Friday, July 22, 2016

Gorgeous Beaches,Mountains and Mansions.

Eyl :-)

Vogel: Do you know anything about Somalia?

Campos: mhhhhhhhhh gorgeous beaches, a bit dry.

Vogel: It's a failed state,they have not had a functioning government since 1991.

Campos: Oh I saw Black Hawk Down, I get it............................................

This conversation between Vogel and Campos in the series  FlashForward shows what Somalia is(Campos's version) and what a lot of people think it is (Vogel's version). Somalia receives a lot of negative media and not many people know how beautiful and charming it can be, outside the news of bombings and Alshabab and that there are some parts of it that are really safe despite it being listed as one of the unsafest countries in the world.

Now that I have taken on the role of once in a while(more like most of the time) shining a light on the beauty that is Somalia here goes-Berbera,Burao and Sheikh Mountains.


It’s coastal port town that has this feel of a storage and transport centre with loads of big trucks and big ware houses.The red sea passes through Berbera and the town even has a hotel on the beach :-) :-)

The Red sea with its somewhat black sand.

One of the warehouses in the town

Trucks on transit


The main roundabout in Burao that has the picture of the first president of Somaliland who happens to be from the town.

This town is unexpected,if you have never been there you expect it to be small but it's fairly big,has an airstrip and many big buildings and a lot more under construction chances are in the very near future it will be one really big town,

It’s the capital of Togdheer (one of the regions in Somaliland) and what you’ll notice in this town is the number of big houses in it and you’ll think so these people must be rich but as I found out these houses mostly belong to Somalis in the Diaspora.Speaking of Somalis in the Diaspora there were so many who were in the town when I was there and all had British accents, you will think; oh wait. did I mistakenly go to Britain and I am not aware!

A poster explaining the Somali-land shilling notes and what each of the images on it mean

A fuel station in the town

The big houses of Burao

The Sheikh Mountains.

These mountains are on your way to Burao from Hargeisa, they are very scenic and are usually listed as one of the things to do/places to visit if you are ever in that side of Somalia.Do they live up to a must see place; I don't know, it all depends on if you are a mountains kind of person.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The 'cultural centre'.

Idd and especially the one after Ramadhan is one for merry making and eating because 30 days of fasting is major and a lot of people look forward to this idd to celebrate and make merry.

As expected I had plans and by plans I mean going to eat cake and trying to cook kaimatis and mahamris, I even had gone out and bought most of the ingredients but my uncle my mum’s elder brother (may Allah grant him Jannah) passed on a few days to Idd and come Idd day I couldn’t bring myself to do anything celebratory. I went for the prayers and did nothing much after.Trust me nobody understands/remembers how heavy their heart and mind gets when you lose a loved one,it's such sadness and grief that words can't explain sometimes even you as a person underestimate how much this weighs on you.The words of Chimamanda have never been truer.......

He wanted to wait a few days before replying to her but he found himself that night in his study writing her a long e-mail about the death of his mother. ’I never thought she would die until she died’.I have discovered that grief doesn’t dim with time; it was instead a volatile state of being.Sometimes the pain was as abrupt as it was the day her house help called him sobbing to say she was lying unbreathing on her bed, other times he forgot that she had died and would make cursory plans about flying to the east to see her-Americanah

This year’s Idd was really sad for me but I couldn’t help noticing everyone with their new clothes and all and kids and new toys-I thought idd was clothes and shoes only, now even new toys or always there were toys just that I did not notice.Also Garowe is pretty good when it comes to Idd prayers because for so long as there is quorum the Imam will lead a prayer for you,so very slim chances of anyone missing Idd prayers and get this they start praying as early as 7.30 AM-the earlier the prayer,the earlier the feasting begins.

Idd came and wrapped and I went back to my routine life because really when you live alone and far away from home, idd for most of it, is a day like any-other and falling back into  'normal routine' is real easy because you were never out of it but then two things happened a friend called two days after idd and told me about this new place that opened on Idd night and the way we should go and check it out but I wasn’t too keen.

The second thing happened and it was this picture.....................

Ladies who were hostesses on the opening night of the 'cultural centre'

A girl at the office shows some guys this picture and they are discussing it and she jokingly goes like
'Jama Wallahi you missed,these girls during opening night, their sole role was to serve old men' and If only I could record how his faced looked, so disappointed like he had missed this huge chance. Then same girl shows us some TV clippings of the opening night of this joint,apparently the place is a big deal and we decide to go.

We all agree to go after work because some people wanted to go after Maghrib and others read me thought it was good to go after Asr(because we need light to take pictures ::-) ) and therefore we agreed to go at around 5 that way we all get what we want,daylight and early evening.

The signage of this new joint
The new place is some sort of a cultural centre that is upcoming because I think it still has  quite a bit to do before it is a real cultural centre. They have a playground for children with swings, a see-saw and toy cars-huge toy cars but their biggest win I think is their restaurant because of location, ambience and food.

Somali huts

The playground


The spring at Daryell
It’s located along a spring that is so scenic and the girls here don’t play when it comes to looking pretty both in person and in pictures  because they carry change of clothes to this place so that they look most beautiful for pictures.

'He had first been excited by Facebook,ghosts of old friends suddenly morphing to life with wives and husbands and children,and photos trailed by comments.But he began to be appalled by the air of unreality,the careful manipulation of images to create a parallel that people had taken with Facebook in mind,placing in the background things of which they were proud'-Americanah (yes to some Chimamanda wisdom)

The number of girls that were taking pictures here!!!!!!

Word of advise(to myself mostly): Do not let FB or any social media pictures lie to you. People are carrying bags full of clothes,mirrors and make-up to make sure they look put together for the pictures they post there and before posting they filter and edit(I know the irony of me saying this in a blog that is also some sort of social media) but most of what goes onto people’s online profiles is them show-casing their best side don’t think ‘I am doing so badly’ based on comparisons drawn from social media.


The lights in the trees

They have this out-door sitting arrangement with a view of either the water or trees,whatever suits your fancy and there is loads of trees and they are planting  more, It feels like being in this fancy garden and we were there until it was dark and they have lights in the trees :-) :-).I really liked these lights (the villager in me).


:-) :-)
We all really loved the food but then I don’t eat out much and can’t be an authority on how better it is than for other places, they serve generous portions,have this epic bas-bas(home-made chilli) to go with it and the rest of the people I was with swore it is better than all the other big restaurants in the town and from the few times I have eaten out they aren’t priced too badly.

So how this changes my 'normal routine' I have found some place to go hang out :-) :-).

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The thing around your neck(book review)-part 2

What nobody tells you about writing book reviews is; review it as soon as you can because if you delay and review it a month or two later (like in this case),you don’t remember the story/stories as clearly.You look at the book, all the yellow highlights, some you get and some you have to re-read the whole page to understand why they ‘qualified’ to be highlighted.

Here goes stories number 5-8.This means there is still stories 9-12 J J, see; books that have short stories are a steal to read because 12 stories in 1 book  are great (but a lot of work to review)

On Monday Last Week

''Hi, Kamara,’’ Tracy had said, coming toward her. ’I’m Tracy’’. Her voice was deep and her womanly body was fluid and her sweater and hands were paint-stained.
‘’Oh,hello’’, Kamara said, smiling. ’’Nice to finally meet you, Tracy’’.
Kamara held out a hand but Tracy came close and touched her chin. Did you ever wear braces?
‘’Braces ?’’
‘’You have the most beautiful teeth.’’

On Monday Last Week tells the story of two college sweet hearts Tobechi and Kamara who met and fell in love while at University and got married soon after graduation. Tobechi goes to America immediately after, leaving his new wife behind. It takes 6 years for him to sort his papers and to be able to have Kamara join him. When Kamara finally goes to America a lot has changed and she even wonders if he is the same man she married.

She stared at him as he spoke, his Igbo interspersed with English that had an ungainly American accent; ‘’Amah go’’ for ‘’I will go’’. He had not spoken like that on the phone. Or had he, and she had not noticed? Was it simply seeing him that was different and that it was Tobechi of university that she had expected to find? He excavated memories and aired them, rejoiced in them: Do you remember the night we bought Suya in the rain? She remembered. She remembered that there had been a crackling thunderstorm and the electric bulb were blinking and they had eaten soggy grilled meat with raw onions that made their eyes water. She remembered, too, how their relationship had been filled with an effortless ease. Now, their silences were awkward, but she told herself that things will get better.

Tobechi persuades Kamara to look for a babysitting job despite her having a masters degree from Nigeria as she waits for him to sort out his papers to show that he is married to her, so that she could get her work permit and get a good job.

She gets a job to baby sit a boy called Josh whose Dad (Neil) is a lawyer and mum (Tracy) is an artist. The dad is the one that is actively engage in raising the boy as the mother is an artist who needs her time to herself to finalise on her works of art as she is working on a tight deadline driven schedule.

But on a certain Monday (aka Monday last week) Tracy comes from her work hide-out and this woman is a woman who as Kamara will come to realize has skills for making people feel special(very special at that) and yet they mean nothing to her , she looks deep into Kamara’s eyes and tells her the way she has beautiful teeth and that she would love to draw her and Kamara is so happy that she even starts watching what she eats, plans to buy make-up and is generally happier than she has been in days because she is going to be an artist’s model and be drawn. Only to realize that Josh’s mum is like that with every one when his French teacher visits to give him French classes at home and she meets his mum who goes ahead to complement her on her eyes, making the teacher feel so special.

Neil introduced them. Maren extended her hand and Tracy took it.
‘’Are you wearing contacts?’’ Tracy asked.
‘’Contacts? No.’’
‘’You have the most unusual eyes.Violet’’. Tracy was still holding Maren’s hand.
‘’Oh.Thank you!’’Maren giggled nervously
‘’Have you ever been an artist’s model?’’...............................................................

Phrases/quotes I liked in this story.

You speak such good English, he said, and it annoyed her, his surprise, his assumption that English was somehow his personal property. And because of this, although Tobechi had warned her not to mention her education, she told Neil that she had a masters’ degree, that she had recently arrived in America and wanted to earn a little money babysitting while waiting for her green card application to be processed so that she could get a proper work permit.

She had come to understand that American parenting was juggling of anxieties, and that it came with having too much food: a sated belly gave Americans time to worry that their child might have a rare disease that they had just read about, made them think that they had a right to protect their children from disappointment and want and failure. A sated belly gave Americans the luxury of praising themselves for being good parents, as if caring for one’s child were the exception rather than the rule.

Jumping Monkey Hill

'That evening the Tanzanian read an excerpt of his story about the killings in the Congo, from the view point of a militiaman, a man full of prurient violence .Edward said it would be the lead story in the Oratory, that it was urgent and relevant, that it brought news.’

This story is about a group of writers at a writers’ workshop where they each have to write an ‘African story’ and share it before the workshop ends. Each evening one of the writers reads their story and the others discuss, praise and critic it. Jumping Monkey Hill is the name of the resort where the workshop is held.

The writers’ conference has been organized by a white British man (Edward) who in the story comes off as a condescending man who thinks he knows more about what an African story should be even more than the writers who are from different African countries. He is also keener on the typical African stories of war and hunger in the continent as opposed to other things that can be happening and are happening in the continent.

‘Then he (Edward) looked at Ujunwa, in the way one would look at a child who refused to keep still in church and said that he wasn’t speaking as an Oxford trained Africanist, but as one who was keen on the real Africa and not the imposing of Western ideas on African venues.’

The writers know all this but they are all trying to be in his good books because they know he has the ability/networks to link them to agents and writing grants.The story is told through Ujunwa who is a female writer from Nigeria whose story for this workshop is based on her own life experiences but when she reads it Edward says;

‘’It’s never quite like that in real life, is it? Women are never victims in that sort of crude way and certainly not in Nigeria. Nigeria has women in high positions. The most powerful cabinet minister today is a woman.’’

Quotes/Phrases I liked from this story

‘The next day at breakfast, Isabel used just such a tone when she sat next to Ujunwa and said that surely, with that exquisite bone structure, Ujunwa had to come from Nigerian royal stock. The first thing that came to Ujunwa’s mind was to ask if Isabel ever needed royal blood to explain the good looks of friends back in London. She did not ask that but instead said-because she could not resist-that she was indeed a princess and came from an ancient lineage and that one of her forebears had captured a Portuguese trader in the seventeenth century and kept him, pampered, and oiled, in a royal cage.’

‘’But why do we say nothing? ” Ujunwa asked. She raised her voice and looked at the others. ”Why do we always say nothing?”

The thing around your neck

‘It wasn’t just to your parents you wanted to write, it was also to your friends, and cousins and aunts and uncles. But you could never afford enough perfumes and clothes and handbags and shoes to go around and still pay your rent on what you earned at the waitressing job, so you wrote to nobody.’

This story is about a girl who gets a green card and travels to America where before she went, her, her family and friends thought that everyone was rich and had big cars and houses. She arrives in America and realizes the realities there couldn’t be more different, she works as a waitress and struggles to make ends meet.

Then she meets and has a relationship with a white man who is one of those white people who is really privileged and is able to take time (years) of school to go find himself and do things like buying gifts just for the sake of gifting(buying gifts that have no use). Who even despite all these privileges he has because of his parents despises them and doesn’t want to spend time with them, which she doesn’t understand.

Because of how different the country is from what she expected when she came, she doesn’t write home to anyone but always sends money, but when she sees the bad relationship that her boyfriend has with his parents she finally writes home, finds out that her father passed on :-( and decides to go visit her family.

I read this story and could not figure the meaning of the title from the story because for all the other stories, it’s pretty easy to understand the co-relation between the titles and the content of the story.Of-course there is the mention of the thing around the main character’s neck in the story and it loosening but more than that you don’t get a direct meaning (for sure I didn’t) of what it is.

Quotes/Phrases I liked from this story

You said no the following four days to going out with him ,because you were uncomfortable with the way he looked at your face, that intense, consuming way he looked at your face that made you reluctant to walk away .And then, the fifth night, you panicked when he was not standing at the door after your shift. You prayed for the first time in a long time and when he came up behind you and said hey, you said yes, you would go out with him, even before he asked. You were scared he would not ask again.

When I say Chimamanda writes for a female audience best believe because such lines only women can fully appreciate them.

In later weeks, though, you wanted to write because you had stories to tell. You wanted to write about the surprising openness of the people in America, how eagerly they told you about their mother fighting cancer, about their sister in-law’s preemie, the kind of things one should hide or should reveal only to the family members that wished them well. You wanted to write about how people left so much food on their plates and crumpled a few dollar bills down, as though it was an offering, expiation for the wasted food. You wanted to write about rich people who wore shabby clothes and tattered sneakers, who looked like the night watchman in front of the large compounds in Lagos. You wanted to write that rich Americans were thin and poor Americans were fat and that many did not have a big house and car; you still were not sure about the guns though, because they might have them inside their pockets.

The American Embassy.

Two days ago she buried her child in a grave near a vegetable patch in their ancestral hometown of Umunnachi, surrounded by well-wishers she did not remember now. The day before, she had driven her husband in the boot of their Toyota to the home of a friend, who smuggled him out of the country, And the day before that, she hadn’t needed to take a passport photo; her life was normal and she had taken Ugonna to school, bought him a sausage roll at Mr.Biggs, had sung along with Majek Fashek on her car radio. If a fortune teller had told her that she, in the space of a few days would no longer recognize her life, she would have laughed.

The American Embassy is a story of a newspaper reporter who wrote articles that were anti-government and because of this the president or some really powerful person in the government had ordered that he is assassinated but he got this information before hand and therefore was able to flee in time. The hired goons came to his house and accidentally killed his only child. It tells the story of how his wife tries to get a visa to travel to the states as an asylum seeker and her experience and that of others trying to get their visas at the American embassy.

Quotes/Phrases I liked from this story

‘She looked at the next window for a moment, at a man in a dark suit who was leaning close to the screen, reverently, as though praying to the visa interviewer behind. And she realized that she would gladly die at the hands of the man in the black hooded shirt or the one with the shiny bald head before she said a word about Ugonna (the son) to this interviewer, or to anybody at the American embassy. Before she hawked Ugonna for a visa to safety.’

‘’Government’’ was such a big label, it was freeing, it gave people room to maneuver and excuse and re-blame. Three men like her husband or her brother or the man behind her on the visa line. Three men.’’

She looked at the faded lips, moving to show tiny teeth. Faded pink lips in a freckled, insulated face. She had the urge to ask the interviewer if the stories in the New Nigeria were worth the life of a child. But she didn’t. She doubted that the visa interviewer knew about pro-democracy newspapers or about the long, tired lines outside the embassy gates in cordoned-off areas with no shade where the furious sun caused friendships and headaches and despair.’

‘A new life. It was Ugonna who had given her a new life, surprised by how quickly she took to the new identity he gave her. ’’I’m Ugonna’s mother,’’ she would say at his nursery school, to teachers, to parents of other children.’