Tag Archives: Nomadic

A Nomadic Blog Merger!

Well……two Nomadic blogs was getting a bit silly.  So I have invited my rambling inner self aka “Nomadic-Wisdom” (The free-flowing thoughts of a 21st Century Nomad – Politics, Religion, Conflict, Global- interconnectivity) to join me over here on 4nomadic, where the REAL action happens.  For anyone who missed it here are a few nomadic-wisdom ramblings of the past:

September 2009:  Britian IS NOT BROKEN!

September 2009: Contemplating Loss at Ramadan

July 2009: Keep you hair on! (About wearing a hijab)

January 2009: Obama and the Skinhead

November 2008: A Change or a Shift (mentioned Obama AGAIN sorry)

September 2008: Rev. Nomadic discussed Ramadan

June 2008: Freedom of Expression: Where to draw the line?

May 2008: One Thing you would Change?

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The Micro Traveller

I am still travelling.  Well, a little bit.  Mostly by train to London, although I have been as far afield as Sheffield of late.  Last month I spent a suitably romantic week in a secluded retreat on a Tuscan hillside.  It was my honeymoon, so I thought I had better NOT blog about it.  Felt a little inappropriate. 

So a short entry this time – to let you know that I have NOT forgotten about this blog.  Travel blogging was my first 18 months ago.   Since then I moved on to blogging about “stuff”, about public-diplomacy, about peace on the World Bank blog and recently about media and conflict on the 4imediate blog.  Perhaps it’s too much – you may well see a lessening of me on the airwaves as I settle into married life and lead a less virtual life.

Really this entry is all about showing off the new Nomadic wheels.  A beatiful beast perfect for a British mini/media lover.  This 23 year old Mini City has been wrapped in news stories on the history of the mini.  A funky way to travel, especially given the mini is 50 this year!

Nomadic Time Traveller

Ever since I discovered that there were people in the world that actually subscribed to this site, I have felt obliged to update this more often.  Point is, recently my nomadic branding has been a bit of a sham.

I have just eaten my supper, jacket potato with cheese from a tray on my lap.  It’s icy outside and even inside I have on a thick jumper and slippers.  The gentle hum of the dryer tells me my upstairs windows are steaming up and the cat is tightly curled next to me and gently purring.  The television is on to keep me company (the one where the nomad stops moving), and I generally feel like a comfortable, settled person, for whom wandering outside to deposit my empty cans and bottles into the recycling box is a venture.  Nothing like a nomad at all.  In fact, aside from lurking around Westminster and exploring the full length of the M6 motorway, I haven’t been far lately (nothing since the stan).

However, I have time travelled (I don’t mean turning the clocks back an hour last weekend causing the usual confusion).  And I thought I would muse on that for a moment.  Mainly compliments of Facebook, I have been contacted by a flurry of old school friends.  It’s viral, and fuelled by idol curiosity, but as someone who rarely looks back and isn’t the least bit nostalgic (I know, it is an issue) I have been phenomenally reflective about it all.  You see, when I left Bristol over 20 years ago, I sort of thought that everyone stayed where they were.  If ever I go back there I still look at teenagers thinking I might know them.  Now I discover that my former school pals are lawyers, doctors, actors, photographers, even porn stars (you know who you are), and I also discover that they don’t all live in Bristol. 

So, it’s all good.  Us Fairfieldians are an attractive, cosmopolitan bunch.  Up until the point that one of them becomes a grandparent.  Then it just feels odd, because IN MY MIND I am still a 14 year old hanging out in Mad Harry’s amusement arcade in Broadmead, and smoking up the lane with Theresa and Lesley.  I am still passing my Dutchi on the Left Hand Side and I am still scared of Miss Ace.  So GRANDPARENT?  Nooooooo.   I think it’s time I went somewhere again before I start thinking about this too hard.  I am off to a Mediterranean island next month, and I think I have taken this inertia far enough.

Back from Kabul – part 1

street in central kabul

street in central kabul

 
So I am back safe and sound from the Stan.  I did try and write in the few moments I could grab between filthy Marlborough Lights and restless sweaty sleep (interrupted by the throb of an ancient air conditioner and momentary power losses), but I was too busy living it, to be writing about it.  At last I am lancing the cyst and allowing some of my Nomadic tales to tumble forth.

 

Last time I traveled to Kabul it was on the UNHAS flight, and all previous trips to so called war zones have been diplomatic (ha!) so I was slightly perturbed by the prospect of a lone civilian arrival.  The airport smelt like the inside of a new car, and the Japanese funded concourse with a handful of shops and smiling shopkeepers children not an unpleasant place to await my gracious host, Dr A to arrive from his flight from Peshwar.   

   

  

 

boy at kabul airport

boy at kabul airport

 

Dr A was gracious indeed and made sure I was fed traditional Bolani  washed down with lemon tea within minutes of our arrival at his office which doubled up as his house.  Bolani was stuffed with leeks, dripping in fat and meant to be doused in sour yoghurt.  I apologized in advance, feigning a weight problem (you saying I’m fat?), but then surprised myself and gobbled down the whole plateful, to the joy of one of the cooks – a small lady dressed entirely in black, who later cared for me like a mother, bringing green tea, filtered water, rubbing my aching shoulders and even closing the blind, less my delicate European eyes should wince at the mountain sharp sunlight.  So to receive messages citing my bravery are frankly an embarrassment – there is nothing brave about being treated like a queen – unless you are Hilary Clinton.

 

Despite the quips about ancient air conditioning, the lodge was a wonderful place.  I had an enormous wooden paneled room, with a large writing desk (that called me to it in weaker moments and teased me with an intermittent internet connection) – and it even an en suite.  The shower was never warm, nor was it a shower (simply as waist high tap), but hey, the toilet flushed and the window opened to let in fresh air.  AND there was a light and a mirror, so I could fix my head covering arrangement appropriately.  Here is a tip for female visitors to Afghanistan – people WON’T get to see your hair, so DON’T bother washing it.  Washing it makes it slippery and silky, and for the amateur head scarf wearer, this is a constant anxiety.  Filthy, greasy hair provides far better friction (there is a sentence I never thought I would write).  And forget using volumising shampoo (what was I thinking?)

Kabul

nomadic in the bathroom mirror

The Lodge catered to my vegetarian tastes pretty well too.  The first evening we were treated to a vegetable stew and potatoes, where every single bean and vegetable was cooked to utter melt in the mouth perfection.  And the green tea flowed and flowed, as it did throughout the week.  Enjoyed mainly on the seating outside next to the rose and geranium borders washed down with nicotine and the Afghanistan Times.

green tea and newspaper

green tea and newspaper

Travel around Kabul was in a dusty four by four and our preferred driver found his way to our meeting points by getting lost, questioning policeman and having long and multiple phone conversations.  I was here to research the media in Afghanistan and talk to journalists – they were not always easy to find it seems.  As this is my travel blog I think I will stop there.  I am sure in days to come I will blog some Nomadic Wisdom  and some public diplomacy not to mention a fair bit of World Bank on more serious notes, but this is a more personal take on Nomadic’s travels, not her work.

I want you to know that the majority of people in Kabul don’t where Lungee turbans nor pakol hats, and many of the women don’t wear Burkhas.  I want you to know that Kabul has streets lined with shops, some very modern looking, akin to malls even.  People have mobile phone, have a choice of 30 newspapers and hundreds of radio stations to listen to and TV to watch.  They can fill up their modern cars at the smart new petrol station and drive past a beautiful park in the centre of town (al be it down a pot holed road).  To say the people I have met are resourceful would be an understatement.  They are able to learn a whole new language (usually of an occupier) in the blink of an eye, and carry out business in the most extreme conditions. 

As I mentioned, a few weeks ago (if that) a bomb tore through the Shar-e-Now district, where I was staying.  It killed 41 people, mainly Afghans who were queuing up to apply for visas to India.  The stores along Passport Lane (which surprise surprise houses the Passport Office) were blown apart – ceilings collapsed, glass windows shattered, equipment destroyed.  Young students were also blown apart, bits of them landing on the lawns of the lodge I was staying in.  But just weeks, if not days later, all that remained was a small pile of twisted metal and rubble littering one side of the street.  Shop fronts restored, generators bought in, businesses making do and bringing in an income.  And smiles on faces, perhaps a little jaded, but there for this curious foreigner.  I was impressed.  Without getting too political (I did say I wouldn’t do that) – the only mystery to me is how a country which is under going multi million pound regeneration and a reconstruction project list as long as your arm has an unemployment problem.  That, my friends, is an outrage!.

Far too long for a blog….I’ll tell you about houses dotting the side of the mountains, goats, Herati glass and carpets next time.

passport lane bomb debris Kabul
passport lane bomb debris Kabul

 

Live From Kabul

I’m thrashing this entry out very much on the back of a fag packet.  I have a ten minute gap in my day and wanted to rest the old Nomadic kit bag for a moment and pause for breath.  I’ll shower in a moment.

 

I have arrived in Kabul.  The sun is shining brightly and the city actually looks as if it is sparkling, traffic is moving, bicycles, blue burkha clad women shopping with their children at stalls bursting with fresh fruit, vegetables, cooking pots, rows of car exhausts (? A bizarre impulse buy), alongside the streets we drove down. The mountains loom over the city providing a backdrop of small houses like brown cardboard boxes dotted up the slopes.  Well more on that soon enough.  The cynicism will kick in, in about…..oh….ten minutes, so enjoy the romantic description whilst it lasts.

 

My journey here was uneventful.  The Kam Air flight didn’t crash into a mountain as feared (although it is odd flying through valleys with peaks either side of you).  In fact the most distressing thing was not getting to watch the end of North by North West which was interrupted by the captain of the Emirates flight to Dubai saying we should prepare to land.

 

More later, of course, but loved ones rest assured – the Taliban may blow up mobile phone masts, but the power of the internet is a force to be reckoned with (at least in those VERY well protected parts of town, and where people can afford a connection).  Nuff said.  I will be in touch.

 

PS – Apparently there was a suicide bomber strolling around town this morning, suffice to say he didn’t detonate anywhere near Nomadic……

 

 

Mental Travel

  No, not mental as in mad.  Mental as in imaginary.  I have no means of transport – so it’s all in my mind.  If I could mentally transport myself ANYWHERE in the world right now it would be to a certain campsite in Brittany, France.  But this nomad doesn’t travel far of late.  Not since she spun out of control on a wet road somewhere near Brize Norton in Oxfordshire last Sunday.  Out of control and into a four foot deep ditch which someone had carelessly left alongside the road.  I am told it is pretty hard to write off a Landrover (right off?), but discovery by name, discovery by nature – we found out it was possible. 

 

Amazingly me and the kids clambered out with barely a scratch (although I had mysterious bruises on my knees that I put down to dubious alien intervention).  My son said it was “like Jackass” and my daughter immediately texted her friends, glad to have some dramatic news.  My youngest was more concerned about spilt chocolates.  I have to say the site of the underbelly of my beloved vehicle illuminated by the flashing police lights in the pouring rain was a sobering moment.  They closed the road as the recovery truck winched her out, and she slithered out of the undergrowth like a newborn.  I slapped her arse and knew I wouldn’t be driving her again, poor love. 

 

So this week I have toyed with the idea of having no car.  I went through a similar feeling when I said goodbye to the au pair last year.  How could I possibly cope alone with three kids?  It would save money of course, but logistically?  Was I mad?  It seems like such a big change, but as Alan Cohen writes:

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.

Wise words indeed (perhaps better on my nomadic-wisdom site although that has been taken over by Iraqi football).  “In movement there is life, and in change there is power” – 4 Nomadic with her perpetual moving on and perpetual arriving at something new the words give strength.  But I realise that although dubbed nomadic because of the number of times I have moved house and for the many places I have been to around the world, it is really all about a state of mind.  I can continue to embrace change and life can be an exciting adventure, without actually going anywhere at all.  The movement is all internal and the trick is not to stagnate. 

 

That said, I have spotted a wonderful 1973 soft top Series III Landrover that would suit me down to the ground.  I could be in Brittany before tea time.

 

Trying not to be in the same country as George Bush

 So I am now entrenched on floor 11 of Beekman Towers.  The longest day of my year is now fading into dusky quiet (all that stuff about New York never sleeping is crap).  I eventually got some food.  I asked for Asian Vegetarian, which normally guarantees a curry and dhal of decent temperature, but America airlines don’t dabble in such foreign muck, so I had to settle for a sort of slop that reminded me of Rohan Candappa’s  description of school dinners in Pickle Head (“raisins really have NO PLACE in a main course” – I recommend the book, it is a VERY funny read).  This was followed later by pizza (c’mon, you kidin’ me right?). 

The chap sitting next to me was perhaps the least friendly New Yorker I have come across.  He really didn’t want to talk to me at all, so I invented a nasty story about his week long visit to see a “friend” in London, which included rent boys visiting his B&B in Victoria.  The only gem he offered was a grandiose slating of his President (who has just been less than well received in Europe this week)   At one stage he asked whether I was trying not to be in the same country as George.  I made some quip about Ban Ki-Moon stalking me as he too was in London (considering I was heading for the UN this week I thought it relevant) but it went over his head and he was lost to his book, and I happily went back to mine (more Bonfiglioli).

 

The weather was pretty good on landing.  Which was a surprise because my original flight was cancelled because of poor conditions in JFK.  Well.  It was a lie wasn’t it?  I KNOW it was cancelled because they didn’t sell enough tickets.  I was told this truth many times (and rather emphatically) by my fellow travellers.   I adore old aged Americans, especially New Yorkers.  I cannot for one moment imagine my grandmothers generation wearing baseball hats and jeans and big white trainers (sorry, sneakers).   The all have such loud opinions – I want to seat them on park benches in Central Park and give them brown paper shopping bags (perhaps some could be jogging in flannel jogging suits, towel around neck).  I actually forgot how much New York looks like (or IS) a movie set.  It’s not just the steaming manholes, the fire escapes, the fire hydrants (fire theme emerging here) – it is the very people themselves.  No matter what origin there is a sense of being a New Yorker – which is strong like glue and chipper and friendly and proud.  Whether they are driving taxis, working in delis, swanking along 5th Avenue with dogs in their handbags, they all belong here.  And I can be marvellously British here (which I felt less able to in Bonn for some reason).  I like it.  At least for a couple of days.