Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New Hair

I never wrote about the results of the chemical hair straightening I went through just before I left Bangladesh. Basically, my lovely long hair was fried from the chin down, and when I went back to get them to fix it (and they said "yes, yes we'll put medicine on it") they made it worse.

So it was a nice challenge for the girls at Bamboo Hair in Brisbane when I got home last September. And again in March. I went back today and said to Tanya, "I don't care how much you take out, just get the rest of this fuzzy crap off my head."

And this is what she came up with...

It's swishy and the shortest I've been in about 10 years. I'll have to remember the sunscreen in Lebanon!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Man of Honour

My cabbie to Shannon airport was a very interesting guy. He was a big man, shaved head, lots of tatts; the kind of guy you wouldn't want to run into in a dark alley, but really a big teddy bear at heart.

Our conversation started with him asking me what had brought me to Limerick. When I said it was a UN training course he asked me if I'd worked with them overseas, and of course I answered that I'd just been in the Philippines. "Oh a lovely part of the world," he said. "You've been there?" "Yeah, I was stationed there for a while." Suddenly the large frame and haircut made sense and I couldn't believe I hadn't picked him as a military man. "Were you with the Irish army?" "No, no, nothing like that," he replied.

We chatted away for a minute about something unrelated and then he asked me if I'd been to Africa. I said no, and he said he'd had some interesting adventures there with the Legion. "The French Foreign Legion?" "Yep. I joined up after school with a mate, we'd met a French guy in Holland who invited us to Marsailles, and from there we went to Paris and it just kind of happened. I called my Mum to tell her that she wouldn't be hearing from me for a while, and I wasn't allowed to speak to her for 6 months."

I was intrigued. What was life in the Legion like? Where else had he been? What did he do? Turns out after a few years he was invited to join the paratroopers, and you don't turn down an offer like that. He spent 4 years and 9 months as a paratrooper and was looking forward to re-signing after 5 years. But then he got shot. "Oh my goodness, where did you get shot?" "Just in the leg, clean exit wound through the back of my thigh." "No, where in the world did you get shot." "Oh right, it was in Angola, by a cracked out 14 year old with an AK47. After that me Mam didn't want me to sign up again, so I didn't."

It was the most interesting cab ride I've ever had. Except for the part where he told me how he'd had a guy who was an airline steward who'd told him how he was supposed to be on the Air France flight that went down recently. For whatever reason, the guy had swapped shifts. That's the day you buy a lottery ticket! He then told me that the bodies that were recovered were naked, which meant the clothes had been swept off them, meaning the plane had broken apart in two when it hit turbulence much faster than it should have. "But don't worry about that, I'm sure your flight will be just grand!"

And apart from Elbows McGee (i.e. an old Indian lady) sitting next to me banging into me at all hours, and the really bad Air France and Qantas food, the trip back was pretty grand.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Leaving Limerick

It's been a fantastic few days in Ireland. The Humanitarian Affairs Officer training course was pretty good; like all courses there are elements which are interesting, elements that you've already covered twice this year, (I must be an expert in Humanitarain Reform by now!) and elements that just aren't handled particularly well. The OCHA staff were a fantastic lot, as were the other participants. I wish I could've had more time to explore Ireland, as I really really really hate flying home from Europe and would have loved to put it off for a few extra days!!

Next week will be a busy one, preparing for a year in Lebanon will involve fun things like going to the dentist and forking out for a new passport...

The word is spreading

I signed up for Google Analytics the other day to better understand how people are finding my blog. I checked the report today and found that one person had visited due to a referral/link from another site, so I followed the link and came to someone else's blog post that was inspired by a distribution I discussed a few weeks ago. Basically, Michael gives six easy steps to organising a distribution, using the case study of my experience to point out what not to do.

I couldn't help myself, I started yelling at Michael through my computer; "well it's all very well and good to do blah blah blah but I didn't have that luxury" etc etc. It took me a minute to just chill out and enjoy reading the post and agreeing with most things. And then getting a bit standoffish at the end...but anyway, Michael's blog is another interesting read that I'll be checking on a regular basis.

And from there I found a link to another sub-blog of The Road to the Horizon, in which my updates are directly fed (I didn't know this)...so in amongst serious posts about aid work, there appear photos of Mangy and the littlest kitty, or me in a snorkel...hilarious!!

WFP Mindanao on Al Jazeera

I think it was my last day in Mindanao that Al Jazeera came to do a series of short stories on the conflict. The evacuation centre shown at the start of the video below is the place I told you about a couple of weeks ago.

Carly's Grand Adventure

The training course finished today after a very full on couple of days, with lots of extremely experienced and interesting individuals. And it was nice that while I may have been the youngest person there, I was definitely not the least experienced!

I'd asked one of the course administrators who else was staying in Limerick tonight, and she took that to mean I had a very awesome program in mind and stuck up a piece of butcher's paper saying "if you're staying in Limerick talk to Carly." So a few people came up to me and asked me what I had planned, and the only logical answer was "a grand adventure!" I was woken up this morning by the sound of torrential rain, and was convinced the whole day was going to be a write off. But by the time we'd finished lunch the rain had stopped and blue skies were peeking through. When it came to the crunch it was only Lisa (a fellow Australian) and Annick (a French Canadian) who joined the grand adventure:

We started with a stroll through the main street, which wasn't particularly charming, but nice enough

and kept strolling until we reached King James castle

We didn't go inside, and it looked much more impressive from this angle than up close! The neighbourhood around the castle was very quaint with lots of brightly painted houses and doors (I'm a sucker for blue doors, and if you check out my photo site this will become quite apparent from today's adventure!)

We crossed the river and found the Treaty Stone of Limerick (apparently the dudes who signed a treaty for some reason leaned up against the rock while signing...)

and after all this adventuring (and the major blisters that I'd developed) it was time for a refreshment stop.

This was the second time I'd tried Guinness, the first being last night, and I must say, it's a delicious drop. Lorraine may scold me for only having a half pint, but it's the perfect amount! We meandered back to the hotel, planning to meet in a few hours to find a pub with some traditional music. Not looking forward to the journey home tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

From the 14th Floor

Not such a bad view huh

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Poems for Strange Times

My mate Tristan has posted this poem on his awesome blog. I liked it too.

Adventures in Air Travel part 863

I left home at 9am on Monday morning. I got to my hotel in Limerick at about 1pm Tuesday...when you take the time difference into consideration that was a 37 hour journey. And of course I'm going to tell you all about it...

No, I wouldn't make you suffer through what I did...the newlywed couple on route to their honeymoon sitting in front of me who effectively made out for 9.5 hours. Loudly and enthusiastically. The ridiculously short transfer time in Honkers which left the only available seat in the middle on the 12.5 hour trip to Paris, in between an old guy who was so hunched over with arthritis and probably Parkinsons that it took him a good 10 minutes to stand up and move out of the way if I needed to use the bathroom, and a small Chinese woman who had abnormally long elbows (i.e. she kept jabbing me and held no regard for the sacredness of the arm rest!) Then there were the 6 hours I spent at Charles de Gaulle airport from 5am.

But on the bright side, the Irish immigration dude gave me a stamp in my passport, which leaves me with only 3 pages!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A message to my brother


Home, for a minute

I finally got home on Friday afternoon, and it was so exciting to spend a night in my own bed. Well three nights; I fly out to Ireland tomorrow (don't get there till Tuesday afternoon though!) and will be back on the Gold Coast on Monday 29th. I head to Beirut on the 5th of July...it's a bit of a ridiculous couple of weeks!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Before and After

Just to prove how much a bit of attention (and milk) can do, here are two shots of Mangy. One from when I first arrived (which I've posted before), and one I took a few seconds ago. I'd forgotten how woeful she looked...

But here she is, the new and improved MANGY!!!

Don't cry for me Cotabato

I wasn't expecting much from my farewell last night, I thought maybe 20 people would come (and there was that part of me that didn't really think anyone would show!), but it was an absolutely fantastic night, with definitely more than 20 over the course of the evening.

The guys from the logistics team (who I barely knew) bought me a cake!

And barring about six people in this photo, they were all logistics. Unfortunately they had to leave quite early as a lot of them live closer to our warehouse on the outskirts of town.

Luce spent the entire day cooking up an absolute feast, which was almost entirely devoured (what's on the table was maybe only a quarter of it!)

(Luce and Nicole)

I shouldn't have been surprised that the office had a karaoke microphone thing, and it only took about 20 minutes before it got switched on and the real fun began.

(Me, Nic and Carmen from MSF)

(Nic, Dada, Daren, Mac Mac and Imelda)

(Imelda and Steve)

That's the wonderful thing about karaoke, it really brings people together. It doesn't matter how senior you are (like the Country Director above) or if you're from a different agency (friends from IOM, MSF, and ACF all had a great time), karaoke is the glue! Karaoke and alcohol...

(Carmen and Nic)

There was much fun to be had,

(Daren and Mac)


(My housemates Bernard and Ben)

and a smile was permanently plastered on my face...

(Davin from MSF and me)

(Nic and I)

(Daren and me)

(Mac and me)

Steve, the Country Director, gave a very nice speech about the good work I've done, and not just with humans but with felines as well. It's always nice to feel appreciated.

And then there was more karaoke!! Videos to come later...

It's been an interesting couple of months, challenging for sure, but a lot of fun as well. I'm going to miss my crazy colleagues!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Afghan Girl

I stumbled across this article today. I'm sure you're all familiar with the National Geographic "Afghan Girl". The photographer went back to Afghanistan to find her 17 years later. Here's the story, it's really interesting.


I caught the little kitty just a second too late for this to be a cute shot...now she looks like a pirate, yaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrr!!

But how cute are the two kitties?? I'm going to miss these crazy cats!

Do it with love

In the course of my packing I found my old notebook. Well it's not that old really, the entry I'm going to transcribe here happened only a few weeks ago, but it still makes me laugh. To set the scene, my colleague and I went to meet with a army colonel to discuss the security situation in one particular area we were distributing. He was a nice enough fellow, gave us cokes and fried banana, and even knew a bit about the United Nations.

"If you want to change a man's religion, you don't do it through fighting, you do it through love. Mind and heart. If you try to fight me to change my mind, I won't just give in. You need to appeal to my heart and my mind through love." A nice viewpoint from a military man I thought. But then he went on to say, "It's like if you want to make a gay. You know what a gay is? It's the same thing. If you try to force me to be a gay it won't work. You have to make gays through love."

To say I was struggling to keep a straight face would be an understatement. I just had absolutely no idea where the second half of his statement came from (he'd already assured us that he was married and had many children). Very odd for a man to oscillate between statements like "you know what a gay is" to intelligent commentary on the UN Charter and human rights.

Ah, the memories.

Monday, June 15, 2009


I really hate packing, it's so stressful. When you're planning for a deployment, or a holiday, you can never really know exactly what you're going to need, or whether you've packed too much. (Though I will once again give myself credit for my 3 month round the world with one carry on bag success.) Coming home is almost worse. This time around, I haven't actually bought too many things, so it's not like there's going to be a lot more to fit in. In fact, it probably works out to be less, since there will be fewer books and packets of Tim Tams to fit in. I suppose it's the finality of it all. I've only been here a short time, but it's been home for that time. And now it gets all packed up into a backpack to be taken somewhere else.

Speaking of, I don't think I've shared my travel plans for the next 3 weeks with you.

Wed 17 - Fly to Manila
Thur 18 - Fly to Melbourne
Fri 19 - Fly to Gold Coast
Mon 22 - Fly to Limerick, Ireland (via Sydney, Hong Kong AND Paris)
Sat 27 - Fly back to Brisbane (probably via the same cities, maybe more!), arriving 2 days later
Sun 5 - Fly to Beirut

Crazy huh!

Luxury, Lux-u-ryyyyyyyyyy

We were two pretty excited kids on Thursday afternoon. After another interesting day in the field, we were driven to Cagayan de Oro, where we were going to fly to Cebu from. We had a few hours to kill so we hit the mall, and had major shopping success. It was eventually time to go, and some time later that night, we were sitting back in our hotel in Cebu City, enjoying a cold beer.

The next morning, after finding ourselves some decent coffee, we were picked up by the Alegre shuttle, and whisked away to luxury. The scenery along the way was pretty stunning, and a small storm couldn't detract from the excitement. By the time we pulled up at the resort 2 hours later, there were blue skies and the most amazing blue/green waters awaiting. But first, there was the bungalow to check into....

One of the things I decided I love about resorts is the lack of pants expected. My bright yellow cover-up (one of my purchases from the previous evening) and occasionally my sarong were all that were expected of me to wear...love that!

We wasted no time in convincing the water sports guy to hire us snorkels for 24 hours rather than till the end of the day (Nic's our top negotiator). Once I'd gotten used to the sound of my own breathing (and gotten all the "Luke, I am your father" jokes out of my head) I was amazed at the under water life; yellow fish, blue fish, orange fish, white fish, starfish, jellyfish...

After about an hour of snorkeling, we took up residence on some deck chairs in the shade and read and read. A quick dip in the pool was in order

And then we headed out for the complimentary boat ride

which, life vest hilarity aside, was uninteresting but relaxing. The flying fish that kept bursting out of the water kept me entertained for the whole hour.

The sun was most definitely down, which meant it was cocktail o'clock. We ordered a drink each

and then asked to see the wine menu...it was much cheaper for us to each drink quite a few cocktails than it would be to order a bottle of wine...we weren't too fussed really! Dinner was superb, with the sounds of a three piece band playing in the background. There was only the two of us, and another couple sitting around, and the band wandered over to take requests.

They sung a couple of Filipino songs for the other couple and then came over to us. "Love song?" they asked. "No, no love songs!!...know any Beatles??" They were cute.

The next morning dawned bright and early, and after a pretty scrumptious breakfast buffet, it was definitely time for more snorkeling...it was time to find Nemo!

Found him!

It was another splendid hour or so in the water, followed by more of Persuasion. A little while later, one of the staff came up and asked if I'd be interested in seeing some giant clams. Why, yes of course I would! I swum out with some guy, much further and in a different direction to where Nicole and I had been previously, and yeah, giant clam...

We had to check out at 12, and sadly said goodbye to the Alegre Resort. The ride home was made a bit more interesting by the incredible storm that hit. The gutters were overflowing, and there was one street we went down where I was very glad we were in a mini bus...we watched a taxi go through with water up to the windscreen!

We had one night left in Cebu, and over a few beers and conversation with a young Aussie guy (the type of Aussie traveller that gives Australians a bad name) we decided to head to the Ayala mall where the cinema was to see what we could find for dinner. After tossing up the idea of Mexican, we were absolutely delighted to find a Mexican place, complete with beer tubes...we got 1.5L of beer that came in a tall plastic tube with a tap on the bottom. We then paid about $4 to go and see "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past"...which hit the chick flick spot.

The trip home yesterday was made all the more interesting by me having developed some weird sickness. At first I thought I was just a bit hungover, but then decided I really hadn't drunk that much and shouldn't be feeling so crappy. It was a sad end to such a fantastic weekend...but the good stuff absolutely outweighed the bad!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009