The year started out with what was supposed to be 2 months in Oxford, but was only allowed to be 2 weeks, but that was perfect timing for me to attend Chaz's birthday party. I headed back to Nairobi to continue my work remotely from there, and had a great time catching up with old friends and going on the best Sunday drive ever. And then came March, when I was sent to Juba, South Sudan where it was a very hot and slow scale-up response that wasn't particularly eventful while I was there. Getting out of Juba was certainly a mission though!
It was perfect timing leaving when I did as I was able to join my best mate on her birthday trip to Japan, and finally see the cherry blossoms. Super happy fun times were definitely had! Not long after my return from Japan we welcomed Holly into our family, and boy have we had some good times since then!
In May it was a long trip from home to the UK for the annual humanitarian forum we have, but again, excellent timing saw me able to attend another friend's birthday party, with a stop at Stonehenge on the way. It was great to catch up with my fellow roving colleagues who came from all over the world, and also get a bit of work done in Oxford as well. I was really happy to take a colleague up on her offer to come and visit in the Isle of Skye (off the north west of Scotland) as I was already in the neighbourhood, and finally got to see Puffins (and a Highland Cow or two!)
After another brief stint at home waiting for my visa, my epic time in Yemen began in early July. There was a lot to get my head around, but time enough to do it as our scale-up was only just beginning. When I wrote my first sitrep we had about 25,000 beneficiaries; when I left that number was 328,000. It was a fantastic experience to see a programme grow, particularly a programme that had never experienced the scale of the crisis we were in the midst of, and the team handled everything so impressively. Highlights from Yemen included my first trip to the Old City in Sana'a, turning 30 a few weeks after arriving and thanks to wonderful housemates I had a wonderful party thrown for me, the afternoons I spent playing with the resident fluffies, the weekly volleyball games with super fit bodyguards, finally getting out to our field programme in Aden for a couple of days and getting to talk to beneficiaries, volunteers and our partner staff.
A big highlight was the opportunity to get out of Sana'a for a day trip to Thula and Kawkaban, and it was an excellent chance to see how incredibly scenic Yemen is and how there are so much potential for tourism. I also had the chance the get back to Beirut for my R&R, and catch up with old friends and even made a new one. The last six weeks of my deployment were really busy, and I spent the last few weeks working frantically on a malnutrition project, which got me back out to the field offices in Hodeidah and Hajja, and it was really interesting talking to beneficiaries about their practices relating to water, sanitation, hygiene and food. The results were quite astounding to me as a non-technical person, and I think pretty surprising for my colleagues as well. It was tough for me to leave Yemen, as I was working within a great team, I made a lot of good friends and Sana'a was a pretty great place to live most of the time.
Having all of December off in Australia has been wonderful, though perhaps not quite as relaxing as I expected. Amidst putting in some good hammock time, there was a trip to Woollongong to meet a new baby (who is super cute), a trip to Melbourne for one night to surprise my oldest friend at her birthday party (secret mission: success), a lovely couple of days of Christmas full of eating, eating and more eating, and then another trip to Melbourne for the annual Duckfest (i.e. eating a lot of Peking Duck) with my crew from Bangladesh.
So looking back, it's been another pretty fantastic year. After the insanity of last year, I was determined to actually take a couple of breaks this year as well as have a bit of time at home, and I'm really glad that I managed to do that as planned. While it was still a big year, it wasn't quite as action packed as 2011, and I'm reminded again and again of how lucky I am to have the job I do, the life I lead, and the family and friends I have who continue to be awesome.
2013 starts off for me with a deployment to Beirut to support the response for Syrian refugees - at this stage I don't know how long I'll be there for, but any times spent in Beirut are good times! I hope that 2013 brings even more joy and good fortune to us all...
HAPPY NEW YEAR!