Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Not much personal news today (but there may be something good tomorrow) so I've decided to launch the beginning of my perpetually-in-need-of-updating timeline. Here's the link: timeline

In broader news however, there was a suicide bomb attack on the Jalalibad road in Kabul this afternoon. About 12 people were killed by a motorcyclist who aimed himself at a bus. All Oxfam movements are suspended except travel to and from work.

Monday, September 26, 2005

'Release' from Oxfam GB

Lotus, Habitat Centre, New Delhi
July 11, 2005

I got fairly gob smacked yesterday afternoon.

I'm being 'released' from work here at Oxfam in Afghanistan about three weeks early (meaning early in October) because there'll be 'no more work'. This is partly to do with the fact that International staff cannot go to the field in October (because we fear post-election troubles) but I can't agree that there'll be 'no work' - it would take a lot less imagination than I have to come up with useful tasks for the rest of October. There's something behind this and I'd be upset if I weren't actually pleased to go early. Now to work out how to take advantage of three weeks of time off in Asia, with a squillion Star Alliance points available. Actually, option number 1, which I'm investigating, is to attend an Oxfam climate change conference in New Delhi. I'd already been invited but thought I had to decline because of having TOO MUCH WORK here in Kabul. Now I'll see if New Delhi will fund it. Option 2 might be to go and visit my friend Phil in Bangkok. Hm, perhaps I should ask him first...

Today I'm home with a cold and I'm working on a new project for www.haythornthwaite.net: a timeline of my memories, from the earliest the most recent significant event in my life. It'll take a long time and a lot more preparation before it's ready to be linked to my site but I might make an early link from here for my loyal readers.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Back in Kabul after Delhi

Near Agra Fort, Agra, India
September 18, 2005

I'm back in Kabul after two marvelous weeks in India. Five of us from Oxfam Afghanistan were sent there as a security precaution during the Afghan elections. We spent most of the time in fascinating (but noisy and smelly) New Delhi. Colleague Nancy headed to England but the remaining four of us (me and Christian, Candace and Quokka) spent a weekend in Agra were we met some of Quokka's friends and visited the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal
September 17, 2005

I had a splendid weekend with colleagues Quokka, Candace and Christian and Quokka's friends Miranda, Finn and Jeremy. We returned by train from Agra to Delhi on Sunday. I like Indian train travel - at least the two trips I've had so far. As my friends here now know, if it's on rails I love it and I hope to go to the Railway Museum before leaving Delhi. The Indian trains I've seen seem a bit antiquated but quite smooth and quite efficient. Our trip to and from Agra took about three hours. The train is electric-hauled and the track gauge is broader than standard (but I haven't found what it is yet).

We had a fairly busy weekend although we didn't see everything that was on our list. On Saturday we visited the Taj Mahal and its thousands of other tourists. On Sunday morning three of us went to the Agra fort. Both were wonderful. I'm currently selecting pictures for a Taj Mahal and an Agra Fort web page.

Today is our forth-last day in New Delhi.

I've updated my map of countries I've visited.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Scrabble and Chess update

September 18, 2005

More stuff to come soon.

Scrabble: Quokka 4 - Tom 1

Chess: Quokka 0 - Tom 1

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Delhi Tuk-Tuk drivers

Jane and Jonah, Edmonton
June 2000

I like our Oxfam New Delhi (Regional Center) colleagues. Last night we went out to a bar in a completely-western-style shopping mall. I admit to loving the cleanliness and westernness. Then we rode auto-rickshaws ('Tuk-tuks') to the Thai Wok restaurant. Our gang required three Tuk-tuk and we were sometimes holding hands between them as we sped through the traffic.

I've asked every taxi and Tuk-tuk driver I've met whether they know India's Formula 1 Grand Prix driver Narain Karthikeyan. I thought he was supposed to be the newest hero of India - he's certainly in a lot of the ads I saw during the Belgian Grand Prix - but so far, nobody understands who I'm talking about. I shall carry on with the research. And if I see a Narain t-shirt I'll probably buy it.

Kingfisher beer

Habitat Centre, New DelhiSeptember 2005

Yesterday's induction training at Oxfam here in New Delhi was all about sexual exploitation and it was much more interesting than I'd expected. [The general response to my prepared story about a woman put at risk [see September 13] was about management's response - mainly disciplinary action against the male.]

Went to a marvelous restaurant last night and enjoyed Kingfisher beer and stuffed chicken.
Oh - I didn't describe our flight here. I hoped for a window seat so as to be able to admire the Himalayas but I was stuck in the aisle. But I was stuck in the aisle in business class because Oxfam had determined that the cheapest way to get our departing Country Director's personal effects to Delhi would be to give us business class seats with the extra baggage allowance. But when we were on the tarmac identifying the bags before boarding, one of hers seemed to be missing and we had to wait ages under the plane. I am now fully knowledgeable (if not certified) in the maintenance instructions for Airbus 320's nose wheel assembles. The two-hour flight included a quite nice meal and of course two Kingfishers.

I think Quokka is intimidated and rightly so. We haven't played any Scrabble since we arrived.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Today will be day two of four of a senior management induction I am receiving at Oxfam's South Asia Regional Centre here in Delhi. We will receive a full day of 'Sexploitation' - a Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse training session.

We had a homework assignment - to recall and describe an incident of sexual exploitation or abuse we might know about. We had to eliminate all named references to individuals, organizations or even countries.

I am not sure if the incident I have decided to relate is actually a case of (workplace) sexual exploitation or not. I'll paste it in here, and in my next posting I'll describe today's discussion.
My example involves two employees who were roughly peers, working in a religiously fundamentalist country for an international NGO. I do not know all the details but will relate what I understand to be true.

One male individual employed in a technical role was deployed from a large city to a small city where he made the acquaintance of a female in an administrative role. They began a relationship which involved time alone together and which they failed to keep secret. As a result conservative members of her community physically assaulted her. She required four stitches to treat a head injury. It is understood that this situation could have even resulted in death. The male was immediately redeployed to another part of the country.

I think it is certain that the individuals should have known from the cultural situation that the woman would be put at risk. The individuals may simply have been highly irresponsible but I would like to know if the male used any power to initiate the relationship. Because the consequences were severe I would like to know whether he used any apparent seniority or social ‘sophistication’ to influence the woman into risking her life. Meanwhile it is hard for me not to judge the community’s standards rather than the woman’s as being immoral.

Preventions: perhaps management should have a ‘no-relationships’ policy but this would seem unenforceable and unfair. A much better approach would be education about the culture and morals of the community to which the male had been deployed.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Two men and a goat on a motorcycle, New Delhi, September 11, 2005

Some colleagues and I arrived yesterday in New Delhi for two weeks. It's marvelous. As well as being intrinsically interesting we like it because it's secure and we are free to walk around or ride in taxis. Today colleagues Christian and Quokka and I went shopping, strolling in a park, and motor-rickshaw driving, and had a couple of delightful meals. Best of all we met my friend Baljit who works here in New Delhi for Oxfam. Looking forward to seeing her tomorrow.

In between all this I was able to watch the my first Formula 1 Grand Prix on TV since the one I actually attended in Kuala Lumpur in March. (Normally I work on Sundays so it's impossible.) It was terrific.

Tomorrow we begin induction training at Oxfam's South Asia headquarters here in New Delhi.

Thursday, September 8, 2005


Damn. Quokka beat me again at Scrabble last night.

Scrabble: Quokka 3 - Tom 0

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Sit in and Scrabble

About 40 (accounts vary) Oxfam staff staged a sit-in outside our Oxfam gates yesterday. Apparently we haven't paid them for ages and they're currently living in a 'hotel' of very low standard. Our failure to pay them has to do with a failure of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development to pay us, but we must be responsible in some way. It's adding to my list of reasons to hope never to return to Oxfam.

Colleague and house mate Quokka beat me tonight at Scrabble for the second time. I'm going to keep track of the games unless it gets too humiliating. Therefore...
Scrabble: Quokka 2 - Tom 0

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Job interview

Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo playing at the New Roscoe, Leeds, July 2005

OK, let's see if I can get into this blog thing. [....]now I should try to think of some content.

First - how I'm making this. I'm use Macromedia Dreamweaver for all my web site layout. [Now I've switched to on-line compostion with blogspot.] I'm not benefiting here from any cool blogging system. This lets me design it exactly the way I want but it still hasn't inspired any creative writing. Or correct spelling.

Today I had a job interview with at Mission d'Aide au Développement des Economies Rurales (MADERA). I think it went well but they want somebody who can start this month, and I won't be available until after my November holiday. I'm supposed to know whether they'll consider me anyway by about the 25th of this month. I had to assure my line manager at Oxfam that I'm not going to leave this job before my contract ends on October 31.

On Saturday I and some colleagues are going to Delhi for 14 days. The purpose is to be safely away from any problems that might occur during the upcoming Afghan elections. We'll be there for some Oxfam induction and we'll be bringing lots of work but we'll also have one weekend free. We're planning to go to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.

I'll try in the next days to provide more updates about where I am and what I'm doing.

Saturday, September 3, 2005

First entry

Street scene, Conakry, Guinea, May 2001

Welcome to my blog. No promises about how devoutly I'll update it. I'm posting this from l'Atmosphere, a rather atmospheric French restaurant in Kabul.

I'm pretty anxious to soak up some decadence right now because I've just come back from two slightly rougher weeks in the field - one in Panjao (Central Highlands of Afghanistan) and one in Kandahar City - where security rules prevented me from leaving the Oxfam compound for four days.

Programme for the next few weeks: Working in Kabul until September 10, then two weeks in Delhi to avoid any troubles brought on by the Afghan elections, and then working here (perhaps including two weeks in Badakhshan) until the end of my Oxfam contract on October 31.