A Public Service Announcement

If you, or friends of yours, are planning on visiting South East Asia (and I highly recommend it) please be aware that there is no duty-free allowance for tobacco or alcohol if you are coming into Singapore from Malaysia.  That means ‘zero’, ‘nada’, ‘niente’, ‘none’!

A few days ago our bus was delayed because some young backpackers were trying to bring alcohol into Singapore from Malaysia.  We ended up leaving them at the border crossing in the middle of the night.   I was reminded of an incident a few months ago when our bus was delayed because a middle-aged woman thought the open package of cigarettes she was carrying did not apply to the NO duty-free allowance law.

I have travelled with Singaporean friends who threw away their cigarettes before going through immigration.  Trash receptacles are provided. Although most countries allow for some tobacco products to be imported without duty, Singapore does not.  Some alcohol can be imported without duty but NOT from Malaysia.  It doesn’t matter where you purchased the alcohol if your last port of departure was Malaysia.

Wishing everyone safe travels!

heavy-traffic-expected-at-woodlands-and-tuas-checkpoints

 

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Living With Fear

The following is the text of a talk I gave to the Introverts Network. The synopsis read “Andrea Brandle steps outside her comfort zone for a few minutes to share her belief that fear can and should be overcome. She is an introvert and her advice is “if I can do it, so can you”. Andrea hopes that at very least, you will be entertained. Please feel free to laugh out loud.”

Living with Fear or Don’t be Afraid to be an Introvert

I met Mervin when we were both contributors to a book called Turning Ideas into Profit. At the book launch the authors stood at the front of an auditorium and each talked about their own chapter – except for me. I would rather swim with sharks than stand in front of a group of people and speak. So I was the timer. It was my job to let each speaker know when their time was up. It is a much harder job than you might imagine. If the speaker was in the middle of making a good point, I was loathe to ring the bell. When Mervin got up to speak about his chapter “Beyond Handshakes”, he said that he was an introvert, I laughed out loud. I thought he was making a joke! How could an introvert be on stage? Clearly, I misunderstood what it means to be an introvert.
When Mervin asked me to come and speak to you, a group of introverts, I thought I had better find out exactly what an introvert really is. While researching, I read that, “Mistaking introversion for shyness is a common error. Introverts prefer solitary to social activities, but do not necessarily fear social encounters like shy people do.” The word fear resonated with me. I live with fear – it is my constant companion. I called this talk “Living with Fear” not “Living in Fear”. The difference may seem small but it is frighteningly huge – Godzilla huge! If you live in fear you are anticipating some event that might happen such as in Japan I lived in fear that an earthquake would strike. Living with fear means that I am constantly and consistently afraid. I am afraid of ordinary things that most people would not think of as even a little bit scary. I am afraid of stairs, and by extension, escalators which are really just moving stairs. I am afraid of everything with wheels so I don’t drive a car or ride a bicycle. I am afraid of sticky things!
At one time, I was phobic about insects. I could regale you with stories of being chased screaming from my home by a moth, or being reduced to tears by a small worm in my salad, but the story you need to hear is about the cockroach in New Orleans. In preparation to move to Botswana I went on a holiday to New Orleans. My logic was that if I couldn’t spend a week by myself in an American city, I had no business going to live in Africa. I was staying alone in a small apartment in the French Quarter. It was late in the evening and I went to use the toilet. I was naked. I am telling you this because, for me and for many others, nakedness increases my sense of vulnerability. I reached out a few centimeters and gave the toilet roll a tug. As it spun around, a roach almost as big as the toilet roll appeared – black against white, millimeters from my hand. We don’t have any insects this big in Canada. It was bigger than some mice I have seen. I screamed, a blood-curdling shriek, and ran out of the bathroom with urine running down my leg. I stood in the kitchen with my heart pounding. My brain knows that a cockroach cannot hurt me. My brain knows that I am far bigger and more deadly but I was terrified! So I said to myself, “well, I guess I can’t go to Botswana after all.” Surely, insects in Africa would be large and scary. But I really, really wanted to go. So I went back into the bathroom to face my fear. It took me a while to find the roach. He was hiding inside the toilet roll. He looked at me and I swear he was terrified. I could relate – so I told him that I was going to turn off the bathroom light and leave on the bedroom light and that he should then leave as quickly as his little roach legs would allow.

Believe it or not, one of my biggest fears is public speaking. Do you know that according to Wikipedia, public speaking is the number one fear in North America? The second greatest is death!! Think about that, I am less afraid of dying than I am of standing here in front of you speaking. But really, everything gets easier with practice. Karen Foo, who contributed the chapter on Motivating and Challenging the GenY, tricked me into speaking at a book signing event we had for Turning Ideas into Profit. It was in a bookstore and there were only two people listening but it was good practice. She has since roped me into being the MC at our monthly meetings for the Association of Professional Trainers of Singapore. I know she is doing it for my own good!
Mervin suggested that I talk to you about travelling because the best thing about my life is that it has been lived across continents. Singapore is the fifth country I have lived in. I was born in a mining town in Canada where I spent many months of the year afraid I would freeze to death. After that I lived in Botswana in the Kalahari Desert where there are more deadly snakes than anywhere else on Earth, I have already mentioned that I lived in Japan home to earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunami and finally Spain where I was robbed by gypsies before coming to Singapore. Many people think that means I am brave. Hardly!
As a child, I read about faraway places, distant lands, exotic destinations, but I never set foot outside of North America until I was thirty years old. At thirty, the fear that I would never see the world became greater than the fear of being in a place where the people looked different from me or spoke a different language or ate different food. So it was with great fear and trepidation that I embarked upon the trip that has become my life. Sometimes people will ask me what kind of job I do that allows me to live in such diverse places. I laugh! I do a different job every where I live. Sometimes I have a job arranged before I arrive, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I can speak the language, sometimes I can’t.
I really want to earn my living as a writer but often I fear I am not good enough. I have been writing since I was a little kid but no-one has ever paid me to write. I write about my adventures and about my observations of the world around me. I write about the people I meet . I think being a writer would be the perfect job for an introvert, except for the part where you have to promote your books. Mervin can help you with that part.
So why am I standing here in front of you with sweaty hands and trembling knees? Why do I pack up and move to another country as soon as I become comfortable? Perhaps I am just crazy. That would explain why an adult woman with a career and her own house in a good neighbourhood, would don a backpack, and with a one-way airplane ticket and a small tent, move to an African country she knew nothing about. Perhaps, I am not crazy but rather, I am driven by a deeper fear; maybe I am afraid of being ordinary.
In Mervin’s book “i Can Connect: An Introvert’s Handbook to Stress-Free Networking” he writes, “Some introverts are so embarrassed about being introverted, that they refuse to admit they are. They tend to hide it by displaying more extroverted behaviour in front of others.”
The point I want you to take away from this is that fear can be beaten. Fear can be overcome. Being fearful is something you should want to change about yourself. Being introverted is not something you should want to change! 25 to 30 percent of people, depending on which source you read, are introverted. Introverts are the scientists, philosophers, and artists. They are the thinkers, the ‘idea’ people. To say that introverts should try to be more extroverted is like saying red flowers should try to be yellow! Why?
According to Mervin, “We know what meeting new people can possibly do for our business and careers, yet it is this exact activity that also makes us want to clam up… When we finally pluck up the courage to attend such a meeting, whether it is an obligation to someone who had invited us, or because we eventually convinced ourselves to give it a try, we develop a whole new set of fears.” The part I especially like is “Embracing your introversion is the first step to accepting yourself for who you are. Introverts have qualities that help us excel at business networking: We value quality relationships, we love discussing ideas, we enjoy one-to-one time, we cherish our alone time and we enjoy observing people.” I am not going to stand up here and read the entire book to you but I do encourage you to read it, if you have not already. It highlights the qualities introverts can bring to group meetings and helps you to understand that you absolutely, positively, do not need to be afraid of being an introvert!

 

 

Out of Africa, Again – My Last Day in Kenya

10 April 2016 – Kenya Airways changed the Malindi – Nairobi flight to 10 a.m. so I lost my last day in Malindi but because I am the luckiest girl in the world, I ran into Roger, the owner of the Driftwood, in the little bookshop at the Malindi Airport.  He was buying a newspaper and I was buying When a Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin.  When Roger heard that I had a twelve-hour layover in Nairobi, he suggested that I go to the Ole-Sereni Hotel.  It is very close to the airport and has a bar (The Waterhole) with a view of Nairobi National Park.

13403744_10154022779465860_8632929407933897624_oBending it like Beckham

A man at Nairobi airport asked me if I needed a taxi.  I said, “Maybe”.  I was trying to find if there was more to do in the departures part of the airport than there was in the arrivals, and sadly, it seemed that the two coffee shops outside at the airport were the only places to eat.  I honestly could not imagine spending twelve hours there so Daniel Kariuki who works for Trova Viaggi Kenya, brought me to Ole-Sereni.  My flight was scheduled to board at 10:20 p.m. and Daniel said he would come back at 8 p.m. to return me to the airport.

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I had lunch and then I went to the spa where I had aloe gently rubbed into my poor burned back.  After returning to Singapore, I kept pulling strips of black/grey skin off my back which had bubbled up in the most grotesque way.  When I first started pulling it off, I didn’t recognize it as my skin!

Anyway,  I have fallen in love again with Africa.  It feels a little like having fallen for a lover’s cousin or, maybe even, brother.  I never imagined that I would love East Africa the way that I love Southern Africa but I have learned that ‘never’ is a word I should never use.

 

 

Out of Africa, Again – Surprise Birthday Party, Day 2

Saturday, 9 April 2016 – I had a breakfast of strong coffee with heated milk, a plate of fruit, and an omelette.  It was raining and there was a blinding flash of lightning followed immediately by deafening thunder. Later, one of the housekeeping staff said that the lightning strike had killed three children.  I really hoped the rumour was totally false.

Bar at the Driftwood

I headed to the Driftwood and bellied up to the bar.  I ordered a Pina Colada.  After a while, people who were attending the private function began to arrive.  It was a fabulous party. I said my toast but got choked up so it was even shorter than what I had written in the airport waiting for my flight to Kenya.  The notes in my journal read, “I met Krista in Maun, Botswana when she was just 23 years old.  She was full of light.  In the years since 1989, Krista has become a mother and a successful business woman.  Her achievements have not made her arrogant, and her trials have not diminished her light.  I would like to propose a toast to Krista – ‘Keep on shining!'”.

Dancing at the Driftwood

Saturdays the Driftwood hosts a Mongolian buffet so there was lots of good food.  Roger had hired a DJ so there was lots of good music.  There was lots of drinking and dancing and it was lots and lots and lots of fun.  At one point, I stepped outside and looked up; I nearly started to cry.  I will always be awed by the African night sky.

Out of Africa, Again – Surprise Birthday Party, Day 1

Friday, 8 April 2016 – After the dhow trip, we went to the bar at the Driftwood where some of the other ‘party people’ were gathered for drinks and lunch.  I had eaten two samosas on the dhow so I was not hungry; I had a pina colada.  There were a couple of regulars at the bar including Barry Koenecke whose work graces the walls of the bar.

I walked the 500 metres from the Driftwood to the Silversand Residences where I showered and washed the sea from my hair, then I had a nap.  I woke about an hour before sunset; I got dressed and walked over to Neem House.  More people had arrived. This was the first ‘official’ day of the party.  Ella’s invitation had stipulated that Friday’s festivities would begin at around 2 p.m. and that we should bring a bottle.  I still had about half of the box of wine left.

There was eating and drinking, dancing and laughing.  Krista showed a slide show of photos that she had taken or that had been taken of her.  They were brilliant!

Beautiful Party People

 

Out of Africa, Again – Sailing on the Indian Ocean

The highlight of day 8 of my trip was going out for a few hours in Malindi Marine Park on a dhow called Big Mama.  There were five ladies including me and Krista; Roger, the owner of the Driftwood and captain of the dhow, and three crew members.  Often the dhow trips are a whole day with food and drink but we were having a little trip because some of us were not going to be able to join the big group on Sunday.

We reclined on pillows while drinking wine or beer and eating samosas.  We went snorkelling or ‘goggling’ as Roger calls it. It was like swimming in an aquarium the water was so clear.  Small to medium sized striped fish swam all around us.

 

 

 

We had a lovely few hours and I got way too much sun on my back and shoulders.

Out of Africa, Again – Prelude to a Birthday Party

07 April 2016 – I went into town with Krista to buy some necessities, get money, and to buy booze and kikois. A kikoi is, according to Google, “a distinctive East African striped cloth with an end fringe”. The bottle of whisky I bought at Kioko Enterprises was 930.00 KSH or approximately $9.30 USD. This same bottle of cheap but passable whisky costs $50 SGD in Singapore. The five-litre box of wine that I bought as my contribution to the Neem House festivities, cost 2,200 KSH and the grand total of 3,130 KSH included 431.72 KSH in tax.

The coast feels like a different country with Arab and European influence obvious everywhere. Neem House was designed by Bunny Allen and built for Krista’s mother and stepfather. She spent school holidays there and Malindi continues to be one of her favourite places.

The downside of Malindi, in my opinion, is the beggars. Some of them, like the guy with a stump where his left hand used to be, offer strings of beads etc.,(which I bought) but others, like the blind man with a boy who guides him or the girl who cannot speak, are just begging. Some will wash your vehicle without asking and then expect to be paid for their efforts. I know this makes me sound hard-hearted but like the panhandlers in Vancouver, the relentless requests for one’s generosity can be taxing.

After shopping, Krista dropped me at Silversand where I had a shower and changed my clothes. I was waiting for a tuk-tuk to pick me up when Krista pulled up to collect me. At Neem House, we had a dinner of red snapper with vegetables and salad. I felt totally spoiled.

Out of Africa, Again – Welcome to Malindi, Kenya

My safari ended with Tom driving me back to Nairobi. In the lobby of the 67 Airport Hotel, he handed me his phone so that I could talk to George. I was feeling a little bit sad but I was also really looking forward to going to Malindi.

On the 7th of April 2016, I wrote in my journal “I have had THE MOST AMAZING DAY!!! I began by misreading my flight confirmation so I thought the arrival time was the departure time. Fortunately, the young man who was my driver did an excellent job of getting me to the airport. When I noticed my error I got a little panicky because I was afraid I would miss my flight, but I didn’t. It is a very short hop of approximately forty minutes from Nairobi to Malindi.”

When I arrived at MYD, I saw Krista standing just outside the door of the little arrivals area. She was waiting to pick up her son, Jazper, who was flying in from London. At first, I thought I should hide because it was supposed to be a surprise but where was I going to hide? There was much hugging etc. I was able to meet Jazper and Ella, as well as get a lift into town.

I had originally planned to spend the day hanging out at the pool of the Silversand Residences and writing in my journal. Instead, I got to meet some of the people who were staying at Neem House, the venue for Krista’s birthday party.

 

Out of Africa, Again – Sunrise in Amboseli National Park

Day 6 – I awoke on the 6th of April 2016 to my lovely room being filled with crickets – large, African crickets. There had been one in the shower when I woke yesterday and I had dispatched it with a spoon but today there were at least twenty! My laundry had not been delivered so I decided to wear the same clothes as yesterday, and shower and change after returning from the early morning game drive in the park. On my way out I stopped at the reception desk and asked that someone go to my room and sweep up the crickets while I was out. I would have done it myself but there wasn’t a broom in my room. Jackline was extremely apologetic and said that it was because it was the rainy season.

Out of Africa, Again – In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro

From my journal for Day 5 (5 April 2016) “I have noticed that Kenyans greet you by asking ‘How are you?” After a very satisfactory breakfast, we went to Amboseli National Park. At the gate, I traded two clean T-shirts for a copper bracelet.”

Tom going to get our park passes

“The ecosystem here is very different from both the Masai Mara (savannah) and Nakuru (lakeland forest). It is a swampy desert.  We saw three lone hyenas (I have been told that the males are solitary, the females and pups were in a den somewhere), and we saw herds of elephants.  Pretty birds came to share our lunch, and now I am sitting at the pool bar watching the doves come for a drink from the swimming pool.”

Sentrim Amboseli Lodge

” I have had a lovely chat with Phillip the bartender.  He is Masai and he didn’t get to go to school but he learned English from his older brother who did.  His father had four wives and many children. Phillip wasn’t able to attend school because his parents died and he had to support himself.  He has two sons and they are in school because Phillip believes that education is important.  He told me that Masai boys begin herding goats and sheep at ten years of age and graduate to cattle at fourteen. He has four cows, ten goats, and one wife, who looks after the cows and goats while he works and his sons go to school.   Phillip told me that you can’t eat a big house or a car.  He seems to have found the perfect balance between Masai tradition and contemporary values.”