Gulu and talking half an hour to the first person I met Marijt (a Dutch girl doing research and whom I decided to meet with for dinner after finding a place to stay) I found a local hostel to stay where I ran into a bunch of students from Kampala University who were there to do fieldwork, urban planning. LOL if you see Gulu the word Urban is funny.. you can walk everywhere there or take a boda-boda (motor taxi) and the few buildings that are taller than one story are a couple of hotels. My room had a muskitonet! with two holes which i fixed with the sewing kit I brought, the toilet and shower were shared (as in I had a basin for washing and slippers under my bed and the toilet didn't lock so well and required squatting skills.
I went to a couple of NGO's and aksed, even though it was rather short notice, whether there was a possibility to join in on one of their fieldtrips. I then proceeded to join the Norwegian refugee council for two days, visiting projects (schools) they were running and getting a tour from Invisible children. I spent one day just running around the town and in between had a lot of fun chiling with Marijt whom I also killed a bottle of white wine with on my last night and discussing life as a side treat.

Picker Upper of Strays
So, this is me, and my new hairdue: it only took 5 hours and three people. The cat I picked up off the street. Most people in Uganda are a little scared of cats and looked at me oddly when I sat down to pet it (not that tey usually do not stare but now they REALY stared!. Some of the ladies that knew me by now told me I should take it. I replied that that was not a good idea as I was leaving soon and that maybe it had an owner??? They said it didn't... and with pain in my heart I continued thinking there was no point in Bringing Mama Lydia another cat. I did mention the episode though.
She knew some people that wanted one. Me all excited: "So I should go pick it up?" Sure she said so there I went; picker upper of strays. I would have taken her home in a heartbeat scruffy little thing that would climb on me and sit on my shoulder or lap everytime it could. I hope it finds a nice home.

Coffee Ceremony
Your visit to Ethiopia could not be without it. Beletech took us into her home like family.. for those of you who don't know, she and Hanna (her daughter) worked for us about 20 years ago when we lived in Addis Abeba. A few years down the line she came to the Nethelrands as an au-pair and now, married with a Dutch man, is settled in the Netherlands and supports her mother and two sisters in Ethiopia.Beletech doesn't look too different to me and her English is ever improving. Meat broke broke (minced meat) and ofoi ofoi being her favourite words. I must say I also vigorously celebrated non-vegetarianism in Ethiopia with all the delicious meats that go with Injerra namely Kitfo and Doro Wot with plenty of Berbere... oh glorious food!

Rock Churches
It is stange to have a picture on my camera similar to those that have always enticed me on posters of Ethiopia, 13 months of sunshine. Now, having wandered around for a day and been in and out of them and seen al the diferent sights they offer I dare say I would go back. Just to sit and paint or even simply gaze at the lightfall into the carved out doors and the layers of white ethiopian cloth the priest wear, even the pilgrims inspire me to stare in awe. The magnifiscence of the churches make you understand why locally some believe angles came down to assist in their building.

Market Day
Ethiopians definitely of nomadic decent travel large distances by foot. Not just to fetch water but to sell produce at the market. Some start very early in the morning, often loading themselves as much as their donkeys. We were lucky enough to travel past the market on our way to the Blue Nile Falls which looked more red to me than anyhting else, nevertheless we got to endulge in the sight of hundreds of people migrating their wear acros the area. Then, large masses of water never cease to amaze me, only the road (which the driver referred to as the cause of a free African massage) could have done with a little improvement. The little bus rattled so hard that even talking was too much effort. So I simply sat and observed in silence.

Awasa and the South
On the last part of our trip we went down South to the rift Valley lakes where there are plenty of birds and amazing changes in the landscape. Hanna's two sisters, Zeleka and Zewedenesh came with us lifting some of the language barriers and increasing the fun. We had a little boat trip to explore Awasa and stopped by Lake Langano (we used to go there when I was 8 but now they had gone bankrupt so the place had been shut down. For a small fee they let us in though and like many other places in Ethiopia I found that my memories were mostly contained in smells. The water was still red and brought back strange memories of canoeing with a friend, a little too far on a little too stormy a day. The grass was thorny and the air has this strange quality hard to describe to someone who was never there, warm, dry, semi sweet but definitely familiar. The trees, typically african in their reach for the clouds but seemingly limited by an invisible ceiling, make me smile and live in the moment. Then, one last night of Ethiopian hospitality and tastes and an early morning ride ot the airport landing in what they call civilisation: I think I mostly appreciate our washing machine, and the fact that I can drink the tap-water and that it tastes good... but the thought of living in one of those thatched huts and lving on posho beans and avo for a year or two is still quite appealing...

For now though I'll be a good girl: have just comitted to a two year phone contract and am looking for jobs... Man I sound like a normal person. Can someone please talk some sense into my head or simply come and rescue me?!

Music: Omukwano
Quote: "I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." Isaac Newton

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Music and Memories

"Sweet dreams are made of these who am I to disagree, I travel the world and the seven seas, everybody is looking for something"

It is interesting how music attaches itself to memories, or major events in life sometimes with an obvious link sometimes not.

Omukwano: Driving the local taxi in Uganda-bus to work -it is a Luganda hit and you can hear it blasting here and there on good occasion-
The Weary Kind, Ryan Bingham: Leaving Hawaii - the movie is not great but the song.. ahh...
Classical Gas, Vanessa Mae: Olympics Beijing - It was my warm-up song -
Ruby, Keiser Chiefs: World Championships in Perth -It matched my roommates abundant energy and she was in love with it -
Tradewinds, Pepper: Arrival in Hawaii, staying with Jen and having my first run-in with American culture
These Words, Natasha BeddingField: Hanging out with Amy in our room at Kingsgate
FireWater, Yellowcard: Driving to practice in Nijverdal - It was on a collection cd I made for driving, it made me speed on occasion! -
The Beautiful Girls: Last year in Hawaii and surfing -man I want to go surf-
007 (Shanty Town), Desmond Dekker: Christmas in Canada with my Family -played in the car a lot and my younger cousins enjoyed it too!
Lullaby Baby Blues, Keb Mo: World Junior Championships Calgary and chilling with my Uncle -he saved my sanity, 'nuff said-
Guaranteed, Eddie Vedder: Doing Art with Maxie and Kelly in our living room in Manoa -chaos and destruction-
Nickelback cd: Driving down to the pool to play for national championships in the Netherlands with Lieke
Noorse Bruiloft: Sailing
Bring me Some Water, Melissa Etheridge: Doing art in my room -there are many songs attched to differnt pieces of art, it could be a special entry!
Vogue, Madonna: Working in the greenhouses over summer one year -I'm not even sure I like the song but it was a hit and it played on the radio all day-
Torn, Natalie Imbruglia: Living in Indonesia with my Dad and Brother -I'm sure they remember cause I'm pretty sure that song was on repeat (I do apologise for the overdose)-
Street Spirit, Radiohead: Sitting on my cousin's balcony talking and playing guitar
Desmond Dekker CD: Cooking with Ecaterina before we had people over -girl I could live with you any day!-
God is a DJ, Faithless: Driving to practice in Bilthoven with our coach Nick 2004? -he introduced me to the music-
Quand je Marche, Camille: Having a Godaweful crush on a someone.. -yeah wouldn't you like to know!-
Hey now now, The Cloud Room: road trip, sharing a way to early breakfast and yoga session with Brittany.. good times!
Nothing Else Matters, Metallica: the first time I tried to learn guitar, tought by one of the boys one year above me in school
Don't be Cruel, Elvis presly: Dancing in the living room with my dad there was this other song that refuses to come to mind right now.
Hey There Delilah, Plain White T's: Surfing with my brother in Portugal -he brought the guitar and people enjoyed singing a long-
Grace Kelly, Mika: Afternoons with the National Team in Zeist
Titanic Soundtrack: Third year of Hightschool -the movie came out and I had the soundtrack; copied it on tapes!!! for some of my other friends.
K's Choice: Playing Guitar and singing with my Brother -any time-
The Closest thing to Crazy, Katie Melua: Lindsay, my mothers good friend.
In the Shadows, the Rasmus: Concert with Michelle -in the middle of a trainingcamp, nearly killed me but was flippin Amazing!-
Fidelity, Regina Spektor: Cycling around the Netherlands with Amy -I think because I had the song in my head but could not remember the author.
Universal Traveller, Air: A certain bench in the Sun in Rotterdam in Early summer with Britt -oh and standing o the bridge waving at trucks!- LOL
Swan Lake, Tchaikovsky: Ethiopia
Alice's Rabit, Running Downhill: Watching my brothers band practice in Wesley's basement. -LOVE IT-
Roxette cd: Driving in South Africa with Iris and Odile
De Paden op de Lanen in: Hiking Switzerland with my parents
Listen to your Heart, Roxette- Playing volleyball with Timm, Iska and his kids -the girl had a pink shirt that said listen to your heart-
Just a Girl, No Doubt: recording music from the radio in my friends room in highschool then writing down the lyrics
Snow on the Sahara:
Dancing in the garden with Daniel at my mother's good friend's house in England one summer. He didn't like my music much and I was majorly impressed with his, so not sure how that song attached to that memory.
Peer Gynt, Edvard Grieg:
Playing my Alto recorder with our music group. It sounded sooo nice!
Don't Know Why, Norah Jones: a certain e-mail my brother sent me :)
Take a Chance on Me, ABBA: Driving to France with my family when we were small -it was one of the few cd's everyone would put up with-
Tout le Bonheur Du Monde, Sinsemilia:- Hanging out with my Parisian friends in Hawaii
Gastarbeiders, Kinderen voor Kinderen: Singing in Church with my good friend Loes
Ik wil een Kangaroe, Kinderen voor Kinderen: The study in my Grandma's House
Las die Liebe Son Herein: Driving somewhere with my mother
Mon Bateau: Kindergarten in Burkina Faso

And there are many more, I could go on forever...but I think I might have sufficiently bored you by now, or at least, lost you to your own memories and music...

Friday, April 02, 2010

Hello Muzungu, How Are You?

…is the rhythm that accompanies me down the street. I walk past the many stalls where they sell banana's (for cooking or for straight up eating), tomatoes, small green bell peppers, egg-plant, chapatties, greens (like spinach), sorghum, sweet potatoes, and posho (made from cornflower and water, rather tasteless without sauce) and ground nuts (peanuts) that they often grind and add water to to make that sauce. I'm dodging the occasional kid that has not spotted the Muzungu (white person) and is making a dash for some place or another in between and in awe by the amounts of chickens they fit in a pen.

When I arrived we were cooking on coals since the stove didn't work. While cooking it dawned on me that I had not seen a washing machine in this house and when I asked Juliana (the 16year old who keeps this place up and running since Veronica who is housing me has one un-usable leg so is not capable of the housework) she replied that she did laundry on the weekend, by hand. Why did I ask? we had a washing machine??? the next surprise came when I wanted to take a shower. No warm water; which is okay, I don't mind cold showers but yeah! Welcome to Africa!

The next major adjustment is eating habits. They don't really eat breakfast -Tea with powdered milk (NIDO!!!<--- memories!) and some white bread to dip in. (Yes you dip it because it is only soft the first day) and then lunch only at about 3... dinner at 10?! anyone who knows me knows this is going to be a problem, so I'm trying to find my way around that; eat an apple and a banana, and if someone remembers to buy it some white bread. Mama Lydia, the lady who runs the clubhouse, caught on and has started to make me eggs in the morning. However I know this costs her plenty money which she does not have so after having been here for a week, I think I can manage myself enough to get my own food.

I'm very welcome at the clubhouse, the members are a lot more open then they were in the US, for some reason they seem more social. I have been given the name Namazzi on my first day in as like anywhere else I go people tend to trip over the pronunciation of my name. Namazzi means water, but also life sustaining force, so I have quite the name to live up to! It also makes me Buganda (part of the Baganda people and part of the Lion tribe) which apparently can be derived from the structure of the word. I took to the name the moment it was suggested, and have been introducing myself as Namazzi ever since. It generates a lot of laughs and curious looks but it is appreciated.

When I enter the clubhouse I’m always welcomed: Sulabulungi! (how was your night?) and I respond with “Bulungi” (Good). Nothing in this country is accomplished before a proper greeting. The Clubhouse is much like it was in Hawaii except that now I do not necessarily get everyone's stories but am part of the crowd. They have a work ordered day where everyone is supposed to have a task, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the chickens, growing mushrooms (and I mean the ones we eat for dinner) or learning computer skills. Some have a real Job and come in for lunch to hang out. I'm trying to write a proposal to get some funding from some NGO's around the world to see if they want to sponsor the building of some houses. This is quite the feat because I have little to no idea about how building a house works here and since we have no funds at all other than a family in the US that sponsors us we can hardy go to a contractor to ask him to make a bill of quantity without which we can hardly send of a proposal! So we're trying to work all the connections we have and additionally it seems like we (the clubhouse members) are very capable of making stones themselves. They were surprised I hadn't thought about that!

Housing is necessary as housing here in general is quite different from what we are used to in Europe. They are often just one room for sleeping and one for living, cooking is done on coal outside the toilet is a hole in the floor and water comes from the tubes that randomly come out of the ground. Often the patients here are shunned, and not welcome at home, told to stay away when they leave the house and generally not accepted. Some of the people my age go to school but no one will sit next to them so the clubhouse really is a place to be accepted and have a family, even more so than in Hawaii.

I was becoming a little claustrophobic in the house we live in. My room has the most windows but the rest is rather dark. There is a high wall around the complex, typically African with pieces of glass bottles on top to make sure no one climbs in. But I came to the realization that even though we make the one hour ride to the clubhouse in the morning by car I can probably walk it in the same amount of time, or at least take the local bus half way and walk the rest. Traffic is rediculous and driving even rediculouser!!! although it takes a lot of skill to maneuver the way they do without touching anyone else. 50% of the roads are dirt roads and all have potholes that are generally bigger than the tires of a car so you can imagine you don't want to test the puddles in rainy season. So even though in Uganda they drive on the left hand side we drive right about 40% of the time too.. or simply in the middle.

The Baganda one of the bigger tribes of Uganda speak Luganda and this is the language most everyone speaks in Kampala. So, trying to pick up some basic words of this one is putting my efforts for Swahili to shame. I am having a good time trying to break all the stereotypes they place on white people. 1: I walk places... (no this does not make me tired or my feet hurt) 2: I know how to wash clothes, cook and clean all by myself! 3: All European women know this and no- we do not have people to do this for us 4: I'm not rich and I ask for my change if they think I'm going to let it slip 5: I'm not racist?! And of course I can eat local food.

Today is Sunday: church-day! Whoa, are they Christian or what! And wait.. last time I checked no, I'm not. And yes I love discussions about this but this needs a careful approach here! Of course me and my curiosity accepted the invite to accompany the the lot to church. I must say the pastor, who was from Kenia, was great to listen to. The mixture of topics and jokes and African english entirely held my attention. I was not prepared for the active participation of saying Amen and praise the lord, and holding hands and raising them over my head. Awkward!

I love it here though!! The weather is friendly (It is raining season so I fell asleep to pounding rain yesterday) and the people are too. Juliana is making my stay here much easier since she wants to learn everything about the rest of the world and everything I know. She is the workforce of the house (comes home at 6:30 from school or 8 if she stays to study, then makes tea (6pm) and dinner, I started doing the dishes (Imagine the things I know how to do), she cleans the house on Saturday and does laundry (I have joined her ins this effort too) usually she goes to school on Saturday morning so then this is Sunday work and that is about it. She learns very fast, talks about relationships sometimes like a 30 year old and other times like the age she is. She is always smiling, always at beck and call of her sister (Veronica) and will spend every free minute in my presence, to take me walking, indulge in my curiosity for road side foods, introduce me to her brother or simply to pick my brain.

English is altogether an interesting challenge here. Not because they don't speak it but because they have a very different pronunciation and a way of telling you things. I don't always catch on, which means that sometimes there are major misunderstandings. As of yet the worst thing that happened was that I got lost trying to get home in the dark by local bus. We had just gotten stuck in the traffic Jam caused by the mourning over the Burial Tombs (was this world news?) and spent 40 minutes sitting on top of each other in a small van and of course I had the broken chair and could not lean back. Thank goodness I had a Fiona with me who (is a clubhouse member and has plenty time and is willing to show me stuff) and at least she could make a phone call here and there... I recognized the place and would have probably found my way home, but this was slightly more reassuring since dark in Uganda is really dark! and the roads are dusty and muddy and there is the occasional pig running around and "note to self" it is not safe and under all circumstances to tell someone you are lost. Thank god my brain was primed and kicked in just before I did confirm the man's question.

The biggest shock I had so far was going to the hospital. It is a serene place on the outskirts of town. there is a nice breeze and the buildings, though small, look clean and well kept. There are two houses for the mentally ill: one for women, one for men. They all wear the same shirt/dress: A green, square piece of cloth with openings for the head and arms. They wander about, lie on the grass in front of the building, some eyes rolled back, drawling, some have sores, most are really hungry and they look like they have a mental illness. The sleeping spaces are two big rooms that lock down with heavy gates, since when they get too excited they are sedated and locked up. Beds are about one meter apart and though they look clean they are old and privacy does not exist anywhere. (Anyone seen "One flew over the cuckoo's nest?" well this was similar but with less privacy.

Some slightly more with it would come to see me, talk to me, touch me, shake my hand. (I hope I did not cause too much excitement). I also caught myself not wanting to touch some of them because they looked unclean. I don't know myself like this and though I did shake everyone’s hand if they offered it, I did distach the lady that attached herself to me. The girl we were supposed to visit (a clubhouse member) had relapsed and we couldn't see her because she had also been put down. In the male building I had a man suggest we should go around the corner to have some fun and some others really eager to shake my hand. I am usually not nervous around people but I must say there was slight discomfort being stuck between cultures and the mentally ill... It was good to be outside the gates again.

On behalf of the clubhouse I wrote a Memorandum of Understanding for the Head of Psychiatry to obtain the freedom to walk in and out and visit our members at our own time (We spent quite some time waiting to talk to people to obtain permission.) Mama Lydia has studied and worked at this hospital for 11 years -you'd think they'd cut her some slack.

So far that is all I have. Or at least the explainable bit!! :) Now all I need is internet! sigh... I knew I was an internet junkie but I'm definitely going through withdrawel! So... send me mail, I'm hungry for your news! Oh and as a parting thought: Malaria pills make you dream funny!!! I have thus far: met the president of Uganda walking on a red carpet that was spread on the dust road and watched the Dutch National Waterpolo team lose to a team assembled of players from Uganda Kenya and Congo... and then I wake up to someone’s driver washing the car -every morning… I was not meant to sleep in!

Tulabagane edda (see you later!)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


We made it out to Makapuu the other night: a random get together, potluck kinda thing. Maya (from Turkmenistan) who is taking my room this summer), Antoine, Maxie, Robin, Adi and his friend Adi and I.

Happily eating away, listening to the crash of water on sand -the infamous shorebreak- and talking about Hawaiian myths and legends, we watched the last group of people leave when dawn set in. The only light was from the Makapu'u light house and the new moon. We had the beach to ourself.

Antoine started to whistle which caused an upstir. Whisteling invites the spirits after dark and we didn't need any of those: Maxie, a little obsessed over a getting her bed out of the way of the lined up doors when we moved into our new house beginning of December, just in case of nightmarchers; Robin for her own reasons and Maya trying really hard not to be impressed by the thought of spritis altogether. A little while into our conversation we all of a sudden hear a baby cry. Odd.. everyone left right? hmmm. Were there any other people then? A little disoriented we resettle, trying to find a comfy spot to lie down, watching the stars, falling stars here and there.

It isnt too long before we hear the cry again. It is a baby sound, coming from the rocks opposite the ocean side. We are all trying to rationalise. Wouldnlt we hear peoples voices then if we can hear the baby? why does it only give one cry and then stop? Nevertheless we are on edge. Time to leave? really? Okay. We gather up our stuff and head for the car.

It is a little rought going in the dark, the balck vulcanic rocks have belnd into a black mass and the beach in between was wet. Walksing across the wet sand little light come on. when you set down your foot all around little spots turn on and then fade again. I have seen this phenomena in waves but never on the wet sand. Beautiful! We hop around for a bit. It doesn't help everyone relax though. robin: can we go now? I really do not feel welcome here. Antoine, a true boy feels like he needs to explore and Adi is almost out there with him. But we leave.

The parking lot gives us a last jitter. Our two cars are really the only ones there and Makapuu is really not an easy walk from anywhere.

-Some intensive research on google yields a little bird called catbird, it's call sounds exactly like a baby. (to be found on youtube except that our bird was way better!) pfew.

My last day of packing and randomness ended me at Waimanalo with Ten Zin and the two Adi's. A a last day swim anbd relax. Ten Zin is learning swimming from Maxie and is doing great! trying everything even taming the sea! and Adi (the other one ;) ) let himself in with the salty water too! I donlt know what I would od if I didnlt know how to swim, but I'm glad they came with us and trusted us to look after them!

A little get together after that with those who were still in Hawaii was good fun! It is wonderful how well randomness works in Hawaii.. I make some snacks and you bring whatever you want to drink! I stayed up till 2:15 cleanign and packing last leftover bits, crashed for two hours and then made travel packages and poked at Robin who stayed over so she could drive me to the airport in Hajime's truck.

I'm home now..
I'll keep you updated!

Music: Nunca Mais, Zuco 103
Quote: A fool's brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education. -George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Canvas Abandon

Art is leaving the museum halls in search of a more vital interactive context. In this day and age of individual accomplishment and self-enhancement it seems yet again our artists are one step ahead of us and aiming for the change that others only just begin to feel the need for. It is a change towards reconnection, a switch from using art to observe and analyze to making art the art of interaction, a social event.

The contrast is similar to what in psychology would be called natural observation (meticulously recording and analyzing what we see in a natural setting on paper) and setting up an experiment (the bringing together of people who actively participate and generate the result). Art is no longer a question posted by the artist, analyzed by him to then be presented to us as a conclusion of his thought process. It has become a question posted to the public and asking for their hands-on participation and analysis. “Giving each person a voice is what builds the community and makes art socially responsive.” (Gablik :82)

Where some might question whether this interactive form of art is really art; I would suggest to turn to art history for an answer. Many of the great artists we know from before were initially not accepted because their ideas were ahead of ours, because their concepts broke boundaries we had set for ourselves and because they explored our cultural norms in ways we had never thought of. They made art in a different way and we also questioned its validity.

While we used to have the tendency to sit back and observe art as if we were sitting in front of a TV, we are no longer going to be entertained as such. Having always been focused on looking, obsessing over, and gazing, art now requires action. Lygia Clark is one of those artists who challenges us to let go of our ‘normal’. She crosses the boundaries of observation and those of objects and people, and creates pieces where object and body become one. In blindfolding people, enhancing their other senses and giving them only their hands to grasp what life is around them, she challenged us to step out of our comfort zone, requiring interaction to experience.

Instead of depicting subjects of controversy one is now challenged to physically experience it. There is a common quote used among teachers everywhere: “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I might remember, involve me and I will understand.” I feel contemporary art is doing exactly that. We have gone from the showing stage to the involving stage. Art is out to change the world; not by hinting at change with images, but by grabbing people by the hand and making them experience and become part of the change.

So art is not contained on a canvas any longer, it has taken on the world as a place to manifest itself. From the halls of galleries where it only reached the elite few that came by, it now goes for a stroll outside, to meet people, to interact, to confront. There is no limit to space for art other than the limits of our minds and the world is our canvas. Through art we can negotiate the direction where we want to go with our life, our culture, humanity but, most importantly, where we don’t.

It seems a logical step for art to take on this social form as people are a social species and nothing in this world ever happened because one person took action. It was always an idea multiple people stood up for that determined the course of life. Art in a way is promoting this vision. Emotion is steered in a new direction, sensitizing us to the course we were so obliviously walking along, making us aware of the others walking alongside of us and asking of us to evaluate, in our newfound perspectives, our norms and values. Art is looking for a purpose other than pleasure, not only requesting awareness but a common step up to a world of harmony. We are still looking for aesthetics, maybe not on paper but in the immediate world around us, and art is still our way to represent it.