Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Birthday girl

It's Rowan's birthday today. Happy birthday Rowan!! Rowan who always sends me interesting links, Rowan who corrects my grammar politely, Rowan who has been a wonderful friend for the past six or so years! Apologies that there's not a lovely photo of the two of us included here, but since I don't have the interwebs at home anymore, I couldn't upload one. I hope you've had a lovely day and that Sam the cat gives you plenty of affection (instead of the other way around!) :-)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Breaking kitty news

In very exciting kitten watch update news, Atrice has brought two of the kittens down off the roof. They are extremely cute. And they've already discovered the escape channels on the sides of the demountable offices just like Mum and Dad use. And because of that, I couldn't get any photos today, but Ingebjorg has kindly sent me some she took on the weekend when they were still up on the roof....


So cute

I saw the white one on the right up close and personal today, it's too much cute!!

Dance Dance

We went to a beach party south of Beirut on Friday night. It was a fundraiser for a new NGO called Voices International that has been established here (registered in Austalia) to help address the problems faced by domestic workers. So we were happy to pay for a lovely buffet dinner and open bar.

I think the best song of the night was one of those 50's mega mixes (it might have been Jive Bunny), since everyone knows all the words and could dance along. It's always a bit of a downer when the DJ starts to play doof doof music you've never heard before. But Ingebjorg and I managed to have a bit of fun...

It's sad to think that I've only got 1 more weekend in Lebanon.

And in preparation for that, I did a trial pack of most of my worldly goods on the weekend. After carefully rolling all my clothes and placing the bulky things in my backpack first, I managed to get a fair bit in...but not quite enough. I unpacked the bag I'd packed last week and was a bit more ruthless in tossing clothes into a bag to give away, so I managed to fit more in there. I'm optimistic that I'll get everything in eventually, but just have to hope that I don't go over the weight limit. Since I'm travelling on a cut price airline home from Japan, I really don't want to be hit with their excess baggage prices!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

All aboard!!

There are a couple of 'famous' things in Tripoli that I'm yet to experience, a visit to the citadel ranks number one on that list. Tonight, I got to cross off another thing on that list, thanks to Najwa's enthusiastic insistence that we ride...the "Happy Train."

And yes, we were very happy after a lap of the corniche!

He writes the news

My ex-roomie Ahmed had an article published in a newspaper today. And not just any newspaper, this one even beats the impressiveness of the letter to the editor I had published in the Bangladeshi Daily Star!

Please go to The Guardian (yes, you read that correctly, THE Guardian!) and read Ahmed's article on Palestinians living in Lebanon - it's very good. And we're very proud of him. Even if he does look like a terrorist/rapist/Madame Tussaurds creation in his photo...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Kitten watch day 2


(courtesy of Ingebjorg's fancy camera)

Geek out

I'm not a big sci-fi fan, but I do love Doctor Who and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. So when two worlds collide...

Nerd explosion!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kitty sighting!

I was hoping for a better shot, but alas, Atrice was covering up her babies...but you can see a teeny tiny head there on the left...

Poor Atrice was kind of hyperventilating at the sight of my face poking up over the ladder, so I didn't stick around to try and spot the other kitties. This was the view from the bottom of the ladder:


This is a hoot

See what I did with the title there...

An open letter to Lebanese football fans

Dear Lebanese football fans,

I know it must be hard to not have your own country's team playing in the World Cup, believe me for many years I knew how that felt. Of course, with this being the case, it is perfectly acceptable for you to take on another team to support. It's nice that the majority of you have chosen Germany and Brazil, two very capable teams, though it would also be nice if you supported some of the smaller teams who are playing well too (special shout-to New Zealand, I just realised I went to school with Shane Smeltz who scored their goal against Italy!)

So yes, it's very nice that the "world game" is indeed a game for everyone, even if you don't have a team of your own. My problem, Lebanese football fans is this: You are barracking for another country, so why the hell do you have to be so avertly over the top with your celebrations??? Particularly when it's only the group stage???

Last night, a small but very loud portion of Lebanese football fans celebrated Brazil's win. Now as the match had been going on, I'd heard the celebratory cheering when the goals were scored. No problem, that's fun! What really got to me was the celebration when the final whistle was blown: (a) There were fireworks right outside my window. Loud, flashy fireworks
(b) There were cars and bikes hooning up and down the street blasting their horns
(c) There were kids not old enough to have motorbikes hooning up and down the street on push bikes blowing their own versions of the vuvuzela.

This went on for OVER AN HOUR!! The game finished at 11:20pm (already past my bedtime) and the over the top celebrations carried on till after 12:30am. Who needs to ride up and down the same street over and over again for that long at that time of the night??

Lebanese football fans, it's great that you're passionate, it really is, but could you please be passionate with a little more respect for people that have to be at work at 7:15am? Mondays are hard enough as it is without you lot taking precious hours of sleep from me.

I appreciate your future cooperation and respect,

Update: I just got the following as part of a security update: "A clash between two persons leads to group fight on the night of June 20, because supporters of Brazilians caused lot of disturbance in the streets. Warning shots fired to disperse the crowds."

Update 2: Just to clarify, it wasn't me who fired the warning shots, it happened in one of the camps...

It begins

A few days ago I started pulling clothes out of my closet and rolling them up, stacking them neatly on my ironing board. The pile ended up being pretty big, and it didn't include the clothes I put aside to wear over the next couple of weeks. Today I managed to fit everything that was on the ironing board into a relatively small bag (I think I carried it on coming over here). So I was almost starting to feel confident that packing my backpack would be a breeze...but as I look around my room, and remember the bulky med and first aid kits in the top drawer, the electronics in the side table cupboard, I wonder how the hell I'm going to fit the rest of my life here into one backpack and one carry on...

Luckily I've still got two weeks to figure it out!

Bad cinema

One evening, a couple of months ago, I stumbled across the fantastically terrible film "Shark Attak 3: Megaladon" which had me rolling around on the couch, crying with laughter.

I didn't think it possible to find another predator movie worse than that, but I think this might be a contender...

If anyone has actually seen it, do let me know!!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Farewell to an awesome foursome part 2

There's a place in Beirut I've been saving up for a special occasion. And there was no occassion more special than another farewell party for Ingebjorg, Adi, Chadi and me, so we gathered our nearest and dearest 15 friends and booked a booth at Music Hall. It's an old theatre that has been converted into a cabaret lounge, and is lusciously decorated in red velvet.

Throughout the night (11pm - 3:30am, and yes we were the very last people to leave!) different types of acts come on stage and play a couple of songs, then the curtain shuts, leaving you with a fantastic DJ, but still wanting more.

There was this guy, towards the end of the night, who brought the house down

I was pretty impressed by this Italian tenor

And this lot, though not quite as vocally skilled, certainly were a lot of fun:

and these two brothers played just the right music for me to bust out some of my new dance moves

There were also couple of pop acts, a Cuban band, and a rock group who played "Smoke on the Water" taking some of us back almost 12 months to the Deep Purple concert in Baalbeck, and a lot of fun all round.

Nicole was an excellent dance partner

Jihnan, Adi and Chadi were also keen dancers

And Nicole, Ingebjorg and Hicham kept me entertained effortlessly.

and I can just imagine what Oli had said to garner that look from Jihnan!

I'm glad I saved Music Hall for the end of my time here (it's an expensive evening!) as it truly was a night to remember; great friends, great entertainment, and great memories!

Farewell to an awesome foursome part 1

The staff in the compound gave myself, Ingebjorg, Adi and Chadi a lovely farewell on Friday afternoon, as we're all leaving at various times over the next 2.5 weeks. And it was no surprise that my name (and Ingebjorg's) was spelled incorrectly on the cake, which didn't matter, because it was delicious!

We were presented with a lovely gift, which you can't really see, but there's a wooden map of Palestine in the middle.

We jumped on the UNRWA bus to Beirut as soon as the party was over, and were interrupted along the way by this:

(Yes, the photo is upside down for some reason, but you can clearly see a dirty great big puncture!)

We still made good time and I was absolutely delighted to see:

My red door was opened again!!

And some new grafitti!

I have this one on a new necklace I bought last week, it translates along the lines of "kiss me where it hurts"

We took rest in preparation for the night that was to come...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fingers crossed I get to see this!

I found Stood in Maasai Mara website today, and have devoured about 20 pages so far. But the video below has absolutley made my day. It's dated 6 July...I'll be arriving at the Maasai Mara on 7 July, so hopefully the wilderbeest put on an equally good show this year!!

Wildebeest Crossing Mara River - Oh **** there's a lion! from Stood in the Maasai Mara on Vimeo.


Yassmin reported yesterday that she'd heard the new kittens. For a long time, we were pretty sure the kittens were dead, since (a) they were born of incest and google told us that incest kittens don't have a high survival rate, (b) their mother, still a teenager herself was unlikely to produce a healthy litter on her first attempt (google again) and (c) the mother was always hanging around the office, when she really should have been with her babies.

Anyway, we heard the little cries this morning on the roof of the M&E office (which is exactly where Atrice, Anise and Twitchy were born and raised initially), grabbed the rickety old wooden ladder that was propped up around the corner, and sent Yassmin up to check out what could be seen...

"awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww" (with high pitched inflection at the end) "they're so cute!" Yassmin could see three tiny kitties.
Ingebjorg then climed up:
I was impatiently waiting for my turn, hopping from one foot to the other, and finally got to climb up.

They're very tiny, and look very much like their parents. The one I could see clearly looked a bit like this, only grey and white. Hopefully Atrice will bring them down off the roof soon so we can cuddle them!

To do

I went to another Arabic dance class this evening, and once again was unlucky to be sandwiched between two ladies who had no concept of personal space. Ah well, it was still a bit of fun. I'm going to get some private tutoring off Jihnan tomorrow night before we debut some moves on Friday night in Beirut. Not only is there a joint farewell at the office for Adi, Ingebjorg, Chadi and myself on Friday afternoon (which hopefully won't set my mindset to 'game over' when there are still 2.5 weeks to go!) but we're having a blowout bash Friday night at a place called Music Hall.

So while I may be being farewelled in 2 days, I can't let myself get into that zone just yet. Between now and the 6th of July I need to finish a report for a European donor, proof read a report for an Arab donor, and edit another european report (it's nice to have other people writing reports for me...that's capacity building!) then throw together the monthly update for HQ, do a bit of filing and clean out my drawers. She'll be right cobber!

And during that time also go to the Mika concert in Baalbeck (which I think will be more epic than Deep Purple), a beach party south of Beirut, some serious beaching, and perhaps a visit to a certain nightclub in Batroun that we heard about all last summer, and there's still a good 3 weekend days that haven't been planned yet. Summer fun!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Red door/Green door

There's a red door I love in Hamra in Beirut, just off Shara Hamra. I've never taken a picture of it before, so you'll have to take my word for it, but it's a great red door. On Friday afternoon, on our way to T-Marbouta to a jewelery sale, Ingebjorg and I passed the red door. The red door was open, and inside was a beautiful little garden. I was happy to discover such beauty was kept hidden behind my red door.

Today Yassmin and I went to look at a new apartment. With my contract up in early July, she'll need to find a cheaper place for the next couple of months, and had found out about an apartment in the old part of Mina. I once got lost on purpose in the maze of little alleyways there, happily wandering the twists and turns, admiring the old architecture, and smiling at the faces peering out of the windows. We were met by the landlord who didn't take us off the biggest road (which is wide enough for a small car, perhaps a Fiat Punto...) and led us up two flights of stairs.

A green door.

The apartment inside was nice enough, perfect for a couple of months and a fantastic price. The narrow balcony looks out over the old town, with some minarets nearby peeking over the top of the other buildings. I'll only officially live there for a week or so if we take it, but the thought of living behind a green door is exciting. Of course, on the scale of doors, red comes second to blue, but green is a happy third. We'll see...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Like a polaroid picture

I went to another dance class this afternoon, and barring the annoying woman who stood way too close and kept shooting me dirty looks when she bumped into me, I had a very successful class. How successful? The teacher complimented me on my super duper fast hip shaking. Try this: stand up straight, shoulders back and down, feet together. Now shake your hips from side to side as fast as you can. Fun huh! While I may have that move down pat, next week we're going to add to it, by walking forwards and backwards and to the side at the same time. Go on, try that...you probably look like as much of an idiot as I do! And if not, I tip my hat to you!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I was quite chuffed by a compliment I received from a friend recently, who told me that the smartest people he knows are Doctor Who fans, myself included. Yea me! Another shot from the Hammam, my unintentional re-enactment of a Doctor Who regeneration...

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Model

Ingebjorg bought herself a new camera lens and since we're planning a super duper secret photoshoot we decided (since it really wasn't beachy weather today) to go to the souk and do a trial run. Unfortunately the abandoned hammam (bathhouse) we wanted to shoot in was closed, but we were told of another one.

The Hammam al Jedid is an Ottoman era bathhouse that's been closed since the 1930s. It's in much better condition than the other one we'd seen, and we actually had to pay to go in. There's a lot more light which was good for photos, but it's not as atmospheric. The guy who owns it also kept coming in to see what we were doing which was a bit annoying, we know at the other place they'll just let us in and leave us to our own devices.

Anyway, here are a couple of the shots...

My whirling dervish impersonation

Putting on my scarf

Ingebjorg has called this one "going native"

I'm not a natural in front of the camera, so I think it makes Ingebjorg's work all the more impressive!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Life is tough

This explains a lot (thanks youtube for proving that my whining about internet speed is justified):

Monkeys and Pigs

Yesterday, I was informed of some hidden smilies in google chat, a monkey :(|) which looks like this and a pig :(:) . How fun!!

This afternoon, after a chocolate milkshake at Hallab, Ingebjorg and I headed to El Dorado to see if they had any plastic shoes suitable for navigating the rocky beaches we'll be hitting over the next few weeks. While we didn't have any success with that, I did find some super cute thongs (flip flops people!!), which coincidentally featured...

Monkeys and Pigs!!

Perfectly timed (and fantastically priced!) to replace the lighthouses and moose pairs I bought when I left the Philippines (I had to throw out the moose/mooses?/mices?? while I was in Thailand... :-(

Friday, June 4, 2010

A worthy title

Hello ladies….

Culture shock

It may have been a long week at the office, but it's also been a week full of exciting things. Yesterday I attended my first Arabic dance class. My years of Jazzercise stood me in good stead, as I was absolutely fine with the foot work, and had a pretty good headstart in the hip isolations. Shaking the hips and the hand movements need a lot more practice, but thankfully my friend Jihnan has offered to give me some extra lessons!!

After a quick visit to Shwarma Man (how I've missed him) I headed for Cava, as it was Adi's last ever poetry night. He'd written a poem to express what he'd learned from Tripoli which was a smashing success.

Entitled "Arbar, Hamse, Let's go Fishing" (literally, "four, five, let's go fishing) may I present Adi...

This evening a few of us headed to City Complex to check out an exhibition by a Beirutian cartoonist, Maya Zankoul. Check out her website, it's fantastic! Since the exhibition was put on by the French cultural centre all of her drawings had been translated into French. Thankfully I had Najwa on hand to translate! And I picked up a copy of a collection of her pieces (in English), so I'm looking forward to reading that on the weekend.

We then headed down to the cinema at Las Salinas to see Robin Hood, which was effectively a cross between Gladiator and Braveheart, but a fine way to spend an evening.

After all this culture it's hard to come up with something more exciting to do this weekend. Maybe I'll be inspired by the film and seek out the citadel...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Happy Birthday Em!

It's my wonderful friend Emma's birthday today. It's an important milestone and I hope she has a fantastic day! Only 37 more days till we meet up in Nairobi for safari awesomeness!!