Saturday, 21 June 2014

Featured interest: Travel from the comfort of your own...

Reading blogs is one of my treasured ways to relax, escape from my daily grind and just simply get out of my own head. It seems to me that our minds are a huge portion of where we truly exist (seems to be true for me anyway) and we can experience anything through reading the imaginations or real life experiences of others. As much as I love to read fiction... shocking..., I've found that there is nothing more captivating, educative, entertaining and then liberating at the same time, to my thoroughly free spirit... which is currently pegged down by real life responsibility, than a back seat ride on a really good travel blog which takes me to all the places I would like to go. Travel blogs with good descriptive/narrative techniques and with the help of pictures and/or video, can be an open window to the world for the mentally curious and physically tied down. 

Today, I'll be sharing my most recent travel blog finds with a little bit of NatGeo travel thrown in.

The adventurer: 
Source: blog
Jean-Baptiste is the young French blogger on who has taken time off work to... wait for it... CYCLE, yes indeedy! On a bicycle... Oui, vraiment sur une bicyclette, powered by his legs... from Morocco to Cape Town, SA! His simplistic descriptions and his intense capability of picking up extensively detailed information about the land, the people, the culture, the history and general attitudes towards himself, from the countries and communities he rides through, coupled with his actual physical experience of being exposed to the elements with the challenges of a mechanical device which reaches it's limits and breaks sometimes, makes this blog my number one adventure addiction at the moment. His pictures, I might add, are stunning. I am humbled and secretly envious of the fact that he has managed to see my country in more detail than I ever hope to, but I am grateful for his perspective which captures Cameroonian life from a sometimes quizzical, other times comical point of view, with details that only a foreigner or someone who has been away from here for a long time, might deem noteworthy. He even went to lake Barombi Mbo just outside of Kumba, which I'm happy to say I beat him to last year (see here) with my friend Sosh, back when I was still learning to drive manual gear shift, making it an adventure of sorts! My favourite post under his Cameroon archives is the one about climbing Mount Cameroon. I saw a natural compassion in him; something that in Cameroonians has slowly been eroded and replaced by the type of complacency  that is only caused by desensitisation from decades of inappropriate governance and public mismanagement, when he ponders over the plight of porters and guides on the mountain, who do not have adequate hiking gear and shelter from the elements even though more than a thousand tourists are charged a considerable fee by the Ministry of Tourism, to climb the mountain every year. Jean-Baptiste came through Cameroon in January, has already made it through Angola and is currently on his way through Namibia. I wish him all the best of luck and more grease to his chain-link! Du courage mon ami, you only live once!

The expat-observer:
Source: blog
Frenchie is a young Haitian-American who wrote blackincairo between 2010 and 2011 while she was a student at American University Cairo. Let me start by saying that I love the way this woman writes. Her blog is like a public journal of life during that time and her travels within the Mediterranean area. It is difficult for me to summarise her blog, but I have been thoroughly enjoying her ability to objectively analyse matters of culture, language, religion, race, gender and her own personality and emotions. One recurring theme is the perception of and reaction to race, ethnicity and Afrocentrism. I've found her musings on gender issues and religion very informative as well. I think she is a wonderful writer and I feel quite lucky to have gotten a peek into her mind. One post I found quite interesting is the one about Cleopatra (here). It's not necessarily about travel, but then it points out an interesting observation about Afrocentrism and the diaspora idea of black history and representation. I myself have had a similar point of view time and time again. I was also struck by the amount of sexual harassment women have to deal with constantly in Cairo. After reading and shaking my head exhaustively, I re-established my previous conviction that men behave only as badly as their nurturing teaches them to behave, therefore men who behave badly are just incredibly mal élevé!  This blog won the best black travel blog award in 2010 and though concluded, it is still very much a must read if you have any curiosity about what life is like from a black woman's perspective, in Cairo.

The anthropologist researcher:
Source: blog
Kwekudee writes Trips Down Memory Lane out of Accra, Ghana. He researches the history of indigenous African people and the diaspora. I've been reading his research on the Wodaabe/Bororo people of Fulani ethnicity here. The wealth of referenced information and photo library is staggering. I've learned so much more about these people, whom I've observed with a healthy curiosity since childhood, than I would normally be privy to, considering that it is simply out of my capability (so I tell myself... especially since traveling in some of these areas might not particularly be safe right now... whom am I kidding, I'm just not brave enough) to travel in pursuit of knowledge about these nomadic people who are found in the Sahel region of every Sub-Saharan country, stretching from southern Niger, through northern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, western Central African republic, all the way to Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. This blog is not typically a travel blog, but the writer's ability to transport his readers to some of the most exotic (so to speak) parts of the world, offering more than just a glimpse of life as one does not yet know it, makes it seem like a travel blog. If African ethnic anthropology is one of your interests, like it is mine, here's one to check out.

A far-away local:
Source: thai-pork-larb-lao-laab

Connie Veneracion is the writer on A wife, mom of two, retired lawyer, retired magazine columnist, and a phenomenal cook, living in The Philippines. I love food and I'm always searching for recipes that I can easily recreate in an attempt at breaking the monotony in our Cameroonian cuisine. My search brought me to this lifestyle blog, where Connie cooks, shares recipes, travels, reviews restaurants, markets and tourist attractions. All the while taking some wonderful pictures that transports me to the pacific and Asia. If you like food and have never been to the Philippines, you're in luck! I'm impressed by the diversity found in Pinoy cuisine with foreign and local influences that blend to make it quite unique.

A Foodie presenter:

Ishai Golan is the Israeli actor who hosts the television series Street Food Around The World on NatGeo People. The host takes viewers into the world's street kitchens, markets and alleyways hiding the best street food. He occasionally takes some local chefs and food connoisseurs along to help unveil their local cooking  treasures. I've been somewhat glued to the tv while this show is on and I admit, the host is rather dashing... in a mature... boho sorta way! Combine that with food while traveling, and yumm! If you can get this channel where you are, tune in...

That's a sum of my wanderlust interests at the moment. In  the old days, when a baby was born in my little Bafaw community, the placenta it came with was wrapped in a coco-yam leaf, taken home and buried somewhere near the family house. It was believed that for this reason, no matter how far away from home one roams the earth, our link to our birthplace will always remain strong and we are forever drawn back to it. Doesn't explain why I'm constantly being pulled to Kumba, but the metaphor "anchored at the roots" does apply in the same way. While I am here, establishing a secure base for my young family, my mind can still travel to the nearest or farthest locations, traversing some of the most scenic routes,  to observe and absorb the most interesting cultural communities, with the bravest, most passionate bloggers and hosts I come across. If you've discovered some interesting travel from the comfort of your own couch and don't mind sharing, please leave a comment with directives. Thank you and enjoy...

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Spotted: West African Splendid Sunbird

Just when I was getting a little bored with my photo cataloging of colourful birds spotted in Cameroon, I stumbled upon this Sunbird. What a perfect name for this beguiling bird which glimmers in the sunlight with an iridescent melange of black, green, purple and blue. It was a nice partially sunny day on the hills of Fontem during my most recent countryside retreat. I was sitting in the shade of a raised veranda on one of Beluoh's hilltops, looking out to the rolling hills of Lebialem, that seemed to stretch on as far as the eyes could see. I was reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne at the time, when I looked up to give my eyes a rest, and to ponder over the particularly tedious poetic style of the author and how he manages to keep the reader mesmerised and fascinated with his description of colours. There it was, a glimmering male Splendid Sunbird, hopping all over a flowering bush, sucking nectar with it's down-turned bill. I had to move quickly to catch this bird on jpg. They are not super tiny birds, but they move quickly, hovering occasionally, in order to gather as much nectar as they can get in a day. You can see some superb close-ups of this bird here. Happy to share with you. Enjoy...

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