Posted in Photography, Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art

This was a hard one!  I eventually ended up with the premise of one day writing a book along the same lines as this blog.  Here’s an idea for the book cover – a collage of United Buddy Bears, representing countries and cultures important to me.  Pictures taken at the exhibition in Berlin 2011.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art


Posted in cross-cultural

My Life in a Museum

British teapot and small colander, representing an internationally mobile, single person household (of which there are many) in Berlin/Germany.

Imagine that you have been asked to collect items for a museum exhibition that will take place in the future – 30 to 40 years from now. Look around your home. What grabs your eye? What items have special meaning? We would like you to find two things or objects from your own home that are signficant to you in some way.


This was a recent assignment for online Anthropology course I am currently taking. Intriguing! I pondered for a while, not really sure what to pick. Some things hold deep personal meaning but would not really communicate to others (and we were only allowed 20 words of explanation). I settled on the teapot one morning, after using it. It seemed to me that there definitely needed to be some British influence J Aside from the personal, there are so many international, very mobile people in Berlin, that the object seemed to have wider significance as well.

So that was one item. What else? What would go with it? I have to confess, the first thing that drew me to the colander was the colour. It seemed to go so well with the teapot. Yup, I am quite a visual person. Beyond that, though – how might it be significant? It struck me that many homes would not have a small colander like this one. It is typical of big city living in the 21st century, where there are many single person households.

So there you have it, my life in a museum.

What would you have chosen? What items do you feel are significant, have a story to tell?

Posted in Uncategorized

Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs

In Berlin, it is often worth looking down for interesting signs.

SL372432You find Stolpersteine all across the city, remembering people who had lived in those buildings and who died in concentration camps.

Around Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer, you find plaques reminding us of people who managed to escape from East to West Berlin in that particular place:

10514634_10152724454791445_8103663638190056866_nOr of escape tunnels that emerged in a certain place:

1958007_10152724455911445_8321764129676245997_nWeekly Photo Challenge: Signs

Posted in Literature, Reviews

Kabul Stories

I hadn’t planned on reading two books set in Afghanistan in quick succession, but somehow it happened.  And it turned out to make two amazing books even more interesting.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is definitely the more famous of the two, partly due to the huge success of Hosseini’s previous book, “The Kite Runner”.

A moving story about two women set in Afghanistan. The book’s story illustrates both the second class, serf-like treatment of two women and their subjection to physical and emotional brutality that was allowed, enabled and endorsed. We also get to see the bravery, kindness and self-resilience of these same two women. Despite the harsh reality of the story, the humanness and compassion shown by both women while trying to survive in such a brutal and oppressive environment is very uplifting. (

I wasn’t sure at all what to expect with “The Taiban Cricket Club” but ended up being very impressed.

Rukhsana is a spirited young journalist working for the Kabul Daily in Afghanistan. She takes care of her ill, widowed mother and her younger brother, Jahan. With the arrival of a summons for Rukhsana to appear before the infamous Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the family’s world is shattered. The Minister, zorak Wahidi, has two goals in mind: to threaten the anti-Taliban news reporters and to announce the Taliban’s intention to hold a cricket tournament, the winner of which will represent Afghanistan in international cricket and give the brutal regime a cloak of respectability in the world.

Rukhsana knows this is a ludicrous idea—the Taliban could never embrace a game rooted in civility, fair play and equality. And no one in Afghanistan even plays cricket—no one, that is, except Rukhsana.

This could be, however, a way to get her male cousins and her brother out of Afghanistan for good. But Wahidi has a third goal in mind—to marry Rukhsana. The union would be her death sentence, wrenching her away from her family and placing her under Wahidi’s complete control. Forced into hiding and desperate to escape the country, Rukhsana realizes that Wahidi may have given her a way out, too. When her loyal, beloved cousins ask for her help, she sets about teaching them how to win their own freedom—with a bat and a ball. (

Both books succeed in weaving together the beauty and the horror of human existence in quite remarkable ways.  Both draw you in, as you start to care deeply about the characters and what is happening to them.

“A Thousand Splendid Suns” spans quite a few decades of Afghan history, which form the backdrop to several personal life stories unfolding.  The characters become your friends.  You feel their helplessness in the face of the suffering they have to endure, both at the hands of individuals and as war destroys much of Kabul. You want to intervene, to help them, yet you also stand in awe of their amazing courage and resilience.  In the midst of everything that is happening, there is humour, there is love, there is hope.

“The Taliban Cricket Club” more or less just gives a snapshot of life at a particular time, just after the Taliban came to power. Again, there is such an all pervasive feeling of helplessness, of being backed into a corner.  Life gets reduced more and more until looking for a way out is all that matters.  The fear, the suspicion colour every encounter, every relationship.  The scenario of the cricket tournament is somewhat very unlikely yet somehow that doesn’t matter.  It’s a vehicle, to help paint a picture of life in Kabul at that particular time, and it does that beautifully.

Both books do complement each other in many ways.  The characters in Hosseini’s book are all from poorer, less educated backgrounds, whereas Rukhsana and her family are educated and were resonably well off.

Political developments are reflected on much more in Murari’s book.  They do matter in “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, but only insofar as they affect the main character’s lives.

I highly recommend both books and feel that by reading both, I was able to get a much fuller picture of the country and the people.

Posted in cross-cultural

The Old House

10671272_10152678108336445_5577013423522434995_nShe didn’t think she’d ever be back, ever see the old house again.  But here she was.  She had arrived by plane (how the world had changed!), then taken a taxi.  There was no one who remembered her, no one to stay with, so she had checked into a hotel.

Much of the town she didn’t recognise but the closer she got to the old streets, the more she could trust her instinct.  It was hot and the roads were empty.  Not many tourists verntured up here.  How could a place look so familiar and so alien at the same time?  She didn’t linger, didn’t look around.  She was hoping for a sense of home, but afraid it wouldn’t come.  For now, getting to the old house was all that mattered.

Her steps slowed when she spotted the blue on top of the church. There it was, just around the next corner.

She wasn’t sure what she had expected, but not this.  Not a complete ruin – the roof caved in, the walls crumbled.

Suddenly she saw herself standing there, the day they left. An 8 year old girl, standing guard over a suitcase, waiting for her parents to emerge.  Moving to another country, starting a new life. Those phrases meant nothing to her.  They sounded like an adventure, like fun.  How could she have known how much she was about to lose?  Her home, her friends, her roots.

As she stood again in the same spot, she knew these things were lost forever.  She would return to her new life.  A good life.  She wasn’t unhappy.  “Incomplete” was maybe how she felt.

She would forever treasure her memories of life on the island but just as the old house lay ruined, so did her hopes of reclaiming it.


I came across this derelict house in Vathy on Samos/Greece.  It seemed so evocative and even though I know absolutely nothing of its history, I knew it had a story to tell.  There were many more houses in the little town that looked like the owners had moved away more recently, probably due to the difficult economic situation in recent years.