Monday, December 1, 2014

Under the Sea

I went for my first dive in over a month yesterday. It was so nice to be back under water, and though I'd been to this wreck before, this time I saw a lot more of it. And what made it extra cool was having J's camera at my disposal (although it had a bit of trouble focusing sometimes). 

I like these big clams very much. When you wave you arm over them they contract...this is amusing for me, but it probably means that they're not very happy clams.  
 Very pretty colours in the coral and the fish
 Some of the bones of the ship
I can't remember what this type of fish is called, but he was quite large
 A family of three lionfish - you don't want to get too close to these guys, but they're very graceful.
 These dudes are very inquisitive, and perhaps a little aggressive sometimes.
Happy Carly. 

Where I've been

So many countries, so little time!!

carly’s Travel Map
carly has been to: Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Cambodia, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Spain, Switzerland, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vatican, Yemen. Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

To do - get back to real humanitarian work.

I'm used to having to do lists that take up an entire page (if not more) of my notebook. The type of to do list that gets carried across over a number of days because there's so much to do and not enough time. I'm not having that problem at the moment, and it's something I've been struggling with.

I've been doing a lot of work on the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) program, which means exactly what it says - helping communities understand the risks they face from hazards, and devising ways that they can minimise (reduce) those risks. It's not an area I've worked on before, so it has been interesting to learn about Participatory Capacity and Vulnerability Analysis (a fancy title for what I just mentioned above) and the other different tools that can be used to help communities figure out hazards and risks.

I planned a national forum for agencies working in DRR, Climate Change Adaptation, and Environmental Management which was held a couple of weeks ago. It was an interesting exercise to have so many people together to discuss the common problems faced, and the biggest issue was a lack of coordination between these different actors, along with a lack of government resources (financial and human). There are many challenges in the Solomon Islands, but we came away from the forum with a set of guiding principles, a list of points on the way we should all implement our programs, and a working group established to try to improve coordination. So that was a bit of success.

I only have a few weeks left here. I'll miss the team we have, but I'm really looking forward to getting back into the type of humanitarian work I'm used to - where crossing out tasks on those endless to do lists can take a while, but is so, so satisfying. I'm sure in my next job, when I'm working ridiculously long hours and am stressed and tired, that I'll look back on this time and wonder why I ever complained, but that's future Carly's problem.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Happy birthday Mum!!

It's my dear Mum's birthday today...happy birthday Mum!!! I hope there's some tiramisu involved! xoxo

Monday, November 3, 2014

A week in Vanuatu

With all the travelling I've done, I hadn't been to any Pacific islands before I came to the Solomon Islands. So when I had a week's leave to plan, I decided to double that number and head over to Vanuatu, and boy am I glad I did!!
I spent a week lazing around Port Vila, the capital city. It's not a large city, but definitely busier than Honiara, with a far greater tourist infrastructure (like the mother's market by the water), and a hell of a lot cleaner! It was also a few degrees cooler than Honiara which was a welcome change.

I was mostly lazy and lounged around reading and enjoying the view, but on two days I ventured out to Tranquility Dive, to do four incredible dives. This scuba business is certainly addictive. It's a stunning location on Moso Island, and the staff (and dogs) were all really friendly and professional. The BBQ lunch was also fab. I highly recommend it if you're into diving.
I saw thousands of very pretty fish (including some very large groupers, puffer fish, porcupine fish, parrotfish, sweetlips, some big lion fish, and a titan triggerfish - I didn't know at the time how aggressive they can be, so I was glad he kept to himself!!), three hawksbill turtles, some ginormous spiky sea cucumbers, and some teeny tiny translucent shrimp. I think I also discovered a new fish, because I've looked at every single fish in the South Pacific and I can't find anything that remotely resembles it at all. There is a slight problem that I don't really remember what it looks like - other than it had a white head and red dorsal fins, but that's a minor technicality!! 
I now need to invest in an underwater camera so I can show everyone I know who doesn't dive (which is basically everyone I know) how incredible it is. The colour of the water was so beautiful - no camera trickery or filters!
But even if you don't dive, there's so much beauty on the surface - I also sat on this swing for a while and had not a care in the world.

I really didn't see much of Vanuatu, but would still recommend it if you're interested in lovely blue water, really friendly people, and the local beer Tusker isn't bad either!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Bits and pieces

Life has been plodding along of late, with exciting things scattered here and there. One such exciting thing was the piglet distribution I tagged along to. Piglets!!!! I got to carry the little ginger piglet from his pen to the truck. I'd googled the correct way to hold a pig ahead of time (always be prepared) so I think that helped me and "Weasley" to bond....well, he didn't wriggle or squeal too much. 
There were 27 little piggies to distribute, which involved stops at two farms (though the second was more like a stinking rubbish dump than a farm), a stop to pick up the 40kg bags of feed, and then wading across the river, which was about knee height to the village. At this point I had to decline carrying Weasley across, as I was actually there to film the process, and I was a bit concerned that we'd both end up in the water!
 But all the piggies made it across, and the families were very happy to receive them. The piglets cost SBD600 (AUD 93), and the families had each had to contribute SBD100 (AUD 15). After feeding them up for about a year, they should make about 2,000 (AUD 315), so that's a pretty great return.
 In other news, the cats may have become slightly traumatized by the laser pointer. Sometimes Brichant just stares at the wall, waiting for the evil red dot to appear....still fun though!
 We went diving on the weekend, and were almost at our destination when the tyre blew.
Thankfully it happened just in front of some houses, and there were lots of very helpful men around, one of whom is the nephew of one of our colleagues. A happy coincidence.
So while S and the men took care of the car, I wandered over to this canoe that was in the process of being carved. It's so impressive that such a thing can be made from a single tree trunk, and I was told that this had only taken a day so far to do. Very, very cool.

J and I moved into a new house over the past few days - we've got a lot more space, and a lovely view of the sea. I'll post some pics soon.

Reggae rocks

Reggae is absolutely huge in the Solomon Islands. The three radio stations we get in the truck are constantly playing reggae (with the exception of the awesome oldies hour at 6pm), and after a few weeks I've started to distinguish the most popular tunes.

Right now, the most famous reggae act in town is a Jamaican guy called Conkarah. Honiara was the last stop on his world tour last week, so Jess and I headed down to Cowboy's Bar & Grill to check him out. There were a number of local support acts who were pretty good, like 56 Hop Rod.

 But most of the acts seemed to play very slow songs that didn't encourage dancing. But when Conkarah hit the stage, it was a strong start with this song
 I think I actually enjoyed this one the most
It was a crowded, sweaty dancefloor, but so, so much fun (I got my 10,000 steps for the day in just over an hour!)
Conkarah was a great performer, he really seemed to be making eye contact with the crowd (even though I'm sure he probably couldn't see a thing), and he tried out some pijin which went down a treat. He saved his most popular song for last, and after playing about 30 seconds, stopped the band and restarted, changing the words from "Island Girl" to "Solomon Girl"...needless to say, the crowd went wild. :-)

There were the obligatory covers of Bob Marley, including my favourite "No Money, No WASH" (I mean, "No Woman, No Cry") which were really popular with the crowd. If you like reggae, check out Conkarah!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scuba fun

My housemate J is a scuba instructor and takes various friends diving every weekend. She had offered to take me out for a test dive to see whether I liked it, and last weekend I was able to take her up on it. We drove for about an hour to Visale, which is a beautiful spot, and J proceeded to give me and a visiting colleague a briefing on how the equipment worked and what to do (and not do).
We then did some practice drills in the shallow water, which included inflating and deflating the buoyancy vest, dropping the regulator, finding it, clearing it and putting it back in and also how to clear the mask if water got inside (I would never have thought it possible to do underwater!). That's me on the left, notice how clear the water is!

And then it was time to dive! We didn't have to swim out too far to get to the reef, and there were loads of little fish swimming around. J had forgotten to mention that the mask magnifies everything, so I was blown away at the size of a sea cucumber - it looked like something out of Starship Troopers! But even after finding out that things appear bigger and closer, I still think it was a ridiculously large sea critter. We spent about 20 minutes underwater, and went down about six metres. I really enjoyed the experience and am going to do the Open Water certification while I'm here.
I spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in the little shelter that had been constructed (yea for shade) and enjoying the view. The sunset was particularly spectacular!
Happy days!!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Brichant and the beach

This is Brichant (though don't quote me on the spelling). His name means something in Romani that I can't remember, but he's the kitty that spends the most time in our house. Yesterday, he was trying to catch a fly that was buzzing around the louvers. 
After that exhaustion, he decided it was time for a nap, and that he should take up as much room as possible on the couch!
 He has a very cute spotty belly, which sometimes he'll allow you to pat.
I introduced him to the laser pointer this morning, I think we're going to have a lot of fun with that!!

Yesterday afternoon we went to the beach. It was my first time out of Honiara and the scenery is just so beautiful. I had to take off my sunglasses to check that the coloured lenses weren't making it more vivid and vibrant than the reality...it was actually a better view without the sunnies!
 There's a shipwreck just off the shore, which you can snorkle around. I'll definitely go back another time to do that. It was a bit windy yesterday so the waves were a bit too big for snorkelling, but I think it's really cool that you can swim around and not have to scuba dive to see the wreckage (though I think I am going to learn how to dive!),.
The water was warm, there was a lot of shade...if the beach was made of sand instead of pebbles it would be basically be heaven!! :-)

Friday, September 5, 2014

2 weeks in Honiara

I can't believe how quickly two weeks have gone by! I'm enjoying my life in Honiara (the capital of the Solomon Islands) so far. I live with two of my colleagues (and the girlfriend of one of them, who I actually met working in Tacloban) and they are all excellent cooks - I have established myself as the household dish washer, so everybody wins (but mainly me, because I hate cooking but don't mind washing up).

We have a couple of dogs and three cats running around the compound we live in, and the cats are the most unusual felines I've ever met; they're all very beautiful, like March here, and incredibly docile - you can scoop any of them up and cradle them like a baby and they'll just lie back and purr.
There's also a brown one with really cool markings who tends to come running in to our place in the evening, plonk down on someone's lap and then after enjoying some cuddles, it then proceeds to bite gently and want to play. I've got to dig out a nifty little LED torch that has a laser pointer that I packed, as I think we can have a lot of fun with that!!

The weather is lovely, it's always warm and has only rained a couple of times since I've been here. There are a quite a few nice places to sit by the water and enjoy a Sol Brew, and with views like this, it's easy to not want to do anything else! That being said, I'm hoping a trip to the beach might be on the cards this weekend, as I'd love to get out and see a bit more of the place.
My work is off to an interesting start. I've been working with the protection team on conducting assessments of vulnerable families who missed out on government support after the floods in April. A couple of families we met were sharing a house and the access to it was crossing the river on a little floating raft. The float operator uses the rope to pull his passengers across, and charges 1 dollar (the currency here is the Solomon Islands dollar) which is about 15c Australian each way. 
One of the families had missed out on the second hand clothing the Red Cross had distributed soon after the floods. We got in touch with the Red Cross, and they prepared the bags, and we had the joyful job of delivering them. It's not often I get to directly be involved in such things, and it was really nice to know that we'd helped to make a difference for this particular family. I've also been designing a training course for community-based disaster preparedness and response which is really interesting and fun. And then there are any number of other bits and pieces that pop up during the day that need attention.

I've also been enjoying driving the big 4X4 utes we have, having not ever been allowed to drive on a deployment before. After spending a number of months cruising around quite low to the ground in my convertible at home, it's quite a change to be up so high. The traffic here isn't crazy like in other places, people tend to stick to their lanes, but there is a lot of traffic going through town. It's times like that where the little automatic Rav4 is preferable to drive than the manual. It's also very rare to go above 40km/hr. It's nice that it's the same side of the road as at home, it's just a matter of keeping an eye out for dogs who seem to think that the middle of the road is a good place to stop for a scratch.

I haven't been taking too many photos, but I will try to do better at that, and do better at posting them here!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

World Humanitarian Day

I really can't believe a year has past since last August 19. World Humanitarian Day recognises those aid workers who have lost their lives in the course of their work, and more broadly to celebrate the spirit of humanitarianism globally. There's a great website set up by UN OCHA with hundreds of profiles of humanitarian workers from all over the globe working in some of the most challenging areas. While I sort of object to the #HumanitarianHeroes hashtag (a bit self aggrandising - but that could just be my innate Australian fear of tall poppy syndrome) I do feel quite special being part of something this big.

Every year on this day I express my gratitude for having such wonderful colleagues, who are so hard working, dedicated, enthusiastic, and professional, and while I've very much enjoyed the last few months of funemployment, I have missed the camaraderie of being in the field. It was incredibly difficult to come down off the high of working in Tacloban in the Philippines, as I have never worked with such a motivated and fun bunch of people, and also to extract myself mentally and emotionally from the organisation I'd spent over 3 years with (i.e. the longest I've ever spent in a job!). So on this special day, I send a special shoutout to all of those colleagues who are doing fantastic work in South Sudan, CAR, Syria, Gaza, Iraq, and all of the other humanitarian crises that are going on around the world right now.

If you see one, hug a humanitarian today!

And for me, well it's time to go back to work, and I've happily accepted a position in the Solomon Islands for a few months with an NGO I've been wanting to work for for a long time. I leave on Friday, and am really looking forward to experiencing Pacific culture and getting back into work mode!


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Holiday Time

I'm off to the States for 3 weeks. Yassmin is getting married!! YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!! It's going to be rad. There'll be photos in a few weeks....

Monday, April 28, 2014

Saying goodbye, in style

There's a word for the weekend that I just had. EPIC!!!

We started on Friday evening at Ocho, where the food is delicious even if the surrounds are a bit bland. We then moved on to the best jazz bistro in all of Tacloban, if not the entire Philippines, and had a blast singing with Carlos the resident guitar player, think we got home at about 2am....
Saturday morning was of course spent recovering from the night before, and then a few work meetings in the afternoon. The big farewell party, which we held outside the office, started in the early evening.

It. Was. Insane.

It involved a giant, delicious pig (om nom nom)
And Steph came down from Ormoc especially
A really impressive performance, that was just a little bit creepy, to "I will always love you"
Seriously, the costume and makeup were spectacular!! 
There were games, including karaoke roulette, where the singer doesn't know what song they're going to have to sing (one of our drivers was brilliant!) and I premiered the waray waray (the local language) song I've been learning, which went down very well.

There were speeches which made me well up a little bit, and the presentation of some lovely gifts...
 and then the dancing started!!

It was such a fun night, and so touching that so many of the staff gave up their Saturday night for us (there's three of us leaving this week) and put so much effort into the preparations before hand. I felt very special indeed!

I've just finished typing up my handover note, and am copying files across to the shared drive, but then that's it. I'm done. Finito. Shesh. Khalas. I'm really going to miss this crazy team!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

One more week

It's starting to feel very real that I'll be leaving Tacloban this time next Tuesday. It's crazy how quickly and slowly the time has passed at the same time. A whole bunch of colleagues have come down from Manila, and I haven't seen one of them since the last time he came...I would have thought it was two months ago, but it turns out it was four! Madness.

I had a debriefing with our response manager yesterday, and we talked through how the response has gone, the major challenges and major accomplishments. Seeing as I'd already spent three weeks in Cebu at the very start of the response before he'd arrived, I really struggled to remember what life was like in the days before Tacloban. But it didn't take long to remember the 17 hour days cooped up inside a hotel conference room, the fun I had hiding as many song titles as possible in situation reports (because I'm a professional....) and the camaraderie that forms so quickly when you spent so much time with motivated people.

In remembering my first days in Tacloban, I can't help but smile at the enthusiasm we had in over 100 volunteers who were distributing hygiene kits and managing huge cash for work and rice seed distribution projects, though still recovering from the typhoon themselves. We managed to recruit and retain most of these volunteers who are now working at a range of levels, developing new skills, and amazingly, retain the same sense of enthusiasm and excitement almost six months down the line. This is without a doubt the most inspiring office (ballroom) I've ever worked in.

And of course, it's been an opportunity to catch up with other international staff I've worked with before, and make new friends as well. I really learned a lot from our programme manager who was here for four months, he placed a lot of confidence in me and gave me the room to find my feet in management and also engaged me in areas outside my remit for my own development.

There has been a lot of stress, a lot of pressure and a lot of frustration, but there has also been a LOT of success, accomplishment, fun, friendship and karaoke (I think we've also done a lot to support the San Miguel corporation...). As my position has been made redundant this will be my last deployment with my current organisation, and I'm so glad to go out on such a high!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Happy Birthday Jules!!!

It seems ridiculous to me that it was about this time two years ago that Jules and I went to Japan to celebrate her birthday...time really does fly! Anyways, today's Julie's birthday and I just wanted to give her a special shout out as she's one of the best friends a girl could ever want or need!

Happy birthday Jules!!!!

Get Happy

I don't know how I came across the 100 Happy Days website, where people are challenged to photograph something  that makes them happy every day for 100 days. The website says that people who successfully finish the challenge claimed to:
- start noticing what makes them happy every day
- be in a better mood every day
- start receiving more compliments from other people
- realise how lucky they are to have the life they have
- become more optimistic
- fall in love during the challenge

which are all pretty wonderful things. I know I have a pretty cool life, but there are many days where I seem to focus on the negative rather than the positive, even though I would consider myself to be an positive optimist most of the time. So I've started the challenge on instagram (chasingcarly), you can find my photos using #HappyCarly100. Today is Day 3 for me, and though there's only one photograph for the day (I skyped Jules for her birthday, she always makes me happy!) it's already been a happy day in so many ways (like launching a really exciting project to train women carpenters, and booking my holiday to NYC!).

And in case you haven't seen this video, not only will the song make you happy, but the incredible spirit of the Filipinos will have you smiling as well!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Crazy

It feels a bit ridiculous to say that this week has been a busy week; all of my weeks here have been busy weeks! But it's getting harder and harder to find the time to do the things I actually need to do for the 4 teams I manage. I seem to be constantly caught up in a cycle of organising donor visits, NGO coordination meetings (organising them, as well as leading them!) and media trips, instead of providing the shelter team with assistance in documenting their innovative consultation approach, or helping the Gender team draft an MoU for a relationship with a local government unit, or any number of other important things. Le sigh.

Added on to the stress of just trying to do my job, there are other HR processes that are affecting me at the moment which is starting to drive me crazy.

But amongst all of that there is light at the end of the tunnel (and no, it's not a train!) in planning a spectacular holiday to the states to witness my dear friend Yassmin (long time readers will remember her starring role in our instructional video...) get married, which will also a bit reunion with other folks from our days in Lebanon.And after the celebrations are over, I'll head to NYC to meet up with Jez and do fun NYC things, like see a show on Broadway, go to a baseball game, eat fantastic food and just wander around.

So while I may be crazy busy, and going a bit crazy, it's good to have something to get crazy excited about!!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Happy Birthday Dad!!

Happy birthday Dad, I'm sure you're having a lovely day because you're not on skype for me to call you!! xoxo

Adventures with Emma

Of course Emma and I did other things in Bali. Like shopping at Portobello
 spending a lot of time beside the beautiful pool
 eating lunch (and sometimes brunch) every day at Casa Luna
doing some more shopping
and more lunching
 basically feeling very relaxed and pleased with ourselves
 being blown away every time we went into our bathroom!
 And marvelling at the beauty of the Monkey Forest.
If you're planning a visit to Bali, I can't recommend Honeymoon Guesthouse highly enough. For the price you pay (which isn't a lot) it's extremely beautiful, located centrally and the staff are lovely.

I left Tacloban on Thursday morning to fly to Manila, then to KL and finally arrived in Ubud at 4am on Friday. The following Tuesday it was back to Denpasar, to KL and overnight in Manila, arriving in Taloban on Wednesday at midday. Honestly, by the time 6pm rolled around that day it was like I'd never been away...I'm still catching up on emails. But it was very, very needed, and very very worth it!!