Sunday, January 31, 2010

10 Things I love about Beirut

  • Brunch
  • Bars like Dany's where the walls are covered in grafitti, all the men have beards and basically everyone defines themself as an 'ism - (mainly socialism and communism)
  • 3 floors of El Dorado on sale
  • Being able to watch a film like "The Time That Remains" at a multiplex cinema
  • Brunch
  • Wifi access everywhere
  • Men with beautiful brown eyes
  • Florists who give you a free rose just for complimenting their arrangements
  • Lolly shops that sell fizzy cola bottles
  • Brunch!!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Plane crash in Cotabato City

I was shocked yesterday when I saw my former colleague's status update on facebook saying a plane had crashed in Cotabato City. I was further shocked when she updated this with a photo and said the Air Force plane had landed 2 streets from her parents house, and thankfully everyone in her family was safe.

You can read about it here

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

For we are young and free

Happy Australia Day!! This is the first time I've spent my national day in the northern hemisphere, and I must admit that I would much rather have: (a) had the day off and (b) been in the warmth, having a BBQ and a couple of coldies!!

Instead, my day was spent cursing the IT department. We haven't had an internet connection at work for 2 days now. Not having access to emails is actually a wonderful thing, but unfortunately, the finance department can't access their system without the internet, which means I can't get any work done, especially the final report for ECHO that was due last week (which was already delayed by my finance dude being off sick). So I've spent the time planning my work for the next six months, updating matrices, playing a bit of solitaire, and listening to Abdullah (the sanitation worker) try to convince me that both Canberra (or Kinabarra as he called it) and Sydney are both the capital of Australia.

In celebration of Australia Day, it was initially planned to have a screening of Priscilla, but it doesn't look like that's going to be possible tonight, so we're heading out to dinner at my favourite restaurant in Al Mina instead.

Who loves Vegemite in green and gold??

I do!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Our daughter has balls

I received a phone call from Yassmin, telling me to get over to their office not long ago. Thinking it was something important, I hightailed it down to the other end of the compound. I rushed into the office to find Yassmin and Ingebjorg engrossed in something on the computer.

What was it? You ask. It was a google search on how to tell if a cat is male or female...which then became a google image search and trying to hold Twitchy in a way to verify such a thing.

In announcing the news to our colleague, Ingebjorg summed it up succinctly: "Our daughter has balls!"

Sandwiches in the sun

The sun came out and the sky cleared up today, lending a fabulous view of the snow capped mountains in the distance (of course, today I didn't bring my camera with me). To take advantage of the weather, the M&E girls and I jumped in a car and headed to the corniche to grab a fish sandwich. These are the best fish sandwiches in Lebanon (apparently). Now, when I say sandwich, you have to discard any notions of small square bread and remember that I'm in the land of flat round bread. The fish is marinated in what tastes like garlic, onion, salt and pepper and tahini and has the consistency of tinned tuna. Then you can add the salad stuff of your choice and then its wrapped up and handed over...with oil already turning the paper transparent. Delicious!

We took our sandwiches and crossed the road to sit by the harbour and watch the fishermen mending their nets. It's days like these that I love living in Tripoli.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cheering up with Bret and Jermaine

I've had a rough day today, which I won't go into detail about. Cute Overload didn't help (which is a concern), but Flight of the Conchords album "I Told You I Was Freaky" two favourites:


Pr-Pr-President Reagan
Thatcher Th-Th-Thatcher

Hummus wars

January 14, 2010 — Beirut
Writer: Carole Corm

Forget military threats and terrorist attacks, Lebanese and Israelis have a new battle on their plates: hummus. The latest episode took place last Friday.

For over two years now there has been growing frustration in Lebanon over what is seen as Israel’s appropriation of such an important national dish as hummus (the succulent chickpea purée that’s topped with olive oil). Fadi Abboud, head of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists, has said that he wants to sue Israel for “stealing” hummus from the Lebanese. Israel he said, was marketing hummus – as well as tabbouleh and falafel – as their own inventions, causing the Lebanese to lose millions of dollars in potential revenue...

...For many enthusiasts, hummus says something about the Lebanese, and helps present them as sophisticated foodies who like to eat and enjoy life rather than launch jihad. (This claim prompted some Arab critics to see the hand of the “Christian Lebanese” behind the whole hummus affair.)

Read the story...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Giving up never felt so good

I left the compound this afternoon with a huge smile on my face. Why? Well, I submitted a report that's taken a long time to complete, but that was only a small part of the satisfaction. The real reason behind the smile was that I'd just called my Arabic teacher and told her I wasn't going to continue with classes. Learning a language shouldn't be easy, but I don't think it should make me miserable either, so I've decided to try my hand at another language instead; one in which I think I'll get a lot further in the 5.5 months I've got left here.

I came up with a little song while I was walking, in the cheesy 70's style reminiscent of "Reunited" by Peaches & Herb...I call it "Giving up never felt so good"

Giving up never felt so good
Though I didn't study as hard as I could
Wanted to learn, wanted to improve
But never managed to find the groove

Giving up never felt so good
Thought I do better, I thought I could
Made me feel stupid, made my brain wrench
So instead, I'm gonna learn French

Monday, January 18, 2010

Om nom nom nom

We were treated to a visit from Ahmed tonight, so in celebration, Yassmin decided to cook a family dinner (which was extended to include some friends as well).

Featuring delicious stuffed zuchinni,

and my favourite Palestinian dish, Maklubeh


Friday, January 15, 2010

Work in progress

It's been a long time since I was last in the camp, so I was excited to tag along with Nicole and Yassmin to check out the reconstruction that begun in November (only 2 years after the end of the conflict!)

Yep, there are now some columns

and lots of reo rods!

We were pretty happy to see what was going on

When it's finished, those living above the first floor will have a great view; to the west, the Mediterranean...

to the east, snow capped mountains...

We then cruised up to package 7 (I think) where some of the antiquities have been moved to, to allow the archeologist more time to process them.

It was so great to get out of my container!

Giggle worthy

After you've checked out those pages I linked to below, you might be in need of some light relief. I don't know much about the country of Cameroon, but I've just learned something very interesting about its first lady, Chantal Biya. Go and find out what it is for yourself!

Thinking about donating?

There have been some great posts put up about donating to the earthquake in Haiti. Having fielded way too many ridiculous phone calls from people about donating goods to disasters (seriously, 27kg of campervanning magazines!!!) when I worked at ACFID, I would like to share my two cents on why you should donate cash, and not be tempted to start collecting tins of food or blankets, or campervanning magazines:
  • cash allows aid agencies to procure the goods that are actually needed
  • cash ensures that these procured goods are appropriate to the diet, environment and culture of the community
  • there are no transportation costs involved with cash (which in the case of goods can be more than the donation is worth)
  • cash can be transferred almost instantaneously, thereby not using up warehouse space or logistics staff time
  • using cash in emergencies supports the local economy (this of course has a down side as the market can rapidly inflate...)
  • your cash donation allows aid agencies to operate. While we'd all love to think that 100% of our donation goes into buying rice or tarps or medicines, some of your money may be used to purchase oil for generators or to set up a telecoms system for the agency...things that are absolutely necessary for agencies to actually get out there and distribute the rice or tarps or medicines etc.
Also, as I said in my twitter feed, make sure you donate to a reputable organisation - see the links at the top of this post for more information on selecting an agency to donate to.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The circle of life (part # I just don't know anymore)

Losing Anise has been really tough. We found out today that her body wasn't found outside the compound, but in the carpark and that there were no visible injuries. This leads us to believe it was a snake bite. It's difficult when you develop a bond with an animal in a place like this and then it dies. It's happened to me three times now. First the puppies in Bangladesh, then the kitties in Mindanao. And now Anise.

Anise's sister, Twitchy (named by me to accurately reflect her disposition) seems to be a smart kitten. Where before, she bolted at the sight of us I think she's realised that Anise isn't coming back, and that her meal ticket (literally) is gone. So Twitchy took a big step yesterday, and let us all pat her. We were amazed and impressed that she could put her fear behind her, knowing that if we love her, we'll feed her. (That's not true, of course we would feed them anyway!)

Ingebjorg has taken it a step further. I got an IM from Yassmin telling me to get over to their office quickly. I hurried over, and found Twitchy sitting on Ingebjorg's one day, Ingebjorg has coaxed her from total aversion to lap sitting. She's a kitten whisperer that one! We can't replace Anise, but we can appreciate the affection from Twitchy.

Thinking of colleagues in Haiti

An email was sent around this morning stating that all UNRWA installations should fly their flags at half mast and that a minute of silence was to be observed for our colleagues lost in Haiti, including a former UNRWA employee. All the staff gathered in the carpark at midday and stood in silence. The true impact of these disasters always takes a couple of days to sink in, particularly if you have no attachment to the country or anyone living there. The scale of devastation is becoming more and more apparent, and it will take a lot of very hard work by the local community and the aid workers who will be going in (or already there) and a long time for Haiti to recover from this.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A tragic day

We've just heard the news that our dear kitten Anise is dead. She had been getting very adventurous and had been spotted a couple of times outside the front of the compound. Apparently she was hit by a car. It's a very sad morning for us here in the compound.

RIP little Anise. We'll miss your lap warming, soccer skills and loud purring. You were the one who inspired us to look after your siblings - you were the bridge. You will be missed.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Been locked out

Dear Shwarma Man,

Oh I tricked you last night didn't I?!! I didn't really have the words to explain to you what happened last night, but the thing was, I got home at 7pm after my Arabic class to find the metal door that we share with the beauty parlour closed. Now, Dima, the proprietor of said parlour doesn't usually leave before 7pm so that's why the metal door keys were inside our house, hanging up, as we thought we'd be home at a reasonable hour, and that she'd still be working.

My first thought to tackling this problem was climbing out the stairwell window, climbing up on an air-conditioner and then hoisting myself up over our balcony, like I did that time when Julie was here. But Shwarma Man, I was wearing nice clothes yesterday, and I didn't fancy them getting all destroyed by that adventure.

Then it struck me. You're related to Dima! You have the same last name!! I think you're her uncle right? So that's why I came down to your shop, to get her phone number. But you were so clever, Shwarma Man, you spotted me and immediately pulled out a small piece of round bread and started separating it and asking me if I wanted beef or chicken. Lucky I'd just learned how to say "I don't need" huh! So thanks for giving me Dima's phone number. Unfortunately, she was very far away, but at least she promised to leave the metal door open if she leaves before 7pm.

The problem was solved by a quick call to our landlord, who sent his son over with the spare key on a very small scooter that looked even smaller under his considerable heft. He struggled to find the right key for quite some time, and thought that if it didn't work one way vertically, that perhaps if he turned it 180 degrees it might work. I guess he doesn't understand keys and locks too well.

So that was my adventure last night Shwarma Man. Thanks for your help!

Love Carly

Friday, January 8, 2010

A very sweet email

I kept the one of staff at RedR Australia updated on my progress with Mangy and the little kitties when I was deployed by them in the Philippines (along with updates on my work too on occasion...) We've kept in touch and she's taken a keen interest in the kitties here as well. I informed her about Travel Tails and received the following email:

I seriously love you! Perhaps when you are 40. You could change your direction to Animal welfare, god knows the world of the animal kingdom need more people like you. <3

I was quite touched and it brought a huge smile to my face. So a special shout-out to Kim for making my day! :-)


Well, here's a tiny piece of news. After a few days of no sightings, I caught up with Anise for an ear scratching session, and then brought her back to my container to warm my lap. When my lunch eventually arrived I kicked her off my lap. She took it in her stride and trotted out of the office, and returned a while later with Atrice in tow. Atrice is the chubbiest of the kittens, and the definition of a "scaredy cat". After poking around in my rubbish bin for a while, they settled on the chair opposite my desk.

That wasn't the first photo attempt though. Atrice being Atrice, the sound of the zoom on my camera scared him off the chair...


The quiet container life

I feel like I've already written this post too many times in the past few months, but there really isn't anything to write home about. Work will be busy this month on the reporting front which will keep me on my toes but also keep me in my container. The weather is playing tricks on us, it's relatively warm and sunny (I didn't need a jacket yesterday) and the snow on the mountains seems to be melting.

My most exciting news is this, I can now count to ten (quite quickly) in Arabic (with a Lebanese accent). Ready?
khmase (that's one of those gutteral sounds)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The halfway point

Today marked six months for me in Lebanon. It's hard to believe that I arrived in Beirut half a year ago. There are days where that feels like a lifetime, others where it feels like it was only days ago. My intention was always to do this job for a year, so on this day in six months time I will have finished my contract and will hopefully be able to write about the next adventures to come.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Intelligent Travel

I stumbled across the National Geographic Intelligent Travel blog and have been really enjoying reading through the archives. One particular adventure I'm looking forward to following is "Bus2Antarctica" - the title says it all really. Andrew Evans is making his way from the USA to Antarctica by bus. He planned the journey to get as far as Mexico, and then will figure the rest of from there - that's my kind of travel!!

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Old Men Series

On our last afternoon in Cairo, both tired from the overnight train trip back from Aswan, we were pretty desperate to find someone to sit down, have a coffee and relax. I was delighted to spot this old cafe, which had sunlight streaming in through the open windows and was full of interesting characters.

May I present the Old Men series...

Travel Tails

Anyone who has read this blog will be very familiar with my love of animals. And my love of taking pictures of animals. A while ago, my Mum (thanks Mum!) suggested that I compile all my photographs of animals in interesting places into a book, which I could call "Travel Tails". I'm not quite ready for a book, but I have decided to start a(nother) blog, where I'll start putting up some of these photos and the stories behind them.

Unfortunately for me, there are people in the world who aren't very good spellers. The whole point of Travel Tails, is that they are TALES about TAILS. Alas, some people in the world who want to share their travel TALES have taken the addresses for Travel TAILS. Pffffft. Anway, you can find my stories at The Travel Tails.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Australian Tough

This is gold!

The stuff of nightmares...

The world's most shameful events in 2009

As I've mentioned before, The Road to the Horizon led a poll on the events that we as the international community should be most ashamed of in 2009. The results are in and I suggest you go over there and read the whole post:

1st place: Palestine
2nd place: World hunger
3rd place is shared between the US and DRC:
5th place: Copenhagen
7th place: shared between Sudan and the international community
9th place: Somalia, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan

I've spent this year working on the top two place getters. I whole heartedly agree with Peter's conclusion:

"Let's hope that 2010 will mean a fresh start for a better year. A year we, humanity as a whole can be proud of.

I know, I will be an optimist until the day I die..."

A letter long overdue

Dear Shwarma Man

Oh, it's been too long!! I wanted to tell you about the shwarma I got in was awful. For starters, the man didn't even have garlic sauce! Can you imagine??? And then, to make matters worse, he put the meat into a bread roll, like a hot dog roll!! I know, crazy right? It was really terrible, I felt quite sick afterwards, and wished that you were there to make me an awesome shwarma.

Thanks for being there tonight Shwarma Man.

Love Carly

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Some photos from Egypt

A special shout-out to my Uncle who first inspired my fascination with Egypt

And a Big Bangs shout-out of course!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!!

It's hard to believe it's 2010 already! The first few months of 2009 dragged very slowly for me, and then it was a whirlwind job in the Philippines and then straight to Lebanon, and a total of 7 countries throughout the year...a pretty great year all in all.

I headed down to Beirut last night to spend NYE with Ahmed. We went to some random party, which was absolutely hilarious. The guy hosting it was very young, and it honestly felt like he was 16 and his parents had gone away for the weekend so he was throwing a party. Ahmed knew a couple of people, who were nice guys, but the rest of the guys there (mainly Americans) all seemed pretty jerky. But we rang in the new year there, and promptly headed out the door to Dany's - a dive bar in Hamra, which is usually packed. While there was quite a bit of room inside, the party sooned spilled out onto the street and the atmosphere was fun. We got home about 3am and followed up this morning by a fantastic greasy breakfast (bacon!!!!).

As a general rule I don't make resolutions any more, I'm more of the attitude if you want to change something about yourself, you should just do it, not wait around until a new year to try to do so. Of course there are many things that I hope to improve this year, and I can only look forward to all the new challenges and adventures 2010 will bring.

Happy New Year to you all!