It’s that time of year again…

It is that time of year again when we all should reflect on the past and plan for the future while living in the moment! The reflective mood has come upon me to the extent that I dusted off the laptop and opened up my blog! Imagine my joy when I observed that my stats have been booming despite my 10 months hiatus busy with other tasks. Suddenly 20,000 plus views, which shows there is still an interested audience.

Suddenly I am eager to type and post a few more words. It also makes sense to face the fact that I am no longer living in Liberia and I should update and transform my blog to acknowledge the current reality. I always knew that a blog about Liberia was a little different and would find a few curious readers, and then when I moved on I didn’t really know what to do with the blog. I left it…floating in the blogosphere…and yet it was always something that could not be left untended. As well as describing my experience in Liberia, it was also an expression of me and my life experience and it doesn’t need to be limited to my Liberian chapter.

While I have not yet decided on the precise nature of my next blog-steps, I do want to indicate that this blog is not forgotten, it is not redundant, or dead. I have plenty more experiences from Liberia that it would be healthy to express as well as a whole lot more to tell about the present and the future. Since my platform exists, I will breathe new life into it. Refresh and reinvigorate things a little. It is that time of year again, after all!

Catch you again soon!

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Out of Liberia

Hi ya!

Yes I’m still alive and thinking about my blog and everyone who drops by to read it!! I can see that its still attracting readers even though my last post was in October, just after I left Liberia!

My goodbye cake was pretty delicious!

My goodbye cake was pretty delicious!

These photos were taken at my farewell from the mission in Liberia and when I look at the faces again, I know how much I miss my African brothers and sisters and all my colleagues. I served the section there for 4 days short of 4 years! I learned a lot and that is helping me in my new role in Cyprus. I know I gave a long speech that day, but what touched me during the farewell was how people spoke about my work. I can’t claim to have had a huge impact but I do hope that our staff in the county offices knew there was some hope of help in HQ when they needed it. In the end I think we had a good time at the farewell and there were plenty of jokes and laughter. Even though mission life is about transition and comings and goings, hellos and goodbyes, the lessons and memories of time with good friends can be taken with you wherever you go. Everyone contributes into my life and I hope I contributed into others lives too. I certainly do miss my friends from Liberia and I thank them for expanding my life experience.

There always has to be a group photo!

There always has to be a group photo!

The medal cum reward for my service! Handshake with the Chief!

The medal cum reward for my service! Handshake with the Chief!

There’s absolutely no way to compare Liberia and Cyprus! But the UN is the UN whatever peace-keeping mission you’re in and so the adventures continue in a new setting with new challenges and new colleagues.

As for this blog. I will continue to talk about Liberia but I’ll expand it to include photos and stories of my travel throughout the African continent. I still have 10,000+ photos that need to edited and shared!!!

Out of Liberia!

I am ‘out of Liberia’ and ‘out of Africa’ but I find my eyes searching constantly for reminders of the continent! A big part of me misses my African adventures and my african brothers and sisters, while the other part is enjoying the thrills of traffic lights, 24 hour power, fast internet and 4 euro lattes!! I have been in Cyprus for a month now – busy with settling in, learning new stuff, and establishing my new digs! Today I got connected to fast internet!! So in the coming weekends I want to get back to my blog and write more. There’s still so much left unsaid about Liberia and my travels in Africa. It will be interesting to see what observations I have about Liberia when it is no longer my daily experience – to describe it with the freedom of being  one step removed.

I miss you!

A few words on my week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

On the first day I felt as though I had landed in paradise, and that feeling has not lessened in the few days I’ve been in Addis Ababa! Of course everything is relative, and most of the people I’ve met here have grumbled and complained about life here, but as I’m coming from Liberia, this is relatively close to paradise! It helps immensely that I’m being hosted by my friend in her cosy house with wonderful garden. She’s introduced me to all manner of interesting people and we’ve eaten at several lovely restaurants. Aside from the intimidating government (they just banned Skype) and the lack of big modern shopping centres with well stocked shops, I can’t think of anything to complain about! Addis does not feel like a city of 5-7 million people and the parts I’ve seen of it have been easy to move around. I admit I’m moving in the expat world, but I move in the expat world in Liberia too and I know which of the two I would prefer! This is not Nairobi, or Dakar, or Joburg, but there’s a lot going on because it has the African Union HQ and there’s a big presence of UN and international organisations. There is potential for things to move ahead and in the meantime, its definitely possible to have a comfortable and interesting professional life in Addis. I will continue to explore the options!!

Hopefully these few photos can be uploaded….

I don’t know how many people have heard of InterNations, but I had the chance to go to the 5th InterNations event in Addis and it was so cool! For people who move to a new country to live, InterNations helps to connect people to the expat network so that they can find their way around the new location as well as meet like-minded interesting people. The whole objective is to ‘bring global minds together’! It worked so well in the last event, a dinner at Top View restaurant in Addis (my photos are on the IN Addis website). I’m a member in Liberia’s InterNations network, but I don’t think they’ve ever had an event in Monrovia. I will be curious to see what potential there is to activate such a network in Liberia.

It’s been a fruitful and amazing holiday in Addis. I will come again! When I return tomorrow I will fly with a head full of ideas and plans which should sustain me for the next period in Liberia and also help me to do something to rescue my pathetic career! Cheers for now!

Another birthday, another chance to reset my direction

I’m in a reflective mood brought on by the fact that its my birthday! So allow me to ramble a little as I sit in Addis Ababa looking out over a green flowery garden, listening to the birds twitter. This is paradise for me at the moment, because it is beautiful and because it is not Monrovia. I have to admit that my main objective seems to be to ensure that the 19th June is not spent in Liberia! My first birthday since working in Liberia (2009) I flew back to Australia to escape, in 2010 I went to Senegal, 2011 to Durban RSA, and this year to Ethiopia! That’s a fun way to remember my birthdays! I wonder where I’ll celebrate next year! But, beyond the surface, I really like to get out of Liberia so that I can reset my thinking and direction.

I think when milestones come along, they should be celebrated – marked in a special way.  The birthday date serves as a marker and a milestone. Another year has passed by and what have I done with it? What do I want to see happen for the coming 12 months? At the moment, a big part of me would love to settle into a comfortable life in Liberia with good friends, a comfy house, and some semblance of normalcy – that is very attractive! It could almost be possible. Another part of me wants to see how far I can stretch the limits of my abilities and how much I can contribute to this planet. Its a dilemma to balance these two conflicting desires because I don’t know how to blend them together. I hope it is possible to push ahead with the career motivations but within a network of loving, supportive friends who encourage and give you the courage to give your best. I doubt that this international life will ever be normal, but I can see from my friend in Addis, that there are ways to create a loving, exciting, and challenging lifestyle within the constraints of the abnormal settings where we are temporarily located. That may not make sense to many readers, but its very real to me! I want to shake up my pathetic career and I want to live a more connected and real life with loving friends. It will be interesting to see how far I’ve moved towards that by June 19th, 2013!

Love ya!

Faced with the desire to be Reckless

I woke up this morning with a desire to write and post recklessly without the usual care and limitations, and without knowing what thoughts are compelled to escape onto the blank screen. Not sure what brought this on, but will run with it anyway! 🙂

Having written that, my mind has gone blank. I don’t really have a lot to say beyond describing my life in Liberia – but that is hardly reckless posting! As for all the other topics, (such as my personal thoughts and political opinions, my dreams, fears and ideas),  well I type a paragraph on those things and then I swiftly delete it. Too much personal information. I’m obviously reflecting my personality into my blog. I’m not a reckless person. In person and through the social media, I am cautious about what I reveal to others. People have commented that it is not easy to get to know the real me. “Yes”, I agree with a sweet smile! I know it. The difficulty with recklessness and the social media is that I don’t know all of the readers and there’s no way to control who reads the words or how they might interpret the message. Therefore I want to keep this blog at the safe level of information sharing and photos. I am obviouly retreating from recklessness pretty rapidly!

Okay, I do take many risks and my life is far from ordinary. Some would say that living outside of Australia in post-conflict countries, or travelling alone as I often do, is reckless – but its not really. Whatever I do is always a calculated risk and I know Plan B and C to get out of a tricky situation. In fact I will rarely walk into a tricky situation. Planning removes the recklessness from my path.

If there were a scale between Routine and Reckless, I’d be edging upwards from the middle…getting somewhere close to Risk-taker but not at Adventurer or Reckless dare-devil level yet!!  Certainly, I have moved beyond the ordinary routine of the comfortable city life I could have had back in Oz. That suits me just fine! Its good to be comfortable with who you are and your level of discomfort so that you can push it out just a little, each time!

But then I do have moments when I want to break free and be reckless. Is that part of the normal human condition? I wish I didn’t care so much about my professional reputation. I wish I didn’t care what people thought of me personally. Then I would wear jeans everyday, even when meeting VIPs. Say all the outrageous things that cross my mind. Voice the wickedly cheeky observations that are far too politically incorrect! Snap photos of every person or scene that attracts my eye, even if people don’t like it. Travel alone. Spend all my money. Laugh and laugh and laugh all day, loudly and for no particular reason. Play insane jokes on people. At least that’s how I would start IF I were to be more reckless. Oh, and I’d probably blog more recklessly too!!! Commit it all to writing and damn the consequences!

Does anyone else have that desire or urge?

Well, that was a nice moment of exploration, but even though I desire to do something entirely reckless – it ain’t going to happen! Not today and not here in this blog post!! I’m far too sensible to tell you something recklessly and regret it later 🙂  (Pushing the publish button for this post will take care of my reckless urges for today!)

Sorry-o, she says with  sweet smile!! Til next time…

I’m back in Monrovia

I’m back in Monrovia. Back in the green and brown land. Back to slow and frustrating internet service. Back to food that always disappoints. Back to distrust and having to stay on constant alert. Back to tedious superficial work. Sigh. I want to be positive, but its difficult to move beyond a sort of relative positivism derived from knowing that “there are worse places to be”. That always sustained me through difficult times in Albania “well you could be back in the classroom facing 35 rampant 13 year olds…hmmm…better to be here afterall!” Now that thoughtline is replaced with “well you could be in Afghanistan, or Dafur, or Iraq…hmmm….better to be here afterall.” But it does kind of wear thin. Mainly because my subconscious is also starting to raise a counter argument to that…”well you could also be in Australia, or Croatia, Cambodia or Uganda…hmm…so you don’t actually have to stay here!” Aahhh the human mind is pretty amazing and tricky in how it reveals what’s really going on as a sort of sudden surprising revelation. I’m not about to make any changes, and I plan to stay in Liberia for as long as it makes sense to, but that’s not to say that there are some days when its nice to dream of escape and a more enjoyable and constructive way to pass my time.

These negative thoughts are somehow indicative that I had a fine holiday these last 5 weeks…great holiday equals difficult re-entry! The long flight back gave me time to think through the type of life I want here. As I can’t do much to change the work scenario, I need to sort out a few things related to my living situation – deal with the house-cleaner who is cheating me, find a new fitness routine to replace taekwondo, resign from all responsibilities outside of work, and expand my social network. All the usual things that we typically think through at the start of a new year hey…but good things that will help me to be happier for as long as I’m in Monrovia. I spent a few evenings sitting by the beach with an evening drink. The sunset by the beach is the best time of the day in Monrovia!

Even with the weeks of silence on the blog, there has been a steady stream of readers – noice! I need to find the time to post more and snazzy things up a little…if only the internet was a tad faster!!!

Here’s a photo to capture the mood of this post…sunset at the beach taken New Year 2012. Til next time, let’s keep smiling 🙂

PostAWeek2011 – what it meant for me

There are times when I think that attempting to blog in a country with minimal and erratic internet speed and service is just a recipe for frustration. I started this blog 3 years ago when I came to Liberia with the high ambition of having an avenue to share my impressions and images with my friends and anyone who might be interested. For the first 2 years I struggled! Either I was too busy or the internet was too slow to upload anything. So from its Sept 2008 birth, at the pathetic rate of about one post a month, I kept my blog alive but barely!

Then came the PostAWeek challenge and a faster ISP in Monrovia (I use LibTelCo). I remembered my original goal! My imagination was fired up again! There were possibilities and they could be achieved or so I believed!

Therefore I proudly declare that in 2011 I added 55 posts to my blog! I achieved my goal. Okay, I admit the December frenzy of (10) posts helped me get there, but I really wasn’t that far off my target even without that blitz. That makes an average of one post a week – a few ranks improved from pathetic!!

As for the readership, oddly enough the number of visits to the site in 2011 was double the total visits for the previous two years! Go figure! The more active you are, the more visits your site receives! The more your post, the more readers!  Thanks to the challenge, my blog is alive and healthy and getting closer to becoming the type of site I imagined from the beginning.

It is good to have an end of year review and recognise the milestones and achievements. I feel encouraged by what I have accomplished because I admit that it has not been easy especially under the ISP conditions I live with. But it is worth it. I have enjoyed reading other people’s blogs and have even started to subscribe to a few myself. I find myself drawn increasingly into the WordPress world.

So what is my blogging plan for 2012? More of the same, but with a few changes. I might remove some of the pages that I enthusiastically added in order to write about my safaris. With my constant time-crisis, I simply cannot work on them. I will also try to do the weekly photography challenge, just for fun. But mainly I will continue to share small snap-shots of life in Liberia as I experience it and I’ll write about my holidays when they happen. For as long as the internet gods bless me with sufficient internet speed, I will continue!  

Having said that, dear subscribers whose inboxes have suffered from my recent blogging blitz, I will now return to a more intermittent posting schedule because I am going on holidays! If you are lucky I won’t think or write about Liberia until sometime in February!! Happy New Year, happy holidays, and thanks for reading! 

 

2011: Every holiday was a safari!

Well I must say that the true genius of 2011 was my holiday planning!! On that score the year rocked! If anyone questions my planning and organising skills, I’ll just point them to my awesomely planned holiday schedule!! Aside from my annual journey down-under, in 2011 every holiday was a safari!!

I won’t gloat too much, but 2011 allowed me to enjoy safaris in 3 national parks in South Africa, plus a sublime month-long safari which took us through Botswana, Zambia, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania/Zanzibar!! I simply haven’t had time to edit the 15,000+ photos I took in that month!! What a blast that was…2011 was the ‘year of the safari!’

So, allow me to indulge in a few safari references to illustrate the year that was.

The 6 am rises for the morning game-drives quickly settle into the ‘safari rhythm’ and you start to appreciate the momentum of the morning dawn experienced while bumping across the savannah and the sundowners enjoyed to the fading light of the sunset. [2011 was my 3rd year in Liberia and life had developed a largely dull and unchallenging routine. I can’t say that I like it much, but I am grateful to be here and there are some enticing opportunities emerging on the horizon.]

The anticipation of the chase and the kill are definitely high adrenelin moments of any safari. You have to be alert and ready because even though the hunt can take time, the kill can be over in seconds. But after the kill, you do think of the victim – the sweet baby antelope that just happened to become the leopard’s dinner. [There were moments in 2011, when I felt like I was being hunted by a pack of nasties trying (and failing) to make me their victim! Lesson: stay alert and don’t become anyone’s ‘kill’!]

 

 

 

 

 

The safari experience is best enjoyed with like-minded friends and/or photography buffs. Sharing the vehicle with restless bores is definitely excruciating and I find I don’t have patience any more for difficult and complex people in my social life!  [In 2011, more friends left my social circle than entered it so I have ended up in a deficit of like-minded people around me…except that my new friends are outside my work-life and they’re pretty cool!]

Open spaces, rare opportunities, and splendid skies. Safaris always restore my sense that it is great to be alive and moving in god’s creation, spotting rare wild creatures under an enormous blue canvas sky. [Even though Liberia’s skies are often hazy and grey the wet season can bring some spectacular thunderstorms, enormous clouds, and beautiful sunsets. Whatever the weather, I am grateful to be here: alive, exploring, and ready for more!]

I hope that 2011 was a splendid journey for all my friends and readers.

I wish that 2012 will be a superb safari for you all!

A year of adventure, unexpected surprises, natural beauty, 

and wild possibilities!!!

Life is a safari!