Wednesday, May 28, 2008

a great way to pass time at heathrow (or anywhere you find yourself)

stuff white people like

i especially like #99 - and i have taken a stand on the serial comma gramar rule and i love the serial comma!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

i'm on my way

today is my last day in nairobi and my last day at work and i am remembering that i really do hate good-byes. and not for the reasons that most people do. i just hate that they are so drawn out and people insist that they 'have to see you' before you go (and you have been here for nearly 2 years, for the love of god!) and everyone says 'but, why?' in this most annoying voice. yes, i live in kenya, but i am not from kenya. i do have a home, people!

but i have scheduled pick up at 7:30pm, have checked in online (hello window seat and sweet dreams all the way to london!), and have managed to get my runny nose under control so i do not infect all those around me with a nasty aeroplane bug. ew.

and hello, also, to heathrow terminal 3 and its delights. terminal 3 is my favourite of the terminals and perhaps i will replace my tried and tested birkenstocks (i am such a hippy who is in drastic need of a fashion overhaul, but hello also to europe this summer!) with something more fashionable.

i love travelling. i hate saying good bye. and i am more than a little excited to go home and see my fam (and my one-eyed dog) (oh, and my fluffy cat) (and all other north american novelties, which i could least at length but will save that for later).


Sunday, May 25, 2008

1 year

sometimes you meet people who are completely different than you, who are from a different place, a different culture, and have a very different perspective of the world. sometimes, you surprise yourself and everyone around you by welcoming such a person into your life and soon find that it was one of the easiest decisions you ever made.

one year ago today, i met a soldier who had arrived in kenya that very morning. and i don’t think either of us realised how one chance meeting and a peacock would affect our lives. between us we have been to 8 countries, lived 9 times zones apart, and spent a near fortune on text messages and long distance phone calls.

and now, 12 months later, i have 3 days in kenya, followed by 3 weeks in calgary before spending 3 months not only in the same time zone, not only in the same country, but in the very same flat with one of the most kind, generous people i have ever met.

and i can’t think of a better way to start our second year together.

a very happy one year wish to you. it will surely be the first of many.


Monday, May 19, 2008

finding my spot

(may 16, 2008)

my little (big) brother does this thing when he is going to bed and he has done it as long as any of us can remember – he wiggles and fidgets and flops around until he finds ‘his spot’ before he can get to sleep. i guess it is something about finding that place in your bed where the sheets, duvet, and pillows align for the perfect combination of fluffliness, firmness, coziness, warmth, and coolness.

i think i am doing the same thing right now, but in a more metaphorical way. i am not the most confident person at the best of times in terms of what i have achieved and accomplished academically or professionally but lately i feel like perhaps i am still trying to find ‘my spot.’

i am good at a lot of things, but not great at any one thing and i think that i want to be. i want to be so passionate about something that i excel at it and become known for my knowledge and experience in that one area. maybe because the reality is hitting me that i am leaving my job and this field for the time being, but if i were to stay, i would join the ranks of people in the world who know a lot about human trafficking. there are not that many people who can be considered ‘experts’* on the topic and in some circles, i am considered just that. but a few more years of experience and exposure, i would probably feel confident that i am gathering expertise.**

but do i feel so strongly about it that i can continue to commit my career to it? i am not so sure. but are people who are really good at certain things really in love with those topics? i sort of doubt it. but i still like to think so.

i have a few ideas of what i could be that passionate about and i plan on exploring them in the near future. i just hope that i can find something, stick to it, and love what i do.

until then, i will continue wiggling, fidgeting, and flopping until i find my spot, however long it takes.

*although i hate that word and think it is thrown around at whim around here

**another word i hate

just another night in the ‘robes

(may 16, 2008)

i am sitting in my pyjamas and having a glass of wine after having set my pan on fire during the melting of the butter and heating of the vodka in the preparation of vodka pasta. like any normal person would, i tried to blow it out (fyi – NOT a good idea) then carefully turned the burner off and gently placed the pan back down on the stove and just waited for the fire to burnt itself out while i calmly wondered, ‘is is soda or powder that goes on a grease fire?’

instead of chancing it, i figured i would just watch and ‘monitor’ the fire. during my vigilant monitoring, i debated putting the pan on the stoop so that it was less likely to ignite my kitchen, but instead just called my flatmate, who was equally clueless on what exactly we should do. so we watched it burn together. and then she said, just like a 14 year old boy would, ‘wow, that was cool.’ and i replied, ‘i know, science, eh.’ and that is a true story.

the vodka pasta was nice (although i have made better batches, i think the secret lies in the cream) and i am now patiently awaiting the arrival of my taxi driver, who i hope will buy my cooker. and agree to come and visit me in canada one day. because without him, my stay in nairobi would not have been as rich of an experience and i am quite sad to think that i might not see him again.

he and i have been plant shopping together, had impromptu kiswahili lessons while passing time, he has picked me up at the airport after returning from journeys both long and short. he even picked my family up at the airport last year with a name sign that i am sure was spelled wrong and chauffeured us around town, even joining us at the baby elephants, which i think he enjoyed just as much as we did.

this guy has given me the low down on all the carjackings, robberies, and other neighbourhood happenings and he has also been a partner in a great many political discussions and we tried to solve the problems of kenya in the post election violence while navigating the streets of nairobi. he has rented me cars, given me free rides on my birthday or when he was exceptionally late, and he has given me the ok to marry my boyfriend who he thinks is a ‘good guy’ and is convinced i will return when i have babies in my arms.

actually, he was there the night we first met and picked up and delivered my keys when i got home and realised that i had left them with a friend at the bar. he has picked up important documents and take away food, helped me figure out how the central investigative division of the kenya police works, and will hopefully buy my cooker and fridge.

he reckons he will save his shillings and visit his friends in canada and australia (or austria, we never could figure out where his friend lives) and i do not doubt it. i am convinced the man sits on a vault of money. i just hope i can be as good of a driver and friend as he has been to me.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


yesterday was a rather liberating day. as days go. i formally declined the offer of employment made by my organisation and i sent out an email to everyone in my office to sell my stuff. i have already made some money for the Paris Fund and don’t anticipate having trouble getting rid of the rest of my things.

it is sort of fun selling all your stuff and i seriously recommend it, unless of course you need that stuff. it was a bit wild – all these kenyan women in my flat, nattering away, trying to bargain, and picking up EVERYTHING (even the stuff that is nailed down) and asking if it is for sale and for how much. i had to save my handbags before someone tried to pay me and walk out with them!

but today, i am spending the morning at home, with a cup of tea and the bbc (tea and the beeb are pretty much a running theme in my life) because i slept nearly 11 hours last night and woke up feeling meh. and i am so done with being sick, i am not going to work because sharing an office with 2 other people is a ticket to illness and if my colleagues are going to cough like they have tuberculosis and refuse to see a doctor, then i am staying at home with my tea and the beeb.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

loose ends

isn’t it funny how as soon as you decide to leave a place, you begin to appreciate it more? i suppose that it is human nature (or at least my nature), but it doesn’t change the fact that i am ready to breeze out of here.

luckily for me, i get my ‘personal effects’ shipped to canada and although it is not a whole lot, i will manage to get my favourite baskets, rugs, and irreplaceable household things , Pieces of Art (i bought another! this time by a sudanese canadian artist and i love it so much that i want to marry it), most important books, and clothes and shoes (after a serious purge) in the shipment. i have been in talks with the movers and am planning on having an open house to get rid of all the other bits and bobs that i have collected. isn’t it amazing how much stuff you collect over a few year? anyone want to purchase some sheep skin rugs or patio furniture or a held-held mixer?

i am also giving my health insurance a run for its money and making sure i use up all my allowances as i have no guarantees when next someone will be paying for my specs or my teeth. the dental hygienist said i had ‘excellent oral health’ which made me so happy that i let a whopping ‘yes’ accompanied by a vigorous arm pump. or at least that is what i felt like doing.

it also amazes me how your social calendar fills up as soon as you decide to leave: i have been visiting with a friend just back from many months in darfur, sudan, you can imagine how fascinating that lunchtime conversation was; i spent my friday night playing board games with my flatmate at which i lost miserably; today i have lunch with a work colleague and friend and then dinner at a friend’s place where i am sure we will laugh a lot and get lost in italian translation; and if the rainy season cooperates, i will be going horseback riding this sunday afternoon in nairobi’s next-door forest.

one of my pet peeves is people updating their social calendars on their blogs like a laundry list, however, the moral of my story is that there is a lot i am leaving, but that i am very much ready to do it.

Friday, May 09, 2008

i am going to miss martha

(may 8, 2008)

martha gives the best hour and a half pedicures. i had my last martha pedicure yesterday. paying more than ten dollars for a pedicure is going to be painful.

i am also going to miss the groundsmen at work who are always so happy to see you and who today i showed how to ‘talk’ with snapdragons. i walked into the office today listening to them say, ‘hello’ while pinching the flowers’ petals.

i will also miss fred and all the corner taxi guys who greet me in the morning and the askari davis who i say hi to every morning and evening on my ways to and from work.

i will miss passion fruit being perpetually in season, calla lilies available by the roadside, and some aspects of working within the machinery of the un.

however, there are a lot of things that i will not miss and that i will be happy to leave behind. including these flat-infesting, disease-spreading, ever-so-irritating mosquitos!

Monday, May 05, 2008

i am ready for this

(may 4, 2008)

wow, that was perhaps one of the best holidays i have ever had. it was as much about being in south africa as being with a certain someone who managed to organise the best trip that included just enough road tripping, sightseeing, relaxing, eating, and visiting. amazingly, we never felt too tired (except for those times that we had had a few too many glasses of south african wine or namibian beer and had to eat steak or éclairs in the morning to remedy the problem) and paced all of our mini adventures so we kept busy and time managed to slow... right... down, which pleased us just fine.

i got back in the early hours this morning and found my kitchen infested with bugs, including ants making a new hill in my sugar bowl (you give your housekeeper a week off in the rainy season and the bugs just take over) and you know what? i don’t really care.

i don’t care because i have approximately 4 weeks left in kenya and am ecstatic not about my departure (although a change is definitely in order) but about my arrival. if my plan stands, i will be making a brief stop in the hometown for wedding dress shopping (not mine, before you get your panties in a knot), hanging out with the fam, and general june enjoyment then heading to europe where i will be summering in germany.

i intend on finding some new hobbies, reading a lot of books, and getting used to living with a soldier who has to wear the scary uniform to work every day. somehow, i think it will be doable.

memorable mpumalanga moments

(may 4, 2008)

did you know that some people in south africa go grocery shopping without shoes on? i did not. and i was so amazed i started checking out everyone’s feet that passed me in the produce section. (and the electronics store, as it so happened)

the south africans take their biltong seriously. and their sausage. and all of their meat products. now i remember why the last time i returned from the rainbow nation i had to take a meat vacation. this time, i need to take a chip vacation. although i have become a chip connoisseur that could handle any british chip shop, i need to take a step back from deep fried starches.

the part of south africa where i lived a few years ago is very different than a mpumalanga mining town. i am so happy that i got to tour around more of rsa. there are some phenomenal rock formations around those parts, which works for me because rock formations are sort of like my new hobby.

when you order red wine at a restaurant, pub, or hotel, they give you the biggest glass of tasty wine for a few dollars. it is great. and the would-be beginnings of a drinking condition.

however, the food situation is not so great. there are the ever-delicious chips, but little else besides meat and squished sandwiches that are not to my taste. i did fit in a few pieces of milk tart though.

alarms are everywhere and so is paranoia. but i sort of get it after almost being mugged in broad daylight in a shopping mall. sort of.

i remember the highway driving in the western cape to be nerve wracking, but i thought it was just that particular driver. no, south african highways are frightening places. and the government has wasted a lot of money on stop signs that are largely ignored.

afrikaans is still as beautiful as ever. and my sarcasm is still intact. but it still fascinates me even if i don’t care for the sound of it. i mean, who makes up their own language?!

i watched a lot of the discovery channel and saw the very first episode of Miami Ink, a lot of myths busted, and how things are made. i also drank a lot of tea. sweet, sweet tea. i think that time should always be made for the preparation and enjoyment of good tea. and not the milky kenyan stuff.

my favourite hotel in the world is in a town called graskop. an establishment where contemporary artists design each room differently and there are pieces of art in the restaurant, the stairwell, the bar, the bathrooms, and the lobby is my kind of hotel. i also loved the bartender named rodger whom we named my wooden chicken after. (the carved chicken was a sign of love purchased from the side of the road and is probably not nearly as freaking hilarious to anyone else but me.)

i now own 2 pairs of converse. i can’t bring myself to throw out my old ones though, even with their holes. i am pretty much ok with that.

i love vacation.


(april 28, 2008)

i have been missing in action since i arrived in south africa over a week ago, but i am sure you will forgive me as i don’t think i have relaxed like this since last summer. i have seen and done so much and thought many times, ‘oh, i should write about that,’ but then life got in the way and i would end up playing scrabble with a soldier, sharing a bottle of wine with new friends, eating meat, or been touring around and to be honest, was much happier than sitting in front of my laptop.

to be brief, i have, in the past week or so:

  • had a love actually-style, moderately obnoxious, very affectionate airport reunion
  • gone to an old car show, drank beer, and admired old south african men’s bellies (and they are a sight to behold)
  • roadtripped to the drakensberg mountains, which although i mocked, are a stunning range
  • hiked up to the top of a mini mountain, where we enjoyed beer and pretzels
  • kicked some irish south african butt at scrabble
  • found my new favourite south african coffee shop that reminds just enough of starbies, t ho’s, and second cup
  • consumed more chips than i have in the past year
  • ran for half an hour in the hilliest place ever
  • fought off a group of would-be muggers (not so much fought off as stood sort of clueless as you-know-who yelled and made a fuss so we could leave with all our bits)
  • toured battlefields of the boer war where i hiked through cow poo and long grasses for love
  • frozen my buns off and bought sheep skin slippers that are delicious
  • burnt my face and shoulders in the african sun
  • climbed up the voortrekker monument in pretoria and admired it in all its afrikaner-ness
  • poked not-so-nice fun at someone’s newfound fear of heights
  • overheard the delicious english
  • laughed a lot and made myself at home with the fam

and now i am off for more south african roadtrips, food, wine, and company!