Friday, December 31, 2010
2010 took me to 5.5 new countries (the half is Ethiopia - I only count countries I've left the airport, and I did leave the airport in Addis, but couldn't leave the hotel the airline put me up in, so it doesn't quite count!!) and a couple I'd been to before, with some Bill & Ted-esque excellent adventures and bogus journeys. Finally going on a safari was a dream come true and the experience wildly exceeded my expectations. My week in Norway left me with a burning desire to see more of northern Europe - Iceland is at the top of my list, having made two Icelandic friends in Pakistan, I'd love to visit them and I also really want to see some puffins!!
Career wise, Pakistan was a great experience for developing new skills and meeting a fantastic range of colleagues. I knew early on that it wasn't the path I wanted to head down professionally, but it was nice to have the luxury of trying some new (and doing a pretty good job of it!) to determine whether or not it was right for me.
And so here we are at the end of the year. I'm heading into 2011 with the comfort of a full-time permanent contract (not something I've had for quite a few years!) but also the uncertainty of where I'll be deployed to first. A number of countries have been tossed up as possibilities, but as yet, I don't know which one will win out first. I'm so looking forward to a new challenge (and this job is going to be a big one!), meeting new people and going to new places. And of course there's always the chance that I'll run into some old friends around the traps which is something to look forward to as well.
So tonight, I will reflect back on the year a bit further over a couple of G&Ts, some excellent snacks, and some scrabble with my friend Julie. We'll take a break from all that excitement and take a walk to our regular viewing point to watch the 8:30pm fireworks! Scoff if you will, but my experience has proven that the best new year's eves are the ones spent quietly with friends, rather than crashing lame parties in Beirut!
Happy new year everyone!!
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Sure to keep me warm all year round!!
Mum outdid herself with lunch this year - those who know me will immediately recognise lashings of apple sauce all over my roast pork (lonnnnnnnnnng overdue) and the chicken was delectable too. *Homer drool*
I've just woken up from the traditional Christmas post-lunch nap and am absolutely ready to get back to the feasting. Prawns and ham await, as does pudding with custard.
Merry Christmas to those celebrating today, and a happy festivus for the rest of us!
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Instead, I've been doing fun stuff like hanging out with my friend Julz in Brisbane, watching all of the Harry Potter movies before going to see the new one. (It's alright, a bit slow in places, but at least they can act now.) And just puttering around home, marvelling at the temperate weather which is lovely, but not quite warm enough to be in the pool. Mainly just enjoying the little things that I've discussed before, that make being home such a wonderful place to be!
My brother gets home from Japan for a visit tomorrow so it'll be a full house for a while. There probably won't be anything exciting to write about, but maybe I'll find some cuteness to post!
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Ubud is extremely beautiful. If any of you have seen the movie "Eat Pray Love" then you'll recognise Ubud from the last third of the film. It's green, it's lush, it's a perfect little hideaway for a couple of girls needing an escape from Islamabad! Our first night was spent indulging in beautiful seafood and a bottle of wine at Casa Luna restaurant, and then a couple of G&Ts on our little balcony at the Honeymoon Guesthouse (which, as the name suggests, was full of smug married couples). The next morning, instead of waking up with a bit of a hangover, I woke up with a full blown flu and fever and spent the next two days in bed. Not fun.
By the afternoon of the second day, I'd had enough of the herbal remedies the staff had been suggesting, I could drink no more ginger tea and summoned the energy to walk into town (via the long scenic route) to get some real drugs. We spotted a pharmacy sign in a little alley and headed for it. We were greeted at the door by a tiny little girl, probably 3 years old. Her brother, who must have been about 7 was standing behind the counter. "Medicine?" he asked. "Yes, medicine," I replied. He pulled out a mobile phone and called (we presumed) his father, and handed me the phone. I explained my symptoms and then handed back the phone. The little boy then pulled out some drugs, which were thankfully labelled in English and I handed over a small sum. I don't know where the pharmacist actually was, but his little helpers were extremely cute!
After two nights in the Honeymoon Guesthouse we checked out, as the room we'd been given was right on the road and the noise was a bit much. We'd wandered around and discovered Nick's Hidden Cottages.
Not entirely hidden, but far enough down the road that you would only go that far if you were staying there. It was another little slice of paradise.
A big hindu festival was approaching, so all of the statues were dressed up in preparation for the celebrations. Ganesh also looked over us.
And so we spent two more lazy days, enjoying the pool and doing a bit of wandering.
I'd planned to knock quite a few Christmas presents off my list, and thought I'd get it all done on my last day. Unfortunately, this was the day of the celebration and most of the shops were shut. It was hot and steamy as we wandered the length of Monkey Forrest road (I didn't have time to go into the actual Monkey Forrest) trying to find the things I'd spotted earlier but hadn't bought. Of course, as we were finishing up the shops started to re-open, but it was too late to worry about the compromises I'd had to make on some gifts. There was enough time for another quick swim and to repack my stuff, and then head back to the airport (only an hour away).
It wasn't quite the mini-break I'd had in mind (nor Emma I imagine!) but it was a nice little introduction to Bali and I'm sure I'll be back there one day to take better advantage of all the island has to offer.
And now I'm in Melbourne, where unsurprisingly, the weather has been oscillating between sunshine and winter, and now a downpour has started. It's been great to catch up with my oldest friend Katie and enjoy the wonderful coffee in this city. Tomorrow I head up to Sydney, or to Wollongong more specifically, to spend a few days with my new niece Audrey. I'm looking forward to some quality time with the Martin family and then finally home to the Gold Coast on Wednesday.
It's so nice to be back in Australia, and know that I don't have to leave for about six weeks!!
Thursday, December 9, 2010
The cave itself is beautiful, very atmospheric, with lots of mini temples inside and offerings all of the place.
But what makes this place most interesting is the sheer number of monkeys. Monkeys above, monkeys below, monkeys monkeys everywhere.
I wasn't stupid enough to get anywhere near them, but that wasn't the same for everyone.
The other touristy thing I managed to squeeze in was a trip up the Petronas Towers. There are a limited number of tickets for sale each day, and I think I got there just before 8am and there were already a couple of hundred people in front of me. The earliest ticket I could have gotten, when I finally got to the front of the queue some two hours later, was at 4pm but I chose to go at 6ish to catch the sunset.
A smart choice, even if I do say so myself.
The towers are quite the engineering feat, and look beautiful lit up at night.
From KL I headed to Bali to meet up with Em, but that's a story for another day (when my internet time isn't about to run out!).
I'm heading home to Australia this afternoon and am not looking forward to getting into Melbourne at the ungodly hour of 2am! But it will be wonderful to be back in the land that's girt by sea.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
As for the scare-mongering, there is no doubt that Pakistan is a dangerous place. You might have seen an article on the front page of the BBC a few days ago about the police stopping two suicide bombers in Islamabad, and that certainly reminded us all here that there are real dangers bubbling below the sleepy surface of this beautiful city.
I'm extremely glad that I got to get out of the Islamabubble and see some of the Pakistan that I had imagined; the trucks, the dusty roads, the sheer numbers of people and animals. I've seen real poverty before, and I saw it again in Sindh province, but witnessing the tiny malnourished children was something altogether different. I don't well up in tears when I think about them now, but I certainly did for the immediate days afterwards. There is still so much to be done in this country.
But on a happier note, I leave with a whole new bunch of fantastic friends (and some old ones as well). One of the best parts of this work is meeting new friends from all around the world, and from Pakistan as well. I had to say a few goodbyes yesterday at the office, and last night as well, but tonight will be the hardest. I've been lucky to be thrown into the mix with wonderful people, who I would work again with an instant, and luckier still that they are all ridiculously entertaining people (who happily belted out Bohemian Rhapsody at 2am the other night - hence the title of this post - complete with headbanging) that I will no doubt stay in touch with for a long time to come.
And so I leave Pakistan with a heavy heart for the friends I will miss. But the happiest of hearts for my future employment. I was offered what is perhaps my dream job last night with an INGO, as a roving information manager. I'll be based at home and deploy out to emergencies when they happen for 3-6 months, depending on the circumstances. I'm absolutely thrilled, and excited about not knowing what will be next.
Well, I know what's next, a short little jaunt in Asia for the next week and a half, then a couple of stops in Australia before I get home in mid-December. I guess all that's left to say now is...
Catch me if you can....
Monday, November 29, 2010
I'll put some final thoughts on Pakistan in writing tomorrow, but for now I must bring you some terrible news. There is a rabid otter on the loose in Florida - check out the newsclip below.
Still cute though!
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Just thought an Easter Bunny movie was appropriate for those celebrating Thanksgiving today...
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
This video also appears.
Monday, November 22, 2010
As I was sitting here grrrrrrr-ing at my computer, I knew what I needed to improve my mood. I'd already checked Cute Overload today, so I went to Daily Squee...
Saturday, November 20, 2010
When I was in grade 6 I did a project on Swaziland. I remember it involved colouring an intricate border around an A4 sheet of paper. I can't say I remember anything else about the project, but I do hope to visit one day!
In the end, I fell in love with two. And since I've never bought a carpet before I couldn't just choose one, so I bought them both.
This one is from Mishwani in Afghanistan, and it's a carpet kilim mix. I think it will go perfectly under my beautiful big square wooden table.
This one is a very special carpet from Kalaino (also in Afghanistan - Mr Khan is from Khandahar), and it's about 30 years old. When you look at it from one end it's dark, and light from the other.
Thankfully, Mr Khan (who is a lovely man) was able to roll them into a small little package which will be shipped home to Australia within a month. I mention this so Mum and Dad won't have to worry about these carpets taking up a lot of room in the shed!! Perhaps my next purchase should be a house to put these in!!
Mr Khan was pretty sprightly for his age, and must have some serious muscles from heaving carpets around all day.
And frankly, anyone who has a cat sitting on a carpet outside advertising his wares is my kind of carpet man!!
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Anyway, here are some more shots taken in Sindh by Shuja Syed. At the bangle market:
This was taken at the stabilisation centre. I was watching one of the mothers spoon feeding her baby
Stylin in my RedR hat and UNICEF uber-pocket vest, which looked particularly fetching over my sackish traditional "frock". Also note the cyan blue doppata.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
On Wednesday, I accompanied some nutrition colleagues to one of UNICEF's 214 Outpatient Therapeutic Feeding Centres, where there were probably 100 kids and their carers waiting to have their height, weight and MUAC (mid-upper arm circumference) measured. The MUAC is measured with a simple tape measure
If the child's arm measures in the green section then all is well, in the orange or red then there is cause for further treatment. Perhaps it's a good thing that as soon as a child's sleeve was rolled up they started screaming, because it shows that they've had experience with vaccinations. I didn't see a single child who didn't burst into tears when the tape was put around them (this little girl isn't smiling, she's just in between sobs)
If a child is determined to be malnourished they are referred to one of UNICEF's 31 in-patient Stabilisation Centres (Of course there are many other organisations running OTPs and SCs across the country) - these centres are to treat cases of malnutrition where there are also other complications. These complications may have caused the malnutrition, they may be a result of malnutrition, or they may have exacerbated existing malnutrition. Whatever the case, these are very sick children. I visited a stabilisation centre on Wednesday with the film crew and it was by far the hardest thing I've ever had to witness. There were six children in the hospital room, four of whom looked like they were recovering well, and two who were so tiny. One was five months old and weighed just under six pounds (apparently what I weighed as a newborn). The other was almost a year old and didn't weigh much more. We'd arrived at the scheduled feeding time, and the nurse mixed up a jug of high energy/nutrient milk. There are two different strengths; one litre of the first will contain 984 kCal; the second 757 kCal. How much, and how often each child will receive the supplement is calculated depending on a number of factors by a pediatrician. This boy had come in five days earlier with a protruding belly, and was recovering quite well.
I didn't take any photos of the severely malnourished babies as (a) I didn't want to and (b) when my story is published on the website you'll be able to watch a video that explains all this further. But the smallest child had a MUAC of 7cm. That is slightly bigger than my thumb. Just take a second to look at your own thumb and consider what that means.
Once the child's condition has improved to an acceptable level, they are sent home with a week's supply of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food, such as plumpy nut - a sachet of which contains 500 kCal. The child is then taken to an OTP on a weekly basis for a check up and to receive further RUTF.
A vital part of nutrition is exclusive breastfeeding, and we went to a village 'health house' where one of the government's Lady Health Workers was conducting a session on the topic. Again, you'll probably see footage of this in the video that will accompany my story, but there were lots of women and children packed into a small room to hear about the importance of breastfeeding. On their way out of the session they were given some BP5 nutritional biscuits, which can also be boiled in water to make a porridge for babies.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
Taxila is about 45 minutes from Islamabad and a group of us headed out there yesterday morning. It was great to finally feel like I was actually in Pakistan, and not the sanitised bubble that is Islamabad. I particularly enjoyed watching all the pimped out trucks on the roads; they truly are works of art.
It was a lovely day out in the fresh air, with a cool breeze blowing and wonderful views of hills and country side. The archaelogical sites we visited were UNESCO World Heritage Sites but they haven't been maintained or preserved very well. It was interesting to learn a bit more about the history of the region, and about all of the conquering forces to have come through.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
The term "herding cats" is often thrown around in the NGO sector, and while it doesn't really flatter the leaps and bounds that organisations have made in working together, it does provide a humourous insight into the absurdity that coordination can entail. I've experienced first hand the challenge of trying to bring different organisations together around a single policy point and being hampered by different mandates or motivations. But this isn't just restricted to NGOs - the coordination any humanitarian agencies (hello cluster approach) is extremely challenging for those involved.
Anyway, this isn't meant to be a long and well thought out post about challenges in coordination (perhaps one day I'll write on the subject), I just wanted to share the video!
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
The place appears to be an old train carriage that is totally plastered in movie posters.
And there's interesting graffiti on the walls outside
On Friday night, after a very embarrassing moment on a teleconference where the fact that I wasn't extending my contract was made very publicly, before I'd had a chance to tell people myself, a few of us headed to the underground bar at the Marriott.
One of the guys came rushing back from the bathroom to ask if anyone had a camera
I wonder if foot washing is common place in expensive hotel lobby bathrooms?
Saturday night was poker night at one of the guesthouses, but before the cards started we were serenaded by one colleague (who's actually a professional musician), and another who had us rolling on the floor with his version of Titanic.
I only won one hand in the poker tournament, my Bangladesh shark abilities left me high and dry. But it was a super fun night, with super fun new friends!