Saturday, June 30, 2007

happy birthday canada

wish i could be there to celebrate with you. but it won't be long now. have you missed me? i miss your regular electricity, clean and safe streets, your microbreweries, and your people who don't try to rip you off all the time. i will see you in the arrivals gate at yyc, please have a t ho's ready for me.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007


i am still alive and well (and very brown) in egypt. although there was a slight concern that i might float on the red sea over to saudi arabia. only joking, of course.

vacations rock.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

egypt is hot as balls

yep, that's right. hot as balls.

but it has been nothing less than amazing so far. i will collect my thoughts into some semblance of order and hopefully post some photos of this beautiful place soon.

until then, i must retire to my air conditioned room after visiting the valley of the kings in luxor this morning and eating a home-cooked egyptian meal.

things are good. if not a little hot.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

that's right...

I’ve been down to Georgia
I’ve seen the streets in the West
I’ve driven down the 90
Hell, I’ve seen America’s best
I’ve been through the Rockies
I’ve seen Saskatoon
I’ve driven down the Highway 1
Just hoping that I’d see you soon
Cause I’m coming home
I’m coming home...

I’ve never been to Alaska
But I can tell you this
I’ve been to Lincoln, Nebraska
And hell, you know it ain’t worth shit
I’ve been through thru Nova Scotia
Sydney to Halifax
I’ve never taken pictures
Cause I know I’ll be right back
I’m coming home...

I’ve seen a palace in London
I’ve seen a castle in Wales
But I’d rather wake up beside you
And breath that old familiar smell
I never though you could leave me
I figured I was the one
That understands your sadness
So I guess I should just hold my tongue
But I’m coming home
I’m coming home...
I know that we’re taking chances
Tell me life was a risk
I just have one last question
Will it be my heart or will it be his

Coming home...

so i haven't mentioned this to my boss, changed my plane ticket, or figured anything out really, but i have decided one thing and that is that i'm coming home for a visit in july.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

i am not the only one...

...that thinks david suzuki is hot!

i've only got time for a list

  • i saw a store called Guns & Cameras the other day in town, clever name
  • i am leaving this sunday for egypt and am not properly mentally prepared
  • i have to go to mombasa for work on friday. not many people can really say that. i wish i were more excited.
  • the day of the african child is this saturday, an african union day to commemorate protesting children killed in soweto, south africa during apartheid. so ummmm.... think of the african children.
  • they are cleaning computers in the office next to mine with what sounds like a leaf blower, it makes me want to bang my head against the wall
  • i joined facebook and i think it was responsible for my bleak mood yesterday, more to come on this
  • smooks made me laugh out loud about the crops today. man, i miss lady time
  • there are suspicions that the bomb in nairobi was intended to be detonated at the airport, not exactly what i wanted to hear, good thing i am getting out of here for awhile (although via the airport...)
  • this might explain why there has been more violence in nairobi lately, i hope that it ends soon even though it is an election year
  • i went to a war cemetary on the weekend and it is quite possibly the nicest park i have been to in nairobi, perhaps one of the only parks i have been to in nairobi
  • my leky (as my scottish flatmate calls it) has been on the fritz recently and i spent saturday evening wrapped in blankets on my patio, drinking tea, and watching an electrical storm with a soldier
  • pieces of advice given to me recently: 'play dumb' & 'honesty is always the best policy except for now'
  • my cousin was passing through nairobi this past weekend (not many people can say that either) and we got to have breakfast. no maple syrup or bottomless coffees, but it was great to catch up.

Monday, June 11, 2007

safe and sound in my suburb

in the case that anyone has heard of the explosion that happened this morning in nairobi, rest assured that i was far away from it and perfectly safe. no one seems to know what it was all about yet.

here is a snippet from the local paper:

Explosion in Nairobi
Publication Date: 6/11/2007

Several people are feared dead following an explosion at the city centre in Nairobi this morning.

The explosion went off shortly after 8am at a restaurant near the Ambassadeur Hotel between Tom Mboya Street and Moi Avenue.

The spot is usually a busy area with huge traffic as morning commuters change buses and rush to work. A junction outside the restaurant is one of the key picking and dropping points for buses in the city.

‘Nation’ photojournalist William Oeri has reported seeing at least two bodies and ripped off limbs at the scene.

“Personal items are strewn all over the place,” he said.

A second ‘Nation’ photographer Joseph Mathenge said he could see a body hanging from the window.

Witnesses have reported seeing ambulances deliver two bodies to the Kenyatta National Hospital and three others to the Nairobi Hospital.

"It was a very loud explosion. I thought it was a tyre burst but it was louder than that," Lang'at Justice, a 20-year-old student who witnessed the explosion, told Reuters near the chaotic scene.

The scene of the new blast is only a few blocks away from the former US Embassy which was targeted by suicide bombers in 1998.

Additional reporting by REUTERS

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

frankincense and myrrh

i cannot recall if the first thing that struck me when i walked out of the airport in addis ababa was the gentle smell of frankincense that permeates the air or the peaceful quiet that was such a change from nairobi. or it could have been my immediate fascination with the amharic language or the stunning beauty of the people. whatever it was, i was hooked from the first moment we stepped out to the stillness and calm of the capital city and took a little blue taxi to our hotel.

before leaving the airport i can tell you what went through my mind and it was this, ‘why oh why must bryan adams follow me all over the world?’ it wasn’t long before we heard celine too.

checking in was an experience that kept us laughing. i wasn’t sure if i was misunderstanding the desk clerk when she refused to give my female friend and i a room with one king size bed and insisted we pay more for 2 single beds because that was decidedly not allowed in that hotel. after failing to reassure that we were indeed just friends and were more interested in the lower room rate than snuggling in a large bed, we began to wander the streets of addis and it was not long before i realised that poverty and homelessness is a constant in the city and street begging is sadly, extremely common.

a more positive thought struck me during my first walk through the streets of addis ababa as well – i could cross the street freely without taking my life into my hands each time i stepped off the curb. i was stunned at the reminder of what lanes are on the road. those little white lines painted on the asphalt that are meant to keep cars a safe distance away from one another? entirely non existent in kenya and i had sincerely forgotten what orderly traffic is like. it is heavenly. giving pedestrians the right of way was truly the greatest invention of all time. roundabouts actually work to control the flow of traffic in addis and i had to point out to my travelling companion when i witnessed someone yielding. i pointed in disbelief and nudged her in the direction of a car waiting to enter the roundabout and said, ‘he’s yielding,’ and we both sat and stared for a moment just to make sure it was not just a stalled car and that it was genuinely a road rule in action.

another peculiar thing about ethiopians in addis ababa, they seemed to only want to talk to me and not my friend who is equally as blonde and fair as me but about 6 inches taller. she would ask them a question and they would turn to me to respond. i couldn’t figure out if it was my underwhelming stature or my african butt. one of the funnier street episodes of this nature was a man who tried to rent us a ‘big house’ because he assumed we could afford it and that we must need a place to stay while we were in addis if we just arrived. apparently, they don’t get too many tourists wandering the streets.

other definite highlights of the trip included seeing lucy, the first hominid discovered and proof that relatively, i am pretty tall for our species and our ancestors. the churches are pretty amazing too, i spent a lot of time pondering the history and age of christianity in ethiopia. the women ‘dress their hairs’ when they enter a church and people are always found in the gardens outside of the ethiopian orthodox churches, either sitting on benches or steps or kissing the walls or the ground. we had to take off our shoes to enter the churches and we had our own personal tour and got to see haile selassie’s tomb and his throne on which he sat in church. ethiopia was the first (and perhaps the only, if i am correct) state to declare christianity their state religion and it is amazing to see what a part of their history and government it has had.

i suggest that anyone going to ethiopia develop a love for all things coffee if you have not yet discovered the wonders of the bean. a delicious and frothy cappuccino or macchiato is about 30cents and for that price you can simply not stop at one. or two. the italians left behind some good ideas, including perfect pizza, al dente pasta, good service, and pastries upon cakes upon biscuits. and an incredibly sense of style. we wandered into a shop one night and i wandered out with a new pair of italian shoes, which i needed precisely as much as i needed a hole in the head. but i love them.

and the story that you have all been waiting for (or at least 2 of you)… i stole a bathrobe from the sheraton. i did not actually stay at the sheraton (because the pepto bismol pink room with the king sized bed in the second hotel we scouted out was just too good to pass up, well the pink AND the view of the city) but i did have a most relaxing and enjoyable massage at the spa there and they give you towels, a robe, and slippers to play dress up in the locker rooms which are less locker and more heaven. i have been wanting to find a bathrobe because walking around the house naked is not kosher when you have flatmates and a towel just doesn’t cut it if i am trying to make breakfast, coffee, or my lunch in the mornings due to its way of falling off just as you have the pb on the knife and are spreading it on to the bread. these bathrobes were a delight to behold so i scooped one up and stuffed it into the handbag that i carry everywhere with me and affectionately refer to as ‘the case.’ and now i have a bathrobe. and a spine that is free of knots. and no shame, apparently.

just to make the trip complete, i had my hair cut and coloured and a pedicure (i know, life in africa is tough) while sipping on macchiatos with only one scream of ‘no, no, no,’ when the stylist nearly cut me some chunky side layers (no good if your hair grows wider through the natural drying process) and a few training suggestions to build the capacity of the colourists who had probably never used such light hair dye before. in the end, all is well and my hair is brightened up with a choppy trim.

we also visited with a friend, listened to stories of being put in jail for staging creative protests, drank more coffee, became acquainted with the expat community at a 4 year old’s birthday party, and i found a calgary connection in the suburbs of addis. it never fails, that whole 6 degrees of separation thing.

and i shopped. coffee, scarves, silver, icons, honey, reams of fabric that i have yet to find a use for, prints of paintings (ethiopia has fantastic modern art)… who would have thought that so many fantastic things could be found in ethiopia? i didn’t really expect it and it tamed my little materialist spirit for a few more months before i touch down in what feels like the material centre of the universe.

can you tell i loved it there?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

bob vs steve

neither bob nor steve are my favourite people and i am not sure that i can take a side on this one because i have my own issues with both the make poverty history campaign and canada's refusal to meet the 0.7% gdp goal of foreign aid, but this is interesting nonetheless. i will write about my love for ethiopia soon, i promise.

Rocker slams Harper over aid vows to Africa
Andrew Mayeda and Norma Greenaway
CanWest News Service
Monday, June 04, 2007

BERLIN -- Irish rocker Bob Geldof says Canada is blocking an agreement to make specific African aid commitments at a meeting of the world's leading industrial countries this week.

Geldof, a prominent anti-poverty campaigner, also says Prime Minister Stephen Harper's refusal so far to live up to African aid pledges made two years ago by his predecessor Paul Martin is shameful and fuels what he sees as the growing credibility gap between politicians and voters.

Geldof levelled his criticism at the Conservative government in media interviews from London on Monday as he prepared to travel to Heiligendamm, Germany, where the annual G8 meeting opens Wednesday.

Climate change and poverty in Africa are at the top of the summit agenda.

"Canada is the worst culprit in blocking a significant communique (on African aid)," Geldof said in an interview with Reuters new agency. "All our information says they are refusing point blank to allow concrete figures. They are very, very far behind what they said they would do at Gleneagles."

Leaders at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005 agreed to double annual spending on aid to Africa by 2010-11.

Harper, who was attending pre-summit meetings in Berlin, brushed off Geldof's charges as he cited a series of African-oriented HIV-AIDS funding announcements made since his government took office.

Harper told reporters Canada was on track to meet the 2005 commitment, and his spokesmen denied Geldof's accusation Canadian officials were attempting to block specific commitments being written into the final G8 communique.

"I'm not sure what the basis of Mr. Geldof's allegations are," Harper said. "Canada made an important commitment in 2005. We are on track to honour that commitment."

Geldof, who also accused Italy of balking at specific language, said Canada's spending is more than $400 million short of the goal set two years ago. He took his numbers from a report by DATA, an African advocacy organization that has tracked the record of the G8 countries and found all countries wanting.

Geldof said Harper's refusal to meet the African aid commitment made by former prime minister Martin adds to the "mistrust and cynicism" voters feel about politicians.
"And there is no need because you are really fantastically wealthy," he declared in a CTV interview.

Dennis Howlett, co-ordinator of the Make Poverty History campaign in Ottawa, said international sources have told the group Canada is playing hardball on the wording of the G8 communique regarding both climate change and African aid.

"We have a number of different contacts who are fairly close to the negotiations and it would seem both on climate change and on aid to Africa, Canada is playing a negative roll," Howlett said in an interview.

Howlett said Canadian officials are more secretive about the position they are talking at the pre-summit negotiations than has been the case under earlier governments.

Howlett said Canada deserves some credit for increasing its aid to Africa even though it has not met the goal.

He said a bigger blot on Canada's record is the Harper government's failure to live up to his election promise to gradually raise Canada's overall spending on overseas aid to the average donor level among the members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which now stands at about 4.6 per cent of GDP.

He said the figure in Canada, pushed by healthy economic growth, has slipped to 3.2 per cent of GDP from 3.3 per cent under the Conservative government.

Ottawa Citizen

Sunday, June 03, 2007

addis ababa

funny, the internet in ethiopia won't let me look at my blog. damned repressive government.

maybe they found out i stole a robe from the sheraton hotel.

regardless, i still love this country and will write more about how lovely the machiatos are, how cheap the hair cuts are, how wonderful the pizza is, how fascinating the museums are, how clean the streets are, and how safe i feel.