Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Chasing Sky lights

It had been threatening to rain, but it quickly stopped after a very brief sprinkle. Our tropical sky doesn't always reveal much beauty during the rainy season because it is usually dark and heavy with cloud cover and only little peeps of sun here and there. On this particular day, I'd been looking out for birds. I usually check out the silhouette of this unusual tree in the distance. It has no foliage and it sticks out like a sour thumb among the rest of the trees on our forest outline, but it makes it easy for me to know when large raptors are on the prowl since they love to perch on the bare branches of this tree. I'd seen some majestic falcons in the area and I had been trying to take photographs. I noticed a rainbow above some roof-tops and I forgot all about the birds. I literally, began chasing the sky lights. I am glad that my quest for these impressive birds at the very hour when the sun began it's final descent, allowed me to see this beautiful display of lights moving through the sky during a sunset.


Thursday, 23 October 2014

Spotted in Kumba: The Village Weaver

Here's a popular one for those of you who have been keeping up with my bird-watching catalogue - the Village Weaver - also known locally as the Palm Bird. Both names have everything to do with their skill at weaving fancy nests out of palm frond strips, grass and leaves. The Village weaver is one of the most abundant species of birds in this area. They often colonise fruit trees near people's homes in huge numbers, and are considered to be quite pestilential because of the amount of noise and droppings they produce. The more prominently coloured males move in first, to weave their detailed nests, then they hang upside-down at the entrance of their nest, fluttering their wings and singing vibrantly to attract interested females who might be impressed by their finished work. These birds are known to attract tree snakes who are after their eggs and/or chicks during the nesting season. When I was a child, the large mango tree in our front yard became something of a peril once these little busy-bodies settled in and turned it into their home. The shade of the tree became useless for playing Tabala (Cameroonian hop-scotch) once the little white and gray missiles started raining down and the green tree snakes which occasionally lost their footing(chuckles), started landing in the middle of our afternoon marathon games. I'm sure most people who grew up in Cameroon can immediately recognise these birds. These yellow weavers are so abundant here that I'm tempted to nominate them for the spot of national bird!


After my own heart!

Bird-watching essentials: A copy of Birds of the World, and Nikon Medallion S binoculars.

Bird watching is probably an unusual hobby in some circles and most people I know don't look at these animals quite as interestingly as I do most of the time. I am happy to know that I have been able to entertain some of my readers, followers, friends and family with my adventurous stalking of birds. I try not to bore people I meet by bringing up the topic, but I'm ever so happy to oblige when someone brings it up in conversation. Imagine my elation when none other than my dear sister-in-law, Rene, surprised me with a present to support my hobby. A Nature Guide catalogue of Birds of the World. Now I can get familiar with interesting birds even before I actually spot them in real life. Thanks to this book I'm more aware of the migratory birds that seasonally come through the forest regions in Cameroon, and I can keep an eye out for them. Some of them I've already spotted but haven't had the opportunity to take photographs yet. I'm ever so grateful for this very thoughtful present. Now my readers can benefit from my renewed interest in roaming about through overgrown bushes, orchards and forests, looking for colourful flying creatures. You are the best... Smooches :-*

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Petit à petit l'oiseau ne dort pas dehors.

Preview photo from upcoming photography post: Chasing Sky Lights

When you get everything you want, all at the same time, it can be a dream and a nightmare all rolled into the same package. The saying goes that there is a time for everything and indeed there is, since we expect to get everything we want eventually. Things come to us when we try hard enough to get them, but like most pessimists, I tend to try several things at the same time, all of which I desperately want; expecting that neither of them is very likely to give, but at least one might! It gets really complicated when all endeavours, unexpectedly give at the same exact time. One is suddenly and anxiously juggling everything at once - which to say the least - isn’t handling it very well at all. There is such a time when one gets in over one’s head, battles to seem to have everything under control on the outside, while hoping everything will eventually fall into place once one gets the hang of it! It’s not a very good plan, but it sometimes works if one’s body decides to cooperate! It is a plan which always seemed to work for me. Until now, it did anyway.

Anxiety can be the stage upon which our bodies wage a fierce battle against our insatiable brains. While we ravel with glee at getting the things we want, things which we always knew we could handle, things which we are bound to get anyway; we forget that it is alright to wait. We can wait for a time when we can really handle things properly, and confidently. In our haste to proceed and prove that we are strong and capable, refusing to consider that we can wait for a better time, we often stubbornly take on too much. We attempt to juggle – and we do successfully for a time, until we falter as we surely must, and an all important piece comes crashing down like the headdress of the beautiful princess in a monenkim dance routine!

It can be frustrating when one’s body just refuses to go along with the plan, like a work-horse which decides to stay put and refuses to move another step. It is as disappointing as the partner who will not do his/her part – a most vital part of the very machine that works the plan. A plan that was wrought with deep troughs which I tried to overlook. A plan with high walls which knowing I’d jumped them before, I was certain I could scale them again. All I had to do was to build up the pace and keep it moving, while ignoring the throbbing in my head, the ringing in my ears, the constant racing of my heart, the twitching at my finger-tips and the proximity to which my anxiety was getting to hysteric levels - all the while - telling myself that I could do it simply because it had been done before and I clearly have what it takes.

For a person who tries to pay attention to healthy choices, I had been totally oblivious to the effects of stress and anxiety on my health. My tendency to over-analyse and worry about everything, puts my stress and anxiety level at a significantly high point. The overwhelming confusion that comes out of taking on ill-timed responsibility is immensely stressful. I’d been focused on too many goals and when they all landed on my lap at the same time, I carried on like I normally would, ignoring the aching, throbbing and twitching stress signals – until it all came crashing down. I got a major sign that said “calme toi, and progressed into a mild complication. A reminder that my plate is already fully loaded now and I can have more only later. It is not always just about what we want and the sacrifices we make to get/keep what we want that make our lives successful and fulfilling. Sometimes, it isn’t up to just making a decision and winging it. Sometimes we take on tasks that we think we are equipped to handle, though it is often just the wrong time. It is easy to overestimate what we are capable of handling, getting overwhelmed and not realising it until our bodies subtly – yet unmistakably – remind us by shutting down the plan.

Dealing with feelings of unattained self-expectations torment me further, but with support from family, I'm trying to stay in the moment where I'm doing a good job, my balance is perfect and my health is no longer in jeopardy. There will be times when I will see or meet someone who is juggling all the things I want, and doing it all seemingly well. Of course there are people like that, but I'm not like them right now. Maybe when the time is right I'll still be able to have it all at once and overwhelmingly so, without breaking a sweat! For now, there are enough challenges and all I can do is to reaffirm my bearings like a lone bird in a deserted sky which finds it's way home little by little at the close of a storm.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Façades in a frame: The quaint provincial

I discovered a cozy little spot at the far corner of the yard. Quite rustic looking, with overgrown grass, piles of wooden planks that have now begone to succumb to exposure and the insects that have made it both home and food. There are also a few extra large tires and other mechanical rejects that look like they may have once belonged to a Caterpillar tractor of some sort. Presently, it is all covered in moss and mold. At first glance it looks rather drab, then hazardous, becoming even more so once my mind suggests the setting looks like many good hiding places for snakes. A cautionary mechanism, nurtured from growing up in a tropical country, which never actually prevents me from exploring. 

Right above it all, sprouting majestically despite the persistent moss, is a mature pink pomelo tree, with fruit as large as Chinese lanterns, hanging up and down it's lower branches. It is such a pretty sight that it diminishes all the chaos underneath. I walked around a bit, looking for the perfect frame, and finally found it while crouching behind a pile of tires. Took some test shots in both colour and b&w. Found an old rusted paint barrel, turned it on it's side and used it as a tripod to take some self portraits. Eliminating the whole mishmash of colour patterns, the eye sees shapes created by only light and shadows. I like how the brain forms emotions from this simplistic perception. 

Eventually got some help from my ever so patient cousin Dare, who has a similar enthusiasm in photography. Can you tell which photographs where taken by him? I named this series of photographs "The quaint provincial" because they bring to mind an adjective that was attributed to me many years ago by someone who taught me the importance of putting myself first, or risk being taken for granted most of the time. If you look up the meaning of both the noun and adjective forms of "provincial", you roughly get: 

"- one living in or coming from a province, 
  - a person of local or restricted interests or outlook
  - a person lacking urban polish or refinement

  - marked by simplicity, informality, and relative plainness" (Merriam-Webster online dictionary)

There is enough under the word's synonyms (and I know enough about this person anyway) that lets me understand that it was not meant as a compliment. I was not being flattered in the same way the words "low maintenance" would sound to a person concerned with frugality. I was being called out for not having the right combination of urban sophistication, ambition, pretense and aesthetic appreciation. I was called out by one who valued his position as some sort of "gatekeeper" to the "in" crowd, for being plain'ol non-conformist me! I was being abused and I knew it. Being happy in my own skin and not giving two sniffs for judgement means that being perceived as provincial doesn't bother me. In fact, I now seek and appreciate a more rural aesthetic; natural, wild and freeing as it may seem, yet peaceful, charming and serene. A positive spin on "provincial", I'm hoping, I've captured in these pictures.


Olive caftan top with gold embroidery (DIY adjustment from a previous item)
Dark wash denim shorts (DIY adjustment from  a once favourite pair of old jeans)

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Rain drops and morning dew

Once again, it is the rainy season in Kumba. The hot dry spell has long gone and I am reveling in the splendors of the wet season. I love this about Cameroon. At every turn, there is something old that seems completely new. Things I've probably seen a million times, that I'm only now noticing, as if for the very first time. There are many little details that are so unique to this hemisphere. I've recently started exercising... finally! I do a 3 mile power-walk/jog every morning, on days when the rain is not pouring to the point of the muddy roads becoming completely flooded. Photography is not a very good companion for my exercise routine. I have had to throw out timing since I tend to make frequent stops to check out details and take pictures. The way water droplets catch the light in the morning, before the full force of the rising sun makes them vanish into the humid air, is beautiful to behold. In the early morning, there are little twinkles of water on pretty much everything. Some of my favourites are seen here on grass floret spikes, grass blades, giant coco-yam leaves (colocasia) and spiderwebs... enjoy!


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