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Archive for November 2015

Reading ‘To the End of the Land’ in Freetown

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Freetown always gives good sunset.

The book: To the End of the Land, David Grossman

The place: Freetown


It is the start of the dry season in Sierra Leone, which, confusingly, makes the air feel wringing wet.* After a week holed up in an air-conditioned hotel room (working, not for fun) I levered myself out today for lunch at Lagoonda, whose spicy tuna salad is the food of the gods. I’m always surprised by quite how much of a difference proximity to the sea makes to a place: move Freetown 100 miles inland and it would lose around 80% of its charm, but as it is, it’s one of my favourite places I’ve ever been lucky enough to work. After lunch I met a friend and we went for a walk along Aberdeen Beach, watching a thousand football matches and boys conducting sprinting races and performing acrobatics in the sand and one unexpected rugby match. We bought digestive biscuits from a street-seller and ate them on a bench, and then hopscotched our way back across the city in a series of battered shared taxis.


I’ve had To the End of the Land on my Kindle for over a year – I think I first downloaded it during Operation Protective Edge, when I was frantically searching for moderate Israeli voices to help me feel less entirely despairing about everything. I’d almost entirely forgotten about it until I was sat across the aisle from a pair of German women on my flight from Yangon to Heho, a couple of weeks ago, and one of them was reading it. Of course first I had to finish Carry On and then read Little Sister Death and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen and Stephen King’s The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (both authors I love; neither book is among their best work, sadly) and then make various half-hearted feints at a number of other books, BUT THEN I started this in earnest a few days ago and good lord, it is amazing. I have no idea why Grossman isn’t more celebrated in the Anglophone world (maybe he is and I’m just clueless) because so far (I’m about a third of the way in) this is thoughtful and evocative and intense and beautifully-written, the sort of book that I have to take numerous breaks from, because it is both dense and harrowing, but at the same time find hard to put down.

*Not twelve hours after writing this I was awoken by a thunderstorm and a downpour, which goes to show how much I know about West African weather patterns.

Written by Jess

November 22, 2015 at 10:07 am

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In transit, again

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One of only two photos I took in KL: from the front of the mall where I bought my latest replacement mobile phone. Sigh.

Coming at you from Gate E1 at Bangkok Airport, where I am waiting to board a flight for Nairobi. I flew through Bangkok roughly a million times when I was younger, going back and forth between London and Sydney, and I remember the airport quite fondly, but either my standards have risen (hard to believe, given the amount of time I spend in Juba Airport) or Bangkok Airport has deteriorated, because it is grim and featureless and enormous and poorly signposted and I have taken violently against it. This could be partly because I have been transiting through late at night or early in the morning, the sorts of times that make you call into question everything in your life, as if you are poised on the edge of an abyss of despair. (Possibly just me.) Anyway! Soon I will get on the flight and I plan to quickly lose consciousness and remain so until Nairobi. (Or as much as possible, given that it is a full flight and I have a middle seat. Worst ever.)


  • Just finishing up William Gay’s Little Sister Death, which is brilliantly creepy and beautifully written.
  • Spent the last two days in Kuala Lumpur hanging out with my magnificent friend Nine and reading zines thanks to Biawak Gemok Distro.
  • In my last few days in Myanmar, I read Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, which simply slayed (Her young adult writing works so much better for me than her adult stuff.) Various clever people have written already about the frankly brilliant way in which the book tackles fanfiction and Chosen One tropes and the legacy of Harry Potter, so you should go and read them, not me. Here, here, and here.

Also, I went to Lake Inle, and it was stunning.


Stupas in Indein

Managed to not fall off the boat into the lake at any point, which was more challenging than it should have been.


Fisherman at dusk, engaged in traditional standing rowing technique. My guide was very strict about only allowing me to take pictures of Real Fishermen, rather than the chaps who just pose for the tourists.

Great wings of misty light crashing down from the mountains. Oh, world, you are killing me.

Village; perfect sky; perfect water.

Written by Jess

November 9, 2015 at 12:00 pm

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Beta reading on a boat

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Mostly just posting because this picture is so awesome. Somewhere in the Myeik Archipelago, Myanmar.


First go on a GoPro:

Myeik archipelago Myeik archipelago

GoPro snorkel selfie

Written by Jess

November 2, 2015 at 9:22 am

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