Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Increasing my word power

My colleague has started giving us a word of the day. It started with:

Supercilious (adj): haughty, arrogant, proud (The prince gave a supercilious smile when the wrong fork was used by the visiting ambassador)

That was a word I'd heard before, but couldn't define. We've since moved onto focussing on Scottish words:

Carnaptious (adj): bad tempered, snappy (The man at the little shop is a carnaptious old thing. Note: this is a permanent state of being, not just for someone who's had a bad day)

Bumfled (adj): creased or wrinkled (I didn't put away my clothes so they were all bumfled in the morning)

Glaikit (noun/adj): stupid, thoughtless, vacant (She stood there with a glaikit look on her face when asked what the definition of carnaptious was)

So to use them all in a sentence: My supercilious expression couldn't be hidden as I noticed the carnaptious old glaikit's clothes were bumfled.

Why don't you go ahead and drop a couple of these into conversation today!

Monday, February 25, 2013

It kind of is about me...

Weh over at Why Dev wrote an interesting post ("Hey aid worker! It's not about you.") about how aid workers portray their lives online. I've read the article twice, and all the comments, and find myself swinging between agreeing with a lot of it and feeling that it was a bit of righteous indignation.

I just spent some time going through the points and drafting rebuttals to justify the way I write my own blog. But you know what? It doesn't really matter. I have this blog, where I share the things that happen in the course of my working life and my personal life (and so often the two collide) and that's fine. As Weh says, It is also true that those responsible are just displaying enthusiasm for their own lives. True, it is up to us to ignore them if we find them irritating or offensive. 

I think aid workers should be mindful of the way they portray their interactions with beneficiaries (that's why we have the Red Cross Code of Conduct for the work that we do), and I like to think that I am mindful of this in what I put on this blog. But for the rest of it I'm not so bothered. I live a pretty interesting life at times (though I sit behind a desk most of the time) and I like to share the exotic bits of that with my family and friends (and whoever else on the internet reads this). I'm not going to apologise for it or pretend that my work is a sacred calling that I must sacrifice all enjoyment for (and I'm not saying that's what Weh is calling for). I have this career which I love, and enjoy sharing excerpts of it with people. And with a blog named Chasing Carly, well it kind of is about me, and I think that's ok. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Zaatari Camp in Jordan

I've been trying to write this blog post for days now...I spent five days in Jordan as a bit of an exposure visit with the team there so I could better understand the situation and the work we're doing. On Tuesday I went to Zaatari camp, which is about an hour and a quarter north of Amman, with a project our partner organisation is managing called Voice which is doing some really great work. Our first stop was one of the newer 'caravans' (pre-fab containers, like a site office in a construction site) to meet with a men's group. They were a fantastic bunch, and included Hassan, who took over our twitter account last week and provided a really interesting insight into life in the camp. Hassan is in the grey striped jumper, and it's his son in green. His wife had also just given birth last week so we went to meet the little one who was so tiny. The men have formed a bit of a singing group and have taken traditional Syrian songs and changed the lyrics to be about Zaatari. 
 This is the 'street' that Hassan lives on. He's much happier in one of the caravans now, as it is warmer, quieter and safer for his family. 
Driving around the camp I got a bit of an idea of the conditions that many thousands of people are facing. The tents are very sturdy, but the massive storm that hit a few weeks ago damaged a lot of tents and in some areas we were told the water was almost knee high. You can see a bit of stagnant water below, imagine it during a storm.
We then met with a women's group that had been formed by a teacher (who is not allowed to be a teacher in the camp, only Jordanians can be, so she's now an assistant teacher) who had asked to form her own group of more educated women.They raised some really interesting points about the conditions of the camp and the struggles they're facing. While the discussion was going on I saw this little guy sneaking looks at me and giving me cheeky smiles. He's 18 months old and his mother thinks he's deaf.
This is the area of the camp that we're working in, it's not as populated as the old part of the camp as it is further away from where the distributions happen. But it's better planned and work is ongoing to provide better sanitation facilities than the temporary port-a-loos we've put in as a temporary measure.
It looked like a big storm was brewing. We'd had a thunderstorm in Amman in the morning, but it subsided by the time we got to the camp the second day.
This is a water kiosk we've been piloting. There are two basins on the left (at child and adult height) for people to wash their hands, and taps on the right for water collection. The response from the people in the area has been very positive so we'll be installing more of them. We heard that people from other parts of the camp have been coming to use it.
Zaatari is an incredible place. The sheer size of it is astounding, as it the bitumen 'ring road' that circles the camp. For those lucky enough to be in caravans it's still not an easy life. There is nothing to do, besides queue for distributions and people from different neighbourhoods and suburbs in Syria are all mixed up together. Family is so important, so it's often the case that when tents are pitched they disappear and reappear in another part of the camp, as people understandably want to be close to their loved ones. One woman told me, "we used to have our own homes, with trees, gardens and space. Now we have...tents."
Some of the families have been in Zaatari for six months, and more and more people arrive every day. They can't come and go freely from the camp (unless they want to return to Syria), and they have to apply for "warrant cards" to leave the camp, medical treatment included.

"We know the Jordanians are very kind and that they don't have many resources to support us. And if we were all allowed to leave the camp to work we would destroy the economy of Jordan. But we need help. Other agencies and governments need to help."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The best

There's not much that makes me happier when I arrive in a new field office than being handed the following:
Seriously, the older the Nokia the happier I am. Behold the flashlight!! No fancy smart phone can compare to the functionality of this bad boy!!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Syria: Displaced Families Speak

This is a powerful 6 minute video made by OCHA. I'll be going to the camp featured tomorrow.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Non-boring FAIL

Blogger J, whose Tales from the Hood blog used to be daily reading for myself, and many other aid workers until he shut it down, issued a challenge yesterday on twitter to write a non boring blog post about aid. This is not going to satisfy him, or many of you I imagine, because the reality is, in the midst of a large emergency I just don't have the head space right now to write about aid in a non-boring way.

This week, I've sat at my desk in Beirut, for about 11 hours each day. There was one exception, when I sat in a car for just over an hour to go to a coordination meeting in the north, got very frustrated at the lack of coordination and time management at a 2 hour meeting, and then spent another hour and a half getting back to Beirut. I've spent a lot of time writing/editing/culling our overall programme strategy for the response to the Syria Crisis (now down to only 24 pages! *sarcasm*), I've written the weekly shitrep, I've written the terms of reference for an evaluation team we'll have coming in soon. I've done all sorts of things that are interesting to do, but not at all interesting to write about. 

There are so many non-boring things going on in relation to the Syria crisis, but I can't seem to find the enthusiasm to turn that into my own language to make it interesting for you. When there aren't words, there ARE numbers, so here in a number of numbers, is what's going on right now....

4,000,000 - number of Syrians affected by the crisis
2,000,000 - number of Syrians internally displaced (within Syria)

733,196 - total number of Syrian refugees registered (or waiting for registration) with UNHCR in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Iraq and North Africa.
242,226 - total number of Syrian refugees registered (or waiting for registration) with UNHCR in Lebanon

500,000 - number of Palestine refugees in Syria
400,000 - number of Palestine refugees affected by the crisis
20,000 - Number of Palestinian refugees from Syria in Lebanon (old figure)
$1,519,000,000 - amount of funding required by the UN to provide support (directly and also through partner organisations) for 6 months, in Syria and surrounding countries

It's sometimes hard to comprehend what's happening in Syria, what has been happening for almost 2 years. I just re-read an old post I did about spending a weekend in Aleppo and Damascus a couple of years ago, and it saddens me to think what these glorious cities look like now.

I'll only mention it this once, if you are able to donate money to help the response to the Syria crisis, please donate to an agency of your choice (but make sure it's a good one that will spend the money wisely!) Every penny helps.