Thursday, October 29, 2009
This is a special thank you letter for being particularly wonderful last night. Julie has been keeping up to date with your wonderfulness and so you had a pretty big reputation to live up to. I'm glad you were in good form, serving us before all the men, that was pretty sweet. But you know what the best thing is Shwarma Man? Julie didn't get sick from the shwarma!! How amazingly rad is that?!
So thanks Shwarma Man, for your continuing greatness.
P.S. Also, thanks for waving at me when I walked past the other day, you made my day!
This was the view from our window at the Hotel Al-Fanar
The view from our lunch table at the Petit Phoenician restuarant...these were very well fed cats
After a bit of a snap (that's a cross between sleeping and napping) we headed out to watch the sunset, which was pretty impressive
and made all the more interesting by this guy and his dog. The dog had a bit of a run around and then we he was called back over, he jumped straight back onto his 'seat' on the scooter
We spent the evening in the Tanit Restaurant, which served no food, only beers and vodka red bulls, and we celebrated the news of my official invitation to be the best 'man' at the Vardy/Cox wedding by throwing Adam a bucks party with Julie standing in for the groom.
We went for a bit of a meander this morning to check out some of the archaelogical sites which were pretty cool. The Romans picked a pretty great part of the world to conquer...
And it only took us 3.5 hours to get all the way home from Tyre, which was a pretty great run of smooth connections! Time to take rest...
Friday, October 23, 2009
Anyway, check out the trailer:
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Fair enough, it didn't poke its head out for ages and ages,
We took it out to the area we had released the little guy yesterday and one of the guards came over to take the tortoise from Oli. He told us that his family had a tortoise in the camp, and when the house was destroyed the tortoise survived! He caressed the shell for a little while and then set it free.
Where are all these tortoises (tortopie?) coming from??
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Guns given to Somali quiz winners
The winners of a quiz organised by Somali Islamists have been given weapons and ammunition as prizes. Prizes included AK-47 assault rifles, hand grenades and an anti-tank mine.
The quiz ran during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in the port city of Kismayo, and included questions about the Koran and Somali geography.
A representative for the al-Shabab militant group said the quiz aimed to stop young men from wasting their time and focus on defending their territory.
"The reason the young men were rewarded with weapons is to encourage them to participate in the ongoing holy war against the enemies of Allah in Somalia," AFP news agency quoted al-Shabab's Sheikh Abdullahi Alhaq as saying at Friday's prize-giving ceremony.
The winning team, from the city's Farjano district, reportedly won a rifle, two grenades, a landmine and office supplies worth $1,000 (£613).
But the runners-up did not go home empty-handed, taking away an AK-47 and bullets.
Al-Shabab and other Islamist rebels accused of having links to al-Qaeda dominate much of southern and central Somalia, where they have imposed strict Sharia law.
The country last had a functioning central government in 1991.
A weak UN-backed government runs only parts of the capital, Mogadishu.
We then released it back into the wild,
where it will hopefully flourish and lead a long and prosperous life...as long as it can avoid the snakes...and birds...and cats...
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Anyway, here's a security update from a different part of Lebanon that I thought I'd share with you (I've removed a couple of exact location details). It's always very interesting to read about the security incidents in camps around Lebanon:
Today at 1045hrs, a Palref opened random fire towards Palref gathered next to him as a result four were wounded and administered to
In detail: The shooter lives in a home next to the highway in a Camp. The guy wanted to benefit from this location and he opened a stand to sell vegetable goods. The municipality issued an order on Sunday at night and removed the stand. A member from the popular committee visited him and asked him not to cause more trouble as these actions might be reflected negatively on the Palref living inside the camp. Yesterday the ISF attended to check whether the stand in still removed or not, the shooter started cursing and shouting against the Palref as they didn’t support him and tried to block the road; as a result Palref gathered and an exchange of curse language started between the shooter and the people in the scene consequently he took his machine riffle and started shooting randomly. As a result of the shooting four bystanders were wounded and administered to
Friday, October 16, 2009
He had a bit of trouble chewing the bread, bits would kind of slide out the side of his mouth...I wasn't going to stick my hand in his mouth to check out his teeth though, so I continued the slowly slowly approach. After a while, when we were both more comfortable, I stopped dropping the food on the ground and handed it to him. Instead of snapping it from my fingers as most dogs would do, he very gently took it from me. A gentleman indeed.
After finishing off the bread, I waved goodbye to Billie Snoop to cross the road to the store. I hadn't noticed the two elderly women on the 1st floor balcony above the store watching me. They got my attention and threw down some cured meat (think sort of like prosciutto) for me to feed to Billie. How nice!! Unfortunately, he didn't really like it all that much, but I'm sure he went back for it later on.
I've found a vet in Tripoli so I'm going to try and take Billie Snoop in for a check up tomorrow...not entirely sure of the logistics of it all, but will worry about that tomorrow...
Thursday, October 15, 2009
As I approached him, his tail started wagging and his eyes lit up. He wasn't particularly interested in the water, and I wasn't prepared to pat him just yet. So I left him alone. He's taken to hanging out in the gutter directly opposite my window. I couldn't just ignore him. Yesterday I took some of the rice and lentils that had been in the fridge for too long, and decided that I would lure him away from the corner to a bit further down near the dumpster, where (a) it's quieter, (b) he's less likely to get backed over and (c) he might find some food. Capacity building, I thought!
I walked over to him and he was very excited to see me. I gave him some of the rice to try and needless to say, he was very excited about that. I then tried to get him to follow me, but I think his leg was hurting too much. So I gave up and just gave him all the rice. He inhaled it all and then rolled over, desperately wanting a belly rub. I couldn't resist. Of course it was straight upstairs to disinfectant myself, and take this picture of Billie Snoop Dawg from my window.
See he's cute!! If only I knew where there was a vet in Tripoli I'd get him checked out.
Yassmin got home and prepared an amazing feast...I can't remember the name of it, but it was awesome and definitely photo worthy!
They're pretty cool:
What you can see below is a pretty intricate drainage system with a number of pipes overlapping...those Romans were a clever bunch...
Since we were with such an important person, some of the workers had to stop their machinery while we were there, including these Handicap International UXO clearance workers (i.e. the most hardcore people ever!)
We took a drive through the E Prime area, and see if you can see what I spotted in the photo below (hint: look in the middle of the shot and maybe squint a bit)
It's a teeny tiny mouse. Anyway, there was lots of work going on, bulldozers and men breaking up buildings with sledgehammers, or just standing around posing...
We then headed to one of the newer blocks of temporary accommodation, where we were shown some pieces by a resident artist, who'd formally been an art teacher at Beddawi Camp.
He gave us each an A4 drawing to take with us which was very sweet. And of course there were lots and lots of kids hanging about, gawking at the white people (because there about 7 of us)...and they were very cute kids.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I'd been so angry when I walked in, because of all the strangers who'd kept knocking on my door asking to see the plumbing on the balcony. Well Shwarma Man, you know me, I don't just let strange men into my house. And I told these guys that. So what did they do? They sent a woman up! She couldn't believe it when I told her that I also didn't let strange women into my house. There was a lot of raised voices being directed at me, and it wasn't my fault Shwarma Man. I don't know why their plumbing wasn't working. Our plumbing wasn't working either, but they didn't seem to care about that.
Anyway, your smiling face made me feel a lot better. And thanks for your suggestion of adding french fries to my chicken shwarma...nice touch!
Monday, October 12, 2009
Last year her birthday was spent in New York (this picture was taken a couple of days before atop the Eiffel Tower), this year it was in a trailer park...
I found out along the way, that a group of British actors, led by David Morrissey had been running a drama workshop all week for kids from the refugee camps around Lebanon, and this was their big performance day. There were quite a few parents there, as well as the British Ambassador. It was a wonderful, wonderful afternoon.
There was acting,
with many of the presentations focusing on the importance of friendship. There was also some dancing:
and some singing. This kid was from Nahr el-Bared and he was a wonderful singer. Unfortunately I didn't record more of his lovely voice...
These two were also pretty good
The culmination of all the performances was this:
Apparently on day one, the kids were all very quiet and the drama teachers were a bit worried that this would be the mood of the whole week. As you can see, they really came out of their shells. After the performance was over, and the kids were waiting for the busses to come, they were still singing and dancing, and hamming it up for the cameras. And then when the busses pulled up, there were tears, and hugs between the new friends. For them to have a week where they could just be kids is something I'm sure they'll remember in years to come.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
These flash reports were a little closer to home. There were 2 ENERGAs thrown in one area of Tripoli, and 1 in Tebbaneh. I had to look up what an ENERGA was: a 75mm anti-tank rifle grenade. I'll be staying well clear of Tebbaneh for the time being.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Just fold it over and devour. Mmmm, delicious!
Amrita read a poem in both English and Hindi:
It was a very civilised way to spend an evening. Perhaps I'll get up next time..."I love a sunburnt country..."
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I'm sorry I ranted about you the other day. It was very nice of you to come yesterday afternoon and fix our water situation. It was also an unexpected surprise to find you had done the dishes we'd left in the sink and also mopped the kitchen floor with bleach. That really wasn't necessary, and it's a little bit weird, but we appreciated it all the same!
Thanks, Mr Plumber,
A young man, who happens to be Palestinian, checks his email on what he thinks is a public computer while waiting for some friends. He sends an email to a friend in a Western country. An non-uniformed Lebanese guard tells him to get off the computer, so he logs out and walks outside the building. The guard yells out something to him, which he ignores. He then finds himself face down on the ground with the guard pummeling his back with his fists.
A group of army dudes standing nearby manage to separate the two and the police arrive. They take both men to the station to interrogate them. The young Palestinian didn't fight back when he was attacked, and was very shocked as to why they would want to interrogate him. Well, it turns out that he was suspected of sending an email to Israel. Yep. The reason why he'd been beaten up by a private, plain-clothed security guard was because he might have sent an email to Israel.
Of course, this young man hadn't sent an email to Israel, but was treated like a criminal for a couple of hours. Meanwhile, the man who had attacked him was swearing black and blue that he hadn't even touched him. Thankfully, one of the police was pretty observant, and pointed out the back of the young man's shirt, which was torn. The young man then lifted his shirt to reveal that he was in fact black and blue, all over his back.
After initially refusing to show them the email he'd sent as a matter of principle, he relented and showed the police on the computer he'd used. The email contained a certain friendly insult which wasn't understood by the police, and was perhaps a bit lost in translation. The Lebanese colleagues of the attacking guard were quick to come to the conclusion that this word must be a code word. The interrogation continued. After about 3 hours he was finally released.
This happened last night to a friend of mine, and I was absolutely shocked. I'd arrived minutes after the attack to see him surrounded by soldiers. It took quite a long time to find out what had actually happened, and I still don't have all the details. Even if he had been sending an email to Israel, how could that possibly justify being attacked? What right does someone have to attack another person for sending an email? What law exists preventing someone from sending an email to Israel from Lebanon if they so choose? This country is a crazy place.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
As you can see, it's pretty prime real estate, but unfortunately there's no real sewerage network, so it goes straight out to sea.
The pinkish building you can see in the background was actually my driver's house. It's one of the few structures that is still standing.
This is another:
This really brought home to me what happened here. Seeing people's belongings, even a stuffed toy on the couch, and walls torn apart by shelling...we had a briefing by Handicap International, who are responsible for clearing the area of UXOs. So far they've removed over 11,000 pieces, including four 400kg bombs, and many booby trapped explosives. We were told that some of the de-miners have worked in Afghanistan and Iraq and they say that this is by far the hardest operation they've had to do.
I took a bit of video, apologies for the bad sound quality but it was pretty windy!
Monday, October 5, 2009
It's not stocked up with spam and water, (just empty filing cabinets and a wheelie bin) and there's no door on it, so I'm not quite sure if it's ready for use yet...could be wrong though...
I should really start carrying a towel around with me just in case...you never know when you might need it
And then turned into a charming little alleyway. We selected our fishes and walked a few steps up to where the restaurant was. One of the things I love about living here is that you don't sit around just waiting for your food getting hungrier and hungrier, because there's always some salad and hommus and baba ganoush to keep you going.
Anyway, the fishies came out, complete with heads (though you can't really see them too well in the picture) and oh the deliciousness!
And yes, our new colleague Ingebjorg was pulling a face to be funny, not at the dear fishies. Unfortunately, the food was somewhat marred by the turtle shells hanging on the walls. After my close encounter with turtle kind earlier this year, it made me sad to see them hanging up there.
But not sad enough to not polish off every last morsel of the fish...
Sunday, October 4, 2009
It started off like a normal enough souk, with lots of little shops selling all sorts of crap (I managed to find the imitation of my favourite perfume for 5000), and then it moved into the food market. More pink stuff:
Olives, olives everywhere
And lots of delicious smelling spices, which unfortunately, couldn't quite offset the smell of the fish heads and other dead carcasses around the place.
And of course the fish heads got me singing the following in my head for the rest of the day! (The song starts at the 2:20 mark)
After the food section, it turned into a second hand clothing market, which is what we'd come out for...halloween costumes!! We found pretty much exactly what we were looking for in the first couple of stalls, and I was very surprised to see this type of clothing so readily available in a place like Tripoli. You'll have to wait and see what the costumes actually are!
Friday, October 2, 2009
"I wasn't even afraid," he told a local TV network. "Next year I'm going to kill me a bigger alligator."
What the news article failed to include was the "hyuck!" that came out of little Simon's mouth after "I'm going to kill me a bigger alligator." Meanwhile, who gives a 5 year old a gun???
Problem #2. The mini van we were taking to get a bit further north of Tripoli side swiped another car, and of course a massive argument ensued. We got out of that van, jumped in another and were on our way. We found a cab driver who would take us to the border and things were looking up.
We had a few minor inconveniences at the Lebanese border, with a bit of confusion over how my original entry stamp was in my old passport, and the fact that I'd overstayed my 2 month visa, even though the guy was holding my brand spanking new residence permit in his hand. Anyway, he finally stamped it, and we jumped back in the cab to take us the kilometre or so to the Syrian entrance. We bade the driver farewell, feeling that finally, luck was on our side.
The entrance area was somewhat ordered, and we filled out our forms and handed them over. A lot of Arabic was exchanged and then Yassmin walked around behind the counter to talk to the dudes. Because she's travelling on an American passport they had to get special permission for her to enter. We knew this, and knew that it would take a while. But that's when they sprung the doozy on us. The visa for Australians is $100!! (That's about US$90). Single entry. I was shocked. Not just at the high price (Americans pay US$16), but because a year ago I paid $27 to get into Syria. It was just too much for 2 days away. We tried to convince them to at least give me a multiple entry visa, but they wouldn't budge.
So we left. We started walking back to the Lebanese border. Many cabs drove past but we really didn't need one. A lot of cars also drove past with people calling out to us. We were happy to walk. But then a guy in a small truck pulled over and told us he'd take us to the border. It was very nice of him. We got back to the border and this is where problem #3 arose.
There were a billion sweaty men crowded around the windows. I really wish the Brits had colonised here, at least then there'd be a queuing system. We went to the window that said "foreign arrivals." The guy very rudely told us to go and stand in the other more crowded area. So we push our way to the front there and they told us to go back to the other window. Well, it was all getting a bit ridiculous. The stench of body odour was quite overwhelming. This went on and on, back and forth. Finally we were taken back through to the departures area, where a very suspicious man kept flicking through our passports (not that there was anything except the exit stamp I'd gotten less than an hour before in mine!) and asking questions. Ridiculous.
Finally, we got our entry stamps and all that was left was to jump in a cab to reverse our journey. Problem #5, there were no friggin cabs!! Well, there was one guy, who wanted 10,000 off each of us, which is absolutley ridiculous. He then sabotaged the next few people who pulled up near us, telling them we were foreigners (ok, yes, it's obvious that I'm a foreigner, but in the words of Mr T. "mama didn't raise no fool").
We were both getting pretty frustrated, standing around for quite some time, when a car with two men and two adorable little kids pulled up and offered us a lift. We accepted and they kindly took us back to the centre of town. All I wanted to do was get home and open the bottle of wine that's been in the fridge for ages.
Problem #6 - the corkscrew has gone missing!
Gah!!! What an afternoon!!!
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Last night we almost adopted a kitten. It came up to where we were sitting at the cafe/bar we were at, and it was pretty pathetic looking; Mangy Mach 2. Not quite as woeful, but very skinny. Had we not been going away this weekend, it would have come home with us.
And its name would have been Billie Snoop.