Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Gulabi Gang

I love this story in the beeb. Gulabi means pink and these women in India dress up in pink saris and go and beat up people they think are causing injustice and need to be beat.

What a lovely idea. This is what I should be doing. Learning how to use a lathi and beating the shit out of people who are out of line. Beating is the last option and they do talk first to the parties involved but as eyperience in this area will show, talking is not really helping things along so a good beating, one they are used to getting from men themselves for years, from women dressed in pink saris, goes a long long way.

Is Bollywood making this film soon, or what?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bombs and Bad Spelling

So, I noticed, when I go back and read my blog (which of course, is all the time), that I misspell stuff all the time. I should have a spell checker on here and sometimes it works, sometimes it does not and I should be looking at the screen when I type and sometimes I do and sometimes I do not. Apologies for the bad spelling and words that on occasion do not make sense.

My sister called just a little while ago. My brother in law woke her up since he heard on the news about a bombing at a shopping place in Colombo and since that is all I do when I am there and since I was there last they checked, he got very worried. I am back in Ampara and the first bomb went off as we were leaving Colombo this morning and then we heard about the second one. Go read about it on BBC. There was four of us in the car, the driver, me, Mick and our project engineer. We all got texts about it from different people, we said, where is that place? Oh, right, near Apollo Hospital and then I went back to sleep and everyone else went back to doing whatever it is people in back seats of cars do.... The second text message some 9 hours later prompted the same sort of reaction (prompted is a strange word since I feel like we are more non reaction than reaction right now) and I asked Mick if he got the text, he said yes and then we watched an episode of the West Wing. An episode, I am shocked to report that I had not seen before and even more lovely, a Thanksgiving one! So timely, as thanksgiving is just about to arrive in Ampara (Saturday).

I guess it's not good what is going on. I guess I just expected it. I have YET to read the text of Prabhakaran's speech or hear any commentary on it (our TV is dead and last night when I had TV, it was all about Anapolis and Gaza...which is looking pretty bad), but a synopsis that was given to me by staff was, peace not possible, dear international community help us get our freedom and support our cause. By killing thamilselvan, you killed peace and the 2002 agreement lands that were given to us have now been taken back and you are all giving the GoSL free weapons and we want some too. Thank you.

That sounds like a plausible jist of a fifteen minute speech to me. Is anyone really surprised?

My non reaction to everything is strange since I can feel something in the air but not quite sure what it is yet and I think I am just showing uncharacteristic restraint from leaping to conclusions and barracading my staff and hunkering down with a two week supply of dried goods. I also just got back after being away from five days and things in Ampara town feel a little fake to me, you know? Last Singhalese outpost in the area so it is just fortified and I really just got to the office, worked and then came home and the biggest crisis I was dealing with is staff from my old job freaking out since their contracts are over end of the year and this is going to become a reality in a big way here as NGOs start to leave since tsunami money is over and I don't know what else to say to them other than, I am going to go too and will need a job. We all got to prevail and keep our chins up and I will see what I can do. That has superseded any bombs in the other parts of the country for the moment for me, though I suspect, not for long...I need to actually get out and see what it is feeling like. What does it look like driving down the coast, what is the vibe in the villages in which I am working and what do people look like right now....what are their priorities, what is the food situation in their houses, how jumpy or not are they etc....they of course, always have a better feel about stuff than anyone else, living as it were, in the midst of things. I think I wrote about this sense before....or just having a mental list of things which we look at without realizing it when assessing a situation. I use it for poverty levels among other things when driving through or to a place and you can see for instance, how clean are school uniforms, is the child wearing shoes, how many school accessories (just a backpack, or a lunch box or flask etc), ribbons in hair, how many shops on the side of the road, how well stocked, how well lit, how populated etc etc etc....there are lots of little indicators that you just get through osmosis in a way.

So, I need to go out and get a feel and then either panic or stay non reactionary. Non reactionary but alert, I think is the way to go. I just got back from a security training course...I am so ready. As will everyone around me, like it or not.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bad Zee

I make all these promises to write and then I do not. Bad bad Zee. Anyhow, here I am again, and writing and perhaps even going so far as to post all depends. The adventures in trying to get my mac all good to go are not progressing so well. In Colombo for a few days and trying to get the Microsoft office suite on my machine and they want 350 USD, which they are not going to get. I also finally held the iPhone in my hands. I have been wanting this piece of technology in my hands soooooo badly for sooooooo long and I think that is all I really wanted. To hold it in my hands. It is too big. And they are charging 1000 USD for it here only since it is not really out and only if you are super cool and deprate to prove you are cool will you buy it in Asia. I am not that desparate and I didn't like holding it all that much, truth be told. The coolest thing was that you can make things bigger and smaller with your fingers. I liked that bit. My fingers are too big to type anything on the machine however.

Never buy first generation Apple products. I shall wait.

So, I hae been in Colombo and got to see two awesome friends who I have not in a long time (two years) and that was amazing and we went around everywhere and saw everything (in two days) and had an all around rockiing time. Too many stories in that one but the main point is that I got to hang out with two people I love and it was good to be able to catch up and see them again.

Mew birthday plans are afoot. Stay tuned in this space for more information. I am liking it more and more....

A team photo that we took recently for your viewing pleasure. All our movements have been suspended for two days since today, in just about a few minutes, the LTTE leader, Prabakharan, is going to make his annual Heroes Day Address and it is always interesting to see what he will say. It is supposed to be about the LTTE laying out their plans for the year etc etc and lots has been going on and it is anybodies guess what he will say. They do the element of suprise well. Needless to say, in preparation, intimidation and general sense of fostering fear in the public, Colombo has been checkpoint heaven where you get stopped pretty much every two minutes or so and you had better have your passport or even better, someone white in the car with you. Though even that does not work in every situation anymore....

OK, I think it is time to go home. I have either been bitten to death by sand flies or I have chicken gunya. If i feel flu like tomorrow, I am in big trouble. I think it is a combination of sand flie and then mosquitoes in this Colombo office. Colombo is so seriously nasty that way...everyone gets dengue or chicken gunya...which is a lovely name for an illness, I think.

And no photo this time either...sorry!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The joys of dial up on a mac

I kitted out my mac in a big way....well, it feels like a big way to me and this will be a repetition from my early Ampara days, (round one), where I would try and upload photos on the home line and repeatedly fail but unfailingly try...and so we try again. It is interesting to type on two different keyboards, by the way. I have a swiss keyboard for work and a normal American one for play. Though I want this play one to become a real all the time one, but we will see.

Nice evening. We did the budgets on a projector, which was just too cool. We had to cut money. Old hands at dev work know what that mean, but for me, a child of the tsunami heydays, this a new concept....we don't have buckets of funding? We can't throw money at people? What? Who? Are you joking? I love it. I have always been a little freaked out (ok, very freaked out) by the amount and the ways in which money was being handed out after the tsunami and I like that restraint is now being shown and projects thought out about more carefully.

This blog has been in draft mode for a while, since I thought I lost it (the joys of a mac on dialup), so I shall post now and expand on the topic above, which I like and on which I had written in great length only for it to all get lost....or so I thought. Atleast I got the above two paras...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Nov 22nd, 2007

I like writing the date on the tops of pages. It's fun. Anyhow, just a quick one here on a news item I saw this morning about Bangladeshi writer, Taslima Nasreen, who has UN refugee status and cannot be turned away from seeking refuge from anywhere and is being asked to leave Calcutta (Kolkatta). You can read about it here.

It is morning time and I am in the office and will head out to two of my villages very soon. Talking to goverment officials (home guards etc), who get paid a better salary than the others in the village but not nearly enough in general and in order to keep some kind of equality among people, we have to figure something out that works for everyone. Then off to the other village where we have not been able to work for one week and talk about wells and drainage. I now talk about wells and drainage. What I do is get someone else to talk about and then write up a proposal so that we can fund the project. Been wanting to get this done for a while and it is not getting done so I am determined to get it done.

I have role I play each morning. With Mr Wimal. He is someone I have known since I got to Ampara and he used to be the security guard type person at the old SLRCS office. He is now employed by the IFRC as head person who takes care of office stuff like tea, cleaning etc. He has a staff of two. He used to work in the forestry dept and knows so much about this country. What I love about him is that he has a beautiul smile and is always welcoming and every morning he makes me my coffee (I am special...he makes my coffee himself instead of delegating it to his staff) and he brings it to me and I taste it while he waits and I come up with some superlative to tell him how much he rocks my world and how my cup of coffee is the one thing that keeps me sane and alive in this mad mad world in which we live.

I don't really drink coffee but when I came back to Ampara, he forgot that I like plain tea with little sugar and I didn't have the heart to tell him. So now I drink Nescafe coffee in the office. Little milk, little sugar, always perfect which I say with a mini swoon, a big smile, my hand on my heart or whatever theatrics come to me naturally that morning (or afternoon).

Off to culverts....I am still not sure what a culvert is but now I have an autocad drawing of it. Looks like a cross section of a tree. I have something to say about Taslima Nasreen and that whole situation but it is brewing in my head and hopefully I will say something about. Reading that article just made me think how much I do want to be in India. Kind of works in opposition to my wanting to be in Africa and in a conflict. Have we as humans figured out yet how to clone and spilt our cells?

Iqbal Kalddun...write me my chicken story.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Home Sweet Home?

It is home sweet home! I am back in Ampara after a while (was in Colombo for a week for security training and then off on my first ever R&R in Hawaii!), and my does it feel good to be back or what? It feels good is the answer to that.

I feel like I have to write a huge long post somehow to explain my absence but I don't think I will. Will post a picture instead of me and the partial team before I left with our cool RC gear.

I bought a new mac and I am not currently using it and I bought a new iPod which I am also not currently using. Having strange separation anxiety with my old gear and I want to set the new one up properly...which I should do soon since I have a ton of photos and my camera will not upload to this computer since the CD Drive is busted.

I joined facebook. I don't really want to talk about it.

I am happy to be back in a place where I have once again made a home. So strange, but I have.

More sooooooooooooon.