Of funerals, comic relief and pound cake

A collective gasp escapes the crowd and I put my hands in front of my eyes. I can’t watch this. Did they really tip him in head-first? I peek through my fingers, and groan. The casket is hanging at a 45 degree angle above the grave. Head first.

It was a beautiful funeral with all the solemnity you’d expect while a humid breeze tried to cool the church on our tropical island. The speeches were tearful – and in the case of the passionate aunt who thundered from the pulpit like a South American president on Election Day, literally painful. The procession, confused at first about who the pallbearers were and what to do with the wreaths, was sombre. And then the ceremony at the graveyard turned into slapstick.

crossHe had been a tall guy and apparently nobody had thought about measuring the ancient family grave before trying to put his casket in there. Family members are hanging on to the ropes, palms sweaty in the late morning sun. One man is actually inside the grave trying to give directions, but almost gets crushed in the process. The whole scene is surreal. This is a cemetery, putting people in graves is what you do. How can you be so clumsy with a dead body when his family and friends are watching? After a couple of failed attempts and near crashes of the casket into the void, the jokes start and we figure it is just very typically him to make a memorable exit. He’s probably having a good laugh at our expense up there.

Cemetery_CrossThe day before had been more his style, with a selection of reggae and rock music blowing through the speakers of the funeral home instead. There was beer and wine – and unfortunately an open casket that we had to look at for two days in a row. An elderly lady was in unabashed paparazzi mode during both wake and funeral, with no qualms whatsoever to click away while people were experiencing what for most will likely be the hardest moment of their lives -staring at a body that until nine days ago was their friend, brother, son or cousin. I wonder if she will organize a slide show later on, invite a few friends, nibble on snacks while watching the footage?


What a different affair it is in the Netherlands for the funeral of yet another good friend who died long before his time. Arriving in the dark, the cold and hushed silence. We’re ushered from sterile room to sterile room, with wardrobes on wheels following us with our coats on this badly orchestrated tour. To top it off: the ubiquitous coffee and pound cake. Worst of all, I have to be the paparazzi this time, as other hands are too shaky to take the pictures his mother asks for. I pray the others know it isn’t by choice I am hovering over the casket, zooming in on a dead friend’s face. The whole experience is disconcerting. All the gravitas and none of the comic relief.


Promise me that you will never bury me in the Netherlands… I want bubbles and scotch, salsa and bad 80s music, lots of laughter and recounting of my most embarrassing and hilarious moments. Stale coffee and cheap pound cake over my dead body!

Of procrastination, cockroaches and too many possibilities

Procrastination. What a sordid state to be in. What a black hole. And one of the few things that I am unfortunately undeniably very good at. Something is always there to distract me and steer me away from that bliss of decisive action. Not anything important – it could be as banal as watching Murder She Wrote reruns. I will be reading a few articles at the same time, researching recipes (for dishes that I never end up preparing), flesh out a few ideas to save the world or a novel way to make money,  and tell JB Fletcher who did it ten minutes into the episode. But the important stuff… not happening. Too much noise in my head and I stagnate.

photo of small colorful boats in water

Piscadera Bay parking lot

I’ve just moved to a new country, a tiny Caribbean island near Venezuela. My uncle lived there in a beautiful building that still reflects his eclectic wanderer spirit; it is riddled with antiques, splattered with his own paintings and his quirky touch is everywhere. This place has soul. A bit of a dilapidated soul, but still, it’s there. There’s a blanket of feel-good vibes that envelops you the moment you walk in, constant surprise mixed with the sense that anything is possible, leaving you feel a bit like a cross between Alice in Wonderland  and Pippi Langstrumpf.

And now I live here. And every day I’m wondering what to do with this legacy my uncle left me. Because he didn’t just leave me a house, he left me a restaurant too. More like a legend, that I piece together from hints and phrases I pick up in conversations with his old friends and guests. He sold atmosphere. And style, stories and creativity. And escargots from a can, that everybody loved. It was not planned, conceived by a team of designers that monitored hospitality trends; it grew organically, from just having friends over for dinner to hosting people two or three times per week.

painting of a dark pink colonial house

Kunst Kwartier Galeria and Restaurant

It was so informal that he never bothered with licenses either. Or with proper plumbing, electrical wiring and kitchen hygiene. So that’s where my challenge lies. I ask contractors for estimates I can never afford and make daily trips to the hardware store to do the small repairs that a reasonably practical person can do without accidentally blowing up the whole neighbourhood or performing unwanted amputations on herself. I exterminate termites and cockroaches (albeit only very temporarily in case of the latter), shovel dirt, prune trees, curse the roof that is original but allows dust to fly in non-stop and install striking window bars that my uncle would have been proud of.

window bars

Only very tiny thieves can make it through these guys

All the while I have a maelström of ideas and doubts in my head: am I going to re-open the restaurant, or make it a shop of some kind, just live there and expand my translation business or maybe turn it into a bakery where the two diabetic, gluten-intolerant, vegan people with a peanut allergy and a frosting phobia on the island can finally enjoy a scrumptious birthday cake? Shall I start a B&B instead, or shall I find tenants for the independent unit in the garden (if I can ever complete the archaeological enterprise of fixing it up)? Ah procrastination, there you are.

Of red sand, overheating and acunhas

Mossuril Town. Nine thousand inhabitants. That sets certain expectations, doesn’t it? You think shops, cars, roads, houses – maybe even a supermarket. Well, wake up and smell the coffee (if there was any)!

After unfolding from the painful position of the last four hours in the chapa (you thought only yogis have their knees next to their eyeballs for extended periods of time?), prying the fingers of the girls in the seat behind us loose from our hair (which is the most interesting thing to touch or pull if you’re not born with it) and climbing out over the 34 remaining passengers and their goods / children / livestock, we rub the dust from our eyes and survey our new town.


I assume we are on the outskirts, as the unpaved road that happily bounced us here does not become paved nor does it transform into a town square with an old church, a post office and a fountain. We are still ankle-deep in red sand next to what is the main road, with smaller goat trails forking off in different directions. There are mud huts everywhere, and only a few stone structures that show the Portuguese were ever here. We stand under a humongous fig tree that Tarzan would have loved to call home. It would take 15 people to encircle it with their arms and it must have witnessed Vasco da Gama land here in 1499. As I turn around, I see a stone archway with faded lettering that reads ‘Mercado central do Mossuril’. So, this is the centre of town after all.


I reassess my decision to take a big backpack and a small duffel bag on wheels. I thought it was a smart thing to do, drag the heavy electronics and books and carry the rest. That was before I packed 30kg, before we added heavy boxes with shopping for the restaurant and most of all: before I knew there was no asphalt in a 40-mile radius. We haul all this in 35+ Celsius through loose sand and goat droppings, past mud huts and palm trees to our promised oasis: the hotel we will be running for a year. While the sweat is dripping from every pore in my body, I dream of the cool water that is lapping the private beach that the website says we have. I briefly wonder how to get guests and their luggage to the hotel in a better way so they are not turned off in the first five minutes (like I am now) but the thought of an afternoon swim is far more compelling than hotel logistics.


The private beach turns out to be about as real as the asphalt. It is a sand bank that glimmers in the distance but is unreachable on account of a mangrove forest in front of it. Even if you could cross through that, you probably wouldn’t want to deal with the thousands of tiny crabs, the smelly mud and the sharp roots that can pierce your foot. We walk along the shore until we find beach access and join the local fishermen instead of taking that cooling swim. The water is warm, too warm, and green. On bad days it smells like you’re bathing in nori and it feels like there are too many small kids with bladder control problems. Not that it matters much: in the 5-6 weeks that we are there, we have time to go to the beach a grand total of three times.


Hotel logistics take up a lot of time: every little thing takes us (or someone else; we get better at delegating real fast) on the same dusty walk with only small variations in goat trails. You need water: you walk to the guy who owns the pump to pay him, walk some more to find a few kids to carry jerry cans to our tank (did I mention there is no running water? Another logistical detail that failed to be mentioned before arrival). You need bread, onions or flour: you walk to the main road and find someone who is selling what you want. You need beer: you pray that the only employee with a motorcycle had money for gasoline this morning; otherwise you walk with the crates on your head.


Sometimes when we buy said beer, we drown our sorrows in the bottle shop that doubles as a bar. It is a very unfriendly place, but pretty much the only deal in town. It has refrescos (soft drinks) and sells cheap wine, beer and mineral water. Some of it is even cold. That is a luxury our guests don’t get to enjoy too often. At last count, we had 4 refrigerators and 2 freezers – none of which worked. The only guy in town who fixes these things is very bad at it, to say the least. However, since the owner refuses to buy new goods, we keep getting second hand fridges in the hope that Rico for once will come through. Until then, we send food to the owner’s house, 2 km away over dirt paths, to store in the freezer there. Strangely enough, a lot of it never makes it back to the restaurant.


The food is not the only thing that suffers from the heat; our tempers flare, my ankles swell, and the plastic gloves of the cleaning lady melt. The only solution for walking in this heat is a bright red umbrella that I buy from the local store. It is the only real shop in town, and even sells electric fans – the only luxury our hotel can offer on overnight stays. The loja (or ‘shoppy’, as our staff calls it) also has a small selection of cookies, shampoo, clothes, condensed milk, razors and I think I spotted a prosthetic leg. The shop is all of 9m2 and feels like a steam room, and unfortunately the cookies taste like they come from one too.

Daily supplies, however, can be bought at the weekly Saturday market, we are told. You’d think we had learned to take these things with a grain of salt but noooo, we are excited about this big, well-stocked and undoubtedly impressive market. It has got to be better than the Mercado Central, where there are only ever two girls selling rock-hard sweet fried bread, a man with matches and pre-packed Rajah curry powder that local women use in every single dish they make and a few guys with miniscule dried fish (nicuzi).


Life here starts at 4 in the morning when it gets light, but somehow the market is very unmarket-like when we arrive at 8 AM. We wander the empty space, duck under tarps and straw mats held up by bamboo and  mangrove poles and make an inventory while the market slowly builds up. There are pots and pans (all thin aluminium), capulanas (African sarong), lots of nicuzi, mangos, soap (some brand names, but also long bars that are cut to order), bread rolls, xima flour (pronounced ‘sheema’: corn meal), cheap plastic goods, and lots of dried beans. Most things are sold in a measure called lugar (which is a small stack) and cost the same in most places (handy when making shopping lists and making a budget). Best of all, we get quoted local prices. Oil is sold in empty water bottles by the half-litre or litre. Eggs are mostly non-existent and if you do find them, be prepared to discard half of them. The biggest absentees are fresh vegetables and fruit. We find tomatoes being sold by a lugar of five pieces but most are rotten or squashed. This apparently is the extent of available provisions for the task of ‘professionalising’ the restaurant.


Our efforts to find supplies for decent meals take us around the village on a daily basis. When we wind our way between the mud huts, people grudgingly reply to our cheerful ‘bom dia’ from their seats under  the mango trees. The kids are a completely different story:  every family seems to have at least five, and at each house that we pass a group of them run after us shouting ‘acunha, acunha!’. Locals assure us it is not a bad word, that it just means ‘stranger’ or ‘white person’, but it eventually starts grating anyway. We yell ‘Macua, Macua’ back (the name of the ethnic group and also the local language), which is cause for belly-splitting laughter and more shouts saying ‘ta-ta!’ (hello) and ‘bom dia ‘ (good morning). Even after weeks and weeks of seeing us walk the same path every day, they do not get bored of the acunha-shouting ritual, and go at it with gusto every day.


One morning before those kids are up, we drag the same heavy luggage through the same damn sand and sit under the same humongous tree. We wait for our ride out of town after our role in the project ended on a bad note (guess what: it had to do with finances) and I am sad that I am essentially not sad to leave this place.


Of shaken kidneys and live chickens

“Does Park Station have lockers for luggage?” I ask. The lady in the window at Rosebank Gautrain station in Johannesburg looks at me blankly. I repeat the question. “Which Park station?” she says finally.  I didn’t know there were more than one, so it is my turn to have a blank look. “The bus or the train station?” is the prompt that follows my confusion.
“The bus station”.
“No, that one doesn’t have lockers”.
“But the train station does?”
“No, that doesn’t have lockers either”.
We should have known  then.

This is the start of our trek from South Africa to Northern Mozambique, for a stay of indefinite length but definite frustration. We are booked on an overnight bus from Johannesburg in South Africa to Maputo in Mozambique and head over to said Park station. On the train there an official sticker says: “a wise man takes the bus”. With hindsight, I decide that that slogan was created by a very sarcastic marketing team.

 We hoped there were no weight restrictions on buses, as we carry a tad bit more than 20 kilos per person (around 10 kilos more) but alas, the prehistoric scale is put to intense use by the staff. The old couple in front of us look like they only have about 12 kilos between the two of them, but are pulled out of the line, never to be seen again. We pretend our hand luggage is incredibly light by swinging it on our pinkie fingers, but we too have to put our bags on the scale (1 person in charge). Our passports are checked (2 people on that), we get a tag for each bag (another person) and our bus tickets (yet another person) and then we are waved through.


The elation that something worked out for a change is giving us a high that lasts all of 45 seconds. By that time I am arguing with the driver that I will not put my hand luggage with two laptops in the trailer, where bags are piled 8-high and a guy is stomping around on them while adding more bags. The driver insists the bag is too big and there is no swaying him. I end up emptying the contents in my purse, stuffing the laptops in my zipped up jacket and putting the empty bag in the trailer. Of course by then, no good seats are available anymore and we are stuck in the bottom of the bus where people have much larger bags than ours with them and the A/C fluctuates with maddening intervals between 17 C and 27 C.  Why have an electronic display for this torture, but no way of actually controlling the temperature?!

Once in Maputo we try to buy bus tickets to our next destination and get elaborate directions to shops that should be selling them from just about everyone we ask. Three hours later we get tired of walking in circles and finding none of those places. We finally give up and decide to take the so called shuttle that is run by a hostel. Of course it turns out to just take us to the bus station in Maputo where we are then transferred to the very bus that we couldn’t find tickets for the day before. Full circle.


The bus, of course, is also not a real bus. It is a chapa (most often a minibus, but it can also take the shape of a tricycle or pickup truck), the favourite mode of transport here, and is made to carry about 20 people. In a bid to squeeze every last drop of profit out of it, they only leave when there is at least double that number on board, and an immense amount of luggage and parcels. Getting to the point where the driver deems everybody uncomfortable enough to finally switch on the engine can take two hours or so if you have a bad day. During this time, you better stay on board if you don’t want to lose your place to family of five or a goat. If you stay on board though, you can do the weekly shopping from the -relative- comfort of your seat, as the chapa will get stormed by children selling water, flip flops, lettuce, watches, bread, chicken skewers, bananas, fluorescent soda and charcoal stoves.


The departure process is worse when you don’t leave from a bigger town. We have spent whole nights waiting for chapas that didn’t show up, left early or came hours late. Getting on is no guarantee that your trip will begin, as the driver will double back to the village down the road looking for passengers if the van is not yet  full. Then back to your village. Then back again. Down some back roads. Idling on the square.  Back to the other village. And so it can continue for hours, while you are balancing on one butt cheek on the side of the pickup truck and get drenched by torrential rains or burned by the morning sun.


When one passenger gets off after indicating their stop by shouting ‘saida!’ (‘exit!’), the driver will slow down near every person standing next to the road while his helper shouts the destination of the chapa and urges them to get on. They seem to refuse the fact that most people are not planning on going there or just happen to be waiting to cross the street. When four more people have gotten on and you think the chapa will burst soon, there is always space for another two or three. After all, you don’t necessarily need to sit; you can stand hunched over, hanging on for dear life, hitting your head with every bump in the unpaved road for a few hours, your nose painfully close to your fellow passengers’ armpits. Unfortunately, deodorant seems to be a luxury most people can’t afford here, and even more unfortunately, you don’t have to be close to them to experience that fact. Combined with the stifling heat, body odour can make for a very trying ride.


During the trip, the speed of the van can decline sharply for various reasons. Overloading is one of them, to the point where you are afraid that all passengers will be required to get off and help push. Police is another.  The chapa drivers will warn each other that trouble is ahead through an elaborate system of hand signals. Speed will slow to a crawl, to the point of cyclists passing you, in a bid to pretend the driver is a law-abiding citizen. The hand signals, however, aren’t sufficient to give an exact location for the police activity and the slow motion can last unbearably long.

The chapa phenomenon is a pretty well oiled system though, if you can handle the overload of people and smells, and the lack of comfort and space. It seems chaotic and inefficient, but it works – and it doubles as a delivery method. People give bags and boxes to the driver with a description of the person who will be waiting by the road somewhere. The driver then calls when he is close and hands the package over. Beats FedEx prices and speed by a good amount. The only worry about this system is sitting next to a bag that labelled explosives.


If, however, even the unpaved roads don’t go where your travel bug wants to take you, there is always the dhow. It is the waterborne equivalent of the chapa, equally overloaded but with less stops along the way for obvious reasons. It leaves at equally inconvenient times, and requires advance planning in terms of clothing, as you will probably wade up to your knees or waist in water to the shore or to climb back on board for departure. The waiting game until the boat is full is similar to the chapas, but there is a bit more pressure for passengers as departure (and arrival) is in the hands of Allah, the wind and the tide.


During the trip, you will once again sit between live chickens, bags of rice, baskets with mangos and lots of people – who may not be your travel companions, as the Muslim captain does not allow mingling of the sexes on his boat and therefore move you to different sides. Once again you will balance on one butt cheek – but this time you will do it perched on an uncomfortable wooden plank, while occasionally making space for heaving water from the bottom.

 There is a slight risk of stepping on sea urchins while wading to and from the boat, and of severe sunburn as there is no shade but plenty of sun. The sail –sewn together from proper sail material to plastic bags- will not offer much in terms of sun protection and is more likely to give you a concussion during a jibe if you don’t pay attention. And then there is the sea sickness; if not yours, then of the person next to you. Just pray for strong winds, so it is over quickly. Inshallah.

Public Apathy


The man queuing in front of me in the supermarket suddenly grabbed the edge of the checkout stand. He didn’t say anything, or at least nothing that I could hear. It looked like he had trouble breathing and it didn’t take long before he collapsed onto the floor. I knew he was having a heart attack, and almost had one myself when I realized that I was totally clueless as to what to do. It’s one thing to see a person on TV going into cardiac arrest and then having someone in green garb shouting “clear!” while putting a defibrillator to good use. It’s quite another to fail a person at the most critical moment in their lives, knowing that you can’t save them.

photo of old man walking

photo courtesy of Shayan Sanyal

The only thing I could think of was to unbutton his coat and shirt, and take of his tie. I looked around after doing this, hoping to find a good Samaritan who would come to his (and my!) rescue. I needed something to wipe the vomit off his face, but my shouts for a handkerchief or literally anything was met with blank stares. It was a supermarket, for crying out loud. All they had to do was grab a roll of paper towels! Nobody reached for a cell phone (granted, this was before everybody had one), shop personnel made no move to call from the manager’s office and definitely no one was going to give me their scarf to mop up vomit. It was unnerving to think that they’d rather watch someone die then call for help.

After what seemed like a life time, a girl appeared who said she’d done a First Aid course and took over my feeble attempts at resuscitation. I was secretly very relieved not to have to be the one to try and do mouth-to-mouth on a 70-year old who had just thrown up, and slightly disgusted at myself for thinking that. We did what we could until the ambulance came (the shouting must have sent someone calling 911 after all) and I was hoping we didn’t do more harm than good. His wife and their young granddaughter were left at that same checkout, staring after the ambulance in disbelief. Two days later when I went back to the same shop I heard that he hadn’t made it. He went out to buy milk and pork chops and died on a cold tile floor with strangers staring at him in morbid fascination. That must be about as sad of an end to a life as one could have.

That day in the supermarket, I made a promise to myself to never feel that helpless again. Yet here I am, 20 years later and still no wiser when it comes to CPR. I have seen many more TV episodes where it is routinely performed, which gives me a false sense of expertise, but I know I am just as useless as I was back then. Today I decided I want to be able to save a life instead, ostentatious as that may sound. Today I finally signed up for a 2-day Practical First Aid course by the British Red Cross. I’m going to learn all about sprains and strains, burns and scalds, head and spinal injuries, fractures, epilepsy and asthma. And about CPR. I just seriously hope that until I finish, nobody grabs the edge of the supermarket checkout in front of me.

 Check here for training by the British Red Cross


We are the champions

I am clueless. About football. Or so I have just been told in no uncertain terms. My friend looks at me disdainfully, and bangs another search command into Google, hoping to find a website that streams the Euro Cup live. He poutingly ignores me to drive his point home: my suggestion to wait until the game is over, download it and watch it uninterrupted was the ultimate blasphemy. I thought it was a brilliant solution to the stuttering image and horrific sound quality that we were dealing with while following the descent of our respective nations down the drain of outed teams, but I obviously broke a secret code.

Football game on  TV

The Dutch game on a TV at Babaganoush in Taganga, Colombia

We are in the only air-conditioned place we have access to: the captain’s lounge in Santa Marta marina. For the better part of the first half we have seen the game as if through a sandstorm, with the Colombian commentary coming through the speakers as a Chipmunks rap song. There is nothing more frustrating than through the mumble of it all suddenly hearing “GOOAAALLL!” but not seeing it. Hence my suggestion, which I figured was perfectly safe, as there was little chance anybody out here is going to give us the score and spoil the surprise. My friend stubbornly persists in watching the sandstorm.

Sta Marta Marina

You can see why we might have a problem with wi-fi here…

I can see how this is a frustrating situation for someone who, from the age of 4, used to go to every home-game his team played. I currently live a five-minute walk away from Arsenal stadium, but have yet to go see a game there. In all the time I lived in Amsterdam I only ever saw the Ajax stadium on the inside during concerts.  I don’t know what kept me out, other than the exorbitant prices and the fear of getting a fist in the mouth from a rabid hooligan for accidentally wearing the wrong colour.

Until 1966 violence was mostly directed at the referees, not at supporters of the opposing team. Those were safe times for ignorant or colour-blind spectators. But soon after, any reason seemed to do: international rivalries, geo-political tensions (like in Croatia, after the breakup of Yugoslavia), racism, neo-nazism, historical enmity and economic reasons. Nothing cures a bad day at Jobcentre like beating the crap out of your fellow unemployed over a game of chase-the-ball, I guess.

door with Love written above it

I’m guessing this is not Hooligan Central

From the depths of the captain’s lounge where the silent treatment has apparently been suspended I am assured that the Ultras are a different species. For them it’s all about the game, not the fight. Their code is about faithfulness towards the group, respect for the elder members, no attacks with weapons or against innocent bystanders. This sounds decidedly Buddhist-like and I imagine fans with painted faces kissing the feet of a grey-haired Supreme Master with a green wig. But it seems even these football Beatniks have taken a right turn lately and are not as cuddly as they once were. This is worrisome, as my friend confessed to being an Ultra and his team just lost. I leave him to his scrambled screen and make a quick exit.

A UK football flag next to a garbage bag

Symbolism at its best — courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/ssanyal

Back in the UK, I find myself in the midst of the final days of Euro Cup euphoria. I wasn’t here when the English team was booted from the Cup, so I guess I missed the one occasion that could really have incited violence.  Still… one last check before I leave the house to watch the finals in the pub. I think I’m safe. For as far as I know, no country has pink as the team colour.


Under the Weather

“No, no, no, no, no!”, my brain screams, for as far as it can still think straight. “Don’t look at the compass!”.  I am steering the 95-foot ship that is my home for 6 weeks through a night time storm in the Caribbean Sea and am desperately looking for a way to keep my supper down. I would thoroughly enjoy this experience if it weren’t for the overwhelming nausea combined with the fact that I can’t let go of the helm to hang over the railing. Everybody else is either asleep or seriously unwell too, and the bucket on the deck that I want to aim for keeps scooting out of reach with each roll of the ship.  Continue reading

No Shades of Grey

I’m at my first Krav Maga class, getting ready to poke people in the eye and break their noses under the tutelage of an ex-SAS tough guy. I chat a bit with two other students who are equally early, and get some introductory pointers in pushing and hitting. While I feel slightly silly punching a giant Weeble, they get into a mock knife fight. ‘That’s quite the blade you have there’, says Germaine, commenting on the hand gripper Maynard uses as a weapon. “Better that than a real one”, I say, “just in case you get searched for no reason”. ‘Don’t worry; we know’, says Maynard, ‘We’ve been black for a while’.  Continue reading

Of Tea and Trains

I have always tried to distance myself from the colonialist legacy the Dutch have left throughout the world, but today I feel dangerously close to that image of the white, privileged, self-proclaimed elite. I sit on the sidewalk just outside Cape Town train station, and it’s a far cry from my usual traveller’s pose of being slumped on my backpack in the middle of a writhing mass of people, colours and smells. I am sitting on a cushioned seat -that has been carried outside for me to a sunny spot- with a porcelain cup of tea in my hand, a slice of cake on a plate nearby – and an uneasy mix of pleasure, guilt and embarrassment in my belly. Continue reading

It’s a Treevolution !

‘Cracker Snack!’, a chorus of excited voices calls out.  I repeat what the kids just shouted. ‘Cracker Jack, got it’, and I get ready to write the name on a tag. ‘No! Cracker SNACK!’ After a few more of these interactions, I finally realize they are referring to their favourite crisp brand. The one whose name features prominently on the majority of the empty bags that litter the field we are on, up to our ankles in trash, in the pouring rain.  Continue reading