Author Archives: Christopher Dwyer

Toronto Laid Bare

I’m back in Toronto(!)

I’ve been away from Toronto for four years, which is a lifetime ago. In that time I’ve moved from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to Warsaw Poland, in which time there was a global pandemic during which I taught in-class, quit, wrote two novels (a third in the pipes) and watched Canada undergo a housing crisis. Also, marijuana became legal in Canada, which has made things a bit weirder. But I like weird.

Toronto is a changed city. A strange city. As I walked through the downtown and onto Queen Street, I noticed the high number of empty storefronts against the backdrop of luxury condos. It was a bizarre contrast; the appearance of luxury living against the foreground of lost businesses and despair. I wondered if there are so many people in those glass towers, how is it that so many shops have closed down? The pandemic, I’m told. The current government catered to large corporations and allowed them to stay open during the pandemic while they allowed smaller businesses to languish and fail, as I was witnessing. It was hard for me to believe that Canada would cater to corporate interests over the interests of the people who live there. Just kidding. It wasn’t hard to believe that at all. There was just never a time in my life that I’ve ever seen evidence of that laid so openly.

The Toronto I left was a city in love with itself. The people who lived there loved to talk about its multiculturalism, food, and all of the stuff you could buy. The Toronto I return to has shades of the old, but its hard to ignore that it’s a completely different place. I’m sure it’s still in love with itself, but what’s changed is that the cracks in the city’s deficiencies have become more pronounced, and the rot that was stuffed behind the facade of wealth has moved to the foreground. Toronto could deny that it was a second-rate sketch town with just the facade of international relevance at one point, but there’s no denying it it now. And I love it. Not because of schadenfreude, but because Toronto was kidding itself for far too long. Now it can’t. 

Toronto is becoming more honest about who it really is, but not by choice. Although affluenza still rides the streets and sits between empty units in luxury condos, its true nature has become more exposed, like a piece of drywall that’s ripped out to reveal exposed brick. It has become what it really is; a cracked city where the affluent still hide out in fancy restaurants while its true nature fills the streets like the ubiquitous smell of marijuana.

Toronto is an unaffordable city. It’s long been that way, but it’s become exacerbated by the pandemic, which has been an opportunity for wealth to push further upward. It can no longer hide that it’s not a glamorous city, but a division of people who pride themselves on living in a city where they can buy stuff and those who are increasingly sleeping in parks. As I walked along the thick stream of crowds on the street, I saw all of the symptoms of people who are missing something. People trying to identify with the corporate brands whether it be Blue Jays gear or Prada sunglasses, all the while ignoring that the city and city life has broken. If the new reality is hard to take, that’s okay, any number of dispensaries can help you try to forget. Dank smoke fills the air as couples in carefully selected outfits walk through it on their way to the Opera. I’m not exaggerating. A young Bruce Wayne might as well be among them.

Forget Batman. Toronto now reminds me of Detroit in RoboCop. There is a clear class division between those who think they can afford things and those who can’t. Closed shops, lost history, million dollar tear-downs and luxury condos. Tourists take their picture in front of buildings that are frankly quite ugly

Toronto has become a more honest freakshow of disparity, and I love it. Not because people are suffering, but because the suffering can no longer be pushed to the fringes. It’s worn on the city walls and in its streets. Crumbling infrastructure is everywhere. A city that once thought itself as posh has a cracked veneer, and from it all of the city’s true nature is crawling out. 

This summer, I’m going to go crawl with them.

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Posted by on June 21, 2022 in Oh Canada


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Overview of things in Poland: We are fine. Others are not.

Some of you have asked about how we’re doing in Poland with the conflict raging in next door Ukraine. Here is a quick idea of what it’s like over here for those who have questions:

-Poland is very supportive of the Ukrainians. You see it everywhere in signs, in the media, and even on the receipts in shops. They are very wonderful at helping the Ukrainians as they haven’t forgotten about being bullied and occupied by Russia themselves. Russia is a common threat to both countries. Ukrainians have allies in Poland, for now.

-Ukrainians have been flooding across the border and as far as I know, are currently being received and sheltered. 

-My main concern is that people of Indian and African backgrounds (let me be clear: people with brown skin) are being treated poorly by Ukrainian border officials, and from what I can tell, Polish border officials as well. The news stories vary, but it seems consistent that brown people are being treated as second class citizens. I have not been able to connect with anyone at embassies to offer a place to stay. I imagine they are busy but I will keep trying.

-I’ve been told many donations are being delivered to the border and dumped there because there is no real systematic organization to distribute things. This is anecdotal based on the stories of some who are delivering goods to the border.

-Our neighbors have been hosting a Ukrainian family (a woman and two girls whose father is being held back in Ukraine). They are mostly missing their usual activities, like swimming, piano lessons, and all of their other usual activities. We have a music room at our house that we are allowing them to use, and I will take them wherever they want to go this week (since I am funemployed currently and working on a new novel which can miss a few days of work.)

-Things in Poland are operating somewhat normally. I went to get USD in case we need to depart quickly, but the banks all have lines and anxious customers. This feels reminiscent of the stories I heard about Poland from the 80s, and these older people waiting have those same anxieties. Monday morning I will go bank to bank and wait in lines until I can find USD.

-We are not panicked but remaining cautious. I am still going to see a movie this week.

-I personally am shocked that the West is sitting back and waiting to see what happens. I get the urgent need to de-escalate, but they would be good go remember this game is not played on their terms and that they are merely reacting to things that are too late to undo. Buildings can be rebuilt (Warsaw is an excellent example of sticking it to the Nazis and rebuilding one’s identity) but lives cannot. Lives lost as the West decides what to do are lives that will forever change the landscape of Ukraine more than any lost building.

Putin will do what he wants, as usual, and the West seems to be finding further concessions for that. Therefore, Putin has no real reason to stop right now. And that is why we have to remain on alert over here.

If you want to help, please consider refugees of African nations as well as Indians who are overwhelmingly being treated like shit. Racism doesn’t simmer in times of great conflict like this. It tends to boil over.

EDIT: We are currently hosting a mom and two teenage sons, and a student from Nigeria who was studying abroad.

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Posted by on March 5, 2022 in Life Abroad


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Why I’m Not Celebrating Canada Day – Part III

Part III: Canadian Real Estate and a complete lack of transparency

Fact: non-resident citizens of Canada pay a 35% down payment on a house in Canada. That puts my family in the same category as non-citizen money launderers who are buying up properties in Canada without ever having to step foot inside the country. So for the government’s sake, two Canadian citizens and their kid with intent to use their property as a home base to one day live there full-time are treated the same on paper as international gangsters who park their money in Canadian real estate. That means that legitimate citizens have to work harder and save longer to have property, whereas international money just swoops in and grabs it or builds it in such abundance that it keeps driving up prices across the country, thus consistently keeping that carrot dangling further and further way for people who are not international criminals.

You’re probably thinking “wait a second, there is a lot to unpack there. You can’t possibly just imply Canada’s entire economy is afloat on international criminal money.” But I can, and I did. Because it is*.

Supply and demand, right? People working in the real estate industry or adjacent to it have been defending soaring costs for years. Maybe because it results in increasingly higher commissions for them, because they think everyone in the world wants to live in Vancouver or Toronto. Not to be confused with investing in. It might also have something to do with these real estate talking heads hiding their hands under the table as they deal.

It was easy to justify the numbers in the years leading up to the great grinding halt of Covid-19. Immigration was the first reason; supply simply couldn’t keep up with the demand that immigrants were putting on the system. Oh, those immigrants! Takin’ all of our properties. Yet during Covid-19, immigration took a nose-dive and still, somehow, the prices of real estate kept shooting up. Oh, it was all that demand to get out of the city for more space since people were working at home. That’s right, people leaving the city were causing condo prices in the city to continue climbing. Perfectly logical. There are a list of asinine explanations as to why real estate kept climbing, but let’s get to the meat: property flipping, real estate agents flipping pre-constructions, and money laundering. On the honest, side, it was Canadians trying to take advantage of low interest rates in a market that would otherwise exclude them. Hard to blame them for just wanting a place to live. This is a system which has greatly benefited those working within the real estate industry (look at the links, the braggarts are shameless!), but has completely screwed over regular families. Canada’s real estate industry has completely priced them out in the interest of the commodification of places we need to live. That’s how bad the corporatocracy has gotten.

Endless articles are being written about it, and many families are now overextending themselves in debt just for a shot at having a home. To quote Bill Pullman from David Lynch’s Lost Highway“that’s fuckin’ crazy, man.”

So while real estate will continue in on some completely non-predictable direction, eventually Canadians will be tapped-out but at least the empty houses and condos around them will mean lower population density, right? Great! Maybe our next single-source economy can be built on debt collection. Oh wait, we’re already headed in that direction.

And so we come back to exploitation. From Canada’s Indigenous people to living within a corporatocracy to families who just want to buy a home, Canada has a long history of exploiting the people who actually live there. The question is, do I want to return there and sign up for that, or do I want to look around the world and buy somewhere else? Maybe somewhere where the food tastes real and isn’t modified to just look good on the supermarket shelf, and I don’t have to pay a premium on everything just for the privilege of amassing debt.

My family currently lives debt-free, so let me think about how badly I want to change that.

Happy Canada Day!

*Try to read Sam Cooper’s Willful Blindness and try to hold any sense of pride in what Canada is doing. It’s absolutely disgusting. And enraging.

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Posted by on July 1, 2021 in Oh Canada


Why I’m Not Celebrating Canada Day – Part II

Part II: Canada the Corporatocracy

Now there is a new Canada. I like to call it Corporate-Canada. It is a Canada run by governments (and be clear – I favour no party here) who consistently sell its people and its resources out for short-term political life and to empower the corporations that really run things. In shortly, Canada is a Corporatocracy. Canadians have been seeing it for years. Just mention overcharging (funny how telecom company’s oopsies in incorrect billing never, ever favours the customer,) or the telecommunications market’s chokehold and collusion on internet prices and you’ve only begun to scratch the surface of how every day Canadians are being treated every day. Internet prices in Canada are among the highest of anywhere in the world, because they “need to pay for the infrastructure”. They’ve been working on that infrastructure for decades now. A look at stocks and CEO salaries tell a different story.

Canada has a history of putting all of its eggs into one basket. For years it was the energy sector, more specifically, oil and gas. Years back, Prime Minister Stephen Harper doubled down on that industry (as that is where his father worked) while doing nothing to diversify Canada’s interests at a time when it was clear those interests needed to be diversified. The industry has received decades worth of subsides and amazing profits. Profits that were once so great that Alberta Premier Ralph Klein sent out “prosperity bonus” cheques to every Albertan to celebrate their wealth. There was no investing that money in the future because the corporations banked on the fact that they would always be treated like Canada’s darlings. Now they sound like a bunch of babies kicking and screaming because the world is changing. Because it HAS to change. Currently, Canada is cooking and burning.

Or how about the banking industry? Ask Canadians about banking fees. Every quarter it seems that Canadian banks keep making record profits, and it’s not surprising with the amount of nickel-and-diming loonying-and-twonying (toonying?) that is so frequently done for transactions. And good luck doing anything about it. For years Canadian banking practices have abused Canadians, and just wait until those pandemic-era interest rates start to rise… but hey. It makes a healthy economy, doesn’t it? In the short term.

Speaking of putting one’s eggs all in one basket – real estate. Canada has become a world leader in expensive real estate. It makes the economy look strong in short-term election cycles. Full disclosure here: my wife and I have been living abroad for a decade now, because the employment options for teachers were far better overseas. We have been saving to repatriate to Canada for some time, and have a reasonable amount of money to buy a house in a rural area. But Canada’s real estate market has become horrifically unreasonable in the past decade. Let’s find out why.

Next – Part III: Canadian Real Estate and a complete lack of transparency


Posted by on July 1, 2021 in Oh Canada


Why I’m Not Celebrating Canada Day – Part I

Part I: Not Celebrating Colonialism

First, the obvious reason. Currently in Canada, the graves of over a thousand children have so far been recovered and the number is likely to continue growing. When settlers came to Canada, they inconveniently discovered that their new land was already inhabited by a wealth of people and cultures. That was an inconvenient fact, so they started to wipe them off the map. My home province of Newfoundland Labrador has the distinction of having completely wiped out its Indigenous people, the Beothuk. (Though lately evidence has arisen that there may be some descendants.)

In other provinces, stretching through Saskatchewan to British Columbia, new government systems forced Indigenous children from their parents and put them into schools largely run by the Catholic church. In those schools their hair was cut, their language was beaten out of them, their culture removed at all costs, and they were made to assimilate to the colonising culture. Further to that, they were sexually, physically and emotionally abused for a hundred years, poisoning their lives and the lives of their descendants. As we know, many were murdered.

In my time growing up in Canada, I have repeatedly heard settlers blaming Aboriginal people for their own problems with alcoholism, drug abuse, crime, and overwhelming despair. I often heard things like “we have given them so much money,” without any sense of irony how “money” was a system that was also imposed upon them. They are still being blamed for not assimilating to a culture that has completely taken over their home and native land. Can you imagine if someone removed your children from you, forced them to abandon their own identities, murdered and abused those around you, and STILL won’t apologise for what they did for fear of lawsuits? If you can’t, it’s because it didn’t happen to you. Modern Indigenous people are still dealing with a theft of cultural identity and over a hundred years of abuse that is still ongoing. Some continue to struggle to find their place in our modern settler’s world, and suffer generational trauma that all success in Canada has been built upon. So if you’re pointing a finger at Indigenous people who are still suffering, you are pointing that finger in the wrong direction.

My evaluation here is superficial and doesn’t even begin to capture the individualized experiences of every Indigenous family’s trauma. I am not an Aboriginal person and my observances come only from listening to them, studying their history in university, and working within their communities in a limited capacity. So I do not speak for them, but if you are willing to listen, they are speaking for themselves. Accusing them of being freeloaders is really a sad and ironic projection of settling culture mindset.

Next – Part II: Canada the Corporatocracy

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Posted by on July 1, 2021 in Oh Canada


Prague, Czech Republic

Note: due to the amount of photos on this page, it might take a minute or two to load (depending on your connection speed.) Of course I hold the copyright to these images and you shouldn’t use them without permission. Also, if you’re religious and easily get offended, back away now.

Everyone has either been to Prague, or is currently still in it. There is no down season for tourism there. You can select the crappiest time of year to go and there will still be hordes of people trying to get that selfie in front of Prague Castle from the Charles Bridge so they can show their friends “LOOK, I WAS THERE”. There is no winning. You will be drowned by the hordes.

Unless you’re an early riser.

We live in Warsaw now. (I haven’t written about that yet, because I want to get a fair sense of the city before I do from a ‘living there’ point of view.) This was our first chance to travel outward, and so we chose Prague because I had never been there and I’ve only ever heard good things about it. Mostly about the beer. So in our ongoing pursuit to be more eco-conscious, we booked the train, a 9-hour journey from Warsaw. We bought first class. We were going to live it up sipping champagne and laughing about how fabulous we are all the way to Prague. That didn’t happen.

It turns out first class on the Polish train system means you get… I’m not sure what you get for that. Second class was a bunch of slightly shoddier compartments, but at least they had compartments and were semi-private (even if they smelled a bit like cattle cars). In hindsight, I can’t actually pinpoint in any way why first class was better than second class, so if you ever go this route, save your money. There was no champagne. There wasn’t even a food car on the way back – for the nine hour journey we were able to buy a bag of potato chips from a cart. This was confusing because on the way down we’d had full meals in the restaurant car. I guess it’s karma that we expected to go down by train to Bohemia in first class and be totally awesome wayfarers, only to end up eating a bag of potato chips and drinking instant coffee (instant!) on the way back. It would be annoying if it wasn’t funny.

So we went to Prague and we stayed at the Four Trees which ended up being amazing. They advertise themselves as eco-friendly accommodation, and you can read more about that here. As one would hope, the bed was incredibly comfortable and the location was close to everything. There was a kitchenette with plates, cookware and silverware too, which is handy. I’m not getting anything for saying these things, it was just a very nice stay.

As expected, the city was rammed with tourists. I had been hoping that the cooling weather would keep some people away, but it didn’t seem to have an affect on anyone’s travel plans. Any place that can be instagrammed is crammed with people, and the craziest of all was the Old Town Square. It was stupid busy, especially at that astrological clock that people obsess over. I soon tried to avoid that town square but I always seemed to end up there when trying to get from one point to another.


You’ll see a lot of this in any part of the old city.


This is what they’re all going mental about. Sometimes those little figures move.

Prague Castle

I get that if your’e going to go to Prague that you’re probably going to want to go to the castle. Unless you are really dying to, I would say just don’t.

I’m not bothered by the incline to get up there, unless it’s for nothing. The first day we went, I bought tickets to get into some of the sites. We visited St. Vitus Cathedral and the Golden Lane, but the Palace was closed. They didn’t mention that when I bought the ticket. There was actually more they didn’t mention, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

The cathedral was packed, but not so much beyond the paid ticket area where you are treated to the spoils of Christian iconography. The architecture is the most impressive feature of all (which is viewed for free), though I couldn’t help but feel I saw a very similar cathedral in Cologne, Germany (which is *ahem* free).



You see that group of people… they didn’t have to pay to stand where they are standing.

I’m going to be totally honest. Walking through that church was one part awesome, and a lot of parts ridiculous. I still can’t get over the amount of wealth the church holds, and how it’s flaunted as though it was ordained by God. I wondered how much historical wealth was taken to build these places, and who exactly had to make the sacrifices to ensure the church got as wealthy as it has.




We got to the Golden Lane (a row of tiny historical houses) and were told we had five minutes to see it. It was 3:20 in the afternoon. We didn’t think anything of it and went in and could barely see anything through the hordes of people before we were told we had to leave. The tickets were good for two days, so I thought I would come back early the next day to get a proper look.



This is what I managed to see in the five minutes they gave us.

I got up early and hustled up the hill to the castle, only to be told upon my arrival that my ticket was good for one entry. The ticket itself was good for two days, but you only get to see each site once. I had paid for three sites, but only got to see two. (Don’t forget the Palace was closed for uncertain reasons). I went back to the ticket office and asked why the ticket is good for two days if it’s only valid for one visit. I also explained how I was hustled through the Golden Lane in five minutes the day before, and was quickly moved out before I could see anything. The ticket attendance took my ticket and looked on his computer. “You went into the cathedral at ___ time yesterday”. He was correct, I went into the cathedral for twenty minutes. “You entered the Golden Lane at 3:20 yesterday” Correct again. Five minutes later they told us we had to leave because closing time was 3:30. He used the computer to validate what I’d already told him, so he could shrug and say  “you can only enter once.”

I asked “why doesn’t it say it on the ticket?” He said “it’s posted everywhere.” It in fact was not posted anywhere on the grounds except for the ticket counter, where none of these details were explained. They want to sell you a ticket quickly and get you out of the line. (The signage at the site was actually non-existent otherwise).  So I said to the happy clerk “the ticket is what I am carrying around with me. It says it’s good for two days and nowhere does it say that it’s for a single admission to these areas. This information would have been helpful on the ticket.” He shrugged apathetically as you might expect someone who works in customer service to do.

So I was kind of pissed off that I had just hustled an hour across town and up the hill at a pace to find out that I was out of luck. I guess that’s how they manage the throngs of people that go through there every day, but in hindsight, I can’t see how any of this was worth the money. It was a total grab on their part. 10 euros to see very little, and you’re stuck in there with thousands of other tourists. So if you must see the castle, go early. However my recommendation is don’t bother. The best view is from across the river. The staff is unhelpful (borderline rude) and your money doesn’t show you much of anything that you can’t see on the grounds for free outside of a gate anyway. The cathedral is accessible for free, and all you are paying for is to witness the excess the church has hidden in its corners. I left feeling pretty gross about it. Clearly they are not short of wealth, and there I was, paying to observe it. Live and learn. Make your own decision but I’m going to go ahead and call it a tourist trap.

Food and Drink

I’m more of the ‘drink’ of the ‘food and drink’ kind of guy, though in recent years my wife has had an effect on me and I’m starting to look at what I eat before I inhale it. She hasn’t quite convinced me why a giant plate is necessary for a sprinkle of food, but I guess I’m getting there. I do enjoy good spirits, however. Not in great volume, but like food, it’s about quality over quantity (isn’t it?)

I’m also a huge fan of art deco, so I was mainly searching for places that met both of these aesthetics. I went on the recommendations of a colleague, and of course “the Google”. Here’s what we came up with:

Café Imperial

Just around the corner from where we stayed. Definitely worth checking out, though I felt a bit blinded by all of the ceramic. When the Nazis occupied, they claimed this hangout as their own. We had breakfast, which was great.



Café Slavia

If you leave the madness of Charles Bridge behind and head south along the river, you will be rewarded by finding Café Slavia, this place has a great art deco diner feel to it. Apparently it was a little fancier than my first impression – the food took quite some time but when it came it was top notch. Highly recommended.







I figured I should try the absinthe while in the Czech Republic. The server heated the sugar to caramelise it, then put it into the drink. This stuff is strong at 80%. Watered down it’s much nicer.

Francouzska restaurant Art Nouveau

We walked by this place a dozen times before I realized I should go inside. What a mistake it was to not go sooner. I found the decor to be the most impressive on the trip (the only place that I think could top it is Café Central in Vienna). I didn’t eat here but enjoyed a nice dram. Not at all a busy place, and absolutely worth the visit. The decor is stunning.






Café Louvre

We went here for lunch but it was overcrowded. We took a pass until next time. Clearly they’re doing something right.

(No images).

Grande Café Orient (House of the Black Madonna)

A great diner/café at the first floor of the Cubist Museum. Nice place if not a bit pricey (it’s right in tourist central). I would recommend a coffee and one of their beautiful desserts.

No images of the interior, but check out this sweet dessert:


and otherwise:

U Fleků

Traditional Czech restaurant. Charming place, a bit loud when the place is full. I’m pretty sure we didn’t ask for that second beer but we didn’t complain when it came either. Accordionists floating around the room, murals on the walls… don’t kill me for saying it but it reminded me a bit of Bavaria. Same region! Just as lovely.


Las Adelitas

This place is also in tourist central but damn it was good. There seemed to be mostly Mexican people on staff (because it’s a Mexican restaurant), and everything we ordered was perfect. I found myself thinking about it still the next day. This place is the real deal and the frozen margaritas are legit.

(No images).

Radost FX

Fun interior. Made me want to play a French Funk House set on a Saturday night. Lunch special was great (if not a bit slow – they weren’t even that busy) and the decor was somewhere between David Lynch and John Waters. Apparently there’s a club but I didn’t see that.



It would only be fair to mention the place where I snuck away at night to work on my novel. The Banker’s Bar had very nice and helpful staff, and a great selection of whisky. Not busy. (I didn’t take any images, I was there to write).


I get that everyone has seen a million photos of Prague. My wife asked me “why are you taking photos of this stuff? Everyone has seen these before”. Because they’re MY photos! I wasn’t just going to go to Prague and not take the photo. At least I didn’t stick my stupid face in front of Prague Castle so I could say “LOOK I WAS THERE IT’S MY FACE AND THAT’S THE CASTLE.”

Anyway here’s the pics.












A lot of people hate the communist-era TV tower in the background because it clashes with the look of the skyline, but just look at it. It’s a slice of dystopian dreamscape.


There it is, Charles Bridge. Might as well photograph the damned thing. Five times.


Trdlo. Delicious cinnamon roll.

Some images from the Cubist Museum at the House of the Black Madonna:






Admittedly we weren’t quite sure what this was supposed to work out…

Final Word

DAMMIT I WISH I HAD WENT TO PRAGUE TWENTY YEARS AGO. (Or even just after 1989 revolution). I can only imagine what it might have been like then. Now it’s overrun by group tours and pub crawls, so you know how that goes. But the city is so damned beautiful it is still worth it. I recommend that if you go, spend one day doing the same things everyone else is doing. The Old Town Square, the clock everyone obsesses over, the castle (only if you must but good luck not getting clotheslined by a selfie stick.) It’s nice but the hordes really make it less enjoyable. The city has enough that if you just wander away from where everyone is standing, you’re going to find many incredible things. Burn your Lonely Planet book, everyone is reading that and doing the same damned things. Get lost. Wander. Step into restaurants and bars that look interesting. They are and no one will be in them. Walk south along the river away from Charles Bridge. You’ll find things.

If you want to see the popular sites, get up early (before dawn) and go there. You’ll enjoy the square, the bridges, the streets almost nearly to yourself. It feels like a much different city, and is definitely more enjoyable.

Touristy Prague at night (when it’s easier to blur the hordes).





Oh look, a perfectly lovely place and it’s empty.

And in the early morning hours, when you should really see Prague. I didn’t take many images then, as I was trying to just see as much as possible.




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Posted by on November 2, 2019 in Life Abroad


A Good-bye to Dar es Salaam

“The darkest hour is just before the dawn.”
-Thomas Fuller

The wheelbarrow was filled with scattered papers of all sizes. I lit a match and threw it to the upper right corner. I lit a second and threw it to the lower left. The small orange flames caught the edges of various receipts and spread quickly, curling and browning the corners of the last three years of our lives. A faded receipt from the Dar es Salaam Yacht Club folded over to reveal a car rental receipt from South Africa. With the metal handle of a rusted rake I stirred the mess of papers to ensure more caught the flame. Receipts for bank withdrawals, luku (electricity) and groceries caught the spreading flame and browned, then blackened. I watched the last three years of our lives burn away and with it, all of the frustrations I had accumulated since arriving there. Overhead, the crows who had come to know me as their adversary cawed and told their brethren of my presence. The multitude of their cries no longer frustrated me and no longer reminded of the raw garbage strewn about beyond our gate. I was letting go of it all.

I looked up to smile at the flying pests and watched the smoke from the wheelbarrow waft into the branches of the palm and acacia trees that lined the property. Through their leaves the sun poured down, their separated rays defined by the smoke that rose through. With the smoke, my troubles were carried away.

When the burning was done, a breeze came and swirled the ash away over the dirt ground. I looked to my left behind the garbage bins. I once saw the tail of a green mamba disappear behind these bins, but nothing was there then except some chopped bits of bamboo that grew aggressively in a corner of the property and had to be cut back from time to time.

For the first time in a long time, I felt peace.

Three years of working in Dar es Salaam taught me a lot about neo-colonialism. Living in a house with an electrified fence and guards at the gate was standard. Watching certain elderly South Africans point and scream at Tanzanians like they were imbeciles wasn’t an everyday occurrence, but it was common enough to notice the consistency. Working in an environment where parents and children were accustomed to having others do things for them created an entitled mentality that spilled into the school culture.

On a more positive note, the Tanzanian people were some of the kindest and warmest people I have met in my travels. It wasn’t always easy to get things done efficiently or well, but you adapt to that or you don’t. Many of the expats I met have been in Tanzania for many, many years, and seem perfectly happy with the laid-back attitude that prevails. Some were just lazy fools without standards. Roads sometimes get repaired. Groceries sometimes get stocked. Mail sometimes makes it through the system and to your hands. Unfortunately, I am too used to my comforts and found that these things were not consistent enough for me. The container bars and trash that built up outside of our gate became too much, and despite the ridiculously high amount of taxes we paid for the pleasure of living there, the manager of our property and local politicians refused to do anything about it. We were given an ultimatum – “if you don’t like it, leave.” Eventually, all of these things added up to too much and we decided it was time to try something new. Perhaps with our expectation of standards we were also neo-colonialists. Perhaps we just never belonged there.

So now as I sit in a cafe in Germany I look forward to our new life. No malaria, no dengue fever. Parks, sidewalks, modern transportation systems. I guess after three years I realize that I am not as laid-back as those who can stay for twenty years. And I’m fine with that.

And to be totally honest, the beer is way better here.

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Posted by on June 26, 2019 in Life Abroad


A final set at the DYC

For the past three years I have been playing a semi-monthly gig at the Dar es Salaam Yacht Club. Watching the sun set over the bay while playing a variation of chill music was a great way to unwind from other stresses. It is one of my favourite memories of living here.

Now we are moving on and I’m not sure I’ll pursue DJing further at this point, as my other interests are also very time consuming and one is forced to make these kinds of choices in their mortality.

This set was recorded live on May 31, 2019.

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Posted by on June 5, 2019 in Life Abroad


Arusha and the Ngorogoro Crater


Lake Manyara, Tanzania

Part 1: Arusha  

We took a break last week and headed north in the country to Arusha. For the first couple of nights we stayed with some AWESOME HOSTS in the fringe of the city. These are some images I took around there. I’m lazy with the names of plants. If you want to help me out and name things in the comments, I’d be delighted by your knowledge.


Part 2: Gibb’s Farm

Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with Gibb’s Farm. They did not pay me to write this nor have I made any kind of agreement with them about what will inevitably be a half-assed review of our stay there.


We arrived at the farm mid-week during the rain season. The rain season in Tanzania has been anything but predictable in recent years. When I speak with Tanzanians in Dar es Salaam, they always seem to have some day pinpointed when they think the rain will begin. And by “the rain”, I mean daily deluges that left several people homeless or dead from flooding last year. It’s serious rain.

However in recent years (at least in the 3 I’ve been here), no one has really been able to predict the rain. The “short” rain season in December is either late or doesn’t come at all. The “big” rain season is usually in April, though as I write this, Dar es Salaam has had a few days of big rain but nothing that would be expected for the season. No one can really predict the weather any more… similar to the stories I’ve heard in South Korea, in Mongolia, in Canada, and in Tanzania. It’s not hard to see the effects of climate change no matter where we go.

Arusha was also meant to be going through their big rain season, but other than a few sprinkles over night and one downpour, there was nothing really consistent with the normal seasons there. The air was cool and refreshing, quite the opposite of what we experience further south in the country. Arusha is higher in the hills, and skirts the areas of Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro. The change from the humidity was most welcome, and we even had a fireplace going in our room at night.


Back to Gibb’s Farm. This farm is on the luxurious end of things here in Tanzania. That is not to say that it is overpriced for what you get (as we have largely experienced on Zanzibar), because although it isn’t cheap, you actually get what you pay for between the location, the accommodation, and the inclusive meals. Liquor isn’t included.

The farm produces nearly all of the food it serves, so as you can guess, it was garden fresh and served by international chefs. The kitchen was highly attentive and organized, and when I showed up they showed me everything that didn’t include garlic. (I have an intolerance to it.) The breakfasts were fine, the lunches were okay, but the dinners were exceptionally delicious. There was an excellent drink selection (four menu pages of gin, not to mention a decent selection of whiskey, and I lost track on the wine list). Coffee is grown and roasted on site, and is served fresh to your room in the morning at whatever time suits you.


The rooms were exactly the kind of place where I want to write my next novel but I’ll say no more, and if you want a walk-through of the room just watch this short video. $$$$ WORTH IT.

The farm was full of plant and flower life and all of the bird and insect life that it sustains. In the center of the lodges was a pond with long grass where weaverbird nests looked too perfect to be real. But they were real, and there were exotic birds everywhere. The best part of it that there were no invasive Indian house crows which have taken over Dar es Salaam in the thousands, decimated the local bird population, and are pesky, aggressive and loud through all hours of the day. Up here, we were free of the flying rats and all birds thrived.

I would go back to Gibb’s Farm again in a second. If this is the kind of thing you like, you won’t be disappointed.


Part 3: Ngorogoro Crater

Volcanic crater, roughly 2 million years old

Entering the caldera

This part of the trip was unplanned. In our three years in Tanzania we have gotten to a few locations, but we were never able to make it to the Serengeti for the epic safari that most people envision when they think of Tanzania. However, bordering the Serengeti is the Ngorogoro crater caldera. It is massive and inside live thousands upon thousands of animals that find just about anything they would need there. As it is so steep to enter or get out, most animals live there year round, though the wildebeest and zebras migrate in and out.

We thought it would be nice if we could spot a nearly extinct black rhino, as friends had spotted them in the crater before. We didn’t really know what to expect, except that it was said that there would be animals everywhere once we got in.

The crater is so massive that you cannot get any indication of the wildlife below as you peer down from the upper ridge. Its expanse is immediately clear, and you can see rain in the caldera from kilometers away. Where the sun breaks through the cloud, it crawls across huge patches of the hillside forest and the grassy plain. As we descended further we started to get an indication of what we were in for when we spotted clusters of zebras.

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.


Look closely…


The legendary black rhino!

she spots some zebras

You see something what?


(That is a black rhino back there)



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Posted by on April 30, 2019 in Life Abroad


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Office Intruder

I was watching something on my computer when I heard the air conditioner start to make a strange noise. Like a clicking because a part was not properly moving. I was watching it, and the cat was watching it too.

After another rattle, something splatted to the tiled floor. For some reason the cat didn’t see it and kept watching the air conditioner. Half a meter from the cat’s foot was a small blob that I couldn’t quite make out in the light of the desk lamp, but then it jumped behind the small fridge to the left of my desk.

I got up to investigate. Stuck to the side of the fridge, on a side away from the cat, was a small tree frog. Somehow it survived the dangers of the air conditioner and a two and a half meter fall. It would not survive the cat; she was a veteran gecko hunter and she thought she was in for another meaty snack tonight.

I tried to find a glass jar but could only find a plastic food storage container. So I collected the frog and got these images.

Then after great effort I was able to shake him out of the container and into the grass out back.

Go live another day, tree frog. Or at least until a snake gets you.

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Posted by on March 28, 2019 in Life Abroad