Cecil the Lion Hoopla. Long May it Last!

I eat meat.  I wear leather.  I even sell handbags made from African game skins  (these are skins which come from animals that are also used for their meat, by the way).  I know and love plenty of vegetarians, but I also know and love people who hunt.  They enjoy it and I’m ok with it.  I could never do it myself, but I’m ok with it.  As long as they use the meat of the animals they are hunting. 

I, like many hundreds of thousands of other people apparently, am not ok with the whole trophy hunting scenerio.

I will never understand the desire to kill an animal for the sole purpose of decorating a home with it’s head.  Or taking a smiling photo next to its carcass.  It’s creepy, for one thing, to have animal heads in your home.  And doubly creepy to have a photo taken next to an animal’s carcass.  I wonder why people do it.  And much as I’ve tried to come to terms with it, I will never understand a person who can kill an animal for the sake of killing. I find the idea of trophy hunting abominable.

Though this is not Cecil, he was a spectacular lion I saw in a National Park in Namibia

Though this is not Cecil, he was a spectacular lion I saw in a National Park in Namibia

My initial reaction to Cecil’s death was one of anger and sadness.  I wanted the comfortable rich dentist to pay with the shut down of his business and was happy he was being shamed by the world.

But the truth is trophy hunting has been going on for centuries.  It continues to go on in Africa, Canada, the US.

During my years living in Africa I met people who were professional hunters or who ran hunting concessions.  They were nice people.  I liked them.  I couldn’t understand their chosen profession, but these were people from a different culture than me.

They weren’t bad people, they just had different values than I did.

The closest I ever got to a Rhino. Beautiful & strange. One of many animals that is trophy hunted in Africa & poached in Africa and in South East Asia to near extinction.

The closest I ever got to a Rhino. Beautiful & strange. One of many animals that is trophy hunted in Africa & poached in Africa and in Southeast Asia to near extinction.

In my travels around the world, I have been through many castles, estates and museums, many of which have trophy kills adorning their walls.  Chances are your ancestors did it, whether in Africa, Europe or North America.  I’m pretty sure mine did.  That doesn’t make it right, but back then it was accepted practice.

It is obviously still accepted practice among some circles.  Some people are brought up to believe that it is ok to waste the life of an animal.

But times are changing.  And the thing is now to change the times ourselves.

We were so close to this herd of elephants we could almost touch them. These gorgeous creatures mourn the loss of a member of their herd. Poaching & trophy hunting is devastating for those remaining in the herd.

We were so close to this herd of elephants we could almost touch them. These gorgeous creatures mourn the loss of a member of their herd. Poaching & trophy hunting is devastating for those remaining in the herd.

The negativitity and death threats, anger and hatred towards this one human being aren’t  doing anyone any good.  We need to redirect this energy and find a positive outcome to this horrible situation.

I hope with all of my heart that Cecil’s legacy will be that of change when it comes to these hunting concessions.  There is now a worldwide outcry about it, which is great, but please let’s not let Cecil’s death be a flash in the media pan.  We can transform these laws if we consistently make our feelings known to the governments who allow these customs to go on.

Here are a number of petitions you can sign to voice your opinion to varying governments that these practices should be banned.  Many of these are growing by the day.  Please add the power of your signature to strengthen our fight.

If we continue to speak up laws will be amended. Trophy hunting bans will be put in place and we can reshape the world of those without a voice.

Let this be Cecil’s legacy.

Petition to the Government of Zimbabwe to stop issuing hunting permits

Petition to South African Airways to ban the transport of trophy kills on their airline

Petition to the Government of Zimbabwe to stop Lion hunting

Petition to the US and EU authorities to ban the importation of trophy hunt kills

Petition to the Prime Minister of Canada to ban trophy hunting on Canadian soil

Sri Lanka: Big Beasts, Big Beaches, Big Beauty

After landing at midnight in the sleeping Colombo and damping down my excitement at having landed on Sri Lankan soil, we went straight to bed and awoke the next morning to the happy sunshine and gorgeous lagoon on which the hotel was located.  We found smiley welcoming people and efficient friendly service. With an amazing cup of local Ceylon tea (yes, apparently tea can be amazing!), we were off to a great start as we hit the road.

Our trip began in Galle, on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka.  We arrived by float plane from Colombo (bucket list item, check!), which took us over the beautiful emerald landscape of lush hills and valleys of the interior of the province and landed us on the lovely Kogalla Lake nearby the city.

Galle is home to the old Dutch Fort established in 1663 and thanks to these fortifications the old town was mostly protected from the devastation of the tsunami in 2004.  It is like a little piece of colonial heaven within the confines of the fort walls. Outside the fort walls are the turquoise waters of the Laccadive Sea and the small but buzzing new town.

Galle Fort is filled with pretty little boutique shops open to the steamy outside air, the weathered walls of colonial architecture and cozy restaurants and boutique hotels boasting an interesting history.  There is a cool, relaxed vibe in Galle. It’s a great place to stroll around and stop to sip a cocktail while watching the sunset over the clear blue ocean.

Sri Lanka Buddha

Heading east we explored herb gardens, a tea plantation and temples before finding ourselves at Mirissa for our morning on the ocean in search of the immense, but shy Blue Whale.  We were lucky and spotted some reasonably quickly. A Bryde’s whale, a pod of dolphins, some flying fish and a mating sea turtle couple also made an appearance.  It was a good morning out with one of a few reputable companies who respects international guidelines for approaching the whales.

We stayed at a hotel right on the seaside away from the touristy Mirissa beach and, though there were several other buildings on the same stretch of sand, we rarely saw a soul away from the accommodation. There are vast expanses of completely uninhabited beach all along the coastline in Sri Lanka. The water is warm and welcoming, with teal blue waves lapping at the shore. It is postcard stuff!

Sri Lanka beaches

It is common for travellers to hire a car and driver for their journey in Sri Lanka.  The guide book suggests this because the driving is quite frightening, though in comparison to other countries we’ve experienced in the region, I would say that’s debatable. Regardless, it’s nice to be able to sit back and relax and be driven about by someone who knows the territory.

The scenery changes drastically from idyllic lonely sandy beaches along the coastline, to the vibrancy of the many green-hued tea plantations, national parks and farming landscapes inland, though it would be difficult to decide which is more beautiful.

For a small island, Sri Lanka is park-rich – 14% of its landmass is allotted to the Department of Wildlife Conservation.  Our experience was at Uda Walawe National Park, a peaceful wildlife sanctuary which is known for its wild elephant population and birdlife.  We arrived just as the rains had begun, at which time many of the elephants are less reliant on the main watering holes and move further into the park and away from tourist eyes. We did, however, manage to see several small herds of elephants with a few young ones under their protection.  As a group they graze unobtrusively on the park’s greenery and, given their size, seem barely to disturb their quiet surroundings.

The birdlife is incredible in the park, including an abundance of peacocks who could be found in the trees out of the way of their predators while their feathers were drying from the rains. They would fill the air with the sound of their disappointment at getting their feathers wet.  The peacock’s jewel colours remind me so much of the vibrant hues of the whole of Sri Lanka – the azure and turquoise blues of the ocean and the rich, emerald greens of the inland hills.

peacock silhouette

From Uda Walawe, our driver delivered us to Ella after several hours on good winding roads. There seemed to be surprises at every turn on our car journey, like a quick detour along a meandering road flanked by small lakes covered in blooming water lillies.   At the road’s end, the vast Buddha images carved into an immense rock wall were revealed at Buduruwagala temple.

Buduruwagala temple

Once a quiet town, but now gaining in tourism popularity, hilly Ella is home to several tea plantations and the well known Little Adam’s Peak.  After a gentle hike through one of these tea plantations and up the peak, we found views through the beautiful Ella Gap all the way to the coastline from which we had just come. Smiling tea-pickers in their brightly coloured saris line the track on their breaks from their grueling work.

We drove through stunning landscape all throughout our Sri Lankan journey, but nothing compared to the views we saw from the train from Ella to Kandy. We slipped past train stations with names like Nuwara Eliya and Pattipola, some of the highest elevations in the country, making it ideal tea planting territory and favourite locations for the British tea colonials escaping the heat. The scene from the train window is streaked with rich green tones. It didn’t get old even after a 6 hour journey.  It is breathtaking!

Sri Lanka train trip

We didn’t linger long in Kandy, but we did take some time to explore the impressive and popular Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and its surrounding grounds.  The temple was congested with locals leaving floral offerings for the Buddha and awaiting the Sacred Tooth chamber to be opened.  Our morning at the temple was filled with the ceremonial drum beats of a cluster of traditional drummers striking through the quiet scene as the Buddha in the downstairs chamber was prepared for his ritual washing.

Arriving again in Colombo, we had come full circle on our Sri Lankan trip.  Our brief stay here was accidentally timed with Poya (full moon) Day.  Poya Day is a monthly Buddhist national holiday, so most shops and restaurants are closed aside from a few catering to tourists, as many of the locals head to the temples to spend their day in meditation.

Because it was a holiday, locals were also out in force on Galle Face Green, a big open grassy area facing the ocean and adjacent to one of Colombo’s most famous hotels, the Galle Face Hotel.  Kites were flying, people were playing in the waves, vendors were selling deep fried snacks and music was blasting from 1980’s-style boom boxes. It was a great vibe and a great way to end our stay.

Despite the incredible adversity with which the Sri Lankan people have been faced in their recent history – a 26 year civil war and the major impact along most of the island’s 380 degree coastline of the 2004 tsunami – they are seemingly happy and rightfully so.  It is a beautiful place with so much to offer (including vast amounts of amazing tea!). We were completely taken by this vibrant country and its friendly people and as we left early the next morning, I found myself sad to be leaving.  That is definitely the sign of a good holiday.

My Top 10 Sri Lanka tidbits

  1. Definitely try arrack (liquor distilled from coconut) while in Sri Lanka. The stuff we had was like good whiskey!
  2. As noted, the tea is fantastic in Sri Lanka. If you find yourself in Ella, try the iced tea at Chill Restaurant.  Delicious!
  3. Don’t be surprised if you can’t get alcohol on Poya Day anywhere in Sri Lanka. Though you may be able to find it via room service in some hotels…
  4. Be prepared for delicious but repetitive food across the country. Most of the local dishes don’t vary much anywhere you travel.
  5. The Sri Lankan’s are very serious about any considered disrespect to the Buddha. Always ask if you can photograph at temples and never pose with a Buddha image.
  6. Take the train from Ella to Kandy rather than the reverse route.  This direction is far less congested and seats more readily available.
  7. Malaria is all but eradicated in Sri Lanka, though there are mosquitos and some sand flies. Bring bug spray with you as it’s apparently not easy to find in country.
  8. English is widely spoke on the island making it very easy to communicate.
  9. Stay at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo. It is an old beauty with fantastic service and a delicious breakfast.
  10. Go now! There are some big hotels being constructed in Colombo and it appears tourism is on the rise quickly. Not surprising, but go soon if you want to avoid the inevitable masses.

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas 2013

Top 10 Christmas Songs

Feeling very in the Christmas spirit here in Malaysia (which likely has something to do with the fact that I’m getting on a plane to a land filled with snow in one more sleep!  Woot woot!). So it seemed the right time to share my favourite get-me-in-the-Christmas-mood songs. Starting with Louis Armstrong singing Zat You Santa Clause?…

Frosty’s Rag sung by Anita Baker

Madonna’s Santa Baby

John Mellencamp sings I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause

Jimmy Durante’s Frosty the Snowman takes me back to my childhood!

And of course, you couldn’t have a list like this without a little Bing..

Or a little Dean…

Mariah Carey, All I Want for Christmas is You (what can I say, I’m a traditionalist. I prefer this one over her duet with Justin Bieber).

A version of this song appears twice on the Top 10 Holiday Songs on iTunes, sung by Michael Buble and Lady Antebellum, both of which are good, but this U2 version is still my favourite.

And there’s a requirement for Auld Lang Syne at this time of year.  This is a beautiful version by Mairi Campbell and Dave Francis.

Are any of these on your Christmas playlist?  What are your favourite holiday songs?

Lady in Red – Great Holiday Dresses

It’s that time of year again and what better way to get into the festive spirit than to make a statement in a gorgeous red dress! I like to call it the LCD – the Little Christmas Dress. It’s almost as classic as the LBD. Worn well, a Lady in Red can get more than a few heads to turn!

I love this Donna Karan cocktail dress:

Red cocktail dress

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Alfred Angelo 2012source

Emma Stone’s colour of choice was red twice this year and she looked amazing:

Emma Stone red cocktail dress

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Emma Stone red dress on the red carpet

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Taylor Swift also rocked a red dress at 2012’s iHeart Radio Music Festival.

Taylor Swift red dress

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Just look at Elizabeth Taylor smouldering in this stunning red dress!

Elizabeth Taylor red dress

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And another take on the the Lady in Red, I have this picture by South African artist Frans Groenewald hanging in my kitchen.  Such fun.

Lady in Red

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So what do you think?  Will you wear a bold red dress over the holidays?

Halloween Costumes

Halloween.  Scary times!  Scary mostly because I can never seem to come up with a good costume when I need one (halloween isn’t just for kids, afterall!).  Figuring some of you are also in the same boat, I’ve done some research.  Here are a few frightful, ingenious, easy or inventive costumes:

Love this clever jellyfish costume idea.

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Matt Lauer dressed as Paris Hilton.  Cropped skirt, barely there top, blonde wig, oversized purse and a small pooch.  Done.  And the likeness is a little frightening, I have to say!

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Pregnant?  Why not dress as a Mummy?  Jessica Simpson pulled this off really well.  Love the frizzed out hair.

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Perhaps not as topical as at it would have been for last year’s Halloween, but Kathy Lee Gifford and Hota Kotb’s Princess Beatrice & Eugenie costumes made me laugh!

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Super simple, Nicky Hilton does Halloween as Holly Golightly. Grab a short black shift dress, throw on some pearls, some 60-inspired shades, drop earrings and you’re away.  If you can find yourself a cigarette holder and long black gloves, even better!

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Some other ideas I’ve come across:

Fashion Victim: open your closet and dig out the oldest and most out-of-date stuff you can find.  Mix it all together for a crazy mish-mash.  Come on, I know you’ve got some good & horrifying bits in that closet of yours.  Or someone you know does!

Ugly Betty: Heavy rimmed glasses.  Bad hair and fashion. Look complete.

Gold Digger: Cover yourself with gold clothing, shoes, hat, etc., and layer on the gold jewellery and carry a shovel or wear a gold miner’s hard hat.  I’m leaning towards this costume myself this year.

For the Men.  Mark Zuckerberg: jeans and a hoodie and a facebook logo.

Where’s Waldo: Red and white striped shirt, black hat, a camera and big, black-rimmed glasses.

Quaterback: Yup, you guessed it, stick one or more quarters to your back! or…

Quarter Pounder: Take a quarter and a hammer with you to the party!  Thank you to Coupon Sherpa for some of these ideas.

What will you be wearing this Halloween?  Will you go the easy route or throw your heart and soul into planning and making your costume?  Tell me all about it in the comment section below.