Monday, July 30, 2007

I am a Viking.

I have long wanted to believe that I am descended from Vikings. Despite their reputation for plundering and pillaging (and one other outdated crime) I have never met a Norwegian I didn't like and I'm also a fan of Norwegian democracy and foreign policy.

So the other day at a party I was holding I mentioned to a very interesting Norwegian woman called Marit who works for the Norwegian Refugee Council that I'd seen a map that showed that people of pure British ancestry born north of a certain line in England tend to have Viking blood. I have absolutely no known non-English ancestry and I was born in Manchester, which is satisfactorily far from any silly old Norman infusion. (While my grandmothers were both from London, my grandfathers were from Lancashire and Nottinghamshire, being of quite proper latitudes.)

Amazingly, it turned out that Marit is fully licensed to solemnize Vikingness. She has since presented me with this certificate:

The inscription reads:

Viking Certificate
This certificate is proudly given to
In honor of his Norse persona
For strength, innovation, clarity of action and dedication to a cause
Showing the Viking blood in his veins.

I intend to get a laminated wallet sized version to flash on my travels.

I'd be interested in discussing this with other Viking candidates, and particularly with other certified English Vikings. Preferably female.

By the name of Thor,

Tom the Gallant. (Name subject to official approval. I wonder if Marit has the authority?)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Taliban leaders: honour the code

In about forty days I will be returning to Afghanistan - potentially one of the best countries in the world - on a new branch in my development career. But Afghanistan is troubled and right now it faces yet another challenge to progress as 23 South Korean aid workers are being held hostage by the Taliban.

Please join me in calling for their release by signing this petition. [Address corrected since first posting.]

I quote from the text on that page: The Taliban are guided by the Afghan Pashtunwali code, a principle that requires “hospitality to all, especially guests and strangers” – and this kidnapping is a clear violation of the code, offending the weary people of Afghanistan on whom they depend. So it’s time for the global community to stand with Afghanis and South Koreans, demand that the Taliban to honour their code and release the 23 hostages. Sign the petition NOW --

I have lived and worked for a year and a half in Afghanistan. Ordinary Afghans do not want this to happen in and to their country. I promise that your signature will help Afghanistan as much as South Korea.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Excitement about Kabul

After I wrote that I'm heading back to Kabul (in "Now it can be told (because I've just learned it)" my friend Ben (of Ben-Bob's Blog: Until Proven Otherwise fame) asked if I'm excited to be heading there.


I really loved Kabul and Afghanistan when I was there in 2004 and 2005. As I tell everybody who will listen (and others who just pretend to) I think Afghanistan is the most beautiful country I've ever seen. Even though I disliked many aspects of working for Oxfam GB (where I was for my last six months in Afghanistan) I miss many friends, restaurants, and the gorgeous landscape of mountains, plains and flowers. Kabul is surrounded by spectacular scenery and the whole country is breathtaking.

I'm also really excited about my new job there with Equal Access. I believe I will have more responsibilities and those responsibilities will be much more interesting than those I have now. I will work with a smaller, more professional team of about twenty people and and it sounds as if I will be much more empowered and much more trusted. I think I'll be contributing to strategic planning instead of reacting to strategies which I am not able to influence, understand, or believe in.

I had to insist on leaving my current job but it was hard to turn down the job offer from Merlin in Pakistan. That job attracted me because of the management style of the Country Director (who I worked with in Liberia), because it would also have been amongst beautiful mountains and because the needs are great. But like here, it would have involved doing work that the government can and should be doing. That was in fact one frustration here that I couldn't blame on Merlin. I believe Afghanistan, like Liberia, has a sincere government that really needs and welcomes help.

Yes, Ben-Bob, I'm excited to be going to Kabul. Please come and visit.

A friend's new blog

My dear friend Dr. Khaleda (I've written about her before) has just created her own brand new blog. Well done, Doctor! I look forward to your posts.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Now it can be told (because I've just learned it)

Today I was offered and I accepted a job with Equal Access in Kabul. I'm excited but it meant having to decline a great position with Merlin in Pakistan, and even worse, it meant not working there with my Best Boss Ever, who I'd worked for in Liberia. I finish here on August 20, fly to London for Merlin debriefing, then zip up to Scotland to see Sue, then zip even more briefly to Ottawa to see Dad, then depart Ottawa on August 31 for Kabul.

More details to come as they emerge.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

It's possible that I'm going to regret this.

I'm spending the weekend away from Batticaloa and have found myself in a hotel room with free very high speed Internet. What to do but finally join Skype and Facebook -also referred to as Crackbook by friends who seem to be addicted at the cost of neglecting work, babies (just kidding, Cass!) and all other life support necessities.

Nobody has actually Skyped me yet (it's only been seven minutes). My user name is tom.haythornthwaite.

Also waiting for some Crackbook action.

Peace to all!