Friday, August 29, 2008

Plain and Simple

We're coming down to our last few days in the 'bique. Very odd indeed. We've been here for over a week, and it's pretty comfortable, for the most part. However, there's stuff that's just so frustrating and difficult about being here, it's going to be a nice transition through SA to NYC. I find it really hard that there is such a divide between tourist and local, particularly between white and black. There are exceptions, but it's wearing - the lack of trust between the two, the sheer gulf due to poverty and education, the desperation and resentment that is felt. It's the most wonderful place, and I love it, but when you come here, you have to be prepared for that experience (or maybe not, if you stay in the chichi places where you don't see anything out of the ordinary, just a hotel with a pool and a bar and a great view of the beach); when you move here, there really has to be a conscious decision as to whether to embrace it or not. Luckily we don't have to go through that.

I will miss this water, though. Despite the barracudas!

Thursday, August 28, 2008


We've had a couple of bouts of it recently. After my last post, we both got extremely nervous about the bends, and it took a lot of breathing calming and telling off from our divemaster to get us back into a normal place. Now, I have an achy back, my stomach's felt weird all day, and it's super super hot, so I am, of course, convinced I have a fever that I have one of any number of horrible diseases (described to us in detail by our new friends, a pair of nurses (German and Swiss). Honestly, medical people sometimes are the least reassuring. Everyone goes on about informed consent but I would so often just not be treated as an intelligent adult but given the bare minimum. I don't want to know about other complications. Really. Because then it leads to this sort of stuff.

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 words are coming out all weird

Day eight in Wimbi, much like those proceeding it and undoubtedly subsequent ones. Except today we thought we spotted dolphins as we headed out for our dive; we took some fabulous photos, and some dreadful ones, too. We've convinced ourselves we may have the bends; my calf is all weird, slightly dizzy, but I think that's low blood sugar after one too many last night. NEVER dive hungover - you use up far too much air, and get utterly paranoid about decompression sickness.

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

Yes it's true

I am happy to be stuck with you. Well, in a way.

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


Last night, for the first time since I don't know when - I was probably barely in double digits - I pitched a tent. And, even, slept in it.

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

Catching Up

It's just going to be impossible to do all the days, so I'm not going to bother, alas.

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

Zanzibar: Day 2 - 11 August

Diving. Turns out it's actually quite complicated. What I failed to mention in the previous post is that we had homework. After a summer of misery with the Bar, and a day full of multiple choice qs, we give ourselves more reading, more work, and multiple choice tests.


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.

Zanzibar: Day 1

After a night's good rest, we woke refreshed and not really sure what to do with ourselves. Do we learn how to dive, do we head to the beach - what? Zanzibar is actually a pretty large island with pants transport around it. So, unless you've got a bit of cash for private transfers, it's actually fairly hard to get to gorgeous beach without experiencing a dalla-dalla - the minibuses crammed with people, which we did NOT fancy after a day on the bus/ferry. So, we really didn't know what to do. We got cash, then headed into town to see what was what.

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

Arusha-Dar-Zanzibar - August 9

We got up at 4.45, after a few too many beers, it must be admitted. As in, we had 3, and that was two too many. We were in a bit of a panicky state, as we really weren't sure we'd make it to Zanzibar (the bus might be delayed and we'd miss the 4.15 ferry), we were fairly sure we were locked into the annexe, and weren't sure George, our taxi driver, would actually turn up. All in all, not a good way to start the day, particularly after having a half hour patch in the middle of the night where we were both boiling hot.

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

The ICTR - 8 August*

We woke bright and early for a good breakfast before heading down to the ICTR for the day. Again, a good breakfast, which was pretty necessary for an intense day. We arrived and sat at the wrong gate for about twenty minutes, before TC realised and we headed to the VIP gate. Oh yes, indeed, the VIP gate. Turns out we were to go on the tour / Q&A session with a group of students from the University of Nairobi, and they turned up about twenty minutes after us - just enough time for TC and I to write down the titles of several important but depressing books we wanted to read. The library at the ICTR is not catalogued along the normal lines of a law library, but based on the special needs of the workers at the ICTR. I had been shamed by the guy sitting next to me on the flight to Nairobi who was off to Kigali to look for sustainable engineering projects for his university to share in, and reading the Romeo Dallaire book that I keep meaning to read but cannot face, having read extracts from it in the week of the tenth anniversary of the start of the genocide (I think in the guardian). So I think I overcompensated when going through the collection in the library in Arusha. Still, necessary.

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...

*Weird how being back where British English is predominantly spoken so quickly changes my thought processes, including how I think of dates. .

Kenya-Arusha (6-7 August)

This is going to be a catchup, hopefully, of the last few days, but it'll be blurred and all over the place, I fear. *

Tues-Weds - We were on a plane. And then another plane. For hours. Very grateful for TC's insistence on getting visas before we arrived, as the queues in Nairobi were horrendous. We picked up the luggage - scattered here there and everywhere, not on the belts, weirdly, but gratefully we observered that our sleeping bags and tent remained attached to the rucksacks. We went out into a sea of taxi drivers, but, fortunately, there was Philip with our names on the card. I've rarely been so pleased to see anyone. Then, over to the Sarova Panafric - not cheap, but so so so nice and welcome after two days stuck in a plane.

Thurs am - of course, we hadn't booked a bus to Arusha, but fortunately for us, the people - Pennah and Kizito - at the Panafric saved us the hassle and got us there, no problem. From there, it was a five hour ride over to Arusha. Although we were both exhausted, neither of us could sleep - far too excited. And all the awesome coffee and unbelievably great breakfast at the Panafric - seriously, I cannot recommend that place enough. Mostly because they had baked beans, obviously...

Thurs pm - we're in Arusha! We arrived at the Mezza Luna hotel, having been cramped into a minibus with about 30 other people, including four spanish young women who literally did not stop talking the whole way, or sighing "madre mia" about the "ghetto" bus we were on - I'm guessing (hoping?) they didn't know we understood them. Annoying when you've had about 10 hours' sleep in three days, believe me. Our bus was surrounded by "flycatchers" - local parlance for the guys who want you to go on their safari or hiking trip. That's been a fairly common theme these last few days... still, more on that later. We ended up taking the same bus up to our hotel, which was a haven after a day on the bus - a kidney-shaped blue pool, a nice looking bar, huts, herons... and then we were across the road in a definitely more backpackery place, but lovely nonetheless.

Arusha itself was gorgeous - more on that tomorrow, but Mt. Meru utterly dominated our part of town, looming over us and framed beautifully by the street's lush greenery. It was COLD, however - we hadn't really thought about it, but should have done - with Kilimanjaro and Meru nearby, it's probably not that warm. Duh. And that pool there looked so inviting...

After wandering down to get cash from Barclays, we said hi to every kid in Arusha, it seemed, who wanted to practice some English. Then it was time for a spot of reading, beer, food, and some much much much needed sleep before the ICTR the next day. We also showered, which is noteworthy as it's not happening much these days, to be honest with you all. A little too much honesty? Hmm.

Basically: we're here, we're well, we're mostly happy, and it's so exciting it's hard to think about much else.

*Nowhere near enough time for that, so I'm going to divide it into chunks, I think.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Gone, Daddy, Gone...

I accidentally just published this without any text, and that was probably the most fitting statement, but of course, far too restrained for me, so going to change that pronto.

Although I am not yet packed, and we are scarily underprepared, today I leave for Eastern and Southern Africa.

The itinerary is, roughly, as follows:

Wednesday 6th - arrive in Nairobi
Thursday 7th - get the hell out of Nairobi - over the border to Arusha, Northern Tanzania, site of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (where, yes, we will visit).
Friday 9th - off to Zanzibar. Which is a real place, as TOH recently discovered.

Then... well then, it's a bit hazy. We're going to do a diving course there, get our PADI certificates, and spend about a week-10 days on a beach, diving, reading, buying gorgeous spices in Stone Town.

Then a couple of weeks in Mozambique, working our way down the enormous coast by diving. Honestly, google image searching "Ilha do Mozambique" and Quirimbas and Tofo and Bazaruto kept me going throughout my final year of law school.

Then it's over to Cape Town for about the 4th of September, where my travelling companion (TC) and I will meet TOH and Her Other Half (HOH) for Stellenbosch, Table Mountain, Robben Island and penguins. And if I smuggle a penguin home, I promise it'll only be one. Team mascot. Crouching Tigers will definitely have to become Crouching Penguins.

So that's it. Several thousands of miles and many languages, cultures and white sandy beaches lie between me and when I'm next back in NYC. I'm going to try to keep up some blogging, uploading of photos, but obviously, no guarantees. Luckily, I've been given an absolutely beautiful travel diary by JKS, and so hopefully I'll have some stellar stories to tell when I get back. And that will, finally, fulfill the mandate of this blog's title...

Have a wonderful summer, wherever and however you spend it.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Flowery Prose

On Friday TOH and I actually did as planned, and made it up to the Bronx botanical gardens. And what a scorching, perfect day to do it - sun high in the sky, and we slowly pottered our way round, as we were still full of pizza, pears and Peroni from our trip to Arthur Avenue and the Bronx's Little Italy. It was a fantastic day, with the unexpected bonus of the littering of Henry Moore statues throughout the Gardens giving the park a gorgeous edge. It's wonderful anyway, but very much like a giant stately home, Natural Trust-type property. The coming round corners of pathways to see a smooth, bronze reclining figure, all angles and shadows, added something very special to the experience. The giant white fibreglass female reclining figure was almost incandescent against the green - I wish I could have captured it better.

Speaking of capturing, the camera is dead on its legs, and so many of these are a tad fuzzy and not quite what I'd like, but sadly a combination of no funds for a new one and the fact that Radio Shack has every single type of battery in the world other than the one we need for my gorgeous old Olympus' light meter means that you'll have to make do with these.

My favourite statue was this latter one - all angles, verdigris, shadows and twists cast upon a perfectly manicured green lawn that swept down from the building housing the laboratories and research centre. It would have been a perfect site for a period drama were it not for the curving, stark statue on the grass.

Friday, August 01, 2008


It's very strange to be done. The euphoria hasn't hit; as always, after a period of exams and great stress, when it's over I merely feel relief. Bruised, battered, but relieved. It's strange to think you get your life back, just like that - no exit interviews or preparation for post-traumatic stress. They just let you loose.

I'm not complaining. I'm planning books to read for the hols, swimming cossie purchase, catching up on Doctor Who, that sort of thing. Today we're off to the Botanical Gardens, which should be glorious - it's the kind of sunny, scorching day which I've only experience outside while heading to get lunch and briefly letting myself bake out there.

You enjoy the stupid things you would normally loathe and dread. Like doing handwashing, as I did this morning. And then it hit me - my maternal grandmother did this every week for 26 years as her four children got muddy and sweated and dirtied their clothes and sheets and everything in between. All by hand. It's playing on my mind a lot as I digest A Room of One's Own, which I finally read. And loved, obviously. I normally do read only detective novels in times of high stress, just as I watch shows - Bones, CSI, Law & Order - of that ilk, obsessively, when stressed. However, I had ordered the book from the library (honestly, it's like Netflix for books and is GLORIOUS - I love the NYPL), it arrived, and I decided that now was indeed the perfect time to read it. Its original purpose was to remind me of why women need money, and independence - and so remind me that I need to pass the Bar for the sake of equality in my relationship, if nothing else.

It did much more than that, however. One of Woolf's observations that struck me, that I keep coming back to, was the recognition of women's limited experience; that Jane Austen couldn't leave her house without an escort, that what women knew was so inherently domestic because they were constrained there. And millions of women lived like that, without remark or record. Like my grandmothers, who each raised four children and worked their entire lives. It gave me a kick up the backside, therefore, to realise that I was enjoying the break from the mental stuff to do the handwashing, and think just how different my life is from theirs. So really, I shouldn't be that pleased with myself. On the other hand, recently I've been such a mess that showering is an achievement, so maybe I should give myself a little bit of a break. And stop being so flaming earnest.