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!


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! ūüôā

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 Рbut 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 ūüôā¬† (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…

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!¬†


The ISP challenges of life in Liberia

I’m back in my second home – Liberia – after a lovely month-long holiday in the ‘lucky country’. Must say that i’m getting better at planning and managing this blue sky journey between the 2 homes. I depart Oz on Monday midday and arrive back on a Wednesday evening with time to unpack the suitcase and have a good night’s sleep. Thursday passes with a series of greetings and welcome back conversations, Friday in a blur of sorting thru nearly 1,000 emails, and then its time for THE WEEKEND!!! No jetlag, no drama, and not too much work!!

I had aspirations of getting internet set up on my new netbook, but that won’t be possible until Monday. I have a choice of $45/month for 512 small-bytes or $107/month for 2mb capacity with LibTelCoÔĽŅ. Is it going to be worth $1200 for the year to have faster internet capacity??? ISP’s are not cheap in Liberia…and they’re not fast either! Options with Commium, ¬†CellCom and Lonestar will be more expensive and slower. Yes, it is true that in Liberia it can still take an overnight session to up-grade iTunes, or other small programmes, and often the net is not even fast enuff to allow gmail chat to work! ¬†Wot to do. That is the reality of the situation we face. This is West Africa and there is just no ISP here that compares with ISP-rich opportunities available in other countries, even those in other parts of Africa.

But, I can’t go another year without internet at home – internet that will be free of a ‘nanny net’ that blocks sites like skype, flickr and wordpress (blocked from the work computer). I want to have time to edit my fotoz and then post them online and share with friendz. One essential element of life overseas is having the technology to keep in touch with people all over the globe. Its not possible to imagine life without all the social networking options that exist these days. Its even more important when you are separated from loved ones because u live overseas and can’t just pop in and see someone for a coffee. For that reason i’m very happy to have my new iPhone which actually allows me to use wi-fi in some of the restaurants in Monrovia. That’s progress…but i still want to have something @ home so i don’t need to go outta the compound if i don’t want to!

In the interest of meeting the PostAWeek2011 goal, I’ll post this now. Hopefully next time u hear from me will be from the comfort of my apartment and with enuff bandwidth to upload fotoz!

Monday UPDATE:

I’m writing this thanks to the newly installed LibTelCo modem stick USD200 for the kit and installation, and $21 for 2 weeks of service. Then when the new month begins, I start the full payment of $48/month. Its slow and I don’t dare open more than 1 page at a time, but it works. So far, so good!

retrospective on my last decade

i promised myself that i’d look back on my life over the last decade, so here goes…

it was a most interesting decade…more good than bad. ūüôā

in broad strokes….

my millennium 2000 new year was spent in albania with ak-47 tracer fire substituting for the fire-works! wot a blast – literally – and certainly a memorable place to be for 01/01/2000! i thought i’d go out on the balcony to record on my analog vid-cam, and it completely over-whelmed me, the noise and the sudden awareness that these were real bullets being fired up into the sky … and they weren’t immune to the forces of gravity!! i spent the eve with my albanian family – not sitting close to the windows and the day was spent with friendz watching the world celebrate on tv.

since then i¬†celebrated new year on 4 occasions in europe, 3 in australia, 1 in asia, and 1 in africa! this, he start of the new decade has been spent in monrovia, liberia…so that just leaves the americas as a place i need to spend some time!

i¬†made some fabulous¬†friendz who i should strive to keep in touch with more regularly! the good aspect of travel and working in foreign places, has been that each mission i make @ least 1 or 2 life-long friendz. i wish i made more effort to keep the connexions strong as there r some cool folks in my (global) circle! ūüôā ¬†ūüôā

maybe i should add that i started blogging & facebook and posting fotoz as an effort to develop my social network & thus to keep in touch with friendz betta. if only liberia had a stronger & cheaper IT infrastructure!!

while speaking of work – in the last decade, i changed jobs 7 times – from INGO to the UN; from kosovo to nepal and liberia; from education to civil affairs, from project management to team leader, from head of office to coordination, from local to central governance… i must say the varied experience has all been good!

the down-side of my work-life has always been when i have suffered from some incompetent &/or insecure supervisors. unfortunately within the UN-world there are far too many of them!¬†but they cannot defeat me…even if they out-number & surround me! i have a remarkable amount of resilience @ my core and i sincerely believe that eventually things will change and i will be set free. so far that has been my experience and may it also be proven true in liberia!! please god!!

to complement that, one of my major achievements of the decade was graduating with distinction for my masters degree! the 2006 disser was a major stress becoz i started afresh on it 3 weeks b4 it was due, but wot the heck, it was far, far betta for doing so!!

recently, i renewed my passport for another decade, and observed that in the last decade i travelled to ruffly 25 countries for 3 dayz or longer Рcroatia, montenegro, serbia, bosnia, macedonia, bulgaria, france, ireland, switzerland, germany, slovenia, kosovo, albania, australia, UK, nepal, thailand, usa, greece, liberia, kenya, ghana, tanzania, uganda, and south africa! ok, so some places were my temporary home, and others i had been to before, but the majority were freshly visited and explored.

from the health perspective, ¬†thankfully i¬†stayed relatively healthy BUT i am starting to add a few kilos that i cannot lose…easily ūüė¶ on a positive note,¬†i survived one near death experience that i’m aware of – & maybe many that i neva knew about!! i’m glad about that as now i get to experience the next decade!

i’m expecting good things from the years ahead!! yup, really good things!

ps: of course this is just the broad surface stuff. i am a far more complex & reflective person than this blog indicates, but i’m not going to explore the deeper stuff here! as we say in liberia, ‘sorry-o!’ ūüôā

so this is Christmas…monrovia…2009

the line from the song, ‘so this is Christmas’, just keeps going around in my head. the statement seems apt for the situation and my mood.

so this is Christmas 2009…my second spent in Monrovia…

not much to say about it really. a welcome long weekend spent on the balcony…on the fone…and online¬†(apart from some small time with people in the compound)

i’m enjoying spending time reading, reflecting, resting, editing fotos, texting, phoning, blogging, chatting,

when u can’t be with friendz and family face to face u have to touch base with them using technology to reach out, record your presence with posted fotoz, express your thoughts with short facebook comments, connect with a quick sms, and use emoticons to pass on imaginary bear hugs and yellow smiley faces to distant friendz. its a funny life we lead out here…

but to be fair, i should add my impressions of Christmas as celebrated by Liberians in Monrovia. Christmas is a very important time for liberians. everyone goes to church and there are many many churches to chose from. the day is spent with family making it as good a time for children as possible. everyone greets you with ‘compliments’ or ‘the season’ as a way of greeting! behind it is the reminder that you should give them ‘their christmas’ (dollars) soon!! any employed liberians have already had the season’s pressure placed on them by relatives and friends who visit and line up for their ‘christmas’. the december and january salaries are all given away to hangers on – becoz if nothing is given there is always fear of retribution the next time conflict breaks out in liberia. some people even take out loans to get them thru this season of obligation!

monrovia turned on the christmas spirit by hanging some christmas lights on the streets and you see christmas trees in the big shops. you can even buy christmas cards too. mambo point (main shopping area) is packed with cars and people – with traffic made even crazier by the much-welcomed but poorly-timed decision of the Ministry of Public Works to start reconstruction of Broad Street 1 week before Christmas! any visit to that area could see you stuck in traffic for a couple of hours, but it must have made the street sellers and ‘parking volunteers’ happy!

and so this was Christmas…Monrovia…2009

i hope yours was Merry!