Friday, April 29, 2011

Better car photos

Slightly better quality this time around, here are some shots from the drive from Mamba Point back to the office.

Pretty idyllic (if you look past the parking lot)

One art please.

I've seen lots of little shacks on relatively big blocks of land

You can't read this, but I promise the temperature gauge says "outside 36 inside 46"

another great billboard

I don't know why all schools don't have animal statues out the front

I retract what I said yesterday about no real traffic signals, lollipop men do exist!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

To get to the other side

The driver who picks us up every morning is lovely. He struggles with reading and writing so whoever sits in the front seat fills out the vehicle log for him. He's a very cautious driver, which is something to be cherished, but most of the time he's a little too cautious; almost coming to a complete stop to go over a little bump in the road. This is a bit of a problem. When we head out of our little compound onto a dirt road, there's quite a steep step up onto the bitumen main road. Normally that wouldn't be a problem for a big old four wheel drive, but it is here. You see, it's a four lane road. We need to cross two lanes to get to the other side. There are no traffic lights. There are no stop signs. It's a matter of pulling out when there's a bit of a gap - people will stop. So for our dear driver, who seems to be a bit hesitant about going over bumps, the step up to the road is a tough one, particularly when as soon as you've made it over the bump you're in a lane of traffic. The past couple of days a lovely bus driver (I couldn't say whether it was the same guy or the same bus) has stopped for us, waving his hand out the window to signal the other lane to stop. That's very nice, we can at least get to the (almost) middle of the road. But that's when the next challenge arises. Our dear driver won't put his foot down and get into traffic. So we sit, waiting, in the middle of the four lane road, blocking two lanes of traffic while he waits for a gap big enough, or someone takes pity on us, flicks on their hazard lights and in we go.

It's an adventure, the 10-15 minute drive. We pass yellow taxis packed with women dressed in bright colours, pass men in ties waggling their hands to hail the taxi, pass children in brightly coloured school uniforms holding hands on their way to school. I watch with nervous anticipation as pedestrians dart out in front of cars. Two days ago we saw a man get hit by a car. By the time we were level with where the accident had happened he was standing up, brushing himself off and looking for the shoe he'd lost. It was a very lucky escape. We pass some great billboards and signs, telling us to "pay taxes to develop Mama Liberia", and a church which demands that we "win the lost at all costs." At 7:30 this morning the temperature gauge in the car said it was 33 degrees outside and I internally urged the driver to go faster to get a breeze come through the window; a particularly important luxury when I'm in the sideways facing seats in the very back.

When we pull off the main road back onto the dirt we get back to the jerky braking of our driver as he goes over the bumps. I look into the houses and see mothers hurrying their children out the door, chickens pecking in the grass, and a yard full of broken down cars - one that has been cut in half and is standing on its nose. When we pull up to the big green gates at the office and beep the horn we wait for the guards to come out to check who it is. More little children walk past and wave and smile.

It's an adventure, the 10-15 minute drive.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Golden Beach indeed

So far I think it's safe to say that I'm not doing it tough in Monrovia. This was the view from last night's restaurant...

and the food was just as good as the view!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Presented without context

"Last month he was criticised for raiding a suspect's house with several armoured vehicles and a tank carrying Steven Seagal."


Sunday, April 24, 2011

The most fantastic statue

We went out for sushi tonight, and I must say it was some of the best sushi I've ever eaten! Who would've thunk it? Anyway, my dream came true on the way back home. We decided to stop off at the Embassy Nightclub, as a statue outside had captivated us all. Turns out it was $10 to get in and we only had an hour before curfew, so we didn't bother. But at least I got to take this...

What a few of us initially thought, from driving past at a relatively high speed, was a statue for a campaign on violence against women, is actually two people dancing.

I thought I'd seen the pinnacle of odd statues, but I was wrong. I'm now very curious to witness the dancing that goes on in the Embassy nightclub. Maybe next weekend...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Car photos

With today being Good Friday the power was turned off in the office at 2pm, so the 7 internationals here working on the response decided it was definitely time for lunch. I didn't care where we went, I was just excited to see more of Monrovia. I'd been impressed with the quality of the main road, and was keen to see how many other roads were paved. The answer is not many. Drive more than 20m off the main road and it's dirt. As the title says, these are photos taken from the car, so I apologise for their crappiness!

I spotted this little guy and was impressed with his show of colours. I recently read somewhere that lizards communicate by doing (what looks like) pushups. And that's exactly what he was doing!

We finally ended up at a place run by Lebanese so I figured that was the best choice on the menu...the beef shwarma made me miss Shwarma Man like crazy!

I'd seen this billboard on the way to work - I wonder how effective this campaign is.

Further along the road from this billboard are some dusty soccer pitches. I noticed a guy on crutches playing in a match which I thought was interesting, until I saw that all the players were amputees on crutches, except for the goalie who only had one arm. And they had mad skillz!

So there you go, a few introductory photos to Congo Town, Monrovia.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I'm in Liberia

I left for Brisbane airport more than 48 hours ago, discovering along the way that I had 2 extra stopovers I hadn't known about. It was a pretty epic trip. On one leg I sat next to a photojournalist who'd just left Kabul and was heading for Lamu. She had some extremely interesting stories to tell and man I wish I were in Lamu right now! In Nairobi airport I had a chat with an aid worker headed to South Sudan, and again, she had plenty of interesting experiences to share (because what else is there to do at 6:45 in the morning at the airport cafe?)

And now I'm finally in Monrovia. First impressions: lush, green, good road from the airport, room with air conditioning is a wonderful surprise luxury!! Apologies, grammar is not my strong suit when I'm this tired. The flight term "red eye" literally applies to me right now.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Modern art frivolity

I'm flying out of Brisbane tonight, so Julie and I decided to check out the Gallery of Modern Art since they have the slippery slide exihibition (it's two big slippery slides inside the museum). I saw it at the Tate a few years ago but the line was too long so I didn't bother sliding down. Of course, Julie and I didn't realise it was school holidays and since it was a rainy day the place was absolutely packed out with kids, so again, I missed out on sliding. One of the exhibits I did like was the "Make a wish wall" (or something like that). You write down your wish on a little square piece of paper, roll it up and stick it in a hole in the wall. Then you can choose one of hundreds of different ribbons that have other peoples' wishes; picking one that speaks to you. So I chose:

Another one of the fantastic school holiday installations was a giant glass room filled with big purple balloons. It looks like so much fun, but the line was going to take an hour so we didn't bother. I joked to Julie that we should just go home and fill her shower with balloons...

Such fun!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sunset on the street

Pretty spectacular this evening!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

To pack or not to pack...

I just had the following conversation with myself:

-Should I really pack my Gore-tex rain jacket?
- It's coming into the rainy season in Liberia
- Yeah, but the last time I packed it I didn't use it in a whole year
- But you just don't know with rain
- That's true, but how much time am I going to spend outside anyway?
- Yes, a very good point. Probably not that much time, and don't you have an umbrella?
- Of course I have an umbrella, it's got a penguin head on the end of it (and yes it's from Japan) and that would probably be sufficient for someone who's going to be sitting at a desk for many, many hours a day
- and isn't your gore-tex jacket a bit bulky? Could the space be used for something else?
- well I wouldn't call it bulky, it rolls up to almost nothing. Then again, I'll probably need to pack my other Gore-tex jacket, the slightly thicker one, just in case it gets a bit cold. And I might need it for warmth in the UK. Gore-tex is a funny word isn't it? Gorrrrrrrre-tex. Goretex. Gore-texxxxxxxxxxxxx.

I'm taking it out.

Monday, April 11, 2011

First impressions of the kindle

My new little kindle arrived today. I went for the smaller version 3, with free 3G (apparently) and wifi on sale for $189. With postage to Australia it didn't come to much more than that. First impressions are so good (I haven't actually read much as yet, there might have to be another post on that at a later stage), it's lovely and light, the magic screen does sort of look like paper, and the fact that it has a web browser is super.

But back to the weight (also, notice the lovely screensaver when you put it to sleep; one of many literary related pictures):

only 233 grams (I do this because the weight is advertised in ounces on the amazon site which means absolutely nothing to us metric folk)! But what is 233 grams really Carly?

Well, it's really light!

It's less than two small tins of tuna, and only slightly more than two normal sized phones.

You can't really make out the quality of the text in this image, but what you can see is that it's 19cm long in total, the screen is about 13cm tall. Which puts it at a size that could fit into any handbag I own, and it would be swimming in the bag I usually use for carry on. The text size is adjustable - I have it on the second smallest, so you could fit even more on the screen if you wanted to.

Navigation is pretty straight forward, though at this point in time I think it's easier to search for books on my computer and wirelessly transfer them than do it on the kindle. I've just been browsing through the Limited Time Offers section of the kindle store to see what other free books are available (besides the classics which of course I will steadily make my way through!) and boy is there a lot of crap!! Whenever I need a romance novel fix (like if it's been too long between chapters of Disastrous Passion) I now know where to find a selection of the trashiest books including "Hot Moon Rising" and "Maui Heat" (I haven't read the blurbs but you can trust me on their trashiness).

I've quickly looked at the annotating which is extremely simple to do, and the immediate link to the dictionary may come in very handy. I'll also have to investigate whether the kindle will play mp3s and let you read at the same time, but I probably won't bother with that since I have a perfectly capable ipod to play music!

I think the kindle is going to be fantastic to travel with and the text really does look like a book. It looks like a display model that is never switched on, that someone's printed out and stuck a page onto. That's how good the text display is.

Colour me impressed.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Carly for Bathrooms

You will of course, remember my not-for-profit service "A Carly for any Occasion" and my previous foray into painting for Julie. Turns out, I'm somewhat better with a roller and a paintbrush than a spray gun though will happily leave painting bathroom ceilings to the more experienced - I'm sure chiropractics was invented to treat Michaelangelo.

Julie, being the good girl that she is, let me paint a picture on the wall (which will be covered by a mirror later) while she was doing something more technical involving architraves. I had to play with the contrast and fill light to get it to show up on screen, so please don't think that Julie has decided to paint her bathroom paua shell colours!

Yes, you are seeing that correctly; it's a llama on a tropical island with a treasure chest, some coconuts and a skeleton. A happy carnivorous llama! This is why painting isn't my hobby. Obviously.

Good thing I'm going to Liberia soon, I have too much time on my hands...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Flashback to NBC

I was searching my brain, trying to think of something to blog about but was coming up empty. Then I hopped on twitter and saw a tweet from Aramex "If you're in and would like to donate books and games to a library in Nahr Al Bard, drop us a line! "

Not long before I finished up my job with UNRWA in Tripoli on the Nahr al-Bared camp (NBC) reconstruction project, my boss made me the point person for this project with Aramex. At that time, Aramex were going to donate money to create a mobile library for NBC. There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and um-ing and ah-ing and it turned out that my time was up before any real progress was made. So I was delighted to read that a (stationary) library has been established for the residents of NBC, which you can read about on the link above. There are so many smart young people living in the camp that don't have access to many books, so this library will hopefully provide a safe space where people of all ages can learn, whether for school or for fun. I know there are a few people who read this in Lebanon, so if you're able to donate some books to the library I'm sure they'll be much appreciated!

And while I'm on a bit of an NBC flashback, the documentary "Nahr al-Bared: Checkpoints and More" is a year old now, but it's an interesting look into the difficulties of recovery in the camp. If you've got a spare 30 minutes and you're interested in Palestine refugees then I'm sure you'll find it to be a good insight.

Though I only left Lebanon about 8 months ago it seems like it was a different lifetime. But every so often when a warm breeze catches my ankles, I think back to afternoons spent on the balcony watching the Mediterranean with an icy Almaza in hand. Life in Lebanon was good for me, if only it were as good for everyone.

UPDATE: Yassmin just put the following link up on facebook, to an article in the Daily Star (with one of my favourite colleagues pictured on the far right, he's an absolute champ) about the progress of the reconstruction. I can't wait to see some photos of the first finished package (remembering that there are 8 in total, with funding only secured for three) and hope the publicity from the opening of package 1 will lead to an increase in funding. It's almost been four years since the residents of NBC were forced to abandon their homes. Four. Years.

Monday, April 4, 2011

This and that

One of the great things about having my own blog is that I can put whatever I want on it. So if, for example, I wanted to say that my friend Pierre in Canberra is a dag, but a dag that can be counted on to read and write what he says he will, I can absolutely do that right here. Great huh!

There's not a lot going on at the moment, as I'm just sitting at home waiting for my boss to let me know where and when my next deployment will be. In between doing a bit of work I've been enjoying the warm weather (I swear it's hotter now than it was at Christmas) and catching up with friends. Today I spent a couple of very enjoyable hours with Dr J, an occasional commenter on this blog, reminiscing about the good old days at Fenner Hall in Canberra. From dancing on the mobile bar to "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton" being our most successful movie night, there were a lot of happy memories for us to dig up about life in college.

I'm getting stuck into one of my new The West Wing from the beginning. It's funny how a show written 10 years ago can mirror the events of today, like this quote from Leo McGarry about Col. Khaddafi in the very first episode: "You're spelling his name wrong. What's my name? My name doesn't matter. I'm just an ordinary citizen who relies on the Times crossword for stimulation. And I'm telling you, that I've met with the man twice, and I've recommended a preemptive Exocet Missile attack against his airforce." If only Leo McGarry and co. were real we probably wouldn't have the problems we have today!