Sunday, February 26, 2012

Before I Forget - 1

I put on Graduation Goggles in my last 24 hours in Malawi. I know the Malawi experience was intense and full of contradictions but in those last 24 hours I couldn't imagine why I was leaving the country because my brain only recalled the best moments of my time there. But now I'm back and Malawi already seems like a part of the distant world out there. So I figured I should make the traditional Top 5 list of the fun-nest people, places anddd.... things (?) seen in Malawi, before I forget!

So here is my Top 5 list of People. Not only the trippiest people with the most bizarre stories but also the ones who most affected me, make this list.

5. Greg. Scottish, tall, lanky, 42, absolutely yummie and affectionately called the Silver Fox. Currently working in the juvie prisons in Lilongwe, his life story is one of the most exciting I've ever heard. He grew up in the Middle East and decided early on that his life was going to be about travelling and seeing the world. Among his many jobs are bar-tending in Australia and being an extra in the Matrix films. He is the only man I have *ever* met who on meeting me for the first time hugged me, took my bags, held open the car door and made me gush like a little girl.

4. CarolAnn. Worked as legal counsellor defending juvenile delinquents in the Lilongwe prison. She had the most gruesome stories to tell over dinner and she left 2 weeks before I did to go start work in Afghanistan. Most ballsy and fearless person I know.    

3. Muthi. Malawian, educated in Paris and the USA is now back in Malawi to help her Mum and keep her farm functional. One of the most beautiful women I've met, I was in awe of her       when I first met her. She's a bag-full of contradictions with the never-say-no Malawian culture and the no-nonsense-American style continuously warring. So when you invite her for a dinner party she'll always say "yes, I'll be there!" even if she's actually in another city but will tell you about her fantasies about Bill Clinton when you get her drunk. One of my closest friends in Malawi, I don't think I would have survived without her :-)

2. Les makes the number 2 spot with her outrageous sexuality, her crazy adventurous streak and her very good judgement of her friend's needs. Having dated many Indian boys, she was the one person who understood my Indian jokes, my rambling about Indian food and culture and why exactly my parents called me every other day :D  

1. Blondey. Tall. Gorgeous. Canadian. She left her cushy job in New York to come live in different countries in Africa for the last 1 year. She's impatient, hyperactive and doesn't believe in layers. What you see if what you get with her. She took charge of my social calendar in Malawi and we were a couple for almost everyone who knew us in Malawi. And through all the parties, the Malawi-Gin-n-Tonic, the trips and the bitching, she became my best friend in Malawi.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Why I think my brain is made out of Cheese

I often read articles friends have "shared" on Facebook, just for the heck of it.  These range form superfluous, ridiculous, overly opinionated to downright lies. Maybe it was my state of mind, but I found this article, cheesily titled Why Love Matters More (And Less) Than You Think that hit home.

"Perhaps our celebrations of "love" are so often tinged with a quiet desperation because what we're really pursuing is a caricature of love. And perhaps by endlessly redrawing that caricature, we ourselves are lessened, little by little; as if we feel we don't fully belong in the human world, but can't quite understand why. None of us belong here. But we are here. And there's not enough time. Cut the bullshit. Love."

And I see what he means. A lot of us crib about being single, get angsty on Valentine's Day, scout out new people at social gatherings, have random sex with strangers all in the bid to get what we want. But beneath all this, we seem so afraid to articulate what it is exactly that we want. I have a friend who's been around the block a couple of times and she mentioned to me once that her biggest problem is often that she can't read the subtext of what the guy wants out of a particular encounter. You may want a casual no-strings-attached-sex-only relationship, but then you have no right to be cagey and make promises you have no intention of keeping. You may want to get married today and not wait for the next two years, but if you don't say it out loud, you cannot expect the other person to be ready. 

In all fairness, every time someone asks me what kind of person I would like to like, I make up vague clich├ęd statements and generally avoid the topic. But honestly, I want someone who will ground my life and also add some crazy to it. Someone who won't give me too much attention but will still let me know that I am special to him; call it as it is when I'm being an ass but respect the work I do; want to argue with me on silly issues without taking it personally and be comfortable with the space that he will occupy in my life without being scared of it. 

Of course, when I think that I've found someone who could potentially fit the bill and he turns out to be a jerk, it feels like someone's burnt me with a hot iron. On my part, I'm rather dramatic and filmi when I get hurt. I queue up sad, wrenching songs on my playlist, get into the shower, turn the water to scalding hot and just cry until I'm numb and I can't feel anything. 

But maybe what I should be thinking is that there's not enough time to cry over what happened any more. He's gone and I can't care because I need to find that person who's going to call it as it is when I'm being an ass.

Friday, February 17, 2012

African Safari

My fascination for animals is of the common variety. It's not deep or layered with strange titbits of knowledge about different species and how they behave. But just like others, I feel a thrill run down my spine when I spot an animal in the wild. The thrill of seeing something that is not entirely under your control and is glorious and free. Ironically, because of us humans, the rest of the animal world is never really free. But be that as it may, I went in search of that thrill last weekend to the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia.

Zambia shares a lot more than a border with Malawi - similar climate, language, geography, food, clothing and even currency names. However, being blessed with a larger territory for an equivalent population and copper mines, Zambia is now coming up last in the list of middle income countries. This unprecedented income allows it to save it's forests and wildlife and exploit them for tourism. The income difference beteen the two countries shows starkly as the forests and wildlife increase dramatically once you cross the border. We saw this difference between Malawi and Zambia first hand as we flew over the border  in our little 5-seater plane captained by a gorgeous 24 year old South Africa pilot. 

The South Luangwa National Park flanked by mountains on one side and the South Luangwa river on the other, is a quintessential African park. The river is brown, muddy and infested with crocodile and hippos. The African bush, though green due to the rainy season, is still sparse and dominated by knee length grass, eaten by most vegetarian animals - elephants, impala, puku, zebra. The animals are a refresher course on the animals starring in The Lion King, from the "ugly but lovely" warthog (Pumba!) to the striking chilly bird (Zazu) 

The National Park weekend involved alternating between riding in huge open jeeps to explore the park and relaxing in the chalets in the camp. The chalets were oh-so-luxurious with one wall taken out to afford us a view of the river and eco-friendly with extensive use of local materials, preservation of flora (there was a tree right in my bathroom!) and no wastage of resources. I imagine the camp was more suited to honeymooners, couples and families with older children but since we were on a luxury holiday, having flown in from Lilongwe and spent 700 dollars on the weekend, I wasn't complaining.

On our many game drives during the three day holiday we saw some fun animal rituals. While most animals spent their day grazing and pooping and being boring, we did see a herd of impalas fighting over the female impala who was in season. However, more exciting was a unique Hippo ritual when a lonely Hippo who was lounging alone in the smallest possible pool he found, retreated when he saw us but still in a final Bond-like move sprayed his shit all over the pool using his tail! Yes, he was wallowing in his own shit and the smell successfully managed to drive us away. 

After three days of game drives and exploring, we had seen many birds (best of all being the magnificent Fish Eagle), many animals, but were still missing a view of the elusive cats. We heard the Lions roaring many times in the day, but the swampy terrain prevented even our giant four wheel drives from going to that part of the forest. But on our final evening, just as we were about to park the jeeps, we saw a Leopard, creeping through the grass, hunting! It was smaller than I had imagined. Sleeker and much more elegant than all the pictures can capture. Our excited whispering and camera flashes, however, alerted the Impala and the Leopard missed its dinner. The elegant Leopard shrugged ( almost saying, meh chance miss), gave us a bad look for ruining its dinner and elegantly strolled into the dark forest! 

So ended my first African safari. Luxurious, beautiful, decadent and a bit too intrusive for the animals. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012


And this time it's forever.

I think I'm going to throw up. 

"There will be an answer, let it be", the band is singing. Haha. So ironic.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dear Diary

Pizza.Wine. Fight. Need. Fear. Loss. Friends. Fun. Laughter. Hollow. Love. Beer. Cake. Hugs. Loneliness.

All in one Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Finding comfort in beans and rice

Beans and rice is the (fake) national food of Malawi. The culture in most African countries involves one national dish that the junta eats day in and day out, literally, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nsima and beef  with Nali (hot sauce that comes in mild, hot and garlic flavours) is the (real) national food of Malawi - but since I don't eat beef, I have co-opted the vegetarian option as being my daily food.

There is something comforting about eating beans and rice with Garlic nali. I had this for lunch after a particularly gruelling morning of making phone calls to NGOs asking them why they couldn't send in required information within the deadline. There are some parts of this job that make me want to pull my hair out - and I have a feeling that the next four weeks are going to be terribly frustrating.

There is something comforting about eating beans and rice for dinner after a prolonged and bewildering conversation that makes me question parts of my life and makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong. I know I have actively hurt others in my life and yet I am always surprised when someone else hurts me - so silly to feel that way.  

I know I will find my way at my maddeningly slow pace. I just hope I get my beans and rice wherever I go :)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Noke Noke Noking on Heaven's Door

Malawians love music. They make their own music, listen to Mozambique-an music (which happens to be ah-mazing!) or any African music they can get their hands on. The gospel culture and general joblessness means that small local bands form across the city and make their living playing live at restaurants - doing African music and covers of old and popular English songs.
As I sit working in my room tonight, the local band is regaling the captive audience at the bar with crowd favourites. And as the band does covers Noke Noke Noking on Heaven's Door (rhyming with Poke Poke); I can't help but think that they do a much better job than most of the cover bands in the English speaking world. They have a guitar and a drum and 4 men with stunning voices perfect for songs like Hey Jude :-)


I know I've been gone only three weeks, but today I'm missing Bombay. Maybe it's because the rains remind me of my city or because I miss the frantic activity and shit-tonne of people on one small island.