Sunday, 27 October 2013

We met an amazing cyclist today

We had the good fortune to meet an amazing personality today: a Nepalese cyclist, Furtemba Sherpa who has been cycling since 2003 to spread the message of peace and environmental protection. Liberia is his 100th country! 

"My name is Furtemba Sherpa and I am from Nepal (land of Mt Everest, the highest peak of the world) which is nestled between India and China. Cycling is my foremost passion and I have been cycling around the world since 2003 advocating world peace and environmental protection by endorsing the goodness of cycling hoping people will be encouraged to travel on their bicycle instead of an automobile. I have travelled through 100 countries so far and witnessed great pain and sufferings amongst people due to war and oppression - families torn apart by their ideological differences. Insecurities have led people to distrust and lose harmony with each other. Throughout my journey, I carry Lord Buddha's peace flag from his birth place Lumbini, Nepal. I have come to the realisation that a healthy environment and a peaceful world are deeply linked to each other - we cannot have one without the other. I remind people I meet that all of us are world citizens transcending borders, gender, race, religion and that what happens in one part of the world affects the rest of us."

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

School girls

Kavita and I nipped into Monroe Chicken next door to get some lunch and, just as we were turning left, we were accosted by a whole bunch of school girls. I've often seen them coming down Randall Street but today I got an opportunity to get a few 'snaps.' It felt like meeting thousands of flowers in bloom. It also reminded me of Malala and, how she is seen as a threat by extremists for simply wanting an education. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Stuff you can buy on Randall Street

Educational posters, just some of the stuff you can buy on Randall Street from the street vendors. You can buy fresh fruit and vegetables, egg sandwiches, doughnuts, rat poison, fake perfumes, shoes, socks, and tea kettles.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Totalitarian propaganda in democracies

The threat to bomb Syria was a great example of "political language" being used to justify war for peace. That great Obama moment supported by the French and almost British reminded me of George Orwell's 1984:

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. 
Ignorance is strength.” 

I wrote about it in an earlier post

But I also realised during a dinner party conversation that while Orwell was writing about totalitarian regimes, the irony is that this kind of totalitarian propaganda actually applies to modern capitalistic liberal democracies! 

What an irony!

Were you ever romanced with a heart-shaped kofta?

Vegetarians look away. 

Friday, 11 October 2013

I finally get my Masters degree!

I finally got my MSc in Violence, Conflict and Development. Almost four years after the fact, it feels wonderful to finally close this chapter of my life. The year in London itself was quite a difficult year itself and, snowballed into one epic disaster after another and, ended in the brutal murder of my boyfriend. 

The decision to go to London to pursue a Masters to further my UN career was in theory a great one but I ended up having quite a shitty year. Don't get me wrong, there were some great moments but I really struggled in every sense of the word. It cost me financially, emotionally and spiritually. 

When I had to abandon the degree and, come out to take care of Wesley's murder, the sense of failure and, all that the year in London represented, was a gaping wound in my heart for almost four years. I had a crippling sense of failure and heart break. It was always at the back of my head. 

But I got it done. Not to go and pursue a career but for the sake of getting it done. And, to stop having nightmares of me stumbling in hostels, examination halls and libraries. 

I almost didn't get the degree because my outstanding coursework which I mailed from Liberia shortly before going to the US to deliver my baby was a bit late. 

I appealed to SOAS and, this is what I wrote:

I have been living and working in Liberia, West Africa for the past 10 years, firstly with the UN and more recently in the private sector. I took a year out from 2008 to 2009 to get a masters degree in London to move forward in my UN career since a master's degree is an absolute requirement to move up the ladder. The year in London turned out to be very difficult personally for me for many many reasons and, I really struggled to meet deadlines and to focus on my studies. I failed to submit a crucial piece of coursework for a class called War to Peace and, hardly got started on my dissertation. I started seeing a Counselor to help me deal with depression and utter sense of being lost after exams. I believe a letter by the Counselor was filed at the Department. By the end of the 2009 summer, I learned that my partner was brutally murdered back in Monrovia and I abandoned everything to go back and attend to the crisis. After I attended to the last rites after dealing with the authorities, I decided to take over his IT company and, try to get back on my feet. I would not have been able to get a job in the UN again and was not interested either. I worked hard but always had my abandoned degree at the back of my head since it was such a sense of failure on top of the loss of my partner. I was finally able to re-gain a sense of balance and, afford to travel back to London in 2011 to convince SOAS to let me try to finish my outstanding requirements. I did! I of course could not stay on in London to start my studies and have access to a library. I had my university course books, notes in my brother's flat in London, and took them back. I started reading again, refreshing myself with concepts, requested access to the online library resources, and made up gaps by ordering books on Amazon USA and got my books shipped with my IT goods I was importing for my clients. I also made a friend at SOAS who was studied a year later who also brought me books now and then. I struggled a lot to read and write since I was running a business and, it was an emotional turmoil to find the motivation to be a student again. But I prevailed and, started to enjoy the topics and concepts I was grappling with. Since, I was writing on peace and justice while living and working in post-conflict state like Liberia where I myself experienced tragic loss, I found some amazing parallels to my own life. I finally completed my work and sent it with DHL in September 2012. It was a great sense of closure! I was sure that SOAS would take all my circumstances into consideration.

SOAS and particularly my Department supported my appeal and I got my degree. 

I am so happy and, really have a sense of closure. 

Getting coconut water on the way home

Thursday, 10 October 2013

My Favourite Desk Pictures of Myself

14 July 2004 UNDP

16 April 2005 UNDP

16 September 2005 UNDP

18 January 2005 UNDP

Friday, 10 September 2010 NATC

14 December 2009 NATC

UNJLC 2003

15 August 2012 NATC

4 April 2013 NATC

8 September 2010

22 September 2011 NATC
27 March 2012 NATC

2 October 2012

10 October 2010

16 August 2011

9 April 2011

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Kavita attends her first Nerd Nite

The presentations were: 
  • Accountability in Liberia: The winners of the Liberian Film Festival on Accountability– By Divine K. Anderson, Arthur J. Wahwehlee, Jr., and Dorcas Pewee
  • Big Data and Privacy--By Nouhoun Diarra
  • The Narrow Line between Coca and Cocaine Production: The Bolivian Example – By Georg Salamon
I think Kavita's favourite presentation was about the coca and cocaine production. 

Media makers

Watching the news last night on Al Jazeera English and notice that the 500 "African" immigrants sinking in a boat off the shore of Italy got hardly a few seconds compared to some lame football match on the grounds of the Buckingham Palace. I shouted back at the TV: "Who cares??????" And, of course, Haresh had to say, "Were you always this violent?" To which I shrugged and, said coquettishly, "Why yes."

When they say the media really controls and shapes news, it is true. Ironically, the same channel has this amazing programme called the Listening Post which talks about which stories media told that week and how and why.