Tag Archives: United Nations

Ten minute Turkey

Ten minute Turkey. Or instant Istanbul. I have only JUST come down to earth. Literally.

My last day in Baghdad was a blast as you will have seen. The training course ended prematurely, so we didn’t get a chance to review and reflect on much save the days tragic events. Nevertheless, some fascinating insight and frank discussion and my passion for Iraq is re-ignited – I plan to return to this place and commit more of my energy to development, not least of the communications skills of the Human Rights Ministry.

So…. on with the travel blog [more analysis no doubt in other online frequented haunts which will be linked here]. I left low-profile style to the airport like a cat slinking off the savannah. Are you saying I’m fat? No. It’s body armour, cunningly disguised under an old shirt. The bombings had produced traffic jams and road blocks and we inched our way towards our target with trepidation as the departure time grew close.

With no air conditioning at Baghdad airport and no real method of communicating gate numbers, my stay was brief and unpleasant. Back in economy class this time I was seated next to two chirpy mercenaries who having been dry for 9 weeks drank eight cans of beer each for breakfast. Class. The whole group were vaguely entertaining, but rude about Iraqis, disrespectful of Islam, and over-emotional about how close “the lads” were. Bodily function and chest shaving was a popular topic of conversation, as was cheating on the Mrs back home by pretending they had been stranded in Istanbul. Quite a lot of oppressed homosexuality going on there I would wager.

Of major concern during my flight, apart from sleeping and tending to my own bodily functions (VERY sorry gut), was the lack of check-in for the Istanbul-London leg of my journey. By the time our delayed flight touched Turkish land there was a mere 20 minutes to check-in and board the next flight. The majority of the mercenaries loitered, delighted that the turn of events meant a company paid enforced piss-up Ottoman style. But one of the more shaven and drunk members of their team was as adamant as I to catch the next flight.

The pair of us sped through Istanbul airport flashing our passports like Interpol officers. We used his superior body strength to gain ground, and my diplomatic skills to push through queues. The Turkish Airlines check-in clerk wished us good luck and told us to “run fast” as we left his desk. We arrived at the gate literally AS the doors were closing. We were red-faced and panting as our fellow passengers tutted us on board. In my mind it was a scene from a movie. A Bond movie perhaps – Bourne Identity or Mission Impossible. In reality I think it was more of a classic British Comedy. Clockwise maybe.

I’m back home now. A cool summers breeze whispers through the room. I am spending the day in bed trying to shake the afore-mentioned gut issue and the nicotine habit. Two days of rich food and alcohol haven’t off course helped. Nor has opening our house to guests this weekend to help us celebrate our wedding. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way, and it was an utter joy to spend time in such splendid company (and I did try not to bore guests too much with travellers tales). Although we got married on Twitter, I think it’s fair to say we know how to play in real life too – we are still clearing up several days later.

So, I will be back to Iraq as I said, and I will write about it here. But worth noting that this kind of travel experience wouldn’t be possible at all without the wonderful support of my new husband. So here’s to you, J. I love you, mate.

Also with thanks J’s family, my own family and to all our friends. Particularly A&B in Bristol. Thanks too to Albany Associates, the United Nations, Blogcatalog bloggers, My Security Team, my colleagues at imediate.org and the Ministry of Human Rights in Iraq for making the experience possible. Lastly thanks to near two thousand of you who read my blog whilst I was in Baghdad and for all the messages of support I have received for my writing.

Ramadan Kareem – May Peace be Upon You all! (which I tried Tweeting in Arabic earlier and totally f*cked up, so I’m sticking to English here)

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From New York to Glastonbury Festival

New York follows me hereYeah yeah yeah I went to New York.  My life has moved on quicker than my ability to blog about it.  I am not heartbroken, although I DO prefer to blog in real time and not with hindsight (it is of no benefit I find).  New York was…well, I am sure there are a million blogs about New York.  Wait, I’ll check out a few recommendations for you link link link.  I worked very hard at the UN (see some slightly more official blogging on the world bank site) and I bigged up the clients – actually, minor corruption issues aside, the UN IS pretty cool, and despite my previous rant on the likes of Clooney – I thoroughly approve of his Blue Hats endorsement.

 

So skimming briefly over New York here – it was mostly work; one groovy drunken night out in East Village with some media types who were impressed with the capacity of my pal from Kosovo to consume St.Vincents (girly gin based cocktails); a bout of shopping in a huge electronics store run my thousands of orthodox Jews; and a brief excursion to the apple store (where I narrowly avoided an encounter with Riana –a-a-a-a) suffice to say I DIDN’T make the most of it.  Nor did I meet up with fellow bloggers as I hoped…I am beginning to wonder whether other Blogcatalog bloggers exist in real life, or whether BC run a cunning software programme which invents helpful friends for me and is ultimately designed to make me fork out money on domain names (it’s working so far).  Sorry that’s a little unfair to Benny – I am sure he is no figment.

 

So that was New York and this is Glastonbury.  Rock and roll.  3 days in the mud and sunshine drinking cider and feeling young at heart.  Well…erm….sort of.  My mum does kind of live in the village so I have to confess my nights were not spent under filthy canvas, but under fine linen sheets.  And, I caught myself in work mode on more than one occasion making comparisons with El Fasher IDP camp in Darfur.  The close proximity, the stench, the rubbish.   They even have an annual arts and music festival there (I bet you didn’t know that).  Clearly there are some obvious differences.  Like war, rape, abuse, tribalism, abject poverty (as opposed to gross indulgence) and of course the residents aren’t able to stuff their cheap Tescos sleeping bags into the back of their Renault Clios and zoom home to the luxury of a hot bath.   But one thing DID cross my mind.  Why doesn’t Michael Eavis and his posse get involved in humanitarian relief?  I know they raise millions for charity (Greenpeace, Oxfam, WaterAid this year- but with the exceptional ability to facilitate 180,000 people (not official figures, just a guess based on a rough head count after a few bevies),  collect 800,000 million gallons of human waste from 2,500 toilets (ish), and operate a pretty efficient refuse collection service – I’d think the Eavis family would be pretty well placed to have the know how to offer emergency relief after eathquakes or other such natural disasters (or even man made ones).   The healing field would be a great asset too.

 sorted for recycling   

Yes.  I must have been really fun to be with.  No wonder my teenage daughter decided to disappear with a couple of friends during the Hosiers just to annoy me.  (in 900 acres forget needles in haystacks, think more needles in New York City).

 

This is the world’s biggest open air arts and music festival, ladies and gentlemen.  But to say I got away from work and relaxed completely was probably a bit of a stretch.  The Glastonbury experience with three kids and your mum isn’t traditionally rock and roll – but I tell you I had as much fun watching a man climb into a green balloon in the circus tent and seeing my son learn to unicycle as I did rocking to the Wombats (and the dulcet tones of Elbow, of course).  And no, I didn’t see Jay Z, Biffy Clyro was a more attractive prospect at the time.  The point is I was back in the land of my birth (ok…perhaps another slight warp of the truth – I was born and raised in inner city Bristol not the mysterious Vale of Avalon – but the cider is the same, my lover). And I haven’t failed to notice that the inaugural festival was held around the time of my birth.  OK, now you know too much.

Caroline Jaine in Pilton