siblings and niblings


A few years ago, I realized that French has no real word for siblings. If you want to know whether a person has any, you ask if they have brothers and sisters. I find it clunky and annoying. At some point in the recent past, I discovered that une fratrie refers to a group of siblings, but it’s not a term in everyday usage, and I think people would look at me weirdly if I asked whether they have une fratrie.

I similarly find it clunky and annoying that neither French nor English has a real word for nieces and nephews… or so I thought. This article about 25 obscure English words introduced me to nibling, a neologism coined in 1951 to refer to either a niece or a nephew; niblings is the plural. Unfortunately it never caught on, which is a shame. I think it’s both brilliant AND remarkably cute, just like a word for beloved little people should be.

That is all.

[Photo: Ritmó]


Mozambique: Maputo


My trip from New York to Mozambique back in July consisted of a 15-hour overnight flight to Johannesburg, a six-hour layover, and another hour-long flight to Maputo. Suffice it to say I was non-functional upon arrival. I got to the hotel on Saturday evening, was sound asleep in bed by 8pm, woke up late the next morning, had a leisurely breakfast, and only then re-emerged into the world of the living to figure out what this new city and country was all about. 

It turns out that Sundays in Maputo are exceedingly pleasant. The city was really quiet and calm, and many of the wide boulevards were empty of both people and cars. 

I had mapped out some hastily-compiled recommendations from the internet, and I set out on a walking tour to see as many of them as I could. Continue reading

Hello, I must be going

mozambique dam

It feels like a long time since I’ve written anything substantial here. I feel a little unmoored in general these days. I’ve been away so much of the past year, in places with climates and cultures so different from New York’s, that it’s sometimes hard to remember what season or month I’m in. I tried to Skype my sister in Portland the other day and even though I had been home for a week, I still calculated the time difference as ten hours instead of just three. Good thing it wasn’t the other way around or I would have called her in the middle of the night.

I love traveling and I once thought I could do it nonstop, but I have to admit that this last trip has taken a toll. I spent five weeks abroad in two countries, took ten different flights and hopped between more than fifteen locations. I switched hotels countless times and the longest stretch I ever stayed put anywhere was six nights. Every routine I held near and dear was shaken up to the point of non-existence. 

It’s good to be back, though getting back into the swing of things has felt a little rocky at times. 

I am way behind on what I’ve meant to post here, mostly impressions from various trips I’ve taken, including Detroit, Mozambique, and Kenya. I’ve also been wanting to commit to (digital) paper some vignettes about experiences abroad that I’ve had not only since the start of this blog but since the start of my life, or at least the parts of it I can remember.

So I’ll try to carve out time to write, not only because the feeling of playing catch-up irritates me but also because writing is one of those beloved routines I gave up while abroad whose lack I felt deeply. It really centers me somehow, even when I’m writing about frivolous things or in an inarticulate mood. 

So, see you here again soon, invisible internet buddies!

games a-type people play

On the way to the Mombasa airport you pass through a thoroughfare of flags from all nations. It occurred to me on this drive a few weeks ago, that it might be cool to figure out how many countries there are in my biggest gap, alphabetically, between countries that I have visited. I then decided that it would be neat to commit to visiting, some time in the next five years, the country that would cut that gap in half.

And though this was the most arbitrary and silly of activities, I felt the hand of destiny at work, because it turned out that my biggest gap – 13 countries – is between the Netherlands and the Philippines, and that Oman is smack in the middle of the two, alphabetically speaking if not geographically.

Well, my last stop in Mombasa before heading to the airport had been Fort Jesus, where I learned all about the Omani influence on Mombasa and the region in general. As I walked through intricately carved Omani doors and looked at Omani pottery and jewelry in the display cases, it reaffirmed my desire to visit Oman, which first landed on my radar two or three years ago when I began seeing it (and Malta!) all over Instagram. The photos look straight out of “The Thousand and One Nights.”



At around the same time, I was realizing that my exposure to the Middle East was minimal (one country, Israel) and that it is a region well worth exploring, not only for its fascinating history and breathtaking landscapes but also for its contemporary culture. 

Anyway, I now feel certain that the universe is calling me to Oman. Only time will tell if I’ll listen…

[Photos: Ian Sewell, bhart9070]