Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Weigh-out

Well, my 2008 Weight-loss campaign was not as successful as I'd hoped. I just weighed in at 81.6Kg, having lost only 1.8Kg [The value 2.7Kg I reported the other day was wrong] since August 23.

I would like to thank my sponsors, including the generous sponsor number 7 who sent a kind pledge yesterday.

I would specifically like to thank the sponsor who tempted me with chocolates and cookies throughout this campaign. We joked about him doing it to reduce his payout, but in fact I resisted quite a lot of his evil offerings.

I'd also like to thank Megan for being the official weighing witness.

I will post all the calculations tonight and open up the dialogue with the leading sponsor, who has the right (and responsibility) to choose the Afghan charity that will benefit from this little struggle.

Peace to all.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thank you donor number 6!

I'm on the final push of my 2008 weight loss campaign. I'm afraid I'm not going to make any donors poor but we do look set to raise about $60.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Our Holiday Photo


Clockwise from top right: Sharky, Angelica (who is actually a boy), Fernando and Tom

We wish all our friends happy holidays and a safe and healthy 2009.

The horror we are up against

This report suggests the risks that peace loving Afghans face in parts of this country.



Information:

There are unconfirmed reports of members of ‘The Emirate-Islamic-Mojahedin-e-Herat’ having resorted to cutting off the ears of a resident in public at the above mentioned location [Hirat province] and time. It is understood that the victim suffered the AOG reprisal for having been discovered with a voter registration card on his person

Assessment:

The Emirate-Islamic-Mojahedin-e-Herat had issued warnings to the residents of Engil and Gozara districts a week earlier through a publication called ‘Hamsangaran’. The warning termed the process of ‘Voter Registration’ and its support by foreign forces as invalid. It further went on to demand that Muslims not participate in the election process and also issued a threat warning to individuals participating or working for the election process as proclaimed enemies and liable for the death punishment. Considering the lack of any official response to the incident and taking in view that the residents of Ingil and Gozara districts are under the strong influence of the AOG, this is the development of a serious threat, with the potential to effect NGO staff operating and residing in these areas.

Advisory:

NGO may keep all staff informed of this latest development. Staff may be advised to safeguard against the possibility of being discovered with any documentary or other evidence, on their person or their property which can go to indicate their involvement in the electoral process. Sanitizing of staff with regard to their association with the voter registration process - especially while travelling through these areas - is also advocated. ANSO shall monitor the situation and issue updates. Until the facts of the incident are confirmed, the threat merits serious consideration.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saturday, December 6, 2008

... and a more accessible view of the Three Gorges Dam...

Here are some more general photos of the Three Gorges Dam.

Three Gorges Dam - lock descent animation

I have created an animation of our descent through one of the locks at the Three Gorges Dam.





Warning - this is not for people without broad bandwith, impressive patience - and the clarity that ship locks are fascinating. (Thanks, Peter, for spotting that the link was wrong. I'm amazed anybody tried it!)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Good to know...

Here is a quote from a (non-winning) grant application our team evaluated today:



“Before the closing phase of the project, XXX will pay its keen consideration on project start up and implementation.”

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chongqing - including crucial bathroom warning


Our photos from Chongqing are here.


This sign was quite typical of the English we saw in China:


"Toiletries and towels when you shop so as not to fall and slip"

Friday, October 31, 2008

More Chinese Experience

Here are two more sets of pictures from our Chinese holiday:




Overnight train ride from Xi'an to Chongking.




The experience of seeing the Terracotta Warriors. (I have already posted close-ups of the TWs here.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Another terrible killing in Afghanistan - but we're ok

Three people (including two internationals) were killed in Kabul this morning. Ms S. and I are fine though.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Another set of holiday snaps



Xi'an

I remember something I saw on TV once - an old man was forcing his holiday pictures on a younger fellow, who said "Don't you find holiday rather boring?", to which the old man said "Oh yes - other peoples'".

More honeymoon photos


Shanghai to Xi'an




Tiananmen Square

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Forbidden City



The Forbidden City is gloriously colourful and extremely crowded. Here are our photos.

Monday, October 13, 2008

So many similar Great Walls of China

A dear (young) old friend recently asked why I'd written "Tom now grasps why eveybody's pictures of The Great Wall of China are from essentially the same perspective" on my Facebook page. Great question, in response to my cryptic remark. What I meant was that it turns out that while the G.W.o.C. may have been the world's longest artificial thing, a lot of it has crumbled away and the main part near Beijing is now less than 50km long and most tourists are funneled to just one location.

Here's the entrance to it:



From that entrance point tourists can turn to climb the wall to the left or the right. Our guide, Alan, who was on his 67th mission to the Wall, explained that the easier walking was to the right but the best views of the rest of the wall were to the left. We went left and the rest of the wall looked like this:



And that's the perspective I think I've seen photographed a million times. Although not always with the 'One World, One Dream' Olympic propaganda carefully situated.

I don't mean to seem too cynical about the Wall or China. We had a fantastic time, fell in love with China (our growing set of photographs are based here), and will return.

The Great Wall of China





On September 25 the Great Wall of China received a visit from me and Ms S. Here are our photos.




In this image I am wearing a genuine "Schuhs' Saloon" collectable Tee. This photo earned the September honors on the Schuhs' Saloon T-Shirt Contest site.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pledge Number 5.

Donor number 5 has kindly pledged $0.25 per 100 g towards my 2008 weight loss challenge. Thank you very much, Donor Number 5! You've brought the pledge total to $2.88 per 100 g lost.

Er... While on holiday I 'somehow' gained back some of my earlier lost weight and now I'm only 0.9 Kg below the starting weight. If I lose no more (but I will) we'll have raised $23.63 for the top donor's favorite Afghan charity but I'm sure I can lose the targeted 8.4 Kg before January 1 and with the current pledges that will mean we'll be donating $241.50.

Everybody is welcome to jump on this bandwagon! Here's more information. Please pledge by e-mail - operators are standing by.

First honeymoon pictures

Uh... that would be the first pictures of our recent honeymoon. Not pictures from my first honeymoon. Those were torn up long ago.

In fact Ms S. and I went to China and India for our honeymoon. We took thousands of pictures and it will take a while to sort them out but the first, close-ups of the Terracotta Army near Xi'an are here.



(The army will assemble again soon for more general pictures of the viewing experience).

Some snaps of some wonderful Chinese acrobats are here.



(Unfortunately I let my camera battery die before the intermission.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The stuff I have to edit...

"in order to acquaint the newly recruited staff members specially development coordinators, in the performing their due responsibility in provincial offices in convenient manner, A 6 days Local Governance Orientation Workshop in Kabul conducted by ARD Kabul in which newly recruited Capacity Building and Technical Advisors participated. The stated orientation workshop started on 16th of August and finished on 21st of August. The Workshop had the following topics. Different topics were taught in the workshop which was very essential for preceding their task."

I wonder what the topics were?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sponsor Number 4 pledges in Afs!

Sponsor Number 4 introduces the Afghan currency with a kind pledge of AFG 10 per 100 g. Thanks very much, Sponsor Number 4!!!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thank you Donor Number 3!

Donor Number 3 has added a $0.125 per 100 g pledge. Thank you Donor Number 3! This brings us up to $2.425 per 100 g for a wonderful $203.70 if I can lose the 9.6 kg target weight. And as I've already lost 800 g in three days I feel on-track... though I suppose it's ridiculously early to extrapolate yet.

By the way, people have stopped me in the street to ask how they could pay their pledges on January 1. It may depend on the Afghan charity choices - which will be made by the highest pledging Afghan and non-Afghan donors (for 50% of the total pledges each) but I imagine PayPal could play a role.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Donor number 2 pledges $0.30 per 100 g

Thank you Donor number 2!

Total pledges = $2.30 per 100 g.

This is starting off very well... I hope I can deliver on the weight-loss.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Kick-off!! 84.3 kg on 2008 08 23!

As officially witnessed by Megan Holleran (friend, colleague and encourager at work) my weight just now was 83.4 kg. That means I am 8.4 kg over my December 31 target of 75 kg.

That means I need to lose about half a kilogram per week. Gulp. No wait, gulping has been my problem...

First donation pledge

Donor number 1 has kindly pledged $2 per 100 g! Thank you, Donor number 1! I'll try to make this cost you a lot!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

2008 weight-loss campaign - introduction

I need to lose weight (I'm about 85 kg and only 168 cm) and I've set a target of getting down to 75 kg before January 1, 2009.

Will you help to motivate me?

I'm inviting all my friends to pledge to donate so much per 100 g I lose to an Afghan charity. For instance, if somebody pledges US $0.25 per 100 g and I manage to lose 11 kg they would donate $27.50. If somebody in Afghanistan pledges AFG 10 per 100 g and I lose that 11 kg they would donate AFG 1,100.

I propose that half of all money raised should go to an Afghan charity nominated by the Afghan individual who pledges the most per 100 g and the other half of all the money raised should go to an Afghan charity nominated by the non-Afghan individual who pledges the most.

I will have an official witnessed kick-off weighing on Saturday 23rd. That will give me about 18 weeks to lose the approximately 10 kg I'm targetting.

Please e-mail me (tom@haythornthwait.net) me if you'd like to pledge. I need to know the amount you will donate (in USD or AFG) per 100 g and optionally, the Afghan charity you hope the donations will beneift. (Remember, the actual choice will belong to the Afghan and the non-Afghan who pledge the most.) I'll keep your name private.

I will post progress reports, tales of agonizing starvation - or triumph, as well as tables of donations potentially raised here. (Please post encouraging comments!)

Please wish me luck - and please pledge!

Afghan triumph amid misery

Most recent news about Afghanistan has been sad - for instance, three friends of a dear friend of ours were the international aid workers senselessly killed by the Taliban last week - but we are now rejoycing this Afghan triumph in Bejing:

Taekwondo fighter grabs Afghanistan' s first Olympic medal
BEIJING (AFP)

Rohullah Nikpai hoped his Olympic taekwondo bronze medal would help bring life back to Afghanistan through sports after three decades of conflict.

"After the long-time war at home, I have won this medal. I think it is a good message for the peace and future of Afghanistan," the 21-year-old said after grabbing Afghanistan' s first Olympic medal in any sport Wednesday.




He beat world champion Juan Antonio Ramos of Spain 4-1 in a -58kg bronze-medal play-off.

"My training situation is like the situation surrounding my country," said Nikpai, who started training in the Korean-born martial art 11 years ago following his older brother Habib.

The Nikpai brothers usually train in Kabul where he said "sports facilities are not so good." He has trained under a Korean coach in a pre-Olympic training camp in South Korea.

"We've tried hard to get this result, and I hope it will help improve sports in my country," Nikpai said.

One of the four athletes here from Afghanistan, Nikpai knelt and kissed the mat after overwhelming Ramos.

"I hope to try harder and go to the next Olympics to produce a better result," said Nikpai, who grabbed the Asian championship bronze after finishing 33rd at the world championships here last year.

An Olympic sport since Sydney 2000, taekwondo is popular in Afghanistan, where it is by far the most practised combat sport.

Afghanistan' s previous best Olympic finish was a fifth place by Mohammed Ebrahimi in the 1964 freestyle wrestling.

Afghanistan' s most notable link with the Games is that the 1979 Soviet invasion of the country led to a US-led international boycott of the games in Moscow the following year.

Nikpai was to be rewarded with 50,000 dollars promised by an Afghan mobile phone company to whoever gets on the podium in Beijing.

His teammate, 23-year-old Nesar Ahmad Bahawi, who won a 68kg silver at the World Taekwondo Championships last year, was to compete here on Thursday.

A hero's welcome will await him in Kabul after President Hamid Karzai called Nikpai after his victory, an aide said.

The medal was also cheered on by fellow athletes in Kabul as televisions interrupted normal broadcasting to show images of the athlete's winning match.

"The president called him and congratulated him," Karzai's chief spokesman Homayun Hamidzada told AFP in Kabul. The president "encouraged him and told him he had brought pride to Afghanistan."

Once Nikpai returned home, he would be rewarded "appropriately," he added.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Memorial services

I have just come back from my second memorial prayer meeting this week. The first was for the father of an Afghan colleague who died young - bad enough. This morning's was for the 21-year-old uncle of another Afghan colleague who was shot dead by his debtors in Pakistan. It can be tough in this society.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Monitoring the monitoring

"After discussing the challenges and obstacles of sector monitoring it was agreed that the monitoring team should be re-established and instructed to monitor the development projects of the sector and prepare the monitoring report as soon as possible." - anonymous Community Development Specialist in Province X, Afghanistan

Monday, July 7, 2008

We're OK

There was an explostion at the Ministry of Interior in Kabul today that shook our house and broke some eggs but Ms S. and I are OK.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Over the top cuteness

Ms S. gave the Kids a bath the other day. I thought cats hated baths - in fact I think I remember once a long time ago after Bentley went up the chimney it took Mom, Dad and me a lot of struggle and I think some actual bleeding to get him presentable again. But our darlings seem to like it.



Fernando dries off



Angelica dries off



We are starting to question their initial gender assignments. No, it's not obvious with kittens. I read something about it at the Wikipedia 'kitten' page) but it was too technical and personal for me. I'm reassured that I used to live and work with an obstetrician-gynaecologist in Liberia who incorrectly identified the gender of our adult cat, 'Bravo Zero'.) Ms S. and I both claim we can identify cats' genders by their faces but I don't think we've done a scientific test. I understand that ginger cats are normally male but we call our ginger cat 'Angelica'. The tabby is 'Fernando'. (This site says three out of four ginger cats are male and tortoiseshell cats are 200:1 female.) Our tortoiseshell is going to remain 'Fernando', even if he his own kittens. And Angelica will remain Angelica even if she turns into a radical Talib.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

New family members!

We have adopted two children (kittens)! Please meet Fernando and Angelica...


Fernando (left) and Angelica

More soon...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lots of "Goals and Objectives"

I'm starting a series of posts (mostly rants - here is the first) about the English language (which I will never master) which I call The Queen's English. I would like to share this snippet from a long submission I have to edit:

[SWOT means "Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats". DC means "Development Coordinator".]

"The DC facilitated the social protection sector consultation meeting, the objective of the meeting was analyzing the SWOT and to set the Goals and objectives of the sector for the next five years. After the SWOT analysis, the techniques for setting the goal and objective were explained for the participants and the participants had a group discussion on setting goals and objectives for the next five years. As a result the goal for the social protection sector identified by the participants. And was an acceptable achievement to the participants.

The DC facilitated the agriculture and rural development sector consultation meeting, the objective was analyzing the SWOT of the sector and setting up Goals and objectives of the sector for the next five years. The SWOT analysis carried out and for the each component of the analysis. After the SWOT analysis the techniques for setting the goal and objective explained for the participants and participants have been divided in to two groups and they discussed on goals for the next five years. As a result the goal for the agriculture and rural development sector was identified by the participants and agreed."


Yikes. Dealing with stuff like this is what I seem to have to do most of the time, while I'd rather be DOING stuff... (like setting goals and objectives).

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ferarri Festival in Ottawa

Here are some pictures from a very pleasant evening with friends near and at the Ferrari Festival, part of the current Italian Week festivities here in Ottawa. (Yes, I'm in Ottawa.)



















Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Brandished hand gun

When I was being driven home last night in Kabul I noticed a tall man in Afghan clothes (Peraan Tunban) being firmly taken from the Shaw-i-naw cinema property towards the street. At the street a tall man in a grey western business suit pulled out a hand-gun and pointed it at and about 15cm from the tall man's head. I didn't see what happened next because my driver zoomed us away from the scene. Police and other armed men were watching from a block away and one man had taken the machine gun off an armed pickup truck and was aiming it at the situation. My Personal Security Detail radioed the situation to our Operations Room and even three hours later that stretch of road was out of bounds.

I've been told the man in the suit was probably part of the local security force and I'm assuming nobody got shot and the tall man is now enjoying the comforts of an Afghan jail. I've seen Ethiopian jets bombing Asmara airport and I've heard Ethiopian police shooting a man in Addis and I once had a gun pointed loosely at me at the Djibouti-Ethiopia borders ... hm, this is the first time I've realized that those events all involved Ethiopia ... but this really disturbed me because I've never seen anybody point a gun at anybody else before. Despite being thrilled when I fired an AK-47 a few months ago guns make me nervous. But it's probably good to get an updated dose of reality.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Heroine

I've added Rachel Carson to my list of personal heroes.

The fun of my job

Twice a month I have to gather and edit contributions to my organization's 'bi-weekly report'. [I would rather not talk right now about the proper frequency of a 'bi-weekly' report.]

I often have to interpret and distill input like this:

"The Development Coordinator facilitated the NGO coordination meeting held on 5th May 2008, the international, national and local NGOs including [....] and line government entities attended the meeting. The issues of coordination among government and NGO organizations and their activities has been discussed in the meeting and decided to improve the level of coordination among government and NGOs organizations based in [....Province]."

I don't know whether to despair about the writing or the apparent lack of achievement at the meeting - but either way I change the text to something like this:

May 5: The Development Coordinator facilitated the NGO coordination meeting at which NGO and governments’ plans for 2008 were reviewed.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

TLA 01

My profession ('Aid work'? 'International Development'? 'Skimming Overseas Assistance'?) is rife with acronyms. Because our program has projects ranging in nature from teaching disabled business people the motorcycle repair business to digging out clogged irrigation canals to establishing carpet weaving cooperatives to building swanky regional training centres, we hear acronyms from a wide range of contexts and it's particularly hard to keep track. My new favorite, uttered by an engineer, is CMU. A vertical structure is to be constructed from CMUs. They are Concrete Masonry Units. Blocks.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

It had to happen ... but so soon?

Fearing aging as I do, I dreaded the day when a major nation would have a leader born after me. I haven't been monitoring every country but that day seems to have come now - as Dmitry Medvedev (aged 42 - I am nearly 46) takes over in Russia. Gulp. He may be younger, but at least, apparently, I'm taller...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday, March 31, 2008

Amazing and provocative art

A dear friend just pointed me an amazing and provocative website documenting an art exhibit called Running the Numbers - An American Self-Portrait which I highly recommend. Give it the necessary time to download (if you have to cope with narrow bandwidth the way I do).

One image, for instance "Depicts 30,000 reams of office paper, or 15 million sheets, equal to the amount of office paper used in the US every five minutes."

I won't embed any images here because they need to be viewed on at least your full screen for proper effect. (I'd really love to see the actual exhibition.) Look at the site.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

First wedding photo set



We've put some photos from my camera here. We hope to insert others soon.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

Ms S. and Tom are getting married


Ms S., or 'Sharky'

I admit it: I've been placing teasers on my Skype(tm) and Crackbook profiles about getting married tomorrow. Yes it's true - and yes, it's been fast but it's also totally wonderful.

Sharky and I met here in Kabul in November when I was working for an International NGO and she was working for a national NGO. We didn't speak the first time I went to her office but we caught each other's eyes and I thought a lot about her afterwards and worked hard to make another meeting there happen. When I went to that meeting she wasn't there and I was sad but she came in at the end and I gave her my card, not knowing whether or not she spoke English. But Sharky is a very westernized Afghan who has actually lived in Afghanistan less than I have.

I'm too shy to explain all the ways she's incredible and we're too worried about some security and cultural circumstances for me to reveal almost anything of her biography but we are in love and we are marrying tomorrow evening. Watch this space for pictures.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Wikipedia entry



I'm a huge Wikipedia fan but I only recently thought I could contribute something to this wonderful resource. I was reading this article on burqas and thought it could benefit from a remark about trends in burqa use in Kabul. I contributed the underlined part of the following:

"Before the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, the chadri was infrequently worn in cities. While they were in power, the Taliban treatment of women required the wearing of a chadri in public. Officially, it is not required under the present Afghan regime, but local warlords still enforce it in southern Afghanistan. Burqa use in the remainder of Afghanistan is variable and is observed to be gradually declining in Kabul. Due to political instability in these areas, women who might not otherwise be inclined to wear the chadri must do so as matter of personal safety."

That's it. My claim to fame.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pamukkale, Turkey


While flying back to Afghanistan I had a chance to prepare a few more of my December / January holiday pictures. These show the ancient Roman and Greek ruins and Travertines in Pamukkale, Turkey. Worth a trip.

Return of the, well, not exactly 'native' but one who feels he belongs

Got back into Kabul yesterday - thrilled beyond thrills to reunite with Ms S. and anxious to catch up with other friends. Counting down the minutes (263 as I write this) until my first game of Ultimate.

I had had a fantastic few weeks in Ottawa - thanks to those who encouraged me to spend some time resting between jobs although it was also partly because when I left Kabul I didn't know what would be next. (Slight pity I had to transport all my stuff back and forth.) It was terrific to see Dad and some of my oldest friends.

The trip here was hectic. Collected a new reason for a flight delay in Toronto: "Ladies and Gentlemen we regret to announce that our departure has been delayed for a technical reason, and that technical reason is that we have no pilots. We don't know where they are. We don't know when they will get here. We will keep you informed." I'm not joking. After roughly half an hour one pilot showed up but we didn't move until another ambled up (OK, use of that term is a joke) and then we had another hour on the tarmac while queueing up for de-icing. One loud mouth complained about the de-icing, but would he really honestly have wanted to go without it?

I didn't think I'd make my connection to Dubai but Lufthansa in Frankfurt were marvelous. They had a separate bus waiting at the foot of the stairs for the half dozen of us hoping to make the same connection. Off we zoomed with, apparently, Michael Schumacher at the wheel to the right part of the airport and then we followed a ground staff person at a very brisk walk up to the departure gate for Dubai.

I'm so glad to be back.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Parliament Hill



Yesterday I audited the field trip component of my friend Harry Turner's photography course - a course I took two or three times way back in the silver-based era of photography. We trooped around Canada's Parliament Buildings and here are my favorite images.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Blue Rodeo musican meets me in person!



I'm tired as I write this but I want to post the news that tonight I met - all too briefly - my favorite musician. In the whole world. There were 5,000 people at the Blue Rodeo concert and yet here I am with maestro Greg Keelor.

LESS-TIRED-UPDATE: Shout Out to Ben-Bob who asked where I saw this concert. In fact it was right here in snowy Ottawa. It was my 21st Blue Rodeo show, which pales in comparison to Dianne's tally of over 350. I thank Dianne for getting the meet-and-greet passes that enabled us to catch up with the boys. Jim Cuddy told me he had seen me dancing crazily beside Dianne and was quite confused because he knows her husband Dan is not normally so demented. Of course the reference site for my Blue Rodeo fandom is on my website here.

FURTHER UPDATE: I have just been sent this pre-concert picture. My sign features Dianne in a Burqa (she is labeled 'Dianne of Afghanistan') thinking "I hope they play Floating".



The references are to the fact that Blue Rodeo will be entertaining the Canadian troops in Kandahar, Afghanistan in March and to Floating, my favorite Blue Rodeo song, which I have been requesting hopefully but without success for twenty years.

Additional notes: yes, the 'guy' from Blue Rodeo is 'old' (51 in fact). This is not boy-band - not was it even when I first saw them in, I think, 1987. A young woman sitting in front of us at the show (while we and everybody else was standing) was texting someone "I'm bored as shit. Everyone here is 40". In fact, at 45, I think I was on the young end of the Blue Rodeo Bell Curve.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Istanbul photos


Here, in a new format (created by Adobe Lightroom - which I think I like) are my selected photos from Istanbul.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Strangely, the longer I delay blogging because I'm so far behind, the farther behind I get!

SO MUCH has happened since I last posted. That was a quick note to ensure friends that I hadn't been near the bomb attack on the Sarina Hotel in Kabul. In fact I need to relate a few even earlier things. So gather around my flip chart and we'll brainstorm on the following:

I got back from holidays about a month ago and having now been a motionless night (this is my criterion for listing countries) in Turkey, Romania and Seribia I have updated my list of countries visited.

The holiday really made me realize that my job was not making me feel interested or personally developed and after a few days back at work I resigned. My contract required a month's notice and I gave seven weeks - however Equal Access responded that I should leave at the end of January (three weeks later).

That was while I was in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz. On the way back through a heavy storm while we were putting chains on our car wheels at a checkpoint the policeman let me fire his Kalashnikov rifle. It was the first time I'd ever fired a gun and it will probably be the last but it was quite a thrill. There was much less recoil than I expected and much much more noise.

Evenings were turned to job hunting and over the last few weeks I've had various tentative offers and enquiries but nothing is definite yet. I hope to go back to Afghanistan because of the important work that has to be done and because of special friends. I miss playing Ultimate Frisbee - there are very informal pick-up games that were the high point of my week.

I came home on February 2 and 3 - on a marathon journey that really made me feel my age. After a short (but of course delayed) flight from Kabul to Delhi I had a 13 hour layover in the transit lounge. Thankfully I met a very interesting medical student who helped pass the time. Then I had a cramped 15 hour flight from Delhi to Newark with no entertainment system or reading light. Then, rather surprisingly I had an 11 hour wait in Newark for my flight to Ottawa. The best part of the trip was seeing Dad and the second best part was having Customs tell me that I did not need to pay duty on the photography equipment I was carrying. (Honesty is the best policy.)

I still hope to post more holiday and Afgahnistan photos...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Nasty bomb

There was a suicide bomb attack on a Kabul hotel yesterday. (BBC report) It was far away from me but I heard the blast. All bomb attacks are tragic but this one is worse for the international community because it targeted and killed expatriates.

Incidentally I resigned my job last week - I will be leaving Afghanistan (for now?) on February 2.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Update


New Year's fireworks behind the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

To plagiarize Ben-Bob, here is a "Quick update for anyone wondering what happened to me. (Something that I often wonder, myself.)"

I am back in Kabul after a dirvishly whirling train and bus tour of selected snippets of Turkey, Romania and Serbia (also passing through Bulgaria).

I intend to back-date posts on various parts of my holiday and to post photos to the souvenirs section of my website - but that might take some time. [Update: Here is the set from Istanbul.]

I have returned to find my backup of all my autumn photos and work may be lost because my lovely Seagate backup drive doesn't work. (It worked when I backed up my work computer in December before necessarily reinstalling Vista because of a virus attack sustained because my employer would not renew my virus protection. Actually I hope I can recover the files from my computer.) I have also found that what is to be my 'permanent' room in my compound is freezing cold despite the best efforts of my wood-burning stove. (Still, it is good to have my own room at last - I've been in temporary beds since August 20.) Also I have a pinched nerve in my shoulder that I can't massage out, the flu, and an ear infection.

Things can only get better.