Eating my way through Morocco

Now I really liked the Moroccan influenced food I had eaten so therefore my expectations of the food in Morocco was sky high… Sadly the first few days of eating the food there did not live up to my expectation… however, as the days went by and we started eating at the more local places, I fell in love …

Moroccan breakfasts: Now even in the initial few days, when things didn’t taste as good, I always loved Moroccan breakfasts. Their cakes, the breads with such yummy homemade jam and the freshly squeezed orange juice… YUM! Moroccans have a sweet tooth (certified by more dental clinics than medics in Morocco) and they love their bread.. A bread addict like me, was at home with those breakfasts… and anything I say about the orange juice is less… I am not a juice person, but I soon converted to an orange juice lover for those few days…
Check out the spread 🙂
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Yes they have cake for breakfast!

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A hearty, tasty breakfast = a happy me

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Keftas of Zaida: While travelling from Erg Chebbi to Fes, you will go through a town called Midelt. That’s where most tourists stop for lunch, do yourself a favour and stop a till further in a smaller town called Zaida… The town has many small restaurants selling keftas and you can probably go into any one of them… Zaida is famous among the locals for its Keftas and we saw a whole lot of traveling locals make a pit stop there… Coming back to the food and especially the keftas – I think it’s one of the tastiest food I have eaten in any cuisine… the keftas there a are literally worth dying for… We managed to finish a kg of keftas between the four of us, and when M ordered a tagine after that, I looked at him to see if he had gone crazy.. but lo and behold, we finished that as well.. I am sure if we could lick our plates clean, we would have done that as well :)..I was so busy eating that I didn’t think of taking a single picture…

Oh by the way – when you do stop and eat there, keep the bones for the dogs, you will find on your way out of the town… stray dogs line up on the side of the highway waiting for travellers to throw the bones to them 🙂

Tagines made by some fabulous hosts: I had various tagines in the first few days, in the hope of finding the same flavours as in my head :),.. and when I had actually started to believe that the actual tagine’s are not as nice as the diluted ones, pretty much like the Chinese food in china, I ate the chicken tagine made by M’s sis-in-law in Ramlia… bowled me over with the simple yet amazing flavours of the food.. since then pretty much every tagine I had was awesome.. I have to mention the amazing tagine at Algila Fes ( http://www.algilafes.com/).. The owners happened to be visiting and invited us for a home cooked dinner… Both A and I pigged out like crazy – am sure the hosts thought we hadn’t eaten for days… come to think of it most of the food I loved was home cooked  – I guess it has to do with the amount of love and care the food was made with…

Medfouna popularly known as the Berber Pizza: Now D & M kept raving about the berber pizza through the first day of driving with me asking some 100  questions on what it was…so when we stopped at Ramlia for the day, M’s sister gladly made it for lunch.. and boy was it tasty… essentially Medfouna means something buried.. in this case it was eggs, veggies and chicken buried between two roti like bases and baked in a clay oven…it was one of the best lunch’s of the trip… a close second to the kefta’s of Zaida 🙂

One down and one more to go…

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Harira: Harira is essentially a soup that’s served as a starter at most resturants and definitely at most homes when inviting guests..I have to say again the harira cooked at home for us was yum and the restaurant Harira paled in comparison to that… Harira is a pretty heavy soup with vermicelli or rice in it… so imagine have a bowl full of that and then tucking in the tagine food or the keftas… surprisingly its possible!

Moroccan Tea: Now anyone who knows me, knows that I love my chai…one cup of nicely made masala chai almost always guarantees a good start to my day… In morocco however, that got replaced by Moroccan tea.. Moroccan tea is nothing but green tea with fresh mint and dollops of sugar… I prefer the sugarless version though… Moroccans can have litres and litres of Moroccan tea – any time and at any place…Moroccan tea with roasted peanuts is like bread and butter – the perfect combination!

My constant companion for 15 days

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The food in Djemaa el-fnaa: Djemaa el- Fna is the central market square in Marrakech… in the day time, you find loads of snake charmers, juice vendors, henna artists and others in the square. However, by the evening there are a 100 chefs with their stalls who come there and cook in the open air… the food in itself is highly okay, but the atmosphere, the madness of the chefs and the vibrant colours are not to be missed…

The craziness of the Djemaa el -fnaa

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My favourite food story though is Driss’s reaction to me making couscous… Apparently couscous is a special occasion dish in Morocco and takes close to 2 hours to make.. The preparation is very elaborate and most often the whole family or sometimes many families get together to make and eat couscous.. one should consider themselves privileged if someone makes couscous in their honour…. You can imagine Driss’s horror when I told him that couscous for me is a quick go to dish and at the max takes me 10 minutes to make…for the first 5 mins he thought I was joking and then asked me several questions on my preparation technique.. And from then on till the end of the trip his nickname for me was couscous :)… six months on, every time I make couscous, I am reminded of Driss and his possible reaction to my version of the couscous!

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Desert, snow, mountains and the ocean in less than 15 days…

Exciting and diverse as that was, Morocco had a lot more than just that to offer..

I kind of saw all the stages of evolution of human beings in Morocco; from the more modern cities of Casablanca, Fes and Marrakech, to remote villages with only a few families to nomads who move every 3-4 months; they all exist relatively peacefully in Morocco. I also realized that as human beings we were better in our more primitive forms ; Somehow cities and the constant drive to succeed has sort of jaded and made us human beings a lot harder – or at least that’s what I think.
But more about Morocco now and instead of writing a day to day account of what we did, let me write about what I liked the most:

The people: My experience of the niceness of the people started way before I set foot in the country. I did mention that despite the last minute cancellations and rebooking every single one of the people I interacted with were super nice about all the confusion. That niceness continued as we met Driss and Mohammed – our guides for the 4 day trip, Mohammed’s entire (almost) family, many artisans who were kind enough to explain their art in great detail to us, the owners of the Riads that we stayed in – they went out of their way to make us comfortable… the list just goes on… Does that mean that everyone I met there was good – no…but 95% of them were, and in my books that’s more than an awesome score.

The 4 day trip: When we planned this trip, we started off as it being a completely managed by travel agents kind of a trip (to assure A).. And then somewhere along the way, we both decided that we would mix it up.. For multiple reasons – lack of privacy and me being allergic to too much organization being the utmost.. Therefore a healthy compromise was reached.. We decided to be on our own in Marrakech and Fes and only hire a travel company for the 4 days between Marrakech and Fes.. Me being me opted for an option where we would go to this remote Moroccan village and spend a night there…

As sceptical as I was, I think A and I both agree that the four days were the best that we spent in Morocco and a large part of that were Driss and Mohammed from http://www.roughtours.com .. I think I was divinely guided towards them, as they weren’t the first choice on google… I think I found them through some other site and emailed them.. What attracted me was their speedy responses and such clarity of what we should or shouldn’t do. But since this isn’t a review post on them, I am going to stop here and talk about the trip itself.. You can check out the review that I did on them here though http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g293734-d3501758-r250916142Rough_Tours_Day_Tours-Marrakech_Marrakech_Tensift_El_Haouz_Region.html#REVIEWS

Our first stop was Ait-Ben-Haddaou – more popularly known as the site for Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator and many such movies… amazing what you take to be Egypt and Rome.. I felt like I was in in the movie Ben Hur and was walking through the old streets of Jerusalem!!

Guess what century this is

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From Marrakech we needed to go through the High Atlas mountains to get to Ait Ben Haddaou.. and what amazing scenery that was… the mountains were very dry and harsh and reminded me so much of Leh.. Throughout the drive we saw Nomads in the mountains making honey with their bees.. Apparently that honey is super expensive and used only for medicinal purposes since its so pure and organic..

Some glimpses of the High Atlas…

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Close to Ait-Ben-Haddaou, is this small town called Ourzazate…I don’t think Ourzazate would have existed if not for Hollywood… the entire town survives on Hollywood and its need to shoot these big blockbuster historical movies…so all your sets of Game of Thrones, the movies I mentioned above are shot here… the town itself is pretty, but the huge movie sets and the livelihood that people make through the movies even more impressive…

For me the best part about the drive was seeing a large part of Morocco.. I hate when people go to India or come to South Africa, see the major cities and tourist sites and assume that they have seen the entire country and base their opinions of the country based on that. I try and avoid that when I travel. The drive through the villages and towns of Morocco gave me a better understanding of the place, though in my opinion it takes years to understand the culture of the country…What helped also was the insight that D & M gave us on the different cultures of the Arabs and Berbers, their shared history, struggles and all that..

Ramlia: Ramlia is this really remote Berber village comprising of some 35 families on the border of Algeria.. When the roughtours people suggested that we stay in a remote Berber village, I jumped at the idea.. A not so much – I think I bull dozed him into that one.. But aren’t I glad that I did.. Ramlia was the cherry on the cake as far as Morocco is concerned for both of us…We both just loved loved Ramlia and the day spent there…

We off-roaded for more than 100 kms in the desert to get to Ramlia…I think for kms in a stretch we didn’t see anyone… the first pit stop that we took was to meet one of Mohammed’s uncle.. His uncle was the sweetest, nicest person I have met in a long time.. he dragged us to his house, made sure we had some Moroccan tea, scolded at us for having lunch outside and not having it with him and  then switched on a Bollywood movie for us, just so that we could feel at home!! He then called his wife on his phone to tell her that two Indians were there at home J All this when he didn’t understand a word of English and we didn’t understand French or Berber…clearly –language is not a barrier if you don’t let it be..

After such a warm start to an awesome night, we head out to even more remote pastures… While driving I often wondered if people actually still lived in such places any more… I kept asking the much amused Mohammed (who grew up in Ramlia) how people bought stuff, communicated etc there…

Drive to the end of the earth?

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There are no phones in Ramlia, by that I mean both landlines and cellphones, there is no electricity there – they have solar panels, the amenities that I saw there are very basic and yet I have yet to come across a more harmonious and peaceful place… The sense of community and larger wellbeing of the society is something that I think all of us should learn from – the world will be better place to live in.. The guesthouse that we stayed in was about a km from the village… I have heard of the phrase “hear silence”.. I actually heard it… and as I sat there that morning without access to any wifi, email or phone, so far away from anything modern, I felt at peace and content with the world and myself… made me realize that I really don’t “need” all the things that I think I need to be happy… contentment and true happiness comes from something very different…

Getting my Henna done by Mohammed’s sis-in-law 🙂

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Looking back, if there is something different I could do in Morocco, I would spend an extra day in Ramlia.. I left with a feeling of wanting more of that feeling… greedy we are as the human race aren’t we 🙂

The dunes of Erg Chebbi: Now I had never seen dunes or been to a desert.. I have seen the oceans, a whole lot of snow, tropical forests, but desert no…So I am super kicked that the world largest desert has to be my first… the plan was to go on a camel back and spend the night in the desert.. sounded awesome, before I realized that going on a camel back was like giving your butt a massage … The camel and the view of the desert more than made up for the bumpy ride though…

There’s that cute camel who wanted to chew my seat

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Nothing compares to the desert sky – so clear and vivid

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According to A, we look like the wise men 🙂

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Listening to some awesome music around the camp fire

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This one’s just for kicks

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Camels apparently have very good memory. Driss told me a story of how he once needed to get to campsite and was late, he was asked to follow the camel… and despite his doubts on his sanity for following the camel, the camel did actually take him to the right campsite 🙂

Riads: Riads were traditional opulent homes of Moroccans, they are now converted to small boutique hotels…Staying in riads is a must while travelling to Morocco. There are riads for every budget and taste.. their service is super personalized and not once do you feel like you are in an impersonal hotel.. A, thanks to his background is very finicky about the hotels we stay in and as usual was very worried about the riads I booked… but after days of staying in riads and experiencing their uniqueness and hospitality, even he thought the conventional hotel in Casablanca had no character and was very impersonal.

Compare this with a hotel room!

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The many artisans: Walking around the medina of Marrakech and Fes, we saw many shops selling stuff, but what caught our eye were the artisans going about their craft with so much dedication. Most times as a consumer, when you buy something, all you care about is the quality and the care, but when you see the work that goes behind creating something, I am sure the price seems worth it. Just looking at the work that went in the natural tanneries to create leather stuff made that leather jacket so much more precious.  It’s sad though that this breed of people are dying out thanks to the much cheaper Chinese stuff in the Moroccan markets

Reach of Bollywood: Not too many Indians live in Morocco, and yet they had hindi movies playing to full theatres, even in the remote Ramlia, where there was no electricity, people had TV and watched Koffee with Karan, people knew everything about Bollywood stars and someone asked me if we actually danced on streets!! Super impressed I was

On a completely unrelated topic, I am beginning to feel that I am a citizen of the world… So many people asked me if I was Moroccan while travelling through Morocco.. in South Africa, I am often mistaken for a coloured (people of mixed race origin), once a lady thought I was Spanish started talking to me in Spanish at the Paris airport 🙂 and in India people struggle to place the part of India I come from… I like that thought though 🙂 🙂

I know I haven’t mentioned the souks and the medina…as nice and chaotic as they were, I have seen very similar sights in the old parts of Indian cities…even the clothes and the jewellery bore resemblance to what we find in India (especially the north).. It’s amazing how the world was a truly global environment even centuries ago!

Tips on travelling to Morocco:

  1. Be prepared for noise and chaos
  2. While shopping make sure you bargain, it’s part of culture to not quote the expected price in the first instance
  3. French is usually the spoken language, so if you don’t speak some French, be prepared to struggle a bit, people are nice and very accommodating
  4. Tipping is a norm and almost everyone will expect it. Its best to be clear to whoever helps on what the expectation is
  5. Do not buy argan oil from the souks, and definitely do not fall for words like bargains…like Driss said – you know its original by the price J

After writing all this, have realized that I have written a rather long blog, and I still haven’t written about my Moroccan food experiences… coming up in the next one……

A rocky start to an awesome adventure

I have always thought that people who get deplaned or off boarded are either illegal immigrants or plain stupid – well I don’t think that any more since it happened to yours truly…

End of the year happened and it was time for a vacation. Unlike previous years, we decided to go to Morocco…

Being the control freak of a travel planner that I am, I did the whole trip planning and booking and ensured I check everything. So the D date comes and we all set to board the flights and lo and behold, the security guy just before the boarding of the flight asks me for my transit visa for Paris. I gave him the “ you idiot I am not getting off in Paris look” when he tells me that for mere mortals like me who have an Indian passport, a transit visa even if I am just in the airport is needed. And I don’t think

All my pleading and arguing fell on deaf ears, and they asked A if he would like to travel without me, to which if looks could kill, that guy would be dead. Obviously A is still alive so he chose to stay with me. We got home and rebooked everything to start 2 days later via emirates…

Remember my belief about the “everything happens for the good”, am assuming this too happened for the good… if not for anything else, but to deflate my over confidence about travelling.

Some things I learnt from the experience:

  1. I have a long way to go in anger management. I really did want to harm that security guy…
  2. A is better at handling this kind of random rubbish than I am..
  3. Little bit of compassion goes a long way. None of the folks at the riads and hotels in Morocco charged us extra for the change of bookings at the last minute. The one riad that created an issue, upgraded us to a suite and then waived off the extra! I don’t think I will ever forget the goodness of all of those people..

Coming back to the trip now… I had an awesome time, given the start… more about in the next post..

Calm before the storm 🙂

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I got kissed by the mist…

And walked with the lions, saw a moon bow and traveled back in time.. my life is amazing isn’t it… in most parts it is 🙂

Even before I set foot in Africa, I wanted to visit the Mosi-oa-tunya falls; the few days of leave that I needed to take and its proximity to Joburg made it the ideal choice for a much needed break.. Why am I calling the much popular Victoria Falls, the more complicated Mosi-oa-tunya… that’s just because I like the meaning of the local name – “The smoke that thunders “… The name is apt for the falls, since the first thing you notice about the falls from the aeroplane is the mist that looks like smoke.. I wish I had my camera handy with me on flight… but here are some pictures from the helicopter ride that we did during the trip

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We stayed at the Royal Livingston and should I say there are some perks of being married to a hotelier… A works for the same group of hotels and were we treated like royalty or what! I think for a second my jaw dropped and I behaved much like the country bumpkin I complain of many a tourists behaving like :).. anyways… the first thing that we did after checking in was going and seeing the falls… you can hear the falls before you can see them, and are they imposing or what… but my best experience of them, is getting drenched while walking on the bridge… its an insane thought, but I felt like I was being purified by that water….we had so much fun doing that, that it became part of our everyday ritual for as long as we were there…

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I have a firm belief that everything that happens in life, happens for the best… it’s a thought I have hung on to no matter what happens… and the timing of this trip proved my theory once again… we were supposed to travel one week before we actually did… visa mess up happened, and we traveled when we did… thanks to that, I saw a moon bow… for the uninitiated – while the rainbow happens due to sunlight, a moon-bow or a lunar beam happens in moonlight… it only happens during full moon and the days around it… and guess what, thanks to the delays I saw the moon bow…

I don’t know if I will ever be able to put into words what that experience was like.. the best way I can describe it is that it felt like two separate perfectly merged photos – one of a gently rainbow and one of the falls in moonlight… irony being, that the picture couldn’t be captured on camera.. the few postcard pictures I saw of the moon-bow were so sad that I wished they hadn’t called them pictures of the moon-bow..

I couldn’t get a picture of the moon-bow, that didn’t stop me from clicking away though

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We also went walking with the lions… now after living in South Africa for the last few years, touching lion cubs is something I think only tourists would do… so when friends suggested that we walk with the lions, I almost dismissed the idea. That was until they told me that we weren’t really talking about lion cubs here… so we walked with lions who were 18 months old, and while they are “technically” cubs, they aren’t really little… the good part of the entire project being that the funds are used to rehabilitate lions into the wild…

As a completely different line of thought, I wonder what it is about that human race that seeks to destroy… it was scary to imagine a world, where we wouldn’t see lions  or for that matter a lot of other species in the wild.. all thanks to us being greedy and destroying their habitats or poaching them for money…

The Lions I went walking with

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Since I didn’t have a visa to enter Zimbabwe, we couldn’t really get to the other side… we walked on the bridge though… this bridge was built in 1905 and is one of the few bridges in the world which is used for rail, road and pedestrian traffic.. Added feature of the bridge is the bungee jumping that happens from there… was amazing how crowded it was, with someone jumping of every 10 mins… I was however obsessed with the bridge itself…

That’s me in two countries at once

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And that’s the bridge

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And there is someone who just finished jumping 🙂

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We also went on a cruise on one of the luxury boats to see the sunset… Honestly, the cruise was just about okay.. On the hindsight, I would have stayed for one more sun downer on the sundeck of the hotel and witnessed  more of this

 

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The best part about the cruise were the people we were surrounded by and the conversations they were having… yes I am shameless that way :)… So we had one South African guy with two girls – who had come on some work, one Chinese crew doing some travel documentary on Zambia ( I am sure I feature in some programme in China), an Indian couple with an american daughter working in Zambia and a couple of American families working for an NGO in Zambia… so you can imagine the fun I had ;).. but seriously, the cruise can be skipped… The helicopter ride, not so much though…

Despite my fear of heights, I am glad we did the copter ride… and I am doubly glad I got to sit in front… the views of the gorges and the falls from top – unbeatable…

That’s the Zambezi from top

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There is a steam train that was built in the 1900s which still operates in Livingstone. Its refurbished and takes you to the bridge on the falls two days a week… we did that too… I felt like I was transported to an era gone by – everything on the train was so Victorian and beautiful…I almost envy the guys who traveled by train in that era… how spoilt they must have been!!

On our last morning in Livingstone, we went hiking down the boiling point to get a different view of the falls – did I mention, I was obsessed by them? I am glad A dragged me hiking since my love for hiking is legendary…

This is what I saw

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And this

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And one more 🙂

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What a wonderful sight to remember, don’t you think?

PS: I usually hate giving free advertising to anyone on my blogsite, But I have to mention the hotel and the staff and how welcoming and nice they were… right from the time we checked in to the time we left, people were super sweet and thoughtful… I would have stayed in the hotel just for the views, the staff were the cherry on the cake…

Early morning view.. that cloud looking thing is the mist from the falls

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And these were the resident bucks who shared this property with us

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and that tent is where I got a complementary massage

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see what I mean??

I stalked someone

Let me just say it’s all for a good cause though… See I started gymming again and since I don’t do stuff in half measure I went and hired a trainer…
Hiring a trainer has been on my mind for the last 3 years or so… I just had to get over my mind set that it was too pretentious to seek help of a trainer or that only athletes or actors hired trainers… once that happened, I needed to find someone right for me..

I have been seeing H in the gym that I train in for the last few years… and I am not sure why, but I knew I wanted to train with him… so I put A on the job to try and talk to H sometime end of last year… H however was sort of difficult to reach… A gave up and so did I for a while… but when I finally decided some 2 months back that enough was enough and I had to start taking care of me, I started trying to get in touch with H… I called some 3-4 times without being able to reach him and then finally left a text message… A was highly amused at my persistence and urged that I find someone else.. However, the message did the trick and H did reply back and after some juggling of schedules we met and it’s been 3 months that I have been in training….like they say – there is always a time and a place

So was the stalking worth it?? – Completely!!… H‘s philosophy resonates with me… he keeps asking me and teaching me to be more internally focused and master my mind.. And even though H kind of looks down on anything slow and calm and D who is my yoga teacher thinks that H is pushy, they both essential teach the same things – just in very very different ways… So while D does that by teaching me to meditate and look deeper at all aspects of my life – whether they be emotional, physical or spiritual, H push my physical boundaries to make me think about what’s going on inside of me.. strangely the gymming has become more spiritual and almost meditative an experience for me…

Progress: three months down the line, my max deadlift record is 75kg, I can do shoulder presses with 12 kg kettle bells and for people who know what kettle swings are – I do 50 kettle swings with 12 kg kettle bells quite easily… okay that’s an exaggeration – lets just say I am okay doing it…Do I have a long way to go in terms of fitness – absolutely; and I don’t think I have lost weight yet but despite the fact that my body parts are sore most of the time, I am having so much fun and am much happier thanks to that one hour in the morning… makes H and all the pain I go through completely worth it 🙂

Some awesome food and realizations

I went to Uganda recently with the same M and J … Or rather I went and they followed… After Lagos, I think J went into a spin when I told her that I would be traveling earlier than the both of them… I don’t think she believed me when I said Uganda was cool…

This was my fourth trip to Uganda… And each time the place has surprised me – pleasantly !!! For a country that is so tiny and poor, they are very efficient..their airport and the immigration system is much better than some of the other African countries I have been to including Seychelles, which I thought was a disappointment… But about Seychelles later….

The second thing that I love about Uganda is the food… Foodie that I am, I love the diversity in the food offered in Uganda while maintaining the quality… Kampala has some really old bungalows converted to restaurants, with food being impeccable… I have had one of the best masala dosa in Kampala – almost compared to the quality of the dosa in MTR and some awesome continental and Italian food… It’s amazing how global the world has become with all types of food being available everywhere… Specially since Kampala has no great infrastructure to speak of… I guess the wide variety of food has to do with a large presence of the United Nations there… Whatever it is, I am not complaining!!!

The best part of my trip was however something completely unrelated to the place….it was something that someone said to me… Someone I have met only 3/4 times earlier and who hardly knows me told me that they think I am one of the most interesting people they have met… I said well I take that as a compliment coz interesting could go either ways…. The reason that person gave me is that I am the only person they know who doesn’t really care about what others think about me and do what I want…. It really touched me since I have been struggling with that part of myself for a while now… There are times in the last couple of years where I have wanted to just let go and do whatever is asked of me… Especially if the people asking me are closest to me and think this new ” I will listen to myself ” quality is not so nice… It’s that ” don’t care damn” part that has stopped me and asked me to listen to myself and stand my ground… So it’s very reassuring that someone who doesn’t know me, recognizes that in me and more importantly thinks it’s a quality to be admired…. Made my trip :).

The land of chaos yet again…

So I went back to Lagos recently… some might think I am a little crazy, thanks to my last visit there (https://opinionzunlimited.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/demystifying-lagos/)… I just choose to believe I am very diligent!!

This time I was much better prepared to handle the madness that is Murtala Mohammed Airport! I traveled light with no check in bags just to ensure I do not wait for my luggage for hours and arranged for a protocol officer just so that I never had to go through the torture again…. Was my experience better?? It was ,  but not really due to my great planning…

Let me rewind a bit here… I was traveling to Lagos with colleagues to help make a video to market Africa to people overseas… lets call my colleagues – M and J, both of them traveling for the first time and me their tour guide.. that statement should have scared them, but it looks like I project more confidence than I have 🙂.. Anyways, before getting on the flight I commented that I felt safer in Lagos, just that airport was sad and nobody believed me

I was very prepared for the madness at the airport, however I wasn’t prepared for the protocol officer to kind of do nothing and make us wait in the queue… when M told us that he had to check in baggage I was almost tempted to leave him at the airport and go… having said that, the airport has improved.. the waiting at immigration was much lesser and there was a miracle – they had more than one conveyor belt for luggage… I cannot believe I get excited by seeing conveyor belts – I guess Lagos does that to you….

I always like being there when people experience something for the first time..the reactions are so varied and less inhibited… So we drive to the hotel, and I know what M&J are thinking – what can they do to make Lagos look attractive … and then they see the hotel and jaws drop… M actually forgot his ipad bag in the taxi thanks to the enthusiasm of seeing a really nice hotel when its least expected… anyways… after a lot of anxiety on M’s part we got the ipad back… which truly impressed both M&J….

I got to see the mainland Lagos this time… it’s amazing how different mainland is from island… the stark reality of Africa hits you when see mainland and how people live there…. It’s sad that a country which has so many natural resources is still in this situation… I don’t really like the Middle East for their attitude towards women, but the one thing they were right about is improving the standards of living of their citizens… really sad that all the money goes a few limited pockets… Nigerians never fail to amaze me with their warmth though… you see so many smiles at the airport and roads… they even ask for bribes with a smile… that’s one thing I miss in SA – smiles…

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful, apart from both my colleagues forgetting stuff in taxis and hotels… I guess they did that just to check honesty levels of Nigerians…let’s just say that the Lagosians impressed all of us by their honesty!!

This trip made me a lot more receptive to going back to Lagos… I guess it’s always good to see progress, even though it is at a snail’s pace… maybe the next time around, I will be courageous enough to travel without a protocol officer all on my own… okay I am not so sure of that… As courageous as I am… masochist I am not