Friday, July 30, 2010

Playing along

She is fed up, sick and tired, ready to give up… How on earth is she going to stop people from breaking in into her small flower shop? They never steal anything, they just force the lock, place a few things out of place and then go… Her instincts tell her that the teenagers of the neighborhood have something to do with it. But she can’t prove it and therefore there is nothing she can do.

At the beginning she used to call the police almost every day, she even convinced the Chief police to assign a police patrol to guard her shop one night. But the old fat police man assigned to the task was sound asleep before the moon was fully up… The following morning when she found the door unlocked and try to show it to him, he tried to convince her that she left it open. They argued for almost two hours, till the chief got tired of both of them and started shouting like crazy. He said so many things and used so many improper words that, she blushes even now by just remembering them.

This incident spoils her days, no matter how happy she is, as soon as she reaches to the shop and finds the place unlocked, her day is immediately ruined. She tried changing the locks, from the very simple ones to the very sophisticated ones, but in spite of the changes, they still manage to break in…

Being a woman of action, someone who has faced so many challenges, she wasn’t going to allow a foolish game to get into her nerves, so she decided to get the bull by its horns and deal with the problem the best she could.
First of all, she had to accept the facts and get ready to swallow the reality - whether she liked it or not, she was on her own! Someone was messing up with her, playing games, trying to get something out of it. Then the best she could do is to play along and give them a taste of their own medicine, at least she could have a bit of fun with the whole situation.
The guy from the hardware shop couldn’t understand when she asked him to install six totally different locks on the shop door. He tried to explain several times that the high number of locks will not stop the guys from breaking in, it would just take them a bit longer, that’s it…
But she was secretly smiling, enjoying in advance the fruits of her master plan…

So the previous evening, she took her time closing each and every lock on her shop door. She closed one, stopped to look around, paused, secretly smiled and then proceeded to close the other one… and like a ritual she carried on in exactly the same way with each and every one of the six looks on the door.

Now as she approaches the door, she can hardly control the excitement, the adrenaline, the dry test of her mouth… her heart is bumping fast and her face is a transparent portray of the joy overwhelming her.
She stands and observes the locks, she can see the familiar marks of breaking in attempts. One of the locks is even a bit broken… with a trembling hand she reaches the door handle and slowly unlocks it and then gently pushes the door open, but the door refuses… so she tries again but a bit harder… once again the doors remains closed...

Without caring about what others may say, she started laughing, dancing and jumping, unable to control her happiness. She did it, she managed to outdo the fools and she did it with their own medicine, by pulling a joke…

The previous day, she didn’t lock all the locks, she only locked every other one, so the one that was trying to pick the locks was always locking three… HAHAHAHA and the best part of all is that she picked the idea from an Elayne Boosler show, after listening to one of her jokes.

© 2010 Gabriela Abalo

I got the inspiration to write this short story from a joke I read from Elayne Boosler... "I have six locks on my door all in a row. When I go out, I lock every other one. I figure no matter how long somebody stands there picking the locks, they are always locking three."

This post is a submission to Magpie Tales #25, writing on a theme of the above photo.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Where is light there is love...
Open your mind, open your heart, leave all fears and beliefs behind
Be adventurous, get ready to be surprised...
there is beauty in everything...

Let me share with you some of the beauty I captured with my camera

Did you ever ask someone to capture the light?

Your life is something opaque, not transparent,
as long as you look at it in an ordinary human way.
But if you hold it up against the light of God's goodness,
it shines and turns transparent, radiant and bright.
And then you ask yourself in amazement:
Is this really my own life I see before me?
~Albert Schweitzer

Light is life...

"The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity
to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain,
and hunger, and mosquitoes and silly people."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Light can take your breath away...

"Beauty is not in the face;
beauty is a light in the heart."
~Kahlil Gibran

Light can transform anything...

The black moment is the moment when the real message
of transformation is going to come.
At the darkest moment comes the light.
~Joseph Campbell

Light blesses everything...

An age is called "dark," not because
the light fails to shine but because
people refuse to see it.
~James Michener

Light is warm, mysterious and it is magic...

"Begin challenging your own assumptions.
Your assumptions are your windows on the world.
Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won't come in."
~Alan Alda


© 2010 Gabriela Abalo

To enjoy more light posts visit Theme Thursday

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Every day at daybreak she gets out of her double bed and slowly walks around it to the other side. Once there, she mechanically opens the bed, sits at the edge of the mattress, raises her legs and lies down. Slowly she slides her feet in-between the cold silky sheets, immediately her warm body starts to tremble, instinctively reacting to the chilly sheets.
After getting in, she takes almost a minute to find a comfortable position, she turns to one side, then to the other, curls herself in and then stretches out; in no longer than five minutes she is sound asleep and smiling…

At 7:30 am the alarm clock began to play a tender melancholic melody. Antonia opens one eye, then another, a few seconds later she gives a lethargic glance to the diffuse early morning light coming through her bedroom window… a bright smile dresses her pretty face as she happily greets the new day. With laziness she stretches out her arms and legs covering up the whole bed… the coldness of the other side of the bed suddenly bring her back to the cruel reality…
She has to force herself to slowly turn her face to the side, the emptiness and loneliness of the other side overwhelms her with sadness. Suddenly her morning happiness evaporates, her expression abruptly transforms, given place to a harsh looking face that has no resemblance with the one that woke up five minutes ago…

Who can be playing such cruel jokes? How can someone be so malicious? What is that person trying to get from her?
A thousand questions outdo her thoughts, leaving her confused and annoyed. She can’t call the police again, they don’t believe her. They keep saying that she is making it up, that she must go for some therapy, that she is still mourning his passing…
But how can she be grieving someone who betrayed her, who left her without any warning after all his promises. She isn’t mournful, she isn’t crazy, she doesn’t need any psychiatrist help, what she needs is the useless police to catch the son of a b@#@ that is messing up with her.

From the minute she met him, she knew he was too good to be true, as good things weren’t on her life menu. Antonia was familiar to betrayals and desertions, her very own mother taught her very well about that. But, she thought God had given her a break when she met Alejandro. So she stupidly put her fences down allowing him to get into her fragile heart, believing that for the very first time in her very painful life she was going to experience love to its fullest. But, what she didn’t know and never expected was that it was going to last only two years…
Why did he have to go to pick the stupid flowers to surprise her? She didn’t need early flowers in the morning, she needed him, his smiling face waking up next to her, his tender arms hugging and protecting her, his masculine scent overwhelming her and getting deep into her skin. But he insisted that it wasn’t enough, that she deserves much more and he wanted to give everything to her.
He forgot the most important… he forgot to stay and instead got killed. An accident, a stupid accident took the love of her life away… now all that is left is an empty bed, in an empty bedroom of an empty house of an empty woman…

From the bedroom door she looks at the empty bed… both sides undone as if two people slept in it… “Maybe Alejandro comes every night to sleep with her” she says to herself, but then she erases that stupid thought, she doesn’t believe in ghosts, she only believes in what she can see and touch.
Today she is going to change all the doors locks once again, she’s going to fight back, she isn’t going to allow anybody to mess around with her. She is a warrior with strong armor and immune to warm feelings.

Antonia looks once more to the empty bed, seeing everything in black and white, she isn’t aware that since Alejandro passed away she doesn’t see colors any more…

This post is a submission to Magpie Tales #24, writing on a theme of the above photo.

© 2010 Gabriela Abalo

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Hope, dreams, faith, happiness
Fears, disbelief, skepticism
Up and down like a roller-coaster
Walking blinded
Searching for a place to rest
Withdrawing to a solitary space deep within
Holding the will to escape
Embracing the wish to stay

Up and down like a roller-coaster
Breathing deep… searching for the self
Remembering and accepting who I am
Knowing that nothing is lost
Aware that I am at the right place

Up and down like a roller-coaster
Holding things together
Prioritizing what truly matters
Breaking traditions

Fighting back while trying to remember who I am
Breathing deep… reconnecting

Up and down like a roller-coaster
Controlling the urge to yell
A battle within is being fought
among what I've been taught and what I know

Nostalgia of good times
Contentment of knowing it is just a learning phase
Holding, breathing, on tenterhooks…

Up, up, up
Down, down, down

Up and down like a roller-coaster
Such is the ugly reality of change…
Letting go and opening up
Free of fears and remorse

© 2010 Gabriela Abalo

Monday, July 12, 2010

Wolf-peaches love

At a tender age I used to believe that
Love was like wolf-peaches...
Poisonous in a palatable package
Bright, shiny and very suspicious
Planted as a curiosity but not to be eaten
Just a bite was enough to kill an innocent heart

As I was maturing I started to muse about
Love ups and downs,
The superstitions and protective beliefs
All just fences of skeptical hearts

Now, I have come to learn, that
time and experiences usually turn evil into blessings,
wolf-peaches into tomatoes,
suspicious into believers
fears into freedom

Last but not least
I have accepted, digested and assimilated
That no matter what…
I’m in love with you!

Pssst… It’s never too late! That is what you used to say.

Am I late? If I am not, then you know where to find me… I will be waiting on the last Wednesday of August between 11am and 1pm.

He looks at the postcard, up and down, back and forth, searching for any hidden clues that can answer the questions bothering him from the minute he read the card that the postman delivered to him just a few minutes before…

Why did she send him a tomato postcard with such bizarre proclamation of love?

Maurice can hardly control his astonishment and the rush of anger overwhelming him. He knows very well she likes to play games with him, keeping him guessing of what could happen next.
Paula hates routine and is madly in love with change. She is a free spirit and traveler searching for answers, while enjoying every inch of life. Maurice fell in love with all that and much more; she was the perfect gasp of fresh air in his perfect-controlled life.

Like a tornado without previous notice she entered into his life, twisting all around and then vanishes leaving a mess behind. Without warning of any type she just packed and left. All she said before leaving was: “It was fun while it lasted, I have to go, commitment scares me…”

Who the heck does she think she is! Does she assume he is so desperately in love with her, to leave everything behind and go on an unplanned trip to Valencia – Spain! How is he supposed to find her in a place flooded with thousands of people throwing tomatoes to each other like bonkers?
Life isn’t so simple, things have to be planed! Spontaneity isn’t his thing… but then he finally understands… that is why Paula left him, everything in his life was predictable and organized. This was her final test; this was his very last chance. Maurice began to laugh as he had never done it before, with freedom and release.

This post is a submission to Magpie Tales #22, writing on a theme of the above photo.

© 2010 Gabriela Abalo

Friday, July 2, 2010


A charcoal-man on his way to Lusaka Market

Whenever we go on a safari heading out of Lusaka or driving early in the morning, there are two things that are common to the landscape, the stunning sunrise and the charcoal-men bicycling towards town.
Foreigners love to take pictures of both, one for the beauty and the other for its originality – you don’t usually see in developed countries a medium size man carrying almost three times his own wait on a bicycle, especially when what they carry is one bulky load (175 Kg) of charcoal…
These anonymous men begin their daily trip to the city markets at around 4 am, the distances they bike to reach the marketplaces vary from 40 to 20 km, which takes an average of 4 to 5 hours biking under the mercy of harsh weather. It doesn’t matter whether it is cold, hot or heavily raining, their living depends on selling charcoal, so there is no other choice than making the trip.
Each charcoal bag sells at 25,000 Kwacha (5 dollars), each man carries on his bicycle approximately 7 bags full of charcoal weighing 25 Kg each. A charcoal-man cuts an average of 15 trees per month.
Old and thick hardwood trees are the ones targeted for chopping, since they provide longer and hotter burning charcoal than any other tree. The trees are estimated to be between 200 and 300 years old.

A tree on its way to be chopped

Trees are being cut indistinctively from the natural reserves or from private land. The most common practice for farming is the slash and burn process, where the forest is cut and the remaining vegetation is burned to prepare a temporally rich soil for planting crops (most farmers can’t afford to buy fertilizer). Both processes end up clearing large amounts of indigenous forest that will never be recovered as none saplings are planted as a corrective measure.

Last month, during one of my trips to the bush, I had the chance to meet some of the charcoal-men, who, with pleasure, showed and explained me the charcoal process. To do so I went with them deep into the forest to the very place they were cutting and burning trees. As I was getting closer to the place I couldn’t stop feeling overwhelmed by the disheartening contrast – on one side a beautiful ancient indigenous forest, full of light and energy, on the other side the naked land. The fact of knowing that a few weeks before that very same terrain was a glorious forest filled my heart with desperation and helplessness. I could feel the lamentations of the fallen trees while the smoke from the charcoal earthy-oven collapsed my senses.
For a while I couldn’t control my urge to slap the three men responsible for such crime, but then, their honest straight look – of goodhearted people – brought me back to my senses, as I couldn’t refuse to acknowledge their hard work and the fact that they were doing their best to earn an honest living.

A sad picture of the nude land - what is left...

With pride one of them walked me to a very old tall tree, and then explained to me how they knock down the them with almost no tools and technology; all they use are some shuffles to dig around the tree until all its routes are exposed and weakened, and then they start swinging the tree until it loses its stability and falls down. Once the tree is down the charcoal-men begin to cut it into manageable logs that will be later moved into the big hole where the slow burning process will take place. Once the fire is on, the hole is covered up with soil and the vigil begins; close monitoring is essential to ensure the charcoal doesn’t turn into ash.

Ground-oven and a charcoal-man at work

I asked many questions, as I wanted to understand why they chose to be charcoal-men. I also asked questions to assess whether they were conscious of the ecologic impact their actions have on earth. They told me that they have been doing it for more than 15 years; they don’t remember how many trees they have cut and burned so far.
Now, before we start pointing fingers and begin to call these people criminals, selfish, Earth’s enemies or whatever name we manage to come up with, there is a need to understand the reasons behind their doings.
To be or not to be a charcoal-man isn’t a choice; alternatives are scarce in the rural areas where poverty rules. Migrating to the cities searching for jobs requires some level of education, getting qualified requires money. Without a job there is no money, then education is out of reach… therefore cutting trees to make charcoal is the only honest option they have… It is estimated that as much as 70 percent of individuals' income in rural areas is earned from charcoal.
But the needs for charcoal doesn’t come from the charcoal-men only, almost 80% of the Zambian population uses charcoal as their main fuel source. Poor electricity supply, low income and lack of alternative fuel sources are the main reasons. The socio-economic problem of the country is having a devastating impact on Zambian natural resources.
This country used to be a major copper producer and one of the richest African countries, but after the world copper prices collapsed in 1975 Zambia became one of the world’s poorest countries. With a population of 12.9 million, a labor force of 5.3 million and unemployment rate of 50%, Zambia needs to develop sources of revenue to improve the current poverty levels, where millions of Zambians live below the World Bank poverty threshold of $ 1 a day. Several studies show that 70% of the poorest population is located in the rural areas, with almost no means to survive.
These statistics are a reality in almost every undeveloped country in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The main cause is the lack of proper socio-economic strategies targeting the development and empowerment of the underprivileged population.
Asia, Africa and Latin America account for 60% of the world’s population, out of which approximately 50% of them are living in poverty. High population growth is escalating the poverty levels of the developing world, where some countries’ populations are doubling and tripling every 30-50 years. This high growth rate is putting unprecedented and increasing pressure on vital natural resources which directly affects the economy and the development opportunities of the affected population.

Supervising the charcoal making process

The charcoal-men are just a very small sample of the limitations and struggles being faced on a daily basis by the unprivileged population of the world.
Their problems are our problems; the trees they are cutting are our trees. We can’t keep reading statistics, nodding our heads in agreement or disagreement and then continue with our own business as if the problem doesn’t exist.
A change is needed, actions must be taken. We must become part of the change.

© 2010 Gabriela Abalo


It was time to pack her things away, the grieving period was over. They all needed to move on with their lives and holding onto her belongings wasn’t helping at all.
She placed some boxes on top of her grandma’s bed and after taking a deep breath she heads towards the old Chinese closet.

Her grandma loved Chinese things, everything in her home was from China – fake or original… it didn’t matter as long as the label said: MADE IN CHINA. Everyone in the family used to make fun of her China mania. She has never been in China, did not have any family or past connected to that country. She was very tall, blond and with striking green eyes. She and her house were a total mismatch that kept taking people by surprise. Many kept expecting to see a Chinese coming out any time, but all they saw was grandma and her Irish husband…
Grandma with her crazy and unusual personality was the life and soul of the entire family and neighborhood. She was someone who always looked for the bright side of things, it didn’t matter how bad things could be since she never gave up and always managed to bring hope and strength back to the most desperate.

Amelia is trying hard to keep her tears out of view, grandma didn’t want anyone to cry for her, she wanted to be remember exactly the way she was… full of life and optimism. She kept saying that passing was just another chapter in everybody’s journey. It was the graduation of the soul, moving from the physical field to the ethereal one… she believed in the afterlife and refused to get attached to anything… even life. When the time was right she was ready to cross over and move on… so she expected nothing less from the ones closest to her.
The first thing Amelia sees as soon as she opens one of the bottom drawers is the box containing the old Chinese firecrackers, and immediately a big smile brightened her face as she remembers how she loved to tease her grandma with silly questions about her love affair with Chinese things, her grandma always had a right answer on hand…
“Grandma… why do you keep these old firecrackers? I’m sure they don’t work anymore, so what’s the point?”
“They keep me safe!” - Grandma used to quickly answer, and then she started to further elaborate her reply to educate her misinformed granddaughter …
“Firecrackers were used in old China to scare away unwanted animals and evil spirits. During the Lunar New Year the Chinese used it to scare away a unicorn called Nian, firecrackers were the only thing that the evil creature was scared of… its bursting bamboo was too much for it to handle. If Nian ran away the people were assured of a prosperous and happy new year.”
“Do you want to know how are they made?”
And without waiting for an answer she kept saying: “It is a plain paper tube, folded tightly closed at the bottom that is loaded with black powder and a fuse, folded tightly closed at the head end. Then the finished cracker fuses are neatly braided together, and each completed flat bundle is wrapped with colorful paper to make it more attractive.
Your grandpa gave those to me long ago… so I could be safe when he was away.
Firecrackers scare evils away, that’s why I keep them…”

Amelia misses her grandma and can’t hold any longer her sorrows. So she let go and cried without holding anything… she knows that grandma is looking and smiling… as always, she understands.

This post is a submission to Magpie Tales #21, writing on a theme of the above photo.

© 2010 Gabriela Abalo