Sunday, March 23, 2008

(Only my dad.......

"There! See? Cheshire Road is written in Bengali!" Driving down Bricklane in London, my dad was (a little too enthusiastically) trying to point out the Bengali nature of this infamous street to my little sister, Sam.

"And then here....Bacon Street! B-A-K-O-N. " We silently contemplated the irony of this one.

After the first 2-3 signs, I think most of us in the car tuned my dad out.....until he excitedly yelped:

"Now look HERE! Hot Bengali's ALL NIGHT!"

That definitely didn't sound right. Four heads immediately swiveled around to look at what he was pointing at:

"Hot Bagels — All Night"

Continuation from post title:
................manages to turn a 24-hour Jewish eaterie into a disturbing South Asian porn joint)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I've only been burgled once in my life. It was in my second year of uni, living with my sister in an apartment building in Russell Square. I was sleeping over at Amrita's house that night, when I got a call in the morning. It was my sister.

"Girlay, I have some bad news. Don't freak out."


"We got burgled last night, and your laptop's gone."

Ok. Not that bad. Laptops get stolen all the time. I would recover. I would be just fine.

I hurried back home anyway. We sat down and called the police, as I inspected the damage. It seemed the burglar had crawled in through my window. We lived on the ground floor.

Then it occurred to me that he had stolen my second mobile that I had left in the room before going out. Oh bother. Now I'd have to go through the hassle of calling the phone company and disconnecting the line.

Then I realised he had taken my little purse where I kept my credit cards. Double damn. Call HSBC, cancel cards, report them stolen.

It was all really more a pain in the arse. No scars emotionally, nope. I was a tough one.

Then, I realised he had taken my little handbag in which I kept all my makeup. My makeup! Why did he have to go do that? What meanie takes a girl's makeup (even though I admit housing it in a handbag didn't make it any less tempting for a thief under pressure)?

I believe that was when the line got crossed. I exploded in a flood of traumatized tears, rang my mother up who happened to be in Australia visiting my aunt, and had to speak to my aunt first before she passed on the phone to mum, alarmed.

The things that set us off. Crying for a bit of makeup. Sigh.

Friday, March 14, 2008

guantanamo garden

We did a report about a new product by Lush today, an all-natural soap and beauty products company. They are running a campaign, together with Reprieve to highlight the illegal detainment of Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

Lush does all these gorgeous soaps, bath products, face masks, shampoos made from completely natural products – you can smell this store from half a mile away.

The product we were focusing on was a Bath Ballistic –those balls you drop into the bathtub that start fizzing about madly while releasing gorgeous scents and oils into the water. This one was called Guantanamo Garden, named after a small garden detainees grew using plastic spoons and seeds from their pathetic excuses for meals at the center.

Release the ball which has a picture of a sugar dove engraved on the top, into your bath, and it turns the water bright orange (the colour of the prison uniforms) and at the very end a little picture of one of the detainees is revealed.

More pics from this lovely store....

Jelly like shower gel. It's so fun to tap the jelly slab lightly with a finger and watch it shake and giggle like your cute fat baby cousin.
More ball ballistics...for your bathtub

Our camera set up in the store

Monday, March 03, 2008


They let you leave Israel alot easier than they let you get in. My first steps back on Egyptian soil were accompanied by a surprising sense of relief. I hadn't realised the subconscious tension I had been harboring the entire time during the last 6 days. But the tension is definitely there. Even as a tourist, you always feel the need to please the occupiers, to prove outwardly you aren't doing anything wrong. In Cairo, if any loser on the street tries to whisper sleazy things into my ear, I ignore them like I’m Helen Keller – deaf, blind and mute. Walking past Israeli soldiers on the street though, one good morning from them, and for some retarded reason I feel compelled to acknowledge them with an, albeit tight, smile. What was I scared of? That they’d SHOOT me if I didn’t pander to their bored flirtations? If this is how I feel as a tourist, imagine how the Palestinians feel. Apparently, this friend of a friend’s, a Palestinian, who was rather tubby around the stomach, used to walk around with his shirt lifted whenever he passed by Israeli soldiers, to prove, each and every single time, that it was indeed human lard he carried around, and not ammunition.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Back in Jerusalem. All the shops in East Jerusalem have shut in protest to what's going on in Gaza. 70 dead. It's troubling how I have been in East J for the last couple of days and had no clue what was going on until I went to Ramallah yesterday and people informed me. Eilat...Jerusalem...Tel's so easy to be in denial or completely block out the atrocities being carried out less than 1.5 hours away. Yesterday, we attended a small demonstration in the main square in Ramallah. Not many people turned up, but people are angry. Really, really angry. Hamas has issued a warning about suicide bombings - apparently calling 2008 the year of suicide bombings - and, as I'm told, when Hamas gives a warning, they mean serious business. Al-Aqsa Martyrs blow alot of hot air, but Hamas don't joke around.

I'm taking a taxi to the central bus station tomorrow. No way am I getting on one of those West Jerusalem buses. Back in Cairo Monday night.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


Soon after, I returned to Jerusalem and hopped onto a bus to Ramallah next, the government and administrative hub of the West Bank. There isn't much to see in Ramallah, but if you know someone living there, as I was lucky enough to, it's a great place to experience how Palestinians are living what is probably the closest they can get to normalcy. There's also a big expat community here, and as I got to find out, all expat communities (in the Arab world) are the same.

Sitting with two Canadian girls in a Ramallah cafĂ©, I listened to them worry over landlord issues because one of them was seen ushering a male friend out the door by her landlord. The only difference between Ramallah and Cairo was how much the conflict was in their faces, and predictably, how much conversation revolved around it. In 4 days I have learnt more about the conflict than anything I've registered over the last 24 years. Being witness to what the israeli's are doing also makes it all the more real. I had heard about jewish settlements…'outposts' they call them that have been built on Palestinian land, you imagine housing as flimsy as camps, but you get here and driving into Bethlehem, you're taxi driver points out that big Jewish settlement on top of the hill in the distance and it hits you that these settlements aren't flimsy outposts. They're entire towns, huge concrete monstrosities, sprawled out with their claws dug into Palestinian land. Convincing them, forcing them to leave this land that they have stolen, gosh, it will spark a Jewish uprising (which by the way has already started).

Apologies because I can't seem to stop going on about things most of you already know about. It's just that this trip has been so much of an intensely personal journey for me. It has been educational, not only on an academic level, but on an intimate level, about myself and discovering what I am capable of. I could probably go on and on, because everything here is so grey, there is no black and white. There is so much to understand, so much to confuse, so much to be troubled by. So I shall shut up and go on with the more superficial aspects of my trip.

My night in Ramallah was spent with a friend of a friend's, Amber, who was kind enough to let me crash at her apartment. (Traveling alone comes with so many perks, I'm amazed I didn't do this sooner. It's so much easier to change plans, to do things spontaneously, and the people you meet along the way are so much more accomodating) Amber was also kind enough to help me experience a lil' bit a-everything in Ramallah: we had coffee (Everything in Ramallah were shut, in protest to the events in Gaza, but some cafes, although pulled down their shutters and appeared closed, were bustling inside), we went to watch a dub-ka (Palestinian traditional dance) performance at the Ramallah Cultural Palace, then we went to a demonstration in Manara Square, and then finally for dinner at her friends place to eat maghlooby, a Palestinian dish!


It’s amazing how easy it is to get around here. I went further into the West Bank today (East Jerusalem IS the West Bank too), taking a bus into Bethlehem. Over here, what should be a 30 minute ride can sometimes stretch into 1.5 hours, especially for Palestinians getting from one city to another simply because of Israeli checkpoints stationed between cities which by international law belong to the Palestinians anyway! An example of how they like to f*** with the Palestinians: Around Jummah time yesterday, we were trying to get into Jericho and we arrived to find a long lineup of cars at the checkpoint. The Israeli soldiers know the Palestinians are all trying to get to the mosque, and as my Palestinian driver explained, this intentional delay was a weekly occurrence. That's how it works here, even if Israeli-Arabs don't live in as destitute, tense conditions as the Gazans do, there is a subtle, sneaky personal campaign of oppression and humiliation being wrought by the Israelis.

Bethlehem was absolutely beautiful, much like the rest of this country, the landscape is extremely hilly and at the end of every street you discover an incredible panaroma. Bethlehem also has a fantastic service called the communal taxi, and I only wonder why more cities don’t employ this form of transport. 8-seater station wagons drive all around the city, picking up and dropping off passengers wherever they please, and only charging 2 shekels each. Cairo has an informal system similar to this, except we still pay according to the distance, no matter who you’re sharing your bus with.

My main aim in going to Bethlehem was to get a closer look at the Apartheid wall that the Israeli’s have built. I walked nearly three-quarters of a kilometre along this giant of a wall, built, according to the Israelis, to ‘stop terrorists from getting into Israel’, but instead it only serves to disrupt the daily lives of local Palestinians. Nevermind that it snakes along well into the West Bank territory, it was also ironically, built by Palestinian labour, so desperate for jobs, money, sustenance, that they have to resort to this kind of humiliation – building a wall for the enemy designed to ruin their own community. I will upload photos of some of the amazing graffiti on this wall later.