- Use this blog as a forum for really thinking about what I have resolved to do and actively maintain my resolutions, monthly.
- Lower the body fat. Last year resulted in a 1.1% reduction from 29% to 27.9%. I would love to get it down to 26.5% by the end of the year.
- Run a 10k with TOH by the end of the year. As such, I will resolve to go to a physiotherapist, finally, and also take it easy with the running, building it up slowly.
- Have one nights a week where TOH and I sit in the house but do not turn on the tv. Ulp. That is NOT tonight, what with Pushing Daisies and the Bones Marathon on TNT to catch up with...
- Read at least six books from the Observer 100.
- Watch at least twelve movies from the IMDB top 100.
- Not go onto the internet for recreation until midday every day. Ulp. Yes, indeed, this is one of the punitive-type resolutions. But it will just make me more productive and make me feel so much better about myself.
- Cook a new recipe twice a month AND (to make different from last year) recount the successes/failures on the blog.
- Eat one piece of fruit a day every day I'm at work. Seriously, how hard can that be? Probably very, in my case.
- Win a game of squash! Seriously. I've not won one since I restarted. Thereafter, win something on the squash ladder at the local gym. That'd be nice. I'd also like to score a goal. That'd be grand.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
- Done and done. I think that while this has been useful to sum up what I've done, blogging about it hasn't necessarily been the spur to keep my resolutions I'd hoped it would.
- 27.9. Not as good as last month, but it's 1.1% lower than in January, which is great. Nowhere near the 25%, but that level of drop is just unrealistic for someone who enjoys cheese, beer and ribs as much as I do. It's never going to be like that, or I can't maintain it. Still, a massive rise after several weeks of lacking in exercise and eating badly, but I'm in a much better position than this time last year, and hopefully it will springboard my aims for next year...
- No, no, no. And again, no. Although I danced my behind off at the Friendly Fires concert* earlier this month, which was absolutely brilliant. This is a serious resolution that I'm going to repeat next year, stung by my utter failure this year.
- Hmm, still in the process of watching The Hustler. But did go to see It's a Wonderful Life with mum at the NFT last week. Rubbish, I know, but again, to aspire to this year.
- Not read any classics whatsoever. I've been very much in detective mode, although did recently read The Terror Presidency which I highly recommend.
- No. And although my poinsettia is still alive, my little green plant is really, truly dying. That'll learn me for going away for a fortnight.
- Cooked Christmas Dinner! I'd never cooked a whole bird before, let alone a turkey supposedly for seven, but it was great. I completely followed Jamie Oliver's instructions and they worked a treat.
- We went to see August: Osage County, which was fantastic. Estelle Parsons was out of this world as the manic matriarch, and Johanna Day was wonderful as Barbara Fordham, the also slightly crazy daughter. It was just very funny indeed, and a fabulous present from a dear friend. Otherwise, not really done anything cultural at all. Oops.
*Play spot TOH if you can!
Monday, December 29, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
- The Universal - Blur. Oh, how I loved Blur. Passionately, madly, obsessively in the way that only a teenager can. I think if you've really, really, really loved a band it becomes slightly weird to be this older person who doesn't keep up with everything that's happening, who doesn't embrace that kind of love again, and who doesn't know the words to every song that a band could feasibly play at a concert. But I felt the flame reignite at news that Blur have been considering reforming - possibly with ALL the members... sigh sigh sigh. SO overexcited. I also utterly love this gently swaying song, with its lush sound, strings and brass. Sigh. I also recently rediscovered The Great Escape - it's nowhere near as bad as everyone leads you to believe. It just happens to be a somewhat dull filling when sandwiched between Parklife and Blur. Although Modern Life Is Rubbish still holds the dearest place in my heart.
- Nothing Lasts - The Hacker. From a 2 Many DJs compilation. Fudgy fuzzy baseline, sounds pretty decent.
- She's The One - Bruce Springsteen. I love me some of the Boss. I think Nebraska is my favourite album - so bleak and beautiful - but I love the power pop of Born in the USA - I can't help it. This is from Born to Run, which is less compelling for me, but I remain immensely overexcited about the prospect of Bruce at the Super Bowl.
- William's Blood - Grace Jones. This is wonderful. It comes from her new album, Hurricane, and is just gorgeous. Her voice sounds incredible, the production is spinetingling. Someone on the guardian music podcast described it as a seemless transition from the groove-based dance she did in the 1980s to now, and I think that was incredibly accurate. I am definitely purchasing this whole album.
- Putting on the Ritz - The Dizzy Club. Dudes doing covers of standards. Awesome and loungey and somehow very Christmassy.
- Wordy Rappinghood - Chicks on Speed. This is from the Spank Rock Fabric Live album. I really think that's an excellent series of albums. I know, I know, we're supposed to own all these things individually and not buy compilation albums, man. I hate that - it fundamentally disses the art of DJing - you like the way it all melds together, and that someone else puts effort to putting these things in this order and mixes them this way. And if it inspires you to buy the underlying records, great. But quite often the DJ has chosen the best bits or best mixes, and you end up disappointed...
- Babe Ruth - The Mexican. Kind of sounds like a weird deep purpley version of Grace Slick. Like it!
- Afrika Shox - Leftfield. Off the admittedly not awesome Rhythm & Stealth album. Although I fricking love Dusted, the tune with Roots Manuva. But I do love the way it really pays homage to the Bambaataa pioneered sound.
- High Rise - Orbital. This really, really, really reminds me of typing furiously in the computer room at college. I'm a last-minute kind of person, clearly, so I would faff and maybe write a bit of an essay, but then about 4 hours before it was due I'd just rewrite the whole thing from scratch. And as I didn't have a computer, I'd do it in the computer room, listening to this album. Ever since it's been a go-to album for that kind of stressful output.
- Born Loser - Kyza. I reckon this might be the best British hip hop album since the awesome Awfully Deep. This isn't one of my favourite tracks, but it's still great.
Monday, December 01, 2008
It's an obvious point, made time and time again, but given that most straight people don't treat marriage as sacred, why on earth do they care about gay people denigrating the institution? These figures make it even more obvious. They also make it clear that forcing people to get married earlier and earlier in order to have sex (because people are guilted into thinking they should only have sex with their one and only spouse but also get really rather randy in their teens/early twenties) really does nothing to ensure the success of the marriage. I then calculated our chances if we'd married at 23/24 (rather than under 22) - that would lower the divorce rate to just over a third.
Or, on the other hand, you could just wait until the day you get married to first exchange saliva with your other half.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Then I broke my leg. It took about 9 months to be able to walk unaided. I then decided, with my then flatmate JKS, to sign up for a breast cancer run. Britain has these 5k runs that you sign up for, and it had a full schedule to get you able to run the whole thing, even though you'd never run anything before in your life except for the obligatory 1500m once a year at school. I got the bug for it and started running a lot. I even signed up for the marathon. Then, the over-training combined with having not fully rehabilitated my knee and the surrounding muscles got to me, and my knee broke down. It's never been the same again. I've tried physio, and it has worked somewhat, but I am inconsistent with doing my exercises and I've reached a limit of about 30 minutes before it breaks down once more. When I play football or squash, it really doesn't hurt at all. I don't quite understand why or how, but I have decided that I would like to get it back. There is nothing like it for its ability to calm me down, help me think. So today is day one of starting over. I am phoning up to make a physiotherapist appointment next week, and I want to get my running back. I don't want to be marathoning, but I do want to do 10ks again. So here we go. Ulp.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
- Passing the NY Bar. That feeling of relief really hasn't gone away yet - still basking in its glow.
- LCD Soundsystem. Again. Didn't I say that last year? Yes, I did, at #1. You're slipping, Murphy.
- Paul Rudd.
- The Wire. Just finished Season 3 - HMFS is all I can say. Addicted again!
- 30 Rock. Should I have something that is not tv?
- The Pro-Choice President, the Pro-Choice rejections of ballot measures in the US elections this year. Yay!
- Although my buttocks disagree with me, having mates who are into playing squash is brilliant, and has reinvigorated not just my exercise schedule, but the sense of bodily worth you only get from playing sport. It's also having a good effect on my sense of pride, given that everyone I play utterly thrashes me.
- My newfound love of SCUBA diving - having had the opportunity to try it and love it and see the world in a completely different way. Sigh.
- I didn't grow up in the family of the guy whose comment to "captivate" (the information/news service in the lifts of every office building in New York) was that his family fasted until the evening so they could enjoy reflection, rather than gluttony. I bet his kids are in therapy for the rest of their lives for that crap.
- My trip to Africa. Being able to see so many parts of the world is remarkable, and it was a humbling, fun and glorious experience. I cannot wait to get back.
Friday, November 21, 2008
*2. Propter defectum; as if a juryman be an alien born, this is defect of birth; if he be a slave or bondman, this is defect of liberty, and he cannot be liber et legalis homo. Under the word homo, also, though a name common to both sexes, the female is however excluded, propter defectum sexus: except when a widow feigns herself with child, in order to exclude the next heir, and a suppositions birth is suspected to be intended; then upon the writ de ventre inspiciendo, a jury of women is to be impanelled to try the question, whether with child or not.Lord Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England.
Utterly, utterly, utterly bizarre. I plan to find out more about such "exceptions" that allowed women to partake of the rights of men.
Even better: While looking for translations, I also found out that you can translate your google into Elmer Fudd. Brilliant.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
ESFP - The Performers
They enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.
It even shows you which parts of your brain are active during the construction of your blog. Apparently I is not so hot on the thinking / intellectual debate (well, doh, I could have told you that, although it smarts just a little that I'm not doing it in a thinly-veiled disguise of frivolity), but am all about the sensing and feeling. Really? As they can't spell "rhythm" I can, of course, dismiss any findings I dislike and agree with what I do like.
So, fellow bloggers, what are you? I'm going to resist doing it for you... just about... so long as you tell me what your bloggorhea says about you.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
My sense of self and choices are always tested when TOH or I go out of town. Obviously, that depends on the length of the trip - if he's away for a couple of days it's not quite the same as being apart for a couple of weeks. However, even the couple of days are useful barometers for what I'm craving, or choose first to do, almost in an act of teenage rebellion (apt given that I was a teenager when we first got together). He went down to DC on Monday, and is back home late tonight. What did I do? I ate aubergines and string cheese (he dislikes them both rather intensely); I played Wii; I played squash and am going to the gym tonight. I didn't really have any pants tv to watch (ANTM being on tonight) and my Netflix timing was poor, with my new tv series arriving today; otherwise that's definitely what I would have done last night. I also got up and arrived at the office increasingly late in the morning, preferring to slob around in my dressing gown in the mornings and watch Pat Kiernan and ESPN.
What to learn from this? Not sure, really. It's all interconnected with that year in BCN when I was apart from TOH for weeks at a time, and really had to learn to live for and by myself because there was no one else to whom I was accountable. Echoes of that feeling of loneliness and self-reliance remain, so I treat myself to "indulgences" because I don't like it when he's gone. It's just interesting to me that those "indulgences" are not merely being a slob, which is how I tend to think of myself generally.
However, slobbishness is DEFINITELY coming to town next week with Thanksgiving - hurrah for more food than a stomach should see in four days!
Friday, November 14, 2008
Nonetheless, I shall be dumping my bar/bri books, getting that $250 deposit and promptly spending it on shoes and booze. Thanks to everyone who was tolerant of my summer madness, and my completely self-absorbed rants about how I was destined to fail. Most thanks, as always, go to TOH for his support over the summer, constant reassurance and avid desire to look after me in the last few days despite his own (and far more important) stresses and strains.
Friday, November 07, 2008
So I've decided that finding something that makes you giggle uncontrollably and reliably every time is pretty special.
And now I have three ultra-reliable, guaranteed to make your sides hurt clips on YouTube that I can call up whenever I need a bit of a boost. I give you (from newest to oldest): Paul Rudd Dance, Legally Blonde: The Search for Elle Woods and Cake or Death.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Last night was astonishing, in so many ways. But the sheer wondrousness of voting for Obama may mask the other stories that are almost as important. South Dakota, for the second time in two years, rejected an abortion ban, one which was designed to get Roe v. Wade overturned; for the third time, California rejected a parental notification requirement for teenage girls' abortions; and Colorado gave a big fat two fingers up to the Fetal Life Amendment. Yet, these are happy stories because they are rejections of encroachments of our rights, not progressive achievements or growth of civil liberties.
It's even harder to state how disappointing the level of homophobia in this country is. People can harp on all they want about the sanctity of marriage, and how it's nothing to do with the gay folk. But it is. It's homophobia. It's about whether you think gay people are equal. And, according to Arkansas, Michigan, Florida, California, they're not.
It's really odd to feel euphoric and yet utterly depressed. But that's what I feel right now.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
One reason, two words: Record Turnouts.
The Obama campaign has been all about mobilizing people to vote, inspiring them, often for the first time, to get their behinds down to the polling station and take an active part in democracy. The Republicans have been trying to scare people - scare Jews into thinking Obama will bring about a second Holocaust; scare taxpayers that he's a Marxist, terrorist thug who will still all their money and give it to black people, scare anti-choice nutters that Obama will bring about abortions for all because of women's "health"; and suing anything that moves to suppress the vote (with the Sixth Circuit ignoring Supreme Court precedent directly on point to allow them to sue).
The lines in Georgia (eight hours!) remind me of the lines in South Africa when black South Africans could vote for the first time; the Spanish elections in 2004, when vastly increased numbers turned out to stick it to Aznar for lying to them about ETA's involvement in the Madrid Atocha bombings for political gain. It makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck to think that people are really passionately involved and motivated to get out and vote.
McCain and the Republicans' tactics of voter suppression under the guise of voter fraud is the exact opposite of what should make you excited. That invokes black voter suppression of the Civil Rights Era (good old Chief Justice Rehnquist, eh?); when black voters were burned alive in a town hall for exercising their rights. Dramatic, yes, but it's on the same continuum of white voters wanting to ensure that black votes don't count. That's not the way any person should want to win the Presidency. And that's why I think you should vote for Obama.
Now, can we PLEASE get back to more important things, like whether or not Carlisle are going to get relegated to League Two this season.
Monday, November 03, 2008
1) McCain's the underdog. Really? I don't hear anyone saying they won't vote for an ex-Marine white guy, but you do hear an awful lot about people not voting for Obama because he's black. That just automatically underdogs you, when people cannot bear the thought of voting for you because of the colour of your skin. Because you have to discount them, and all the misconceptions and prejudices that others who are not as overt have about you, your wife, your children.
Further, the reason Kristol cites is that the Obama campaign was a multi-million juggernaut, and he conveniently forgets just why it raised so much money: lots of small contributions from record numbers of people. It's not just the amounts that are the stuff of record, but the sheer quantity of people who contributed. McCain's money came predominantly from the Republican establishment and the RNC, and the highest paid people on that staff were Palin's wardrobe and make-up consultants. Hmm, underdog indeed.
2) A defeat for the establishment. McCain only stayed in the Navy, according to some, because his Daddy ran the whole thing; he has been in the Senate umpteen years and is the embodiment of cozy establishment. Sarah Palin is also pretty cozy with the Washington establishment. Kristol claims the establishment nature of Obama is evident because Republican insiders are endorsing him; but surely, if they weren't, that would be evidence for how he's not ready to be President? You can't have it both ways - if he's criticised he's unsuitable, if he's endorsed he's an insider.
3) A victory for McCain is one for hope over fear, because it won't be just a retaliation for the Bush years. This one is just laughable. I suggest you just look at it in order to cry with laughter / bemusement at Kristol's depth of delusion. Again, if it's supposed to be funny, it is unfortunately coming across as facetious.
4) A victory for freedom. Hmm, because he caved over the torture Bush's administration may perform? He states that genocidal perpetrators will sleep less soundly during a McCain administration; Al-Qaeda endorsed McCain. What to do? Strange how "freedom" no longer means traditional constitutional civil liberties - freedom of speech, equal protection, right to be free of search and seizure - but means "freedom from terrorist attacks." National security does not equal freedom. Not that I'm a huge fan of Obama's voting for the wiretapping, either - I just don't think Kristol has a clue what he's talking about, because Republicans and the right have so far warped people's conceptions of personal freedoms that they honestly believe this is what it means. As a friend said to me last night, restricting American values of freedom in order to preserve American values of freedom doesn't really work.
5) Better for liberalism to have a mixed Congress etc. Maybe it worked before, but it's not good for us right now. Clinton caved to the conservatives in Congress by introducing and signing Don't Ask, Don't Tell as a way of dealing with the issues of gay people serving in the military. That's a good example of "compromise" legislation. Not that good stuff didn't happen with that mixture, but right now, liberals need to get their judges into the judiciary and need to get rid of the Global Gag rule and Abstinence-Only Funding and overhaul all the disastrous legislation Bush wrought (No Child Left Behind, anyone?). Bush has vetoed more legislation than anyone in history - does anyone really think Palin (Kristol's choice for President) would be any different if people did stuff she didn't like, particularly given her behaviour during Troopergate? I fear again for the DOJ and US Attorneys if she ever takes charge.
Right, that's out of my system.
Vote tomorrow. Please.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
- Done and done.
- 26.2%. I'm not sure I actually believe that, given that last month's fat percentage was 27.6, but it's what the scales said about half an hour ago. I've not been to the gym in a couple of weeks, but I have been trying to eat well - at least one salad a day, and I'm still playing football twice a week. I feel that I've made a bit of a breakthrough in terms of my eating more sensibly and enjoying it.
- Dance parties seem to be the only way, and we had a glorious one at the end of wine club last month, although it did break my iPod.
- We watched The Sting in honour of Mr. Newman, and are going to have The Hustler on tonight.
- Reading has been somewhat neglected - I've been so tired that not really reading as much as I'd like, and certainly very little classic stuff. I'm currently reading Away by Amy Bloom, which is my choice for book club (ok, not great) and I finally read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I was a little disappointed - everyone raved about it so much, and I loved the first half of it, but then it got a bit dull, weirdly. You'd think it would be right up my alley, what with it exploring what it means to feel like a boy, or a girl, but I don't think he actually did that much with it. It all boiled down to have sexual feelings for a girl, and that was explained away by the testes. Yet... the exploration of the pressures on a teenage girl, on needing to fit in and be like the others - that is more universal than this character, and it would have been a bit better, I think, if somehow that message had been conveyed.
- Bought some gorgeous chrysanthemums today, specifically for the purpose of fulfilling the resolution - so it works! Of course, Clem has already had a nibble, but they're safe so far. Having said that, now Winston is on the attack. TOH is trying to prevent a floral disaster.
- Not really done anything new, I don't think, but we did the lamb with sage & rosemary for my mum this week, and that's about it. We've been meaning to try something new, so that's a spur to try one this week.
- For culture, went to the Frick with my mum. It was brilliant - we didn't spend long there, just had a look at the Vermeers and the Holbeins, and the amazing Goya. There's a new Whistler, or at least one I don't remember seeing, which is gorgeous. The Frick is the perfect museum - just the right size. The house is beautiful as well, and as I've been there quite a few times, I had a good look at the fittings, the vases, the lamps - things that I've not really noticed before. There was a lot of beautiful Japanese lacquered wood, absolutely exquisite.
Friday, October 31, 2008
- Tracy Chapman in the Guardian - a thoughtful and bright woman, who happens to have a glorious voice and puts her politics into her music with insight, sensitivity and passion. Just a lovely interview.
- Another guardian article - showing my limited reading sphere, I know - on the danger of being the only single mother in the village.
- Thanks to David Bentley's wonder strike for the mighty Spurs in their mighty drubbing of Arsenal (by obtaining a 4-4 draw), I was routed through youtube to the glories of the Top Ten Matt Le Tissier Goals... if you have a vague interest in footie you should watch these, for they are glorious. Almost as good as this one by Wayne Rooney, which is getting on for my favourite goal of all time.
- Tina Fey is heavenly, she just is.
- You probably have read a fair bit on this, but a good piece from Slate on the introduction of the progressive tax by socialist hero... Teddy Roosevelt.
- An excellent piece by Scott Lemieux on another excellent piece on the vulnerability of Roe v. Wade.
- And for something more cheery I give you... PEANUT CAT!
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Then, when I got home, the exchange of money took place, I took the receipt, and then our verbal exchange went thus:
Him: This is a dangeous neighbourhood.
Me (not really listening): What do you mean?
Him: All those people loitering about. It's dangerous.
Me (looking around): Which people, where? What do you mean?
He nodded at a group of about 6 teenagers at the side of my building's entrance.
Me: What them? They're kids from my building. They're nice. They're always friendly and holding the door open for me and everything.
He didn't respond.
I got out of the taxi.
Honestly, the more I think about this, the more fuming I am. He didn't say anything overt, as you can see, but I'm fairly sure his comments were racially motivated, and he wouldn't have said anything of the sort were the kids white - although maybe if they were wearing hoodies etc (the evil hoodie being the equivalent of 666 branded onto your forehead these days), he might have come out with the same.
What bothers me further is the underlying assumption that kids on the street are trouble, full stop. My neighbourhood is not rich and, like most places in NYC, kids don't have any real space of their own; they certainly don't have gardens to play in, or any coffee shops or places where they can just hang out with their mates, except for the street. What astounds me every time is that all ages hang out together - I've honestly never seen so many 18 year olds and 6 year olds playing peacefully together. There's no way I'd have done that when I was 18.
The kids are nice. They don't menace you with the ball, unlike horrible brats I've known in other places (or, indeed, the Columbia brats that menaced the homeless person, as viewed by WUB a few months ago). They stop playing to let you go past, open the door for you if your hands are full of shopping, and the kids that know me say hi. Yet someone like my cab driver sees kids on the street in the city at 9pm and that means a dangerous neighbourhood. In the 'burbs that's a "community," no doubt. I just can't bear them not being given a chance.
So the dilemma is: Do I report him for making what I think is an inappropriate comment on my neighbourhood - inappropriate for infringing on my personal choices (over which he has no right to comment - although that's a bit master-servant, no?) and for making a dubious assumption about the kids. The problem is, it won't fix anything. Still, the Taxi & Limousine Commission has an option to complain because the driver was "discourteous." I suppose that is the closest option I have... other than "fundamentally wrong and bigoted assumptions about passenger's neighbourhood."
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Essentially, this old goat with tons of money (billions!) paid for the series between the England cricket team and various counterparts in the West Indies. He was spotted on the big screen at the match with one player's pregnant girlfriend on his lap, and was generally cuddling up to and flirting with the female players.
He's personally apologized for "the incident" - by calling the player with the pregnant girlfriend and the captain of the team. Is this not a tad... well... like treating the players as if he'd got on their horse, or sat behind the wheel of their cars? What about the women - what about apologizing to them? Or, indeed, not apologizing to them, because from the photos, none looks offended; they all look to be having rather a jolly time. Which, I suspect, is what really bothered the players in question.
There's something weirdly proprietary about the need to apologize to these women's men, as if they were the women's owners. And why Pietersen - because as head of his men he's head of his men's women, too?
Apologize to the women for offending them; or for causing trouble, maybe, but apologizing to the men...
It is just not sitting right with me.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Unfortunately, after the highs came the lows - it buggered up my iPod sufficiently that it whirred, creaked, and had to be restored by the kindly folks at the apple store. From 75gb of music, I had none. Ulp. Not the first time that it's happened, so the sheer horror was not quite what it could have been. And you know what? It's been liberating. I am starting afresh, and I don't have to put on all the things that were on before that I felt I ought to listen to but never do. I've got about 6gb on there at the mo. So here, courtesy of the shuffle function, is a random ten:
- Treasures - Thievery Corporation. This was one of the first albums I put back on the 'Pod. Very excited about their tour in the new year to support their new album. This album (The Mirror Conspiracy) takes me back to the year of my MSc - just moved back to London, living in Blackheath, and listening to this. A lot. This album also reminds me of our first trip to NYC, where we saw them and were stunned by how great they were live - much more upbeat and danceable. It was excellent.
- Multiply (Herbert's Hoedown Bump Instrumental) - Jamie Lidell. I have been disappointed with the new Jamie Lidell, I cannot lie. It's fine - but I loved the first one so much. Particularly, I loved all the remixes that he released on Multiply Additions. What I also love about that album is that we discovered it completely by accident - Tower Records by Lincoln Center was closing down, and selling off all its cds. We got in there, and didn't really find anything for the first ten minutes, were ready to leave, and then one of TOH or I - can't remember - spotted something we liked in the dance section. So decided to give it a more thorough look - and found this, several 2ManyDJs remixes, Stanton Warriors stuff, just tons of unexpected things that are highly expensive normally, as dance music tends to be. Brilliant. So it just makes me happy that a) I like the album and b) we discovered it by chance - just as I did with Jamie in general, as it was waking up at 2 in the morning that I first heard him on XFm back home...
- Samba Triste - Jackie & Roy. This, unsurprisingly, is off yet another Thievery Corporation compilation (Sounds from the Verve Hi-Fi). Yes, I'm lazy, but their blend of Latin and Indian influences is just great for working to, produces some of my favourite albums, and so I'm always interested in what they're listening to, and nicking it.
- Chocolate - Kylie. Ahem. I have a deep and abiding love for Body Language, the album that this is from. It all started with Slow, which I think is a genuinely genius piece of sultry pop music, and the video is shot at the outdoor pool at Montjuic in Barcelona, which always makes me happy. It led to a love of all recent Kylie, but not this song oddly enough, which is one of my least favourite from the album. And this reminds me that I want to download a brilliant cover version of Slow that I'd heard ages ago and was played before the start of The Kills show a couple of weeks ago. And that reminds me that I need to put The Kills on my iPod. Weird that I've not, as they're my most listened to band of the last 12 months...
- The Meeting Place - The Last Shadow Puppets. This is one of those albums that I just haven't listened to enough, given how much everyone raves about it and the fact that I do think Alex Turner is a genius. What, you might ask, is it doing on my iPod when I said I'd put my favourites on it? Well, I started by going through my albums in alphabetic order, and as it's called The Age of the Understatement, that makes sense, non? Very Burt Bacharach, which is a pretty good thing in my book.
- Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough - Michael Jackson. It's just genius. Reminds me also that I was having dance parties in 1997 in my first year of uni - three of us were dancing around like nutters to this and got caught by another friend. Looked rather stupid. Oops.
- Some Girls Are Bigger than Others - The Smiths. I am not an enormous fan of The Smiths, and this was another alphabetical choice - it's a best-of compilation, showing again my lukewarm commitment to them. But occasionally one of their tunes will come on and it's just the most perfect thing ever, and there are enough of them that do that that makes me think I do quite like them after all.
- Necromancing - Gnarls Barkley. Another highly anticipated album that was a bit pants this year, but this first one is still pretty damned good. Although I think I prefer ... Is the Soul Machine by Cee-lo Green, which was another random impulse purchase that turned out rather fantastically well.
- Meeting Paris Hilton - Cansei de Ser Sexy. Holy cow, this list is full of bands who made great albums in the past and pants ones this year.
- My Iron Lung - Radiohead. I've come round to the later albums, particularly Kid A and Amnesiac, as they are phenomenal to work to. They are just so much more courageous than bands such as Oasis, who continue to make limp versions of albums they made twelve years ago. Persistence with them makes them listenable, too, even if I'm not going to be humming the tunes as on The Bends or OK, Computer. That's not everything... although I'm one of the people who was a bit more lukewarm about In Rainbows, but I'm sure it'll grow on me - it also provides an excellent backdrop for document review.
Friday, October 17, 2008
I just loved the painted advertising on this store. It was amazing to see it because you get used to it in other parts of Africa, but seeing it in such an otherwise modern, Euro-like city like Cape Town was surprising. Nearby, there was a glorious shop full of spices, herbs, dried chillies and other assorted goodies. Ramadan had just started, and I remember thinking what an extraordinary test fasting must be in that situation, surrounded by luscious smells, things that constantly remind you of how wonderful eating is.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I recommend reading the piece and watching the video. Highly.
This photo, incidentally, is of a mosque in the absolutely gorgeous Bo Kaap part of Cape Town - there will be more photos of this region in days to come.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
A coincidence? I think not. Much like a friend's attempt to warn you of the evil power of Dewar's, this is my own little conspiracy theory. Has Netflix officially endorsed a candidate yet? No, but unofficially, it's there for you to see, my friends. Yes, my friends, not that one, but this one.
* (yes, should be working right now, but I'm not - master of my own time, me).
Monday, October 13, 2008
Who on earth am I? I just can't work out if America has untapped all this previously unexplored... corporate-ness, or if it really has created it in vitro, taking my essence and doing something with it that naturally I should not be able to do. I do know that I would be utterly unrecognisable to my eighteen-year-old self. Everyone says things like that, but I really feel coming here veered me off onto a course over which I feel I have little control. Things just keep happening. It's all very Once in a Lifetime. But that's not to say I don't like it. I'm just constantly surprised by where it's all led.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Ulp. Still. We've been on the same futon that TOH bought when he first arrived in NYC, 6 years ago, since we got here. The only reason that even has a frame is TOH woke up when on the floor with a roach crawling across his extremely manly, chiselled chest. So it's about time. It's just... weird. One of the things about this place is I'm reluctant to make the big ticket purchases, in part because I feel it's a waste. Because we'll do all that when we're grown up, back home. It's part of the impermanence of living here - we're not staying so we shouldn't buy these things that we can't take home, or wherever we end up next. I can't get used to getting paid, and I can't get used to the fact that we're going to be here a while. And how much more grown up do I need to be before we invest in these sort of things? I carry a pack of tissues, breath mints and a Tide (stain removing thing) pen with me everywhere. I prefer midweek drinks in bars where I can hear my friends speak. I'm grown up. Sort of.
It is a truly gorgeous bed. Hopefully it won't become the cat hair magnet that the undertow of our current bed is. Wishful thinking, I'm sure.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
- I not only see the point of wellies in an urban environment, I am considering buying a pair with woolly insides and polar bears on them. From J Crew. Ye gods.
- I voluntarily make myself egg-white only breakfasts.
- Related, to no. 2, I am under 30 and know my cholesterol level.
- Related to no. 2 again, I like American bacon.
- I describe not just baby animals, but outfits / people / houses / films as "cute." I also use the word "awesome" in a non-ironic manner. I high-five, too.
- When I say "the Times" I mean the NY Times as well as THE Times.
- I think Lewis Black is hilarious. You might do, too, but it took me a long time to "get" his humour, which I think is pretty darned American.
- I think a mere weeks of "vacation" is generous of my employer.
- I watch college American Football. On Monday mornings I even check the AP Poll to see the rankings, and I have an opinion on the end of season Bowl picks. That really is excessive.
- I buy pointlessly stupid-looking squash as decorations in Autumn.
Yep, pretty yankeefied, don't you think?
*Less so this morning after listening to a couple of minutes of the NewsHour featuring reporters from Ohio and Pennsylvania who could tell stories of how people wanted their names published in the paper to state to all and sundry that they would never vote for a black man. I know, I know, only yesterday I promised I wouldn't do it anymore.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
- I am not "your friend" Mr. McCain.
- How on earth can anyone seriously think of voting for him?
That's about it. He's untruthful and I honestly can't stand it. My blood pressure went through the roof just watching The Daily Show from Monday that talked about the VP debate - although that piece with Jason Jones watching the VP debate in Alaska was genius. Note to Palin/McCain: that's gotcha liberal journalism, if anything is - simply getting people to say ignorant things on tv. Fab. Most honest and insightful piece of political debate: "they're all gay."
I'm back on the abstention kick: no more politics for me. Last night poor old TOH did the whole meal and I poked at the pan with a wooden spoon, probably more often than not brandishing it as a weapon, thrusting it at the radio and yelling at McCain. You see? Not good for my health or my relationship which, despite his current rather busy time - some might say crunch / vital /most important of his life - is very much a lop-sided affair right now. For the good of the world, I am retreating once more. You'll thank me for it later.
Monday, October 06, 2008
Just had a wash of notifications of marriages and, consequently, name changes. Whenever I log onto facebook it seems I get more notifications that various people I know - all successful, caree-driven women - have changed their names to their husband's. It clearly is one of my anger triggers - It really does make me quite remarkably incoherent with rage. I know I go on and on and on and on about this, but it is SO ANNOYING - not least because I have to change my address book to reflect your stupid gmail changes, as I discovered this morning. When you friend me on FB and we've not spoken for 10 years, I have no idea who you are. It's fricking inconvenient.
I also just don't get it. Just don't get it.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
After I've made myself some breakfast.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
- Done! Admittedly, not for July or August, but I was a tad busy.
- 27.6%. Much lower - last time around was 28.2%. This is mostly due to the extremely hard work put in during July for thatthing, but bizarre, having not done any real exercise for eight weeks or so. Definitely need to get back on that - in fact, just got off the phone with a gym regarding membership and trying it out. BEEFCAKE AGAIN!
- No dancing, at all. Rather pathetic. We also barely danced while away - just on the last night with Barry, this old lounge singer, singing Ne-Yo. It is hard to explain just how surreal that was. Need dancing!
- Classic movies... well, we're off to the Film Forum tonight to see an Eisenstein classic, Alexsandr Nevskiy. And it's less than 2 hrs long - bonza! On the various plane travels I also managed to fit in two Woody Allen classics, Manhattan and Annie Hall, so felt good about that, and not quite so guilty for watching What Happens in Vegas. But still guilty, obviously.
- Readingwise, it was very good while travelling - Doris Lessing's The Grass Is Singing (wonderful, menacing, inspiring), Pulitzer-prize winning Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (needs re-reading, I feel, because I just didn't... care, which was odd, after loving A Room of One's Own), and a couple of modern stars in The World According to Garp and Choke. I also read something often heralded as a 20th Century Classic, Lanark by Alasdair Gray. It was... stylistically at odds with what I like to read, and parts of it were just a nightmare. Bits of it were very funny, very clever, and it will stick with me. I just wish it hadn't taken up so much of my bleeding time! Currently working my way through The Terror Dream by Susan Faludi, which is excellent. I also have stacks of books from the library to get through - hurrah!
- No flowers.
- Cooking-wise, we've at least varied things a little by doing more tortilla wraps in the evening - it's easy enough to chuck some spices on chicken and eat it with salad and a wrap. Still, nothing too adventurous lately - we've just not been home to plan and prepare. The closest we got was a sea-bass dish with a gorgeous salsa - that was nice.
- Culture... not bad, actually. Went to see my friend's production of An Enemy of the People, which was an extremely interesting look at whether people want to hear the truth or not. Particularly interesting in election season. We also saw my friend's documentary, All of Us, which is an excellent look at HIV/AIDS in the African-American community, portrayed as women's inability to control their sexual and romantic relationships due to power imbalance between the genders. I think there are certainly other factors at play, but it was powerful stuff.
So there we go -not a bad month for my resolutions, not bad at all.
Now to resolve to do some work.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
However, I am justifying this to myself by arguing that I am "being a grown up." You see, I'm sick of being angry all the time. If I watch it, I'll be furious. Furious as to the lie-peddling, the childishness, and the sheer insult that is Sarah Palin's nomination. And I'm really, really, really bored of being angry at everything. So it's no more blogs, no debates (other than the VP one - which, I imagine from this clip, will be a little like watching a car crash - macabre, but you can't pull your eyes away.)
Today, however, I'm just too tired for anger - for anything. Work is... exhausting, and yet, talking to everyone who is also working, I am definitely getting off lightly. I'm also, of course, sad at the passing of Paul Newman. I know very little about him, other than his movies, salad dressings, and the famous "steak" quote about his famously monogamous and happy marriage. He seemed like a good bloke. And his utterly staggering beauty was, of course, a bit of a bonus. So, it's off to juggle with the Netflix queue, and get us out the classics.
Oh, and if he wasn't a nice guy - I don't want to know, kids. Just warning you.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Today I am having trouble walking. Thighs, knees, they twinge and ache. One of the strangest things, that I have become accustomed to, is how much my ribs and sides kill me after a match. Yesterday we got battered around, and it struck me just how small our team is. We're incredibly physically mismatched with many of the teams we play, but the one yesterday is huge - twice the height and width. They weren't out of shape by any means - just bigger than us. And we put up a fantastic fight, played brilliantly in the first half, and then they scored three excellent goals in order to beat us. So it could have been worse.
However, what really made me happy was we have invigorated our old Tigers spirit of new people - and when I say new, I mean new to football. We've all improved so much, but particularly the many women who really hadn't played football much or at all before. My favourite moment yesterday was when a friend tackled two players and then went past them - and this is a friend who before last week had never played before, yet the move was an amazing piece of individual skill that I'd not manage to pull off, particularly against such tough opposition. As a team, we've got better and better and got good results, so it's wonderful to be reminded of the spirit of Tigers and not get ahead of ourselves - it's about fun, improvement and friendship. And when we win, that's even better, obviously. I'm so happy she enjoys it and gets to share in the joy of sport - because when it's good, it really is good.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
It's... odd, to say the least. My office is nicer than last year - lighter, brighter, nice and quiet still. Unfortunately I'm on the kitchen floor, which is going to make it terribly easy to head there to see if there are leftovers; I managed to resist a little when I was two floors down. I'm slowly easing into things, and it's pretty enjoyable. Obviously, the massive crisis facing the economy is scaring me a little - I am worried about how much work we'll have, which piles on the pressure regarding what work I produce.
But it's nice, thus far; familiar, and people are so friendly and I'm enjoying it, sort of. It's all just a bit real, really. And the best news I've had is that bagel fridays are not just for summers, but all year round. That really did make my day. Tragic.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Still, excited about the mountainous amount of sport on tv and number of episodes of The Soup to catch up on. Huzzah! And still avoiding thinking about work.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Work, instead, beckons. Ugh.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Thursday, September 04, 2008
The train ride was a mixture of utterly boring and utterly glorious. It was freezing when we woke up this morning - you could see your breath - but when we got to the dining car at around 8, we saw snow-capped mountains, lush greenery everywhere, and it took ones breath away. We were in a very flat centre of the valley that was lined with mountains, and was gorgeous; that view alone made the trip worthwhile, rather than the plane. Heavenly.
Cape Town itself is simply gorgeous. The bay is beautiful, and the town curves around mountains in the middle, with Table Mountain veering up behind them. I cannot wait to explore it - I'd never really wanted to come here, but now I cannot possibly think why. It's amazing. Shame there's no cricket on - Newlands would be a real treat.
Our guesthouse is also the most sophisticated, gorgeous place; makes our attempts at home decor look incredibly pathetic. Something to aspire to, I suppose.
Right, time now to shower off 26 hours of train journey.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
It was honestly like stepping forward 80 or so years having gone from Mozambique to Joburg. In a way that observation is unfair, as we weren't in Maputo at any point, which is the most developed and modern part of the country. Wimbi is particularly undeveloped - so hard to get to from almost anywhere, despite six flights a week from Maputo. But, nonetheless, it was a real culture shock to be somewhere with computers running everything, including immigration, with fantastic roads.
I can't really go into too much detail now because I really, sadly, don't have the time, but the nature of race relations, of the attitudes and cultures here are going to be with me for a long time yet. The best part of Joburg - even better than hot water with a lot of water pressure - is seeing black Africans getting on with their lives and not living in relation to white people's demands, to serve them by washing their cars, bringing their food. Mozambique was wonderful, so chilled, but the relationship between black and white is nowhere near equal; it's utterly regressive. One person actually said they liked it because it was more colonial, which was just... crushing. The telltale word is "they," which is automatic shorthand for the locals i.e. Black Africans.
Anyway, enough to say that Joburg is a world apart from where we've been for the last two weeks, despite being next door.
We're off to Cape Town by train tomorrow - cannot wait!
Friday, August 29, 2008
I will miss this water, though. Despite the barracudas!
Thursday, August 28, 2008
This bout is also clearly brought on by the prospect of a night dive tonight. I am manufacturing all sorts of symptoms so that I don't have to do it, even though I keep telling both myself and everyone else that I'm desperately excited to be doing it.
It's also the first day where the sheer shimmering of the heat has really, really, really got to me. It was scorching this morning, and hasn't calmed down at all, not once, all day. The shade here is genuinely wonderful - you are automatically so much cooler, it's a wondrous thing. But being indoors is not fun, nor are mosquito nets, despite their glorious efficacy (which is why my malaria paranoia is, if not ridiculous, on the paranoid side - I'd have to be pretty fricking unlucky to get it from a mere four bites in the time we've been away).
Still, time waits for no man, nor woman, and it turns out we have to be at the dive shop in ten minutes. Oops. So I guess the hour is upon us and there's no going back.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
The sky is clear, the sun is shining, and for the second time in a few days we are losing friends to other parts of the continent. We've had a wonderful experience getting to know people in the past week, which we shunned, to be honest, the first couple of weeks. In contrast we've barely met any locals; the language barrier makes a massive difference here, as we just can't converse. We're trying a bit more Portuguese, but the sounds are so unfamiliar, it's difficult to make them come out, particularly when Spanish sounds are what I reach for first.
It's a strange place, this one. It's utterly, utterly beautiful - you would not believe how clear the water is - much more so than that stuff coming out of NYC's taps. The sand is white, not too fine or silty. You can swim in the morning and evening, right by our lodgings. People here are incredibly enthusiastic about it, but still can't quite believe you've heard or it, or why you're here. Ex-pats all stick together, certainly. It's nice to overcome some stereotypes they hold - they insist you shouldn't hitch a ride with black Africans "because they'll charge you" - not so the very kind gentleman from Maputo who gave us a lift into Pemba this afternoon. They also all insist on the incredible danger of the roads, and drive home drunk, without seatbelts. It's... astonishing. I've not seen a single white person wear a seatbelt.
It's been so interesting to be here, surrounded by them, while reading a most remarkable book - The Grass Is Singing by Doris Lessing. Absolutely astonishing, particularly as it was her first book. I was planning to read it while on the train between Joburg and Cape Town, but suddenly felt the impulse to read it, and am so glad I did - it is horrible, but captures something really powerful about race and power relations, while being incredibly directly written - not at all flowery or ornate, but clear prose. It particularly stands in contrast to my first reading of To The Lighthouse, which I was a tad disappointed in, I must confess; there was simply no space to breathe, no respite from the sentences piling on top of each other, or so it felt to me. Where she was describing things, rather than thoughts, I loved it; otherwise, I was not so keen. I also read Call Me By Your Name, by Aciman - one of Adela's favourites, and it was also wonderful. So this holiday really has been full of great reads. Anyway, my point was - lots of the language and attitudes of people really are on the same continuum as the horrors written in this book. It accurately captures something about white Africans, from my observations, even if they are not at the extremes of the attitudes in the book. But it also has wider implications, commonality, about gender and society and marriage. Fantastic. Ms Scutts got it for me, so a big fat public thanks for that!
Time to dash. Not that anyone dashes anywhere here. It's gloriously slow-paced - sometimes it's infuriating, but most of the time, refreshing, particularly as we really have nothing to do. Cape Town will definitely be more active, so we should enjoy it while it lasts...
Friday, August 22, 2008
We were relying on somehow making our way down the Mozambican coast, not really thinking of the massive distances involved, and forgot that everyone here would do it that way - it's just too far to drive to South Africa, for example, or Dar. Dammit. So we're here longer than planned, until the 1st of September, and we may not even make it successfully onto a plane then - LAM, our airline, is not the most reliable for confirmed, definite flights, with various people we have met having been bumped from their flights. Ulp. Still, we'll see.
It's gloriously beautiful here, but definitely much more basic and undeveloped in comparison to Zanzibar or Arusha. Running water is a luxury here, and there are few budgetary options for the traveller. But it really is remarkable - blue blue sea, good diving (and cheaper than Tanzania), white beaches. The language provides a weird barrier between locals and tourists, but I love it and hope to get some mais portugues in the next ten days or so. I just hope we haven't run out of books and manage to find somewhere to clean our clothes in that time, or else people are going to be very unhappy with us... believe me. We're... ripe.
Still, back home for lunch and then swimming then shower and maybe the one-dayer between South Africa and England (and hope we don't get thrashed - surrounded by South Africans - still can use Olympics as a taunt, definitely). Then beers, reading and bed. It's a tough life.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
It was not the most comfortable of places to rest. I couldn't get my pillow - my handluggage - quite right, and even I don't fit in the tent fully, so poor old TC who is considerably taller than me had even more of a struggle. It was also boiling, the mosquito net and tent combining to suffocate us with warmth, plus we were completely and utterly surrounded by our luggage.
Still, parts of me liked it. It felt genuinely outside - in Jambiani, we could hear the sea, but somehow this, and the whistling and tooting of various birds, felt closer to nature. I was also proud of us for managing this - it's not something that comes naturally to either of us, as the real draw is not the inherent charms of camping, but its cheapness (compare - the hotel from which I am posting this costs $140 per night - camping is about $6.50 per person - in fact, for an hour's internet you pay nearly the same price).
So, we are in Wimbi, Mozambique - we've not yet hit the beach, but the sea looks wonderful - I could see it from our table this morning at breakfast, and am itching to do a bit of swimming. Not to try the bucket showers afterwards, though... there's a reason for the price differential. But last night we ate great food at the buffet, watched bits of the Olympics for the first time - the trampolining was amazing! I can take this, for a while. It feels like we've been up for hours, as it gets fully light by about 5.30 in the morning - it's an hour behind Tanzania, but we're still so far north that the weather and sunset/sunrise times are basically the same. There's a constant light breeze and the bay is beautiful. Not sure about the language - it's going to be troublesome, I can tell, but we'll manage for a couple of weeks, I reckon. But there will NOT be any photos - my trusty old camera (not that trusty - it was actually a temperamental bugger) died a couple of days ago. So I'll do my best to capture it in my memory and describe it to you - and use TC's camera, but that means none until we get back to decent internet.
Must dash - waves & rays to catch today. And more diving tomorrow - hooray. Feel much better about this operator already.
Monday, August 18, 2008
I've been writing things down in the travel book, so observations will come as I get back and recount, along with photos. But really, unfortunately, it's just not possible. I'm sure you're devastated.
To sum up: Until Thursday, we were doing our diving course. We did open water dives - ulp! Absolutely amazing. Even though we had skills to do, and horrible tasks to perform (I'm terrible at mask replacement and clearing - always forget to blow out through my nose) it was wonderful. We saw so many fish, including glorious purple & yellow things, and gorgeous orange & white anemonefish, and even the tendrils of a lionfish. Wonderful.
It was a bit of a contrast to go diving yesterday - we knew it'd be weird not diving with the wonderful Inka and Sufi at Bahari, but it was. The guy didn't really seem to care that my BCD didn't work, and then acted surprised when I ran out of air quickly. We were also repeatedly kicked and barged by a large (in height and numbers) Dutch family. Still... we saw stingrays. Tons of blue-spotted stingrays. They were incredible - just shot out of the sand like rockets. Absolutely amazing. Plus lots of gorgeous, glorious fish. So even a bad dive is good - and it made me feel confident about the safety procedures, because I was using someone else's air for a long time, and ascended with someone else, so all good.
That was all in Jambiani - on the east coast of the island where the water is truly turquoise, the sand is extremely fine and white, and it's glorious. We had some privacy issues - my observations on which I'll mull over and save for later, but again, people couldn't quite get their heads around us and what we were doing there. We ate amazing food, met an awesome Ugandan guy who was really interesting, talking about Uganda and his family, and walked along the beach in the full moon which produced spectacular amounts of light.
So a pretty good weekend - plus much reading - finished Choke by Chuck Palahniuk, and will have finished Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, too, as well as The World According to Garp, since I've been here. We didn't get much done last week - so much reading for our PADI certification, but hopefully again, that'll change.
Monday, August 11, 2008
We got to Bahari by 9, and sat and watched rather amusing videos. They were typical corporate videos - had a "funny" guy who kept getting everything wrong, "humorously so." Not so hot. Then, after that, it was to the pool and actually learning. We of course had tried to put the tank stuff together, which we weren't too bad at, but it was the pool that frightened me. Not just how hard it would be, but what if we hated it - were indifferent to it? The holiday is not dependent on it, but we'd forked out some fairly serious cash, and this would definitely interfere with my manta ray watching plans in Mozambique.
It was indeed weird. I kept trying to breathe through my nose- obviously a stupid thing to do. But, once I worked that out - I loved it. Even in a 10m pool in a hotel. Absolutely brilliant. We had a yummy fish lunch afterwards, back for more training, then dinner at a Chinese restaurant that was pretty good but, of course, nowhere near where it was supposed to be on the Lonely Planet map.
Now, here's my grumble. None of the stuff is supposed to substitute for our own "careful research." Fair enough. But they know that people are lazy and that we are pretty dependent on them, particularly where there are no decent maps (as they say themselves). Further, when it's a few years out of date, I really think that for nearly $30 they need to reduce the price or give you some kind of code whereby you can download some updated information. Tons of the places aren't here anymore, have moved, under new ownership, that sort of thing. Bah. Still, we're finding our way around, more or less. Getting lost about once a day instead of the six or so times on the first day.
Stone Town is... astonishing. Absolutely amazing. It's got the windy, narrow streets of the Barri Gotic in Barcelona - that old, town feeling you just don't really get anywhere in the US, simply because of the age of things. Yet it's so not European - the amazing smell of spices, the call of the muezzin, the constant greetings of "jambo" from kids and adults alike. It's such an incredible mix of cultures, history, language. However, that makes it almost impossible to navigate without a bit of wit and a lot of luck, and no shame in asking for directions. You think you're going to one place, and end up either back on the same road or somewhere completely different.
The water is absolutely beautiful turquoise. We sat and ate a gorgeous Indian buffet overlooking it, and it was such a gorgeous relief after the hectic nature of the day before. We'd been in to inquire about the diving in a couple of reputable places (according to the Lonely Planet, but more on that stupid book later), weren't sure, and essentially chose a place because it was a bit friendlier, a bit less... playboy (the instructor) and didn't charge us extra for using visa. We felt pretty pleased with ourselves about that. And even more so for getting to the shore and eating and drinking while watching the sun set over the water at the (unfortunately-named - we don't spend all our time looking for fellow colonials) Livingstone. The bar itself is really rather nice, and it was a perfect spot to just chill.
It was a good day.
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Anyway, there was a guy specially up, wrapped up superwarm to give us our packed breakfasts, as we weren't going to be having regular breakfast. Honestly, I love love loved L'Oasis for that alone. We got there, had to tip George a ton because we ran out of smaller denominations (note to self: stop using smaller denominations - get as much change as poss!). Then we got on the bus. That wasn't too bad - we were both fairly excited, watched the sun rise, and then slowly drifted off to sleep for several hours.
The problem was when we got to Dar. The book had said the bus would take us into town after the bus station. It didn't. We were bamboozled by a million people wanting us to take their taxis. Finally, we stepped away, took a deep breath, then chose the guy who'd used the magic words - "I like Barack Obama" - and bargained him down, a bit, for the journey to the ferry. Turns out his sister had studied law at Northwestern. That's so why I love the States - you hear stories like this everywhere here. It's amazing. We get to the ferry and it's utter chaos, the porter won't give me my bag back and then I had to fight with him because he wanted to charge me for TC's bag (which he didn't carry)... and we were both exhausted and just couldn't sit without talking. Which sounds bratty and grumpy, but that's how we both felt. There was some cool stuff with the guys around us teaching us some Swahili, but it was still an effort to be nice when I just wanted to sleep. Then, one of the two engines stopped worked and instead of 2 hours, it took three.
Still, we finally finally arrived, the driver from our hotel was there, and when we arrived (after going through many dark, twisty alleys) we found out our room had air conditioning. I've rarely been so happy. Even better - the place opposite had hummus, great passion fruit juice, and a couple who lived in Greenville, NC, after meeting I'm not sure where, but the wife was from Zanzibar, there from the summer to help with the restaurant and be on holiday. You see? Stories like that all the time... And after a shower and food we felt human again. And we were both asleep by 10.15.
Friday, August 08, 2008
We had a talk from the very sweet librarian, and then had a look around a courtroom. Stupidly, we had arranged to go when the court is not in session - that starts again on the 18th, when my professor will also be there, so it was annoying timing. Therefore, we watched a fairly out of date video, and had a Q&A with someone - who had to fill in at the last minute.
That was... difficult. After a brief talk about the ICTR, the floor was open to us and the Kenyan students - doing their masters in Conflict Management / International Studies were extremely hostile to the ICTR. Extremely. It was so interesting. They cited the money (the expenditure could have built roads in all of East Africa, said one, which I think is probably true!), that it was a way to assuage the guilt of the international community who stood by and did nothing to prevent the genocide (I think that's almost certainly true). It certainly is not a deterrent - Sudan is clearly an example of that. The prisoners get to choose their own meals - many Rwandese cannot say that. Conjugal visits also stirred up some anger - and the SUVs in the car park, the number of non-Africans (although, as the ICTR guy pointed out - the guy who's probably been there the longest and so made the most money is a Tanzanian judge).
But the major problem - the lack of justice for Rwandese. I didn't realise that although there is a mandate for outreach, the UN provides no direct budget for it. That's appalling, if true. Further, during the time it has taken for the trials of around 40 men (and one woman), there have been 5,000 Rwandese trials of the perpetrators. That shocked everyone - and there was a real sense of imperialism, that the white folks of the UN were coming in to tell the Rwandese they were incapable of delivering their own justice.
There... it's hard to argue against it, but as a (would-be) lawyer, I do believe there are differences in the people they're trying at the ICTR. The ground-breaking nature of the Nahimina case - the media ones, where the radio and newspaper owners were put on trial - plus the trying of heads of state - these have profoundly changed legal concepts: of civil liberties (particularly the US-centric view that free speech, including freedom of the press is the most important thing in the world), of sovereign immunity for civil leaders. Things are fundamentally different now because of them. At least legally. But it did make me think that it would have been worth investing in infrastructure to make it happen in Rwanda. Or transfer it once the country was getting back on its feet. Particularly with their real attempts to overhaul the constitution, increase female participation in politics, and change the structure and unity of their country.
Essentially, Friday completely undermined and refined my views of what I saw rather simplistically and legally.
The rest of the afternoon was rather different. A meal in town (awesome chapatis at the Jambo Coffee Shop, with fabulous arabic coke cans - plus, Jambo is my favourite favourite swahili word), then a wander around trying to find the bus office to buy tickets for the trip to Dar. That was... hairier than I'd like. Arusha is full of guys who know someone and know better than you what you want to do, and how much you ought to pay for it. This involved some grabbing of our arms, with that guy following us for ten minutes to the bus ticket office, and shouting at us when we left for "lying" to him. That was... unpleasant. Also, our lonely planet guide is out of date, the map for Arusha is pretty poor, and the office had moved, so we had to ask repeatedly where to go and felt pretty lost. Of course, if we'd gone in a taxi, we'd have been ok, but that seems pretty wussy, and we're still in a fairly independent state of mind.
Nonetheless, we were fine, basically, and got back in one piece, despite some guy using my camera I thought to look at pictures but I realised that he was using it to zoom in on TC's arse. He seemed to like it, but it was a tad sleazy... Still, we'd learned how to say "two waters" in Swahili, which is an improvement on the zero words we had. Then it was beers, pizza, and a far too late night considering that we had to get up at 4.45 to ensure we got the bus in time the next morning... ugh. And more on that journey in the next post...