Whether you’re a newcomer trying to figure out what this blog is all about or an old friend on a procrastination binge: welcome, and thanks for stopping by!
Here you can find an eclectic selection of stories to get you started, ranging from research-heavy reportage to more literary pieces, with the dubious bonus of an introspective ramble on long-term travel fuelled by burnout and rum.
“Jaffna’s bloody history still lingers on every corner, crawling up the dilapidated remains of grand colonial houses, sticking its fingers in the bullet holes sprinkled across the walls, laughing at the amputated limbs and the shrapnel wounds, goading the thousands that have left in the course of the war, returning now after decades abroad to see what is left of their homes.”
In December of 2014 I travelled to Jaffna, the capital of Tamil Sri Lanka, which still bears the scars of the country’s long civil war. Roaming around town, mesmerised by its crumbling beauty, I met Joganathan, who was visiting his home for the first time since he fled the war 20 years ago.
A story about unexpected beauty, the aftertaste of violence and one man’s homecoming.
“In complete silence you can hear all the bodies around you churning away – a rumbling stomach, a creaky knee, the rustle of hair released from a ponytail and brushing against the shoulder. A nasty coughing fit, during which you will kindly leave the room so as not to disturb the others. The laboured breathing of a lifelong smoker and a nose that is still running after a spicy meal. A suppressed yawn. The smell of Indian heat still lingering on our bodies.”
Auroville – a cult, a utopian township, a hippie zoo? A week’s stay in one of the world’s most famous alternative communities creates more questions than it answers.
“Bhutanese of Nepalese origin, also known as Lhotshampas, have been seeking asylum in Nepal since 1990, living in the shadow of those most photogenic and trendy of refugees, the Tibetans. After fleeing southern Bhutan they eventually returned to the land of their forefathers where UNHCR gave them refugee status in 1991 and settled them in seven refugee camps in eastern Nepal.
Now around 19,000 refugees still live in Beldangi Camp, where I have come to ask one simple question: “Where is your home?”
Except that for the people here the question is anything but simple.”
“When Fatimeh ushers me into the bedroom, so that I might choose some toys for Borod and me to play with, I realize that I have been unwittingly assigned the role of Borod’s playdate and nanny for the day. Overwhelmed by the enormity of the task it takes a couple of seconds before I notice that there is another person in the room with us. A man is lying diagonally across the bed, either dead or asleep, I’m not sure.
“Morphine, he likes morphine…” she whispers by way of explanation, pouting and shrugging her shoulders with a slightly bewildered look, as if to say ‘silly men, what can you do.’ “
In the days leading up to Ashura, the most important religious holiday of Shi’a Islam, I spend an afternoon in Yazd as the reluctant playdate of little Borod, gaining a glimpse into a troubled Iranian home.
“Long journeys on Indian trains are not unlike that sad little spliff making rounds at a beer-sodden house party at 3am – it seems like such a good idea at first, and the next thing you know you’re slumped in a corner unable to move, talking to a wall and making a mental note that you should make better life decisions in the future.”
The story of a long train journey and my gradual descent into the sort of catatonic bliss reserved for sleep-deprived travellers and lobotomy patients.
“Come to think of it, travel is a lot like sex – when done with heart and passion and abandon it really doesn’t look all that good. It strips you bare and knocks all those silly ideas you had about yourself right out of your head. Sometimes you find yourself so wildly in love with life that you just might burst out of your skin and sometimes it leaves you wanting to crawl into a dark corner and die for a bit. And every once in a blue moon you have to admit that it really wasn’t worth the hassle and you should have just stayed at home with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s.”
A confession, a rant and a love letter.