WorldBookProject – Brazil, Indonesia and Vatican

Yup, I’m in the middle of the 3rd year of reading my way around the world, and it’s still highly exciting because I’ve again made some rather unexpected discoveries (bookwise). The equality count at the moment: 163 books read, 69 by female authors, 11 with mixed authorship and one unknown writer.

159 Brazil: Socorro Acioli – The Head of the Saint

This was great fun! It’s a children’s book or YA, but still. The author put her finger exactly where it hurts when talking about bigotry in religious establishment, people’s gullibility and corruption. I need to read more by her.

160 Indonesia: Dee Lestari – Paper Boats

Again some YA here, but this one wasn’t my cup of tea. Too many convenient coincidences and way too much beating around the bush or silence between the characters.

161 Vatican: Pope Francis – ENCYCLICAL LETTER ‘LAUDATO SI’ OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME

As an atheist, I was more than surprised how very much in agreement I found myself with the Pope on the matters he wrote about. The encyclical deals with environmental problems, where those are coming from, and makes suggestions what to do about them. I also hadn’t expected the almost scientific language of the letter. The flowery bits were kept to the paragraphs about biblical verses and prayers. I have to say, I wish more people would listen to him and do more for our planet.

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Algeria – Oran’s Fort Of Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is the place to visit in Oran and the Wikipedia article gives plenty of background information.

santa-cruz.jpg

It’s possible to walk up the hill, but be prepared for steep paths and exposure to sun and wind. Alternatively, take a taxi. The price for going up, the driver waiting and getting you down again depends on the goodwill of the taxi driver and your negotiating skills. We paid the meter price (about 800 Dinar), but people have also paid much more than that.

Santa Cruz 2

Unless you’re heavily interested in Spanish military architecture, the fort itself is not that exciting because it’s mostly empty halls and yards these days.

One goes up there for the views (and possibly the picnic area). You can see all of Oran, the Lion Mountains and Canastel to the east, the big salt lake to the south and more hills and the military port to the west (not photos of the latter though – the military doesn’t take kindly to that).

When we were there the church was still under reconstruction, as is the cable car which might hopefully be running again … soon. Things take time in Algeria, but they get done eventually. So, here’s to our next visit, including l’église and le téléphérique!

WorldBookProject – Cape Verde, Haiti and Singapore

Work keeps me busy and I find it tough to focus on anything longer than your average newspaper article or half an hour here and there for an audiobook. So when I’m reading a book which isn’t totally gripping things take even longer, as for instance with my choice for Haiti. As for an update on the equality count: 158 books read, 67 written by female authors, 11 with mixed authorships and one with unknown authors. That also means 99 places left to read.

156 Cabo Verde: Germano Almeida – Das Testament des Herrn Napumoceno

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book in German, and I kind of enjoyed the linguistic experience of a sentence being half a page long. Luckily, the book was less than 200 pages. To begin with, it was a quite sarcastic story but sadly lost its bite in the final third of the book. It did raise some interesting questions about relationships and what we can actually know about other people, though.

157 Haiti: Marie Vieux-Chauvet – Love, Anger, Madness

This book has been showered with praise but I’m at a loss to see why. I found parts two and three utterly contrived and artifical. It might be because I’ve really had enough books about dictators and violence and experiencing the destruction of everything you love.

158 Singapore: Balli Kaur Jaswal – Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

This was easily the best out of the three books in this post. It was great fun although it dealt with some harrowing topics like child marriage and honour killings. I liked the main character, perhaps because I’m a teacher too and I’ve also heard some rather odd stories about my students’ lives.

WorldBookProject – Cameroon, Liberia, Tunisia

This is an all-African post, and two out of the three books were very exciting. Being an economic migrant myself, these stories tend to provide lots of opportunities for reflection. And at the end of the day, I see that I’ve been very lucky in my life.

153 Cameroon: Imbolo Mbue – Behold the Dreamers

This was a great story about the clash of living in Cameroon vs the USA, poor vs rich, male vs female. Although a wee bit lengthy and borderline preachy at times, I really enjoyed reading the book, mostly because there were some unexpected turns of events.

154 Liberia: Helene Cooper – The House at Sugar Beach

An amazing autobiography! I learned a lot about Liberian history, from its founding by freed slaves to fairly recent events just before the turn of the century. I thought the author has a wonderful sense of humour and shows a lot of self-awareness, so the story is about her, but equally about her surroundings and family members. Even though some of the events she describes are right out of the human abyss, I always wanted to continue reading.

155 Tunisia: Sabiha al Khemir – The Blue Manuscript

Right. Well, not really. I can’t say I hated the book because it was so boring. But it had been so promising! Archaeological excavations in Egypt, a group of mixed characters in a confined space, a mysterious manuscript … what more could you want? Now, I want characters that are defined by more than the same adjective throughout the book. I want archaeologists that don’t stare dreamily into the hot air when their excavation site has been tinkered with. And I most certainly don’t want the author to tell me what to think, thank you very much.

Algeria – Around Tlemcen

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my first trip to Tlemcen. Of course, my friends and I not only spent time in town, but explored some of its surroundings. So here’s a map to put things into context. We went along road N7 up to Ain Fezza and back and to the lake south of the city. The National Park in the southwest is at the top of my wish list.map Tlemcen Area

Scenic stop number one was at the apex of the hairpin on road N7. There’s a spring which is considered powerful for healing body and spirit. The place is nestled in what in ancient times seems to have been a waterfall. The cliffs are towering over a tiny hamlet which only seems to exist to regulate access to said spring. The exciting bit of architecture is formed by an enormous bridge constructed by Gustave Eiffel.

From there, we headed towards Ain Fezza, and then pretty much up the mountains whose cliffs we had just admired. It was freezing cold, but oh joy, there were raptors circling high up in the air!

So, after a picnic with sparrowhawk, Bonelli’s eagle and some local cats we descended down into the caves of Beni Aad. The whole cave system reaches as far as Morocco, but the part accessible for visitors is small. Nevertheless, you can walk around just on your own, take photos, shake your head about the morons who try to leave their signature in the dripstone, and best of all, spot the bats.caves of Beni Aad

Ascending from the fairly warm caves, we ventured into town, did some sightseeing there and then went up the southern hills again to the view-point of Lalla Setti. The views towards north and in the direction of the Med were impressive. Apparently, on a clear day it’s possible to see Spain.Tlemcen northwards

Our last port of call was the reservoir just south of Tlemcen. We stopped at some farmer’s stall to get some free-range eggs, butter and other locally produced food. Yummy! The lake itself was wonderfully quiet and home to some gulls and waders. The perfect place to finish off our tour.

Algeria – A visit to Tlemcen

Recently, we had friends over from Germany and we decided to spend a day in Tlemcen, a city close to the Moroccan border. It’s steeped in history and there’s plenty to do and see. One day is not enough to explore everything, but we got a really good impression – also thanks to a colleague who acted as our local guide.

One thing that immediately caught the eye is the countless minarets, all square brick towers. I still need to find out about the architectural background because I used to think of a minaret as a round and much higher structure.

An amazing surprise was the number of minarets with stork-nests on top, a lot of them occupied or under territorial disputes. It was amazing to see so many White Storks so unexpectedly.

One of the many places of interest in Tlemcen is the Mosque Sidi Boumediene and the adjacent ruin of the palace of the Zayyanid sultan. There are some beautiful remnants of calligraphy in the palace and one can enjoy a view of the city.

We also ventured into the surrounding areas, but that’s for another post.

WorldBookProject – What’s coming and what’s missing

wbp  On the picture are some of the titles which I hope to read in the coming weeks. On my e-reader, I have started with Cameroon, and Brazil, Haiti, Vatican, Antarctica and Kazakhstan are ready to go.

I’m still looking for suggestions for the following places:

Central African Republic, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bisseau, Honduras, Maldives, Mauritania, Monaco, Nauru, Niger, Palau, Panama, Moldova, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Singapore, South Sudan, Tajikistan, Timor Leste, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, UAE, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Akrotiri and Dhekelia, French Guyana, French Polynesia, Kurdistan, Mayotte, Netherland Antilles, New Caledonia, Norfolk Island, Pitcairn Island, Reunion.

Please leave a comment if you know of a good book by an author from one of these places. Thanks!