Letters of Life

Month: December 2011

Week 52

Phnom Penh, Cambodia— Is it week 52 already? But there is still much to be done! The mural on the walls of the placid schoolroom which sits on the village church grounds. The timber stakes to be put into the ground, bamboo sticks to be sawed and hammered by hand to become a fenced border… Read More ›

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Pensive in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh, Cambodia — A varied day. We visited the genocide museum, Tuol Sleng, in the morning, and met one of the two remaining survivors of Pol Pot’s violent regime. To understand a country that is *still* recovering from the ravages of war, one must try to grasp what its people went through in recent… Read More ›

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Cucumber-Cool in Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia — One thing I learned in the newsroom back in the day was to establish one’s dateline (the date and location of the story, placed at the top) when one is abroad, in the field. Coming to Cambodia soon after Christmas can be an iffy thing. Either I am unprepared for the… Read More ›

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The Last Day of Christmas

Today is Christmas Day, the first day of Christmas. It’s my last day of Christmas. Tomorrow I head for Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and I won’t be back til 2012. That’s what I like about the transition between the old year and the new. The First Day sounds epic, longer than it really is, self-important, and at… Read More ›

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Christmas 2011

Gift hunting during the Christmas season, I wandered into a baby store, in search of a toy or two. And no, the recipients were not necessarily under 2 or 20 years of age. At Christmastime, one has to be creative. For the legitimately-aged baby, I found Sophie, France’s best-selling giraffe teether-toy. Then, I found Amos… Read More ›

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Top Posts of 2011

These are my top 12 posts of 2011. Chosen based on the number of hits, and words used in search engines, this list is arbitrary and hopefully, unbiased. But that is near impossible, for I have my favourites too. When they show up here I’ll tell you, and why. January : How to Cook the… Read More ›

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Lessons in Love

First written: July 20th, 2011.  How many times have you been in love? More than once, if that’s what the question implies. The question might also imply that such a simple question is best answered with the hindsight of 20/20 vision. The nature of adolescent love is such that when things don’t work out, one… Read More ›

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Safari Adventure

The title of this post is a nostalgic nod to author Willard Price, whose adventure books for boys I read as a fourteen-year-old girl. The quotes here, though, are all from Karen Blixen’s now-classic work Out of Africa (1937). The geographical position and the height of the land combined to create a landscape that had… Read More ›

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Out of Africa

Nairobi, Kenya — I have left the Serengeti and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and have decided to highlight the opening line and other memorable lines from the 1985 film Out of Africa. It was narrated by Meryl Streep who played the heroine Karen Blixen: “I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The… Read More ›

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In Transit (Really)

Nairobi, Kenya — Who would have thought I’d end up spending one night in Nairobi and reach home with just five days to Christmas? We’d left Tanzania and were transiting through Nairobi to Doha, Qatar. Seven hours thence and back home. To cut a long story short, we missed the connection.  Five out of the eight of… Read More ›

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Natural Elegance

The Serengeti, Tanzania— What makes the endlessness of the Serengeti so thrilling to the soul is the absence of Man’s hand on the land. No bridges, no telco structures, no lamp posts, traffic lights, no pylons. No road signs or billboards advertising good things or a good time. Even the roads are paved with good… Read More ›

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Roaming

The Serengeti National Park, Tanzania When wild animals roam freely in this African savannah, implying that therefore you cannot roam as freely, (unless you are a Masai warrior or trained and armed for bush living) it gives you the feeling that somehow the rules have changed ever since you left urban living behind. Which is… Read More ›

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Christmas Is Coming

This is the second Christmas in a row there isn’t a live tree in the house. Last Christmas, I moved back to my abode above the trees on Christmas Eve or so it seemed, and I made do with a small pale tree made of fibre optics. It glowed, and twinkled, it’s feathered branches like… Read More ›

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How Many Miles To Babylon?

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania I found myself reading the flight destinations off the flight board at the departure terminal in Nairobi, Kenya. Kinshasa, Entebbe, Dar es Salaam, and my favorite, Zanzibar. These are the kinds of places you only read about in the papers, in Nat Geo, Time magazine. I looked at these names with a sense… Read More ›

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The Secret of the Serengeti

The title could possibly belong to a book of my youth because on clear days, you could see forever. The name ‘serengeti’ — the sound like a syncopated beat of an African drum — means endless plains in the Masaai language and this beautiful word peppered stories like Willard Price’s Adventure Series (Safari Adventure, Elephant… Read More ›

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The Revolutionary Fashionista

There once was a fashionista Who fancied herself quite a fashist (you heard me) She actually thought (now that’s quite a lot) That “fashionista” was wrought From a revolution fought in Central America. It was ’80s Costa Rica Or rather, Nicaragua Where a leftist party toppled Somoza, And picked a fight with the US-backed Contras;… Read More ›

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A Well-Crafted Thumbnail of a Character In A Novel

To start with, look at all the books. There were her Edith Wharton novels. . . there were the dog-eared paperbacks assigned in her college courses, a lot of Dickens, a smidgen of Trollope, along with good helpings of Austen, George Elliot, and the redoubtable Bronte sisters. . . .  There was, in short, this… Read More ›

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Post-Race Reflections of Fellow Running Mates

The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” — John Bingham (b. 1948), American marathon runner who believes that the goals of running are to have fun and finish—and that for a vast majority of amateur athletes running fast should not be the only aim. We five… Read More ›

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Mauritius Memories

Mauritius is the less glamourous cousin of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. It’s more of an island surrounded by smaller gems, rather than a series of atolls. Still, there’s something about being in the middle of the vast Indian Ocean that casts its spell on you. Click any picture to see a carousel view… Read More ›

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A Day At The Race

No matter how great the attraction of the solitary hours spent on the road, home is the centrifugal epicentre of safety and belonging where each run begins and ends. — Robin Harvie, Why We Run: A Story of Obsession Everything is relative. Never more so when it comes to a sport like running. To seasoned… Read More ›

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A Small Revelation, Or Why I Studied English in College

Am immersed in a novel by an author I’ve recently discovered. Late, as usual. This is an excerpt from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jeffrey Eugenides ‘ latest work: Some people majored in English to prepare for law school. Others became journalists. The smartest guy in the honors program, Adam Vogel, a child of academics, was planning… Read More ›

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We Are The Artisans And We’ve Been Crafted

Dateline: Flic-en-Flac, Mauritius Somewhere in the Indian Ocean [I’ve always wanted to establish this kind of exotic dateline.] Deadline: 5 mins Writing, I’ve said before, can be a gift. I mean not as in an ability, but as a present, something bestowed on someone else. Writing that is simple in structure, complex in depth and… Read More ›

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Racing Against Time

There is a Race coming up. Instead of running, I’ve been eating, sitting, shopping. I haven’t been immobile, if that’s what you’re thinking, on the beach in that mythical island I wrote recently about. But that’s not the same as running as if your life depended on it. When time is running out, one suddenly… Read More ›

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