Thursday, April 30, 2009

Long weekend madness

Well, tomorrow is a day off, so Nic and I are sneaking out a bit early today to drive 4 hours to Davao City...which to me is sounding like heaven. Good restaurants and bars, nice beaches, good shopping and quite excitingly, a much lower security level. (Ok, officially, the whole island of Mindanao is rated the same, but that's just because certain places are more dangerous than others. Davao, from what I understand, should be rated lower.) Of course, there's always going to be petty crime wherever you go, but that should really go without saying. The point I'm trying to get across is that Davao is such a cool place that I'll actually be able to leave the hotel wearing a dress, and wear my bikini at the beach. And perhaps even stay out after dark!

All this has lead to a pretty exciting build up for me in the office today. And, in celebration of the long weekend, I think the following video clip sums it all up...


We get back on Saturday afternoon, in time for a farewell bash at the MSF house. This is going to be one awesome long weekend!!

The Girl Effect

Check me out

I got published in the quarterly AYAD magazine. Surprisingly, most of the original article I wrote appears in the published version...but they didn't pick the best photos though...weird.

ABC Radio report

The first of Kesha West's articles from Mindanao can be found here

Basketball Fever

Something that comes from having a friend who is not only a mad keen basketballer but who also started a children's charity in Bangladesh (which will go global no doubt) based around the sport, is that you tend to notice things like basketball hoops in the strangest places.

Pierre, I didn't take any photos to prove this point as I was in the car, but let me tell you, the B*Bangs are definitely not needed in Mindanao...the people here are crazy mad about basketball. I passed no less than 20 hoops on the drive back from S.N.A yesterday, and spotted about 6 games going on. Some were full size courts, with crowds gathered around, some were half court games in small side alleys, and I even spotted a hoop set up on the side of the highway, with the kids shooting hoops in between cars.

My mind had been clouded by badminton, but as soon as you start thinking basketball, you see it everywhere.

Keep your hands upon the wheel

Wow. Yesterday was an absolutely massive day. I went to a municipality called Senator Ninoy Aquino, which was a four hour drive from Cotabato City. Each way. And over two hours of the drive was on pretty bad dirt roads. Each way. The view from the top of the mountain we seemed to climb was wonderful - this isn't the best of photos, but I like the mist creeping in.



Anyway, we rolled into S.N.A and had a quick meeting with the Mayor, who decided to accompany us to the distribution. This was a distribution for former IDPs who have since returned home. We were giving them a 2 month supply of rice (50kgs).



Part of any distribution is the exit monitoring we do, so I took it upon myself to start doing that. I grabbed myself an interpreter and started doing the rounds. Then there was a total West Wing moment...



Of course, my interviewee didn't break into English as he was from an indigenous tribe that lived further up in the hills than we already were. One of the questions we ask is "how much will you have to pay to transport the food home?" (Usually, this is a fare for a motorbike to deliver the sacks, no more than 50 pesos.) So after my translator translated that to another translator who translated it to the man, there was quite a bit of discussion, and it finally came back to me that they would have to use a horse to get the rice home. My (first) translator had obviously gotten everyone a bit confused and perhaps led them astray by mentioning a motorbike, which they of course, wouldn't be using. Anyway, it went back and forth down the translation chain until I had a straight answer about the cost of hiring a horse. It was 40 pesos.



I busied myself with a different monitoring form for a while, then took myself around to check the distribution point when I came across a pig. I don't think he's got anything to worry about with this swine flu business...this would have to be one of the most isolated places I've ever been. He was a happy enough pig until this dog came along and started eating out of a nearby bucket (which was just out of range for Mr. Pig).



The 4 hour journey home was just as tough as the drive up, and I have the bruise on my collarbone - from being yanked against the seatbelt too many time to count - to prove it. I couldn't believe when we finally got back to the office and I stepped out of the car how sore my whole body was. My knees were aching, my neck was aching and I was completely exhausted. But it was worth the adventure to see such different scenery to what I've seen so far.

This is awesome

You have to play the game...I'd love to go out in style like this!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

This is where I want to get with Mangy

I think there's a long road ahead of us...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sage Advice



From The Best Article Every Day

A big day in the field

Yesterday was a bit of an exciting. Well exciting after the technical working group meeting and we convoyed back to town (5 cars was a bit excessive but geez it looks cool!).

It was a big day as not only was the Country Director coming down from Manila, but he was bringing a reporter and a cameraman from the ABC with him. We headed out to the airport to meet them, and then straight out to Data Odin Sinsuat to show them a couple of different IDP camps.

For whatever reason, we had the army escorting us around the camp, which got a bit frustrating. The dude that attached himself to me spoke some English and as I was interviewing people for our exit monitoring process, he'd butt in with the answers. I had to keep telling him to (a) shut up and (b) not to walk into people's "houses" with his gigantic gun. That's just not kosher in my book.



The journo, Kesha West, was lovely and had expressed an interest in interviewing one of us. Well, I was quick to pipe up that I'd only been in the country for 3 weeks and it was really more appropriate for her to speak with Nicole. It's not (just) because I'm chicken, I honestly didn't think I had enough knowledge about the situation to come across as having enough knowledge. But Nicole does and she did a fantastic job.



The story will air on the Australia channel (which we have but there's no sound really, and the picture's kind of fuzzy) but it was also probably be put up on the internet in its entirety. So I'll post the link once we find out.

It was a long afternoon and we were all in the mood for a beer. Mac Mac and Daren came straight over to our house, and we were joined later by Peter, who brought Steve and Pia along too. They were all excited to see the house and it was lovely having people around and entertaining. We've got to start planning our big housewarming bash...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Flashback

This morning, we drove about an hour to attend a provincial technical working group meeting. Nicole and I had left a bit later than the other cars, as ours needed a new battery. We got the the meeting at about 20 past 9, a good 20 minutes after it was supposed to start. Of course, nothing had started yet, there was just one guy in the meeting room standing in front of the air conditioner spraying air freshener into the vent. He sprayed and sprayed until at least half the can was being pumped around the conference room.

Suddenly, I was back in Bangladesh on a Saudi S. Alam coach, my ears almost bleeding from the loud wailing soaps playing on the TV at full volume and my taste buds continually finding the lemon fresh scented air freshener that was regularly sprayed into the AC...ah, memories.

Sunday Sunday, so good to me

Two hours of badminton provided me with a couple of wins and a couple of losses. I didn't manage to beat Nic in singles, but we paired up against our friend's brothers (who are pretty good) and we beat them quite nicely. The Aussie girls make a good team! And good commentators too...



After recovering from the heat, I finished off season two and it was getting close to dinner time. I found Nic giggling in front of the tv...the original Wonder Woman movie was on. I'd never seen it before, and had no idea about her invisible plane...



... such campy goodness!

We found Peter and convinced him to take us up to Two Gals pizza for dinner and karaoke (he was more than happy to oblige) and we had ourselves another fantastic night. There's a big story here about a chicken curry taking an hour to arrive (for our other housemate Wurie) and a whole loaf of toast accompanying it, AND a mission in getting a bottle of water, but I can't be bothered going into all that right now. Though the speakers were up much too loud, I've finally found a karaoke venue where Gloria Gaynor's "I will survive" is in a key I can sing well! Oh happy day!!!

Saturday's all right with me

There was a guy I met in Manila for a briefing who shall remain nameless on this blog, but who was a bit of an all round wanker who told me that I'd be crazy to spend a weekend at home in this country and that I should use my weekends to see as much of the country as possible. Yeah, fair enough advice I say, but it's much easier to do that from Manila than it is Cotabato city. So I haven't managed to have a weekend away yet, but this last weekend proved to be yet another fun-filled couple of days in the Cote.

After spending Friday night watching the adorably terrible "Private Valentine", Nic headed off for most of Saturday with an external evaluation team while I steadily made my way through season two of The West Wing. After picking up the projector from the office for our movie night (still unsure of who might turn up) I set about creating our screen. I pulled out the 5 metres of white fabric out of the shopping bag, and Luce immediately cam rushing over to see what I was doing. Perhaps she though I was going to try to make my own bed properly, rather than taking the top sheet off, folding it and placing it on top of the pillows....

So I explained what I was doing and the two of us managed to get two strips of fabric taped high enough on the wall, and the projector, DVD player and speakers all set up correctly (Ok, Luce wasn't much help with that part...). Nic got home and the first beer was cracked, a toast to the ANZACs, and it took a couple of beer's worth of time for it to get dark enough for the screening. No-one else showed up but we were happy enough with George and Brad in "Burn After Reading". We guessed pretty early on that it was a Coen brother's movie, not too shabby. Peter got home just in time for the second film, "Slumdog Millionaire", which I thought was even better the second time around. And then it was on to Sunday...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Beautiful coast, winding roads

Ok, first up, the following photos were taken on my phone and at relatively high speed from the car, so they're not fantastic. But the views on the drive back to Cotabato from Iligan were certainly spectacular at times.





That blob in the middle of the ocean is actually a lovely looking island...the zoomed pic was terrible. Anyway, it was very pleasant enjoying these sights while often grabbing onto the 'Jesus bar' as our driver Jaidan tended to forget that he wasn't a rally driver.

Not to worry, we made it home safe and sound, stopping off at the mall. Due to me posting that Robyn Sparkles video, neither Nicole or myself can stop ourselves from singing "let's go to the mall...today" every time the mall is mentioned.

We passed a music store and I spotted the following:



A leopard print guitar...awesome!

Anyway, we needed to pick up some very important supplies (read: the gourmet ice-cream that we keep seeing advertised on tv) to get us through the evening, as well as preparations for tonight, which included 5 metres of white fabric and a roll of thick clear tape. Why? A special ANZAC day movie night. We don't actually know if anyone else we've invited is going to show up, but we've got enough beer, microwave popcorn and corn chips to feed a small army. Fitting really.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

News just in...

The most adorable specimen of baby seal has been found!



Look at those eyes!! Too much cute!

Hard at work

There's something to be said about an afternoon buko break...



Yep, life's tough

Me, in a nutshell



Found at the hilarious xkcd

Amazing photos

I found this incredible photographer's site today, his name is Zoriah. I haven't looked through everything, but he has some brilliant photos depicting child labour around the world, with quite a few coming from Bangladesh.

Check it out.

Comparisons

We had an interesting day yesterday, visiting a few different IDP sites in Lanao del Norte. These ranged from absolute hovels to permanent relocations that had amazing ocean views. One of the things that amazed me most was how many of these communities were found in the first place, we drove for a couple of hours, a lot of it on dirt and rocky roads, ending up in the absolute middle of nowhere. And then we were told there were villages that were still very far away, where you have to cross 7 rivers to get there. I'm amazed those people managed to get any aid at all.



It was quite difficult for me to witness the conditions that some of these people were living in and knowing there's not a lot we can do. We're providing food, that's what we do. These people need shelter, protection, proper water and sanitation and planning for future livelihoods. We can pass on what we've seen to other agencies working in the area, but there's not much more than that.



Permanent relocation houses, with amazing views to the ocean. What good is that though when the nearest drinking water source is 15km away??

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

North by north west

Saw some beautiful sights along the west coast of Mindanao yesterday, so lush and green and more coconut palms than you can poke a stick at!




After stopping in at the sub-office for a briefing, we checked into our hotel, which is quite colonial. I opened the door to my room, and decided to have a look out the window. As I brushed the curtains aside, I was greeted with the sight of...a blank white wall. There was no window. Just a wall with curtains on it...weird...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

When the stomach grumbles, the mind stumbles

  • The number of undernourished people worldwide increased to nearly one billion - 963 million compared to 923 million in 2007
  • The vast majority of the world’s undernourished - 907 million - live in developing countries. Of these 65 percent live in only seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia
  • Hunger kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined
  • The cost of child undernutrition to national and economic development is estimated at US$20-30 billion per annum. When multiplied over the lifetime of today’s undernourished children, this amounts to US$500 billion – US$1 trillion in lost productivity and income*
In a fantastic book I read recently "An Imperfect Offering" by James Orbinski, former head of MSF, the author says the following. "The most important thing any of us can do is to actively and pragmatically assume our responsibilies as citizens for the world we live in." There are many ways you can help those struggling to survive: sponsoring a child, donating money regularly, volunteering your time and skills.

But there's something even easier you can do to help the fight against hunger. Visit FreeRice where by playing simple games, a small amount of rice is donated for each correct answer. It's something you'd do on facebook or through stumble upon anyway, so why not do it for a good cause?

*These facts came from a WFP document and all were referenced. I just couldn't be bothered copying in the sources. Trust me...

And we're off

Nicole and I are heading north today, everything has been cleared by security and management so we're looking forward to getting up there and seeing how things are operating.

It's been raining quite a bit, most days we get a shower in the evening around 7pm, but yesterday it rained for most of the day and a lot of the evening. This is what the road from the office to our house looked like at about 5:15pm.



What you can't see is the gutters that were almost overflowing. And this isn't even the wet season (as opposed to the very wet and always wet seasons)!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

A day in the life of...

An old colleague of mine has a fantastic blog Wanderlust which you should check out - it's full of brilliant photographs from his adventures around the world, as well as interesting insights into his life as an aid worker. I particularly liked his recent post "A day in the life of..." set yourself some time to read it.

I'd give you a day in the life of Carly, but today has been excruciatingly boring. Nicole and I were supposed to travel up to the north of Mindanao to assist with the validation of returning IDPs. Unfortunately, at least one explosion damaged a major bridge going into the city, so we took our security advisor's advice and postponed the trip. So my day has consisted of nothing more than reading some reports, meeting a new ICRC representative and reading Tristan's blog. Hopefully there'll be a good example of a day in my life to report back on soon (hint: it will most likely involve gin)

To put it simply

I BEAT NICOLE AT BADMINTON!!!

Sure, she was pretty tired and hungover from a big weekend in Manila, but I still beat her. So she took her revenge in our doubles matches by slamming the shuttlecock at my head every chance we got...I couldn't stop laughing! I may not have been able to return most of her head shots, but at least none of them actually hit me! Good time, good times...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quiet weekend

An Australian, a Brit, a Zimbabwean, a Sierra Leonean, and an Angolan spend an evening in a karaoke room at a local hotel...and no karaoke is performed. Boo. One of my colleagues is taking a month's holiday back in Africa so we gave him a small send off last night. It was nice not to have to cook and good to get out of the house! Most of my weekend has been spent making my way through season 1 of The West Wing...it really is a smart and funny show!

Here's a new pic of Mangy and Mum.



Mangy is looking a bit healthier than a week ago...he even sometimes comes when he's called!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Question and photo of the day

A middle aged man asked me a question today. It seemed to be the only thing he could say in English and it just cracked me up. His question was:



"How do I meet your mother?" (The above picture is unrelated, I just wanted to keep you in suspense a little...and show you the view from my seat today).

On to the photo of the day (though I actually took it two days ago). I saw a Wanted poster up on a wall, and I had to read it twice to make sure I'd seen things correctly. Mr Pangalian is one of three extremely wanted men...



But what the hell is frustrated murder??? I have a theory, but I'd love to hear yours.

Ford Prefect would be proud

There are a few very important lessons that can be learned from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The first is, of course, don't panic. The second, and just as important, is never to leave home without your towel.

The people of Mindanao have got this down pat. Everyone seems to have their towel with them, whether it be in their bag, wrapped around their body as a dress, jauntily draped over their shoulder or used as a head scarf.

We can learn a lot from the Mindanaoans.

Out and About in North Cot

Another day in the field yesterday - I went to an area of North Cotabato (or North Cot as we call it in the biz) that had seen fighting between the MILF and the army close up. However, people have started returning to their houses (or families), so we went out to distribute 'family access cards' so they can get a couple months worth of food.

We met quickly with the municipal Mayor to discuss the security situation for the returning IDPs (internally displaced persons and that's the last time I'm ever going to spell it out!). It was more of a courtesy visit than anything, but he misinterpreted what we meant by security and got on the phone to his old friend the chief of police to arrange an escort for us. No, thank you. We quickly sorted that out and were on our way.

Our first stop ran very smoothly, as there were only 13 families to distribute cards to. Then there were about 6 dudes with very big guns just hanging about - members of the local civilian voluntary service. Though they looked pretty menacing with their big guns, they very kindly retrieved some coconuts for our morning tea. I don't particularly like 'buko' juice, but I do enjoy the soft flesh from the green ones.



This village burns the old shells/husks/whatever you call the outside of a coconut, to make charcoal to sell.

There was a bit of faffing about over lunch and afterwards, including a period of time where we were sitting around, waiting for something. A motorbike had been dispatched to check if people were around in another village, and he came back and said that they were. The waiting continued. After I'd finished my 'to do' list, I asked why we were still waiting. "For the IDPs to come up here," was the response. "Can't we go to them?" I asked. Looks were exchanged, then shrugs of agreement, so we jumped back in the 4WD and drove down. Sometimes you just need to push a little.

I'm still brand new at this, so there's not a whole lot I can contribute to yet, but I can always help with efficiency.

On the way home, we called into the hospital to see one of our colleagues who'd been admitted the day before. On the way in, I couldn't help but take a snap of this sign



Stop Kidnapping, Go Healing!

Oh, and these photos were taken with my camera phone - not bad huh!

When things just work

Remember I told you about that phone interview I had when I was in Berlin? They'd said that they'd let me know within a few days, but by the time they did let me know, I'd submitted an application for the Philippines, been selected AND deployed to not only head office, but to my field office. I was so angry last Friday when I got the email offering me the job! I'd been turned down for the position last September as I had my 3 month trip planned, so I was disappointed again that I have 3 months ahead of me here.

So I sent them a reply letting them know that I'd taken this job but was it at all feasible for me to start in early July. I waited for a response. And waited. You could have knocked me over with a feather the other morning when I blearily opened my email to find "Yes, we'll wait for you! When can you be here?"

I'm finally off to Lebanon to work with UNRWA. I might need to change the name of this blog to "Chomping Carly" or "Chow down Carly" because all I expect to be doing (besides working) is eating, eating and some more eating...finally, a country with amazing food!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Putting the bad(ass) in badminton

Last night, one of my colleagues and I went down to the Side Out Badminton courts for a few games. I must've been inspired by the awesome foursome playing on the next court because I was absolutely on fire! A total bad ass!! I won the first game, lost the second, and actually held back in the third and still won. I just couldn't be really agressive against my very short and cute friend - it just didn't feel right smashing the shuttle at her face! So I'm looking forward to a game against Nicole tomorrow...she gets really competitive and I think I'm getting to a point where I'm going to be able to keep up with her.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Socialising

Nicole had the brilliant idea of borrowing the projector from work for a movie night, so yesterday we also hooked ourselves up with a brand spanking (and very cute) new little DVD player. All we needed was an audience...enter MSF! Those exotic doctors without borders invited us around to their place for ice-cream and a movie and we had a splendid night hanging out with Tom Cruise in Valkyrie. There are quite a few of them living in the house (maybe 10) so it looks like there'll always be someone around to play with on the weekends that I'm in Cotabato. Yea for new friends and giant movie screenings!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Latvia

Someone has read my blog in Latvia!! How randomly cool is that! I have noticed that a few places have dropped off the map for some reason, but not to worry, Latvia is still there!

And I think to myself, what a wonderful weekennnnnnnd

I had thought that life would be pretty quiet in old Cotabato town, but we managed to have an awesome weekend. Starting with the beer and karaoke, it was then followed up with an evening of gin and scrabble (where we had to keep a close eye on Peter's score calculating!) and then another evening of gin and beer and scrabble with a Canadian guy who's working for an international NGO here. We also went for a little drive downtown to go to the supermarket (which I was pretty impressed by!) and the local mall (which inspired me to include the video clip below, classic!) where we ran into some of the MSF internationals. It's nice to run into people you know at the mall - even if I was meeting them for the first time.

Yesterday was fantastic. We met one of our local colleagues at the badminton courts and played for 2 hours. I'd only ever really played badminton once, and that was on a rooftop in Bangladesh and I was embarrassingly bad - so bad that my friends really didn't want to be on the same team as me. So I pre-warned the guys yesterday about my playing history, but you know what? I was actually not that bad. I'm not saying I won any games (on my own) but over 2 hours, my playing improved dramatically. And talk about a good workout, my muscles are sore today! Badminton is my new official exercise regime. Good, clean fun!

While it would've been nice to spend the long weekend exploring somewhere, it was good for household bonding and resting up.

Now, as promised, let's go to the mall!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Regular updates

For the time being, we don't have internet at home and there will be some days where I'm not in the office at all. On these days, if I do something exciting I'll send a text update to twitter which you can either check here on the right hand sidebar, or on my twitter page. Just to keep you in the loop!

Introducing...

Mangy!



Thanks to Julz for suggesting such a fitting name!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Two gals, a guy and a pizza place

I'm thinking that life in Cotabato City is going to be pretty sweet. Last night, my housemates Nicole and Peter decided to go out for dinner at a local pizza place. Now, the pizza itself was average (and I definitely had the best pick), but it was the ease of getting a beer to go with the pizza and then the best part of all...KARAOKE!!

Nicole and Peter were a bit hesitant about the whole thing, but it really didn't take much to convince them. We had an absolute ball. It was interesting to see a bit of Cotabato City, and I was interested in the guards at the pizza place who also doubled sometimes as waiters. I thought it was nice that they'd put their guns down on the table before serving people their pizzas...

Anyway, here are a few pics of the house...

The main outdoor area where we eat our meals and watch tv (the others all have tvs in their rooms and the guards wanted to move this into my room but I thought it would be better to leave it communally). My room is just off the bottom right hand corner of this photo, while the other three bedrooms are inside and upstairs.



The front yard (complete with UN vehicle)



Our kitchen, which will very soon see Nicole and I whipping up some hommus and baba ganush



And my bedroom - it's the smallest bedroom but I don't mind it.



Our housekeeper Luce kindly folded up all my clothes and put them away for me...place your bets on how long it will stay that neat!!



It's a shame I didn't get here earlier so that I could've planned to go away for the long weekend. It's bloody hot and there's not much to do outside of the house, so I think Nicole and I will spend part of this weekend planning future weekends away. I've already got a couple of spots in mind.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Made it to Mindanao

Flying over Mindanao island yesterday, I was really surprised by the tropical mountainous terrain; parts of the coast must be a good hundred metres above sea level. The next thing that struck me was just how bloody hot and sticky it is here, definitely hotter and more humid than Manila.

After saying a quick hello to the few people in the office, I was driven the 30 odd metres to my new house...it's huge!! At the moment there are four of us (though one is on leave) in the house, with plans to convert one of the sitting areas into another bedroom. We have a housekeeper, Luce, who cooked up a chicken curry for us, leaving us only to reheat and cook some rice when we were ready. There are also some cats (yes, I'm keeping my distance) including a very newborn kitten, who's a bit mangy but very cute.



After checking that I had successfully transported a very special bottle of gin (i.e. a normal bottle of gin) in my checked luggage, I threw the rest of my clothes out onto the bench/shelf thing (which is going to have to be my wardrobe for the time being) without much consideration and then waited to be picked up to attend a meeting with our 'cooperating partner'. It was an interesting meeting, where I freaked out about how many place names I'm going to need to learn rather quickly, but a great group of very enthusiastic people.

Today, Nicole, another Australian seconded through RedR and my lovely housemate, another national staff member and I drove about an hour and a half to a place called Mamasapano to monitor a rice distribution.



I won't go into details about the actual work, but I will tell you that we also visited one of the evacuation centres (i.e. camps for internally displaced people) where one family had a pet monkey. Yeah, not sure why...

My first impressions of Mindanao have actually found a lot of similarities to rural Bangladesh. There are so many coconut palms, and the little thatched roofed huts. The big difference is the quality of the roads - so much better here!!! And as always, I'm interested in the means of public transport. Jeepnies are here, and so are rickshaws, but with a twist. The bicycle has a side car of sorts, welded onto it, and it's more of a BMX bike than a road bike. The auto rickshaws (which they just call tricycles) are fantastic: motorbike, sidecar, beach umbrella.



Yep, those umbrellas are attached to the bikes. Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to even walk around town (and I haven't seen it yet) so there's no way I'll be able to have a ride in a trike. :-(

Monday, April 6, 2009

A plug

If you enjoy reading about exciting and adventurous travels, check out Steve's blog. And please feel free to criticise his spelling and grammar!

Out and About in Manila

I had been warned before I came to the Philippines that Manila was a hell hole and really gross. I was prepared for the worst and was really pleasantly surprised. After being picked up by my new boss on Saturday, I spent a quiet evening in. On Sunday, I met up with Sharon, a girl I'd met at the RedR training course I went on in February.

Hanging out with a local makes all the difference! Our first stop was a Sunday market, full of arts and crafts and fantastic food. We chowed down on some delicious dory, and after wandering around, headed for the Travel Cafe in the (massive) Green Belt mall for desert. Check out Sharon's choice...is it sushi?



Nope! Those are chocolate chopsticks, and you may be able to identify the mango "sashimi". Yeah there's some rice in there, but it's sticky sweet rice. I felt like rolling out of there after what I ate. I also drank the extremely exclusive civet coffee...to buy it costs about $90 for a small bag, and for a cup it was about $5 (so pretty reasonable really). It was fantastic coffee, and I knew there was something interesting about it from the way Sharon told me to order it and she'd explain later. Turns out a civet is a little critter like a ferret/cat thing, and it eats the coffee beans. It then "processes" them and excretes them...yeah. Of course the beans are then cleaned in pure mountain stream water etc, and the result is a lovely strong cup of coffee.

Our next stop was the San Agustin Church and Museum, which was quite interesting. The once beautifully green courtyard has since been replaced with concrete tiles to make hosting wedding receptions easier. I found this little guy hiding...



It was then a very short cab ride (we could've walked but it was so bloody hot!) down to Santiago Fort, where I learnt a lot about the national hero Rizal. This is what he would've looked like had he been a young Australian woman...



All in all, it was a great afternoon, with Manila appearing to be a very clean and well functioning capital city - particularly compared to Dhaka.

Imaginary Texts to Emma Part II

You may remember an entry I made some time ago of my imaginary texts to my friend Emma in Myanmar, reminiscent of the texts we used to send each other on long bus rides to Dhaka. Here's my flight to Manila:

- Got a really weird aisle seat in the middle that isn't exactly behind the one in front...
- Woah, big fat dude sitting next to me...he's not happy about his seat, he's whipped out the mobile and is yelling down it (maybe his travel agency??)
- BFD has called attendant over and is yelling about his seat...apparently he'd booked a specific seat and this isn't it. Ew, he just spat on me!
- Oooh, movie starting...roh ohhhh, extremely bad Filipino film...can't...look...away...
- Ok, back to my extremely trashy marine adventure novel (Clive Cussler is a guilty pleasure!)
- Lunchy munchies...gross chicken and rice...typical
- BFD is still kicking up a fuss, I wish he'd stop wriggling around
- Had a nice little nap, time for another movie, fingers crossed....YES! Changeling!!
- Oh this movie is so sad...Angelina is so good though
- Nap time again
- Just woke up and "How I met your mother" has just started...love this show, love Barney!
- BWAH HA HA HA HA Barney is too much funny
- Time to fill out the immigration form. It's got carbon paper on the back...so advanced!!
- Landed safe and sound. Overheard a girl say, "oh, I've missed that smell"...yep, there's that south east asian smell, how's the humidity!!

Friday, April 3, 2009

All my bags are packed

I'm ready to go! My backpack is nicely stuffed with 17kgs of essentials (including books and Tim Tams) and I'm just killing the last half hour before Mum and I head down to the airport. I'm getting very excited and just a bit nervous...I haven't worked in 6 months!! Have to get my head back into the right space.

Anyway, you can all look forward to the next post which will come from the Philippines somewhere! Yea!!!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Food security


Source

Yea for positive reinforcement!

Thanks to Steve and to Rowan for your positive feedback on my art work! Youse (tehehe, I just can't help myself Steve!) will be happy to know that Julz thought they were awesome and says they'll be perfect for her bedroom.

If it so happens that I have another couple of months at home after this deployment, I could be commissioned to produce more for the right price. My modern art pieces (read: block colour canvasses) sell for a very reasonable $3274 (+GST) which I think is a steal. But if you want to go for something more complicated like the tree...better pull out the black AMEX...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Off like prawns in the sun, like a bride's nightie, like a frog in a sock...

I found out today that I'll be flying down to Melbourne for my pre-deployment briefing and then off to Manila early Saturday morning.

It's nice to know I've got another day up my sleeve to actually put the stuff I've got laid out into my backpack. I haven't had a chance to do that today, I've been busy being creative. Are you ready to see the finished products?? (Oh I know you've been checking all day to see!) Here's a progress shot (yes I absolutely cheated and used a stencil I found online)



After putting another coat of silver first thing this morning, I'm very impressed with the way this one turned out. I will admit to receiving a bit of help on this (thanks Mum!), but the overall design was mine.



And this one, I like its starkness...but it's not as good, even I can see that!



And together, I think they make an interesting pair



Can't wait to see Julz's face when I give them to her tonight!