Wednesday, December 27, 2006

between two live chickens

i thought i should come and check the internet today seeing as last time i spent boxing day outside of canada there was a tsunami and i didn't know about it until over a week later. so far, it seems as though i have not missed any global events.

in a strange twist of fate, i will be visiting a hippo orphaned in the tsunami later today. apparently he has befriended a very old tortoise at a nearby park and you can go and visit them. for a small fee, i am sure.

christmas in mombasa was hot and sticky. but i ate freshly caught prawns for dinner and sat around playing uno, trying to learn to love gin and tonic. i was successful in winning the game of uno, but unsuccessful in my attempts to love g & t's. i am blaming the tonic, which is doubly bad as it also has quinine in it which kills the malaria.

speaking of which, it is a good thing that i took anti-malarials as my feet have been consumed by mosquitos and i am more afraid of needles to test for malaria than malaria itself. which i know makes no sense at all.

mombasa seems to be more poor than nairobi but also more safe and although the town doesn't seem to have much to offer, the white sand beaches and camels wandering about make my days staring out at the vast expanse of water a little more enjoyable.

i have had only a few encounters with gigantic insects, a few battles with the ant infestation in our kitchen, and a 20 minute show down with a moth stuck in my mosquito net, but i nearly jumped out of the matatu when i realised that there were men holding live chickens in plastic bags on either side of me on christmas morning. as you may remember, i have had a few run-ins with pigeons in london and have developed a slight phobia of winged creatures and being in a confined space with beings with beaks and claws was enough to illicite some nervous laughs and deep breaths. but i survived without being touched by the filthy things. happy birthday jesus.

Friday, December 22, 2006

mer-ry christmas and ha-peee hol-i-days

you are supposed to read that title like that newish christmas pop song that i have stuck in my head, in case you were wondering about the whacky spelling.

i hope you have a wonderful christmas where ever you are. most likely, if you are reading this, i am wishing i was with you.

but since i am not, a sincere merry christmas and happy new year from east africa!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

to you and yours

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? egg nog latte cut with milk

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? santa never wraps presents, he leaves them on the couch with the stockings

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? i like all white lights, looks less tacky and more wintery than all those colours.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? sara reminded me that we used to have this really ugly plastic mistletoe that played music, but i think real mistletoe is the way to go

5. When do you put your decorations up? i just received my first decorations of the season so maybe i will put them up tonight (thanks mom!)

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? brussel sprouts, hands down. who needs turkey when you have sprouts?

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child? going to my grandma's on christmas eve

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? like sara says (again), santa only brings presents to those who believe in our house

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? the ones that says 'open me xmas eve' and surprise, surprise, it is always pyjamas which, according to tradition, you must put on immediately

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? once, with a ladder. but otherwise, with snowmen. lots of snowmen. and antique tinsel.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? loves it. but since when has calgary had a white christmas?! and me thinks that mombasa will have more sun and sand than snow.

12. Can you ice skate? indeed. many hours spent at the rink and i bet i can still do a toe loop or a salchow, perhaps a spread eagle or two.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? i am not sure, i remember more gifts that i have given than received. those neon light up phones might have been up there though. also, our hand-made dollhouse.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you? the whole seasonal lead-up with winter activities, the christmas shopping, the music, the mood, the decorations, the egg nog, the lights, the parties, the scarves and mittens, the baking, the spirit.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? rum balls, sugar cookies with icing, and shortbread (now that i finally know the difference between the two)

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? christmas sundays at gramps', christmas eve with friends, family, and hors d'oeuvres and christmas morning brunch. pretty much, the eating and then more eating.

and the newest tradition introduced last year, waking up on christmas eve morn feeling like i am going to die, thinking 'i will never drink again' and then waking my sister up only to realise i am much further from death than she is and that i have to drive her car and pull over on 14th street so she can puke out the car door on the way to breakfast.

17. What tops your tree? an angel, of course

18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving? giving

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? last christmas (only sung by wham! though), oh holy night, song for a winter's night, and baby, it's cold outside

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? the sweet ones, yum. the peppermint ones, yuck. unless the curve is broken, then all yuck.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

home sweet nairobi

i have been rather introspective since returning from the uk. as i had expected, it was a whirlwind trip and made me want to have a week of relaxation and rejuvenation, but that will come when i arrive in mombasa to spend christmas on the beach with a good book and ample amount of sun screen (i have the application of sunscreen down to a fine art, with the careful placement of both spfs 15 and 30 for an even colour and uv protection).

the trip was great and as is my custom when i am left with less than half an hour in a work day to fit in a blog post, here is a list of highlights:

- my family surprising me with my sister and not my step-dad at the arrivals gate at heathrow (watch Love Actually, it really is true)
- taking my sister out for her first meal of indian food for her birthday
- the phenomenal amount of people in the streets of london
- watching my mom behave like a moth to a flame whenever she saw a marks & spencer store
- the sunny weather (some days)
- visiting with my mom, my dad, my sister, my nana, and my aunty
- going to a village pub to eat roast beast
- being stopped by the vice-chancellor on my way across the stage for a chat about my degree and my dissertation topic (which i nearly forgot and stared blankly for only a few seconds before coming up with something that resembled research title)
- laughing with my dissertation supervisor
- introducing an unsuspecting greek man to mistletoe (at the insistence of my mom!)
- lots of pints (and some half pints)
- wrapped christmas presents to open
- my first stocking out of a suitcase
- english breakfasts
- new boots for everyone!
- bargaining for handbags in london, i almost used my new head wobble thing
- riding the tube, riding the tube, and riding the tube some more
- listening to the opera singers/pizza cooks at harrods
- a home cooked meal
- snowy balls
- trapped wind
- pink cakes
- skating in greenwich
- roasted chestnuts
- the savoy christmas tree and starbucks lattes
- a heathrow farewell (watch Love Actually!)
- a pick up call to my new favourite taxi driver peter
- 18 degree weather at 11:00pm and the end of the rainy season

revisiting elements of my past whilst in the uk made me think about my future. i am not as sure as i was a few weeks ago what that entails. gotta either get back to living in the moment or making plans. i have mastered both at different times in my life, i suppose it really just depends on where i feel most comfortable now.

but i am done in neither england nor kenya, those are certainties.

Friday, December 08, 2006

butterflies

i am excited. i am heading to the airport tonight to catch my overnight flight to london and then to meet my parents at the airport tomorrow morning. i don't remember being this excited to travel in a long time, which is strange considering the places i have had the opportunity to visit recently.

it is strange, i also feel like i might miss something happening in nairobi in a week. i guess that is what you get for still being new in town. but i feel as though i will appreciate all that the english have to offer in my whirlwind trip of the country. and it will be so great to see my grad school friends from all over the world and to spend some family time since i will miss christmas in calgary this year.

and to drink yummy tea.

and to eat fish and chips and/or roast beast.

and to shop with my ma in london.

and to visit my bitty nana.

and to see the peak district again.

and to eat some greasy indian curries.

and to see kevin spacey on stage.

and to get a little christmas cheer.

and maybe, just maybe, to see tony blair and/or hugh grant at heathrow just like in love actually.

oh, and to graduate!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

the importance of nesting

i picked up my duvet cover and curtains yesterday and was absolutely thrilled with the result. i immediately dressed my room in its new colours and fabrics and, after a quick nap in the new bedding, admired my attempts to make my own nest. i am only supposed to be here for 6 months but i still felt that spending money on making my home my own was worth it. i think i am more of a nester than i realised. i can travel with a backpack, jumping from city to city, room to room, country to country with the best of them, but it is not the same as having your own nest to come to at the end of the day.

i am not sure if i am a homebody, i can definitely lean towards homebodyishness, but i know that having a comfortable space is paramount to my happiness and contentment. sort of like a bubble to come home to at the end of the day and just be safe and comfortable. having a patio that gets the evening sun is pretty fantastic too.

and it doesn’t hurt that someone does my laundry and tidies my room.

i’m not gonna lie, i love having a maid. it is a slightly strange dynamic, but i wouldn’t change it and with 4 girls living together, i think it alleviates some of the tensions of cleanliness and tidiness to have someone coming in to keep it clean and organised.

the nest is definitely coming together and i am quite comfortable in it. now i just need to find a way to entice all my friends and family to come and see the nest firsthand…

Monday, December 04, 2006




i've pet a giraffe

it took me 45 days to go through 170 Q Tips. that is an average of 3.7 tips per day. i really need to find a replacement for my overuse of Q Tips. good thing i am going to be seeing my parents this weekend so they can restock me with more of my favourite personal hygiene item. and good that i get to see them too, Q Tips or not!

i have recently perfected the indian head bobble wiggle thing. check out russell peter's comedy shows for the perfect impression that i am doing as i write this but you obviously cannot appreciate. i still have no idea what it means, but after negotiating with the tailor this saturday afternoon (where he really just kept lowering his price, wiggling his head, then asking if we were together on the price - the easiest negotatiations i have ever been involved in) i am now an expert in the move. the secret is in keeping the rest of your body totally still.

the other result of my hour or so spent in the tailor's is that i have a duvet cover and curtains being made to my specifications with the fabric i chose and the design i created. all for less than i'd pay for one set of sheets at home. i love africa.

i also pet a giraffe this weekend. then i fed a giraffe. then a giraffe hit me in the head with its all powerful ear. and there were more baby warthogs! all at a giraffe sanctuary on the edge of town in the swish colonial area. photos forthcoming...

my sunday was spent at a christmas market where i got a slight sunburn. i love standing next to a christmas tree and having to remove your sunglasses for a better view. i managed to purchase another scarf but this time i offered the guy what i had in my wallet, which was far below the price tag, and he actually agreed. as it supports a women's weaving cooperative and i love socially conscious consumption, i feel good about this purchase.

the night before, however, i complimented a woman on her scarf that was tied in her hair and she promptly removed the scarf and insist that i take it. i need to watch who i compliment on what or i might end up with more than i bargain for!

Friday, December 01, 2006

red ribbons


world aids day.

keep it wrapped.

fight aids.

kofi annan has a good message about accountability, the theme of this year's world aids day. if you read it carefully, it is pretty much saying that the developed world is not doing enough. i'd agree. so would stephen lewis, one of my favourite canadians.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

political vernacular

this thing in the news about harper declaring quebec a nation has been bugging me. not because i don't think that quebec should be called a nation (it pretty much already is, people), but that everyone seems to be so out to lunch on what a nation is and what a state is. if i learned anything through an international relations degree it is this:

a nation is a group of similar people who inhabit areas that are not necessary within the same international borders. the kurds are a nation though they live in iraq and turkey (and maybe other places too, i am not so familiar with the kurds). other examples of nations are the first nations groups of canada, the indigenous people in southern mexico/guatemala, and the scots.

a state is a politically organised group of people residing in a geographic area. canada is a state, great britain is a state, and kenya is a state.

perhaps people are confused that canada is a nation-state, where a homogenous group of people inhabit a state. canada has never been homogenous and isn't today so why the big huff about saying that the quebecois are a nation? they are.

the only reason that the United Nations is called that is because the United States was already taken, so this might be the cause of the confusion.

maybe since i am battling the rains* in kenya, i am missing out on the political side of this debate, but at least let's get our terminology right.

* which, by the way, seem to continue. are the floods in northern kenyan making it into the news around the world? surprisingly, they aren't really big news here either, which is a bit worrysome. apparently in the north it is a state of emergency but the president hasn't officially declared it as such.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

i need more shavasna

6 hours of sleep is not enough for me. but by the time i get home from work, get any errands done, make dinner, eat, and visit a little bit with my flatmates, it is midnight! i have wanted to be knitting, reading, writing, sudoku-ing with my evenings free of mindless television viewing.

last night i managed to get to a yoga class where the shoulder stands left me with a slightly bruised vertebrae. but there is something to be said for a yoga instructor who, in his indian accent, tells you to "inhale de-e-ply, exhale comple-e-tely."

part of the problem with being so tired is that i end up eating more in attempts to get energy and then avoid doing any exercise because i am overtired. i think this is called Sleep Deprivation and i am pretty sure i suffered from this condition throughout my academic career.

i went to a meeting in the nairobi suburb of Karen this morning (which is named after the danish women who wrote Out of Africa, a colonial errrr.... masterpiece?? or as i know it better: The Movie During Which I Fell Asleep And Woke Up A Few Times And DIDN'T MISS A THING) and during the meeting's necessary tea break, we went to the garden so people could drink their overly milky tea, eat mandazi (sort of like kenyan-style donoughts), and shoo the warthogs away. yes, there were warthogs at the meeting.

i love warthogs and i enjoyed having them at our meeting. just when you don't feel like you're in africa, you see a warthog at a government meeting.

and did you know that in kiswahili 'simba' means lion and 'rafiki' means friend? that brings my knowledge of the language to approximately 5 words. but i intend on taking classes soon, in fact, i just texted mary the swahili teacher now, asante sana.

Friday, November 24, 2006

sorta freaking hilarious

funny story - i was walking by a bush yesterday (well, more like THROUGH a bush on the side of the path) and it turns out it was a thorn bush and i got pricked by rather large, spikey thorns. one went through my jeans and got stuck right in my kneecap and after dislodging it, i had to check for blood, which was indeed oozing out of one of the holes left in my knee. the electricity was only partially working last night so i did not get to investigate the damage done until this morning when my knee was really achey and the little red holes still had bits of thorn in them! so i covered them in polysporin and got to work where my officemate tells me that those things are poisonous and can make your joints ache. sorta hilarious.

apart from the chance meeting with the thorn bush, i had the most perfect thursday evening alone last night. wonderful lighting due to low electricty, a glass of red wine, a freshly baked baguette with good cheese for dinner, new wool to start a knitting project, a noam chomsky documentary, and a text message invitation for dinner for friday from a cute boy. that is me, represented in a thursday evening.

so this wool... hand spun! i am so excited about this. and for all my moaning about the prices of things in nairobi (eating out, taxis, towels...), this wool was far less expensive than it would be in canada. did i mention it is hand-spun!

this friday marks five weeks in nairobi and i will stop saying how time is flying and instead tell you about my workout with Flex. yes, he is a personal trainer and i am pretty sure that his mom did not take one look at him and decide that, as i seemed to resemble the heroine from a movie about the russian revolution, he resembled a juice monkey who wants to force unsuspecting young women to do ab workouts. during this ab workout, he straddles me and tells me to come up and touch his hands, which are curiously positioned right in front of his balls. so i had to do sit ups into his crotch and try my hardest not to laugh at the hilarity of it all.

as today marks five weeks of me in nairobi, it also marks approximately 35 days of breathing in exhaust fumes from the highway i cross to get to and from work. this trek has been particularly treacherous this week as it has rained and rained and then rained some more and yesterday when i gave up and just called a taxi, the taxi company sent the taxi to my friend's flat instead. apparently not only do us blondies all look alike, but we sound alike as well (even though i cleared stated who i am and where i need to be picked up!).

thank the good lord that it is sunny and breezey this friday morning and i was able to sport my oversized, bug-like sunglasses for my walk across the highway. i am hoping that it holds for my weekend festivities. my rules for this weekend are a) to come home with all items i go out with (so as not to loose anything more than i lost last weekend in my ummmm.... not-so-delicate condition) and b) to come home with the same people i went out with (so as not to stay out way-too-late and have to eat greasy food and copious amount of caffeinated beverages to remedy the condition that follows the not-so-delicate condition the next morning)

i saw Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, and it was as hilarious as its name. which, if you have no sense of humour, is freaking hilarious. if you have a penchant for inappropriate humour and satire, go see it. and tell me you don't laugh out loud as soon as the opening credits run.

ps - have you bought a net yet?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

mount longonot

i remember sitting in a lecture theatre in my first semestre of my first year at uni, learning about the rift valley in a physical anthropology course and never once did the thought cross my mind then that i would have the opportunity to hike up a dormant volcano and around its crater in the awe-inspiring rift valley.

the rainbow on the way down was like no other i have seen and the zebras, impala, and gazelle made me feel as though i am really in the africa of storybooks and legend. so did the bumpy 4x4 ride on a potholed, partially flooded road.

Monday, November 20, 2006

www.spreadthenet.org

i often feel overwhelmed with the prospect of a career in international development. the very word 'development' has so many connotations, misconceptions, and assumptions built into it that extracting the meaning, methods, and purpose of it is a task academics spend entire careers attempting to clarify. i am passionate and eager to do meaningful work that will have a more global affect than simply earning a salary to pay bills i accrue through my developed-world level of consumption. yet i often feel as though i am working within an aid community that is either misguided or fighting a losing battle to combat poverty, disease, and violence in the developing world. i sense that a lot of young canadians share these toughts, even if they don't want to work in the same field.

upon hearing what i have studied and where i have worked, some people ask me what they can do because they want to 'make a difference,' assuming that because i have some minimal experience in this seemingly meaningful field, i have a simple answer. i don't. like rick mercer, i am much better at figuring out the problems and not so good at finding the answers. my quick answer to the 'what can i do?' question is to tell people to vote. canadians live in a democracy and have the right to a voice in who governs our country, the very same people who make decisions on how public funds are spent. and since i believe that most development issues are political, rooted at the government level, and almost always underfunded, i figure that voting is one of the things that is totally within each canadian's power and capability.

i was reading rick mercer's blog this morning and found out about the Spread the Net campaign that he is co-chairing with belinda stronach. i recommend that you read what he has to say on his website, which is far wittier and funny than what i am trying to say here, and then check out the spread the net website then get out your credit card and pay $10 for a mosquito net to stop the spread of malaria in africa.

spreadthenet.org will be my new answer to the question of 'what can i do?' because you can spare $10. i did this morning and the same government that i think needs to pull up their socks in the foreign aid department is paying me my salary AND taxing me, which is absolutely ridiculous and i can elaborate further in a future post, but the point is - if i can afford $10 to make my difference, then so can you. so can most canadians. we are fortunate beyond the conception of most people in the world and instead of being overwhelmed with all that needs to be done to alleviate the suffering inherent while living in extreme poverty, we can buy a bed net and keep someone safe from malaria.

Spread the Net - www.spreadthenet.org

Friday, November 17, 2006

the lowest form of wit

there were so many things that i saw or thought or happened this week that i wanted to blog about but it is now friday, the end of week four in nairobi, and i have ten minutes before i leave the office without having written any of them in any kind of creative, interesting, or readable manner. so what will i do? i will write a list of these things that i thought were blog-worthy. (is list-writing : creative writing as sarcasm : wit?)

- i did not see rona ambrose bash the liberals during her speech in an international forum at the un conference on climate change in nairobi but i think it is the tackiest thing she could have done (apart from wearing navy and black together, how do people do that?)
- i wanted to spend my week stalking kofi annan as he was in town for the conference, but instead i had to work
- i had sushi for the first time here and it was de-lic-ious. but expensive.
- i have been exhausted everyday after work and i am not sure why. i mean, i sit at a desk and send emails interspersed with meaningful work.
- i got heaped with a load of work at the last minute which i honestly didn't think i could pull off, but i did
- i fought with excel for an entire morning and won
- i slipped and scratched up my foot and wondering if anyone saw the foreigner almost launch her pre-requisite nalgene bottle into the air like a cannon
- no matter where you are in the world, dating is hard when you have little time and text messaging is your main form of communication (now before the criticisms start about how cheap this is, try and make a cell phone call anywhere outside of north america and work it into your budget)
- i had a mango for an afternoon snack today, yum-my
- i am wearing flip flops in november, woo-who
- i got stuck in an african torrential downpour and was soaked to-the-bone and had a capucinno and chocolate cake in a cafe in the dark (sans electricity)
- i finally got my new chair in my office only because i walked down to where it was and carried it here myself (which, if i knew was all it took, i would have done 3 weeks ago when i originally requested it!) and more than a few people were overly concerned about a girl not wearing coveralls carrying out this task
- i had numerous panic attacks this week about a) my career, b) the prospect of life never really getting easier, c) my ability to succeed, d) financial crises, and e) being a psychotic girl trying not to appear as though i am a psychotic girl
- i chatted with my friend smooks who made me laugh out loud from across the world about team estrogen, team testosterone, and being treated like a lady no matter what your gender

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

mbeki got the memo

there are few things that are simply black and white issues to me, where i know exactly where i stand and feel strongly enough to defend my position when it comes up. gay rights/gay marriage is one of them. i am not sure exactly why this has always been so important to me and although there have been many people who have tried to convince me otherwise with various different arguments, i still believe that human rights extend to all, regardless of sexual orientation. specifically, Article 16:1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

this morning when i heard that the African National Congress, the party making up the government of south africa, passed a law legalising same-sex marriage, i was shocked and thrilled. shocked because homosexuality is extremely taboo in africa (it is illegal in kenya) and president thabo mbeki has not been known for his progressive thought (he has publicly denied that hiv leads to aids). thrilled because i believe that marriage should be a contract, commitment, and partnership offered to anyone who wishes to enter it.

my girl jann

i didn't write this (she did), but i liked it.
Life is a miserable, beautiful mess and we are in the middle of the greatest, saddest adventure! What an opportunity to learn. I can take on whatever the world has to throw at me, or hand me, or give me, or use me for. The only day in my life that I’ll be certain about anything, will be the day I leave here to begin all over again. Well, I am certain about you, and I was before I even knew you existed.

Friday, November 10, 2006

week in review

i cannot believe how quickly time is passing. today marks the third week i have been in kenya. i am beginning to feel more settled but it feels as though there i still so much for me to do to before i can feel comfortable in the city. i have put a deposit on a bed frame that is being made for me and i am rather excited about it. i got to design the bed, pick the wood, the size, and the colour and it will be constructed in a week all for just over a hundred dollars. what service! i am serious about sleeping and like a lot of room to spread out, good pillows, and soft sheets. i have taken the first step to sleeping heaven.

my flatmates and i had a dinner party this week and it was decidedly a success. so successful, in fact, that i was exhausted the next day as i stayed up past my bedtime drinking wine, talking politics and development, and sitting on the patio. sitting on a patio in november rates equally with a good sleeping situation in my world.

after my complaining about local radio selections, i heard tegan and sarah today! i made my officemate listen and i think she was just being polite in saying it was good as it is so different than all the r&b that is usually on the radio. i think i have heard every top 40 hit from my grade 12 year in one single day. but who doesn't love a little brandy and usher for memory's sake.

the smell of burning garbage is a scent close to my memories of west africa and at first i recalled them fondly when i first arrived here. but this afternoon, the smell of the burning piles of rubbish on the side of the road has given me quite the headache. the kind of headache that my mom and i get from incense but there really is no respite since it is right outside my window and is strong enough to waft into my office.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

the dems...

...have taken one, can they make it two?

Monday, November 06, 2006

my first times

this past weekend was a weekend of firsts for me.

i had my first ‘Jager Bomb’ shot (and then another). i also had my first kenyan hang over and i think that it might be connected to the other ‘firsts’ of the previous night – first ‘Springbok’ shot, first time a drunk brit from the military flailed his arms and spilled my red wine down the front of me, and the first time i have ever personally witnessed someone demonstrating the ‘Studman’ shot (snorting the salt, shooting tequila, and squeezing the lime in your eye) – proof that it can be done.

but the hangover was quickly followed by the first time i have gone second-hand clothes shopping in nairobi and i think i will become addicted to this. imagine Winners, but on the side of the road with bargaining! a lot of the stuff is a bit scruffy looking but there are a lot of familiar british and american labels and stuff that has clearly never been worn. i picked myself up a new Gap wool sweater (nairobi mornings are cool, i can even see my breath), a black Top Shop shirt, and a pair of shoes for wearing out (in the case that i ever decide to attempt a do-over of my friday night, but maybe with fewer shots…). all of this cost me a grand total of approximately $9.

this saturday afternoon, during which i was really only saved from the depths of the multi-drink hang over by a take-away double black kenyan coffee to nurse as i wandered around the market, was followed by my first date in kenya. and come to think of it, also the first date i have ever been on with an irishman. it was quite enjoyable and may just be followed up with my first second date in kenya with an irishman. but we will see.

to wrap up my weekend of firsts, i had a most perfect sunday. i went to the local gym and worked out for the first time since i arrived (well really, the first time in a few months). it felt great to run, to get sweaty and feel as though i’d used my body especially because i had exposed it to some serious abuse with the aforementioned alcoholic consumption. after the gym, which is more like a palace than a place of exercise with showers capable of inducing euphoria and the aroma of tea tree oil wafting out of the change rooms that just lures you in, i went to a fruit and veg market in a nearby community, which looks eerily similar to the slums that Rachel Weisz’ character visits in The Constant Gardener. we loaded up with tomatoes, peppers, garlic, cilantro, apples, oranges, limes, beets, avocados, papaya, guava, watermelon as well as witnessed my first matatu argument, of which i am still unclear as it was all exchanged in kiswahili as we sat patiently in the overcrowded vehicle on the side of the highway.

this weekend of firsts was followed by my first spinning class which i took last night and now i am easing my way into any and all movements as my whole body hurts. all that up out of the saddle, back into the saddle, hovering over the saddle, sweet jesus. but the shower afterwards made it all worthwhile.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

10 shillings

2 of the things i dislike about my hometown of calgary include the dry weather and the prevalence of nickelback songs on the radio. some of you may not know this, but nickelback and their lead singer make me break out in a rash.

and who would have thought that i would find the same ultra dryness that is doing great damage to my delicate skin AND the beautiful songs of nickelback in nairobi? i have been listening to the local radio station and i almost fell out of my chair when i heard the sweet, sweet sound of chad kroeger's voice. barf.

but one thing i do love about this city is the price of avocados! about 15 cents each. no matter how big they are, the same price - 10 shillings. i also love that the currency here is called shillings.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

african rains

it is raining. no light sprinkle. no drizzling. no shower. rain. and i think i will be drying out until about the time i have to turn around and walk back home after today's morning commute. i am pretty sure that the red mud will stain my cute stripey capris and i will most likely be too cold all day as i sit at my desk, feeling rather soggy. at least i had an umbrella and didn't have to tie a plastic bag on my head like some of the people i saw walking to work this morning. but that didn't do much to stop the matatus and buses from splashing me with dirty road puddle water as they sped by.

last night i had a true post-colonial experience although it could have been 50 years ago and i don't think much would have been different. i went to a gorgeous house in a totally landscaped and secluded neighbourhood and ate THE best indian food i have EVER had and watched Liverpool beat Bordeux 3-0 while a house man (what do you call them - steward, butler, house help...?!) made us a fire to keep warm on a chilly kenyan night and served us the aforementioned delicious food as we sat under the stars and drank Tusker beer. it was a pretty strange feeling, being served by a kenyan man while listening to accents that would be more familiar in the halls of oxford or king's college than nairobi. but all in all, it was a nice time and i met some rather interesting people.

Friday, October 27, 2006

eastleigh

i think i ate goat skin yesterday. i am still undecided and it is probably best that i am not sure. but my first nyoma choma (roasted meat) experience was not as eventful as one would hope. the chips were good though.

for those lonely planeters out there: i went to the original Thorn Tree Cafe in the Stanley hotel yesterday. it is a new tree now and is quite tiny but the notice board is still there. the funniest thing about the fancy hotel was the photo of Lancaster Castle on the wall. funny how my worlds combine sometimes.

in more inspirational news, i met a hero today. the kind that should be on oprah.* she has set up two clinics in the slums of eastleigh in nairobi that provide services to the somali and oromo refugees (who cannot access services in goverment clinics for a number of reasons), has provided counselling services to rape victims and HIV + men and women, delivers babies, vaccinates children, campaigns against female genital mutilation, and helps commercial sex workers stay safe and access treatment and counselling. but she does not have enough money. the organisation i am working for is going to try and get her more money, but it amazes me that with the rickety equipment they have and the lack of resources, they manage to deliver about 50 babies a month and provide 24 hour care. so safe yourself the dollar and instead of buying a Make Poverty History white wristband, give your money to her so it can actually be used.

the feelings of compassion and sympathy and outrage i had almost brought me to tears, but i managed to portray a professional image and i hope that i get to work more on this emerging project, it could be as rewarding for me as for the people who will hopefully benefit from increased funding.

and if i get any fantastic ideas on how to raise funds or develop partnerships, i will let you know. and of course, i invite you to do the same.

*if oprah's show was any sort of inspirational marker, which i would argue it is in north america

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

askari named sam

i came to work from my NEW house this morning which is truly fantastic. it is a 4 bedroom flat and all brand new and so cozy! i have only met one of my roommates and she is super kind and friendly, although she will be leaving for a few days and i will have all the space to myself. the funniest thing about this area of nairobi are things are named Pine Forest and Aspen Park and Riverside, all obvious colonial left-overs, but there are amazing birds and plants around this area too, which makes it a beautiful conundrum.

and about the house for those of you who were worried, it has 24 hour askaris (guards) who were hesitant to let me in when i first arrived to see the place, so they seem to do a good job at askari-ing. wow, i think i just butchered kiswahili there. we also have a maid who comes 3 times per week and does laundry. i feel a bit spoiled. but then everyone seems to have a maid around here, i bet even some of the maids have maids.

i also took my first matatu this morning, although it was only for about 2 minutes. i probably could have walked. but it was not nearly as exciting or exhilirating as crossing the highway and climbing into a dillapitated minibus. imagine - 3 lanes each way, wild kenyan driving, and me just trying to get to work!

i love the names for the ever-present minibus transporter in all developing countries. in south africa they called them creatively 'taxis' and in ghana 'tro tros' and now 'matatu.'

i made it to work early (i wonder how long that will last) and am here at my office in a chair that i am going to have to exchange and a desk i am going to have to rearrange.

and so it begins

(october 23, 2006)

ahhh… first days of work. how i missed the feeling of knowing nothing compared to the other people you work with. i realise it happens in any new job in any city, but to sit around and talk about the security situation in somalia and what it is like to work with all the local governments and who the us is currently giving money to, is fascinating and somewhat exhilarating. i will employ my strongest conceptions of humility and try and absorb as much information and experience as i can in these months that i am sure will pass more quickly than i anticipate.

there was some very brief talk of me possibly going to tanzania, which is rather exciting. not that i know my way around kenya yet and i probably shouldn’t get ahead of myself, but the possibility is rather exciting.

i also spoke to my potential future roommate today and she sounds incredibly friendly and welcoming and i hope to see the house tomorrow. i might be bed surfing for a few weeks as the others move out, but i am sure it will be a lot more uncomfortable and less lurid than it sounds.

expats in the face of danger

(october 21, 2006)

i arrived in jomo kenyatta international airport rather exhausted from having been sat between a rather large irish catholic missionary and permanent resident of kenya and the daughter of a dutch diplomat returning home to dar es salaam (i learned this from being nosy as she filled out her visa application form), which did not allow for much meaningful sleep. normally, i pride myself on my ability to sleep in confined areas and to be sleeping before a plan takes off, but not this time. with a stroke of luck, i began getting sleepy about ¾ of the way through the da vinci code so i turned it off and tried not to touch the man who was by this point spilling over into my seat space as i closed my eyes and tried to prevent my head from falling every time i approached sleep sitting upright.

and this was after a small delay at heathrow where they were not sure that i was going to get a seat as they had oversold the flight and were trying to squeeze 11 people in while reassuring us left-overs that on average 20% of people do not show up for flights. now who can afford to be paying this kind of money for intercontinental flights and then not show up? i believe it was this little kink that was responsible for my trying seating arrangement. but more than the uncomfort of having someone in my space while i am trying to sleep (or watch the da vinci code – and by the way, what is with me sitting next to a catholic priest on a flight where i chose to bring the book to read and then this time next to a catholic missionary where i decide to watch that movie?), was the inconvenience and lack of duty free shopping time that this hiccup caused me. i had a serious shopping list to tackle whilst at heathrow that included a travel hair dryer with a uk plug and Birkenstocks for only £25. i am still without either. damned british airways.

a friendly driver from the organisation i am working with was there to greet me with my name (albeit missing a few Rs) on his sign negating my fears as i was terrified i would have to navigate the mean streets of africa’s most dangerous city alone at 7:30am on a national holiday. i must admit that it was quite nice being picked up rather officially in a range rover with the organisation’s logo on the side. before we headed into the city, i noticed that the areas surrounding nairobi look exactly like photos, flat with hills in the distance, everything a dry-looking yellow with baobob trees dotting the horizon. pretty amazing.

i came to the apartment of a co-worker’s flat (whom i have never met and who is away on vacation for the long weekend) and promptly slept for 7 hours. i woke up, and as it was getting dark, was terrified. of what, i don’t know, but enough people warned me about going outside after dark that i figured i was in just as much danger being inside. besides what sounded like a monsoon rain (although i suppose nairobi is much too high for the monsoons to reach us), a few fireworks nearby, and the guard dogs in the apartment complex periodically barking like mad, i survived my first night.

today, a rather nice belgian fellow from the office called me and asked if i wanted to come out with him to do some shopping, which i of course said yes to, because there is no possible way that any excuse to stay inside for fear of all that awaited outside the front door would fly as there was no way i could possibly have had any other plans. and, well, i did want to leave the house and was happy to have some company in doing so.

i learned today that the expat lifestyle is a good one. we had lunch at an american-run restaurant that served fantastic coffee and delicious guacamole, bought some cheap groceries and seasonal fruit that would make anyone’s mouth water at home, and returned to my new friend’s house, which is really more like a mansion. well, not quite, but it is located on a compound full of southern californian-like houses, jacaranda and bougainvillea trees, a swimming pool, a playground, a gym, and is chockablock full of diplomatic license plates on vehicles.

it was obvious after one day out and about in my neighbourhood that there are many different nationalities living and working together. i was even invited to a party in the complex by a neighbour who was trying to sell the idea on there being some italians and some americans in attendance, an invitation i politely declined as i need to read about what the hell my job is all about tonight and tomorrow before i start on monday. i did see the office today and i didn’t realise that it is actually a refugee processing site as well as the regional office. my office looks very workable and i have a lunch date for monday, which will hopefully take away all the awkwardness of having to find a place to sit amongst people who know one another. i have always hated lunch hours at new jobs.

ottawaean (??) observations

(october 20th, 2006)

- no one waits for the walk sign to cross streets, i would expect the law abiding citizens of the nation’s capital to abide the laws but in fact it is those rogue albertan renegade cowboys that actually wait even if no cars are in site for fear, perhaps, of a jay walking ticket or unexpected red light turners.
- a lot of men and women in their military get up (fatigues, uniform, camouflage… i am obviously not up on the proper military terminology) waiting for buses. should members of our military really have to depend on the public transit system? i mean, if it is an efficient and energy saving method of transport, good on’em, but shouldn’t they be paid enough to take taxis or afford automobiles?
- i love the parliament buildings and the new library which was covered in an unsightly white tarp the last time i visited ottawa.
- it rains. a lot. for october.
- but there are maple leaves on the ground. yellow ones and red ones, but most importantly, real ones. i was not the only one struck by this fact as one taxi driver that passed me on the street was holding a yellow one, waving it out of his window yelling proudly, ‘canada! canada!’ now there’s the spirit.
- the starbucks employees are uncharacteristically chipper and happy to be serving grumbly people lattes and locating bathroom keys. but then this could be due to the comparison I am making with the overworked, sometimes apathetic, employees of coffee shops in calgary where everyone and their maritimer dog could have a job working in a coffee shop if they so desired.
- there are a lot of spanish speakers in ottawa, the ones i heard were doing housekeeping/serving jobs in hotels. yet there are even more advertisements for spanish lessons on street corners. something tells me that it is not the hotel employees who are offering the lessons, a bit of a labour market dissonance and a touch of irony, if you ask me.
- i saw many a professional man or woman wandering about town and secretly wondered each time whether or not they were a diplomat or worked in an embassy. this is somewhat impressive to me, although i am sure their work would be rather dull and monotonous if i ever had the chance to observe it.
- the number of Government of Canada buildings is truly impressive and surprising. who knew it took that many buildings to house that many government departments to run a country? clearly, not this sometime resident of a non-capital city. but ask me the number of oil company offices needed to extract the delicious, thick, black substance from the ground and i could give you an educated guess.
- i like that the cbc broadcasts from right outside the building and you can watch the news on screens in their windows. i think i accidentally interrupted one of the tapings with my characteristic, and sometimes uncontrollable, laugh.

Monday, October 16, 2006

shock and awe

i am in ottawa. or as my friend once told me to call it, ottawow to make it sound fascinating and exciting. but truth be told, i actually find ottawa fascinating and exciting and perhaps that is just because i am a western canadian who feels isolated and disillusioned with our federal government. you be the judge.

i have met two new friends that will also be living in nairobi and am feeling a lot better about what it is that i have gotten myself into. it looks like i have found myself a place to live (at least temporarily) and i have the misfortune of having booked my plane ticket so that i arrive in nairobi on the morning of the first day of a long weekend. which means, a rather long and boring weekend for me spent inside reading books as i am not sure i will be brave enough to venture outside through the big, bad streets of nairobi (the african cited rated most dangerous on some polls). or at least only during high noon since i have been warned about going outside after dark.

i have kept pretty quiet about the internship and my next trip to africa on my blog, but prepared to be shocked and awed (oops, wrong international campaign...). or at least hopefully things get a little more interesting around here. and by interesting, i mean interesting cultural and professional experiences, not muggings and robberies.

so far, i have managed to safe on the streets of ottawa. tomorrow i visit the kenyan high commission to convince them to give me a visa (and by convince, i mean pay them the fee) and then more training and conference sessions and then out for dinner with my favourite ottawa resident (besides steve and his ill fitting vests, of course), k!

Monday, October 09, 2006

thanksgiving marathon

things i am thankful for:

1 - getting to celebrate thanksgiving at home for the first time in 3 years
2 - brussel sprouts
3 - the crops (haha)
4 - being offered this internship i am about to start
5 - watching Akeela and the Bee with my brothers and sister and cuddling on the couch
6 - all the help i received to finish my MA
7 - my health and the health of those around me
8 - another year of things i know
9 - the nurses being nice after i fainted last week
10 - a minority government
11 - international friends
12 - strep throat medicine
13 - visits with old friends
14 - time to hang out at home with the fam
15 - ralph retiring
16 - being able to go to the Bear Country Lodge this week with my sister
17 - a fridge full of food
18 - free time and a leisurely pace
19 - 2 turkey dinners with many families
20 - borrowing cars
21 - fall colours
22 - alberta happening to be plunked on top of oil reserves
23 - the opportunities to follow my goals that take me outside of the country
24 - the benefits of growing up in canada
25 - falling asleep on the couch
26 - the calm before the storm

happy thanksgiving!

Friday, October 06, 2006

hurts for a reason

today was an eventful day.

i had breakfast with a friend i had not seen in years. and screwed up when i was trying to order huevos rancheros. i speak one other language besides english and that is spanish. and i screw up the one single spanish thing on the menu and look like someone trying to sound cool when they pronounce the one spanish thing on the menu with the appropriate accent and pronunciation, but i screw it up disastrously. i don't even remember what i said but by the time i got it out properly, i was too far gone to redeem myself with appropriate pronunciation, let alone accent. the ranch eggs were tasty and the visit was even better.

i was interviewed by my high school's newspaper about, well, my life. which i don't think is terribly exciting as it is, well, my life. but the interviewer was great and excited about her own life after high school, which reminded me that i have seen and done a lot since i left those halls.

and speaking of those halls. i had to use the bathroom while i was there (because i love to stay hydrated, so much so that i have used bathrooms in the strangest of places) and i decided to stay out of the bathrooms frequented by students and use the ones at the front of the school. now i am pretty sure the last time i was in those bathrooms was when i was throwing up because i drank too much at a school dance and my then-boyfriend, who was equally inebriated, was peering over the stall to ask if i was ok as two girls (one wearing a pink feather boa) got in a fight behind me and the principal came in to break it up not seeming to notice me barfing in the toilet. talk about a full circle moment.

then i went to get a blood test. then i passed out (but my mom thinks it is nicer to say 'fainted'). i was sitting there, trying to breath deeply and do my best not to pass out and then i remember the nurse asking me to hold the cotton ball to my arm (never a good idea when the person charged with said activity is turning white and keeling over) then asking me if i was ok and i said no. then i woke up with two new (and it must be said, entirely more friendly than the first) nurses yelling at me. i had to lay down while they put cold clothes on my forehead and i tried not to cry. something about fainting and puking that both make me cry.

but then it was all worthwhile as i took myself for coffee (new maple macciato at starby's - meh), started reading a new book (Vinegar Hill, as i anxiously await the arrival of A Suitable Boy - it is about time that i conquer that beast), then went shopping with my sister. and let me tell you people, NOW is a good time to shop, lots of sales and pretty things that i do not need but purchased anyways. but what i did need was to price adjust my last two weeks worth of old navy purchases, for savings over $30 and pants for less than (<) $10. woo who. it almost made up for the passing out. but not quite.

the day was rounded out with a viewing of grey's anatomy and er. what is with me passing out whilst having blood taken then watching hospital shows? an enigma, i tell you. but maybe things do hurt for a reason. so cheesey, so clique, so primetime television, but i love it nonetheless.

Monday, October 02, 2006

weird and unpredictable

i just bought and drank a pumpkin spice latte from starby's (this being the second pumpkin spice latte i have ever had) and it tastes like cough medicine. i think this is due less to the latte maker (or should i say barista?) than to my lack of taste due to strep infection. disappointing to say the least.

there are now 4 liberal leadership hopefuls. all are men. this disappoints me. not because i am against having a male leader of the liberal party (that would just be silly) but because why do we lack the female talent in the upper ranks of the official opposition party that out of 4 who are left in the race, none are women? i liked hedy fry but without the back up and support (ahem, $$$), she couldn't make it any further than she did. and then the whole belinda thing... i liked her and can't figure out if i think she is now a home wrecking floosy or is still pretty cool, rocking the federal politics in stiletto pumps (i do not know if she in fact wears stiletto pumps, but i am making a huge assumption here to illustrate my point).

i booked my flights today and they will all become official when i have to pay for them this thursday. i am in a strange head space about this move. and i think i am avoiding dealing with all that needs dealing, which will leave me a procrastinated mess in a week when i realise all that i have to do before i go. today i will build a list (similar to when pedro builds a cake) on what i need to do and hopefully that will get me moving a little more quickly.

i got an email from a colleague of a friend who knows someone in nairobi who according to her 'is a little weird and unpredictable, but at least white.' - what?! AT LEAST HE IS WHITE? yet he is also weird and unpredicable, which are pretty alarming characteristics if you ask me and how being white redeems him, i have no idea. that comment is so blatantly racist, it shocks me that someone would type it in an email to someone they have never met, which means she has no idea whether or not i am white. i could be of kenyan descent, going back to find my roots for all she knows. but get in touch with the weird, unpredictable guy because at least he is white...

Friday, September 29, 2006

hit by a truck

as in, i feel like i have been...

although i am not sure what being hit by a truck feels like and i would imagine it hurts more than having strep throat. but i have strep throat and it is really cutting into my plans.

i had plans to go hiking, an offer to attend a film fest gala, and tickets to a flames game, all of which i had to cancel/turn down.

and i had been feeling slightly bored. timing, sheesh.

in other news, i think i found myself a place to live in nairobi, so that makes me feel slightly more settled.

even if i concurrently feel as though i have been hit by a truck.

Monday, September 25, 2006

bumper sticker

today i saw a bumper sticker that said 'friends don't drive friends to abortion clinics,' and although i respect people's right to their own opinion, the sticker made me sad. because i sort of like to think that even if you disagreed with your friend's decision to have an abortion (and i could go on and on about all the different reasons and situations a woman could be in to make that decision), you would want to be supportive of them. i guess it would be more difficult if i was against the whole thing, but i suppose that is what the right to choose is all about. anyways, i just don't understand that kind of unsolicited pontificating. to me, it was just there to make other people feel badly whilst making a statement. and i would bet that any woman who has had an abortion does not need one more person telling her that it is wrong or that it was a bad decision, because i would imagine that they struggle with that without anyone else's help.

so friends, whether or not i agreed with your decision to have an abortion, i'd drive you to the clinic.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

dark and twisty

i am getting used to life with tv again, it is admittedly not difficult at all. tonight my sister and i revived thursday p & c nights (pop and chips) but instead of pop we drank water and instead of chips we had vietnamese. from bagolac. or bachalogacha or however you pronounce it.

we were slightly confused with the mixed-upness of grey's anatomy tonight. but once we figured out we watched episode 2 before episode 1, we were fine. and then the mcdreamy goodness began...

how can anyone watch that and think that meredith should not choose derek? of course she should. he made her cry! and the vet did not make her cry (finn or whatever his name is) and picking him is obviously the smart move, but since when do we (especially i) make decisions based on what is best for us?! she should be with derek. end of story.

sort of like how i was always rooting for joey to chose pacey and i still cannot believe that some people thought she should have been with dawson.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

excess baggage

i am so confused with technology. what does 'beta' mean?? i have no idea, but i think i have signed myself up for the new blogger beta thing.

and i got myself another new email address in case my university kicks me off mine. so that brings my email addresses to a grand total of 4. which is about 3 too many and is taking up too much of my time.

it is amazing how much time is wasted using seemingly efficient computer programmes and services.

right now my biggest concern is whether or not to bring my laptop to kenya with me. it might be useful for me to have something to do but i have no idea what the status of the world wide web is there and it might just invite burglery or unnecessary excess bag. thoughts??

Saturday, September 16, 2006

wear socks

if i have to eat the cheese pizza on a trans-atlantic air canada flight one more time... but at least it was better than the chickpea curry!

i am home and calgary decided to welcome me here with english weather!! what is going on? i have been bragging about how warm and sunny my hometown has been while it has been grey and rainy in england and now i am eating my words.

so far, i have bought some lovely shoes to go with a dress named pheobe and had my toes taken care of at yet another vietnamese pedicure assembly line they call a nail shop. (here is some advice, when it is hot in london and you are taking the train to a job interview and you do not want to arrive hot and sweaty cause you've had to walk from the station, wear socks. even if you think that by not wearing socks you might actually be less hot and sweaty. even if the only socks you brought are thick, sports socks because you were not packing smart. wear them. because otherwise you cut your feet so badly in your black boots that you have to stop and buy socks!! and they will only come in packs of three and will cost far more than a pack of three socks should because you are in london paying for them in pounds, but you will have to buy them and go out on to the bridge over the river thames and put them on, looking a bit silly. it will also be at this time that you will look at your own feet, notice the open flesh and cringe at the damage you have done.)

for some reason, it is easier to come home when i know when i am leaving again and this time it will be mid-october and instead of going back to london, which was the original plan, i will be going to kenya! i have been offered a 6 month internship there and will be working with the international orgnization for migration's health and human trafficking programme in east africa. i am looking forward to going back to africa, seeing the eastern part of the continent, and actually working in the field that i have been studying for years! i have no idea what to expect at this point, but i do know that i need to make a doctor's appointment, get chest x-rays, have a TB test, book flights, get a visa, do some shopping, learn as much as i can about my new home and my new place of employment...

but first, my cousin's wedding and lots of laughter and fun country times!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

if you try sometimes, you get what you need

i am almost there. almost done my dissertation. i re-read parts of it yesterday and started the conclusion and i am pleased with what i have done. but it is now sunday afternoon, i have a touch of the hang over, and i haven't even started working today. let me explain.

yesterday afternoon, a perfectly wonderful autumn saturday afternoon, a friend and i went to the shop to get some tomatoes and milk (the necessities when tomatoes are your favourite vegetable (fruit, whatever) and you love lattes) and that is when i had what i will now refer to as The Sighting. the first time you see an exboyfriend following a break up. now sometimes this happens immediately after the break up and is not so awkward, just tough. but when the last time you saw the person was almost 4 months ago and at that time you were still together, it is incredibly awkward.

so what do i do when he smiles at me? yes, i give the ummmm.......yeah.......sure.......hi smile. it was not a nice one and one i wasn't sure i was even capable of that sends the message of ef off. which is not the message i want to send at all!

and then all those wounds that you have been tending and mending for the past 3 months felt as though they were torn back open. as i was mildly (ok, more like totally) shaken by the entire encounter, i procrastinated my way through the afternoon and then got motivated to work only after i was invited out for drinks by a gentleman suitor. i managed to write half a conclusion and put make up on and do my hair (which once i took out of its permanent bun-like contraption, realised has been neglected and is far Too Long) to which aforementioned suitor remarked, 'you look like a girl.' and i don't even think we can blame this one on language barriers.

a night of drinking and dancing ensued and i had a really great time. no thinking about how foreign aid is disastrous or about The Sighting. red wine, late night pasta, hips don't lie, and lots of laughing. however, now i am doing anything and everything (save for clean and pack) to avoid finishing this conclusion. i kinda don't want it to be done. partly because i have really enjoyed doing it and partly because that means that the next phase of my life has to begin and i have no idea where my next home will be.

i had heard of this "Your Name AND needs" google thing before but did it today and the results were too good not to share. i never thought having the same name as a video game super heroine and a cricketer would be so entertaining on a lazy sunday afternoon.

Lara Needs...
  • a hair cut (how did they know?)
  • to make the running water around a small barn stop
  • to use stealth just as much as she does combat maneuvers and jumps (my favourite)
  • new breasts (i kid you not, that actually came up, however, i disagree!)
  • a Sussex lift (maybe related to the previous need??)
  • him to be happy
  • to move boxes from one side of a giant balance to the other (with an impending move, this one seems pertinent)
  • 212 runs
  • to be praised for her tenacity and courage
  • a magnetic grapple
  • to interact with her environment to solve a puzzle (another fav)
  • the help of some of her friends to accomplish this goal (i don't know what goal, but i couldn't agree more)
  • 6MB of hard disk space
  • to be stronger
  • no lessons on tact or diplomacy from anyone (i could seriously use lessons on tact)
  • to go to Chen Lo in China (sounds good to me!)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

fearless city pigeons

in the last year i have been to london 3 times. guess how many of those times a PIGEON FLEW INTO MY HEAD???

no, not just 1 time that would not be grounds for posting.

no, not 3, that would be a sign from the gods that i should not consider moving there.

yes, 2 times!! once in the back of the head and i swear a claw probably touched me. the other time was on tuesday when a wing touched my face. my face! a wing! of a dirty city pigeon.

a greek told me that it is supposed to be good luck. i think he was just trying to make me feel better while stifling laughter.

Monday, September 04, 2006

crikey

i kind of can't believe that the crocodile hunter died.

Friday, September 01, 2006

a dress named pheobe

i love september, it has always represented the beginning. the beginning of school, of the 4 seasons, of new jobs, of new clothes, of new pencils, of new colours, of new friends, of new experiences. a few years ago my best ladies and i decided that the labour day long weekend would signify the new year. since things seem to change like the leaves and the school year in september and not january, like the calendar would have you believe.

each year we have made resolutions for the 'real' new year. once it was to Do More Things and another year it was to Where Ever You Are, Be There. this past year, i think mine was to Make A Home and this coming year? i haven't quite decided yet. but since we celebrate the new year with the labour day classic football game (go stamps!), i still have a few days to come up with this year's resolution but i will let you know and at the same time, give it to the universe to help me take care of.

in the meantime, i will celebrate the autumnal new year with my newest purchase that put me over my month's clothing budget (and it is the 1st of the month!!) and i wouldn't normally share such a silly thing on the www, but i love it and i am going to wear it to my cousin's wedding in a few weeks and i even bought some new golden gems to wear with it. i don't think i've ever seen a piece of clothing that represents the new year quite so well!

happy new year to one and all.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

it's official, i'm a brit!

a brand spanking new uk passport arrived at home for me to collect, which excites me incredibly. now i can check those boxes on job applications that ask if i am legally entitled to work in the uk with YES. i am all ready to fill my new passport with stamps, unless of course i am travelling to other eu countries and then i will use my canadian passport so i can still get stamps. i am a passport stamp addict!

and now when people ask me i can say i am canadian AND british. although let's be serious, i will always be more canadian than anything.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

a bigger bang

i never thought it was possible that someone THAT much older than me could be THAT sexy in pants THAT tight with a bum THAT small and a red shirt THAT sequined!

has mick always been able to move like that? or is that something that has improved with age?



and glasglow is one damn good looking city. mostly for the men aged 25 - 35. and with the nicest accents too!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

eh keef!

i have been busy, but ultra boring as i do the same thing everyday and all i want to talk about is foreign aid, intervention, human rights law, humanitarian crises, global governance, african sovereignty, NGOs, donor governments, the world bank, the imf, and millennium development goals.

but...i am going to glasglow this weekend to see the rolling stones.

and since i thought it was tuesday all day today, i only have one more day to get excited, but somehow i think i will manage!

Friday, August 18, 2006

an abundance of tumeric

anyone need any bran, raisins, or a cupboard full of spices? i seem to have a lot of these things and cannot make enough muffins to get rid of most of it in the next 4 weeks.

it is coming to that time again, where i have to pick my life up and relocate it somewhere. less than a month left in my little room and since i am so focused on getting my thesis done, i am not even thinking about how i will go about moving my life again. maybe i am subconsciously avoiding it.

i am sick of moving around and yet i think if i were in the same place for too long i would get antsy and bored. then again, i am craving stability and a steady schedule. it seems as though i cannot know where exactly i will be living for a little while yet and where i was entirely certain i was ready to settle myself somewhere, that might not be the case anymore. but while i sit around and wait in the meantime, what do i do with a cupboard full of spices?!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

better left to chance?

i have not had a free minute to reply to any of the emails piling up in my inbox or to post anything on my blog. not sure exactly what i have been doing, well besides attending an english garden party, visiting chatsworth house and the peak district (stunning place, go there and pretend you are a member of the british aristocracy), running, playing football, and writing nearly 13 000 words of my dissertation... but i digress.

the idea that things happen for a reason has always been one i have struggled with and have not entirely believed, but today it seems that things over the past few months have happened for reasons that i am beginning to understand.

in march sometime i got in a tussle with a lecturer about his cancellation of my presentation and his refusal to respond to any emails and i ended up meeting with the head of the programme who said that although she couldn't do anything to rectify the situation at that time, she could assure me that he would not be assigned as my supervisor for my dissertation. as i was annoyed with the programme and the whole arena of academia, i quickly wrote a dissertation proposal that was to deal with canada-us relations in light of the 'global war on terror' and trade disputes.

in this proposal i briefly mentioned the word 'trade' although i am not too keen on studying trade relations and i was assigned to a supervisor who specialises in international political economy, which i think was a bit of a tactic of appeasement since i had to deal with that other jackass and because of that little word 'trade.'

i met with my supervisor and then had to go home unexpectedly, where i decided to change the entire topic of my dissertation back to what i was originally interested in, but which my supervisor was not an 'expert.' i read and i read and then i came back here and started working, spinning around the library like a tornado. i have since seen him a few times, the most recent time being today.

over coffee this morning he told me i should do a phd, he'd like me to do it here, and he would provide a reference for me (and as he has recently taken over as head of the department, this is sort of a big deal). now i suppose i have always thought that it was a faint possibility that i could do a phd, but i never really thought that other people would actually suggest i do it. and just like that, he told me not only does he think i can do it, but that i should do it and that the field of politics needs more female academics like me.

who knows if i actually will devote 3 years of my life to figuring out how to make foreign aid more effective (definitely not this year as i have other things in mind), but none of this would have happened had aforementioned jackass not spontaneously cancelled a presentation, sent me rude emails, and raised his voice enough to make me politely excuse myself to the hallway to cry!

fate? chance? luck? meant-to-be? i am just not sure.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

chaos! at the airport

i am so glad that i had not planned to travel today. even on the trains, i would imagine they might have been a bit congested. i understand why they are being extremely vigilant about carry-on bags but i hope by the time i am taking my transatlatic flight they allow laptops, ipods, and water bottles or i will have a very long trip. the two facts about the people arrested that the news talked about here was that they were 'of pakistani origin' and 'british born.' big deals in a country fearful of asylum seekers and homegrown terrorism. i have got to say that the way the british politicians handled it seemed quite respectable. then bush said something like 'we'd like to thank the u-nited kingdom for busting this' or something equally as inarticulate.


things i have learned from the reading i have been doing these past few days...

if the us wanted to stop the crisis in the sudan it easily could, as it is supporting the rebels in the south against the islamic government that once harboured terrorists. but it cannot support the rebels enough to end the conflict because it would upset their other allies in the middle east (like egypt) so instead it contains the conflict as it is and hundreds of thousands of people die. and oxfam is trying to convince you that if you just care enough you can change this.

the make poverty history bracelets are not going to move the world any further away from poverty. i always had a sneaking suspicion but i read a recent journal article that really spelled it out for me and explained it clearly why it is a useless cause. the campaign made people believe that by doing something small and easy like wear a white bracelet they were helping a greater cause. but they weren't. they were supporting a fashion statement, clever marketing, but did not raise enough revenue to actually implement change. and besides, you cannot implement change significant enough to make poverty history without uprooting the entire neoliberal system on which the world economy depends. and for that you need the us government, but you can be sure that the number of white bracelets worn had no influence on what bush did or did not do since the programme's inception. vanessa pupavac (the author of the study) calls it a 'trivial fashion statement masquerading as commitment.' when it is out of fashion to wear a white wristband, there will be very little lasting commitment.

sometimes relief workers in crises purposely damage aid supplies, but this is a good thing. it decreases the market value of an item so as to render it less attractive to thieves. so when the red cross tears a blanket in two and a refugee has to sew it back together, it actually leaves them better off because they might actually get to keep it.

Monday, August 07, 2006

an avuncular tribute

to the biggest coronation street super fan in canada...and my uncle, this one is for you!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

...and a half

yesterday was my half year birthday, so i can officially say i am 25 and a half years old. i hope the second half of 25 is better than the first. it wasn't awful but it was definitely one of the harder half years i have had. 24 was so great, so easy, so fun, things seemed to be settling and then 25 came along and just threw everything up into the air and the pieces are still landing.

it has been a relatively good year, living in the uk, travelling in europe, learning lots on my ma course, but it has been an extremely hard few months as well. and i am not sure exactly why. there are some pretty obvious reasons, but i am beginning to think that the reasons it is really hard are yet to be realised and someday it will all make sense.

but anyways, happy half year birthday to me!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

book worm

it is past midnight on a saturday night and i am up reading and writing about african sovereignty... and actually enjoying it!

i was feeling so stuck with my dissertation and just wanted to get it over with and move on to the next phase of life while i was at home. i was even dreading coming back to university to spend my days working, and i have really been embracing the process. i am actually wondering if i will miss it when all is said and done and i don't get to pack my lunch, load up my backpack with books, trek over to the library, have coffee breaks with friends, and set up my work station with books, pens, pencils, staplers, highlighters, sticky notes, notebooks, and white out.

(i have just accepted the fact that i take up a lot of space where ever i go, i am a spreader)

then i wonder if people are ever capable of appreciating what they have until it is nearly over or gone. although i'd like to think it is possible, i am just not sure. maybe some things are meant to live in our memories exactly as we'd like to remember them.

all this thinking is hard work and sometimes my brain hurts and sometimes steam feels like it is about to come out of my ears, but i am making progress and am at 4200 words. not even a quarter of the way there yet, but i figure it is not too bad considering the circumstances under which i started this whole process.

and remember when i said i'd never do a phd...? well, never say never, i suppose.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

an hour well wasted

if you are interested in the israel/palestine conflict and the influence of the media on how we perceive it and have an hour to spare watch this documentary. it is about the american, israeli, and british media and the representation of events in israel and the occupied territories and helps explain why the conflict continues as it does. i do recommend it.

it made me think about the canadian media and i believe that they are frighteningly similar to american media in that we hear only about what is going on in israel and palestine through a filter. israeli action is usually depicted as a defense of their land and people and palestinians are most often shown throwing rocks, attacking peaceful soldiers, or suicide bombing. it makes me wonder whether the broadcasters are even cognisant of what they are reporting to their audiences.

i have noticed that in the uk people are more willing to say that they support a palestinian state and that they disagree with the occupation. and i bet i have never heard that from any mainstream media source in canada. you don't necessarily have to agree with that side of the debate, but it is most certainly missing from our national dialogue, and i think we deserve to see both sides of the situation before we deicide for ourselves.

it would give me so much more hope that the violence and rhetoric won't go on throughout my lifetime to hear more about the stories of israelis and palestinians working together towards peace, as is mentioned in the documentary. especially considering all that is happening in lebanon.

anyways, it is a good piece if you have the time to watch it.

Monday, July 24, 2006

sore feet

i went for a hike yesterday to the nearby hills and came back extremely exhausted and with very sore feet, but it felt great and i had a fantastic time. sheep, stone fences, views of the ocean, wind mills, caterpillars, old fancy english cars out for a sunday drive, and old farmhouses. but perhaps the best part was the excellent company!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

itchy feet

my grandma had all these superstitions about what different itches meant and i have had itchy feet all day! no, it is not athlete's foot or any other abnormality.

has anyone heard of what itchy feet is supposed to mean? i would guess a long trip in the near future, but i am sorta hoping for great success or happiness.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

to love is to risk not being loved in return

i returned to lancaster today (in the midst of an british heat wave - hot and sticky and train tracks falling apart due to the heat) and i was forced to face some of the things i have been pondering and stewing over for the past few months. saying good bye to people and cultivating friendships all overshadowed with an overarching sense of sadness, confusion, and excitement about the future. then my sister sent me this quote and it seemed to sum everything up rather succintly

To laugh is to risk appearing a fool,

To weep is to risk appearing sentimental

To reach out to another is to risk involvement,

To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self

To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss

To love is to risk not being loved in return,

To hope is to risk despair,

To try is to risk to failure.

But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing is nothing.

He may avoid suffering and sorrow,

But he cannot learn, feel, change, grow or live.

Chained by his servitude he is a slave who has forfeited all freedom.

Only a person who risks is free.

The pessimist complains about the wind;

The optimist expects it to change;

And the realist adjusts the sails.

William Arthur Ward, "To Risk"

i have decided to take a risk and post some goals i have for the rest of the summer here in lancaster.

i want to run 16km per week.
i want to foster relationships in these last few months and take advantage of opportunities to continue knowing the people that surround me.
i want to work for at least 5 hours per weekday on my dissertation.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

achieving the unachievable

i managed to do the nearly impossible today and go to the mall to investigate bras for purchase and actually walk away with not 1, not 2, but 3 new bras!! and not feel absolutely horrible about myself in the process. why oh why is bra shopping so difficult?? give me bikini shopping, jeans shopping, or even day-long-forced-conversation-making-hair-appointment before bra shopping. but not today, i managed ok, came out alive, and had 3 new bras to show for it. so that should do me for another year because i hate the whole process so much that i avoid it til support systems are falling apart at the seams.

Monday, July 10, 2006

stampede scrooge

i wasn't excited about the stampede coming to town this year until i turned on a little country 105 and saw those flags up on the light poles.

i went to the parade and had some serious pride happening with the rcmp, the canadian olympic medalists, the natives in their traditional dress, and even a touch of my pacificist spirit was proud of the military servicemen and women who were driving their enormous tanks through downtown. and i like all the horses and our western heritage that we all pretend not to have.

but then the whole thing started up and i am even less excited about it. it seems as though the calgarians have left the stampeding to the tourists now. and i can absolutely understand why. too many line-ups, too many people, too crowded, too expensive. i am such a stampede scrooge, but i am just up for the battles with people for beer, corn dogs, or bathrooms.

and $50 to get into cowboys, are you kidding?! apparently not. because that old cowboy vickers is just a sleazy profit-driven man at the end of the day. i can't say i blame him but i am just not interested like i used to be.

maybe a trip to the rodeo or the chuckwagons might change my attitude, as long as no horses get hurt while i am watching.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

canadian celebrities... no, not ben mulroney

today i had lunch in downtown toronto with one of the best nhl stars that played for the maple leafs and the future leader of the liberal party of canada.

if by lunch i mean afternoon drink in the same lounge.

and by best nhl star i mean the scruffy guy known for scrapping.

and by future leader of the liberal party i mean a liberal mp who might want to run for the leadership of the party.

perhaps that first sentence should read - i had an afternoon drink in the same lounge as both tie domi and belinda stronach, but did not talk to them, make eye contact with them, or sit with them.

but i considered introducing myself to tie after i saw him walk by for the benefit of my little brother and then once i saw he was dining with belinda i thought i should introduce myself to her and then tell her that one day i want to be her. well minus the conservative party stint and the rich and famous father that got me the job.

but i like her anyways.

toronto is an exciting place.

Monday, July 03, 2006

t.

toronto is great and i realise i have dropped the ball on the blogging, but the break from life and from any place i've called home has been good.

home on wednesday and then i am going to have to wind myself up to take off for the greatest outdoor show on earth... i hope i can make it through unscathed.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

lazy days of summer

i had a massage today and it ranks among the best massages i have ever had. but one problem - it made me so relaxed that i didn't feel like doing much the rest of they day. so i have read a few pages of an article and watched the england/sweden game of the world cup, picked my sister up from work, cut some beans for dinner, and made some tea. and that would really be the extent of my day, how sad.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

a day well spent

yesterday my sister and i ran a rather tough 8km, well it was really the 7th km that nearly killed me. i really need to get out running more often to get back to where i once was. but a nice finish is going to help me get back out there again soon.

then we went to the calgary herald used book sale where we picked up a few books and my mouth watered at the sight of an old copy of The Old Man and the Sea and a signed first edition of The Handmaid's Tale.

then we were accosted by an eastern european man at the farmer's market who pointed out that i have somedry skin around my nose and his invention of some skin lotion could help that. thankfully, i avoided putting his poison on my face.

then we bought some avocados and limes at the market and pretended like we were in mexico. but there were far fewer animal parts and tortillas than we had hoped.

then we went to inglewood and had lunch at Eat! Eat! and i must recommend it. wonderful service and sandwiches, which is sometimes hard to come by.

then a good friend who moonlights as an englishman named nigel joined us and we laughed and we laughed and then we laughed some more. i love those times.

then we went to crave and found out they were all out of cupcakes. well, out of everything. one of those businesses that makes you wish you'd started it.

then we bought two cakes at another bakery for my sister's graduation party last night. and sampled the brownies, i love a bakery that has samples AND free coffee. charlie's on kensington, i suggest you stop by.

then we went home and got ready for aforementioned party.

then our guests arrived and we had a party!