Sunday, September 7, 2014

Brichant and the beach

This is Brichant (though don't quote me on the spelling). His name means something in Romani that I can't remember, but he's the kitty that spends the most time in our house. Yesterday, he was trying to catch a fly that was buzzing around the louvers. 
After that exhaustion, he decided it was time for a nap, and that he should take up as much room as possible on the couch!
 He has a very cute spotty belly, which sometimes he'll allow you to pat.
I introduced him to the laser pointer this morning, I think we're going to have a lot of fun with that!!

Yesterday afternoon we went to the beach. It was my first time out of Honiara and the scenery is just so beautiful. I had to take off my sunglasses to check that the coloured lenses weren't making it more vivid and vibrant than the reality...it was actually a better view without the sunnies!
 There's a shipwreck just off the shore, which you can snorkle around. I'll definitely go back another time to do that. It was a bit windy yesterday so the waves were a bit too big for snorkelling, but I think it's really cool that you can swim around and not have to scuba dive to see the wreckage (though I think I am going to learn how to dive!),.
The water was warm, there was a lot of shade...if the beach was made of sand instead of pebbles it would be basically be heaven!! :-)

Friday, September 5, 2014

2 weeks in Honiara

I can't believe how quickly two weeks have gone by! I'm enjoying my life in Honiara (the capital of the Solomon Islands) so far. I live with two of my colleagues (and the girlfriend of one of them, who I actually met working in Tacloban) and they are all excellent cooks - I have established myself as the household dish washer, so everybody wins (but mainly me, because I hate cooking but don't mind washing up).

We have a couple of dogs and three cats running around the compound we live in, and the cats are the most unusual felines I've ever met; they're all very beautiful, like March here, and incredibly docile - you can scoop any of them up and cradle them like a baby and they'll just lie back and purr.
There's also a brown one with really cool markings who tends to come running in to our place in the evening, plonk down on someone's lap and then after enjoying some cuddles, it then proceeds to bite gently and want to play. I've got to dig out a nifty little LED torch that has a laser pointer that I packed, as I think we can have a lot of fun with that!!

The weather is lovely, it's always warm and has only rained a couple of times since I've been here. There are a quite a few nice places to sit by the water and enjoy a Sol Brew, and with views like this, it's easy to not want to do anything else! That being said, I'm hoping a trip to the beach might be on the cards this weekend, as I'd love to get out and see a bit more of the place.
My work is off to an interesting start. I've been working with the protection team on conducting assessments of vulnerable families who missed out on government support after the floods in April. A couple of families we met were sharing a house and the access to it was crossing the river on a little floating raft. The float operator uses the rope to pull his passengers across, and charges 1 dollar (the currency here is the Solomon Islands dollar) which is about 15c Australian each way. 
One of the families had missed out on the second hand clothing the Red Cross had distributed soon after the floods. We got in touch with the Red Cross, and they prepared the bags, and we had the joyful job of delivering them. It's not often I get to directly be involved in such things, and it was really nice to know that we'd helped to make a difference for this particular family. I've also been designing a training course for community-based disaster preparedness and response which is really interesting and fun. And then there are any number of other bits and pieces that pop up during the day that need attention.

I've also been enjoying driving the big 4X4 utes we have, having not ever been allowed to drive on a deployment before. After spending a number of months cruising around quite low to the ground in my convertible at home, it's quite a change to be up so high. The traffic here isn't crazy like in other places, people tend to stick to their lanes, but there is a lot of traffic going through town. It's times like that where the little automatic Rav4 is preferable to drive than the manual. It's also very rare to go above 40km/hr. It's nice that it's the same side of the road as at home, it's just a matter of keeping an eye out for dogs who seem to think that the middle of the road is a good place to stop for a scratch.

I haven't been taking too many photos, but I will try to do better at that, and do better at posting them here!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

World Humanitarian Day

I really can't believe a year has past since last August 19. World Humanitarian Day recognises those aid workers who have lost their lives in the course of their work, and more broadly to celebrate the spirit of humanitarianism globally. There's a great website set up by UN OCHA with hundreds of profiles of humanitarian workers from all over the globe working in some of the most challenging areas. While I sort of object to the #HumanitarianHeroes hashtag (a bit self aggrandising - but that could just be my innate Australian fear of tall poppy syndrome) I do feel quite special being part of something this big.

Every year on this day I express my gratitude for having such wonderful colleagues, who are so hard working, dedicated, enthusiastic, and professional, and while I've very much enjoyed the last few months of funemployment, I have missed the camaraderie of being in the field. It was incredibly difficult to come down off the high of working in Tacloban in the Philippines, as I have never worked with such a motivated and fun bunch of people, and also to extract myself mentally and emotionally from the organisation I'd spent over 3 years with (i.e. the longest I've ever spent in a job!). So on this special day, I send a special shoutout to all of those colleagues who are doing fantastic work in South Sudan, CAR, Syria, Gaza, Iraq, and all of the other humanitarian crises that are going on around the world right now.

If you see one, hug a humanitarian today!

And for me, well it's time to go back to work, and I've happily accepted a position in the Solomon Islands for a few months with an NGO I've been wanting to work for for a long time. I leave on Friday, and am really looking forward to experiencing Pacific culture and getting back into work mode!


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Holiday Time

I'm off to the States for 3 weeks. Yassmin is getting married!! YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!! It's going to be rad. There'll be photos in a few weeks....

Monday, April 28, 2014

Saying goodbye, in style

There's a word for the weekend that I just had. EPIC!!!

We started on Friday evening at Ocho, where the food is delicious even if the surrounds are a bit bland. We then moved on to the best jazz bistro in all of Tacloban, if not the entire Philippines, and had a blast singing with Carlos the resident guitar player, think we got home at about 2am....
Saturday morning was of course spent recovering from the night before, and then a few work meetings in the afternoon. The big farewell party, which we held outside the office, started in the early evening.

It. Was. Insane.

It involved a giant, delicious pig (om nom nom)
And Steph came down from Ormoc especially
A really impressive performance, that was just a little bit creepy, to "I will always love you"
Seriously, the costume and makeup were spectacular!! 
There were games, including karaoke roulette, where the singer doesn't know what song they're going to have to sing (one of our drivers was brilliant!) and I premiered the waray waray (the local language) song I've been learning, which went down very well.

There were speeches which made me well up a little bit, and the presentation of some lovely gifts...
 and then the dancing started!!

It was such a fun night, and so touching that so many of the staff gave up their Saturday night for us (there's three of us leaving this week) and put so much effort into the preparations before hand. I felt very special indeed!

I've just finished typing up my handover note, and am copying files across to the shared drive, but then that's it. I'm done. Finito. Shesh. Khalas. I'm really going to miss this crazy team!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

One more week

It's starting to feel very real that I'll be leaving Tacloban this time next Tuesday. It's crazy how quickly and slowly the time has passed at the same time. A whole bunch of colleagues have come down from Manila, and I haven't seen one of them since the last time he came...I would have thought it was two months ago, but it turns out it was four! Madness.

I had a debriefing with our response manager yesterday, and we talked through how the response has gone, the major challenges and major accomplishments. Seeing as I'd already spent three weeks in Cebu at the very start of the response before he'd arrived, I really struggled to remember what life was like in the days before Tacloban. But it didn't take long to remember the 17 hour days cooped up inside a hotel conference room, the fun I had hiding as many song titles as possible in situation reports (because I'm a professional....) and the camaraderie that forms so quickly when you spent so much time with motivated people.

In remembering my first days in Tacloban, I can't help but smile at the enthusiasm we had in over 100 volunteers who were distributing hygiene kits and managing huge cash for work and rice seed distribution projects, though still recovering from the typhoon themselves. We managed to recruit and retain most of these volunteers who are now working at a range of levels, developing new skills, and amazingly, retain the same sense of enthusiasm and excitement almost six months down the line. This is without a doubt the most inspiring office (ballroom) I've ever worked in.

And of course, it's been an opportunity to catch up with other international staff I've worked with before, and make new friends as well. I really learned a lot from our programme manager who was here for four months, he placed a lot of confidence in me and gave me the room to find my feet in management and also engaged me in areas outside my remit for my own development.

There has been a lot of stress, a lot of pressure and a lot of frustration, but there has also been a LOT of success, accomplishment, fun, friendship and karaoke (I think we've also done a lot to support the San Miguel corporation...). As my position has been made redundant this will be my last deployment with my current organisation, and I'm so glad to go out on such a high!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Happy Birthday Jules!!!

It seems ridiculous to me that it was about this time two years ago that Jules and I went to Japan to celebrate her birthday...time really does fly! Anyways, today's Julie's birthday and I just wanted to give her a special shout out as she's one of the best friends a girl could ever want or need!

Happy birthday Jules!!!!