Gone Tribal……

Mark Twain wrote:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

People need to travel – for the sake of those they share their space with,

because it opens up our world,

and helps build confidence,

enriching our interpersonal relationships through shared experiences.

For the record, these bags contained all personal items, school books and musical instruments for an extended stay. Still tough for Eric though who always travels with carry-on only no matter the distance – to be fair to ourselves we did follow suite when we traveled from the Middle East to Sri-Lanka – showing huge restraint, mind you!

My personal preference, when it comes to exploring the planet has always been to plant a few roots, rather than take a 7 in 7 style tour…..Sharing a space in the village provides a hands on experience that I believe cannot happen on a ‘back-pack/fly-by’.

Whether attending junior high in Texas, packing fish in Iceland, counselling kids in the Catskill’s, serving cocktails on the Greek Isles or playing ‘house’ along the shores of East Africa, my travel experiences have helped mold me.

And now back ‘on the road’ my style – I am immersed in yet another set of cultures, different from my own – and far from the place I call home.

It has been an amazing experience to travel again and share the experience of travel with my kids and through it I have watched them grow in many positive ways, as they have had to cope with saying goodbye and saying hello – dealt with international arrivals and departures, overnight flights, odd looking cuisine, the fluidity of expat culture and very different currencies, cultural beliefs and rituals..and they are, I believe, open-minded, nonprejudicial and are certainly not bigots –

But don’t for a moment be fooled into believing that it is all happy, fun, glam filled days of games, travel-play, sight seeing and smooth sailing…

Packing up and saying goodbye to those you love and the space you consider home is no easy task.

And while I am grateful each and every day (although deeply heart-sore that the situation exists) that we are not being forced into traveling on foot with whatever we can manage to carry on our backs – as ours is a privileged and protected experience – it still has aspects of physical but mostly emotional rigor and it takes courage to walk into a new environment with your happy-face on, your head held high and your hand outstretched – and if you don’t, the result is real loneliness…

So there are plenty of positives that result from experiencing beautiful, interesting and different places, and tapping into the tantalizing taste of something new, along with the momentary escape from one’s current reality: and who doesn’t need a piece of that every once in awhile??

But there is perhaps the biggest positive of all…

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and that is the deep appreciation of what you have left behind – which perhaps is only realized through distancing oneself for a while,

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and the joy felt when you return to your people, whoever they might be..and realize that you, too, have a tribe……

October 2016: Celebrating the rigor of travel and the love of home.

Cinnamon Island

Half way between Galle and Welligama along the southern coast of Sri Lanka lies a lake of islands.

On an afternoon of small swell and easterly winds sweet Kalana took a break from his Nokia and loaded us into his beloved tuk- tuk to brave the coastal highway traffic.

Passing colonial ruins, fishermen on poles, coconut groves and surf spots,

we arrive to a boatman waiting along the bank, in hope of trade. We provided him with his afternoon’s income and he provided us with a gentle ride across the expanse of water, past Temple Island, Spice Island and Bird Island,

to the docking point at Cinnamon Island.

If the mood takes, a fish pedicure is on offer at a makeshift cleaning station on a  raft floating at the waters edge. Declining we head up a clove- tree lined path to the shelter at the top, where the Island Keeper and his family live.

The welcome is hospitable and seating provided under the shelter of the homestead stoep with Cinnamon tea served as we await the demonstration. The Cinnamon Man’s smile is shy but firmly consensual when I ask if I may take pictures.

With the confidence of a showman that contradicts his shy demeanor he assures me that this is no problem. His photo has traveled far and wide…

I have no doubt it has…. tourists flow steadily through this lovely space over the seasonal months.

It is easy to understand why. The tea is delicious and the atmosphere  gently hypnotic.

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Calmly we watch as The Cinnamon Man works his tools to remove one curled layer of cinnamon bark from a branch – to be dried in the sun.His wife smashes and sieves dried cinnamon out in front of us, leaving swirls of pungent and exotic aromas floating in the air, which we carry away with us as we head back down the path to the waters edge…….

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First Quarter, 2016 – Celebrating the Spices of Life… Lanka Style!

 

Embracing Change

2015 has been a year of change for our family. Changing homes and changing countries.

I am not sure what part of these types of process’s are more stressful – the planning and anticipation, or the actual events, none the less, here we are, settling into life in the Middle East – a far cry and distance from Chintsa East on the Southern Coast of South Africa.

The Kingdom of Bahrain – our current spot on The Rock – is an archipelago of 18 islands, many of which are  joined to the mainland by causeways or landfill.

Once a central part of the ancient Dulmin Civilization which spread across Southern Iraq and Kuwait, its name refers to ‘two seas’ – although no one seems quite clear  which two seas exactly….

With a heritage rich in pearl diving, fishing and trading, the island now offers fabulous Malls and pretty good infrastructure but is sadly lacking in quality beaches or any obvious beach pride – even though the ocean is still used extensively for fishing and recreation.

The sea is beautiful and the patches of green that have survived in between the ongoing and extensive development allude to what was once a garden island, apparently milder in temperature before the bulk of it trees were removed. In fact rumour has it that this may well have been the site or at least the inspiration for the original garden story…way back when…

Now dust and heat prevail through the scorching summers although the winters I am assured, are milder.

From pearls and trade, Bahrain discovered and moved into oil production and a new stage of  wealth. Oil transportation pipes run along side many of the highways (see the image above) and with oil came currency which in turn led to banking – now another part of Bahrain’s personality, with the Dinar rated as one of the world’s strongest currencies.

Down the road from our complex lies the 25 km long King Fhad Causeway joining Bahrain to Saudi. Since the start of the oil years Bahrain has become a haven for families of expats working in Saudi, offering what many consider a more liberal lifestyle.

Apparently around half the population currently living in Bahrain are expat, and as of yet I have still to come across anyone who speaks negatively of their experience here. Rather telling…

While Bahrain may not be shiny pearls, palms and peace- all of the time – it has provided us so far with some fascinating experiences, including extreme heat, friendly people, diverse cultures, fabulous food and insight into Arabic and Muslim lifestyles. We also get to spend regular time together as a family which makes for a much needed change 🙂

Last week I sat around a  table drinking coffee and chatting with some of the women living around us. Strong, interesting women from Germany, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, The States, France and Scotland. I came away from that experience feeling exhilarated – who wouldn’t?  I anticipate an interesting journey ahead…

For More on the In’s and Out’s of Bahrain read my friend IIka’s blog An Expat in Bahrain – A Guide to Loving Life at:  https://ilkaclune.wordpress.com/

Sept / Oct 2015 – Celebrating New Experiences and our move to Bahrain   

Business School for Beginners

Home-schooling or rather Un-schooling – Who was to know the intensity of it when we first started out? ‘Full-on’ is a word that springs to mind when I think about the level of engagement required. Survival at times requires pulling tricks out of a hat, which if well presented, might even be understood as some of the very best free-range education.

So when 9 year old Sarah decided that running a Pancake and Coffee Stall at the beach was her ideal way to spend the summer holidays, we (the doting parents) happily jumped on board….thinking this would be a fine way for her to learn a few business skills. That was back in the beginning and we were still naïve, but you can read more about that adventure here.

The short of it was that as the cheap labour force, we (the doting parents) quickly decided that this level of educational input was overkill, especially when the wind blew east and the kites went up and we were stuck tossing pancakes or packing up gazeboes. Fortunately our daughter agreed and anyway she was rich now and wouldn’t need to work again for sometime.

We came away from this experience having learnt the following lessons: We learnt that working through the holidays is challenging, tiring and frustrating although admittedly fun at times. We learnt how to work together as a family, and we certainly learnt how to toss a pancake.

And because sharing is caring, when a local Play-School decided to throw a fund-raiser the following year we volunteered our now expert pancake skills. So for the past few years our pancake stall equipment has been dusted off once a year for the Acacia Tree School’s Moonlight Market Fundraiser.

But then, just as we were settling comfortably into our annual routine, Angus the ‘Nougat Guy’ spotted us, possibly drawn to our talent and flare – although more likely drawn to the smell of pancakes smothered in cinnamon sugar and lemon – and invited us to join a monthly town market underway and in desperate need of a Pancake Stall.

Now the thought of pancakes once a month was far more manageable than every. day. of. the. holidays… and Leah was showing strong potential as assistant to her big sister and now expert Pancake Stall Manager, Sarah. Of course the continuation of their business skills program (the girls are responsible for everything) and extra pocket money couldn’t hurt either.

But the deeper truth as to why this was such a great learning opportunity and needed to be developed lay in the fact that ‘Mom’ loves a Market (almost, although not quite as much as she loves a Junk Shop) and was drawn to the idea of floating around, coffee in hand, perusing the love and toil on display in between hanging out with buddy Lou who runs a divine food stall just down the row…. while the ‘lil ones worked for their income and learnt more about the ‘Real World’.

Hah! How time does blur the memory…and as usual I was the one getting the lesson.

While the girls are responsible for everything, the cheap labour force I find, is still very much in demand at quite an intense level –  admittedly and thankfully this improves with each passing month as our little entrepreneurs grow into their roles.

However for the time-being even The Dad gets roped in if Market Day happens to fall on a home stint.

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And so, pancake experts we are. Business skills we have, and  Saturday sees another Market at the Crossings. I will be the apron clad Mom sweating behind the pan and not the glamorous, well heeled, Suburban House Wife sipping on her take-out Cappuccino while looking down her designer nose at the make-shift Pancake Stall being run on child labour.

See you there!

Celebrating a Year of Crossings Markets and Pancake Tossing. Oct / Nov 2014 

Romeo and Juliet

My friend Leigh says our funny old house is like one big bird hide…surrounded by bush and river we have an abundance of indigenous birdlife. So imagine our surprise when a bit over a year back a pair of peacocks came prancing down our garden path.

South Africa is not peacock territory although these creatures have graced our fair land since the way back when’s – brought over from India at some point, no doubt to decorate the lawns of early Cape Town’s ‘well-to-do’.

Now they are listed as an ‘exotic nuisance species’ and apparently have been known to eat the eggs of sea birds. Certainly they are not fussy eaters and gobbled up everything from lentils to cat-food pellets, including my ‘nice’ muesli, all depending on what the girls could get their hands into first when ever the two arrived for a snack.

According to my Bird Book, peacocks in South Africa are widely domesticated with the exception of a few who have broken away and are found living the wild life in small pockets of the Eastern and Western Cape!

We were deeply excited. Perhaps here before our very eyes was the beginnings of a flock of wild peacocks on the make…..

And so we waited for the flock to arrive… through autumn, through winter and with much anticipation….through spring. The two would come and go but surely spring would bring babies? But when summer arrived and past we could only assume that any eggs that might have been laid had long been turned into monkey breakfasts and there would be no further generations to follow…

until one blissful autumn morning as I stepped out onto the stoep with my morning cup of tea I watched Juliet arrive out of the undergrowth with three baba-chicks in tow ready for their ‘first viewing’  -displaying them proudly across the jungle gym.

 Oh the joy!  For the next six weeks we spent most of our time feeding and counting peachicks…

The littlest, the most adventurous of the crew, was always a nerve-wrecking few steps behind or wandering off in another direction,

causing us multiple heart palpitations as we would wait for the threesome to dutifully line up for counting at each break of day – allowing us to go about our business at peace, knowing that all was well in peacock world.

And then one day they where gone. Heartbreaking but true. We mourned over our loss having anticipated watching them grow into the beautiful beasties that they are…proud invaders of the local bush, harassers of  monkeys and rulers of stray village pigs…but it was not to be.

During this time a cottage had been built behind us and with our new neighbours came  their Labrador pup – a chaser of anything that moves as lab pups are. More than once we watched feathers fly as the fowl family sashayed unsuspectingly into the pup’s range. But with each advance the birds simply moved up – because although flight distance doesn’t seem to be a strength peacocks seem to have no issue gaining height. We held little hope for the long term though and assumed that if they had survived the last assault they had now taken flight to safer grounds.

Fortunately the village rumour mill finally kicked in and all was revealed from Claire, who heard it from Sarah who heard it from…

Turns out that this beautiful couple had been earmarked for the palacial lawns of a local Guest House by the Grand Dame in residence. Funny enough the cultivated lawns and mock-rock didn’t appeal as much as the bushy surrounds of the river shack down at the back-side of the village, an area lacking in cultivation but rich in character. The distressed owner, it is said, went to great lengths to keep her new garden guests on her lawns, holding one captive for a spell in order to persuade the other to stay – but these two chose freedom. She did however come back to claim the young. And although we would have preferred that they stuck around our side, we rest easier knowing that they are still alive.

Romeo and Juliet are not around at the moment but their screeching can still be heard on occasion in the distance. Hopefully they followed the chicks home and are now all together, living it up at The Palace.

And now we wait, in anticipation…for  spring, summer, autumn……

Celebrating Bird Life -Indigenous and Exotic Nuisance.  Chintsa Autumn 2014