Last couple of weeks I’ve spent in Zimbabwe, land locked country just above South Africa.
It is a place of great natural beauty despite best efforts by some of its people to destroy it. Zimbabwe is in a sorry state and has been for many decades like so many of its African neighbours. It has over 90℅ unemployment, no functioning currency of its own ( US dollar is used due to recent hyper inflation of a local dollar), daily electricity and regular food shortages. I can only imagine what it’s like to be a local farmer here trying to survive.
Yet I, as a tourist, am exposed to very little of it. I pay $100 dollars to go play with the lions that are kept in the private game park or another hundred to bungee jump from magnificent Victoria falls. I can even get irregular Wi-Fi for 3 dollars a day and a half decent cup of coffee if I’m willing to look for it.
So I’m turn inside, between enjoying the natural wonders Zimbabwe has to offer and knowledge that wast majority of my tourist dollars will probably end up in the pockets of hyper corrupt Mugabe government that cares more about shopping trips to Paris than clean water or regular electricity for its people. Their claim is still the same as it has been since 1980, blame the Brits for anything that goes wrong in the country and take credit for any glimpse of goodness that has remained.
If you ever get curious about this part of the world, have a read of the book called “The Fear” by Peter Godwin, covering most recent election process in the country. Another good one on broader issues facing Africa is ‘The state of Africa’, by Martin Meredith.
World is a beautiful place, shame about the people.
P.s. on the eve of store collapse tragedy in Latvia, the colliding information streams on Facebook made me think how little we are exposed to things that are outside our immediate realm of news cycles. Whist all my Aussie friends continue posting pictures of great dinners and nights out, all my Latvian friends are mourning the 52 dead in the store collapse.
Tags: busy, city, crazy, home sweet home, london, Travel
And so is London. I’ve been here a week and think it has rained at least a little bit every bloody day. It’s funny, because coming from Sydney, London in theory gets a lot less rain than Sydney (592mm versus 1212mm), it might not be heavy but it sure is annoying.
It is surreal to be back in the city where I have lived for 6 years. It was my home and I new it better than Riga. But this time I’m feeling a bit like a tourist, wondering around Soho and Covent Garden starring at the window fronts of looming Christmas decorations. It’s been 3 years, some things are the same and some are different from what I remember.
It’s still the same multi cultural melting pot which I love. Korean man is selling me a pint of milk and Syrian guy a leg of lamb. It still has a dozen decent coffee shops (Fernandez & Wells, SpeakEasy, Milkbar to name a few) that don’t burn the milk and its still expensive. I spent more money here in a week than I spent in a month back at Latvia (I bought some winter clothing to be fair).
Things that have changed (at least in my head) from 3 years ago. It has gotten even busier if that’s even possible. Oxford street is a human carpet, airport queues are like a 100 meter snake and Flat Iron steak house asked us to wait 1.5h for a table, on a Tuesday, seriously. Recession gloom is over, a lot of new buildings have come up or about to be finished in the city, Shard is like godzillas nail sticking out of London Bridge, and then there is a cheese grader and a walkie-talkie buildings (next to gherkin, don’t ask). Still forming my opinion about these architectural treasures.
Don’t get me wrong, I just got wet again so I’m a bit grumpy, but I still think London town is the place to be to get energized and inspired, you just have to work for it and sift through a lot of shit, as Marky Mark says “no pain, no gain”.
Tags: africa, animal spotting, malawi, namibia, safari, south africa, trip, Zimbabwe
In two weeks I’m heading for my first proper African adventure. I’ve been to 102 countries but only two of them have been on that continent, and even those don’t really count as a real Africa (Morocco, Egypt), I’m proper exited. There are 54 countries on the continent, so I’ve got plenty of catching up to do, this trip will cover 6 of them (Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa).
There will be lots of sleeping in the tents, fighting mozzies and countless hours on the bus, with the payback in the form of safaris, sandboarding in dessert, seeing Victoria falls and cage diving with the sharks in Cape Town, among other things. I think it is a fair trade.
This morning I got a call from Zimbabwe embassy in Sweden that my visa is ready. Two down, two to go. This whole visa thing for the trip is bit of a nightmare as I need 4 visas arranged in advance before I leave and each takes 2 weeks to get it, and costs 200+ dollars a pop (counting the courier costs). Given I only booked the trip couple of months ago it has not been fun. Got Malawi and Zimbabwe visas, now only Namibia and South Africa are left, I hear they only accept forms filled out in black ink, quite specific.
Tags: back, first week, latvia, moving back home, settling in
Moved into a cool little friends place I can call home for a bit.
Bought an orange plant for my kitchen and called it Vassily.
Opened a local bank account (the card is freaking orange).
Went to see mum (twice), she cooked both times (well).
Went to a Young Latvian Designers Fashion Show (nice).
Did 3 gym sessions with my bro (my body hurts).
Founded a company SIA “Skinny Latvian”, yay.
Caught up with 6 friends in 5 locations.
Got sick on day 3 (got well on day 6).
I’ve been busy & I like it.
Tags: Life, change, moving overseas, memories, start up, business idea, entrepreneur
It’s been 2 years and 5 months since I moved to Australia, the land of plenty. In less than two weeks I’ll be calling quits on this beautiful, comfortable life and heading towards a new adventure, one with no certainty of success, no regular paychecks nor endless days of sunshine, but lots of excitement, learning new skills and putting to good use the old ones. Adventure that is otherwise known as ‘starting a business’, being ‘entrepreneur’ or just being called a plain old fool.
Ever since I finished my ‘100 countries under 30’ project in August 2012 which took me 3 years, I’ve had itchy feet. I was keen to figure out what my next project is going to be. People asked me and I did not have an answer. I hate having no answer, so I went out to look for one. It took me a good part of the last year to figure out what is something meaningful and motivating enough that would be worth dedicating next few years of my life. And finally it all came together, it involves physical disability (me being unreasonably tall), my obsession with colour orange, my other obsession with photography, and finally, my willingness to risk my savings (instead of getting a mortgage for a house, like normal person would).
A little bit of background on the project. It all starts with epiphany (a.k.a. A-HA moment). Idea about ‘skinny latvian’ was born during a walk across the Harbour bridge in Sydney (for some it’s an apple tree, for me it was the bridge). I wanted to do something on my own for a while, just was not sure what it was. I wanted to create physical things, that you can touch, feel and point at and say ‘I built that’ (you can’t do it with a powerpoint presentation). At the end, the answer was obvious, it’s been staring in my face (literally) all along.
I’m a tall, skinny guy (6’5” or 1.96m, weighing 82 kg) and always struggled to find pants or jeans that fit me. I need trousers with long legs (36”) and skinny (32”) waist and nobody does that. All the pants that I’d try would be too baggy or too short. I hated shopping. I’d go in-store or browse online and find something cool that I’d like, then I’d press on the sizing chart and inevitably my size would not be available. So close, but so far.
Then it hit me, if other retailers can not be bothered to do clothing for tall, skinny guys, I can do it myself. With marketing background, passion for photography and brand building, I had the perfect skill set to get this going, so here I am, taking a plunge.
After 10 years in media and advertising I’m quitting my day job and moving back from sunny Sydney to moody Latvia (where I grew up, but have not lived since I was 22). As I like to joke, Latvia is a ‘halfway place between UK and China’. There’s lot’s more to come and I’ll keep you posted how this adventure goes. Here is to making more ‘what if’s’ into reality. If you have a ‘what if’ sitting around somewhere, take it out and make it real. Memories beat fantasy, every time.
Tags: fun run, glow in the dark, glow run, running, sydney
Last night I went to see Glow Run in Darling Harbour. People wearing all kinds of glowy stuff and running through UV light zones to the sound of music.
People used to take running at its face value. It was enough just to put the sneakers on and hit the streets or the local park. Then at some point we decided that running alone is not enough and to get more people involved you need to make it more fun, give themes to the runs, and encourage people to dress up. So the fun run movement started, now there is a colour run, mud run, glow in the dark run, nike run the night etc. etc. Literally every other week we have some kind of themed runs happening. All leading back to the instant gratification in the form of cool selfies to be uploaded on Instagram and Facebook. Almost everyone on the glow run last night had smartphone and was busy taking pics of themselves, it was more of a party on the streets than a run.
I am partial to this fun run movement. On the one hand its great to see ever more iterations of weird ways to run 5-10 km with friends. On the other, I think it’s cheeky to call it a run, which in turn might point to a notion of physical exercise, as really these runs are as serious as picnic in the park. By all means its great to be outside and be moving, but calling it strenuous would be a stretch.
Tags: atheist, choose, god, Life, love, meaning, religion, same same
Two big topics on a regular Sunday, nothing to do with photography or travel, just with life. Was sitting down and having breakfast, listening to Pandora and it made me think, about love and religion, and how much in common these two have. Let me point out the few similarities I find interesting.
Don’t say anything bad about it.
We can make jokes of fat people, skinny people, dumb people, gay people, old people, people with different colour skin, but one thing we can’t do is make fun of religion. People get attacked and countries go to war in the name of religion, or love (in the old days).
In the name of …
We like to use these two catch phrases when we don’t want to state the real reasons. I did it because I love her, I did it in the name of god, be it something good or bad. Well, no you did not do it because of these two abstract terms, you did it for some more practical or emotional reasons. Be it greed, anger, happiness, despair, arrogance, self pity or any other of gazillion emotions we possess, just be honest. Love or religion is an easy answer, to stop the questions and avoid the real answers, sometimes even from ourselves.
Your life must be dark & meaningless without it.
This is my favorite, like religion or love give meaning to life. I give meaning to my life, I choose what to do with my time every day, I’m not handing over that power to some imaginary force, to decide for me. I’m nice because I choose to, I’m bad when I want to be bad. I make plenty of stupid decisions and there’s no one else to blame, just me. I take responsibility of my actions, I try to do more good than bad and leave this place slightly better than when I entered it, that’s all I can ask for.
There must be something wrong with you.
When I say I don’t believe in god, in any of its forms, and I’ve never been in love, most people look at me weirdly. You must believe in something, you must have loved at some point in over 30 years of your life, you’re human aren’t you. Well I am, but these two things do not play a role in my life and I’m doing just fine. I do believe in treating people with respect, being nice to people I care about and like, but for me it has nothing to do with either religion or love. I don’t need to believe in religion and its system of punishment just to be nice to someone. I’m doing it because I want to, not because I have to.
Created by people, for people.
People wrote the books called Bible, Koran and the Book of Mormon, too. They are great books, masterpieces in a sense. I just prefer the writings of George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut, they have written some great books too, just not as popular.
If you want to love, love. If you want to believe, believe. I’m so happy for you, I will celebrate with you when you’re up, and listen to you when you’re down. I will not judge you or ask you to change, you’re good just the way you are, just please let me be, the way I am. Peace.