First days on my first deployment as a stand by partner.

After having a hectic 4 weeks, I get to enjoy a day full to relax and unwind. As I write this , I am siting in a cafe at hotel I am staying in, eating a nice chocolate gateau and enjoying some local tea.

My trip started with a flight from Dublin to Rome, where I had one day to meet the Global food security team and got a quick refresher training on what I was to do as part of my new role as information manager for the food security sector in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. I would be working with the influx of Rohingya refugees, helping to gather and coordinate data across all partner agencies in what WFP had just classified as a level 3 emergency.

It was really great catching up with the team again, following on from the training in June, they were as helpful as always and reassured me they could help me at any stage if I needed their support. The team gave a debrief on what was expected and what I would be required to do. I left there thinking, ok I can do this, seems grand. If I only knew ( hint, after 4 weeks I get to write this ūüėä)

My first experience was arriving into Dhaka got off to a funny start. I was about to go thought security and someone was waving at me and calling me over. It seems they thought I was someone else who they had come to collect, so after establishing I was not that person and had a laugh over it, they kindly help me get though security and guide me with what paper work I needed to fill in. It is one of the things I love about travel, you met so many random acts of activities that take place.

From there, I met my driver, and I got to experience my first view of Dhaka traffic, all I can say is, WOW. I thought Cairo was crazy but this is a whole new level. My driver explained it is not uncommon to be in traffic for hours, and I can well believe it ūüôā You need to be a positive strong driver, move out when you get a chance, beep a lot to let people know you coming, and try to avoid everything around you!!

Eventually arrived at hotel and was told I could buy beer at hotel, at first I was wondering why that was special did they think it was important to tell an Irish man there was beerūüėāūüėā but then I realized, selling beer is not everywhere in Bangladesh, so that was why they made a point of telling me.

The following morning, I got picked up my driver and made my way to the WFP office in Dhaka. That was an experience, up and down between floors to fill in paperwork. And each time I had to sign in and out as I left a floor. By end of day, the security staff were laughing with me that I was back again and again. Of course, I made for the IT department who kindly set up my new SIM card, and got to have a quick tech talk with them. All of the staff in the office were friendly and helpful. Am very grateful for all of their support and help. Had my security brief, and when I told them what hotel I was staying in, they said, of very nice, you were lucky to get in there. So I figured well at least my accommodation in Cox’s Bazar must be nice.

After day in office, back to hotel, went for dinner there and as it was quiet, I got talking to local staff about sport as I waited for my food. Started off with football and then moved to a talk on kabaddi, the national sport of Bangladesh. I got to watch it on tv and the staff explained to me the rules and how is it played. Best way to describe is something to Olympic handball/basketball. Of course I then had to share our national sports so showed them hurling and GAA. The hurling they thought was a crazy sport ūüėä

I then went for a short walk around the hotel, trying to get an ATM, only to find that MasterCard is not commonly accepted, so it took the help of a local hotel staff to show me where there was a few other ATMs. Finally I could get out my money ūüėä I was now all set for my morning trip to Cox‚Äôs Bazar and my new base of work for 2 months.


New Irish President

So after all the talks and debates, we have a new Irish President, Michael D Higgins. Out of all that did run, he either got peoples number 1 or a lot of number 2’s. It will be interesting to see what direction he takes the presidency. He has also been someone who loves the arts, and a big¬†campaigner¬†for human rights, a very well spoken man, and has the nice quality of been able to add a little humor when he talks. I really hope that he will help push forward Ireland on the international scene when he gets a chance. At this moment in time with all going on in Ireland, banks failing,¬†government¬†looking for more powers, high unemployment and¬†emigration, people struggling to survive, Europe not letting us write of bad loans to their banks and a number of other things that a few years ago seems impossible, it may well be good to have a man who is passionate about life, arts and protection of the most¬†vulnerable, representing Ireland abroad. Someone who will sell Ireland to the world, show that while the country went though terrible times, the Irish spirit is still there,¬†bubbling¬†away under the surface, waiting for the day to come where it can burst back onto the International stage.

Busy week

This week started off with me cycling into work, first time this year, and nice to get into the mood for cycling again. Sadly, had not been cycling the ¬†previous week as I was recovering from a ¬†chest infection. The joys of air con buildings, they help spread infections around. Monday and Tuesday were fine, but on Tuesday night I woke up at about 5 am with a terrible pain in my lower back and it running all the way up my shoulder. Not a great feeling, let me tell you. After about an hour it seemed to die down, however, I still was not feeling the best. Drove to work that day and during the day still had a little pain at the base of back. On way home from work, decided to called into the doctor. He did a few tests and it turns out I now have a kidney infection. He thinks that my chest infection must have got into the blood and then infected my kidney. I have to like how he is I was very¬†unlucky¬†for that to happen, and then add, if this does not clear up with antibiotics I will have a series of tests to go though, X-rays¬†blood tests and the like. Hers hoping my luck improves. On plus side it did mean 2 days off work, and so a long weekend ūüôā ¬†Just now waiting for¬†Monday¬†to see if things have cleared up. If not, it could be a much longer break from work. ¬†Was happy I left my laptop at work on Wednesday, stops me from working from home when I should be resting.

Today I ¬†had to go and get my car its full medical, or NCT. This is where cars older than 3 years must get tested every 2 years to make sure they are safe for driving. Now some of the tests seem a little useless but am sure they there for a reason, other than making money ūüôā ¬†Thankfully¬†my car passed with flying colours. Just in time for the upcoming GAA league¬†campaign¬†where no doubt I will be around the country seeing how well Sligo get on. ¬†On down side with the price of petrol now almost 1.50 a liter, it is costing ‚ā¨60 to fill it, I might have to start driving at a very slow pace to get maximum¬†efficiency¬†out of the car.




New Start for Ireland ?

Been in Ireland at the moment, is a little strange. We have a Prime Minister who does not want to step down, even though rest of the country would like it. We have been bailed out by the IMF/EU due to problems caused by our banks, and to a certain degree each and every Irish person who thought the good times would last for ever, and kept taking the money the banks were giving out. It was not uncommon during the boom times to hear stories of people who went in looking for a¬†mortgage for one value¬†¬†and the bank to go, sure we will give you and extra few 10 of thousands. I remember when I first bought a house just before the big boom started and it was 3.5 times your salary. This started been increased rapidly, along with overtime,¬†bonus¬†and share holdings all been taken into account so that the bank could give bigger¬†mortgages. People took out loans from Credit unions to come up with the deposition on a 100%¬†mortgage. The whole idea of looking after money was gone. Salaries shot up trying to match the high living standard we now had, and people like me, out of Uni in their early 20’s at the turn of the¬†Century¬†had it all, jobs, work, travel, more liberal Ireland.

Now a few years on, 2011 looks a different Ireland, we no longer are the big spenders, more the careful, looking after our money, looking for value and now demanding things are done. While a lot of people still talk of doom and gloom, there is no doubt Ireland is in a much better place than the early 1990’s. One of the things that I guess really brought it all home to me was my year away working overseas. When you see the true horror of war and violence and the pain and suffering it leaves on families, it does in some way have an effect on the view you have. It would be great if this is the year following on from the last 2 years of doom and gloom, that Irish people do take that look inside themselves and start to push forward again. Look at the hope that is out there, try and do something for¬†oneself, rather than expecting others to solve the problems. We need to start to knuckle down, and build on our success again, learn the lessons, put in places laws that help prevent such recklessness and at the same time change old laws that do belong in the past, remove them once and for all. I can think of no better time to do a full route and branch reform of Ireland as now. Time will tell.



Catching up again

Well it has been an age since I last posted on my Blog. Decided to try and keep it up to date a little more, with updates once a week at least. Will see how that goes ūüôā This weekend, was down at the wedding of a good friend of mine, Aidan. The wedding was down in Tipp, all went very well, nice ceremony, good meal after and plenty of music and chatting was done into the early hours of Saturday morning ūüôā ¬†This was only my second civil¬†marriage, for friends reading abroad, most¬†Irish¬†weddings still take place in the Catholic Church. There is a move now towards more people having weddings away from the Church as the have opened up rules in Ireland, where you can hold a civil¬†marriage. Is great to see.

Rest of weekend has been spent, looking at what I can do to help out with St Vincent De Paul, and my work there each Tuesday evening. Thinking of ways of sharing information with all the volunteers and other groups in the area. Looking at google docs as a option, will see how that goes. Think it is important to be able to have all the information in one place and allow people to update and correct it as things change.  I have to say, am really enjoying the volunteer work with SVP, it has given me a view on a side of Dublin I did not really know about. It was there in the background under my radar. One can see the effects the economy is having on people who are just about getting by. While a lot of people talk about all the benefits people get, you can see it not always the case. The life is very different, with other challenges. Would recommend people all to try it for a few  weeks, even to get another view on the other side of life in Ireland.



Lost passport

My trip to Memphis had one down side. I lost my passport, not sure where it got lost but not a nice feeling when you know it is gone.
First port off call was to the consulate in Chicago and find out the procedures. I had to report it lost first at police station, then get all my paperwork together. As I was born in London this made it more complicated, as I have to prove how I got Irish passport. Mam is getting all the documents on her side, her and dad birth cert, their marriage cert and my birth cert. At the moment my birth cert has to come from London so just waiting on that.
Once all in place, they have to be taken to the local Garda station, have them write a letter to confirm all is correct sign and stamp it.
Then it is all faxed over to Chicago office where I drop in a form along with the faxed documents. All going well I should then have it in time before I due to leave.
I had to change my holiday plans and now going back to chicago a few days earlier so I can get it all processes. Thinking while in Chicago may explore up that part of the country.
On the plus side we were booking accommodation as we went so not a massive problem to change mid way. Guess south Carolina will have to wait for another trip to the US.

USA Part 2

Last few days have been interesting. After leaving Chicago we drove on to Memphis. Ronan decided he would prefer to fly to New Orleans, he already had been to Memphis. Ray and I headed off on the long drive down, stopping off along the way in the usual road side stop offs and seeing one or two local towns along away. That night on arriving in Memphis we headed out for a bite to eat and a few drinks.
Next morning it was off to see graceland, I not a massive elvis fan, but as in Memphis had to go check it out. The house was much smaller than I thought it would be. Everything was well laid out and you could see the organisation of the tours has been well refined.
After that took a spin out off Memphis to see what it was like away from it all.
The next part of the trip will be onto New Orleans.