Thursday, January 29, 2009

Meet Larry

Posted by Picasa

Happy Larry.

Larry likes to watch us in the shower.

We worry about Larry.

Is he a perv?

Monday, January 26, 2009


I have been tagged to muse on 6 random things. So

1. Do you think fish fart?
2. How long do you think Repunzel's hair actually was? And how did she brace herself when that bloke climbed up. And didn't it HURT?
3. I wonder how much sushi I could eat in one sitting before I vomit. It's on my to-do list as soon as I have the baby.
4. No sushi when pregnant? No wine when pregnant? Who MAKES these rules? (yes, yes, I know)
5. Can you really only fold a piece of paper a certain number of times?
6. Why don't cats get sick when they lick their bums?

oh. Finished already.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

War stories

I’ve just finished reading “Rainbow’s End” by Lauren St John. It’s a story about growing up in the war in Rhodesia and coming of age in newly independent Zimbabwe. I love books written in that era – 1970’s and 80’s Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi. It’s all so familiar to me. Same with “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dog’s Tonight” by Alexandra Fuller. The trick of course is to make it appeal to a wider audience, which these two fabulous women do perfectly.

During the Independence struggles in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe I was a kid – I turned 4 when Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980 so I remember little about that time. The only thing I do remember about the war across the border in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe is hearing about daily raids on the farms (looking for spies I think) and seeing burnt out trucks on the side of the road and always being on the look-out for ambushes. I used to sleep with hands up by my ears in an “I surrender” pose, in case they came in the night when I was asleep and tried to shoot me. I figured I’d be safe!

The burned out truck on the side of the road (“get down kids, don’t look”) was actually the doing of a spy in our midst that we were not aware of. A white Zimbabwean, Rhodesian I suppose he was, came to Chibembe, our dry season camp saying he was the son of a lady who was killed by a lion years before and he was looking for answers. We knew of the lady who had been killed and I think my dad even took him to the spot where she’d disappeared. As is the way in the bush and in small communities, more so in that day than now, the guy hung around and we took him under our wing and he became part of the family. When it was time to move, with the first rains, to Mazabuka, a farming area near the Zim/Rhodesia border this guy came with us. Anyway, years later it turned out he was a spy – for the Selous Scouts I think – and was up to all sorts of naughty mischief, including blowing up trucks, leaving charred bodies scattered on the road and in the trees.

The rainy season – from November to April – made our usual home too wet and waterlogged to live in so we’d drive for two days in our old Landy down to Mazabuka. Our six monthly treks were always fraught with roadblocks and bullying soldiers who thought we were Rhodesian spies. They’d stop the car and strip it down, turn our bags upside down, squeeze out our tubes of toothpaste. And of course anything khaki in our bags was highly suspicious and was irrefutable proof that we were, indeed, spies, not people in the safari business. These stops often took hours and were always accompanied by crazy wild-eyed youth pointing leering guns in our faces.

Early one morning, at the farm, my grandfather was leaving to go into town. Any trip he did he’d always leave before dawn. Even if the drive was only two hours and he’d get there before the shops would open, he would leave at 4 in the morning; its just the way he was! Anyway, so 4 o’clock on a dewy Mazabuka morning my grandfather and parents were up early for a trip into town. My sister and I were asleep and warm, oblivious, in our beds. Gathering in the reeds by the dam was a group of young, doped up, power hungry soldiers getting ready to raid our farm. So of course when they saw my grandfather and parents leaving while it was still dark they assumed they were doing a runner. I don’t remember this, I was too young – I was also asleep! – but I’m told that the soldiers had my parents lying on the ground, each with a gun in their face. My mother said she looked up at the star speckled sky and saw a gorgeous full still moon and thought “what a lovely morning to die!” To my grandfather they shouted “run old man, run” hoping for an excuse to gun someone down. My grandfather, quick thinking, said “I can’t I’ve injured my ankle”. They raided the house and dug up the garden (looking for buried firearms). They found a bag of dope in my mother’s cupboard. “Is this yours?” My mother is not good with authority. Expelled from school, fearless of people with guns in her face (numerous occasions) she gets bolshy. She can’t help it. So instead of denying it, looking innocent “what me? What IS that?” she was like “Yeah, what if it is!” Anyway, it’s a very long story. The short version being that it got taken to court (I guess she was arrested? I’m not sure) and my grandfather went to wake up a lawyer, Mr Patel, and they managed to plead to the magistrate’s kind heart, “mother of two children….personal use….” Etc. And she got off.

That same night they’d done a raid on our neighbours and found a matchbox of dope. R, the owner of the dope, was feeling confident and blasé about the court case - my mother had gotten off and she had a whole bag full. So he was cocky and confident in front of the magistrate, who didn’t like that and locked him up. They appealed and for the next court hearing he was told to be more respectful to the magistrate. “He’s the magistrate, you need to call him Your Honour”. R, not wanting to get sent back to prison was extra nervous and when he was called said, “yes, yes your majesty!” My dad loves that story.

Those times I suppose were wrought with uncertainty and danger (for the grownups anyway. Us kids just ran around naked, shoving soya beans up our noses, eating the horses’ molasses and getting dirty). But I suppose they were also happy free times. Not completely in the war (like Lauren StJohn was in the book I’ve just read), on the edge, but everyday things still tinged with danger, enough to make you appreciate life so much more.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Just a normal night out in Arusha or Gunfight at the Lively Lady

Husband is away in Nairobi for a few days so instead of hanging out at home alone I thought I’d take some mates up on an offer to go out. We all meet at The Lively Lady. Its one of those places that is a bit of a diamond in the rough. In town, just off the main road up a rickety back road; dirt, potholed. Right next to Mitumba – a big open warehouse of second hand clothes and surrounded by other tin shack shops and bars. It’s a funky place, small, neat and kind of surprising really. You know the way finding a pretty pebble or a shiny trinket in the mud is. Something like that! When you drive up you think “okaaay, is my car going to be safe here?”, but there are guards and the place feels like a little oasis. Clean swept, lots of pot plants, mats, funky pictures on the walls. There is a little outside bit with varnished tables and we pull three up together and all sit there outside and have a merry evening.

One by one, two by two people start to leave until there are 7 of us left. Just as I get up to go too a gunshot goes off at the little makeshift bar fifty metres away. It’s a little tin shack bar lit by paraffin lamps so its hard to see what’s going on. A woman shouts and falls to the ground. Lizzie says, “I think that place has just been robbed we should get out of here.” Someone else says “Ah, maybe that’s not the best time to go. All of us out and exposed in our cars? People with guns?” Good point. A moment of limbo. More shots. Two, three. Then three in quick succession from two feet in font of us. Turns out that’s a customer (or owner? Owner’s friend?) who has let off three shots. As in “don’t even try to come here, we’re not to be messed with”. Everyone still standing up in limbo, wondering whether to be British about the whole thing* and not cause a fuss or to hide under the tables. A couple of people get behind a small counter and as more shots go off Kim says to me, “Miranda, get inside, you’re two for the price of one!” And suddenly everyone is around the pregnant lady pushing me to safety! Well, relative safety. What friends I have!!! While all this is going on there is a table of four big burly Sikh men who are watching us with great amusement and just stay put.

So anyway, we get inside and then think. Hmmm, now what? Another drink? So everyone has another drink coz really what else are we going to do? I’m thinking, okay if they do come in here next they’ll probably want our bags so I’ll move my car keys to my pocket so they don’t get those. The barman/owner is very nonchalant “Don’t worry, it’s a domestic,” he says. "I bet there's some woman in there with a man she's not supposed to be with". The waiter has been outside to investigate. Miracle of miracles the police/rapid response people are already there. He says that it was indeed a domestic and a lady has been shot. In the hand I believe. Lizzy wants to go and do First Aid but the owner stops her and says that there is someone there doing it, not to go out. The barman/owner says “ah, women are very bad here” I look at him then look at us. We are a party of 7 and 6 of us are women. “I think you’re outnumbered” I say. “Oh no no, I don’t mean women like you I mean the local women, I mean…..” That she deserved it? Is that what he is implying? I don’t want to go down that road, doesn’t seem anyone does either. So we neck our drinks and decide to call it a night.

*Did you hear that thing on the BBC today that said that more British people died on the Titanic than anyone else coz they all stood in line for the lifeboats and said “no, you first” “No really, I insist” !!!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Serengeti picures

I go through phases on this here blog. Sometimes I'm joyous and confident and write silly things, bla things, whatever things and I don't mind. Other times I think "really, who CARES!"

I'm going through one of those 'oh geez, really - who cares' phases so to minimize the words, some pics celebrate this country I am learning to call my new home.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Karen at Border Town Notes has very kindly interviewed me. I also said I'd be interviewed by Reya so I'm sorry about that, there may be more to come. It may all be a be a bit me me me but what can I say? Turns out I love talking about me me me!

Tell me about where you were born, and where else you've lived in your life till now?
I was born in Joburg, South Africa almost 33 years ago on a cold January morning. Haha. I doubt it was a cold January morning, but it sounded good, no? I think my parents gave it a couple of months in South Africa and as soon as possible we dashed back to Zambia. I lived the first 6 or 7 years in a wee grass house at Chibembe - a remote camp in the middle of the South Luangwa National Park, where my grandfather (who’d moved to Zambia in the 1930’s from Malawi) ran a safari lodge. In the rainy season the whole place flooded and became waterlogged so we’d live for 6 months every rainy season in Mazabuka, a farming area a few hours drive from the capital, Lusaka. In the early 80’s (84?) we moved to Kapani, to the site where my family still live today. It’s a village set up, not very fancy, although now all our houses are brick (mine is half wooden, half brick and very higgedly piggeldy) and not bamboo and grass anymore. I was home schooled until I reached secondary school age (11), when I went to boarding school in neighbouring Malawi. Oh but before that, we tried to live for just over a year in South Africa. Just to check that we weren’t missing out on anything, My sister and I were put into proper schools and frankly we found it pretty weird. I’ve written about it somewhere before on this blog I think. So we didn’t last long and came scurrying back home. So boarding school in Malawi for 5 years, then university in South Africa – Rhodes. And then, well, back home again. I am a country bumpkin at heart. Went out of Africa for my first time when I was 20, went round Europe and loved it. But was ready to come home by the end of it. That was quite an experience. I LOVE travelling and work has taken me to the States and to all of Southern Africa. Trying to make up for lost time now and try to go and visit a new place every year. Went to South East Asia last year. Oh and November last year I moved to Tanzania.

Would you like to share a profound, or life-changing event that has happened to you?
Well, I suppose all events slowly change our lives as we live it so I don’t think I have one particular moment that changed my life forever. If I had to choose one moment that affected me deeply however, I suppose it would have to be the sudden death of my childhood friend, who was killed by an elephant in 2000. I wrote about it here. The death of a close friend knocks you off balance, doesn’t it? But with that comes understanding and compassion and a new understanding of life. It’s his birthday today. He would have been 32.

Tell me about something you enjoy doing to express your creativity?
Both my parents are artists so although I was born into a creative family the specific drawing, painting gene? Nope, passed me by. Instead I channel it through theatre. Specifically production and directing. I love it (lucky it’s also my job!). It can be very frustrating of course but I just love to see how a piece can come together. How an idea in your head, with the collaboration of actors can turn into something poignant or funny or beautiful (that’s the idea anyway!). And I love that once you’ve done your bit it gets taken over by the actors and although you’re still involved, giving notes, organizing things and so on it can move virtually on its own. And also the magic of the fact that every single performance is different.

I also love taking pictures although I know nothing about it.

What is the nicest thing anybody has ever done for you?
Well, geez at the risk of sounding cheesy I’m going to have to say that having the upbringing I did is probably the nicest thing that anybody has ever done for me If that makes sense. I know it wasn’t really sacrifice on my parents’ behalf as they had (have) a fantastic life in the bush but doing something nice for someone doesn’t have to be a sacrifice does it? Okay I’ve just reread that and I’m not sure it makes complete sense but it works in my head so…..

If you could travel back in time, where would you like to go, and why?

I’ve always been fascinated by ancient Greece (I studied Classical Civilization – and Drama – at university) and I would love to go there to check it out. I’m not sure at exactly which point I’d like to step in – maybe at its height? Or can I zip around to different places and different times just to see? Please please?

Ooooh thanks that was fun! Hope I didn’t bore you!

Potential interviewees?
If anybody else wants to have a go: here are your instructions:
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions and let me know when you have posted it, so I can link it.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview
someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask
them five questions.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The good the bad and the ugly (not necessarily in that order)

What do I write about today? What shall I tell you?

Shall I tell you about Iwomba? Serious, quiet Iwomba of the sparse smiles and knowing eyes. Who I have known since I was born. Since before I was born. Who taught my sister and I how to fish. Who rustled up curries from nothing. Who could read the ways of the bush and knew which plants were medicine and which were not. But would never tell. How he used to cure us with leaves and roots – how those scorpion stings would just disintegrate under his artful touch. Iwomba who gave me the first pumpkins from his crop every year because I drove his very sick daughter to the hospital early one morning and donated blood to her. You saved her life, he would tell me, here is something from my first harvest. Who went to his field last week with his two wives to work. Who felt tired and disorientated and was put to bed by his wives who then went back to the field. How the wives came back later and he was gone. Never to be seen again. How people searched and searched, linked arms and walked the area over and over. How they had to have a funeral for him without a body. How the last time I saw him he proudly re-introduced me to his daughter, who I’d driven to the hospital all those years ago, a grown woman now. How as I left his village last, laden with mangoes he’d given me I thought, “I wonder if this is the last time I will see you?”

Or shall I tell you about the morbes? How I am fighting them back with a big black stick. I won’t let them get too near.

Or shall I rather tell you about my dear friend Robbee who is visiting? Robbee, who is a proper firiend, a true friend. You know the kind? Who you can say anything to and it doesn’t matter. Who is driving from Nairobi to South Africa in a powder blue (with a white stripe down the side) 1962 Ford Cortina (I think!). Who is looking for someone to keep him company. Oh how I’d love to do that! Who is a pilot and has been flying all OVER the place in the last few years. West Africa, Gabon, Congo, Guinea,, oh I don’t remember all the places. Robbee who says: “my new years resolution is to seize opportunity more and do more things.” My dear, I think you are doing that already and we love and admire you for it!

Or I could tell you about the little boy I saw yesterday running down the deserted street with a three foot aeroplane made out of tin rattling along behind him on a string. Or the car parked by the side of the road in town covered, but COVERED in fake croc shoes. If that’s your thing. I took a picture but it’s not very good. I shall try to take another.

Or maybe what I’ll rather do is head out into town and look for more quirky peculiar things to cheer me up.

Yes, that’s what I’ll do.

photo of Iwomba by Francois D'elbee

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Eggs or sex?

I am a

Call 0862 1346 8623

Thinking of putting this up in the local phone booth. What do you reckon?

(Oh and I apologise if that really is someone's number - it's bound to be isn't it! SOMEone, SOMEwhere!)

Friday, January 2, 2009

"That secret issue" and new years eve happenings

So did you all have a good New Year's Eve? Did you get WRECKED??* I didn't but I DID manage to stay up until THREE THIRTY which just NEVER happens to me on New Year's Eve. I'm usually snugly tucked up in bed or indecently sprawled in a gutter somewhere by ten o'clock, latest. But this year went out with some mates to dinner and then on to an open house party (we're still kinda new to this town so didn't know heaps of people but enough). Had fun and kissed lots of drunk strangers (not with tongue, you understand!) and told lots of people that I'm pregnant.

Which is true incidentally.

Oh the lies and deception in trying to keep THAT one a secret. (I'm still not exactly sure WHY we were keeping it a secret. I know, its risk of miscarriage the sadness that brings and all but I still wanted to shout it from the rooftops. They don't call me The Foghorn for nothing). But it's not a secret anymore and I'm FINALLY feeling able to breathe in the evenings without wanting to vom (and it's called morning sickness....why?). My sister of course knew immediately and called from South Africa about half an hour after I’d done my (third!) pregnancy test and said “So, you pregnant yet.” Heh heh.

So anyway, my brain has been a little fuddled of late as my posts have probably shown you, and I apologise for future fuddledness – I’ll try not to use pregnancy as an excuse. I’ll also try not to become one of those mothers that tells you all about the baby’s spit and poo, and tiny perfect fingers although I can’t promise that. If I do would please just cyber-tap me on the shoulder and say (pssst you're BORING us). Thanks. Appreciated.

It's really going to hurt isn't it? There seems to be a general conspiracy against actually saying how painful childbirth is, have you noticed? Everyone says "oh yes it hurts a bit, but then the baby comes and...." and they get all glazed over and talk about the miracle of life and spit and poo and perfect fingers and toes. Ah blast. Except Janelle that is who said she bellowed and I will too. She said with her first child she yelled at the doctor "PULL IT OUT, JUST PULL IT OUT!" So that's comforting.

So pregnancy aside I have heaps to do; a years worth of finances to sort through for my company in Zambia, fundraising to get them out here in the next couple of months, oh and I need to meet with the people who have commissioned four plays from me for next year - I mean this year - to tell them I have a thinglette growing in my tummy and try to figure out how to fit the 4 plays in before July. Eeek.

Anyway blab la bla. There I go slipping into the boring already.

Hmmm, now is there anyone I haven’t told who is going to get offended by reading this news on the Internet, I wonder?

Well, only one way to find out.

*This is my war-cry. "Lets get WRECKED!". Oh how very childish

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Positive thinking

Isn’t it funny how we put the bad things from our mind? Dwell on them as briefly as is necessary and move on. Search for the positive, the lessons.

Maybe this isn’t the case for everyone and maybe I’m just really lucky that my default setting is positive and happy but I’m sure we all do it to a point. When I did an overview of my year it looked fabulous and peachy, no? And it was. Oh yes it really was. A great year. They almost always are.

But only after I got a few comments saying how lucky I was did I think, yes I really am. Except of course Jo-Jo dying (of a brain tumour after she had successfully battled cancer through sheer positive thought). And Silky (who died suddenly of an Ebola like disease) and dear Janine, my best friend from university who is battling cervical cancer. And that I didn’t manage to make an awful lot of money this year since I’m starting out in a brand new country with all the bureaucracy setting up a new company involves, with a new language etc. And just now I was looking through some pictures from the year and saw the wreckage of the fire from when my husband’s office burned down (his second month in to his new job), taking most of the operational side of the company with it. And I thought, Oh yeah, I forgot about that!

But why focus on these negative things? Jo-Jo taught us all so much about love and life and the power of positive thinking. And Silky was one of those gorgeous people, an aura of sunshine. A barefoot glowing cherub, we were lucky to have known her. And Janine? Well I’m afraid I’m still in denial there so…..

And what’s not earning much money when you have all these new opportunities coming rushing at you from the sidelines and headlong? A new language to learn – how exciting is that! New actors to train! We didn’t starve this year. We have food, we have health, we have loved ones.

I don’t mean to sound glib. When you experience the death of a close friend or family member I know it can knock you off kilter for years. And terrible terrible things happen that it’s hard to pick yourself up from. But if you focus on the small bad things it doesn’t help anyone. I really believe that negativity breeds bad things, I really do. What’s a fire to worry about when no-one got hurt? Okay it destroyed everything material and half the complex but really, so what? Husband now has a lovely tent in the garden as an office and that’s much nicer!

The point is you could focus on all the negatives but where would that leave you? There is always a positive, always a lesson and I think we should all consciously do more of that this year and see if my theory is right and focusing on the positive really does enhance our life and make us happier…

What harm can it do?