Archives for category: Travel

Nagoya to Kyoto is the same distance as London to Bristol. The journey by bullet train takes 30 minutes and there’s a departure every ten minutes.

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This retreat has been partly prompted by reading a couple of books about the Life of Tenzin Palmo, the Englishwoman who became a Buddhist nun and spent twelve years as a hermit in a Himalayan cave. Game-changing books that, among many other things, helped me understand that Buddhist meditation techniques do not presuppose any particular belief system.

Tenzin Palmo

 

Writing from Kyoto this time where I’m enjoying 3-day retreat at the Myoshinji Daishin-in Buddhist temple. So much of what goes on here is familiar to me from my experience in Benedictine monasteries: prayer at dawn, sparsely furnished rooms, silent meals, generous hospitality, well-tended gardens, encounters with like-minded guests, space to listen…

Daishin-in

… having crossed the Sahara, the Mediterranean, the Bay of Biscay and the Channel in brilliant sunshine and blue skies, the plane begins its descent into a thick England-shaped cloud that exactly fits the contours of the coastline. Bill Bryson called it our tupperware lid.
But the fields of Sussex are green like nowhere else.

This article accurately describes one aspect of life here in West Africa.

 

After five long months of paper-chasing, form filling, photocopies, telephone calls, photo booths and waiting rooms, I’ve just been awarded a three year Togolese residency permit. No more visa hunting until I’m 60. Yippee!

Yesterday, traveling back from Lomé to Kara with Simon, there was a sudden, heavy rainstorm. Swerving to avoid a large lorry, the car skidded, did a graceful 360 degree pirouette, then rolled over into a deep muddy ditch and landed unceremoniously on its side. All that at speed.
It’s a curious moment when, as driver, you observe your passenger floating, as it were, above you. Somehow Simon managed dexterously to unfasten his seatbelt and climb out of the door above him without falling on me.
It’s an even curiouser moment when your first thought is “I would really prefer to stay in my upturned car, it’s bucketing down outside.”
I’m thankful that:
– neither of us were hurt, not the slightest scratch or whiplash.
– no other vehicles or pedestrians were in the line of the car.
– it was me driving, not Faustin, because it’s always easier to forgive oneself.
– the damage was limited to a couple of punctures, the side panelling and the side view mirror.
I’m also thankful that I was in Africa. In a matter of minutes, a crowd of 20 people emerged from nowhere including, of course, an experienced mechanic. He took the whole matter in hand, uprighted the car with great technical skill, instructed me how to drive out of the ditch without flipping the car again, and led us to his workshop, where he and an army of apprentices spent the best part of the afternoon making the car roadworthy again.
Back home safely now. Deo gratias.
PS: My connection speed isn’t fast enough right now to post photos of the accident here, but you can see them on my Facebook page.

A curious moment as I joined the ‘European Union’ queue at passport control and realised with dismay that it might be the last time I ever do so. I sooooo hope not. I’ve left Dad with clear instructions what to vote as my proxy.

Just spent five amazing days in Lyon. On Saturday, I made a further three year commitment to the lay fraternity of the Society of African Missions. Since then it’s been a social whirlwind – every meal in a different place with different people, each and every one of them inspiring. The fraternity is an exact fit for me, and I’m feeling very loved and cared for as I return to Togo today.

While traveling down to Lomé last week, I was dismayed to see that the new Bafilo bypass is closed. Instead, I had to take the old road that goes up over the famous Faille d’Aledjo otherwise known as ‘the lorry graveyard’. Apparently they they are having to completely resurface the new road again, less than a year after it was opened, because the job was badly done the first time. With the minimal resources that Togo has, it is heartbreaking to see this.