Monday, April 15, 2024

The Gambia: Photo Diaries from the City

Although I flew into Banjul, I spent very little time there. Most of my time 'in the city' was actually spent in Banjul's sprawling suburbs, like Bakau, Serrekunda, and Brikama. These are photos from the urban parts of The Gambia, before my 8-hour drive up country along the Gambian River.

The Banjul international airport

The beach at the Atlantic ocean, quiet on a weekday, but packed on the weekend

Roads were very muddy from the rainy season

If you don't move your car, the mud will consume it

Beautiful apartments

The outhouse at the reptile farm

Views of the neighbors

Sheep and goats everywhere

The ocean at dusk

There were many ornate metal doors like this one

The beach on the weekend

A baobab tree

Friday, April 5, 2024

New coat and red socks

 First time wearing this new Muji coat that I altered. Very excited I got to get in on the red sock trend before it disappears. 

Coat: Muji
Top: Cuyana
Bag: Celine
Pants: Everlane
Sunglasses: Apercu

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The Gambia: From Banjul to Basse

Last fall, I had the honor of accompanying a client and their funders on a trip to The Gambia. It was my first time in West Africa and the second international trip I have taken since the pandemic ended.

The Gambia is the smallest country in Africa. It touches the Atlantic Ocean on one side and borders Senegal on all others.

I was there for 10 days, flying into Banjul, and then heading "up country," which means along the Gambian River. The journey to the town of Basse takes about 8 hours by jeep. Thankfully, the roads are well-paved, though you do have to slow down frequently due to cows, tractors, and kids in the road.

I won't be able to write much about the work since I do like to maintain client confidentiality, but I will write about my own observations and feelings. Below are diary excerpts from the trip:

"In the distance, there are birds chirping and also hooting. A blue bird with a long black tail just made a fascinating sound and landed on a palm tree. The ocean is just footsteps away. It is humid here, like a rainforest, sweat emanating from all pores in my body. I don’t bother to wear makeup, only sunscreen. And it is so, so hot; I sweat everywhere. Even the indoors bring no relief. The air conditioners are no match for this heat and humidity. You cannot escape the heat.

When we landed, I could not stop smiling. I was glad to be here, glad to see it. Somehow pleased that it was different from Ethiopia. It is significantly less developed, for sure. Less coffee, fewer shops, fewer malls. But everything seems to excite me. I can’t explain it yet, how different I feel."

- 8:39am in the morning after I arrived

"Today was better than expected. I slept in until 9:00 am, drank my coffee (though it was cold), got in the pool (though I had a neighbor this time), and leisurely checked out at 10:30 am. The drive upcountry was alright. I think because everyone was preparing themselves mentally for 9 hours, we were okay. I talked to my colleague the whole time and listened to another colleague's commentary on the jeep radio. It was delightful. I was pleasantly surprised with the drive, with how fast time flew. I thought this would be the longest, hardest day, but who knew I would like sitting in an air-conditioned car the whole time.

The guest house is both better than expected and a disappointment. I told my partner the decor was like a knock-off Caesar’s Palace in the 1980s. Brand new but also broken down. Glistening, as well as shoddy and unkempt. The rooms are larger, the floor is pristine marble, and there is AC and large TVs, but there are also bugs, no real sheets on the bed and no real blankets, and no towels and no functional wifi. It's like that guy in Malaysia said: food is either delicious, cheap, or doesn’t make you sick; pick any two. So the two we picked are: AC and no need for mosquito nets.

I wanted to write in my diary this morning but ran out of time. Coffee was cold before I got to it. Three coffees today: one cold one in the morning, another at Some in the school, and a third tonight. I won’t hold back - I will drink it all. I thought I might write in the car, but time passed too quickly. Instead, I made some handwritten notes which I may try to transcribe tomorrow. I am regretting not bringing a novel. A novel is better suited for an escape than work. Instead, I have fundraising books and anthropology books, and articles I don’t want to read."

- 9:54pm, first night up country

"Because it is cloudy today, I was able to find a lounge chair by the river with a log for an end table that holds my coffee. The area near our room was just a mud pit, so I walked further to find a place where the water reflected the sun, where the ripples of the current were gentle. Only the leaves that have shed from the trees and float on the surface of the water convey its speed. The tide rises and falls in 6-hour intervals based on waves of the ocean.

The breeze really is merciful here. I felt it in the village too. It was so cooling and healing that it felt almost spiritual. I pray to the god of breezes and clouds.

At first, my notes from The Gambia were only bullets, words, and phrases. Then they became sentences, vignettes, and finally, proper journal entries. Finally, I have the space to write.

I never get used to the timezone difference; I have to check the clock on my phone regularly. In this journal, the client to-do lists have become overtaken by my notes and lists and reflections of the day. My mind has caught up to my body. And I can even imagine coming back here - how strange."

- 9:45am, from the last lodge up country the morning before I leave

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Rainy Days in the City

 These days we do lunch indoors with the rainy cold weather that Portland winters always bring. This day's lunch was in the lobby of the Moxy hotel. I have become obsessed with Muji this year and wear Muji clothes almost every day. 

Coat: Muji
Top: Muji
Bag: Celine
Jeans: Everlane
Shoes: Madewell
Sunglasses: Alice + Olivia

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

The Over-Photographed Library of Trinity College Dublin

My version of the famous "shot"

My passion for exploring and documenting libraries, a well-established theme on this blog, has spanned since 2012, taking me to diverse literary havens in at least 10 different countries. The allure of these spaces lies not only in their repository of books but also in their reflection of local culture, providing a unique lens through which I learn about the essence of each place.

However, exceptions arise when libraries transition into overt tourist attractions, a phenomenon I find disheartening. Nothing disappoints me more than encountering a library where the sanctity of touching books is forbidden. To me, the essence of a library lies in its accessibility and the tactile experience it offers. Regrettably, this is precisely the predicament with the Library of Trinity College Dublin. Despite technically functioning as a working library, it has morphed into more of a tourist spectacle where visitors are restricted from interacting with the books. It becomes a place to capture the perfect photograph and swiftly depart, deviating from the genuine essence of a vibrant, accessible literary haven.

All photographs here were taken behind a velvet rope. 

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Fall Weather Days

Another lunch photo from being out with my family. I feel like the only time I take blog photos now I am either at lunch with my family or going to a goth nightclub. What a life....

Well, this will be the first post where you start seeing a lot of Aesther Ekme, a designer I have really gotten to like. I love the crossbody Sac bags so much I bought them in four colors! I will take blog photos in each color soon.

Coat: Everlane
Bag: Aesther Ekme
Scarf: from Sabahar in Ethiopia
Shoes: Target
Sunglasses: Alice + Olivia

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Photo Diary: The Merchant Belfast

One evening during my business trip to Belfast, as I ascended to my hotel room at the iconic Hotel Europa, renowned as the most bombed hotel in the world, a colleague invited me to join them for a drink at The Merchant. Grateful that I accepted, I was in for an exquisite surprise—the lobby of The Merchant turned out to be the most stunning I had ever witnessed. Despite the limitations of my low-quality camera, it failed to do justice to the sheer opulence and decadence of this breathtaking establishment.

My most amazing cocktail (that took one hour to receive from the time I ordered it...)

Monday, February 5, 2024

Lunch in the Fall

Went out to lunch with my daughter and got to wear the scarf I bought in Ethiopia. It's almost impossible to take outfit photos now because she wants to be in all of the pictures!

Sweater Coat: Vintage
Scarf: from Sabahar in Ethiopia
Dress: Niko and... (from Japan)
Sunglasses: Alice + Olivia

Friday, January 26, 2024

What Did I Eat In Ireland

During my week-long work trip to Ireland, my dining experiences were predominantly confined to hotel meals and pre-selected restaurants. Ironically, the culinary pinnacle of my journey—a remarkable food tour in Dublin—remains undocumented, as I failed to capture it through photographs. Despite this regrettable omission, I must express my pleasant surprise at the exceptional quality of food throughout Ireland. I am genuinely grateful for the opportunity to savor what I could, and the overall gastronomic adventure exceeded my expectations.

Breakfast foods: top left is my all-time favorite grilled cheese sandwich in Dublin, followed by eggs benedict, English breakfast, and hash. 

Seafood was another wonderful surprise. I had not expected the seafood to be so good in Ireland, and I'm not sure why - it's an island with ample coastline!

Scotch egg was another favorite

After many heavy meals I ended up eating a lot of salads too

Some of my favorite soups

Meat pastries were ubiquitous

Familiar Burgers and fries

I also got to try a Korean fusion restaurant in Dublin and really enjoyed it

Ate many desserts there as well. My favorites were sticky toffee pudding and Murphy's Icecream in Dublin

A few nights I skipped the dinners with the client and ate Indian food alone in my hotel room. It was appalling. I ordered Chicken Tikka Masala from two of the most popular Indian restaurants in Ireland and I have never tasted such disgusting food. The Chicken Tikka Masala was so sweet it tasted like chocolate. Apparently Indian food in Ireland has a ton of sugar added into it. Do you see those crazy bright, unnatural colors of the curry? It was horrible. 

The whisky tasting experience was transformative. I never liked whisky or scotch or bourbon in my life, but after Ireland I learned how to appreciate it. 

Gin was another favorite. We went to many distilleries so I got to try all kinds of gin cocktails.  

The Gambia: Photo Diaries from the City

Although I flew into Banjul, I spent very little time there. Most of my time 'in the city' was actually spent in Banjul's sprawl...