This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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Look up and tell me what you see

astro-2I may have studied a little bit of astrophysics and astrobiology, but when it comes to looking up and knowing what I am seeing – well, that is a completely different thing. The constellations I know are the ones I learned when I was a child: the Big Dipper/Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, the Pleiades, and the Polar Star. That is it. Orion? Betelgeuse? Halcyon? The Zodiac? I had no clue. How does the night sky shift (or how does our planet actually move) through the seasons, and how do I orientate to find stars and constellations? No knowledge.

Fortunately, spending one day with the local university astronomy society helps, I find. The only thing is, stargazing with equipment is not so easy. The past 3 years I have tried to combine remembering my intention to stargaze with the weather report and have not been successful at all. Every time I remember it is overcast, and every time I do not remember, there are weeks of clear skies to use the astronomy society’s telescopes. astro-3One sunny day in August I discovered that the little, old observatory was open for sun viewings. The sun is a star, right? Mission accomplished. And I have been able to stare at the sun without being blinded. Seeing its protrusions, its sunspots, all the beauty flaws it tries to hide under its brilliant light. I have seen the true nature of the sun and it is absolutely fascinating.
astro-1(Helsinki, Finland; September 2017)


In transit

pajeboatDear Africa, after two months it is time for me to go home. It would have been easy for me to spend another two months getting to know you better, but then I would have much explaining to do for those back home. I have barely seen anything geographically, but experienced vastly greater expanses.

A year ago I went through the apartment following the KonMari method, removing every object that does not spark joy and keeping those that do. Surprisingly many Ikea bags and garbage bags left that relatively minimalist home. For the past two months I have carried my entire home on my back: clothes for 4 seasons, including outdoors, yoga, and beach wear, a yoga mat, books, and much else. Twenty kilos plus a daypack. I really do not need much else either, and yet I have so much more stuff waiting for me at home.

Perhaps life in transit means life without a proper home. But life in transit also means only taking as much as one can carry, and being sure about the essentials and the superfluous things. Being sure about what, physically and emotionally, we want to carry on our backs from point A to point B.

Some years ago the blogosphere was raving about the Burning House challenge: what would you take with you from  your home if your house was burning? You would need to be able to carry it yourself, and take a picture of everything at once. I am going back home to a reverse Burning House challenge: from being able to carry my entire life for two months to further minimalizing my life so the “click-point” of Marie Kondo’s definition for “enough stuff” is much lower than what it used to be.

During this journey of two months I have carried more mental and emotional weight than physical weight. I have not shared much of it here and do not intend to now, either. It has been a difficult journey and in my private journal I have written pages and pages about pain. But in the spirit of a deeper insight, when I dump my backpacks on the floor at home I will let it all go and see what stays. And that which stays will need to be laundered, tended to, thanked, and made ready for the next adventure.

(Dar es Salaam airport, Tanzania; August 2017)

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How to get lost on Zanzibar

stonetown-2.jpgThe easiest way to get properly lost on Zanzibar: go to Stone Town. Or Zanzibar Town, as it is also called. Just walk in between the old Indian merchants’ houses and Arab palaces, beautiful wooden doors, and wooden lace-carved windowpanes. Notice traffic sounds exchange with laughter of children and shouts of local women and you will already be lost in the maze of alleys and tiny shopping streets. stonetown-1Some are enchanted by Stone Town, as a living monument to the eye of the vortex that Zanzibar was between gold and ivory trade, slave trade, and Indian, Arab, and Portuguese seafarers. While the palaces, the gruesome stories of the slave trade, and the little shops have their appeal, each time I visited I could not wait to escape the noise and the cramped streets for the turquoise blue waters of the beaches. stonetown-3But if you find yourself in Stone Town, do not miss these: the Anglican Cathedral standing on top of the slave market, housing a memorial; the Mnemba Spa shop for souvenirs; the Palace Museum for a peek into the life of a Sultan; the covered, souk-like food market; and the Forodhani Gardens for night-time street food fiesta.

I wish I could tell you more about Stone Town. But it really did not attract me to stay long enough. Go see for yourself – and kindly give me tips of what not to miss next time!
stonetown-4(Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania; August 2017)