Sunday, March 1, 2015

One week in Freetown

I had a wonderful few days in Oxford catching up with old friends and meeting new colleagues. It was relatively freezing compared to the summer I'd just left, but most of the days were blue skies which always makes the cold more manageable. Oxford is such a beautiful city, even though this time around the only times I got to see the centre were on my way in and out, it was still nice to see!
The journey from Heathrow to Freetown was pretty uneventful. I was travelling with two colleagues which was nice, as we were delayed by almost 2 hours in London. That meant when we got to Casablanca to transfer it was a mad dash through the airport and straight onto the next plane. (Casablanca airport didn't look too interesting, but flying over there were lots of interesting lighting arrangements in the city below.)

We landed at Lungi airport at 4ish in the morning. After getting through immigration, and having our temperatures checked for the first time, we collected our bags and were greeted by an agent my organisation uses to meet people and arrange their ownward journey. The thing about Lungi airport is that it's across an estuary from Freetown, so you have to get a speedboat which took half an hour. I was fine the whole way, except the last few minutes so I was quite glad it finished when it did. By this stage it was 6am and the sun still wasn't up. We were taken to a hotel and eventually the sun started to come up. This has been my view out over some mangrove trees.

There's also a weird duck enclosure in the hotel. Well, it's attached to a Chinese restaurant, perhaps not too weird, but I've been counting the ducks each day and none have ended up on the menu. What made this particularly weird was that there was a tiny deer type thing in there as well, but it disappeared a few days ago (hope it didn't end up on the menu!)
My days at the office (where we get out temperature taken and recorded, then wash our hands with soap and water before we can enter) have been filled with briefing meetings and reading through a lot of documents and budgets, and on the one occassion I managed to leave early enough for a little stroll on the beach, I came across this:
 Yep. It's a large dinosaur statue (missing an arm), on the beach front. Bizzare. The beach itself is pretty enough to look at
 And then there's this statue on the other side of the road. Weird weird weird.
Today I'm heading up to one of the northern districts for a few weeks to cover for the manager while he takes some much needed R&R. I'm really looking forward to getting out and seeing the water, sanitation and hygiene promotion work the teams have been doing. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Bad Blogger

Wow, I've been incredibly slack. So slack, that my Dad removed this blog as one of his start-up tabs because there was never anything new on it! I was so lazy that I didn't even do my end of year  reflection. Oh well, it's a new year now and there's been some excitement.

I'd flown through Changi airport in Singapore so many times, but never left it, so having two friends now living there provided me with the perfect excuse for a sojourn. Singapore is really cool. I did loads of touristy things (and it's been a long time since I did that while holidaying alone!), like the Night Safari (where otters know how to recycle)
the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay, which had spectacular Chinese New Year arrangements
and a wander up on the Sky Bridge
and how cool is this view - it really looks like something from the future!
The Botanic Garden's Orchid garden was lovely
and I had a fab day at the Singapore Zoo (even if it was a bit rainy).
One of the weirdest places I've ever been in my whole life is Haw Par Villa. I encourage you to read the wikipedia article, but basically it was set up as a 'morality theme park' to remind families of the dangers of living without virtue. Soooooooo weird. There are many parables told in plaster, and some of them are quite graphic - this one was about a few boys who were out when a wolf came upon them. One of them ran away, leaving his friends to die. But one of them played dead so the wolf chased after the one who'd run away and ate him instead - a very complicated tale of being a good friend.
The piece de resistance of Haw Par Villa is the 10 Courts of Hell cave. These are incredibly graphic depictions of what happens to particular types of people when they die and go to hell, with punishments like "thrown into a tree of knives" for crimes like "cheating, abducting others, misuse of books, wasting food", and "tied to red hot copper pillar and grilled" for "escape from prison, urging people into crime and social unrest, disrespect to elders." It did seem like some of the crimes were a little less severe than others in their groups....
I also hiked up "Mount" Faber, which has a pretty impressive loo with a view at the cable car station
and then onto the Henderson Wave bridge at the Southern Ridges (I think that was the day I did over 21,000 steps!)
I of course stopped in at Raffles and enjoyed a Singapore Sling
And on my last day, I enjoyed wandering down Haji Lane and peeking in all the little boutique shops, and meeting this guy
Throughout the whole trip I was entertained (and housed, and fed, and watered - and by watered, I mean kept in gin) by two lovely friends I know from different places, who happen to coincidentally not only now work together, but sit next to each other. So, sharing dual custody of me for half the time I was there, they each took me on some different the batting cages (90 km/hr is my peak hitting speed)
 Lots of good food, not that I actually tried the below in Chinatown...
When you stay with gin enthusiasts, you can count on being taken to some very cool bars that make the best drinks you've ever tasted:
Operation Dagger is a very cool underground bar, owned by a guy from Melbourne...which I think has a lot to do with why the decor reminded me of an Aesop shop. But the drinks (along with the light fixture) were really out of this world. I highly recommend you stop by if you're ever in Club Street!
 More good eating was to be had of the seafood variety, with loads of excellent sushi
and the cutest macaron you've ever seen!
And of course, there was a lot of time spent shopping on Orchard Road - I definitely came back with a few extra kilos!

All in all, I had a wonderful time there - it was fantastic to be able to catch up with my friends (thanks again for having me friends!!), to do touristy things, to have some down time, and to tick off another country.

I'll be ticking off another new country soon enough, it's back to work for Carly, on Monday I head to the UK for a few days of briefing, and then on to Sierra Leone to do my part in the Ebola response. I'm really excited about the challenges ahead!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Under the Sea

I went for my first dive in over a month yesterday. It was so nice to be back under water, and though I'd been to this wreck before, this time I saw a lot more of it. And what made it extra cool was having J's camera at my disposal (although it had a bit of trouble focusing sometimes). 

I like these big clams very much. When you wave you arm over them they contract...this is amusing for me, but it probably means that they're not very happy clams.  
 Very pretty colours in the coral and the fish
 Some of the bones of the ship
I can't remember what this type of fish is called, but he was quite large
 A family of three lionfish - you don't want to get too close to these guys, but they're very graceful.
 These dudes are very inquisitive, and perhaps a little aggressive sometimes.
Happy Carly. 

Where I've been

So many countries, so little time!!

carly’s Travel Map
carly has been to: Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Cambodia, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Spain, Switzerland, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vatican, Yemen. Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

To do - get back to real humanitarian work.

I'm used to having to do lists that take up an entire page (if not more) of my notebook. The type of to do list that gets carried across over a number of days because there's so much to do and not enough time. I'm not having that problem at the moment, and it's something I've been struggling with.

I've been doing a lot of work on the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) program, which means exactly what it says - helping communities understand the risks they face from hazards, and devising ways that they can minimise (reduce) those risks. It's not an area I've worked on before, so it has been interesting to learn about Participatory Capacity and Vulnerability Analysis (a fancy title for what I just mentioned above) and the other different tools that can be used to help communities figure out hazards and risks.

I planned a national forum for agencies working in DRR, Climate Change Adaptation, and Environmental Management which was held a couple of weeks ago. It was an interesting exercise to have so many people together to discuss the common problems faced, and the biggest issue was a lack of coordination between these different actors, along with a lack of government resources (financial and human). There are many challenges in the Solomon Islands, but we came away from the forum with a set of guiding principles, a list of points on the way we should all implement our programs, and a working group established to try to improve coordination. So that was a bit of success.

I only have a few weeks left here. I'll miss the team we have, but I'm really looking forward to getting back into the type of humanitarian work I'm used to - where crossing out tasks on those endless to do lists can take a while, but is so, so satisfying. I'm sure in my next job, when I'm working ridiculously long hours and am stressed and tired, that I'll look back on this time and wonder why I ever complained, but that's future Carly's problem.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Happy birthday Mum!!

It's my dear Mum's birthday today...happy birthday Mum!!! I hope there's some tiramisu involved! xoxo

Monday, November 3, 2014

A week in Vanuatu

With all the travelling I've done, I hadn't been to any Pacific islands before I came to the Solomon Islands. So when I had a week's leave to plan, I decided to double that number and head over to Vanuatu, and boy am I glad I did!!
I spent a week lazing around Port Vila, the capital city. It's not a large city, but definitely busier than Honiara, with a far greater tourist infrastructure (like the mother's market by the water), and a hell of a lot cleaner! It was also a few degrees cooler than Honiara which was a welcome change.

I was mostly lazy and lounged around reading and enjoying the view, but on two days I ventured out to Tranquility Dive, to do four incredible dives. This scuba business is certainly addictive. It's a stunning location on Moso Island, and the staff (and dogs) were all really friendly and professional. The BBQ lunch was also fab. I highly recommend it if you're into diving.
I saw thousands of very pretty fish (including some very large groupers, puffer fish, porcupine fish, parrotfish, sweetlips, some big lion fish, and a titan triggerfish - I didn't know at the time how aggressive they can be, so I was glad he kept to himself!!), three hawksbill turtles, some ginormous spiky sea cucumbers, and some teeny tiny translucent shrimp. I think I also discovered a new fish, because I've looked at every single fish in the South Pacific and I can't find anything that remotely resembles it at all. There is a slight problem that I don't really remember what it looks like - other than it had a white head and red dorsal fins, but that's a minor technicality!! 
I now need to invest in an underwater camera so I can show everyone I know who doesn't dive (which is basically everyone I know) how incredible it is. The colour of the water was so beautiful - no camera trickery or filters!
But even if you don't dive, there's so much beauty on the surface - I also sat on this swing for a while and had not a care in the world.

I really didn't see much of Vanuatu, but would still recommend it if you're interested in lovely blue water, really friendly people, and the local beer Tusker isn't bad either!!