kangeiko: (Ayrton/Alain)
I haven't posted on this for ages. I feel like I've sort of left DW/LJ for tumblr, but tumblr is so exhausting a lot of the time. And I've started being online via laptop rather than tablet/phone a lot more, which makes it easier to use DW/LJ, so let's see how long this lasts, anyway.

At the moment, I'm in Iraq. I've been travelling for work since the beginning of December last year, and I am very very tired. I was in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda and am now spending my March mostly in Iraq. I get to come home for Easter, though, and I am SO ready for that. I think it's one thing to be for travel in principle, and to enjoy it to a certain degree, but the last few months have been exhausting. I've had several security incidents - including explosions in the middle of the night in South Sudan, armed men entering my car in Kenya, and a battle 25miles down the road last week in Iraq - and it leaves you quite jumpy.

I was talking to friends of mine about how I was failing to sleep in the interim. And that's sort of true. I'm picky and sickly at the best of times, and the security situation, almost constant food poisoning and high work stress has left me wrung out.

So anyway, I finish at Easter, and then I come home for a few weeks. And then I start a new job. It's much more senior than anything I've ever done before, and I am properly gulping in trepidation over it. That's also partly why I want to come back to DW/LJ - where I have a calmer connection, I think, with fandom than I do with tumblr. Tumblr and twitter and Skype have kept me sane the last few months, but I feel like I'm constantly shouting and being angry, and I need some sort of outlet that allows for slightly more complex and rounded thought.

Anyway, fandom-wise, it's mostly been F1, with a side-helping of Top Gear. You can basically see where this is going. Yes, a lot of fandom-related tears since October onwards. In fact, from before, probably. I've started writing again, which is new and exciting - I've been writing more or less every day in fact. I really don't think I'll be continuing at that pace once I've started my new job, so... we'll see. I'm enjoying this burst of limited creativity for however long it lasts.
kangeiko: artic ice with the sun in the background, and a sledge being dragged by dogs (TG adventure)

The common image of Africa is of desert and red sand. Maybe that's true of some parts - the Sahelian and Sahara regions, for instance - and red is certainly a major part of the African palette. But green is a much bigger part. My experience of Africa has primarily been one of greenery dripping with rain, and the thick smell of flowers in the air. Even in cities like Abuja, which are more akin to Milton Keynes than anywhere else, trees and bushes and ferns are abundant. In a place like Lilongwe - lazy and sprawling - it feels like the city is barely hours old, freshly claimed from the forest. I know, intellectually, just how much work goes into keeping each compound lush and beautiful. I've seen the hours put in, and bills for a full-time gardener on staff. But leave the compound and walk along the street, and you should watch where you step, because on the ground is a carpet of blue-purple flowers, thick and soft, freshly fallen that morning from the blossoming trees. I will try to take a picture of the road near my house in the enxt few days, before the trees finish losing their blossoms. Even then, the green is not yet done. The rains are coming, and with them, the most beautiful time of year. Every tree and shrub bursts into bloom, and the fern underfoot - kept neatly trimmed in a thicker lawn than mere grass could provide - make a bid for freedom. The green explodes into life.

The animals and birds respond. My colleague has been bemoaning the birds outside her window: charming in daylight hours, but infuriating at 5am. I don't have sognbirds keeping me awake, but there is a persistent rooster that wakes up at about 4am and makes his presence known. My grandparents had roosters on their farm, and when I was little I'd be woken by the crowing. Last night, I curled up on my bed - on my own sheets, with my own pillow case, in my own bedclothes and with my books and water bottle and phone beside me - and fell asleep after a struggle. Too much coffee, you see. I slept oddly, trying to wake at the usual 6.45am but unable to do so, staggering upright finally at 10am. I dreamed I was at home. I woke, and stretched, and here's the thing: I was. Suddenly, everything was familiar.

I stretched and staggered into the bathroom to brush my teeth, my hands automatically reaching for the bottled water to wet my toothbrush rather than turning on the tap. I pulled on my gym kit while half-asleep, forced down a banana, and worked my way through Davina's aerobics and legs workout. I was half-way through a follow-up pilates session by the time I was fully awake. I filtered some water, filled the kettle, and got into the shower for a luxurious eucalyptus-scented wake-up call. Wandering out refreshed, I had a pot of rooibos tea and scrambled eggs while reading The Observer that had helpfully downloaded onto my Kindle while showering. I did a load of laundry. I read a chapter of Antonia Fraser's Mary, Queen of Scots. I did my washing up. I listened to the worshippers singing as they returned home from church. I made another pot of tea, opened all the windows and sat down with melba toast and home-made jam and my laptop to check my email.

Outside, it started to rain.
kangeiko: artic ice with the sun in the background, and a sledge being dragged by dogs (TG adventure)

I was totally intending to do a travel round-up, but I'm struggling with the connection. Instead, I'm going to whine about working on a giant spreadsheet that gets more complex with every added formula. Why, world, why? This is why I don't like project work. Or, well, I do, but I feel like I've been dropped in the middle of it with no briefing, and am struggling to make sense of everything in the allotted time.

On the plus side, I'm definitely travelling in-country in a couple of weeks, which should be awesome. On the downside, the rest of my time seems to be pencilled in to interview panels and workshops, with no actual time to get any of the work done. ARGH. Plus Monday is a bank holiday! And my normal lift has her sister visiting so probably won't want to drive us around!

Oh, I totally forgot to mention that I've been driving a giant 4x4 pick-up truck in Africa. THIS IS SO COOL. Also terrifying. And painful. I can't change gear without sacrificing a wrist-bone. And no one here indicates, and pedestrians don't look, but walk in the middle of the street, and there are no street lights. I'm so not ready to be driving myself around anyway (at least not for the next couple of weeks), but I'm putting in the time behind the wheel, which is good. I've been trying to persuade the business manager to let me borrow a car over the next few weekends so we can go to the beach, but he just moans something about likelihood of me ending up a mangled wreck in a country with poor medical coverage, and changes the subject. BORING. Just because the lake-side roads are rubbish and inter-city traffic is hideously dangerous and we've suffered several car accidents as an org this year already...

ANYWAY. No beach until the end of the month, when we're gonna try to persuade a colleague to drop us off. Er, 200km out of his way, but whatev. Better than the mangled wreck option.

In any case, when I get back to the UK, there will be Top Gear Live!  Front row centre seats, bb, oh yeah!

Yes, I can be fannish, what of it?

Cake!

Oct. 9th, 2011 01:05 pm
kangeiko: (food)
I have spent my first weekend in Malawi lazing about, drinking coffee and rooibos tea, eating scones, listening to music and watching crappy DVDs. I wonder if this is what my boss had in mind when he shipped me out here? Anyway, it's only for a couple of months, I'm back for Christmas. However, I miss Halloween and Guy Fawkes! UNACCEPTABLE. I love Halloween. I LOVE IT. I love dressing up, and going to parties and generally indulging. And then a week later getting mulled wine into me around a bonfire and getting all ready for the cold. However lovely Malawi is, there is no cold, no bonfires, and no Halloween or Samhain or anything similar.

So, naturally, I planned for this, and brought Lovecraft's Omnibus 1: At the Mountains of Madness with me. I'm also trying to persuade the other ex-pats here to have a Halloween party. We're from all the corners of the globe (well, all corners of Europe, plus one Canadian), so my main selling point is the cake. CAKE! I am trying to persuade [twitter.com profile] saharacook to scan my graveyard cake recipe (carefully saved from Good Food for several years) so I can attempt it. It'll cost a small fortune, with every imported ingredient worth its weight in gold, but it'll be worth it, n'est ce pas?

I found a picture of it from a couple of years ago:

chocolate graveyard cake

Yes, yes. You are correct. That is indeed a CHOCOLATE GRAVEYARD CAKE with MERINGUE GHOSTS. And very delicious it was too. What with all the power cuts here I'm not sure I'll be able to get to the final product this year, but I can have a go, right?
kangeiko: artic ice with the sun in the background, and a sledge being dragged by dogs (TG adventure)
Safely back from Burundi. The placed was beautiful, but the conference was very stressful. I had hoped to have some time to write, and I did, a bit, but it really wasn't the most conducive environment for creativity, so I got neither of my [community profile] help_japan fics done, for which I apologise. I'd hoped to get them done by the end of June, but that's looking less likely by the second. I got back on Friday morning (by virtue of saying "sod it" and getting a flight a few nights earlier), and on Tuesday I leave again, this time for full immersion security simulations, complete with men in balaklavas and toting AK47s. Then I get back, repack, and set off for the Isle of Wight, to see an old friend I haven't seen for months. Then I get back, repack, and set off for women traveller-specific security training, i.e. The Rape Simulation Exercise. That one promises to be a barrel of laughs for all concerned. Then I get back, have a couple of days at work doing admin-y things, repack, and set off for the Superprix at Brands. Then I get back, have a week at work, and 84 celebrations are in that weekend. Then I have another week at work, and then pack and set off for the MSVR weekender at Brands Hatch. Then I get back, etc etc.

Basically, I will be lucky to have time to breathe, let alone write, for the next few weeks. GAH. My existential writer-angst is made all the more poignant by the fact that both of the people I bid on for [community profile] help_japan have already finished their fics for me, and OMG they are EXCELLENT. I mean seriously, overwhelmingly good. Stuck as I was with minimal internet connectivity, they even emailed me copies I could download and read offline, which made me a very happy camper indeed.

So, without further ado, I urge you to go and read the following excellent fic. Both are Top Gear RPF, J/J, and both are NC-17, so use your own judgement if RPF troubles you.

Wise Man by [livejournal.com profile] marginaliana [locked to AO3 registered users only] is set during the Middle East episode because, well, I was a little bewildered that no one was writing about it when it could be the source of so much angst. So I asked for it specifically, and [livejournal.com profile] marginaliana obliged with a sweet, angsty, hot fic from Jeremy's POV, centred around James's accident.

and

Well After All by[livejournal.com profile] blacktofade , which is also set during the Middle East episode, this time from James' POV. [livejournal.com profile] blacktofade asked if I had any particular wishes or kinks, and I immediately said, "awkwardness and uncertainty during first-time sex, please!" And Well After All delivers. Boy, does it deliver. Hot and funny and awkward and brilliant.

Both of these fics are absolutely amazing, and I swear I didn't arrange it to have one from James's POV and one from Jeremy's, but it made me insanely happy. You wanted Middle East fics? THESE ARE THE DEFINITIVE ONES.
kangeiko: (travel)
Safely stowed away in Abuja. Trip was almost summarily cancelled following the bombings, but I had a last-minute go-ahead from the Security Manager, and am now in balmy Nigeria. Despite all the security panics, everything seems to be going smoothly so far, although obviously I'm not actually allowed to go anywhere. Hopefully that will ease up a little in the coming weeks.
kangeiko: (travel)
Just a quick note to say that my internet access over the next month is going to be sporadic. I'm moving house (with assorted internet set-up shenanigans), and then I'm off to Africa for about a month. Normal connectivity should hopefully resume after I get back. I've already conceded defeat in getting my [livejournal.com profile] help_pakistan in by Friday, so I'm going to be running a little late on that. If anyone would be available to beta it once I get it drafted in the next couple of weeks (Sherlock fic, gen), that would be a real help. I'll have email connectivity pretty regularly on weekdays, so just let me know if you are available and I'll whizz it over once it's done.

See you all soon!

kangeiko: (travel)
Arrived safely in DRC yesterday afternoon following 2 days of travel and much derring-do at Nairobi and Kinshasa airports. Fell asleep almost immediately. Spent today on a field trip to the Congo river. Managed to take some pictures despite the police patrol. Then visited the head of our DRC office & his new baby (who is adorable). Am now back in the apartment, attempting to cook pizza despite the power outages. Tomorrow: the office!
kangeiko: (Default)
It is 1am, and I am (mostly) packed. Woohoo! Bed, then gym first thing, brunch with the birthday-licious [livejournal.com profile] athena25, last check that I have all my letters of entry (ZOMG I AM NOT A TERRORIST OR A SALESWOMAN, LET ME IN!!), passport, ticket, certificates of not plague-ridden, etc etc, then out the door and on a plane for approximately 234653743274hours. I shall reach Kinshasa at some point next year.

No idea on the level of internet access out there, so am pleased I got my [livejournal.com profile] yuletide sign-up in before travelling!

Dear Santa letter )

*

Bed now. Bed. *snooze*
kangeiko: (Default)
Ah, ha, I have survived! Triumph, yes.

The last few weeks have been stupidly, hideously busy, and the next few weeks perhaps even more so - but the end is in sight! Last weekend [livejournal.com profile] monanotlisa came for a visit, and we had a fabulous time visiting the Moctezuma exhibit, viewing the 'Ice Worlds' show at the National Maritime Museum, afternoon tea at the Wolseley, etc etc. Sadly [livejournal.com profile] athena25 has not been well, and I send my poor lamb lots of love - but she is back this weekend, woohoo! Also, Halloween party, oh yes. *beams* I stayed up late last night sewing costume... or, well, costume-like thing, at any rate. It won't be quite up to the 'scary clown' costume the woman next to me at the John Lewis haberdashery section was painstakingly assembling, but it should do for hostess duties tomorrow evening.

I even got recipes etc all printed out. Now I just need to buy decorations and provisions for the Day of Cooking tomorrow, and I am all set. I hope that someone else is a dab hand with the mulled wine, as we all remember what happened the last time I tried to mull anything... we still haven't been able to get all the stains out, woe.

Then, next week - first week of Level 2 Arabic, oh my. My brain cannot cope with more stuff. But I have been studying like mad to get myself back up to speed, so hopefully I won't embarrass myself too much. Then [livejournal.com profile] athena25's birthday dinner (or pre-birthday dinner, as it turns out, as for the actual birthday dinner I am on a plane), packing at some point, presenting quarterly report to Director at work, then I am on a plane to the Congo, woohoo! Am a bit nervous that I am apparently not staying in a (nice, secure) hotel, but in an apartment (am similarly assured it is nice and secure), and so will have to hunt and gather for things like food. This will be complicated by me not being allowed to set food outside the door on my own... which should make things interesting! Any suggestions on things to do in Kinshasa gratefully received. I already have my 'to do' list:
1. WORK WORK WORK biscuit WORK
2. locate post office, send postcards home.
3. go to the ZOO! (and avoid getting mugged, notorious place, very sad, but OTOH, ZOO!!)

And - I'm so looking forward to Yuletide I could burst. Whatever else I may manage in a given year, this has become a firm tradition with me. :)

So: I'm not back yet, but I will be soon! Send me glitter pens in the meantime.

(p.s. anyone else vaguely watching Defying Gravity on the Beeb with one eye? It may be that I'm not paying enough attention, but... I don't get it....)
kangeiko: (Default)
I'm back! Did you miss me?

Zambia was mind-blowing. We worked SO hard, and did SO much work, and there was still so much wonderful stuff in between! I have pictures. :) Heavily edited, as I took 510 pictures/vids when I was out there.

Zambia pictures )

*

Getting back had been interesting. I am suddenly on holiday, and somewhat at a loose end. Today I had a wonderful day pootling about town with [livejournal.com profile] wingsmith, shopping and eating at the Wolseley, and wandering down Jermyn street, and, oh yes, running into David Boreanaz. You'll notice the slightly shocked look on my face. He was really very lovely indeed.

David & me )

Thankfully, a little later there was an amazing cheese shop, so my sense of reality returned, intact.

*

Things for next week: I shall be working on my Multiverse fic, and meeting up with lots of people I haven't seen in ages, and reading all the books I bought, and mostly enjoying the sunshine. If you're in London and fancy meeting up, drop me a note. I am currently footloose and fancy-free.
kangeiko: (travel)
Arrived stupidly early yesterday, am settled in the lodge now. Also, lodge = paradise. Saw giraffes and hear lions roar and there's an amazing pool and acres and acres of gorgeous land, and the meeting room is on top of a hill, with spectacular views across the whole reserve.

It's almost a shame to have to work...
kangeiko: (travel)
Where Air France allowed me to check in two suitcases, British Airways, for no apparent reason, only allows one.

*unpacks*

*repacks*

*things do not fit*

WTF.
kangeiko: (thoughtful)
When Rebecca Lolosoli started talking about helping some of the women raped in Sumburu district, Kenya, the men where she lived beat her and tried to kill her. Her husband did nothing. So she left.

And instead of running away, instead of giving up, she set up a women-only village: Umoja Village.

Read the interview with Rebecca. (hat-tip: [livejournal.com profile] african_studies).
kangeiko: (travel)
Don't you hate it when ridiculously lucky and privileged people bitch about their perfect lives? It pisses me off. So indulge me while I do the same thing, painfully aware of just how ridiculously lucky I really am.

I'm headed off to Zambia for two weeks in June - work trip. As I will be there for 2 weeks, I will have weekends in Zambia, two of them, in fact. And a trip to Victoria Falls. I am then thinking of taking 2 weeks of holiday. And do I know what to do with those 2 weeks? Do I, buggery. The very idea is giving me heartburn.

1. The initial thought was a week's safari in Zambia, followed by a week's lazing about on a beach in Zanzibar. This was nixed, as it would involve me flying 4 days out of my 14 days of holiday. Flying is a necessary evil for me, so I'm keen to reduce my time spent in the air. Also, it turns out that half the office will be in Zanzibar at the same time, and it's a small island. Anyway.

2. STA travel is doing a 9 day trek from Zambia through Namibia, Botswana and South Africa for a very reasonable, all-inclusive £500. A veritable snip. But it does, of course, involve trekking. And, er, camping. I thought I'd been camping when I went on safari in Burkina, but it turned out I'd been staying at a mid-range hotel. OK, then. Also, I had to have someone come to take the cockroach away because it upset me, and I couldn't cope with the heat and had to sit in air-conditioned bliss for hours at a time to recover. So I'm thinking I'm maybe not the camping - or trekking - type.

3. There is an option to say 'sod it' and fly back into London, then go spend two weeks in Europe. Visit [livejournal.com profile] monanotlisa and [livejournal.com profile] selenak in Germany, swing through Austria, crash with a friend in the Czech Republic, the works. Yeah-no. Have you seen the Euro against sterling? It would cost a fortune. Weekend, yes, two weeks, no.

4. There is the option of ... doing something else. I am at a loss as to what this would be. Ideally, I'd like something that I can only really do in Zambia (or at least that part of Africa), followed by dedicated relaxing time. HELP. I've never really had the chance to have a proper holiday (the last time I took a two-week holiday was just before I went to uni, and I went to Bulgaria to visit my grandparents and my aunt and cousins and every single of my parents' friends, it felt like.). So I don't really have a lot of experience of being at a loose end, and I don't want to go crazy from boredom. But I think that a 'roughing it' safari is possibly not for me. That said, 2 weeks of a lodge safari would bankrupt me, as I am bankrolling this through the magic of credit cards and the rationale that as I'm going to be in Zambia anyway, it would be a shame if I didn't do X Y Z.

Anyone have any idea? *plaintive look* I'm all up for having the time of my life... now if only I knew how to get it!!

Jet-setter

Mar. 23rd, 2009 08:50 pm
kangeiko: (Default)
Work's sending me to Zambia in June. I'm taking the initiative and booking two weeks off to spend on holiday when I'm out there, once the conference is finished. Current plan: a week's safari in Zambia, followed by a flight out to Zanzibar, and a week's lazing about on a beach in a 5* lodge on a private island.

Sometimes, my life is good.
kangeiko: (travel)
I feel sorta sick. Vaguely flu-like symptoms. Most likely flu. Could also be malaria. *shrug* Stupid mosquitos.

Anyway! Some pics from my visit. More pics, and lots of commentary, later.

The capital: Ouagadougou )

I'll cover my trips outside of Ouaga later. I haven't included pictures of the first aid courses we took - let me know if you'd like to see those! I also have lots more pictures of the whole group - although it was just myself and colleague T by the end, we started off 30-strong at the beginning of the stay...
kangeiko: (atia of the julii)
Just a very quick note to say that I got back safely yesterday, and fell asleep almost immediately. Got haircut today, lost a good two inches of dry hair & split ends from the sand and dust. Have tomorrow & Tues off; looking forward to resting up. Pictures and commentary to follow soon.

alive

Mar. 3rd, 2009 10:21 pm
kangeiko: (travel)
Feel better, through water and willpower. OK, I don't feel that much better, but I didn't miss any training I was meant to deliver and that's the important thing.

Teaching amusements. )

Am going on a field trip next week, either to the place that recently had a series of ambushes, or ... to a different place. I'm hoping it's the different place. I reminded the guy organising it that while I'm as keen as the next clueless first-time visitor, if I end up ambushed my manager will not be pleased. And she is scary.

I suspect that I shall be going to a climate change project someplace nice and ambush-less, as this is where they are taking a bunch of journalists this week.

But I will most definitely be staying over at the game park when we go this weekend. Well, unless there's no room. I don't camp!

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