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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Monday, 30 June 2008

Personal Accalamation

I came late to 2000 Pulitzer-Prize winner, Jhumpa Lahiri's collection of nine short stories called Interpreter of Maladies. It was just yesterday when I finally finished the slim paperback in a couple of hours. The day before, it had been Saudi dental student, Raja Alsanea's banned Girls of Riyadh.

When all the adulation was going on beforehand in the New York Times, I lived in Melbourne, Australia, engulfed in another life and so knew nothing about it. At the time, I tip-toed around South Asian literature with caution and politeness. This after the delight of Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things and Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy. I think Manju Kapoor's Different Daughters was the furthest I ever got in my passions...and when I wanted something different would pick stories from the South Pacific. Women writers from Tahiti or the Fiji Islands often seek careers with agents and publishing houses in Melbourne and Sydney and their novels are easily available.

It was only after I moved to London in 2003, that I began to probe stories from my father's homeland with a new impatience and far greater intensity. Now, South Asian literature together with Middle-Eastern literature both grip me with separate feverish longings. Moods have certainly turned around in the present day with Indian writers worldwide holding daring and extraordinary themes to their work.

In England, I had read Lahiri's The Namesake and was drawn to the fictitious Ganguli family; the sympathy afforded to the North Indian mother who fell out of place in America and to her American-born son, Gogol, who fell out of place in India. I loved the subtle questioning and riveting tale. Then a friend had said that the plot was surely weak when compared to those earlier prize-winning short stories. Today, 5 years later, I'd happily disagree. Although Interpreter of Maladies is beautifully sentimental and affords no room for any kind of pretentious language, I think The Namesake is still a highly important novel for the subject of emigration and the soothing acceptance of a displaced identity. Now, I have Lahiri's newest short story collection Unaccustomed Earth waiting with some eagerness on my bookshelf. I can't wait. At the moment, it still stays on the bestseller list of the New York Times.


Saturday, 28 June 2008

I need to think about this now.

I am finding it rather hard to keep this blog going. Not that I'm depressed about it or bored by the thought. Just that I have started to write fiction again and such a venture tends to take up a lot of time plus that conscious mental energy that already consumes me - with some pleasure as I must admit - for what I'm writing at the moment. It is my second day back and today as I had resolved, I wrote a fair bit and also finished reading a 300-page novel, Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea whose refreshing and breathtaking story of 4 daring, liberal women, is currently banned in Saudi Arabia. Yes, I finished this in a few hours.
When I first started blogging it was great fun. But then I was a professional journalist who had stopped writing creatively to travel for a few years and so blogging helped me find my footsteps and voice as a writer of stories and poems once more. I now feel I've moved on to a different level. I have found those steps and also my voice and these are now concentrated on my new stories. Everytime, I think about a blog entry, it feels like I have to look over my shoulder, retreat a little and go back to something that I may have already said goodbye to. Did I then? Did I say goodbye to blogging somewhere along the way and not realise it? I am surprised at my own conclusions but at the moment, blogging seems like something terribly distant on my path. It also feels a slight chore especially that I am selfish with my time.
I admire anyone who writes books and stories and still keeps up a regular blog. It feels like my heart has changed places. But then each of us owns up to different motivations and visions for keeping a blog in the first place. I suppose the right thing to do would be to say, see you in 3 months, 6 months or even a year. After all, it has been 2 years for me and many of the same bloggers are still around. So I wouldn't expect much change.
What do I want to do? Understanding myself so well, I would eventually shy away from something that wasn't benefiting me in any way. I need to think really hard about this in the next few days.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

June 27, 2008

I returned to Dublin today carting a bag of books; titles from East Africa, Dubai and a few interesting classics from London, mainly stories that I hadn't yet spotted here. All the time I had to restrain myself from buying more.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Still in London.

Monday, 23 June 2008

I've just left East Africa and am in London at the moment.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

As I'm constantly on the move, I'll fill this blog again on my return to Ireland sometime next week. It will be back to my thoughts on books and writing. I'll just say thanks very much, to the few who read me faithfully up to now. Much appreciated.

Monday, 16 June 2008

I am enjoying myself so very much in Tanzania. It's really painful for me not to be able to tell you all more but this is of course, temporary. I'm collecting all my material for stories so if I gave out too much it wouldn't be fun anymore. I hope when the time comes that you will want to read of comical episodes and startling experiences.

Far from a holiday, my trip turned serious and purposeful as soon as I stepped into Dar and it really happened this way without any planning. There was so much raw material here...so much to explore. Most of the present Tanzanian literature revolves around the Kilimanjaro or the Masai tribsefolk but hardly anywhere else.

I have been trekking the slum areas and also enjoying the entertainment afforded to the lower-income group, this mostly in poor fishing villages. Their social outings and daily lifestyles are totally different from anyone else. The majority of expatriates and tourists avoid these places like the plague believing them to be dangerous or ready to smite one with ill-health. With the help of Lemington my guide, I was able to venture into unknown territory. Tanzanians are a peace-loving lot and with a few exceptions are polite. They can be dour but courtesy and sincere smiles can take the foreigner a long way even if you're still learning the language. In such places, I am the only outsider.

Sometimes, when I do need time out, I take myself off to the beach cafes and bookstores, reserved for the discerning tourist or expatriate. Here I write my letters, send postcards, read and reflect on how I want to shape my plots. I have been studying the books sold here with intent and as a result, bought several titles. There is of course, the British Council Library right in the heart of the city centre. The famous bookshop A Novel Idea is where I often purchase my novels. The bookshop owners import the newest titles from Britain so naturally, I feel very much at home. And yes, I do agree that the provide excellent service and that they're the best bookstore chain in East Africa

Wealthy North Indian businessmen mostly from Mumbai and Delhi who are everything from hoteliers, restauranteurs and bankers to tailors, shop-owners and wholesalers own many of the business enterprises here. Imbued with a colourful African culture, there is a strong Indian heritage here quite unlike anywhere else even in Malaysia. Many own expensive homes and drive luxury Land Cruisers.

This morning as I sauntered along the road, a young man who had been hacked at the back of his neck ran past me, so swiftly and quietly, that his feet made no sound on the ground. His stealthly movements left me shocked and I stood stunned as he passed me by a hair's breath. It was clear that someone had attempted to behead him but while having caused the poor guy serious injury, had not got very far. The youth spotted deep cuts, was bloodied and blood trailed everywhere as he ran with fright. His trousers were in ribbons but he simply shot by like a gazelle; silent, sharp and alert even if it meant that he had to keep turning back with a watchful and desperate eye. His desperate struggle for survival and a fear for his attackers, forced the man to ignore his searing pain. He glanced over his shoulder with a strange grace. His determination was nothing short of miraculous.
Again it all felt unreal almost as if I had passed through a fictitious scene. I was unaccompanied today. Everyone was shocked and stood rooted to the ground. Someone shouted for the police - polisi in Swahili - but I gathered that, that was more from a desire to help the unlucky guy. Most of us looked back as well to see if anyone was chasing the injured youth but there was no one waving a machete or giving chase. I know that we all hoped the victim had got away on time. Already in a few seconds as he slid past the watching crowd who had made space for him, he had simply vanished like he had never been.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

In Tanzania

I'm sorry for all the grammatical errors in my last post. I'm writing everything in a rush these days and only have 10 minutes for this post before I have to dash outdoors again.
When I return to Ireland, I shall narrate more snippets and anecdotes. It's pretty difficult now.
I spent yesterday at Bagamoyo. The ruins are spectacular. Even Germans set up shop in the town and the village folk do dress in how shall I put it...a sort of ancient Arabian culture. I don't have the right terms for those costumes but will look it up and write it down later. Think Ali Baba & the Forty Thieves or even Arabian Nights and you're close.
There were gravesites of Sultans and their many wives. These were represented by imposing stone fortresses and these were at least 900 years old. There was also an ancient mosque. The port has now turned into an eerie-looking mangrove swamp where the sea still drifts into the mud and trees.
I went to take some pictures while Lemington my guide and the driver waited atop the hill. Suddenly, I felt chilled to the bone and decided I should stop. It was a scorching afternoon. I ran up the hill and told Lemington that I thought that there were ghosts. Certainly, there was a different energy and I also felt an icy cold sensation on my skin. I was joking but we became curious.
There were some historians about the places and students on a field trip. But they were nowhere near this specific spot.
We went to see the caretakers and the wife told us that indeed, there were. In her words, spirits. She asked me if I had felt anyone touch me or stroke my skin repeatedly. Well, I said no. She said that it has happened to her family several times. And not just at night. Sometimes, there are the sound of loud and noisy footsteps on the rough stones but you will see no one about the place. Or the sound of a moving vehicle but still nothing. She and her husband said that on such days, no tourists come at all...there simply isn't any business. The family's quarters are on the site and they have lived there a long while. They say they're not harmed but they have seen apparitions and felt touches. Mostly that.
She was only concerned that I was alright and I said, of course. Apparently, this strange energy is strongest at the old port and not the gravesite.
There is also a well that never runs dry no matter who tries to empty it. This is situated near the mangrove swamp. The water has stayed at the same level and spotted the same residue for almost a 1000 years. If anyone tries to clean the well, the next day, it's back to how it's always looked in ancient times.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

In Tanzania

I have collected a fair amount of East African literature and am definitely returning to Ireland with a heavier case.
Tanzanian stories written in English are still far between as Kenya has taken precedence with their writers and poets. Otherwise, the current excitement on African literature in the UK at the moment appears to be concentrated on Nigeria with its new voices and also South Africa. The few Tanzanian novels that are being sold in the bigger bookshops, have been written by Europeans and an Indian novelist. Only the Canadian Indian novelist has achieved a real popularity worldwide as he was published by a mainstream publisher in the UK and was afforded all the right publicity and distribution rights. So there is a rich source of material here, still untapped.
I will talk more about this in Dublin and show you the books I picked up.
Today, I'm on my way to Bagamoyo which means drop your heart. Bagamoyo is an hour's drive away from Dar and it is an ancient slave town which still spots a predominantly Muslim religion and a strong Arabian culture. Hundreds of years ago, many East African slaves were shackled in these town for weeks at a time, by European settlers waiting to sell them off to the passing Arab merchants who sailed into Africa for trade. The slaves knew that once they were caught and shipped out to different countries, that they would never see their loved ones again. Hence, the name, drop your heart. By the way, Dar es Salaam means haven of peace.
What I will get to see are the hundreds of gravesites of forgotten slaves, an old missionary's markets, different villages and an ancient harbour/waterfront no longer used. The markets, villages and mosques differ in architecture from those of Dar.

Friday, 13 June 2008

In Tanzania

Hello everyone or I should say jumbo which is hello in Swahili.
So sorry that I haven't been able to write much; the truth being that I am properly exhausted but happily so.
I have become the quintessential adventurer...able to see myself as such. I am as sunburnt as anything and saunter in the middle of an exotic scene as kindly as if I had been born there.
I mean picture a dusty seaside town with ladies dressed in colourful garb and veils, carrying all sorts of heavy sacks on their heads as calmly as if they were strolling in the park. These agile women also seem to manouvere themselves with great skill as they snake their way through the noisy complicated traffic.
Then there are fruit sellers and only just now, a Masai passed me in his traditional costume, complete with his sword and pole and wearing Gucci sunglasses. He seemed to be in a great hurry. By the way, the Masai are the only people in Tanzania allowed to carry sharp intruments with them in public places. It forms part of their tradition and while they are known to be great warriors; are also a peace-loving tribe and would never intentionally hurt anyone. When you pass a Masai on the street, the greeting is not as other Tanzanians would greet each other which is Karibu meaning welcome and the next person than says Assante meaning thank-you. That makes up for how are you today and I'm fine, thanks.
With a Masai, you say Hero when you see him. You acknowledge his bravery. And the Masai will then graciously salute you as a Hero back. Ahh but the magic of life is so thoughtfully found in the oddest of places.
I'll drop a note tomorrow although this weekend, I'm off to the game parks for my long awaited-safari expedition.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

In Tanzania

I feel that I could have plunged into the middle of a film clip. Everything feels surreal and unreal. Lemington my guide and I have made arrangements with a professional photographer and we will meet him tomorrow on the seaside. He will be taking shots of all the places I've been to so far.
I walk on the roads of Dar armed with a little trepidation. One has to battle with skinny Tanzanians balancing sackfuls of flour, rice, charcoal, bunches of bananas or even scores of coconuts. Those rickety little bicycles are super-hardy. At the same time, there are strolling groups of Masai with their spears, motorcycles, 4-wheel drives and creaky taxis all blaring their horns from different corners. No one stops at a zebra crossing. The restless traffic bears a notorious similarity to some of Rome's busiest roads. There is an incredible amount of dust from the long snake-like coast. There are always cold breezes from the sea. Yet no matter how dusty or crowded the town, there is always the visible sea watching you slyly from a certain angle. Inky blue shades mollycoddling the fast rising tide, sashay to the noisy rhythm of the fishing boats and ferries.
I sat at the Kigamboni cafe once more, retracing my footsteps over and over so that I would remember all the sights, sounds and smells for later. Lively Congolese music filled the air. Lemington complained that the restaurant owner was stupid since every customer would only understand Swahili. I engulfed myself in all these scenes, feeling besotted once again. Lemington had a fierce argument with the waiter over the prices of the fish dishes. The waiter commanded his quarrel with gusto but was thoroughly piqued. Never give a Tanzanian who's selling you something, a big note. Always have the exact change as the cost of the food appears to differ greatly from when you first parted with the money and when you subsequently collect your change. You will also have to remind them of your change or you may not see a single coin. I have become red and sunburnt. My feet ache every single day. In Dar, you can walk for miles and not realise it.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

In Tanzania

Today, Lemington took me right into the slums where walls are nothing but thin partitions and zinc slates make up the roofs. Sometimes the windows are nothing more than holes. The poorer Tanzanians and Masai live in terrible conditions although they are clean and neat. A small room represents a family's complete home, a sink, pail and bucket an entire bathroom, a tiny kerosene stove the whole kitchen and a flask makes up for a fridge. A toilet is shared amongst 30 people. In little villages outside the city centre of Dar, hair salons are conducted under the sun with 3 to 4 girls washing and cutting ladies' hair in the open air. Electricity is rationed by the landlords who own these partitions and shanty shacks. Use up your share of units that had been measured for a specific number of hours beforehand, and for the rest of the day, your little room will have none. With the exception of radios, no one can afford a television. Coffee or tea is drunk black. Milk is considered a luxury and the poor cannot afford it. The beverage most consumed is tap water. Yet, there is contentment; a peaceful unity that persists and stubbornly strengthens the power of surivival.
Yesterday, I went to my favourite bookstore at The Slipway where open air cafes serve delicious fish and chips and with picture postcard scenes of a seaside sunset basking in the horizon. Private boats and yachts sail past. I bought 2 novels on East Africa, written by an Indian and an American respectively and both published in England. I'm too tired to talk about them at the moment although the Indian novelist stays popular in the British media.
I haven't yet planned a safari expedition or a Zanzibar outing as I still haven't recovered from the exhausting plane rides and all the long walks in the scorching sun. Besides, I've been out and about everyday from morning to night. But I did this deliberately wanting to get into the heart of Dar-es-Salam and the people are so friendly, respectful and beautiful that in the end, I believe I almost did.

Monday, 9 June 2008

In Tanzania

Today, I decided to retrace my footsteps with several more ramshackle bus rides, crowded alleyway exploring, and then back again in the sorching sun towards the harbour and waterfront, the fishmarket and especially, retracing a coastline riding on an unexpected high tide while splattered with its party of fishing boats, made from everything starting with the rough barks of trees. I took the same ferry rides in Kigamboni back to the Bandari sunbreeze shanty shacks, bars and makeshift restaurants. I watched another group of little boys swimming, observed them inspecting boats anchored by strangers and watched once more the dhows sailing on to Mozambique. My little adventure has now become intent and focussed as I gather material for a story. Lemington, my guide told me more tales - the sort not recorded in literature - and later I went to an old bookshop in town, reminiscent of smaller ones, commonly found in quiet towns like Klang in Malaysia in the sixties. There were a mix of children's books, lots of grammar and fiction published in places like Nairobi and Mumbai. I bought a few more books to educate myself on the Swahili.
Tomorrow, I must go back and do the same things again so that I can capture the sights, smells, sounds and sensations of a culture that are authentic and real. You always know when a writer is on the outside looking in. Whereas I simply put my shoes in that of the lower-income Tanzanian without ado. I removed my watch, displayed no phone - although mobile phones are common enough - and wore just a simple pants, blouse and a Body Shop bag. I would have been the only foreigner on board the crowded ferrry had it sunk. But of course, I dismissed that morbid thought. Even the policemen waved and smiled, I supposed, amused at my diligence when I so clearly appeared the odd one out. But my face is flushed and my hair is properly windblown and I don't know when I have laughed this much in a long time. There are the funniest quarrels that take place amongst disgruntled friends and family on the road in full public view.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

In Tanzania

I'm so sorry that I've had to close the comments box as I'm not sure that I can return visits and don't wish to disappoint anyone. At the moment, I just don't have the time but will read my few favourite blogs when I do get the chance.
The thing is that I would have reached Tanzania a lot earlier except that I was linked to different locations from a short list of Emirates flights.
Emirates happens to be one of my favourites airlines. It serves up such a good menu and often seems to be ahead of the game with an array of sophisticated facilities that include the reading literature and communication channels.
So anyway, this time round the plane spotted a technical fault and the engineers didn't want to take a risk on it. So it really was quite an adventure at the airport although I'll spare the details for later. The bottom line is that we were driven to hotels, given refreshments and full luxury breakfasts. By this time, most of us had become pretty much acquainted with one another.
The next day, we were taken by coach from Birmingham to Manchester airport and had to board our flight to Dubai later in the afternoon. It was pretty exhausting. As a result, my connecting flight to Dar-es-Salaam stretched on to several hours. When we reached Dubai, some of us with long overhaul flights to Sydney, Singapore etc were already on the list for hotel accomodation. That was indeed a pleasant surprise.
The Arab immigration officer was curious I must say in a very pleasant way. He smiled a lot. He asked me questions about my race and which parts of India my parents were from. He asked me if there were nice beaches in Malaysia. He asked me how the shopping was like as that's where all his friends were going during the summer months.
He asked me if I enjoyed being a writer and with just a transit visa, gave me permission to stay for another 2 months if I wished. The Dubai hotel was truly luxurious. More vouchers. More English breakfasts. I'll say that Emirates looked after us excellently.
Well, when I finally got to Tanzania, I was completely knocked out. The immigration officer in Tanzania appeared maternal and beautiful. For the first time ever, I received a 3-month stay in just 2 minutes with not one question asked, unlike the others. My luggage was not lost. What the heart wants the heart gets. :-)
Today, was the day when it all started to take off. Lemington, my personal guide took me to see the real Africa which I longed for. In the end, I was completely besotted. You see, for the last 6 times or so that I was in Tanzania, I lived as an expatriate does and was always chauffered about. This time, I really desired to get to the heart of the Tanzanian people that I so adored.
Here are just some notes in pointer forms as I'd pin down the real detailing later when I get back to Ireland. I'm not jotting down anything to convey an atmosphere or mood at this point. These routes are were no tourists go with the exception of one whom I saw, a British youth tanned like anything and speaking perfect Swahili. Lemington told me that the youth had himself desired to know the real Dar-es-Salam and chosen to live with the locals.
We went on some truly shaky bus rides - I mean we're talking broken windscreen mirrors, breathtaking corner swerves and where if I had slipped from my seat, would have fallen straight onto the road. Still, I managed magically without having to grab the railings. The locals made way for me. Children gathered around me everywhere. They followed me as we walked. They smiled. Sometimes, they wanted to touch me and I let them; my skin, my hair, my pants. They had such soft and beautiful eyes and they stared as if they were reading me inside out. I wanted to gather all the babies into my arms. to the Kariyo market place, the fishing harbour and the waterfront where fisher-folk were off-loading, auctioning and selling their catch and where scores of women in colourful costumes sat waiting for the boats with their baskets, ready to grab the fishes a-plentiful for sale to the suburbs. We strolled over to the Kigamboni restaurant arcade and had ourselves a typical Swahili meal comprising different fish recipes and tasty sauces. Coke is one of the most popular fizzy drinks here. There are also luscious fruit juices that don't taste the same way anywhere else. We watched several of the dhow (small wooden boats made from tree bark with white flags, similar to the shape of a yacht on their way from the old slave town of Bagamayo gliding slowly on to the Zanzibar or Mozambique. We also watched the other patrons with interest even as others watched me. Lemington pointed out the drug addicts, the drug dealers and the prostitutes. In the middle of all these, were perfectly respectable Tanzanian families having Sunday lunch after church. There were also groups of Indian businessmen, high on beer. Lemington told me that they come here amongst the Swahilis to hide from their nagging wives who haven't a clue where they are and would be intent on divorce if they knew that their husbands consumed alcohol on a regular basis and spent the wages without thought.
Lemington also turned raconteur, narrating ancient proverbs and a couple of folktales, the kind you'd never find in books he insisted and which his grandfather had told him as a little boy.
We took a ramshackle but hardy ferry from Mujini (the city centre where we were) to Kusini (the south side of Dar-es-Salam comprising villages and beaches.) The ferry blared loud African reggae music, the breeze was soft and gentle and the lighter trees swung on their sides. Women selling fruit and fish were returning home. Mothers and fathers were taking children out for the day and young couples were courting in their Sunday best. The sea sparkled and with a ferryload of Tanzanians (I was the only foreigner, whom they were all discreetly eyeing up), I experienced a real sense of exhilaration. I just wanted to shout to the whole world, I AM IN AFRICA!
Later, on the south side we sat at the Sandahari Sea-Breeze bar and I had myself a South African Castle lager. Lemington doesn't drink. We watched skinny little African boys as happy as anything splash about in the water. They also took secret dives (unknown to the drivers) after having sneaked on top of each passing ferry. Lively African music filled the air.
I wouldn't call Tanzania an exotic place at all as I would say that it was probably dreamy and surreal. Later, we returned to town but I had a little jet-lag and so we made our way by foot to an Indian restaurant in the Indian shopping quarter and secluded in a narrow cobbled alley. A funeral went past, bearing with it a protocol of subdued respect that I had never seen before. Anyway, I had a meal with Lemington while every North Indian (because that is what I look like) stared at me with hopeful and what I supposed to be fascinating interest. But then in Dubai, many thought I was Arab too. It's simply the mix of my mother and father's unlikely heritage. From longtime experience I now ignored the stares. We then strode off to an internet cafe where the computers are dipped into shiny glass cases so it feels that you're typing into a mirror or acquarium as you have to keep glancing down instead of up. I've not seen this in any of the other countries I've been to, before.
Later, we took another comical bus ride back to my hotel. Because mine faces the Indian ocean and is a little out of the way, we had to change buses twice. There was a fierce quarrel between the conductor and an irate passenger and Lemington translated everything for me. Of course, I was eagle-eyed. Once more, I felt as if I was right in the middle of a film clip as you never get this kind of thing in Europe or Australia and even South-East Asia is completely different to this ancient African culture.
(I'm sorry I couldn't convey a proper mood or atmosphere for you. This is simply a skeletal composition of all I experienced today.) More later.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

If anyone is still reading this, it's Saturday evening and I have just arrived in Tanzania. I had spent a day and a half in Dubai, not in the airport but went poking about the city a bit. I won't write too much now until I have thought of a way to put my stories down on paper. I have received some extraordinary inspiration for my writing if that makes any sense. You go to the heartland of a land you already know, you dig deep down into the soil to unearth the heartbeat of its people and then you find their souls ready to meet yours with the same longing and richness of spirit.
I have just checked in at the hotel in Dar-es-Salaam - here the city is called Dar for short - amd found that I had actually reserved an interesting looking loft.
I have also met my guide whose name is Lemington. Lemington removed his African name when he turned Christian. He has a wife called Agnes Mathilda and a son named John after John the Baptist. Lemington is going to ask his wife to cook me a typical African meal and invite me over to taste it. Tomorrow, we will check out the city...I told Lemington that instead of zooming around in a private car, that I wouldn't mind the experience of a colourful bus ride. He will be showing me the markets and I will also want to re-visit the coast and harbourfront. That's for tomorrow - Sunday. More later.
Comments closed from now.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

I'll be in Africa on Friday and on Monday, I'll be in a jeep riding the wide open plains under a sky that never ends. The exhilaration and freedom from a cold memory sprung to life.
It's been too long.

Monday, 2 June 2008

I shall be in Belfast all day tomorrow and then I shall have to return to Dublin to pack.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

I bought a few more European classics today. Perhaps I do this deliberately wanting to think about my books while I am away...wanting almost to miss them or command their hidden tales to lovingly hound me and to recall the titles and accompanying memories that came with each thoughtful purchase. Perhaps I could catch my library's spirit while I am on distant shores with some yearning and a hopeful nostalgia that may bring me the more quicker to Dublin...amongst other things.
At present, I have exhausted my bookshelves and my books are scattered in untidy stacks all over the place.


I have just read two interesting articles that outline the flourishing of secondhand bookshops in an old quarter of Amman. Having already been to Jordan, I still recall with fondness, a Jewish bookshop - yes, in Jordan - with ancient prized texts that the owner was proud of. They were welcoming at my approach. And now it appears that there are new stretches of all kinds of displayed literature. This is why I am weighing my options carefully. To see if I can squeeze in a Middle-Eastern country besides East Africa. The passionate pursuit of an erratic travel timetable is I suppose for me, as addictive as a coffee fix.


I have started to learn Arabic. An episode took place on a books blog a little while ago where I would have understood a poem much better, had I been able to read Arabic. As it was, I felt helpless. I remember even while studying in a Convent under Irish nuns no less, that my parents had wanted me to pursue this as an optional subject. I did study it briefly. Now, I find I still recall the basic alphabets and tenses with miraculous ease. Indeed, there's no denying the monumental power of the subconscious mind. I want to read more Middle-Eastern literature in its original version. But I would love to learn other languages as well.


Speaking of which, my dvd player had been spoilt for awhile so I wasn't able to watch world films - another cheerful hobby. But it's fixed now and I am determined to resurrect my collection of world films when I return to Dublin. I bought a film today called Since Otar Left a poignant East European story that traces three women's difficult lives and which saw it win the Grand Prize at Cannes.