Posted in Nature Writing, Travel Writing

Gorilla trekking (part 2)

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[Uganda, Part II] • When we were close, our guide pulled us close and gave us a quick primer: stay 7 meters away, don’t make loud noises or impersonate the gorillas, don’t call them over to you but if they approach you, act natural. We could take photos, but no flash and nothing cheeky. We were in their home, and the bottom line was to deeply respect them during our visit. • We had one hour. • • During John’s little pep-talk, Carla and I saw a gorilla in a tree, just in view. We both equally suppressed squeals and then tried to get John to finish his schpeel—every single one of us was buzzing with anticipation. • • When our guides led us to the Nshongi family, it was a juvenile male of 4 or 5 that we had seen sitting in a tree. He was casually munching on a branch and looking at us, thoroughly unphased yet certainly not welcoming. The first thing I remember him doing was taking a nice, long, uninhibited fart to welcome us. • • Two babies came over to join him. They tumbled and played like the tree limbs were a jungle gym which, I guess to baby gorillas, they most definitely are. And then, the silverback. The head honcho, the pater familias. Each gorilla family has one alpha male (all other males have to abscond from the group upon maturing, or challenge the silverback for his throne.) This silverback was 32. He’d been in this forest, living his life, against the toughest of odds, since 3 years before I arrived on this planet. I chewed on that thought as I watched him exist. • • His back looked bald but it shone metallic and silver in the sun. He acknowledged the two babies in the tree above him and chewed some more, a mere body’s length away from us. This was certainly less than a 7 meter distance, but our guides and the trackers kept cutting down obstructing brush with their machetes and drawing us to come closer. • • Two adult females came out of the brush and began to lodge under a shaded tree next to us. The silverback went to join them, crossing clear in front of us, and the 3 of them laid, lazily grunting and picking each other’s fur (what I learned is an action of friendliness and fidelity.) • • (Continued in comments)

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Posted in Nature Writing, Travel Writing

Gorilla trekking (part 1)

Posted in Prose, Travel Writing

Unconventional Types of Loneliness: A List

You know that adage about how Inuits have 47 different words for ‘snow?’ I think about that sometimes when I come across a feeling that can’t be explained, or one that doesn’t seem to fit into an appropriate category. Maybe we just don’t have a word for it in my mother tongue. Or maybe the closest word just falls short? Such is the case with loneliness. Wouldn’t you agree?

It’s such an intricate feeling, it can encompass so many different experiences. Loneliness isn’t always a sad feeling, and it isn’t even always experienced in solitude. It’s possible to be lonely in the middle of a room full of people, or on the happiest day of your life. It transcends.

A few months ago I came across a post from Mari Andrew, one of my favorite writers on Instagram, where she outlines different types of loneliness (I’ve included her greatness at the bottom of this post). I loved it, like I do with most of her stuff. But one type of loneliness that she included just hit me right in the gut: “Loneliness of needing to verbally process with someone who is trapped in another time zone.” This! This.

Continue reading “Unconventional Types of Loneliness: A List”
Posted in Strangers, Travel Writing

Stranger Tales: Leigh, the Canadian at the Irish pub in Abu Dhabi International

Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.”

-my Great-Grandmother Colligan

This is the tale of Leigh, a stranger who quickly became a friend at O’Leary’s Irish pub in Terminal 3 of Abu Dhabi International, at 8am and two Stellas deep.

I’d been in the airport for 13 hours, and had two more until the departure of my connecting flight to Johannesburg. It had been a particularly unpleasant evening with the only airport hotel for non-visa holders booked to maximum capacity. After being saved from the piece of terminal floor upon which I’d set up a makeshift lean-to with my backpack and scarf, an incredibly kind airport worker named Magdalena brought me to the Muslim female prayer room next to the elevators in Terminal 4. I spent the rest of my night curled up in the corner of dark cocoon of a room, but I had to scram at sunrise because the shifts were changing, and clusters of female airport staff were coming in and out to do their makeup and gossip over tea in paper cups. I seemed to be a pretty unwelcome intrusion, so I decided to gather my things and venture into the heart of the airport.

Continue reading “Stranger Tales: Leigh, the Canadian at the Irish pub in Abu Dhabi International”
Posted in Memoir, Strangers, Travel Writing

The Little Boys of Manzini

The oldest one walked up to me. It was the Sunday afternoon of a three day music festival and everyone seemed keen to get outta dodge.

I was making my last trip from the campsite to my rental car. He looked as if he was playing a part he had only ever been told about but never given the script for. I watched him shake off his doubt and walk over to me, chest out and strutting, until he was standing right in front of me.

“Hello Madame,” he declared, “May I have some money? Please.”

Continue reading “The Little Boys of Manzini”
Posted in Feature Writing, Memoir, Travel Writing

Reconciling with the city that never sleeps

Returning to New York City, after living in the third world

Her and I, we didn’t part on the best of terms. I absconded from my role as “struggling millennial writer cum waitress” in the unforgiving ecosystem of the Big Apple because, in the three years that I lived and worked in New York, I found myself calcifying over with cynicism at an alarming rate.

I served far more tables than I published articles and wrote poems, deflected daily catcalls with aplomb, learned to control my panic attacks while stuck on the N train in the tunnel under East River between 59th Street and Queensboro Plaza. But I was weary. I found myself doubting her wonder, her grandeur, her reputation as “the greatest city in the world.” What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I thriving? Fulfilling my potential? How was spending my early 20’s in NY turning me into such a curmudgeon? Continue reading “Reconciling with the city that never sleeps”

Posted in Feature Writing, Memoir, Travel Writing

Mornings in Chennai

When Anand is excited he speaks very quickly. His English is about 50% to begin with, and when he gets animated, each word leads into the next with an exotic cadence and I can no longer follow. I have to ask him to slow down and repeat himself before I can finally decipher his words, only to then declare them like mini-epiphanies.

“OH! Motorbike! I’m sorry, I thought you were saying ‘modernite!’”

“I don’t know ‘modernite’ .”

“I don’t either!”

And we laugh, because laughter, apart from tears, is one of the only sounds that transcends language. When we laugh together, it doesn’t really matter why. It matters that we are sharing something with one another. Something that we both understand to be positive, to be safe, to be indulged in collectively, like the juice of a coconut from a shady roadside stand on a blazing afternoon. Continue reading “Mornings in Chennai”