26.2.13

Then she speaks... (non-fiction)


Rakas,” he shakes the near catatonic woman beside him. He is only marginally more sentient than she. It’s only just past noon and this is McDonald’s, it’s family ethos lost the couple.

Then she speaks. It’s sad. Raspy ravaged by alcohol her’s is a voice so hoarse that I feel she must be in pain. She orders him not to touch her, turning away and flicking her dyed black shoulder length hair into his face. He coughs dramatically, as if he’s on a quest for sympathy.

Perhaps if he wasn’t pulling at her, shaking her shoulder repeatedly and demanding something I can’t quite understand I would give him that sympathy. But his grating voice, shaven head and massive shoulders give him a brutish aura and I choose a vantage point from which I can watch unobtrusively. There’s nothing new or astonishing about drunks in a Helsinki McDonald’s, but these two seem to be in love and are an impromptu midday drama.

They’re not as old as they seem, the two drunks in McDonalds. She still cares about her hair, her lipstick is smudged and it’s easy to discern the edge of her too dark foundation that has given her an unnatural brown pallor. He wears a biker jacket that would like me to think he’s the winner of many races and who knows he may have, but I’d guess not recently.

I watch when I dare. Though this may be a minor lovers’ quarrel, it’s probably born of and nurtured in liquor, anything could happen and I’d rather not be watching when it does.

Her back is to him and he sinks his head into his hands as if he wants to cry.

“I’m going to the toilet,” she declares, suddenly alert, and heaves her bag into his lap and marches away, unsteady, meandering, tripping on the second step oblivious to the children screaming and  racing through the restaurant.


22.2.13

I really don't like you...


Last night was Doc Lounge’s showing of Call Me Kuchu, a film about the Ugandan LGBTI rights activist David Kato, who lost his life for the cause.

Chilling, not only because I was aware of his fate before I watched the film, but because of a particular personality Giles Muhame who, to me, epitomises this comfortable middle class unquestioning of certain “truths” that I have complained about.

I find it interesting that a 22 year old can be so rigid about his beliefs. Even in the wake of Kato’s death, he refused to acknowledge his role in the misery and death of an individual. A quick Google search revealed an interesting article about him by Melanie Nathan. 

I’ve long thought that people like him while occupying a tiny space in the world that they call home, can never visualise themselves wanting more. When he so virulently pursued an anti-gay agenda did he ever imagine that one day he might need the help, the association, the friendship of an LGBTI person or those that sympathise with them? Didn’t he think that in the process of outing people he might encounter a friend, a family member or even a future employer? What about future university studies or what about when Uganda becomes a place that no longer tolerates that kind of journalism?

Though the Rolling Stone is closed he now publishes a newspaper and website (that I won’t name here) that apparently gets close to two million page views a month. Lucky man. Still, I hope that one day karma comes back to bite him on the bum.


18.2.13

Women, guns, race ... a safe place to sleep



And disability, I must add.

Let me not ask if the media’s treatment of a black star such as Usain Bolt in exactly the circumstances would be different. The news has been full of Oscar Pistorius, the crime, the speculation and the analyses. To begin with, looking through these analyses in the major newspapers there’s a distinct absence of indigenous (and even non-European) South African names and faces.

But that is another much longer discussion.

The news is abuzz with discussions of the nature and extent of violent crime in South Africa, how Pistorius must have felt the need to own a gun and of course, when people have guns accidents happen, the media shows Pistorius as the victim of his environment.

Yet last week we all ranted about violence against women, we reminded ourselves that most crimes against women are committed by people they know, we held up pictures of women who’ve lost their lives to mindless violence.

Don’t get me wrong I would love for Pistorius to have a good reason for shooting his girlfriend four times in one of the most secure housing estates in South Africa, I really would.

Unfortunately this is an excuse that has been used too many times by too many people for it to be credible. Owning guns implies the responsibility for the safety of those around you and shooting someone dead “by accident” is criminal in itself.

At the very least, one's home should be a place of safety. A home shouldn't be a place in which - every time too much alcohol is had, every time tempers are raised or egos offended - we must fear that a gun might be pulled out our lives threatened.



17.2.13

Friends and saints


Last night our little kaksio held its first party - a housewarming party of course. Friends, some from Zambia and some that I’ve made here in Helsinki, and their children made our apartment the most lively its been in the month and a half we’ve lived here.

A day later, sitting comfortably in our now thoroughly warmed house I’m thinking about how one of the deepest fears about relocating is the thought that it may be impossible to make friends.

As an adult making friends, finding people whose company you appreciate, is even more difficult when not employed, or in my case, when in an occupation in which you engage with many people but only fleetingly. As adult migrants we arrive at a time in life when school and university networks have already been formed, when children have been had and pastimes and hobbies relegated to activities that we indulge in once a week if we’re lucky. The problem is not just how to meet people but how to get to know them.

Moreover, as we grow older we redefine the meaning of friendship. I sometimes watch my nieces and nephews interact with their friends with a certain intensity and rigid expectations that I’m glad to have outgrown.

“Best friends forever” and “a true friend will always be there,” are mantras and constantly repeated. A friend is not just a friend but “a real friend.” That real friend will never lie, will defend you against the rest of the world, and stand beside you before thine enemy. Friendship is a contract that, if broken, leads to tears, heartbreak and accusations.

The distinction between friendship and sainthood is almost blurred.

Twenty years later, definitions are clearer, expectations of friends are much simpler. We learn about personalities, ambitions, priorities and sadly that Father Time and Mother Nature take some people away and bring forth new ones.

In short, it’s comforting to know that those deepest fears, the ones about not having friends, haven’t come true.

10.2.13

A week in food.


Runebergin tortu, laskiaispulla, steamed vegetable  dumplings and soy doughnuts, all in the space of a week!
Tuesday; Runebergin päivä
Saturday; Chinese New Year
Sunday; Laskiaissunnuntai

Of these the laskiaispulla was undoubtedly one of the most glorious sweets I’ve ever tasted. You may find me on Tuesday, the next food day (sorry – flag day), sinking my teeth into another laskiaispulla before the end of their all too brief season. 

Not knowing any Chinese, I have no idea what the caption below Obama reads on the t-shirt I surreptitiously snapped at the New Year celebrations at Lasipalatsi, but it looked good.