We stepped out of Beijing’s airport into a three-hour ride that inexplicably took six hours. In Tangshan people stared at us as we pushed the foreigner count up to nine. We stared back at people cycling, riding motorbikes and mopeds and general hooting and organized chaos. We studied the street stalls selling all kinds of things and stepped into the serene calm cleanliness of a first world shopping centre with first world prices.
People played cards in the park, or danced or chatted and engaged with us. We watched a hazy sunset from the temple on the hill.
Other than that I took photos of street names in case I got lost and couldn’t remember the names or couldn’t pronounce them.
I was spoilt these holidays, or let’s call it making up for lost time.
The first hike happened as an ad hoc opportunity not to be wasted, none other than the Fish River Canyon in Namibia, the second in the Dolomiti in Northern Italy.
The only similarity between the two, was the presence of rocks, in all shapes and sizes, boulders, shale, stones, great big hurdles or denying obstacles in some cases. A firm reminder of what happens when those things come crashing down.
For the first time in my life, I’ve enjoyed a joint shopping experience, at a sports store, and nowhere else, because of course, kit has to be had! The new mini towels just piqued my curiosity and I had to have one. Strangely, they don’t feel like they’re drying but you do sort of feel dry afterwards, so it works, but not like a huge fluffy super absorbent specimen you’d have at home. And much like Ford Prefect in The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy, I rather wondered it it would be good to suck on when the nutrients got rather low.
The Fish River Hike is entirely self-sufficient, except that you can drink the water, and swim in mid-winter. The Sulphur hot Springs were most amazing, like having a swim in paradise. After the first two days, we didn’t see a living soul, except some baboons and horses, until we reached AiAis and cold beers, chairs and real beds.
In contrast, the Dolomiti we tackled in mid-summer, it snowed! No matter, the refugios cater for everything, even Italian monopoly and so we whiled away our morning. Rocks were copious but also catered for fun, in the form of via ferratas, a kind of cable system where you hook up so you don’t fall if you day dream. There was too much food to eat, and a plate and sleeping bag superfluous. Great excitement hooking up our crampons but never had to use our ice-picks, that’s for next time. Walking on a glacier was never on my bucket list, but should, be, most amazing formations, colours and sounds, ice falling, water rushing through below, all round fun.
I’m participating in a blog roll about….writing, although I feel like a fraud, a voyeur at this point as things are not really moving along. Apart from reading as much fiction as possible and thinking that I should be writing, or oh wow, that’s a good idea, I should write it down, there just seem to be 101 things to do. I know this is not an excuse, it’s about prioritizing and I have to get my priorities straight!
So here goes, I was sent this by Michelle, whose blog you can check out here:
The questions are:
1) What are you working on?
2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
3) Why do you write what you do?
4) How does your writing process work?
1) I’m working on a middle grade novel which is a great adventure into deepest, darkest Africa, well not quite but Botswana comes close?
2) The setting makes this novel somewhat different, I love immersing myself in Africa while I can’t be there, so I’m creating some make-believe for myself, and hopefully for others. Also, I love children’s fiction. By children’s fiction I also mean young adult of course. The world would be a poorer place without The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, the Twilight series. What absolute complete fun! actually being there, so I can armchair travel to fill in the gaps. Speaking of which, Dina von Lowenkraft http://www.dinavonlowenkraft.com/ is also participating in this blogroll and has recently published Dragonfire. Also watch her space, some great new books will be coming along shortly.
3) I started writing this book because my son ran out of reading material that he liked and that he could cope with as a dyslexic. Now of course it’s taken me so long to write that he’s already slightly too old for it. No matter, I hope there will be others out there who will love it.
4) I try and set aside a specific amount of time each day and think I can wing it but actually have to work at building some structure into the story. i.e I’d like to be a pantser but I don’t think I have it in me.
Now my next step in this task is to contact four writers and ask them these questions, and create a huge network of people checking out blog posts.
Someone comes to mind, the author of my favourite blog, Susan Heyden and her blog http://discopantsblog.com/. I absolutely have to continue reading (most) posts especially because I find them really interesting (obvious) and also because I love the South Africanisms. I just miss being able to say, that was kiff, or stop gaaning aan, or whatever, just the right amount of flavour for me, so I’ll write to her straight away…..
Call it a luxury problem, tell me I’m spoilt, whatever, but I have to admit since 9/11, flying is not much fun. Security and passport checks abound, how many times could I change my identity in an airport, is it necessary to check us all about 10 different times? Yes, it’s for my safety I realise this but why the disparities in application? Some places oblige you to take you shoes off, others let you take a coke through, are there rules or not?
I figured out why an airport building is called a terminal, that’s how I felt after the pilot landed in Addis Ababa, it felt like he was doing a wheelie while jolting to the ground.
So, of course I needed the toilet, which was overcrowded and blocked by a traditionally built woman in a beautiful traditional dress. I negotiated my way past her to the sound a kid screaming and the sight of a woman washing her feet in the basin. People were doing stuff with plastic-looking teapots which might have had something to do with the fact that there was no toilet paper, or maybe not. I’m not sure I want to know. On my way out I got stuck behind the woman with the floral print dress, once again.
An interesting stopover all-round, I was exhausted and fed-up by the time I had to board the next plane, a long haul to Brussels. Not helped by people pushing and shoving and the rather nonchalant service on the oldest aeroplane I’ve been on, except maybe when I was 19. Either they wake you ap at 4 am for a paltry breakfast, or ignore you completely, I’m not sure what’s worse. It’s a good thing there was no screen in front of me as I managed to sleep.
I was contemplating a trip to Lalibela, but it would have to be overland from wherever I am at the given moment.
Cheap-ish flight tickets made it possible for us to visit Ireland last week and how amazing it was. Firstly I was blown away by the amazing feeling of space as we trundled along a massive nearly empty highway to visit my cousin in Galway. I knew I wasn’t in Belgium when I asked a shop assistant where to buy running shorts for my son and received a lengthy description of the town and suitable stores to visit. Of course while we were there we stocked up on smarties, jelly tots and cadburys chocolate. I gave the custard powder and jelly powder a miss as my kids ( as befits true Philistines ) have given up on these colonial delicacies and insist on liking the harder to find (read expensive) specialities like blitong ( akin to jerky) and dried sausage.
A real breath of fresh air was being able to stop at any time, anywhere for a meal. Sings in restaurants and pubs proclaiming ‘Food served all day’ just made me want to go in there and order something to eat. And on that topic, there’s a certain restaurant in Kinsale called ‘Fishy Fishy’ which is worth rather a large detour to visit. Apart from the main course which was nothing short of perfection, I had sticky toffee pudding for the first time in my life. WHile I’m not a sweet tooth, the taste will linger on and bring a smile to my lips for a good long while.
We spent a couple of days marvelling at the massive newly-built highways and the convoluted local roads passing the most desolate, amazing scenery I’ve had the fortune to experience. But even here, in paradise there’s trouble, gated communities are empty, office blocks aren’t sold and super expensive byways continue to be built because they were improved in boom times, ouch!
Still, even people in Dublin seemed relaxed and friendly and donned their leprechaun hats with attached beards in anticipation of a six nations home rugby match I was sorry to miss.
Fortunately I had the sense to steer clear of Guinness when I was asked by a bar tender whether I wanted a real beer or some yellow stuff. What I didn’t remember is that somehow we don’t live in a global village and that pints aren’t created equally. So imagine my surprise when I received huge glass of beer when all I requested was an innocent ‘pintje’.
Recently I had to fill out some questions including the last ten books I read and the 10 greatest children’s books. The questionnaire was flexible and you didn’t absolutely have to keep to ten, thank goodness.
Briefly, I’ve been reading mostly Middle Grade and Young Adult lately but I’ve also indulged in ‘The time-traveller’s wife which really keeps you guessing and emotional. Imagine a scenario where you could impregante your wife in the future because you’re visiting her from the past, but not in the present because you’ve had a vasectomy. My mind is reeling just thinking about it.
Icefall was an interesting Middle Grade almost a detective story about the King’s children who get taken in by someone in their close circle.
Holes is fairly bleak in terms of setting, but that’s the idea. Detention consists of digging holes to find treasure for the camp manager.
I love series because it’s often difficult to find an author and a theme that appeals to me so once I do, I latch on and read everything by that person. Therefore I’ve read all of the Ranger’s Apprentice, don’t despair, the first one isn’t the best one. The next series which starts with The Outsiders, is even better.
Twilight provided large entertainment value as books and movies. Lots of criticism of the writing and so on but I thoroughly enjoyed them.
The Hunger Games were great to read because there was so much tension in this post-modernday world. Fabulous stuff.
I nearly forgot Harry Potter who took the world by storm. Great reads.
I’m a big fan of Percy Jackson too, just the idea of half-bloods running around who are mostly dyslexic spells interesting story!
And of course as a child I loved all the Secret Sevens, Noddy books, Famous Five, the Narnia series and My friend Flicka.
I’m not sure what I would have done if I had the range of choice kids have today….