Friday, July 31, 2009
On another literary note, Happy Birthday to Harry Potter!!
MANILA, 30 July 2009 (IRIN) - Heavy rains across the southern Philippines have resulted in massive flooding in many low-lying areas of Mindanao Island, with villagers either marooned inside their houses by waist-deep waters or forced to evacuate, according to disaster relief officials on 30 July.
Large swathes of farmland covering more than 2,486ha in the central Mindanao towns of Pigcawayan, Alamada, Libungan, Midsayap, Aleosan, Pikit and Tamontaka have also been damaged by floods, according to the Office of Civil Defence in Manila. Read the rest of the story.
It's terrible when people already devastated by conflict have to suffer through natural disasters as well. I also feel bad for my colleagues, whose work days just got a lot more tricky in conducting validations and distributions. Where did I used to work? Pigcawayan, check. Alamada, check. Libungan, check. Midsayap, check. Aleosan, check. Pikit, check. I met Mayor Sacdalan (mentioned at the end of the article) quite a few times; he actually had a good plan for disaster management (including emergency funds) which he's obviously putting into play now.
When it rains, it pours...literally...
I'd discovered that if I stick to the footpath on the same side of the road as the compound there's more shade. As I walked along and a car sped by me (I'm was walking in the opposite direction to oncoming traffic) I realised how there was only a very small gutter and if a car were to spin out of control, a pedestrian could very easily get smashed up against a concrete wall. So I decided it was probably better to walk on the other side of the road where the gutter is much much higher.
As I walked out of the compound yesterday I'd forgotten my earlier decision and just kept walking around the corner. I noticed a couple of police cars and a few people standing around. Sure enough, someone had lost control of their (rather new) Mercedes and crashed into the concrete.
I won't forget today which side of the road to walk on...
And in case you were wondering, this is what the compound looks like - inside are long demountable containers, separated into smaller offices.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
We got the call from Adi that they were on their way, and giggling like schoolgirls, hid around a corner, waiting for them to show up. The nervous anticipation was almost as much fun as the moment that Oli stepped out into the garden (almost surprising us more than himself) and we all jumped out with a hearty "surprise!"
It was another lovely evening with great people, in which we ate some fantastic homemade food, topped off by a congratulatory cake and a very ceremonious blowing out of a candle
Perhaps not the most flattering shot, but an action shot nonetheless!
I think I'm really going to love life in Tripoli!
Abe Froman, known throughout the Chicago-land area as the “Sausage King,” is still fuming about an unpaid tab at the French Restaurant, Chez Quiz, which he was billed for over twenty years ago.
However, Froman claims he was unable to get a table at the upscale eatery and thus the charge is fraudulent.
Said the head of the midwest’s sausage empire regarding the meal in question: “Not only could I not get a table - even though I had a reservation, mind you - but the maitre d’ was extremely snooty and had the gall to say I was an impostor.”
After being turned away, Froman reportedly left the restaurant, only to get caught in traffic caused by an unexpected parade and a city-wide choreographed dance to “Twist and Shout.”
“It was an awful day overall,” recalled Froman. “The restaurant, that random parade…I also think the employees at the parking lot drove my car. So you can imagine how upset I was when I received the bill from Chez Quiz. Whoever used my name ran up quite a tab. It seems that they also charged them for extra ice for them to chew.”
Froman added that he will finally fight the charge. The case has been handed over to Sgt. Peterson of the Chicago police.
If you don't get it, I don't think we can be friends anymore...
So, it's kind of a belated birthday shout-out...
Happy Birthday Greg!!
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
"blog about sex parlour in Khulshi, Chittagong"
So I had to go and google it myself to see what results came up...my blog is the only one! The link is to an entire month, in which the word 'sex' was used in a book review, 'parlour' in relation to a visit to the beauty salon, and there was no mention of either Khulshi or Chittagong. I feel sorry for the person who was obviously looking for something quite specific and was unable to find it!
The most interesting keyword search for this blog has been "carly and the chocolate factory and other names like this." But the thing that interests me most is where people are reading...the leader board looks like this:
4. Lebanon (this probably doesn't count because it's just me updating)
8. South Korea
So really, barring the USA, UK, South Korea and Italy (though I do know a couple of people in the US and UK) - the top ten is mainly populated by my family and friends...but that's ok, it's who I'm writing this for!!
The drive through the valleys was just splendid, and we had a lovely late lunch before arriving in Baalbeck in time for a couple of drinks before the concert.
The venue was stunning, absolutely stunning at sunset. The Roman ruins, though not well preserved archaeologically, are extremely impressive. The Bacchus Temple, built 2000+ years ago still stands pretty strong.
Julie and Vardy were there with me to enjoy the fun...
And so was Adam
The Deep Purple concert itself was a lot of fun. I didn't know any of the songs in the first set, but the band was great for a bunch of old guys (even if the lead singer looked like he was wearing tracky daks!)
The encore was fantastic - Smoke on the Water, Hush, Black Night...check out the videos below, and apologies for any bumping around, I was dancing...
After the band left the show, I noticed something flat and white sailing through the air. Then another. Then more and more and more. People had starting flinging the cushions tied to the plastic chairs around like frisbees. The frivolity must have gone on for at least 15 minutes...
we hung around in the courtyard for a few hours talking to various friends, and exploring the ruins.
Five of us had booked in at a private house in a village about 15km away, and we kept meaning to leave early so as not to keep the people up. The first problem was Charlie's car having a flat tyre that couldn't be fixed. Then we spent a good 20 odd minutes driving on the wrong road...we ended up getting to the house at about 2:30am, whoops.
After a lazy start to the morning, Adi, Amrita and I headed back for Tripoli, stopping in at a beach on the way home. The water was gorgeously blue and the perfect temperature to combat the heat of the day. The only problem was there was no sand underfoot, it was all pebbles. But still a wonderful end to a spectacular weekend.
Friday, July 24, 2009
We don't get snakes where I live (except in the scrubby areas like Burleigh Headland, see exhibit A) but we do regularly have visits from blue tongues, who usually like to sun themselves somewhere completely inappropriate, like beside the pool (and then they fall in) or right in the spot where the front wheel of Dad's car ends up.
I remember one afternoon finding a bluey in this exact spot, and thinking how it needed to be moved before Dad got home. I tried stamping my feet nearby(ish) to try to scare it away, which didn't work. I'd seen Dad pick up blue tongues before, I just needed to get some garden gloves and do it. I took a few deep breaths and made my approach. Without looking around, it knew I was there and puffed its body up to at least twice the normal width. That's when I decided to just flag Dad down before he pulled into the driveway and get him to move the lizard. Yep, I'm a big chicken...but they can really bite!!
And while I'm on the subject of Australian animals, here's a Rainbow Lorikeet in the Bottlebrush tree next door that I snapped just before I left.
Then there was the upstairs, homewares section...
Why bother going to India, or Samoa, or Senegal or Arnhem Land when you can just walk upstairs at El Dorado and find a mass produced mask or vase or whatever.
That being said, you can bet once I actually find somewhere to live I'll be back here to pick up some bits and pieces!!
Thursday, July 23, 2009
So yes, I feel jealous of people that come from countries that don't have snakes. India is not one of those countries...
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I can't believe that was a whole year ago!
It had been mentioned that a few people were going to a show at the Baalbek International Festival and would I like to come. "Well of course I'd like to come," I said, not knowing what the show was. Turns out, Deep Purple are playing!! So I'm going to spend Saturday night amongst Roman ruins listening to a bunch of old rockers...should be a pretty solid competitor for the old Taj I'd say!
Before they're allowed to try anything, they must make the calculations and sketch the wiring,
And then do all sorts of fun things
All of them spent many hours installing the solar hot water systems and when I asked them how it felt when the first hot water came out of the tap, they spoke about how proud they were to be helping people in the camp (even though they live there themselves), and how happy they felt to see a difference being made.
The instructor, who's worked for UNRWA for 20 years, was a very interesting man, and was obviously very proud of the boys. He took great pride in showing me some of the other things they'd created, and I was really impressed by how they've taken the solar technology on.
First I was shown a wind turbine
The four 1.7 volt photovoltaic cells (PVCs for those in the know)
Which are wired up to charge four batteries, and a converter which changes the DC power into 220 AC volts
which then illuminates the lights they've rigged up all around the fencing of the training facility.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
I suppose this sounds hypocritical coming from an Australian; from the land that bakes itself in the sun to be brown. I learned after a couple of bad burns that my skin doesn't really tan, that it's too pale and so I don't spend hours greased up lying in the sun.
So it comes down to the grass usually being greener on the other side. White women want brown skin, women with darker skin want lighter skin. And thankfully, there is someone doing something to combat this perception of lighter skin being more beautiful in Africa.
A beauty contest, Miss Authentica, has been held in the Ivory Coast where to compete the women must not have altered their skin (which is confirmed by skin experts). This slideshow tells the story...let's hope that the cosmetic industry does pay attention and stop this horrid business.
Monday, July 20, 2009
AN INDONESIAN cannibal is seeking love, promising his people-eating days are over.
Sumanto, currently residing in rural Central Java, was jailed after he dug up an old woman's body for a "cheap and tasty meal". "She was delicious," he told AFP from his room at a Muslim mental rehabilitation centre in rural Central Java.
Read the rest of the story
So Sunday, I was especially determined to get some exploring done. After futzing about for the morning, I headed down to Al Mina to get some lunch and get a better feel for the place, though getting there was a challenge. The taxi driver took lots of back streets and I figured we must be close. He kept asking me the name of the restaurant I wanted, and I kept saying things along the lines of 'it's next to the ocean. The sea. The water. Big water?' Even though his English was quite good, he didn't understand, and I came to realise that we weren't actually very far from home.
Finally I remembered the word, 'corniche' which is the waterfront promenade type thing, and his eyes lit up and we were off.
I spotted the landmark I was looking for. I wandered around the corner, listening for the sounds of people laughing and chatting over lunch and was rewarded with...nothing. There was no-one there. Not a soul. Everything was closed. I couldn't believe it. But I walked and walked and only passed a couple of people.
I carried on walking and went for a stroll along the waterfront, almost getting blown away in the process.
I decided that it was time to get out of Al Mina and check out some of the historical sites. I had my heart set on an old soap souk (thinking I'd leave the Citadel for a cooler, less sunny day), so hailed a cab, and the driver nodded that he knew where it was. I ended up in the heart of the old town, with no clue where anything was, and again, the place was pretty deserted. No-one I asked seemed to know what I was talking about, so I kept wandering. Fruitless. I came to a street which I realised was where I'd met my friendly stalker on my first night in Tripoli so decided to hightail it out of there, just in case!
After recounting my lack of adventure to my housemates they couldn't help but laugh. "Everybody comes to Tripoli with such good intentions of seeing the Citadel...but no-one ever manages to get there." I'll prove them wrong...one day...
Friday, July 17, 2009
And I was wrong about thinking it would have all of my names plus my dad's name. My lovely pink "Ladies First" (complete with a picture of a rose) card reads MLLE CARLY (INCORRECTLY SPELLED) SURNAME. Ooh la la!
When you drive into the Beirut office, you are first stopped outside the big gate, and a man scans the car, for what exactly I'm not sure. You then enter through the solid gate, and there's a different check. While this is happening, a man at the security box opens the windows and has everyone in the car shout out their names. Once all this is done, a boom gate slides back and you're free to enter.
So the other day, after the driver and the two ladies in the back had called out their names, I called out my name. "Darling?" "No!" my driver shouted back, "CARLY!". "Oh, not Darling, Carly," the security man confirmed.
Yep, just call me Darling...
Thursday, July 16, 2009
I was invited into the homes of a couple of women, both with adorable young children, who were both very pleased with getting hot water some 14 months after being relocated to their current 'homes'. There's not a lot more they could say about having hot water, so I won't be including more than a couple of quotes in my report.
I headed out to the VTC, and was pleased to see a lot of young women hanging around in the shade by a basketball court. The school has 175 odd students studying trades or professional courses like business management. Unfortunately, the instructor I needed to speak with had left, but I was invited back next week to sit in a class with the trainees and talk to them all myself - definitely something to look forward to.
The following video is the drive back - I didn't take any video in the camp as strictly speaking, photography isn't allowed so I didn't want to be too obvious. The drive isn't all that exciting, but you can at least get a feel for the area.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I suppose I got a late start on traveling - barring the family holiday to New Zealand when I was 10 - I didn't go overseas by myself until I was 22. I guess I was always at university or working in the holidays to afford university, so I never did the whole Contiki tour around Europe (I don't think that's a bad thing). My first trip was to Japan, where my schoolgirl Japanese wasn't very helpful. My next trip was a work junket to Geneva, Rome and London...other jaunts quickly followed.
I was asked yesterday why I got into humanitarian work, and the truthful answer was that there's such a big world out there to see, and that I want to not only see the world but spend good chunks of time in other places. To be paid to do it makes it all the sweeter. Don't get me wrong, there's a personal driving imperative (you could call it the humanitarian imperative if you so choose) behind all that as well!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
It turned out it was apparently some commemoration for a former PM - a 21 gun salute obviously wasn't impressive enough so they had to upsize to cannons of some description.
The reactions (or lack thereof) of different colleagues was interesting - many of my colleagues are Palestinians from the camps we're working in. You can imagine how such noises would remind them of what's happened in recent years. Others didn't react openly at all.
My pulse rate was certainly up...
We strolled through the little alleyways (always conscious of motorbikes or bicycles hooning past) and it was absolutely charming. The sea breeze was quite strong, and it blew the sweet scent of the shishas throughout the area and there was a surprising amount of people sitting at tables outside, enjoying the evening. We went into a little place called RadDish and it was such a quaint little courtyard, and with the breeze and the food, it was just divine. I can see myself spending many an hour in a place like that.
Monday, July 13, 2009
The other thing that entertained me about the experience (always look on the bright side of life) was watching the woman enter my details into the computer. "Are you married?, she asked" "No," was my reply. She clicked on a drop down menu to enter my marital status and there were a number of choices: married, divorced, widow, widower. There was no "single" option, it was "celibataire". I had to stifle a giggle over what was being implied there...
Sunday, July 12, 2009
This morning, after finishing off the left over cleaning, I picked up Death and The Penguin:
The publication of Death and the Penguin, Andrey Kurkov's debut novel, heralds a unique new voice in post-soviet satire. Set in the Ukraine in the years immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, this dark, deadpan tale chronicles the journalistic career of Victor, who shares a flat with Misha, his depressed Penguin, rescued from the under-funded zoo in Kiev. Victor is asked to write obelisks, obituaries, for a prominent city paper about notable figures in the community, and quickly transforms himself from struggling writer to wealthy journalist. It soon becomes apparent that there is a more sinister motive at play, and Victor finds himself descending in a Kafkaesque realm of suspicion and unease. (From amazon)
It was absolutely fantastic and I polished it off in a couple of hours. Go and see if it's at the library, you'll thank me!
We met up with a French friend of Bob's over a delicious lunch of hommus with meat and pine nuts, and then caught a service taxi down to the beach front. The boys were off to have a swim, but I hadn't thought to bring my togs with me, so I settled in at a Starbucks (don't judge me!) with the book I started this morning (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - one I've been wanting to read for ages, and have gotten through 400 pages today!) I spent a couple of very pleasant hours curled up on an armchair outside watching the ocean and devouring the book, and wincing in pain at the new blisters on my feet. The 'formal thongs' I was wearing haven't had much wear of late and unfortunately I'm now suffering with every step.
Tonight is Bob's "emergency party" - he's going home to London for a few weeks and thought it necessary to have a bit of a shindig before he left. I'm really looking forward to meeting some new people.
Friday, July 10, 2009
The living room:
The dining room:
The view from the main balcony (off the living room):
Elsa had to go down to Beirut and Vidar headed off to the gym, so I spent some solitary time curled up in an armchair reading, listening to the sounds of the street below. This was interrupted quite suddenly by several loud bangs. My first instinct was to run over to the window to see what was going on, but my security briefings kicked in and I moved away from the doors and windows. I soon figured out that it wasn't gun fire (it would've had to have been a rather large shotgun) but fireworks...odd to let off fireworks while it was still daylight, but it happened sporadically throughout the rest of the evening.
Vidar reheated some food he'd been cooked by a Palestinian colleague which we shared over a glass of red wine...I think I'll be quite happy here for the next few weeks.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
I found stores selling the latest fashions (blue and purple seem to be the colours of summer), men sitting on the side of the road smoking their shishas, young guys cruising around with the windows down and music blaring, but no food. I turned around and walked back the other way, making sure I knew which ways to turn on the way back. Again, I reached a point where it didn't look like there was much beyond, so I turned around again.
A guy my age was standing with an older gentlemen who looked quite bemused by me, and they asked if I was lost. No, I replied politely, I'm just looking for somewhere to get some food. "Ghassan, help the young lady with some food," the old man directed. I protested (of course), but he was very insistent, and pointed at a little shop across the street. So I went with Ghassan, minding myself on the crazy street, and we walked into a little shop that sold nuts. Ghassan and Yousef were old friends, and Ghassan went straight behind the display case like he owned the place and started handing me different nuts to try. He told me he was a lawyer, and that he'd recently applied for a masters degree in Australia. I didn't know whether to believe him or not, but he seemed nice enough. After Yousef had given me a bag of nuts (and wouldn't let me pay) Ghassan led me to another shop across the street where of course he knew the proprieter. I can't remember what the food was, but it was chickpeas, onions, some other type of chickpea thing, and a bright pink vegetable like a turnip rolled up in a wrap. Again, my money wasn't accepted and the food was delicious.
I took Ghassan's number, thanked him and said goodbye. Who knows if I'll actually get in touch with him again, but the kindness of strangers (whatever their motivation...) is something that never fails to surprise me. The rest of my evening was spent watching a movie and smiling at the old man who's family owned the hotel who couldn't speak of word of English but was very friendly.
This morning, his wife brought out a tray for my breakfast with some flat bread, marmalade and moo cheese. As I was tucking into my second piece she brought out a freshly baked, homemade chocolate croissant...mouthwatering, chocolaty goodness!!! I love this country!!
We had a couple of visitors from other UNRWA offices in town, so I was able to join their program and head straight to Nahr el-Bared camp (NBC). Well, I wasn't allowed in what's called the 'old camp' as I didn't have military permission, but I was allowed to cruise around the outskirts. Just quickly, the cleared land below is the 'old camp', which we're reconstructing.
What struck me was driving through the 'adjacent area' - which was not part of the camp, but was obviously heavily affected....
Let me go back a few steps. In May 2007 fighting broke out between the Lebanese Armed Forces and members of the radical Fatah Al-Islam group, who'd infiltrated the Nahr el-Bared camp. From what I understand, the residents of the camp were given a tiny bit of notice to evacuate, and then the army began a three month campaign against the radicals, which included massive artillery shelling and air strikes. The whole area was decimated; schools, health clinics, everything gone. Over five and a half thousand refugees were displaced, having fled to a nearby camp or other parts of the country with very few things, as they never expected the siege to last so long.
I'd spent the morning starting to read through appeals and reports, but it's very hard to make sense of those things if you haven't seen the area. Getting to NBC and also to neighbouring Beddawi camp made things a lot clearer, a lot quicker.
The colleagues I've met so far have all been great, I've got a desk and a computer (no facebook at work!!) and by the looks of things, a hell of a lot of work to do in the next couple of months!!