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Posts Tagged ‘Travel writing’

28. Tanzania (Mt Kilimanjaro)

One foot (breathe)
in front of (huff)
the other (gasp).
Sucking at the thin air.
Boots d-r-a-g-g-i-n-g heavily through chunks of dirty ice and loose volcanic gravel.
My body as leaden as my head is light.
Summiting in Kilimanjaro’s numbing dawn,
5895 metres above the baking African savannah.
Woo-(wheeze)-hoo!

 

jpm

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27. Germany (November 1989)

Three days ago.
“Die Mauer ist gefallen!!!”

Checkpoint Charlie, so bleak and forbidding just weeks before,
as I inched my way through the traffic jam of surveillance and barriers.
Now a free-wheeling, riotous East-West human motorway.

I witness the pure joy of liberation
as The Wall comes tumbling down.

 

jpm

(Die Mauer ist gefallen: The Wall has fallen)

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25. Kenya (Nairobi, 2000)

A city of one million.
Most in full-time employment.
Commuters, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers.
Laughter beside corrugated iron shanties:
children playing games in dirt alleys.
A neat blue clinic nurtures modest dreams
amidst the stench and grime.
Health for all.
The Nubian-named ‘forest’ of Kibera:
Biggest slum in Africa.

jpm

Dedicated to the MSI Kenya mini-clinic team of Kibera.

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24. India (The Taj Mahal)

Blinding heat ricocheting off the pristine marble of the Taj.
My bare feet dance across the white-hot path as if walking across coals.
Devastated to learn that the fabled love of a man for a woman
which built this great edifice, resulted in her death:
Fourteen children in fifteen years.

jpm

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20. Bangladesh

It’s 50°C and temperatures are rising.
Hidden beneath the colourful, tattered veils of conservative Chittagong,
the modest matrons as young as eighteen shelter chastely from prying male eyes.
Squatting on swept dirt floors,
they chatter with bawdy, eye-popping, side-splitting aplomb about their husbands’ inadequacy ‘indoors’.
Butter wouldn’t melt!

jpm

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19. Myanmar (Burma)

What does The Lady say? What will The Lady think?
A silhouette of an idea, a flickered impression of a movement,
a resolute shadow of a nation.
Always there.
Never seen, but heard within everyone’s listening heart,
in their deepest way of knowing.
The grace and patience of a people.

jpm

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18. Eire (Ireland)

And in County Cork, the craic is good and the bowls are flung with underarm abandon along the crooked backroads.
Betting is fierce as spectators leap asunder from the cannoning bullets.
And in the distance, the hulking shadow of St Kevin’s (‘longest building in Europe!’), built to encase the insane.

jpm

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17. Iceland (near the Vatnajokull Glacier)

When the world was just begun,
the earth shifting and heaving, steaming and bubbling,
untrodden and newborn.

Verdant Green.

Vast and sweeping landscapes.
Still to be known, but with tomorrow’s breath.

Cerulean Blue.

Unsung, yet already heroic.
And utterly solitary.

Glacial White.

This, then, is the first saga of Iceland.

jpm

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16. The Philippines (Manila)

Call it research.
Sex workers learning how to protect themselves from HIV.
A client calls – I’m hurriedly bundled in amidst the girls.
He hesitates on his slow inspection, eyeing me speculatively.
‘Not this one’ says the brothel owner.
Cool as anything.
Not me: I’m all sweaty relief and bug eyes!

jpm

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15. Italy (Rome)

Preternaturally quiet, dust motes suspended in a shaft of cool, subterranean sunlight, deep below the roasting scooter-filled streets.

Ancient bones, crumbling to naught, stacked high in Catacomb walls

A femur here, a grinning jawbone there.  A crooked finger, beckoning forwards into the once-living story of a Roman past.

jpm (posted from Cairo Montenotte, Italy)

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