Category Archives: Travel
I was in a rush.
It was 7.00pm and I promised him I’d catch a film at his place.
I had the popcorn and the wine.
I also had several bags of personal shopping from my unintended detour through Oxford Street.
I was 3 hours late and no man, woman or pigeon was going to stop me from getting on the next train.
I continued to skip and walk quickly, shopping overflowing.
I moved to the side, thinking it must be one of those incessant “I need to find myself” type backpackers trundling through Victoria station.
Annoyed, I swung round. Maybe I dropped one of my many many shopping trinkets!
A rather large man, dressed in black leather with hip-hop stylesque jewellery hopped my way.
(Heavy Nigerian accent) “Ehheh! You walk fast. Where you going?”
“Sorry, I saw you and I needed some information.”
“I have was waiting on a frien’ of mine here at de station. De problem is, ah! Stupid pigeons…”
“Do you need direc–”
“De problem is, it is going to voicemail and I dunno where he is. An’ I dunno wha’ to do in dis situation.”
“There’s a pay phone right there, maybe try a different friend?”
“Ah! I thought of dat you know, but de problem is, he was going to meet me here an’ we were goin’ to put our monies together you see.”
“I’m sorry I don’t understand and I’m running late already.”
“Yes dis won’t take a minute. Tah!”
He pauses. I wait. He looks at his phone.
“Let me ring his numba and show you how it goes to voicemail!”
He begins shouting at his phone
“Ah! Where is de stupid man’s numba? His name is Olu you see, I have too many people with O in my phone.”
As much as I was tempted to just run away, this large, burly man, dressed like a 1970s Blaxploitation villain, kept finding new means to keep me within in view.
He took a step forward, I stepped back, wondering if he were some sort of assassin and I was the mis-identified target.
“Maybe he’s just stuck on the train. Don’t stress. OK…bye!”
“Yes, but the extra worry is dat, I have a wife an’ a baby in Warrington.”
“….an’ my friend was going to give me some monies to add to my monies so I coul’ go see dem.”
I squeezed my bags closer to my body, swallowed and extended my sharpened index finger ready for a counter-attack. His cheeks looked ripened for scratching and getting a good bit of DNA. You know, just in case the police take their Krusty kreme filled time before responding to the scream, he gets away and tra-la-la…I have enough evidence to put his brawny-storytelling ass in jail.
“So I was wondering if you could spare me some monies.”
“Sorry I can’t help you I don’t have any money on me.”
“But my sista, look at all you’re shopping! You don’t have £50 to len’?”
He walked forward, eyes cold, yellow and raw. His jewellery clinked and his leather jacket cracked and popped. In the busy, London station, I was being hustled.
“You look like a rich man with all your jewellery, why don’t you go to the pawn shop just over there?”
“Ah! I thought we Africans we haff to take care of each odda? Eh? You don’t have no monies?”
He took it there. The arbitrary “take care of your own line” that makes the liberals tremble, releasing nickels, dimes and pound coins.
I stared menacingly back and retorted: “I don’t have any cash. And I’m not in the habit of taking care of hustlers African or otherwise.”
I took two steps back still staring at him, leaving enough space to sprint and not get pulled back by the arm.
I held his gaze and balled my fist.
“Wow, you’re the first person to not get scared and run away. I’m doing an independent comedy/improv show, would you be interested on us showing this clip on the telly? You were really good!”
I looked at him terrifyingly: “I’m not interested! How dare you?!”
“You were a good sport love! C’mon! Waddaya say? Look here’s a pamphlet with the show’s details, we’re genuine–”
I turned and sprinted away.
Only in flippin’ London.
Some days I forget that my family has the most profound history.
There was a story in the paper about a girl being so insecure and distressed about her looks that she attempted suicide and failed. I found it quite sad. I can identify with insecurity. Almost anyone can.
However my aunt said this: “Hm! Insecurity, suicide…! People feel miserable about superficial crap; try living through Baby Doc and his dictatorship! Crying over looks and hurt feelings! Give me a break!”
My mom added: “Baby Doc ruled with a whip! When we were young the biggest insecurity was failing your family and abandoning your country; everything else was irrelevant.”
Suddenly my feelings of “ugly days” came into a non-existent form and I felt bad for feeling bad. Society has made us so detached; individuals looking to reach the galaxies, forgetting to collectively care for our earth.
I am amazingly grateful for life, for love, for a career and for over-all contentment, but some days I struggle. I honestly wonder how some persons who lived through such dictatorships could come out of it and be so successful and be such stable people. To me, they are incredibly admirable. Witnessing lives lost, shattered dreams and tarnished streets with blood would have sent me straight into a mental facility. But here’s my family recollecting stories, paucity, sharing close calls with the law and death with an air of whimsicality and even then predicting future events for the county.
“…mm! I saw the cholera riots; I’m telling you, Haitian men aren’t like they used to be – their faces are masked, gas bombs are thrown everywhere and then they disappear! Like ninjas!”
Then an air of seriousness descends: “I know in the 50s and 60s it was terrible, but at least we had clean streets, tourism, and we were proud of our system in some ways.”
I read the newspapers and although the news is so heart wrenching, I admit I can’t always identify with them. I don’t know their hurt, I can’t understand their loss nor have seen their tragedy. However, there at the Christmas table, I felt my family’s loss of a country and of a better time. Do I need have to be connected in order to relate to a tragedy? Perhaps my heart is too emotionally naïve: a sense of physical insecurity, lost relationships, and failed grades are all I have to show for pain.
So what can come of my recollection?
I educate myself, I learn of the past, and though I want to see a grand change, I cringe because I have no profound ideas of my own. I can’t map out a huge economic and political strategy to save its 200 year history of failures. No matter how many Flag Days I celebrate; all I can aim for is pride and remembrance. I can earn a profession and physically lend a hand perhaps through medical aid or donation rallies, but I can’t save Haiti. So I pledge to be better, to learn and mature and go back and give back to the soil. I don’t know if that solution will work, but I can earnestly try.
She remembers the moment. The photographer took her picture. She remembers her anger. The man was a stranger. She had never been photographed before. Until they met again 17 years later, she had not been photographed since.
The photographer remembers the moment too. The light was soft. The refugee camp in Pakistan was a sea of tents. Inside the school tent he noticed her first. Sensing her shyness, he approached her last. She told him he could take her picture. “I didn’t think the photograph of the girl would be different from anything else I shot that day,” he recalls of that morning in 1984 spent documenting the ordeal of Afghanistan’s refugees.
The portrait by Steve McCurry turned out to be one of those images that sears the heart, and in June 1985 it ran on the cover of this magazine. Her eyes are sea green. They are haunted and haunting, and in them you can read the tragedy of a land drained by war. She became known around National Geographic as the “Afghan girl,” and for 17 years no one knew her name.
Names have power, so let us speak of hers. Her name is Sharbat Gula, and she is Pashtun, that most warlike of Afghan tribes. It is said of the Pashtun that they are only at peace when they are at war, and her eyes—then and now—burn with ferocity. She is 28, perhaps 29, or even 30. No one, not even she, knows for sure. Stories shift like sand in a place where no records exist.
Time and hardship have erased her youth. Her skin looks like leather. The geometry of her jaw has softened. The eyes still glare; that has not softened. “She’s had a hard life,” said McCurry. “So many here share her story.” Consider the numbers. Twenty-three years of war, 1.5 million killed, 3.5 million refugees: This is the story of Afghanistan in the past quarter century.
“There is not one family that has not eaten the bitterness of war,” a young Afghan merchant said in the 1985 National Geographicstory that appeared with Sharbat’s photograph on the cover. She was a child when her country was caught in the jaws of the Soviet invasion. A carpet of destruction smothered countless villages like hers. She was perhaps six when Soviet bombing killed her parents. By day the sky bled terror. At night the dead were buried. And always, the sound of planes, stabbing her with dread.
Here is the bare outline of her day. She rises before sunrise and prays. She fetches water from the stream. She cooks, cleans, does laundry. She cares for her children; they are the center of her life. Sharbat has never known a happy day, her brother says, except perhaps the day of her marriage.
Such knife-thin odds. That she would be alive. That she could be found. That she could endure such loss. Surely, in the face of such bitterness the spirit could atrophy. How, she was asked, had she survived?
The answer came wrapped in unshakable certitude.
“It was,” said Sharbat Gula, “the will of God.”
Source: National Geographic
So funny story right, this guy sees this girl struggling with her shopping.
He stops and gives her a hand and at the same time compliments her on her stunning afro.
She giggles, he continues to flirt.
They started dating, and she called him beautifully romantic. He called her loyal and unflawed.
They made a love nest and had a bunch of kids.
Location: Turks & Caicos
I grew up in the Turks & Caicos.
My parents fell in love and stayed in love with the place. Me, I’m a wanderer and my feet always itched to travel and score some excitement away from the religious zeal of my father.
But every now and again, I miss it. I miss it all; the air, the sun, the beaches, the dialects, the accents, culture, the people and their Jedi knight ability to put you in your place with one stern look. I miss it. Call me crazy, but some days I wake up and hope to have the sun beaming through my windows and chickens clucking through my ear drums. If you’re quick, you’d guess I grew up on one of the lesser of the cosmopolitan islands, i.e. Not Providenciales. This isn’t a bad thing, of course. It was just more rustic, charming, (and hot as hell), but it holds memories and now of course political saga and a slew of tourists pointing and saying: “look darling, people actually LIVE in houses!” Yes I’ve had the “do you live in huts” question. I was 17 and completely stumped why anyone would think Caribbean people lived in huts. The sheer arrogance I tell you.
Every generation has its nostalgic centrepiece. My dad used to tell me stories that seemed so far-fetched and unbelievable. I wonder if when I get older I’ll have a story that begins: “when I was your age…” I keep trying to think of one now so I can work on it, but I can’t come up with anything. Turks and Caicos is normal and quaint, but there’s no mass change (again political &tourist saga aside). If you can think of any, let me know, I’ll add it to my growing selection of Stories To Tell To My Grandkids.
If you’re a tourist and you need an idea of what the place is like, then I have 9 great things to tell you.
1. Get ready to spend your dollar.
Yes, dollar. As in US dollars. Turks and Caicos use the American dollar as its legal tender, and not as you thought, Turks dollars. Also, the place is pretty pricey. But if you’re staying in a swanky hotel, then that probably won’t be an issue to you.
2. We don’t have accents.
Growing up, I never thought we islanders had an accent, till someone burst this pretty little notion and noticed that mine was pretty skrong strong. I resent that person to this day. I was however fully aware of the different way the other islands pronounced things and like all my peers, unashamedly mocked them. Ah, kids.
3. Don’t get in the water!
I kid of course. The beaches are pristine and the water clearer than pearl. However, there’s Private Beaches where tourists like to be hidden away from the rest of the island (with a population of like negligible I don’t see the point) and bury their heads in a good Hemingway. It ruins it for you. You want to be able to frolick from end to end undisturbed, but capitalists put an end to that.
4. Pack your golf cart or your dune buggy.
Grand Turk is 7 miles long by 1.5 miles wide. It’s tiny, but not tinier than Salt Cay. A lot of tourists love to drive around in them. For the rest of us, it’s annoying. Why? Because we want to drive at 30mph in our land rover dammit! I must admit, when I did go to Salt Cay, I drove one, loved it and did the entire island in less than a day. I figure one day when I’m 75, I’ll retire there and annoy all the hip kids with Beyonce blasting from my golf-mobile. Oh, and we drive on the left.
5. Sean Paul is ok, but we prefer Bob Marley and Morgan Heritage
I love Caribbean music. If you want to get a feel for reggae music, do let your hair down to some Morgan Heritage, Lucky Dube or Buju Banton. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. And if you really want to crank it up a notch, get some Soca & Calypso in your system. You’ll love it. C’mon be a rebel.
6. We don’t all eat Jerk Chicken.
Ah, the famous Jerk Chicken. It’s actually native to Jamaica rather than Turks and Caicos, but we still love it. The best dishes are the seafood dishes: fish, lobster, shrimp, conch, yumyumyum! Fish in the Caribbean has a different savour. It’s fresh, soft, and just amazingly delicious. I’m a seafood snob; I refuse to eat fish if I’m not in the Caribbean (with the exception of salmon). And the great things about Caribbean cooking are the flavours, spices, aromas, textures and creativity that goes into them. If you have a sensitive stomach or abhor pepper, than make your case known! You still will be fine with less spicier foods, just not having as much fun as we are.
7. Learn to swim.
Especially if you’re planning your holiday for 2012. Kidding. Watersports are HUGE, and why shouldn’t it be. You have one of the best beaches in the world; it’s natural that surfing, snorkelling, parasailing, etc are going to be at the top of your “must-do” list.
8. You’ll have a “whale” of a time
Was that a little too lame? Sorry, I was just dying to type that. If you love sea animal life: whales, dolphins, the barrier reef and spongebob, then pack your underwater camera and don’t get Botox if you want to be amazed. It’s simply astonishing watching them in action.
9. Go on, pack your sunscreen
This is self-explanatory.
Sidenote: if you do have a great time, come back and tell me about it. Better yet, a thank you ticket would be great.