Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Mother, why I wander

Mother, why I wander

Mother, I know you wonder
why I walk this world alone
from Asia to Africa
through their streets I roam

Why I took up the burden
why I filled that parting glass
to leave a land I love so much
the many mercies of Belfast

It could all have been so different
Nearly sixteen years ago this year
Belfast Tech or Li Po Chun, Hong Kong
Both options you faced with fear

Thank you for taking the risk
to enter me into the big world game
to send me on the slow boat to China
and risk a homecoming cloaked in shame

But what I had before I went
in formation, love and care
gave me the strength I needed
to wander anywhere

Rambling out on Fridays
to seek the world at its best
finding it all and moving on
change being better than rest

You know I love the session
an addiction to the new
the delight of the night passing
rolled up in the May morning dew

But calling home most Sundays
to help the emptiness pass
the rest of the weekend
resembling a half-empty glass

The love you have given and give me
Allows me to make my home
in the anonymities of overseas
and to face them on my own.

Facing the world each monday
with vain attempts to change the world
benevolence, guilt or obligation
the flags I fly unfurled

But I do not choose this life
and I don’t believe that it chose me
I think it not forever
like as said, may it be

To be alone is to be open
to all the beauty of this life
indecision and flexibility
and the temptation it is rife

I believe it can happen one day
though maybe not this year or the next
Nurturing hope against hope
No more need to vex

I will always come to visit
from wherever I call home to home
and sometime in the future
I intend not to arrive on my own.

Friday, 5 October 2012

A fortnight in Kinshasa

Hello there,
And greetings from the Congo, where it would seem they have drank all the Um Bongo and are waiting on the next batch.
All is well here, and coming to the end of my second week in work. Nearly all of it has been spent getting my computer, radio (yes it's pretty cool) and email address sorted out and I am only beginning to get stuck into the hard work now. I won't bore you with the details and hopefully next week will be better.
Kinshasa is a big mad place. It has more people than London and less money than Hackney (probably). I live right in the city centre in a nice appartment just off the main road - Boulevard Trente Juin. It is nice but all around there are buildings that have not been painted or taken care of in a good few years. The streets are filled with all sorts of people from suited businessmen to people selling newspapers, sunglasses and cigarettes. But there is a lot of poverty, street-children and homeless, and I need to watch out for pick-pockets etc. I live close to work and I walked there this morning eating a sandwich. Lots of people said Bon Appetit and I think I made them jealous.
Life is very nice for me and the other foreigners working here. There are lots of nice restaurants and bars, and many of my friends have swimming pools in their appartment blocks. I have set up a ping pong net on the dining room table in my flat and that is providing some fun. The life I lead is very different from the locals. And their lives are very different from the people living where there is a war. I think I will go east where the big problems are and meet them quite soon and hopefully tell you all about it. Don't worry though the nice soldiers in the blue helmets will make sure I am quite safe.
Good luck with it all back home

Thursday, 27 September 2012

What's good for Angoose is good for Uganda

Normally when flights are missed, the bad times roll and life needs to be reorganised. I came back to base, found a friend (Dutch from Hanoi) in Kampala, capital of Uganda and she invited me to meet the Irish community there. So after meeting in Bubbles O'Leary on Friday night, we went to Kyadondo Rugby Club on saturday afternoon. There we got the hurls out and hit a few sliotars around before playing a game of rounders. There were Ugandans, Irish, Dutch, English and even a man from Cork called Kevin. There were Maribou Storks flying around and if you hit the ball far enough you might find out what was growing in the field over yonder.

That night we went to International Music Festival of Uganda and danced like it was going out of fashion to an old man in a red pinstripe suit playing the electric guitar. Next up were a band with two dancing ladies whose moves would put anyone on MTV to shame. Bits that you didn't even know existed were being shaken and thrown about the floor. Those of us who tried to copy them had a good time it though we were but trying.

The next day it was back to Bubbles for the All-Ireland Final between Donegal and Mayo. Not the most tense of matches but all credit to Donegal for taking home Sam Maguire after so many years. Then a taxi-bus took me back to the UN Base and what with dinner, dancing, sleeping and a bit of work, I was on a UN flight to Kinshasa. I'm in Kinshasa now and I like it.

Greetings from Uganda


Greetings from Entebbe, Uganda. Home of both the international airport and the UN base that supports Peacekeeping missions in Congo, Darfur, Sudan and the newly formed South Sudan. I have been on this base for a week now and a bit like yourself starting school I have been registering for things, doing things, learning things, getting lost, trying different things in the canteen and trying to make friends.

It's fun but hard work, basically wandering around doing one thing after another. The base is super cool, with no end of trucks, jeeps, helicopters and planes flying in and out of it all the time. The base is roughly the same distance between these four conflicts in Africa and troops, supplies and humanitarian workers like myself fly in an out every day.

I did not fly out today. I was too cool for school and missed my flight. Don't tell Maimeo and Daideo, or Danny for that matter. So now I get to spend the weekend in Kampala. It's not so bad, rounders with hurling sticks tomorrow, some Irish person's leaving party on Saturday night, and then the All Ireland Football Final in the one and only Bubbles O'Leary's, the big Irish bar in the city.

See if your Dad will take you to watch it. Donegal will hopefully spread Mayo like butter.

I fly to Kinshasa, the Capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

on China's multiple republics

'Is Taiwan a part of China', the standard make or break question that a lot of Han Chinese in the People's Republic of China ask the foreigner. I gave the simple diplomatic answer to a young Communist Party member who asked. I said 'yes, but it's not part of the People's Republic, it's part of the Republic of China, A.K.A Taiwan. This works as the slogan '1 Nation, 2 systems' appears in huge skyscraper high letters in Xiamen, across the Baring Straights from a Taiwanese controlled island and elsewhere. It satisfies the nationalism, but accepts that the 'nation' is not unified in practice.

My response was quite unfair on the indigenous people of the island of Taiwan who suffered the 'invasion' of the island by Nationalist Republic of China forces in 1945 and the relocation of their government following defeat to Mao's Communist People's Liberation Army in 1949. The Republic of China felt that they were rightful rulers of the 'Chinese' nation and this contention was not removed from the constitution of the Republic of China until 1971. Many Han Chinese in Taiwan still feel part of a greater nation in spite of the disparate regimes. For those that don't my response was unfair to them too.

I don't know what the indigenous Taiwanese think, and wonder if they have ever been asked. It is cowardly of me to ignore them in the grand geo-political debates in which those of us with the luxury to do so indulge. But in the interests of good relations I did.

I ignore many minorities in this way.