Saturday, December 31, 2011

What a year!!

It seems that the years are flying past more quickly these days, and that I'm packing more and more into 365 days. 2011 has been no exception.

This time last year I knew I'd be starting a new job and there was a lot to look forward to. Eleven months into the job and I've been to England (3 times), Mexico, Guatemala, Liberia, Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya and Ethiopia for work (and a nowhere near enough break in Zanzibar!). It's been a year full of learning and initiation (and initiating) and stress and pressure. 12 hour days cramped up in a little meeting room in Liberia, trying to navigate a certain government (who may or may not somewhat rhyme with myopia) screening and controlling our communications, and also determining my own role and how it best fits in a sea of international internal politics.

But within that (by no means exhaustive) list of challenges have also been far too many rewarding moments to list; colleagues, both local and internationals, who made all the long hours and politics enjoyable through either their friendship or their competence (levels of which can differ greatly) hands down top the list. I have made so many new friends this year from all corners of the world, a wonderful, inspiring bunch, and even more luckily, great housemates too!!

So I move into 2012 with just as much excitement as I did 12 months ago, as I now know what I want to achieve in my role and how to improve certain things to do that. While I'm starting the new year in a not-so-exotic deployment of 2 months in Oxford, I'm keen to try my hand at something a little different and do some work from a HQ perspective. And after that, well nobody knows where I'll be sent...and that's exactly what excites me the most.

I wish you all a safe, healthy and prosperous 2012,


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A home remedy

Are your hands feeling tired and in need of refreshment after a tough year of touch typing? Follow these simple steps and your hands will end up feeling deliciously soft.

1. Wash your hands with soap and water

2. Sprinkle a fair bit of dessicated coconut onto a plate

3. Combine the following in a large bowl:
- 250grams of crushed Milk Arrowroot biscuits
- 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup of dessicated coconut
- 2/3 cup of sultanas
- tin of condensed milk (395 grams)
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of rum

4. Once everything is combined well, roll the mixture into balls as small or large as you choose and then roll in the coconut on the plate to coat completely

5. Continue rolling and rolling until all the mixture has been used

6. Now wash off the mixture that's all over your hands and between your fingers and they'll be lovely and soft!

(And of course, the bonus is you're also left with a plate of rum balls!! Put the plate in the fridge for a few hours and enjoy the deliciousness. Also - you can leave out the rum if you don't drink alcohol.)

Happy Festivus!!

Whether you're celebrating Christmas, or a Festivus for the rest of us, this little video will make your holidays!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cleaning out

I'm going through piles and piles of old papers that definitely don't need to be kept (like training manuals from courses 3 years ago) but pausing on a few bits and pieces here and there that bring back memories.

One such piece of paper was folded up and at the very bottom of a drawer. It's the post description of my job in Lebanon, but that's not why I kept it or why it brought back memories. On the back are scribbled the phone numbers of my friends in Lebanon, which I hurriedly jotted down when I had to hand back my work phone, just in case. And it was a very lucky thing that I'd done that, because on my last day in Lebanon I managed to get locked in the apartment. Locked IN.

So there was some climbing over the balcony onto an air-conditioner and down onto the lower balcony, then in through a window in the stairwell and finally outside (good thing we were on the 1st floor), to find a friend to borrow a phone to call my housemate to see if she could come back with the key (she couldn't). There was a lot of rigmarole involved, including sign language with the guys across the street at the vegetable stall to borrow their phone, talking to strangers who fortuitously knew my landlord (he was a well known man about town obviously) but the landlord never answered his phone in the mornings and was therefore no help, racing up 9 flights of stairs to my friend Oli's house as the power was out only to discover that they weren't home, to finally remembering the folded up piece of paper and calling my friend Chadi to come and rescue me.

And that's the short version of that story, but suffice to say, without Chadi I have no idea how I would've gotten my luggage out of the apartment had he not broken the lock, gone to the hardware store and installed a new one!

Ah, memories!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Work's a beach

This working from 'home' gig is tough. Here's the view from today's office:

and the cappuccinos weren't bad either.

Planning your next holiday?

A Lebanese friend of mine has been involved in the Lebanese Mountain Trail for some years now. Watching this video brought back some lovely memories of some beautiful hikes (ok, strolls) in the countryside in northern Lebanon. If you're looking for a holiday destination and you like rambling around, a month walking from the north of Lebanon to the south should be at the top of your list!

Check out the video to cement your decision!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"The Help" and SWEDOW

I finished reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett the other night. Having come highly recommended from more than a few friends, I finally got it on my kindle and really enjoyed it a lot. And because it's a kindle edition, I can't tell you which page the paragraphs below come from, so if you have a chuckle now, you'll just have to go and read the book for yourself.

If you're not familiar with the (fiction) book (or the recent film adaptation), it tells the story of a white woman who convinces a number of the maids in Jackson Missippi in the early 60s (where segregation was still in full swing) to tell their stories anonymously in a book that scandalises the town. Most of the stories the maids tell are sad and awful (though beautifully written), and reading through I couldn't believe that, while fictionalised, such things were still happening only 50 years ago; how the attitudes back then were so ill-informed and how far we've come since then. Until I got to this part...

And Hilly's behind a podium telling sixty-five women that three cans apiece isn't enough to feed all those PSCAs. The Poor Starving Children of Africa, that is. Mary Joline Walker, however, thinks three is plenty. "And isn't it kind of expensive, carting all this tin across the world to Ethiopia?" Mary Joline asks. "Doesn't it make more sense to send them a check?"

Hilly rolls her eyes. "You cannot give these tribal people money, Mary Joline. There is no Jitney 14 Grocery in the Ogaden Desert. And how would we know if they're even feeding their kids with it? They're likely to go to the local voodoo tent and get a satanic tattoo with our money."
When it comes to SWEDOW, we definitely haven't come that far...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Two Carlys

My Dad thinks I may have two personalities, and I'm starting to think he's right. The first is the exciting Chasing Carly you're probably really missing right now - the one who finds crazy statues to photograph and drinks gin and is adventurous and has lots to write home about. The second is the less exciting Chasing Carly you're stuck with for another 6 weeks at least - the one who hasn't picked up her camera in weeks, only eats ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch and doesn't necessarily leave the house during the day and has nothing to write home about because she is at home and it wouldn't make sense to write home about being home.

But I'm going to start trying to bring more of the first Chasing Carly into second Chasing Carly's current lifestyle. I left the house not once but twice today. I took my Mum to a Zumba class, which was actually good as it was just as daggy as jazzercise (which I miss immensely) and a fun way to start the day. Unprecedentedly I left the house again to meet up with one of those 'small world' friends for an exotic dinner (tofu! weird little seed things!) at a vegetarian restaurant staffed by a "hunky Hare Krishna waiter" (not my words).

I can feel Carly #1 making a comeback already...