Monday, August 30, 2010

A drive down to Byron

Byron Bay is a tourist spot in northern New South Wales, known as a hippie retreat (though it's changed a lot in the past couple of decades). It's under an hour south from our house, so Mum, Dad and I took a drive down today to enjoy the beautiful winter weather!
Apparently there used to be more goats, but I only spotted this one
This is the most eastern point in Australia, and we spotted both whales and dolphins cresting.
Dad and I walked down to the lookout on the water which was hard on the knees on the walk down, but much harder on the way up!
We then drove further south to Lennox Head, and enjoyed our sandwiches overlooking the water and the tea trees.
We stopped in at Bangalow, which is a very quaint little town with a bustling main street filled with boutiques and antiques. It's always satisfying to go into a store selling bits and pieces from overseas and smugly knowing that you got a much better price for a similar mandala in Nepal (about 1/10th of the selling price here!!) , or that jewelery box type drawer set you saw in El Dorado for about $10 selling for $115 here but didn't buy because it was a bit twee.

It was a lovely way to spend my last day in Australia...well, I might be flying out tomorrow if my letter of invitation arrives in time!!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

And I'm Off

Today marks exactly 8 weeks of time off for me, and to celebrate I've accepted a deployment through RedR Australia to Pakistan. I'll be working for UNICEF as an Emergency Resource Mobilisation and Contribution Management Specialist for the next three months.

It's going to be a challenging and busy deployment, something I'm looking forward to tremendously.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

World Humanitarian Day

My body is quite happily in the routine of waking up at 9am. I enjoy a nice hot shower, with no shortage of nice products, and my hair doesn't change colour or fall out from the bad water quality. I quite happily pad into the kitchen and pour myself some cereal with nice fresh milk, or make myself some toast with bread that hasn't been drenched with sugar. This morning I put my sheets in the washing machine, a machine that fills up automatically and rinses and spins automatically as well. I sat down at my laptop, connected through wifi to a pretty fast internet connection and didn't have to worry about the power going out. And I thought how much the little comforts of home mean to an aid worker. Forget about the big ticket things like a functioning state or the assurance of basic human rights, I'm talking about the little things you don't even notice until your hair is falling out, you haven't eaten sqaure bread in months, and your back is sore from hauling water into the washing machine and rinsing everything by hand. And you're doing all of this with an armed guard outside in the courtyard.

Today is World Humanitarian Day, and I think about my colleagues around the world who are missing out on the comforts of home. They're doing it tough in Pakistan, in Haiti, in Niger, in Gaza and so many other countries around the world that are suffering the effects of natural disasters or conflict, or both. I think of those colleagues who are nationals of affected countries, who still come to work every day even though they might have lost family members or their home. I think of these colleagues who have chosen to forgo the comforts of home to use their skills to contribute towards a better future. I think about those colleagues that have lost their lives in the pursuit of such a future, and am thankful that there is a day to recognise them.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

WWJAD?

I'm back to reading "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" which is keeping me entertained. Here's another spin on Austen...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Adventuring for alcohol

The unemployment boredom has taken hold (for you readers out there, not for me! Did you notice the new title??); there's not a whole lot to report. I promised you a story from mine and Em's stay on Lamu Island a while ago, so here it is.

Emma and I had almost polished off the bottle of duty free Bomboy Sapphire I'd brought, over the course of a few lazy evenings on safari. For some crazy reason, I'd always leave Em in charge of pouring the drinks, and would end up with a drink that was more gin than tonic. By the time we got to Shela village on Lamu Island, there remained enough gin for two small glasses each. So we spent our first evening on a balcony overlooking a pool, beside which sat a group of men piously reading the Koran to each other, and quietly finished our last remnants of gin.

The next morning, after deciding to move to Sunset House, which was more secluded and had a large terrace overlooking the water instead of the Muslim men, we headed off on a stroll to Lamu town. The sun was hot against our sunscreen-covered (50+ of course) skin, but my face was protected further by my floppy orange hat. We alternated between walking along the shore, with the waves lapping at our feet, and a concrete path on higher ground, where we had to give way to numerous donkeys, laden with heavy loads of concrete blocks and groceries.

An hour had passed by the time we reached the town, and we sough refuge from the sun and the touts offering tours in a juice bar overlooking the bustling harbour dock. We sucked down the refreshing nectar and carried on reading our books. When it came time to leave, the only thing we wanted to do was get some wine and assume what would be our standard positions for the rest of the week: stretched our on the sun lounges musing about life and love. We asked the waiter where we could purchase what we sought; "you can go next door to the bar, they have a shop but it is very expensive. Or you can go to the PAC, which is just up the street." We asked for more directions and he decided that one of his staff, Dennis, would take us to the mysterious PAC.

So off the three of us set, wandering through the tiny alleys, stepping into doorways to allow men pushing heavy carts or the ever-present donkeys to pass. On and on we walked, past windows with gospel songs blaring, past mosques with sandals neatly lined up on the doorstep, and through a small graveyard, littered with plastic bags. Just as we were beginning to wonder if there was really a bottle shop to be found, Dennis pointed. The sign read "Police Association Canteen". Not knowing what to expect when we walked in, we were almost knocked off our feet to see a bunch of Maasai men lazing in the courtyard necking their Tuskers. The barman approached us and told us he only sold beer. "Is there anywhere we can get wine?" "Of course, it's just around the corner." Knowing how far "just up the street" had been, we bought a couple of bottles of Tusker, in case we never actually found the wine shop. We pocketed the receipt for our deposit, 100 shillings would be ours again when we returned the empty bottles, and followed Dennis out. "Just around the corner" turned out to be exactly that, and the little store was overflowing with wine bottles and spirits. Our choice of one white and one red was made on the availability of screw top lids, and we threw in a small bottle of Gordon's (or was it Gilbey's?) gin for good measure. Dennis led the way back through a shortcut, and with our bag clinking with glass, we bade him farewell with a small tip.

We hopped on a boat, stopping abruptly to let on another passenger, a young woman named Nasra, who was struggling to keep the black chiffon scarf settled on her hair. She was excited to spend the fifteen minute trip with foreigners and told us extraordinary tales of siblings sharing children if women weren't able to conceive. We struggled to keep up with her tale of such an occurrence, but managed to nod or shake our heads at the appropriate moments.
(After this boat ride I was slight less white and slightly more pink...)

We said our goodbyes at the dock outside the Peponi Hotel and wound our way through the maze of sandy streets, past souvenir shops, the tiny grocery store, and the madrasa and stopped in front of an old man who had waved us over. His younger companion told us he was 97 years old and was selling perfume. "97 right?" he yelled in the old man's ear in Arabic. "95. 95!" he replied in English. Emma handed over 120 shillings and he presented her with a tiny bottle of rose scent.

We finished our walk home, happily greeting the women downstairs with an exuberant "jambo!", who took one look at our pink faces and burst out laughing. I would spend more time with them over the following nights, watching them braid each other's hair in tight plaits, and holding their chubby cheeked babies, but on this evening, we headed straight upstairs and poured ourselves some wine. The night was still young when the bottle was drained. "How about a gin," Emma asked. We asked the houseboy to go and buy us some tonic, with enough change for five bottles. I naively thought that would carry us through to the following night, momentarily forgetting how much gin Em and I had consumed over the years. Before we knew it, the last of the tonic was poured and the Gordon's (or was it the Gilbey's?) was empty. We crawled into our four-posted beds, through the cavernous mosquito nets that encompassed them, and slept soundly.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

World Humanitarian Day

This is a great video - it's hard to believe a year has gone by already.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

There's a Carly for that

Remember my "Carly for Any Occasion" business, that wasn't really a business but more of a not-for-profit service? Well, it's back!

Need someone to go and see that movie that no-one wants to see with you? There's a Carly for that! I'd read somewhere that "Killers" was a poor man's "Mr & Mrs Smith" - I say, it was light years better and side splittingly funny!!

Need to go to an exhibition? There's a Carly for that! Even though it was my suggestion, Julie was super excited yesterday to have someone to go with her to the Valentino Retrospective currently on at the Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art. There were so many beautiful dresses that were truly more impressive works of art than other things hanging in that gallery!!

We saw this one:
And this one:
And many many other beautiful constructions. I couldn't quite pick just one favourite (Julz had a clear winner) but I did love these three:
2003
2008
1968-69

While some of the designs were pretty easy to peg to a decade, I'd never have guessed the top two above were designed in the last 10 years. Some of Valentino's designs were years in front of his contemporaries, and dresses from the 60s would be completely wearable today (if you moved in couture circles!!) If you'd like to read a review (of the book that accompanies the exhibition) by someone who actually seems to know what they're talking about, click here.

Need a Carly for your Scrabble occasion? Of course, there's a Carly for that. Julz and I played a long game with her bright pink Scrabble board (it's one of the breast cancer awareness products) and we both had some great scores. I managed to edge her out with what I believe is my highest score of all time, 316. Thank you Q on a triple word score!!

I don't know what's next for this Carly for Any Occasion business...if you're in the SE QLD area, give me a shout!!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Productive unemployment

I've decided that my unemployment officially starts on Monday. Until now, I've been travelling and on holidays, and as someone put it, as long as you're not at home on the couch, you're not unemployed. As of Monday however, I think it's safe to say I'll be unemployed. Which I'm totally ok with, for a good few weeks at least anyway. A number of people I've spoken to seem to find it very stressful that in this line of work, many of us will finish a contract and not necessarily have something else lined up. I don't really think it's a problem though if you've been reading this blog for a while you'll remember how stir crazy I was going before I got the job in the Philippines!! But it's actually quite nice to have indefinite time off - ideally, I'd like that indefinite period to be about 6 weeks, but we'll have to wait and see how that turns out!

I'm going to go against the grain of (stereo)typical dole bludgers (since I'm not actually going on the dole) and try to be a little bit productive during my unemployment. My first step is to clear the other half of my bed of the clothes and crap that I haven't been able to find room for yet: it will be nice to not to be relegated to 60cm of bed! I'm going to catch up on all the fantastic blogs I haven't been reading - look to the right the screen and you'll see the list I'm talking about (and more). I've already got some books out of the library, mainly about Sudan, so that might come in useful one day. I'm flirting with the idea of one of those language cd courses...but perhaps I shouldn't get too carried away!! Then there's the fun stuff like getting Dilbert checked out by the Dell doctor, finding some compact ipod speakers, potentially buying an ebook reader - does anyone have any tips on that???

And of course, throughout all of this productivity I suppose I might even apply for a job or two!

Awesome ASH

Towards the end of my time in Lebanon I was getting in trouble from Ingebjorg for over using the word awesome, but I can safely say that the Ash concert I went to on Wednesday night was awesome. And amazing. If you don't believe me, read this guy's review.

I was impressed at the politeness of the crowd, while there was some enthusiastic jumping, no-one was pushing or being rough. I had personal space!! Impressive when you're second row back from the barrier.

The guys played a great mix of old and new stuff, and the crowd went pretty wild at Kung Fu - a song my brother and I had sung at karaoke not four days before in Japan!! The song was rad, my camera sound recording, not so much...

Look up the real video if you don't know the song!

Well worth the ticket price (We Are Scientist supported, and came out after Ash with the boys as the super group WASH for two covers which was pretty cool!) and the flights to Melbourne!!

Birthday Shout-out Time!!

It's Jeremy's birthday today. Since he's in Kenya at the moment, I hope he had the opportunity to go and scare some real animals with his Bengal tiger impersonation!!

Happy birthday Jez!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Jambo Baby!!

Here's another video from safari which should tide you over for a couple of days:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Up in the Air

Ah, if only I had a platinum frequent flyer card (I miss the days when I had a gold one!) I'm off on another flight to Melbourne tomorrow for a few days to see Ash play, have a chat with RedR Australia, and hopefully catch up with a few mates I haven't seen in a while. I'm really looking forward to spending some money on good coffee, not looking forward to the cold temperatures!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

IHL Event in Melbourne 10 August

"Protecting the Messenger" a free event about journalists in war zones will be held next week in Melbourne, put on jointly by RMIT and the Australian Red Crosss.

Over the past decade, more than 1000 journalists and news support staff have been killed, many while covering war and conflict. Why do journalists go to war zones? What dangers do they face in their work? What protections are afforded to them by the Geneva Conventions, the rules of war?

Please join us for a special panel discussion featuring:
Dr Fay Anderson, who teaches on Australian war journalism at the University of Melbourne
Brett McLeod, a news reporter who has travelled to Iraq, Israel-Lebanon during the 2006 conflict and Thailand during the ‘Red Shirt’ protests
Bev Patterson, Australian Red Cross, National Resources Co-ordinator, International Humanitarian Law

Venue: Kaleide Theatre, RMIT City Campus, 360 Swanston Street, Melbourne(down the stairs near the Commonwealth Bank)
Date: Tuesday 10 August 2010; at 6:30 for a 6:45pm start
Cost: Free
RSVP: To Sophia at fihlvic@gmail.com by Friday 6 August 2010

The rest of Japan summed up

I will forever remember this trip to Japan as the time I ate my own body weight. Seriously, I can't believe how much deliciousness there was to be had. My Japanese sister Mina took Kent and me out for more okonomiyaki

And not just one okonomiyaki, but three different types: Osaka (left), Hiroshima (middle, my favourite) and Tokyo (right) styles.

Mina also took us out for lunch the next day which of course was also pretty super. We noticed the following from outside the Aeon shopping centre

It's dog grooming taken to a whole new level. Apparently a little haircut costs about $100!

And in store, there were fabulous doggy treats

and outfits...

We headed to Kobe on Saturday afternoon for a bit of a look around and then a dinner cruise for our birthday bash. I spotted this pair while having a nice cold beer. Yes, it's a dog wearing a hat

and another in sunglasses!

Also saw some good Engrish

The all you can eat (and drink) buffet on the cruise was pretty nice, and of course I had to take a photo of it!

We had a bit of fun on the boat, but the real fun started at...

KARAOKE!!!

Just as the night was really starting to kick off, a few of us had to dash off to catch the last train home (at 11:22!!) It I hadn't been leaving the next day I would've happily stayed out singing all night, but alas, all good things had to come to an end.

In fact, the whole week went way to quickly. I met some wonderful people, had incredible food, and it was so lovely to spend time with Mina who I hadn't seen in a few years.

But next time I go to Japan, it will definitely be in Spring or Autumn, no more Winter or Summer visits!!

At the supermarket

I love going to supermarkets in different countries, it's a wonderful way of learning about cuisine, even if you can't read what certain things are. Japanese supermarkets are cool.
Squids:

Teeny tiny fish that we put in the somen noodles:

Funky mushrooms

Perty octopie

Teeny tiny beer! (seriously, who drinks 135ml of beer??)

Teeny tiny sake

And, beer for children. It's non-alcoholic, but foams up just like the real thing...

Supermarkets are fun!