Tuesday, January 30, 2007

in an Airport

Try to write in an airport

About fruit? Exotic fruit?

Will my plantain chips do?

Whenever I get to an airport, or even from the moment I wake up on a morning when I’m traveling, I have secret rituals.

When I am traveling alone I am free to act out these rituals one by one until the plane arrives.

Any airport I arrive at, if there is a shop of any description – and at some of the airports I’ve been to in West Africa, they are of ANY DESCRIPTION! – I go into the shop and scour it’s shelves. I usually search first for something obscure – a trinket no one lese would choose, a gift that speaks to me, or a drink or food item that is bizarre and specific to the place I am in, so I can take it home and use it as a sensory description of where I’ve been.

The last time I was in Milan I spent over an hour in the main duty free shop trying to indulge these criteria. I was so pleased when I found the shelves of hot pepper chocolate. Not only was the box glossy and rich brown, but the shocking red thin red peppers on the front caught my eye and I felt giddy like a child. It was bizarre and made of authentic Italian chocolate, and no one would have ever heard of it, nor tasted it. I imagined all the reactions of each family member to it, and knew this was one I would share best with my sister. And we did…

From the obscure purchase, I move on to the necessity for a snack or meal or both. When traveling I lose the ability to decipher hunger from boredom, desire from curiousity. My limits become cloudy and undefined as if the anticipation of different time zones and no ground beneath my feet change the mundane rules and habits that define me at home. I almost always manage to find something. I will stand at the counter of the serve yourself restaurant or snack bar or vending machine for an extraordinary length of time, pondering the amount I should order, the number of items, whether the flavours of what I’ve decided on will match, how much it will all cost and whether it’s worth the money and how much it would come to in the currency of my home or the country I’m going to, or translated into dollars. Then I choose and move on to reading material if there is any. Magazines are always the first choice, then I look for a good novel or even brochures if there is nothing else. I may take a stroll back through the shop – anything to avoid sitting by the gate for any period longer than completely necessary.

Today is the Ghana airport with it’s never ending renovations, newly opened Duty Free shop and snack bar which moved from one end of the ill-defined main hall of the departure lounge to the other. The once lively far end of the building with a bar and lounge area next to small shops is all boarded up and abandoned. Flying out from Gate 1 (of the two Gates), it feels as if you’ve wandered into the wrong section of the renovations. But as with most things in Ghana, this is the temporary/permanence of the way things are and will be, and no one seems too bothered either way.

Today in my adventure through the shop, after sniffing each perfume and giving myself the inevitable scent headache, I glanced at the fancy alcohol bottles, (wishing some were plastic and weighed less), and actually ventured into the ‘Ghana’ section of the shop that sells highly over-priced, non-representative locally made items. I found some tiny soap stone picture frames, which are made in far off East Africa and hence are not remotely ‘local’ but were designed with the local kente patterns in atypical colour combinations. The perfect purchase. I bought two and wandered to the snack bar. I am always happy to find Diet Coke anywhere I go. It is rare in West Africa, and despite it’s reputation as a pathetic frivolous American iconic export, I just love it. Diet Coke is my innocent indulgence. There was a whole row of Diet Coke in the fridge and it was chilled! There were unpromising pastries in the fridge as well, (which would be microwaved into a frightening texture and temperature by the barmaid, so were therefore out of the question). I saw some plantain chips in a double wrapped clear plastic bag, which assured me they wouldn’t be stale or have absorbed the taste of the stale airport air. I bought the Coke and the chips and here I sit to write.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Drugs don't work, they just make you worse...

Watch this catchy video to see just how non-glamourous our users really become...

Sitting about

As I sit here sitting about

Sat about

Set about

Set under

Adjusted and satirized

I contemplate conjunction and whispers of fountain pens

I ponder perfection in all its elusive forms

And formulate dreams of distance and breeze

In honour of those gone and those who prevail, I wonder on wonderment

And feel the bliss of reality

On my doorstep

In my fingerprints

And under toe

I am consumed with the preemptive,

The pursuit of the preamble

And stuck in a rut of delicious indulgence

I am at the shore

My toe is liquid

And the sand is the abyss at edge of life’s waters

The water is words and writing and red blue topaz suns of possibility

Yet I am fraught with iniquity

With under handed obscurity that threatens my fibers

It pulls at my shirt by the small threads of conscience

Could I succeed

In simplifying the infinite into edible morsels

The light is dim

The lines are long

And blurred

The fountain spills eternal

Insidious undulations

Carnal malleability

Distant shores

Redeemable smiles and fortunes told

In deep silence

Reveries uncovered

Candy wrapper pink reveal…

I stand unriveted and serene

But covered by plastic gazes

Become wild and unsteady

Tripping over light and low bushes

And abandoned toys on my mind’s floor

Clutter the way and make me appear childish


I talk aloud when muted tones surround me

I am unsure and undeveloped

A foetus in a world of the talented.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Random picture

This is an old picture taken almost a year ago. I am testing the format and the layout and thought I'd stick a nice African looking pic up here for the test. Funny thing is, that this pic was taken at an expensive yuppie restaurant in Joburg, milking the exotic lure of Africa to all the shallow and deeply uninterested rich masses.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

War torn hole offers up fine quisine, apertifs

This is the airport restaurant in Abidjan

This photo was taken during my five hour wait at the Abidjan airport, after discovering the plane to Accra was quite delayed.

I resigned myself to the miserable wait and wandered up to the restaurant that they mentioned at the check in desk. Wow - the airport is definitely one of a kind in sub-Saharan Africa! Must be another remnant of French domination. I sat down expecting a disinterested server to toss a grimy menu down, with a list of generic sandwiches, fries and the like. Instead I found a grand stylish restaurant with impeccably dressed waiters and great service. They only had about 4 items on the menu (which is par for the course in the majority of African restaurants I've been to - and I've been to many). But there on the menu - and available! - was a gorgeous salad with real lettuce (unheard of in Ghana), smoked salmon, (smoked salmon?!), capers, grapefruit, avocado, shrimps, tomatoes, vinaigrette... oh and a selection of french wines... HELLO! Have I just spent three days in a war torn country where 12 foot piles of rotting, smoking garbage line the sides of every city street and highway?? Did I not spend three days crusing around in stifling heat through the immense stench of open gutters, and get pulled over numerous times by corrupt army and police officers with massive guns asking for bribe money in order to secure the priviledge of driving on through the squalor??

Abidjan is a city of contrasts - glaring, unbelieveable contrasts between French affluence and design, and the African reality of corruption, poverty, crime, unrest, neo-colonial fall out.

Driving into the city from the airport looks like a miniature Manhattan in the distance. However, as the car passes through massive burning mounds of rubbish, to the extent of reducing complete visibility in the toxic smoke along the highway, it gives the feel of driving into Manhattan on the set of a Mad Max film. It looks like a pessimistic sci-fi vision of the world after an apocalypse...

Within the city streets, the contrasts become quite apparent. There are beggars and roadside sellers, as in most African cities, but they live their lives against the backdrop of glamourous shops and gold glassed high rise office buildings... I stayed at the Novotel with a gorgeous view of the lagoon on one side, and the dilapitated downtown core on the other.

to be continued...

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