A Room with a View

This is Day 2 of Writing 101.  

Today’s Prompt: If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

Today’s twist: organize your post around the description of a setting.

We have just arrived home from Kigoma, – dusty, road-weary, but still smiling about our time beside Tanzania’s other great lake, Tanganyika.

On the home straight, puttering slowly along amongst Mwanza’s congested afternoon traffic, we passed the sparkling waters and rocky outcrops of our beautiful Lake Victoria.  What a shame we can’t swim in her.   What a pity she is infested with Bilharzia, the parasite that enters the bloodstream through the skin and eventually causes internal organ shut-down.  I’m sorry to be so fickle Victoria, but already how I long to be back on Jakobsen’s Beach.

Let me take you there, just for a minute.

We’ve reached the end of the muddy track.  Put aside fears of getting bogged.  Pitched our wee tent under the protective arms of an acacia tree.  Glimpsed the water through a screen of verdant growth and followed the short trail down to the beach.

Our first sight of the tiny bay makes us draw breath.  It is picturesquely beautiful.  Its curved shoreline is fringed with boulders and palms.  Rising behind them are hills of tropical greens. The horizon is flat and broad, the cloud-flecked sky meeting what could be a sea.

The sand is red like a fox. The smooth rocks are ochre and grey. The lake is a flickering dance of blueish, greenish, whitish light which, on closer inspection, is completely transparent.  Our happy feet are in the water, it laps around our ankles, – very soft, very cool, – and every grain of sand below is still visible.

As we step deeper, up to our knees, the clarity remains.  Tiny yellow fish dart around our legs. In we plunge.  We have goggles, but hardly need them.  The water is silky and welcoming as we explore rocky crevices, clumsy giant observers of myriad stripey ciclids going about their watery daily routines.  Swim, eat, avoid being eaten.

Two days becomes three.  Early morning wake-up dips melt into glowing sunsets. We were there and now we’re here.  Not quite at the speed of light, but I still need to look at the photos to remind myself it wasn’t a dream.




Rwandan Reflection – On Forgiveness

How do you forgive the atrocities of genocide?  How do you live with those who committed them?  If you were a perpetrator, how do you live with the survivors?  And how do your live with yourself?

These were questions that kept surfacing during our recent trip to Rwanda. And the answers were, invariably, “We have to.  It is the only way to move on.”

View from Kinigi

Rwanda is truly beautiful.  Fluffy white clouds rest on the peaks of majestic, perfectly cone-shaped volcanoes. Lush rainforest shelters rare mountain gorillas.  Tourists are drawn to its mysterious, misty mountains, and the clear, clean waters of its lakes.

IMG_6667Twenty years after the horror of the genocide finally rasped across the consciousness of the rest of the world, Rwandans have rebuilt their country.  It appears as if every square inch of arable land is being farmed; even the steepest hillsides are terraced and planted.

IMG_6718     IMG_6675

The undulating roads are alive with people on the move – and moving with purpose: Boys driving goats, men pushing bicycles uphill (loaded to more than twice their size with mattresses or firewood or massive bunches of bananas), women with baskets or buckets or bowls on their heads, all laden with fruit and vegetables, babies tied to their backs with colourful kitenge. There is no litter, anywhere.

To market

Towns and villages are bustling. In the city of Kigali we found supermarkets and buffet lunches.  Set away from the clamouring sprawl of traffic and commerce, the Genocide Memorial is a calm oasis.  From the outside.  On the inside is a record of hell.

As we moved slowly through the memorial exhibition, trying to digest the truth of that terrible 100 days, and the circumstances that led up to it, struggled to find some sort of meaning in it all.  Through the blur of tears we read about colonial rule and the laws that encouraged social division and unrest.  Looking for a cause, for someone to blame.

Then came a leap, – into the realm of terror and hatred.  Politically manipulated, but finally, ordinary people turned against each other, transformed into brutes.

Testimony of betrayal, by neighbours, by family. Eyewitness reports of the massacre, – sadism, torture, rape, cruel mutilation and hideous death.  Photographs.  The devastation, the aftermath.


The statistics.  The sheer scale of the tragedy.  A room like a shrine, the walls papered with photos of loved ones lost.

Individual profiles of a few of the children, – their age, favourite food, what they liked playing, and how they died.  Heart-rending.  Multiplied by many thousands.

The comparisons: with the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia, Algeria….

The inhumanity of humans.


Back out in the sunlight, we walked silently through the memorial rose gardens and past the the vast concrete mass-burial graves.  We regrouped at the cafe, and along with the rich aroma of brewed Rwandan coffee, found a welcome air of hope and regeneration.  Schoolchildren clustered around outdoor tables, having learnt something of their own history; in knowledge lies strength and compassion.  Perhaps they are the key to forgiveness, – what makes it possible, what makes it necessary. The cafe is staffed by survivors, trained by organisation called Discover Rwanda, which also has hostels in Kigali and Gisenyi where we stayed.

Discover Rwanda Hostel Gisenyi        Fishing village on Lake KivuDiscover Rwanda Hostel Gisenyi                                      Fishing village on Lake Kivu

There, a young, dynamic manager told us of traumatised youths being given new hope and purpose, who, after hospitality training found longer-term employment.  He talked about the seeds of the genocide being sown long before, and of his own family, together with many more Tutsis, exiled to Burundi years before, after less extensive pogroms.

We also learnt about the Gagaca courts and opportunity given to those charged with committing atrocities to admit to their crimes and ask for forgiveness. Many did, and had half their sentences reduced to community service.  So now the frequent sight of convicts in orange overalls, working on the roads, was tinged with another layer of meaning.

IMG_6560As a visitor, it is hard for me to understand how the community was not completely, irrevocably destroyed.  It is humbling to see the evidence of forgiveness, or at least, reconciliation.  The reports of heroism by ordinary people, who risked (and often lost) their lives to protect others, are inspirational.  I reflect on how difficult it is for me to apologise after a petty argument, and hardly dare to put myself in the shoes of a Rwandan.  Who would I be?  How would I be?

So when I hear there are rumblings of resentment bubbling away under the surface calm, I am not surprised.  I only hope that the younger generation, who have been handed a tainted past, are able to build a future where there is no need for forgiveness.

Dependent? Me?

AnalogueMore than a month without my laptop.  And just when I was beginning to build my blog. (Also just when my family were beginning to make comments about my ‘new addiction’).

Good things:

Sat down less (lay down more, – favourite position for reading books)

Spent computer time on other things (and noticed how family are addicted to their iPads)

Talked more to people, including family – face to face

Bad things:

Wasted time at work attempting to follow old routines, – on slow computer, network and internet connections

Less frequent contact with far-away family and a stack of email to catch up on

Lost touch with new WordPress followers – have found it hard to ‘reconnect’ – and get back into the blogging habit


Life goes on without a laptop.  But I’m very glad it’s back!

Travel theme: Doorways

Doorways Photo Challenge

Thank you to Where’s My Backpack for the invitation to join in the doorways travel theme

Detail of Zanzibar door

Detail of Zanzibar door

The doors of Zanzibar are special.  The design and intricate, stylised carvings, tell stories of the slave trade, of the Swahili culture, of people who earned their living on the sea, of influences from India, Oman and Persia.  Many were removed and sold to canny collectors before their real value as national heritage was recognised, and now an effort is being made to conserve those that remain.  Zanzibar’s doors are one of the reasons I will never tire of walking the winding, narrow streets of Stonetown.  I especially like it when an open door gives a glimpse of a cool, dark interior, where ordinary life continues behind a most extraordinary entrance.

Give me a hand…

“Give me a hand”: some applause please.  Or “give me a hand”: I need some help. Actually, I’d like both; this is an invitation to give me a helping hand so we can all share some applause. Today is the launch of the Hands Project.  It is something that has been bubbling away on the back-burner for several years and its time has finally arrived.

In Novedevichy Cemetery, Moscow

In Novedevichy Cemetery, Moscow

The Hands Project (or Give me a hand…) is a new weekly feature event for which I am inviting collaboration.  We are all familiar with the saying, “The eyes are the window of the soul”, and most of us would probably agree that a searching gaze into a person’s eyes provides insight beyond words. But how many of us have considered a person’s hands as an equally strong indication of their character?  Of hands as narrators?  Of hands as evidence of a life, and a way of life? I have a million ideas about how hands are used (and misused) but believe the result will be richer if a group of us pool our individual vision.  There is so much creativity out there that nobody needs to be led by the nose. Contributers would retain copyright over their submissions, and somehow share in either the glory or the profit (or both) of a published collection of our best works.  I envisage a coffee-table style hard-cover book, because despite the incredible capability of the internet and the hours I spend at the computer, I still really love books.  High quality glossy paper with beautiful pictures and words… Well, it doesn’t hurt to dream 🙂 Here are the rules for “Give me a hand”

  1. Every Tuesday I will publish a HANDS image.
  2. In the comments section, please write a caption for my image and add a link to your site.
  3. On your site, post your own HANDs image, with or without a caption and link it back to me at https://paypackandfollow.wordpress.com
  4. Encourage your readers to write their own captions to your image in the comments section of your post.
  5. Don’t forget to make a category for Give me a hand  and tag your post Hands Project.

I hope you share my excitement about the Hands Project.  I am really looking forward to seeing your interpretations of this theme. (Also, if you have any advice about how to improve the style of this feature, please let me know in Comments or Contact.  I am still very much a Babe in the Blogging Woods). Sandy

Another Liebster – WOW!

Thank you to https://memoirsofawanderingmind.wordpress.com for also nominating me for a Liebster Award.  The rules are the same:

liebster-award1. Thank and link the person who nominated you.

2. Answer the questions given by the nominator.

3. Nominate 11 other bloggers, who have less than 200 followers and link them.

4. Create 11 new questions for the nominees to answer.

5. Notify all nominees via social media/blogs.


Kite over Lake Victoria

Kite over Lake Victoria


But the questions are new…

1. What was your favorite class in school?

Spanish.  Our teacher was fun.

2. What is your favorite season and why?

Spring: It smells of new beginnings.

3. Do you have pets?

No, sadly, no.

4. What is your favorite childhood memory?

Skinning an eel, – with me on one end and my dad on the other.

5. What is your favorite dessert?


6. What’s the must-visit spot around your hometown? If you could, name a place better known by local people.

The fish and chip shop.

7. What are your goals for 2015, if any?

To successfully resettle my family in Australia.

8. What are you most grateful for in your life?


9. What is your favorite place in this world?

Right here, right now.

10. What would you do if you won the lottery?

I’d be extremely surprised and would start believing in miracles – I don’t buy lottery tickets 🙂

11. If money was not a concern, what would you most like to buy?

A boat.


My Nominees:

https://suzettastone15.wordpress.com – Reader and philosopher, mother and all-round brave person; reflective comment and beautiful photos

https://theweekendsightseer.wordpress.com – travel, photography, the fabulous Philippines

http://jamilamimi.com – Life after 50 (and a cheesecake challenge!)

https://nelkumi.wordpress.com – Loss, jungle, dogs, philosophy and beautiful photos (with a dual-culture perspective)

https://anothervoiceintheincessantsound.wordpress.com – reflective writing

https://lachicaquevinoalavida.wordpress.com – random musings, poetry, music and photos

https://issheright.wordpress.com – Writing with an Aussie flavour

https://touchofinsanity.wordpress.com – Reflective writings and photographs

https://justanotherdayintheworld.wordpress.com – expat life

https://playingwithmyfirstdslrcamera.wordpress.com – photography

https://drawingthestreet.wordpress.com – exactly what it says.  Amazing!


And my questions: 

(I apologise if your blog already contains the answers to some of these).

  1. How do you fit blogging into your life?
  2. Do you spend more time posting on your own blog or looking at other blogger’s material?
  3. Vegemite, Promite, or Marmite? (Careful, – this could be a trick question!) 🙂
  4. How have your friends and family reacted to your interest in blogging?
  5. If you had to spend a whole day inside a building, which one would it be?
  6. What gives you the most pleasure, – the journey or the destination?
  7. Where are you right now?
  8. Who are your heroes?
  9. Why do you blog?
  10. If you had to lose one of your senses, which would it be?
  11. Would you rather be a whale or a shark? (Definitely a trick question!) 🙂

Happy Blogging!   I’m looking forward to reading your next post. 🙂







Vladimir recycles soup bones

Yesterday Vladimir finished a skull ring for Masha.  He carved it out of marrow-bone (goat), – after he’d made soup.

He also made a pendant for me.

Soup bone pendant