Clichéd tourist activity alert

Chuck ingredients in wok - stir - eat. Simples.

It feels a bit redundant posting about Thai food, since it’s not exactly one of the world’s lesser-known cuisines and a Thai cooking course is pretty much de rigeur for anyone who spends more than a couple of days in the country. Despite the alarming quantity of ingredients required by most recipes, the actual process of cooking a lot of Thai dishes is pretty straightforward, consisting as it does of the following steps: 1) throw ingredients in wok; 2) stir vigorously; 3)  profit eat, which is an effort within the grasp of even the most reluctant cooks. I rather suspect that there is slightly more to it than that for things beyond the great trifecta of farang fuel that is green curry, tom yam kung, and pad thai. Not that I’m objecting; all three are delicious, and after three months living kitchen-free it was fantastic to be able to cook again.



Pink, sweaty and eating coconut ice cream: me for the next three months.

I don’t remember a huge amount about Bangkok from my brief visit here seven (seven! This is terrifying to contemplate, my gap year feels like it was over yesterday) years ago – just the air so thick that you almost had to swim through it, and the smell of fried noodles, exhaust fumes and rain.

None of that has changed: the mugginess is still unbearable and the shortest walk leaves you dripping with sweat, the pollution is if anything worse, and the street food remains astonishingly good (I am unsure how I missed spicy papaya and peanut salad last time round, but am I ever making up for it this time). I am still busy working out how a person actually exists in this kind of climate, and will update as and when I find out.

Addis Ababa

I am in Addis Ababa, in one piece, and taking advantage of a temporary steadiness in the office internet connection to finally update this blog. Outside, a religious meeting in the local stadium is not letting the rain get in the way of proclaiming the good news as loudly as possible. There is always either a religious meeting or a football match, whatever the weather; they sound much the same from a distance, except the quantity of hallelujahs is rather greater from the former.

That is probably a cockroach right above my head.

I arrived in Ethiopia, settled myself in my hotel room, reached an entente with the cockroaches (floor at night – if you must, wall or bed or anywhere during the day – face the wrath of my flip flop), and presented myself at the office to discover that everyone who I needed to speak to had disappeared off on a training course for two weeks. This is slightly trying as I have a lot to do and not a huge amount of time in which to do it, but I have hope that my carefully cultivated do-it-all-at-the-last-minute skills will save the day in the end. With not a huge amount to do until everyone comes back, I am spending my time at the office reading several dozen identical reports on climate change and the environment, climate change and women, climate change and the environment and women and so on ad infinitum. It is a mystery to me the way that every single NGO and think tank and international organisation feels the need to produce its own report on the subject, since they all say more or less the same thing and have no particular recommendations to make which have not been made a dozen times before, and I would’ve thought they could save some effort by pooling their resources. On the other hand, it does help immensely when you are trying to bulk up your literature review and reference list, so I suppose for the moment I am in favour of this vigorous level of productivity.

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Baku to Almaty #1: the Caspian ferry

Crossing the Caspian in an academic. Surprisingly comfortable.

Waiting for the Kazakhstan ferry proved a depressingly Beckettian state of affairs. My companion in this endeavour was Juergen, a German backpacker who’d missed the previous ferry by twenty minutes, having waited a week for it beforehand and was thus understandably losing his sense of humour slightly. After a week, the only news that we had received was from a rather wild-eyed Filippino tourist who’d just taken the ferry from Turkmenistan and whose English wasn’t great, but the phrase (accompanied by a lot of emphatic gesticulating) “it’s hell” came across pretty clearly; we had just begun to reluctantly investigate flying, when I got a phone call from the tourist office. “The ferry is leaving in an hour. I think maybe you should go now!”. Right.

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