Sunday, 5 December 2010

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Thought for the day

"Forgive others the way you
would want God to forgive you"

Sunday, 21 November 2010

~Autumn in the UK~

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. ~John Muir

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~Kahlil Gibran

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

"I am an African"

I am an African
Not because I was born there
But because my heart beats with Africa’s
I am an African
Not because my skin is black
But because my mind is engaged by Africa
I am an African
Not because I live on its soil
But because my soul is at home in Africa

When Africa weeps for her children
My cheeks are stained with tears
When Africa honours her elders
My head is bowed in respect
When Africa mourns for her victims
My hands are joined in prayer
When Africa celebrates her triumphs
My feet are alive with dancing

I am an African
For her blue skies take my breath away
And my hope for the future is bright
I am an African
For her people greet me as family
And teach me the meaning of community
I am an African
For her wildness quenches my spirit
And brings me closer to the source of life

When the music of Africa beats in the wind
My blood pulses to its rhythm
And I become the essence of sound
When the colours of Africa dazzle in the sun
My senses drink in its rainbow
And I become the palette of nature
When the stories of Africa echo round the fire
My feet walk in its pathways
And I become the footprints of history

I am an African
Because she is the cradle of our birth
And nurtures an ancient wisdom
I am an African
Because she lives in the world’s shadow
And bursts with a radiant luminosity
I am an African
Because she is the land of tomorrow
And I recognise her gifts as sacred

-Wayne Visser

Friday, 27 August 2010

Vegetable Orchestra


gotta love creative minds! =)

Thursday, 12 August 2010

More Mali Moments

On the ride back from Timbuktu, I was once again in the boot of the 4 by 4. At least this time, there was the cutest little Tuareg boy, Khalil, on his way to Bamako. He insisted on sharing his cookies with me and when we reached Dounza, we said our good-byes. I got on another bus going to Sevarre. A bit later, I saw little Khalil who took another bus to get there as well en route to Bamako. He gave me a bottle of pineapple soda and insisted I take it. “S’il te plait” he said in the cutest way ever. How could I refuse? I took a sip and tried giving it back. He insisted I take the whole thing and showed me he too had a bottle. Awww. My heart melted. Someone that was riding with us from Timbuktu to Sevarre said to me in French that Khalil has fallen in love with you and I said no, I have fallen in love with him.

Between parts 3 and 4 of the ride back to Djenne from Timbuktu, I was waiting on a bench under a straw roof. I decided to start unbraiding my hair since it was so dirty and I knew de-braiding was no easy feat. A little girl just came up and started helping me, exchanging only a few words. Then she told me she had to wash dishes and she’d be back. She came back with a little “truc” (since everything in Mali seems to be called that) and continued unbraiding. She told me she was from Gao but only here with her dad because of school holiday. After some time, my ride to Djenne was ready to go, so I thanked her and was on my way. In Djenne I was sitting outside and attempting to finish the unbraiding process when six little girls came up and just started helping. It’s this community feel and moments like these that made my trip so enjoyable.

In Bamako, I stayed at the Auberge Sleeping Camel, recommended by the American I met in Djenne. I stayed in the dorm and was waiting for the bathroom. A guy walked out, we greeted each other, and immediately knew we both looked really familiar to each other. I told him he looked really familiar and he told me he recognized my face. I asked if he was from Senegal. It turns out he was my neighbor in Senegal 5 years ago and dated my housemate Claudine. And here we are 5 years later in Bamako at the same hostel. We reminisced about Senegal and our mutual friends. He called my host family in Senegal and I spoke to Marieme, who is now married. (who isn’t married?) He apparently opened up a restaurant in Dakar, but is in Bamako for business. He works in the gold and diamond business. Sounded a little sketchy, but what a chance encounter.

My life is always more spontaneous when I’m abroad. My last day in Mali, which was a Sunday, while wandering through the streets of Bamako, I happened upon 4 French tourists and their Ivoirian friend living in Mali. They were attempting to hail a cab. Finally, they were getting in and Vanessa, who is half Cameroonian, said they were going to a wedding. “Le Dimanche a Bamako, c’est le jour de marriage” (Just like the song!), meaning Sunday in Bamako is the day for weddings. She invited me along. Who’s wedding? Where? When? Questions aside, they were leaving and I joined them. Turned out to be so much fun, with lots of food, music, colorful outfits, excited guests and hosts, and of course dancing. Afterwards, as I was leaving, the Ivoirian took my number and later that night invited me to Soul train, an Ivoirian club with lots of good music. If it wasn’t my last night in Bamako, I probably wouldn’t have gone and if I wasn’t in Bamako, I most definitely wouldn’t have gone, but voila: that was my last day in Mali!


Monday, 9 August 2010

More Moments in Mali

I decided to cook one day so after my “grocery shopping experience” at the Djenne Monday Market, I came back to my residence. This morning, however, was a naming ceremony for a baby girl and a goat was sacrificed. For some reason the head of the goat was left in the kitchen. I let out a little yelp when I saw it, to which the people around laughed, covered its head with a piece of cloth, and assured me it was dead and that it wouldn’t do anything. Somehow I managed to cook my meal in the same room as the goat head.

Sitting across from me, on the way to Timbuktu, was a guy whose pants were now brown and orange. I realized his pants were once white, and I was once excited to go to Timbuktu. But sitting in the boot of a car made for about six or seven people total, instead it held 19—one man rode on top with the luggage, sitting on half a seat, in full body contact with at least two other people, covered in dust and orange sand, sweating constantly, and my body slamming into the window every time we rode over a bump, I was definitely less than thrilled about Timbuktu, never knowing how far we were or if this place even existed. This was now the fourth and supposedly last leg of the trip, the previous three transfers no more enjoyable. How 19 people and a whole lot of luggage managed to make it to Timbuktu, I’m not completely sure..
In the end I did make it there and they stamped my passport. It exists!

Right outside the town of Timbuktu is the vast Sahara desert. And it’s beautiful. During my second night there, I went out to the sand dunes and caught the sun setting in the vast open desert. Afterwards, while coming back into town, I somehow caught myself in the middle of a goat stampede! It was nuts! Out of nowhere, hundreds of goats were running in my direction. I got out of the way as quickly as possible and attempted to catch a picture, but only caught the end bit of the stampede!

During my Senegal trip literally everywhere I went someone asked me if I was Pulaar/Fulaani, especially when my hair was braided and I was nice and dark. The Fulaani people tend to be lighter in skin tone and have smaller frames. The same would happen in Mali. Most of the boys I hung out with were Fulaani. So once again, I was an honorary Fulaani girl. Sorri said I was a member of the long-sleeve family and called me his sister from another mother.
One day we were sitting across the Djenne mosque on a hot, idle afternoon and two very traditional looking Pulaar girls from a nearby village came up and told the boys I looked Pulaar. They were in Djenne that day to sell milk that they carried in baskets on their heads.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Moments in Mali (cont.)

One hot afternoon, I was hanging out with the guys in “the group” in their normal hangout—the straw structure in the main square of Djenne facing the large mud Mosque when Papice saw a girl walking by. Adama yelled out and Papice quickly caught up with her. They stood exchanging some words, while the other guys eagerly looked on. Then he left while she waited and moments later he reappeared with his moto and she got on the back. All the guys hanging out in their straw hangout cheered and clapped. A few minutes later, he came back with a sheepish grin on his face as he told us her feet were hurting and she needed a ride.
…oh sweet romance…

Day 12 in Djenne: Usually when I leave all the kids yell out Toubab and sometimes it’s endearing, but sometimes not so much. But, once as I was leaving, three girls that live near the Residence Tapama yelled out “Rozina”. And then the next day, as I was sitting in the courtyard of Tapama where the little kids come to draw water from the well, a little girl Aminata and a boy were busy drawing water that they didn’t notice me at first. Then Aminata looked up and waved and gave me one of her cute smiles. She and the boy exchanged some words, presumably in Bambara and she said something with Rozina in the sentence. It made me smile.

I descended the staircase of the home of the woman I had just interviewed. I ran into a friend named Mohammed 5. He was with another Malian and 2 toubabs. I shook hands with Mohammed 5 and greeted the others in French. They were on their way to Chez Baba a small restaurant in Djenne. I decided to join them. It turned out that one of the guys was American and the other British. The American is from Batavia, IL (about 10 minutes from where I live in the States). It also turned out that we both ran cross-country in high school, so we were definitely at the same meets, probably at Leroy oaks and we both went to U of I, where we probably took some common classes. And we meet in Djenne, Mali.
Love chance encounters…

I was sitting on a bench next to four little girls sharing couscous, while waiting for my friend. The girls turned to me, starting asking me my name and ca va? Then they came closer and cute little Djenaba touched my hair and amid her Bambara I heard her say “mesh” (in reference to my hair). I replied saying, “C’est pas mesh. C’est le vrai cheveux” … “It’s not mesh. It’s real hair,” to which they all gasped and started touching my hair, never having seen braids as long as mine not made of mesh. Then they each took a section and further braided the braids. The whole event was quite precious.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Moments in Mali

“Celebrate every gorgeous moment” – Sark

I was sitting in the courtyard of the place where I stayed, going through an article for my research. Tanti, the woman who runs the place, had two friends visiting – one was Jenaba, a woman I had interviewed earlier that day. They turned on the TV and exclaimed something about the Ghana match that was about to begin. Adama and I also brought our chairs closer to watch. Jenaba, who started off the interview claiming she knew nothing about the dam in Djenne knew a whole lot about the world cup. Her and Adama discussed what teams were still playing and they discussed the rules and proceedings of the world cup. Then an older man who had just come back from prayers realized the game was on, exclaimed something, brought a chair closer, put on his big glasses and was completely absorbed in the game. He would yell things in French or Fulani like “Penalté”, The best was when Ghana scored, he did a victory dance, his arms in the air circling around his chair as he was cheering. It was awesome. Too bad Ghana lost…

Day 2 in Djenne: I was interviewing Samba, who works at the residence where I am staying. The residence owner has white pigeons in the courtyard and there was a random bird among the pigeons. So, Samba was asked to take the bird outside. So he grabbed it by its wings and rejoined me for the interview. Meanwhile the bird was fluttering and spazzing. I think I was more concerned and scared with what was happening with the bird, than concerned with the interview.

Getting my hair braided was quite the affair. I’m not sure Nana, my “hairdresser”, had ever done toubab hair—aka non African hair. 10 hours, over 2 days, 3 power outages, and a baby peeing on my lap later, I came out with a head full of braids but it looked more like a colorful helmet. They don’t have black hair ties and Nana insisted on starting each braid with a brightly colored hair tie.
We started the process in what would be called the foyer. It was extremely hot, but sometimes the little kids would join us and occasionally fan us with the straw fans. I had some refreshing, but extremely sugary bisap (hibiscus) juice. After it started getting darker, we moved to the courtyard, the main part of the house. The air was still hot and sticky. I realized in the courtyard just how small the house was and just how big the family was. We ate some millet together and then Nana got back to braiding my thick and super long hair.
After the sun was setting, we moved into their one room of a house. Luckily, they had a fan because the sun setting didn’t cool anything down. Throughout all of this, I was talking to Hawa, Fatoumata, and Baba, three adorable kids that lived there – 2 were Nana’s siblings and one was her niece. The power went out a number of times and Nana used the little flashlight I had with me. I wondered how this would affect how my hair was going to look…
The next morning I went back to finish the braid helmet, where I met her older sister and her new born daughter who peed on me while Nana continued pulling at my hair. It was hot, sticky, painful, and at times chaotic.
But there was something about that family that I loved. Their smiles, their family-ness, hospitality, music…

In the late afternoon/early evenings, I usually took my book or my journal and would sit outside. The little boys and girls often gathered around to talk, ask me to take their pictures, or ask for a cadeau (gift). I brought out nail polish one day and that did the trick. The girls were so thrilled, squealing about the nail polish, blowing each other’s fingernails and equally excited each time someone got her nails painted.

I re-met 4 French tourists I met while leaving Bamako. They were on their way to Dogon Country and I to Djenne. They made their way to Djenne 6 days later with Shapé, their Malian guide. The 2 boys went searching for water and drinks to have with dinner. It had been a while since they left and when Shapé came back, he asked where they were. Véronique replied by saying maybe they’ve ended up in Timbuktu. It’s funny because it’s actually sort of a possibility…

8 kilometers from Djenne is the small village Soala, where the dam is set to be constructed. I went there on the back of Adama’s moto. As we approached the village, I was greeted with dozens of giddy children jumping up and down exclaiming “Toubabay! Toubabay!” wanting to shake my hand. The same but to a lesser extent happens in Djenne all the time.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Sunday, 20 June 2010

A Recipe for GPISH

written by my classmate, Amira:

A recipe for GPISH

Take fifteen students,

Select from as wide a range of backgrounds as possible – this will enhance the flavour of the final dish

Allow to infuse with Arabic and marinate for a month.

Transfer to pressure cooker and add the following ingredients:

A few handfuls of reading material – be generous with this

A teaspoon of new concepts – but add it slowly or the mixture will curdle

A dash of wit and humour to spice things up.

Pepper with unfamiliar languages – Arabic, Persian, a dash of Urdu, a pinch of Tajik, a drop of Swahili

Turn up the heat in the discussions so that all the flavours combine well – but be careful, some might clash!

Test the mixture periodically and adjust the flavouring with high grades or low, to taste.

Take out and leave to chill for a summer, then return to pressure cooker and double the heat.

Stir in application forms and references, a few at a time.

Add some exotic specialisms and a healthy dose of passion

Throw in a few handfuls of ologies and isms – the bigger the variety, the better.

Remove the mixture from the pressure cooker and expose to some Spanish flavours, then return.

Strain through a sieve of research methodology and project work.

Serve warm at universities across the UK - and abroad - with a side order of critical thinking and creativity.

To all of you who have been our “chefs”

You have cooked, stirred, heated, tested, combined flavours in new and exciting ways.

They say that the best meals are the ones that are cooked with love and care – if that is true, then GPISH is the tastiest product on the menu.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

The end of a chapter.

And here we are again..
“Another turning point and fork stuck in the road”
What is it about the old Green Day song that gets me every time?
Finishing one chapter and moving on.
So much happened in the past two years. So much.
And now all of it gets packed up as “photographs or still frames in my mind”
Change is a good thing. But what gets me about it is that no matter what you try to do, no matter who you try to meet up with or catch up with, no matter what, the situation will be different. Might be better, might be worse, but the memories created can never be recreated.
It’s inevitable that you will lose touch with some. Some people that were simply acquaintances or friendly faces will go their own ways..
But the world is round.
Maybe we will meet again.
Until then..
“Make the best of this lesson learned in time, It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right. I hope you had the time of your life.”
Ok, the song is a bit cliché, but I don’t like when things end.
And things are ending.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

"A Sweet Disposition"

If you don't know what you want, and thought you loved someone, but were hurt and disappointed and thought you would have done something differently, but are not really sure, and things didn't quite work out, but in the end they did and you're still kind of unsettled, but know it's better.
All you know at the end of it, is that you didn't know what you wanted. So how can you be mad at the universe for not giving you what you wanted if you never even knew what that was?

But let's say, you knew exactly what you wanted, how you wanted it, when you wanted it, and slowly, little by little, it all fell into place just that way you imagined. Well, that is the universe working for you as it promises it will.

The first step: figure out what you want. not just kind of, but what you truly want. Embrace and imagine it, and don't settle for anything. Because things really do fall into place as they should. Just figure it out, believe, and wait, and then experience your dream manifesting.

(dedicated to st and zs)


Sunday, 30 May 2010

Sunrise to Sunset

“To sleep under the stars, who could ask for more, and the moon keeping watch over me”
-Phil Collins

The camel ride into the sunset that took us to the Sahara desert was a bumpy, but beautiful ride. And no doubt would leave us sore for the next day or two, but it was incredible. We watched the shadows of our camels get longer as the sun dipped further into the horizon, while the sky was being illuminated with hues of yellow and pink. It was simply breathtaking.

After we dismounted from our camels, and watched the sun completely set into the dunes, we rested on the sand dunes of the Sahara on the mild may night. Stars began appearing one by one, soon decorating the night sky; the North Star the brightest, and the moon the sky’s nightlight. Seeing three shooting starts was priceless. A bright flashing light that shone and cut through the sky. At some point, you completely lose yourself in wonder, and it was just you and nature, you and God. When you get up, you shake the sand from your hair and occasionally crunch on the sand grains that managed to blow into your mouth. And the next morning completes the experience, with the sun rising up from behind the mountains adorning the sand dunes with a glow.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

"Out There"

A poem I read on the tube, while I was with S.T. (who I accidentally called TP). For some reason we were laughing so hard I was crying and her insides were hurting, making the poem and the moment all the more memorable :)

If space begins at an indefinite zone
where the chance of two gas molecules colliding
is rarer than a green dog or a blue moon
then that's as near as we can get to nothing.

Nostalgia for the earth and its atmosphere
weakens the flesh and bones of cosmonauts
One woke to find his crewmate in a space suit
and asked where he was going. For a walk.

He had to sleep between him and the air - lock.
Another heard a dog bark and a child cry
halfway to the moon. What once had been
where heaven was, is barren beyond imagining
and never so keenly as from out there can
the lost feel earth's the only paradise.

-James McKendrick

Saturday, 8 May 2010

"Are you searching for your soul? Then come out of your own prison. Leave the little stream and join the river that flows to the ocean. Like an Ox, don't pull the wheel of this world on your back. Take off the burden, whirl and circle. Rise above the wheel of the world. There is another view."


Monday, 3 May 2010

"Hope is not a plan"

They say things fall into place when the time is right.
For the most part, I believe this. Things do fall into place as they should when the time is right.
Things always fall into place in my life.
Almost always.
But at what point are you supposed to take things into your own hands?
Isn’t there a “shelf life” (Z.S. 2009) for how long you’re supposed to wait for something to fall into place?
At some point you have to take things into your own hands.
You can’t just sit around and wait for things to happen.
It’s easier to do that…
To leave things to God, the universe, fate…
But at some point, you realize you’re not 15, you’ve had enough “me” time, and you’re ready to take that next step.
And if it’s something that’s been on your mind or in your thoughts for a long time (going on 15 years), then at least you need to know that you tried..
Even if it means you have to make a sacrifice or step out of the comfort zone, it’s definitely time to take a stand.
If it’s an epic fail, and you have to be ready for that too, then at least you know you tried.
Is it better to take the risk than be sitting in Timbuktu (literally)?
Well, sitting in Timbuktu is actually pretty sweet and the fact that you might sacrifice doing that for something else, is huge.
But I think it’s time that I take that step and then I’ll leave it to God, the universe, fate to decide what happens next.
At least I can say I tried…
“Hope is not a plan” (S.G. 2010)

Saturday, 17 April 2010

perfect day

Cool breeze
Cherry blossoms
Farmer’s market
Rolling hills
Reading in the park
Rolling down hills
Getting dizzy
Fresh air
Sweet tomatoes

April 17, 2010

Sunday, 21 March 2010


Dear friends,

Today was perfect in many ways.

I am so blessed…

The amount of thought, love, effort, and sincerity put into today…by everyone

The signs, the cake, the food, the flowers, the music, the stories, the gifts, the love, the dancing, the hugs, the smiles, the wishes, the blessings, the friends, the sun, the love, the love, the love…

My favorites from today:
ST as a clumsy 8 year old boy on TV, “I found a tree in my plate”, Z’s grocery shopping extravaganza and Salahuddin Ayubbid (story of the year!), the sock jumping, rent/zent/lent/fent/nent/went/sent/ment…

And every moment in between..

Thanks for rekindling the sweetness in my life,


Friday, 5 March 2010

A matter of perspective

Kids and pigeons.

The cutest sight. Ever.

A runny-nosed, pink-cheeked, bundled up, four year old boy squealing as he chases pigeons that don’t seem scared, rather annoyed that they must fly 2 feet away only to have to do it again as the excited runny-nosed, pink-cheeked, bundled up four year old gets excited all over again.

His mother less so, as she is hurrying to get to where she needs to be.

But the ephemeral moment of bliss for this boy is worth pausing for. Smile and appreciate this moment, this unadulterated moment that involves only a pigeon, most don’t stop twice to think about.

Most are annoyed, disgusted by these “rats with wings”, but if we just observe kids and pigeons…

Our days might just slightly improve.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

on elephants

Taken from Random Acts of Heroic Love:

“Elephants live to seventy, reach adulthood at twenty and socialize in groups. When an elephant dies in the wild, the other members of the herd will stand over the corpse for days mourning. In one case over a hundred elephants stood vigil over a dead elephant. One of them tried to pick it up and stand it on its feet nearly sixty times before eventually giving up. Sometimes they will cover the body with leaves and branches. Eventually with visible signs of distress they will leave the corpse but they often return over the following days to pay their respects. One female elephant was observed leaving the herd and walking thirty miles to visit the bones of a recently departed mate. Whenever elephants pass the place where another elephant dies they will stop and stand in silence for long periods. They might pick up the bones affectionately and hug them as if mourning the loss. In a zoo in India a female elephant watched her cage mate die while giving birth to a stillborn calf. She stood stock still for a long time until her legs eventually gave way. For three weeks she lay in one spot with her trunk curled up, her ears drooping and her eyes moist. No matter how hard they tried her keepers could not persuade her to eat. They watched her slowly starve herself to death.”

-Danny Scheinmann

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

"Don't Just Like"

A blackberry ad I came across and liked/(loved?) that builds on my last post...

“Don’t just like.”
Like is watered-down love.
Like is mediocre.
Like is the wishy-washy emotion of the content.
Athletes don’t do it for the like of a sport.
Artists don’t suffer for the like of art.
There is no I Like N.Y. t-shirt.
And Romeo didn’t just like Juliet.

LOVE. Now that’s powerful stuff.
Love changes things.
Upsets things.
Conquers things.
Love is at the root of everything good that has ever happened, and will ever happen.
LOVE what you do.

Saturday, 9 January 2010


TM is a source of inspiration, not in the way he teaches or his ability to teach, but in his passion for the subject that he teaches. Out of my class of 15, only 8 are present for his final lecture in a series of classes. Not that my class has an amazing attendance track record, but TM’s teaching style definitely contributes to the lack of motivation to attend class. Often, as I look up at him and around at the class, I know at times he is talking to himself, fascinated by whatever it is he is presenting. The class is either preparing for another class, taking notes that are basically just words on a paper with no coherence, googling directions for a place they must be after class, checking email behind their laptop screens, practicing writing with their left hands, or simply daydreaming. While TM may not be able to teach to the class’s level or whatever it is the class requires, thus making the class less than a phenomenal one, one cannot leave without admiring his passion—something so many people lack. I find that people do things half-heartedly, and so TM is a breath of fresh air in a sense that he can be so engrossed and excited about a topic that he has spent years studying.