Thursday, December 31, 2009

Summed up in a few short minutes

Because I can't be bothered sifting through the photos today, here are the videos I took in Egypt

First night in Cairo, while taking a stroll along the Nile

Why I went to Egypt...

Hatshetsup's temple

While waiting to board our Nile river cruise on the M/S Liberty we'd heard a lot of shouting, turns out there were dudes in rowboats moving around all the cruise ships selling stuff from their boats, I had to give it a go. (Greg, this is where your present came from!)

The Temple of Edfu was pretty breathtaking

As was the Temple of Kom Ombo

It was a quick stop at Lake Nasser

And a very sneaky video at the Aswan High Dam (for reasons of national security type stuff, bah! I laugh in the face on national security type stuff!)

So now I'm back...

What a crazy 5 days in Egypt! It's just after midnight and I got home not long ago. I'll figure out how to capture the wonderousnous and the frustrations as I sleep tonight (after 13 hours on a train last night and the same a few days before, this is much looked forward to!) and try to post it tomorrow. But in the meantime, some of the photos are uploading to my picasa site as I type, so if you're uber keen, you can check them out.

Night night

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve

I called my friend Chadi last night to organise what time to meet today. He asked me what I was planning for the evening and I responded by saying that I was just going to watch some tv and go to bed. Nope, he wasn't having a bar of that, and jumped in his car to come and get me.

Christmas Eve in his village (which is only about 20 mins from Tripoli) is a big deal. Families wrap the presents for the children and drop them off at the local sports club, where a team of teenage Santas await. They then bundle into vans and go off to deliver the pressies to the kiddies.

The sounds of santa bells could be heard echoing up and down the streets, and there was a definite Christmas spirit in the air.

Chadi then took me to his sister's house, where they welcomed me with open arms and we gorged on all sorts of wonderful delights. I got home at about 11pm and my face was sore from smiling...what a lovely night!

This morning, I unwrapped the two presents Oli had kindly given me, as he knew I didn't have anything to open, and I delighted in their kitchness. And now, my little backpack is ready to go...5 days await in exciting Egypt!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

I don't have a Santa hat, I have something much cooler. A Christmas FEZ!!!

Merry Christmas everyone, and a very happy Festivus for the rest of us!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Kangaroos

So I just explained that Christmas in Australia is not what you see in Christmas films (since they're usually made in Hollywood) - there's no snow, there aren't carolers patrolling the streets, there aren't even any ghosts. Yep, Christmas is different down under. But don't take it from me, take it from the ever charming Hugh Jackman...


Tehehehe. And here's an Australian christmas carol, by the wibbly wobbleboarding wonder, Rolf Harris.

It's beginning to feel a bit like Christmas

Tomorrow will be only the second time I've not spent Christmas at home. The year before last it was a smashing evening on a rooftop in Dhaka, this year, it will be a quiet morning in Tripoli, followed by a bus trip down to Beirut (which hopefully won't take 4 hours like other people have experienced recently) and then a short flight to Cairo.

Christmas for me means hot weather, swimming in the pool, prawns and cold meats for lunch, and a stocking that always includes gold chocolate coins, Pringles and Terry's orange chocolate. This year, most of those things won't be happening. Sure, I can pick up some Pringles at the little shop across the street, but it's not quite the same if it's not coming out of a red and white striped stocking. A few days ago, it was freezing here, it felt like there could be snow in Tripoli at any second (though I don't think it ever actually snows here). But now the weather had changed (again), and it's relatively warm and sunny. The compound is practically empty and we only have to work till 12 today...though it's obvious that basically everyone has been slacking off the past couple of days.

It feels like Christmas! :-)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

In the timeless words of Derryn Hinch

"Shame, shame, shame." The Road to the Horizon is now taking nominations for what we should be most ashamed of in 2009. You can check out the other contributions so far, and perhaps leave your own comment here.

Nominations close tomorrow night, and between Christmas Day and New Year's Day you can vote for your top 10.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Top ten humanitarian crises of 2009

MSF has come out with its annual report on the ten worst humanitarian crises for the year:

1. Violence against civilians in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

2. Violence, civilians cut off from aid in Afghanistan
3. Violence and lack of access to health care in Somalia
4. Violence, lack of aid in northern Yemen
5. Violence, disease, lack of health care in southern Sudan, Darfur
6. Inadequate funding for treatment of childhood malnutrition
7. Civilians trapped in war-torn Sri Lanka
8. Stagnated funding for treatment of AIDS/HIV
9. Violence, civilian neglect in Pakistan
10. Lack of research, treatment of neglected diseases kala azar, sleeping sickness, Chagas disease and Buruli ulcer.

You can read all about at the website, and I recommend you check out the photos too. I must say, that the move to a list of the ten worst crises away from the old list of the ten forgotten crises doesn't hold the same impact for me. There's no denying that the situations they've listed are terrible, but anyone who reads the news, or alertnet or reliefweb will know about these things. There are many other crises that never (or to be fair, rarely) see media attention.

Peter over at The Road to the Horizon talks about this more, and I'll be checking back to see what comes of his suggestion of "2009 Humanity's Shame Top 10."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Feeding Frenzy

I got to work this morning before the others, and the kitties went absolutely bonkers at the sight of me. Food!! They gobbled up what was left of the dried food, so I mixed up some powdered milk. Berzerka.

After every good feeding frenzy comes nap time...awww, cute

All quiet on the western front

It's been a relatively quiet couple of weeks, work remains constant, Arabic classes are ongoing (I'm such a bad student) and life just carries on. The only excitement in the past couple of weeks has come from two parties.

The first, last weekend, was to farewell our dear friend Elsa, who'll be moving to France early next year. That was a pretty crazy party...

The second party, held on Saturday night, was a much more subdued Christmas do hosted by Oli and Sara. So civilised, that all the food was homemade...check it out!!

Good food, good friends, and a good present from my secret Santa.

Now the countdown is on to Egypt!

Oldest friend birthday shout-out

And by oldest friend I don't mean 101 year old Grandma, I mean the person I have known the longest....Happy Birthday Katie!! We've been firm friends since we met in 1987 as preschoolers.

Just over a year ago we were having oodles of fun in the Harry Potter section of F.A.O Shwartz in New York, basically acting like preschoolers!!

Hope you've had a great day Katie!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A year in Status

One of my facebook friends had done this so I thought I'd give it a go. A year of status updates consdensed into this...which is actually a pretty accurate representation of what my year was!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Rap star

You may recall a video I posted last month featuring a young rapper from Nahr el-Bared Camp. Well MC Tamarrod is in fact, the only rapper from NBC, and you can listen to more of his stuff and an interview with him below.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Reality Cartoons

I first saw this cartoon a few years ago and it quickly became one of my favourites in the New Yorker cartoon bank. Well now's there's been a discussion on "reality cartoons"

It's not as funny with real dogs...

The Dynamic Steve adventure continues...

Life is really heating up for Dynamic Steve. Kirsty has added Chapter 4 in which highlights include a day-glow orange Supre bikini and caramel spacefood sticks...

Twelve Days of Christmas (Aid Edition)

Followed the link from Roving Bandit to Aid Thoughts to check out the below...amusing. We've been talking about organising a variety show in Tripoli, where hopefully we might uncover some hidden talents in the community. As yet, we haven't actually taken any steps to make it happen, but I suppose that's what the new year is for. One suggestion was an aid work rap based around the many acronyms we've come to know and use (I wouldn't go as far as saying "love"!). I think this will serve as a good piece of inspiration for that.

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Aid Edition)™

On the twelfth day of Christmas my donors gave to me

twelve delayed disbursements!

eleven sketchy studies

ten consultants calling

nine economists arguing

eight mission meetings

seven worthless workshops

six gender trainings

five RCTs!

four 4×4s

three acronyms

two empty schools

and a lecture on M&E!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Article on "Balibo"

My friend Wendy, who's got an imagination that stretches beyond the limits of possibility (check out chapter 2 of the Dynamic Steve blog for proof) is also a proper journo working in Jakarta at the moment. You can read her latest offering on the film "Balibo" and its subsequent banning in Indonesia at the Jakarta Globe website here.

Winter warming

It's getting pretty damn cold here, this morning I think I saw some very tiny snow flakes mixed in with the rain. Oh yeah, it's been bucketing down since about 9pm last night, so the roads were totally flooded driving to the office this morning.

Coming from a city where it doesn't really get too cold in winter (I suppose it might get down to 16 degrees celcius during the day) I'm struggling a little bit with the cold. It took me about 3 winters in Canberra to get used to the cold there, but this is something else. Ingebjorg, coming from the freezing land of Norway, gave me a wonderful tip to warm up - when sitting at your desk (or sitting anywhere really) and freezing - put a mug of boiling liquid (be it your coffee or just hot water) between your legs. You'd be amazed at how instantaneous the results are!

Another wonderful thing about winter is stew. We had our weekly "cine club" last night at my boss's house, and he decided to cook for us. He hadn't quite counted on how long dinner would take, so when we rocked up 30 minutes later than the specified time, I was immediately put on carrot peeling duties. While dinner bubbled away we started the film (Pulp Fiction) and took an intermission at 10:30pm to eat...Irish stew...the meat was so tender, and the potatoes and carrots flavoursome. And it warmed the cockles of me 'eart! Of course, that was all destroyed when it came time to walk home (just to the other end of the same street) in the pouring rain...good times, good times.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another new Ash video

Check out Space Shot by Ash below - it will be the first A-Z single in January. I'd heard an acoustic version of this which I really enjoyed, but watching the video was the first time I'd heard the studio release, which of course, I love.

Love the dancing gas mask dudes...

Happy Birthday

To my kurazy friend Kirsty, who I'm very much hoping will contribute to the Dynamiq Steve adventure soon...


I'm very sorry for the lack of interesting posts lately, I've been busy at work trying to write an overall report on the progress of the third appeal that was launched over 2 years ago following the destruction of Nahr el-Bared. Which involves finding out what's happened in some 20+ projects and compiling that in a concise and attractive manner. And while doing that, freezing my tush off as the air conditioner in our office broke at least 2 months ago. It's usually warmer outside of the container than in, so I've temporarily moved into the M&E Unit which has a number of benefits: (A) they have functioning heating and lighting, (B) they're my friends, (C) the kitties hang out in the office which provides extra lap warmth, (D) there's more light on this side of the compound so it's not as depressing.

I'm not quite counting down the days till Christmas yet, I'm not very excited about Christmas itself, but will be flying to Cairo on Christmas night for a few days of adventuring, which is exciting!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Interested in studying International Relations in Australia?

My alma mater, the Graduate Studies in International Affairs at the Australian National University (the most highly regarded IR program in Australia) is offering a new course in International Relations next year:

"In 2010 the Graduate Studies in International Affairs program (GSIA) at the Australian National University is introducing an exciting new opportunity to study contemporary international relations and world politics.

The new Graduate Certificate in International Relations (GCIR) provides a targeted introductory program for those without academic background in this area of study. It also provides the possibility of a stepping-stone to the Graduate Diploma in International Affairs, the Master of International Affairs and the MA (International Relations)."

If you happen by chance to be in Canberra, there's an information evening this Wednesday, where Greg Fry, the director of the program and a few other academics will be on hand to discuss the program. Having studied International Relations at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and at different universities, I can honestly say that the GSIA is a fantastic program with excellent academic staff, interesting subjects (including the mandatory theory courses) and a good mix of students from all over the world.

Wednesday 16 December
5:30 - 7:00pm
Lecture Theatre 2
Hedley Bull Centre, Building #130
Corner of Garran Road and Liversidge St.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Attention spambots!

Dear spam company which I'm not going to name to avoid further spamming,

I'm not entirely sure what you find so interesting about my post "Brought to you by the letter L" on my old blog (which I've just noticed had a typo and reads "bought...") but I do not appreciate you leaving spam comments on that particular blog, which I have to keep going onto to delete. Particularly since your spammy company does not even include an "L" in its name.

That's just plain weird.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Ingebjorg and I went along to the cinema last night, to check out the (free) European Film Festival. Having checked online, she assured me that we were going to see a light, happy Hungarian film that had gotten great reviews. When the film started however, it was not Hungarian, and it was apparent very quickly that it was not going to be a lighthearted romp.

What we got was the new film "Storm," a legal drama surrounding a witness in the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia. It follows a New Zealand female prosecutor as she tries to bring justice for a family who were victims of war crimes perpetrated by a Bosnian Serb General. It was an understated and restrained film, that brought an inside look to The Hague and brings back an issue that has fallen out of the limelight.

You can see the trailer here, or read the New York Times review here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dinner guests

If I were hosting a dinner party and I could invite 5 people (living or dead) they would:
  • David Attenborough
  • Michael Parkinson
  • David Tennant
  • Tim Wheeler
  • Maggie Smith
Just think about how awesome that would be. David A could regale us with stories of his adventures, Parky would tell us all the juicy gossip that never went to air, David Tennant would tell us funny stories about dalek malfunctions, Tim could provide some dinner music, and Maggie, well I bet you she's got some stories to tell. And then the older lot could entertain themselves and I'd have David and Tim all to myself and then surely one of them would fall in love with me by the time that was through!! :-)

Who would you invite?

And the winner is....Carly!!

I was a bit bleary eyed this morning when I got into the office at 7:20 and opened up my email.

You are a winner in News Limited's Escape Smug Shot competition and have won the Lonely Planet guidebook to India valued at $48.99.

So how bout that?!! I'm not entirely sure which photo won, and the only detraction is that I didn't actually take either photograph I submitted, I was just a creative participant.

But still, awesome!!!

It's better to have sweet dreams...

Check out the latest video from Ash, of the fourth single in the A-Z series, "Tracers." I must say, my future husband is looking pretty good!

And I really must emphasise how wonderful it is to get a new song delivered to my inbox every fortnight!

Article by outgoing UNRWA Commissioner-General

Karen AbuZayd, who is leaving her post as Commissioner-General of UNRWA at the end of the year has published the following article in The Guardian. The article shows that the issue is complex, but there's no real action suggested. What makes me really sad though, are the comments that follow. Having seen the conditions that Palestine refugees live in in this country, I found it quite disturbing to read some of the opinions expressed. Click the title for the whole article.

Peace must begin with the plight of Palestine's refugees

Sixty years ago today the United Nations general assembly voted into existence a temporary body known as UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. UNRWA's task was to deal with the humanitarian consequences of the dispossession of some three-quarters of a million Palestine refugees forced by the 1948 Middle East war to abandon their homes and flee their ancestral lands. Just two decades later, the six-day war generated another spasm of violence and forced displacement, culminating in the occupation of Palestinian territory. Today, anguished exile remains the lot of Palestinians and Palestine refugees. The occupation of Palestinian land persists, there is no Palestinian state, and the human rights and fundamental freedoms to which Palestinians are entitled under international law do not exist...

Magical photographs

The winners of the National Geographic International Photography Contest for 2009 have been announced. There are some absolutely magical photographs here, so if you're looking for a bit of a break, check them out here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Palestine and Israel debate on Al Jazeera

There was a very interesting discussion on Al Jazeera last night on Palestine and Israel, in light of current discussions in the EU. If you follow this link, you can watch the lively discussion and then read Ahmed's interesting views of the debate.

An excerpt:

...argues implicitly that the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is permissible because “you the Bedouins are new in this country. You don’t belong in this country this is why this country rejected you.” Again, I’m not interested in disputing Mr. Kedar’s historical claim; the moral point is much more interesting. I will risk alienating the reader with a Nazi analogy. Imagine: “You the Jews are new in this country. You don’t belong in this country this is why this country rejected you.” History’s cruel irony is truly something to behold.

Birthday Shout-out

It's hard to believe that another year has gone past and Steve is now a whole year older than his milestone-senior-citizen-card-deserving birthday last year.

Hope it's a good one old man! :-)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A novel idea

When I was in Bangladesh, I started writing a story about an aid worker who, funnily enough, gets caught up in a cyclone in Bangladesh. Not a particular stretch of the imagination. I'd only written about five pages in a notebook, but planned a sweeping saga of disaster and conflict with the female heroine and a spunky love interest, inspired by the character played by Clive Owen in the (particularly bad) film "Beyond Borders." I'm was thinking of it as chick lit for the intelligent, well travelled woman.

Unfortunately, I lost the notebook in transit somewhere, and forgot all about it...until recently. I've decided that I'm going to have a crack at writing this fiction novel and will radically embellish all the things I don't know...which will be the work she does in Africa following Bangladesh. So if there's any aid workers reading out there that would like to give me some inside information about living and working in Darfur or Nairobi (I haven't decided which yet), please get in touch!

So far I've written 1,800 only about 63,200 to go!!

An open letter regarding collogne

Dear young men of Tripoli,

If I can smell your collogne as you drive past slowly with your window down in an attempt to share your horrendous music with me, it's probably safe to say you're wearing too much. Unless of course, you're wearing Eau de Shwarma Man - you could never wear too much of that!

Love Carly

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My container

I've been referring to my office as my container or box on facebook, and my old housemate Tania asked for some photos. I realise now that "box" is a little bit misleading. When I think about it, this is probably the biggest office space I've ever had. In the Philippines we fit three people into an office about the same size. So this is the inside of my container:

and this is the view from my desk of the conference room, which gives you an idea of the size of the containers we're split up in.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A business proposal for Shwarma Man

Dear Shwarma Man,

It's been a while since I last wrote, I apologise. I wanted to tell you something about my trip to Istanbul. You see, there were lots of kebab places around, but not one of them smelled as good as your place. Not a single one!

Also, I've been meaning to investigate the guys in the souk who brew perfumes (maybe they don't "brew" them, but I can't think of a more appropriate word). I would like to bottle the scent of your shwarma place and sell it for big bucks. I really do think people would be happy to smell as good as your shwarma do!! I think we could go into business together: you could accurately describe the ingredients you use (which will be easy for you since you speak Arabic and I'm just a beginner), and I could take the creative credit for the idea, perhaps design the bottle and then take a nice percentage of the profit...what do you think?

Love Carly

New uproar over "camelcide"

The outcry against camel culling continues with this latest news from the Northern Territory...

Camel-lovers boycott "Third World Australia"

UK RESIDENTS outraged by plans to cull some 6000 camels are warning other Europeans against visiting Australia. Online discussion forums, which describe Australia as a Third World country, have been running hot since it was revealed last week that residents in a small central Australian community were being held hostage by a herd of thirsty, marauding camels.

The Northern Territory government announced last week it would conduct an emergency cull of some 6000 feral camels at a cost of $49,000. NT Local Government Minister Rob Knight has since received hate mail from around the world.

Docker River, 500km south west of Alice Springs, has been inundated by thousands of wild camels in recent weeks. As well as smashing water infrastructure in their hunt for moisture, the quality of drinking water in the town is being threatened by the decaying bodies of camels that have been trampled by their herd. (Follow link above for the rest of the article)

Bright as Yellow

It's not that I love posting pictures of myself or anything, I know Mum and Dad like to see them! So here's a couple more from Istanbul by Ingebjorg:

I ended up leaving the glasses but bought the vintage jacket (late 1960s)

Nothing beats Saturday morning coffee in a funky cafe!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dancing in the dark

Here's a great pic Ingebjorg took of me in the exit corridor of Hagia Sofia

Hard core protection

You may not know this about me, but writing reports all day isn't the only contribution I make to the work here. I recently saw a question on the whiteboard in the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit's office, on how to define "hard core protection issues." Having done a bit of work on protection in the past, I felt obligated to provide a few possibilities:

Tehehe, you thought this wasn't going to be a post about kittens right?!! I got an email from Ingebjorg telling me of a potential photo opportunity - Aniseh had taken up residence in the paper recycling box...too much cute!

She's not as wonderfully soft as the kitties we found in Istanbul, but she's got a great personality.

Meanwhile, I did do something productive today, and have just sent off a progress report for the European Commission, compiled most of my monthly note of the various it's onto a final report for the Japanese!

Ridiculously cute

I've seriously watched this about 15 times...

Carly and Ingebjorg in Istanbul

Three days in Istanbul. Three wonderful days of walking, sightseeing, eating and more eating. Flying over Turkey was exciting enough: undulating mountains, lakes, snow, I was already regretting that I wouldn't be exploring more of the country.

We kicked off Friday by visiting Hagia Sofia, which is undergoing some refurbishment in preparation for Istanbul being the European city of culture for 2010.

It's an impressive structure from the outside, not quite as beautiful as the Blue Mosque, but the inside was stunning. Lots of mosaics and an interesting mix of Islam and Christianity.

The exit also proved an interesting place for photography:

We headed off to find the Grand Bazaar and to say we were devastated to find it would be closed for the whole long weekend would be an understatement. So we consoled ourselves over a traditional Turkish stew, and lazed on a couch in a little side street.

The day wore on and soon enough it was time to make our way over the bridge to find a restaurant that had been recommended to us. Since it had gotten dark by about 5, wandered and wandered, our map not proving too useful. After trudging up many flights of stairways that intersected roads, we stopped and asked a man who thankfully knew where the restaurant, 5 Kat was. After taking the elevator up to the fifth floor, we realised that that was exactly what the name 5 Kat wonder other people we'd asked looked at us like we were crazy asking for 5 kat restaurant!! After having a drink on the rooftop terrace overlooking the water, we made our way down for (the tiniest ever) entree and delicious normal sized dessert in the very cosy restaurant.

On Saturday morning we headed back to that part of town to explore the tiny antique shops and boutiques that Ingebjorg had thoroughly research, and were again disappointed to find most things shut. We instead found a funky little cafe that was open and lazed around with our coffee and slowly but surely, other places started to open up.

As we continued walking through tiny streets it became obvious that there's a coffee table book in the making on the cats of Istanbul. I've never seen so many fat and friendly cats roaming the streets.

We found our way to Taksim Square and shopped till we dropped, stopping of course for more sustenance at another rooftop cafe, where we both agreed it would be lovely to have an apartment overlooking the water.

We carried on with the walking, winding our way back down to the bridge that effectively distinguishes between Europe and Asia.

It was a pretty long walk home, but we got there and then basically turned around again to make our reservation at Leb-i-Derya. We gorged on parmesan and pancetta crusted sea bass and followed it up with a very nice dessert and cocktail. We'd passed a little jazz club earlier in the day, so we ventured back to find it. Along the way I spotted a few interesting clothes hanging up in an alley, so we investigated and found a fantastic vintage shop, full of fantastic clothing, jewellery and other bits and pieces. We both left on a high with some goodies and quickly found the Nardis Jazz Club.

There was a quartet of guitar, drums, bass and piano playing standard jazz, and it was a very civilised way to end the evening.

Sunday morning came all too quickly and we weren't too phased to find it raining, as we'd planned a few indoor activities. Our first stop was the epic Blue Mosque, which looks fantastic during the day and night.

It's a bit of a reverse TARDIS, in that it looks smaller on the inside, but it felt a lot warmer than the interior of Hagia Sofia.

Our next stop was the famous Cemberlitas bathhouse, but we knew we should get a bite to eat beforehand, so we tried out another recommendation, Rumeli Cafe, and had a cosy meal. We liked the place so much that we made a reservation for that night, specifically requesting a table by the fireplace.

The hammam was a wonderful experience. The men's and women's bathhouses are apparently identical, but obviously separated. We were given a wrap and some one size fits all underwear and then we entered a beautiful round room, with a domed roof with circles cut out of the roof in circular rows. In the centre of the room is a giant circular hot stone, where we were scrubbed, soaped and massaged. It was a wonderful place for women to be women, of all shapes and sizes, without modesty, for families, for girlfriends, for individuals. It was extremely relaxing.

We left feeling happy and somewhat dehydrated, so stopped off at Cigdem's Patiserrie (I have a lovely Turkish friend named Cigdem so it had to be that one) where we enjoyed a range of baklava and turkish delights. And by range, I mean when the waiter brought our selection over, he asked if it was all for us!

We decided to check out the underground cistern, which was built in 300AD odd, and it was very unimpressive, stinky and thankfully there was a photography exhibition which saved it from being a total waste of time!

Our walk continued as we found a little artisans showroom. The shops were open but the artists away, so it was a quick stroll through there and then through an arch into a magical European garden cafe. As we entered, Vivaldi was playing through the speaker system, which was then overpowered by the call to prayer.

We carried onto the little bazaar near the hostel where we fatefully entered Aydan's carpet shop. Ingebjorg fell in love and had to make a purchase. Meanwhile, I was practicing some of the photography tips she'd given me.

There were so many beautiful carpets, I'm now regretting not splurging and buying one for myself. But I know I can always go back to Aydan, or one of his two brothers who are also in the business and get something special.

We had to rush home and rush back to the restaurant for our dinner reservation, and spent a good three hours sitting in front of the fire. As a Queenslander, it's not often that I get to sit in front of a fire, so I was quite entranced and happy to watch it all night.

This morning brought the realisation that it was time to go back to reality but as we flew back over Turkey I knew I'll be back there soon enough.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Top 20 Unfortunate Lessons Girls Learn From ‘Twilight’

This list, directly copied from the article you can find here, accurately sums up what I was trying to get at in my previous Gaylight rant.
  1. If a boy is aloof, stand-offish, ignores you or is just plain rude, it is because he is secretly in love with you — and you are the point of his existence.
  2. Secrets are good — especially life-threatening ones.
  3. It’s OK for a potential romantic interest to be dimwitted, violent and vengeful — as long as he has great abs.
  4. If a boy tells you to stay away from him because he is dangerous and may even kill you, he must be the love of your life. You should stay with him since he will keep you safe forever.
  5. If a boy leaves you, especially suddenly (while telling you he will never see you again), it is because he loves you so much he will suffer just to keep you safe.
  6. When a boy leaves you, going into shock, losing all your friends and enduring night terrors are completely acceptable occurrences — as long as you keep your grades up.
  7. It is extremely romantic to put yourself in dangerous situations in order to see your ex-boyfriend again. It’s even more romantic to remember the sound of his voice when he yelled at you.
  8. Boys who leave you always come back.
  9. Because they come back, you should hold out, waiting for them for months, even when completely acceptable and less-abusive alternative males present themselves.
  10. Even though you have no intention of dating an alternative male who expresses interest in you, it is fine to string the young man along for months. Also, you should use him to fix things for you. Maybe he’ll even buy you something.
  11. You should use said male to fix things because girls are incapable of anything mechanical or technical.
  12. Lying to your parents is fine. Lying to your parents while you run away to save your suicidal boyfriend is an extremely good idea that shows your strength and maturity. Also, it is what you must do.
  13. Car theft in the service of love is acceptable.
  14. If the boy you are in love with causes you (even indirectly) to be so badly beaten you end up in the hospital, you should tell the doctors and your family that you “fell down the steps” becauseyou are such a silly, clumsy girl. That false explanation always works well for abused women.
  15. Men can be changed for the better if you sacrifice everything you are and devote yourself to their need for change.
  16. Young women should make no effort to improve their social skills or emotional state. Instead, they should seek out potential mates that share their morose deficiencies and emotional illnesses.
  17. Girls shouldn’t always read a book series just because everyone else has.
  18. When writing a book series, it’s acceptable to lift seminal source material and bastardize it with tired, overwrought teenage angst.
  19. When making or watching a major feature film, you should gleefully embrace the 20 minutes of plot it provides in between extended segments of vacant-eyed silence and self-indulgent, moaning banter.
  20. Vampires — once among the great villains of literature and motion pictures — are no longer scary. In fact, they’re every bit as whiny, self-absorbed and impotent as any human being.

Let it flow

Here are a couple of photos I received from the concrete pouring yesterday. As promised, here's our deputy program manager directing the concrete

Ah, that's a good lookin' slab

I think the estimated time of completing this first package of reconstruction is late next year. It's going to be exciting watching it all go up.

Super duper awesome Big Bangs update

I realised the other day that I hadn't had a Big Bangs update in a while. But I held out in the hope that I could share the following news with you today.

Last night, Pierre was named Young Australian of the Year for the Australian Capital Territory!!

Photo credit

I am so unbelievably proud of Pierre and his team. In the past 18 months alone, they've delivered their special brand of development to over 8.500 children and donated over $15,000 worth of equipment and resources toIn the past 18 months the BIG BANGS have catered to over 8,500 children and donated more than $15,000 worth of equipment and resources to deserving charities, orphanages and school aimed at youth.

Congratulations Pierre, so proud!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It Made My Day

When I get my morning taxi to work I ask to get dropped off at a hospital near our compound, which is probably only a 5 minute walk. Most of the time, the cabbies don't quite drop me off there, but a bit earlier so that they don't have to turn onto the main road. So this morning I was dropped off and soon after I started walking an UNRWA car drove past me and stopped so I jumped in with our Deputy Program Manager. He was so excited as he was just dropping by the compound to pick up the head of emergency engineering and then go to the camp to witness the first concrete being poured on Package I of the camp. He said he wanted to touch the concrete for himself, as if he couldn't believe this day had finally come...reconstruction has begun!!

It Made My Day is another great website that always brings a smile; it's self explanatory really, go and check it out.

Muppet Rhapsody

I love The Muppets. I would hate to think that there's anyone out there who doesn't love the little tackers. I also love Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. So when you put the two together, you get supreme awesomeness.

Happy Wednesday!

Endless entertainment

One lolly wrapper, hours of entertainment:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Terrible news from Mindanao

Philippine poll attack toll rises with shallow graves

At least 24 bodies have been found in the southern Philippines and police say they have found more in shallow graves.

The bodies are from a 40-strong group of politicians and journalists which was seized in an attack blamed on clan warfare ahead of next year's elections.

The government has declared a state of emergency in two provinces, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato city. Read the full article at the BBC.

Preparations, scheming and positioning was already happening for the elections next year when I was in Mindanao. Many skirmishes were blamed on "clan warfare" in Mindanao, and many of them certainly were. But to blame the murders of so many innocent outsiders on clan warfare is a bit of a stretch. This was a dispicable act that will make the daily lives of Maguindanoans and Sultan Kudaratis, along with my old colleagues, much more restricted.

Super duper special anniversary shout out

Today is an anniversary of sorts for me. For the past two years, I've had the pleasure of being with someone who knows what I want, who's smart and goofy and completely modest.

It's me!!

When I wrote on my old blog two years ago about how I didn't know how I'd get through certain hurdles alone, I mentioned a few specific things:
- Who do I bore with my mundane complaints about my work?
Answer: the most wonderful housemates I've had so far. Lesson: it pays to have housemates who are intelligent, funny and fantastic women, so shout outs to Tania, Lily, Cathy, Monica, Emma, Nicole and Yassmin (Ahmed only gets a small mention because he's not an awesome woman and he doesn't like hearing me bitch about work).
- Who will help me with my tax?
Answer: no one, I've been quite capable of doing it all on my own and getting actual tax returns for a change! Lesson: barring the question "what is your occupation" e-tax isn't that scary.
- Who will make the cheese sauce for the lasagna?
Answer: it's not always perfect, but I've managed to whip up a bechamel sauce once or twice.

These little examples pretty much sum up how the single life has changed me. I know what I'm capable of, I know what I want from life as an individual. Since I've only had myself to worry about, I've worked in three countries, I've visited 17 countries (and about to add an 18th), I've made amazing new friends, and I've attempted to learn two languages (I did quite well with Bangla, we'll see how the Arabic goes...). Throughout all this, there have been certain moments where I've been struck how fantastic life is when you make the most of it on your own, and when you do the things you've always wanted to do, the way you want to do them.

Of course, I'm not saying that you can't do these things when you're in a relationship, but there's a certain freedom about being single that I've embraced and relished in. When I think back to this day two years ago and remember how absolutely retched I was, how absolutely pitiful I was, I can only hold my head higher and think how it's made me the stronger person I am today.

So, a special shout out to me, for recognising my strengths (and weaknesses) and embracing what life has to offer.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I've been hearing a very catchy song the past couple of months. I'd found out it was by Nancy Ajram, one of the most popular Lebanese singers, but no-one knew what the title was. I'd just hear little snippets of it; on someone's car radio, or when I was in a shop, but I just couldn't find out the song title. I'd tried singing it to Yassmin, but it's rather difficult to do that when you don't know any of the words, and the tune just doesn't come out right when you sing "la la la." Finally, the other day in a restaurant it came on, and the girl at the counter knew it. "Mashi Haddi", or "Walking By My Side."

On our shopping expedition to the souk yesterday (found boots, a beanie, and long socks for winter, yea!) Yassmin had to ask a couple of different CD sellers, and finally we found a guy who had Nancy's new album and assured us that Mashi Haddi was on it.

I was so excited to get home and copy it onto my computer, hoping against hope that I'd like the whole song, even the whole album. Mission accomplished! It's a very catchy song, that will put a spring in my step on my ipod.

The video is really cute too (except for the advertising that pops up). Enjoy!

These are the translated lyrics (in case you didn't pick it up from the clip!

Walking next to me, and with your eyes your melting everyone around you
Looking around you and winking

And you forgot that I get jealous, especially if they smile back
And you become happy, they melt your heart

And others wish to go out with me
Not like you, you prefer to play around over having me, confused me

And if a robber waves for you, you follow her and leave me behind

Walking next to me, and with your eyes your melting everyone around you
Looking around you and winking

and if by coincidence I see a friend on the road and say hi to him
Right away you make a report, question me

Who? Where? How? and Why? you're friends for how long

Friday, November 20, 2009

Artistic impression of NBC reconstruction

A huge number of donors were in Nahr el-Bared today to see first hand the destruction, and also how UNRWA is supporting the Palestinian residents. There were a number of men outside the meeting area, holding up their artwork of reconstruction activities. I really liked this one:

Slow and steady may win the race, but I'm sure the residents of NBC would prefer more of a hare's pace.

Amazing footage

If I were an awesome photographer it would be my dream job to work for National Geographic. Check out this amazing leopard seal footage.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oh so cute!

A...H...Pleghm...or Arabic spelling for dummies

I had my first Arabic class last night, in which I learned the alphabet. Ok, wait, I was taught the alphabet. I think there are 28 consonants, 3 short vowels, and 3 long vowels. And there seems to be just one letter that I can't quite pronounce, the "aine" letter (which looks like the fancy E towards the top below), which has an "aeh" sound that you're supposed to make by choking yourself. Or something like that. Anyway, it will require a lot of practice from me.

I like the names that some of the letters have, like "wow", "lamb" and "yeah". That's how the names sound, they may (probably) not be spelled like that. I think it's going to be a very interesting experience...I just wish there was an alphabet song I could learn..."alef, bah, tah, thah jzeem" doesn't quite have the same ring


I have a couple of problems with the Twilight phenomenon that has swept the world, making teenage girls and grown women act like complete idiots. And full disclosure here, I'm a big Harry Potter fan.

I succumbed and read the series a while ago, and I will grant that Stephanie Meyer, like Dan Brown, has discovered a winning formula that makes these books page turners. That being said, they are terribly written and she only has about three adjectives in her vocabulary. I'm not a big book critic, usually I can read anything and enjoy it for what it is and not really take in whether the writing is good or bad, but these books really stood out as being bad writing. (And the reason I can criticize here is because I don't purport to be a writer!)

That's problem one. The series is badly written. The second, greater problem I have is the character of Edward Cullen and the insane attraction of grown women towards this character. I keep seeing facebook updates and quiz results of people I call friends who are "in love" with Edward, and want a man "just like Edward."

Ladies, in a nutshell, Edward is a stalking, over-protective, co-dependent, cradle robbing serial killer. Um, I'm not seeing the attraction. The whole Edward/Bella relationship also frustrates me, as now an entire generation of girls thinks a romantic relationship is based on having a man over 100 years old watching you sleep, follow you around and declare his undying love for you after about a month...oh and this is after he's repeatedly approached you to tell you that he's bad news. And you're underage.*breath*

That about sums up my issues with the Twilight series. This was inspired by watching the movie on tv last night. Yassmin and Ahmed hadn't seen it before, and what we decided by the end of the movie was:

Kristen Stewart looks exactly like Jughead.

Robert Pattinson (who compared to Kristen Stewart has an abnormally large head) reminded us of the main character of an old Cher movie that was on recently, called "Mask".

I'd like to include here a message that Dr J left on my facebook wall, I'm sure she won't mind me sharing her opinion:

"I thought Twilight was hilariously funny, although I am not sure that is the reaction they were aiming for. I did like the tone of the beginning before she met Cedric Diggory, in terms of being a well-constructed set-up filled with foreboding, but it all went downhill from there. Plus, Bella starts out being quite capable of looking after herself and then along comes the sparkly vampire and suddenly she needs him to rescue her all the time. I find that particular message to be a tad objectionable."

Big ups to Dr J for the Diggory reference, and also the point of Bella becoming (more of) a whiny incapable damsel in distress. Another point of annoyance for me.

To conclude, an interesting article, Buffy the Gay Vampire Lover has been published that provides an explanation of the popularity of Twilight: women desire sex with gay men. It sure as hell makes more sense that desiring a co-dependent stalker...

rant over.