Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

28th March 13

Rain over Addis Web

Rain over Addis
Oil on Canvas 40cmx40cm

Thunder rumbling over Juba Town, the scramble to ensure staff are safe as reports come in of over 100 South Sudan military casualties from fighting in Jongelei, reportedly heading towards one of our project sites. The airfield, a priority project to make it accessible for fixed wing aircraft has demanded bunches of time to unblock the finances unblocked within our systems.

The thunder also a warning that the rains are on their way making travel within the country almost impossible. This with our twenty truck convoys waiting to depart, while others are being hijacked and fuel stolen (we use 3,000 liters per day at one of our sites) grinding our refugee response to a halt.

Early jog on quiet roads with glimpses of the full moon between the clouds. Lightning flashing in the distance. Glad I had my lamp, as corrugated iron sheets and been blown into the road, which I would never had seen in the dark. On the way back, the call to prayer over Juba Town.

In Juba Town, road crews have been sweeping the sand off the streets which keeps the dust down but has taken away my jogging surface. A few rainstorms should bring the sand back.

Dinner at Da Vinci watching the Nile, with Laura, one for Ian’s postgrad class mates in York. She is in Juba for a couple of months doing research for her dissertation. The traffic coming back was nuts.

I ignore the bunch of proposals and stuff that were piling up on my desk and spent the day painting, ‘Rain over Addis’. My sky and clouds looked flat and dead, so I scrapped the whole lot and started again. Much happier. Even if the clouds look like a bit crazy with wild colours and the focal point seems to vanish from the page.

The apartment looks empty and dusty with the paintings all packed. Only the latest one is still on the easel, with dirt marks on the walls where others have rested. The coffee machine is cleaned, as I start the trip back to the vineyards.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

22nd March 13

Jog time and there was even another headlamp jogger out! I felt as though I had a dozen disconnected parts. My calf was cramping, my head doing its boiled thermometer bit, my lungs the wounded buffalo impersonation and it felt like with each step I was trying to shatter the ground. Glad I was only on the short route!!

Drivers pulled from trucks and set upon with whips and batons by police for allegedly not stopping quickly enough. Within the first fifteen minutes of a relief convoy of construction equipment leaving Juba for Yida, to get access roads built before the rains make it impossible to get assistance to the refugee camp, taxes and levies are demanded by police, at a road block.

Refugees fleeing the fighting between the SPLA and rebel groups in Jongelei mean that equipment needed to build the airstrip so relief supplies can be brought in is diverted into building a camp for the displaced. Humanitarian needs a higher priority. Evacuation of staff, for whom the risk has become too acute. Contractors, counting the cost of burnt trucks and equipment, inflate prices for the risk ensuring that any meaningful cost justification becomes impossible.

Guess one does have to wonder at the sanity of a person who works out that they save 25% of their time signing the piles of contract documents by starting at the back page and working forward, rather than starting with the first page.

Persian New Year, Nowruz, the first day of spring. Sogol cooked us dinner, full of mystery and symbolism, which we enjoyed in the new dining room at Jogchum’s house. They have transformed a dingy dump, into a light open space that is simple and extra special in Juba Town. Dishes of tah dig, a crust (made from yogurt and butter) that’s layered on the bottom of the rice pan before being covered with Basmati rice. Not any old Basmati rice, the grains are selected to be whole and the longer the better! Accompanied by a pan fried Kebab, and yogurt and fresh herbs (mint, parsley, basil, spring onion). I disappeared before the wine situation become serious.

Sogol’s quick recipe:

Tah dig
If it’s packaged Basmati Rice you follow the instruction on the package if it is the unprocessed basmati rice the instruction is:
1- Soak 1 cup of rice per person for at least 2 hrs with generous amount of salt
2- Bring fresh water to boil and add the rice
3- Boil until soft to touch
4- Pour out the water and rinse the rice so the salt is gone
5- Add vegetable oil( don’t use olive oil or as the bread and rice will stick to the bottom of the pan) on the bottom of a deep pan and line with thin layer of lavash bread
5- Add the rice and drizzle with Saffron water on top
6- Steam on high heat for 20 mins and then reduce the heat to low for another 25 mins, keep the lid closed during this time
7- Serve the rice and Tah dige with your meal


This is a home cooked frying pan kabab, made in many Iranian family homes

Ingredients (for 4 servings)
– 100gr of minced beef per person
– 1 large onion, finely chopped
– 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
– 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
– 1 teaspoon of turmeric
– 1 teaspoon of sumac (optional)
– salt and pepper as needed
– 4 tomatoes thinly sliced

Mix the meat with the chopped onion and garlic and the spices. Pour small amount of olive oil in a frying pan and spread the meat mixture to make a big pancake like shape. Cut the meat into pieces and put on slow heat. Half way through turn the meat pieces around and add thinly sliced tomatoes on top and let the meat cook all the way through.

You can let the meat get a bit crispy as well if you like and then serve with rice, yogurt and fresh herbs (mint, parsley, basil, spring onion)

Diary of an Adventure

Adventure to Addis Abba

St. George Gallery Addis

With no shuttle bus around, I opted for one of the ancient, matchbox sized yellow (those in the city are blue) airport taxis. The door sort of closed, and as long as there was a strong smell of petrol, the engine worked. With the driver chatting on his cell phone, it want long before the car went in a different direction to where his steering wheel was turning and we crashed into another, equally decrepit vehicle. The two drivers sorted themselves out, and we carried on the hooter substituting for brakes.

St. George (The dragon slayer who helped Ethiopian forces defeat the Italians in 1896) is a name that I passed a zillion times on my walk, and is now on the beer bottle, which seems at odds with the call to prayer drifting across the city from my perch amongst the lush gardens and fountains of the Sheraton Hotel. Not where I’m staying, I might add. That’s down the hill, past the beggars and street children, broken pavements and the traffic.

Ethiopia is the oldest Christian state, with the St. George cathedral built in the 1800’s one of the dominating features of Addis. I only made it as far as the St. George’s gallery, tucked in alongside the Sheraton in an old Italian villa. Vibrant paintings, sit comfortably amongst wooden artifacts. Antique silver crosses, made from Maria Theresa Thaler Dollars, glint under lights, while beautifully painted icons intrigue. I have a small wooden bowl for my Nespresso capsules.

The route from the Intercon to the Sheraton seemed a doddle, which I turned into a bit of a trek as the entrance was around the super sized block. I arrived to register in a sort of sweaty heap, my lungs complaining at having to breath the clouds of black diesel smoke spewing from ancient busses. Traffic police should get danger pay.

At the Sheraton there is a lot of great art hanging in the hotel. I spent an hour wondering around looking at a wide selection of etchings, abstract stuff, flowers, and landscapes. I didn’t see any people paintings. A did pass an old man who would have been a brilliant subject but didn’t have my camera ready

Crossing the road has an element of courage and ability to judge the chances of the vehicle hurtling towards the intersection being able to stop. This includes judging whether the vehicles going in your direction will force their way into the intersection giving you a minute gap of safety. The stripes painted on the road seemed to be braking points rather than safe pedestrian access. In all fairness, the taxi drivers don’t understand what you are doing walking, when their services are available.

On the way back I did find the MuNcH German bakery and cafe, alongside a brilliantly coloured Ethiopian street cafe, selling rocket fuel. I opted for the cappuccino.

The African Union building is certainly impressive. Our walk took us to where it was marked on the map, only to find that it has moved. An old blue Fiat taxi quizzed us through the Saturday traffic and throngs of people to the new AU buildings. A bit like a scifi movie of the future amongst the blighted landscape. The intention?

The outcome document of the Ministerial meeting has been mushed to the extent that it now covers almost any eventually; Resilient, inclusive, robust, sustainable, peaceful society. A bunch of staff must have been working flat out to transform all the discussions into something that is readable and works as individual parts and as a whole. World Peace may be a stretch! No fist fights, but the verbal sparing got a tad robust.

Stomach bug had me changing plans to ensure that I wasn’t far from the hotel. Thunderstorms boomed across the city,reducing weekend revelry to clusters of people huddled under the meager shelter.

Cafe Limmu, renowned for its coffee, the civilized street cafe option. Clean tiled floors raised above the bustle of the street, with Jazz playing. The espresso head blowing.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

19th March 13

It felt very early to be up and out on the road for my jog and I felt a bit like a thermometer with my head overheating, despite the weather being seemingly cool. A woman came flying past me which didn’t do anything for the ego!

Finally got to do the painting, ‘Restless Youth’, of the group of young men from Lakes State, which has been on my list for awhile. It’s a painting of angles and shadows and probably not a painting that anyone will want to hang on their wall. However, it tells the story of South Sudan at this moment struggling for identity amongst strong ethnic divisions and to merge its war-torn past, with high expectations. Particularly those of youth.

At the office we have a new catering group, which means that I’m able to get my breakfast here again, particularly as they set up early, and it’s ready before the crazy connect the dots meetings start. They even do salad stuff!

A short hop across the Nile River, which needs extra time as there is a section of the Juba Bridge which has broken due to overloaded trucks, is the village of Rajaf. They actually call themselves the City of Rajaf, as it was here that Juba Town started before moving across the river. It’s a pretty place, with large trees and clusters of traditional huts, well maintained Catholic school buildings and a large red brick cathedral built during colonial times.

The building seems to be in good condition, and the tranquility of the setting has none of the horrors associated with the death of a large number of villages ‘the ground and walls were spattered with blood’, which occurred during the war which had its front line in Rajaf.

I did a charcoal and acrylic illustration of the cathedral. The adults, mere shadows amongst the red walls. The children, ethereal.

We did the opening ceremony for the road project. Listened and gave speeches to a group of mystified school children, the large herds of cattle passing of far more interest than any of us.

Anxiously we watch the skies, scrambling with the complex logistics required to get the convoys (20 trucks) of cement, bridge parts and machinery moved into position before the rains cut the transport routes. Made more complex by needing armed escorts in armoured vehicles due to the ongoing fighting in parts of the country. For now, mornings are overcast, and the afternoons supercharged with energy, breaking into the occasional thunderstorm.

Messing About with Paint

Rajaf Cathedral

Rajaf Web

Rajaf Cathedral
Charcoal and Acrylic on Paper
For Sale $450.00

A short hop across the Nile River is the village of Rajaf, dominated by its red brick Colonial era cathedral.

‘the ground and walls were spattered with blood’ following the killing of a large number of villages during the war which had its front line in Rajaf.

The adults, mere shadows amongst the red walls, the children, ethereal.

Messing About with Paint

Restless Youth

Restless Youth Web
Oil on Linen 50cmx35cm

A group of young men in Lakes State, South Sudan

A painting of angles and shadows and probably not a painting that anyone will want to hang on their wall.

However, it tells the story of South Sudan at this moment struggling for identity amongst strong ethnic divisions and to merge its war-torn past, with high expectations. Particularly those of youth.

Diary of an Adventure



Thunder and rain across Lake Victoria after a star filled night sky.

Here, almost everyone is glued to the TV watching the ongoing updates from Kenya on the vote counting. Apparently there are a couple of key constituencies that are still outstanding that will decide whether there is to be a runoff. Neither candidate is expected to get enough votes but with all the problems anything seems possible.

I walked up to where I had my meetings yesterday passing some amazing colonial buildings. Many unfortunately stuffing from neglect. The trees here are giants and something I will have to look at painting.

Fish eagles to send me on my way.

Diary of an Adventure

Brussels Adventure

Dinner at Carmen’s

On the flight from Dubai we had a medical emergency and were diverted to Vienna, which meant a three hour delay. I had missed my connection from Frankfurt to Brussels and they wanted Euro850.00 to put me on the next flight as there we no economy seats. Otherwise I would have to wait until the evening flight. They suggested the train, which I was in time for and so enjoyed the three hour ride through a grey-brown landscape, still very much in the grip of winter. A few patches of white from the last snow falls provided some relief.

The hotel is in the old European quarter of Brussels (Hence, I assume, the sounds that woke me were not shots!) very modern with a central art gallery. The current exhibition is photographs from a single light source, a bit like aura images. The restaurant is a circular structure, build a bit like a garden pavilion, with a small garden leading out to the surrounding buildings, which are a mix of textures. Bare concrete, wood, old exposed brick, stainless steel and ivy clad walls. Very restful.

My meetings, a ten minute walk under sunny, crisp skies, down to the EU centre next to the Leopald Park. Excited to see that there was a Kandinsky exhibition at the museum, unfortunately not on the dates I will be here.

As the evening was clear, I decided to walk down to Carmen’s house, taking note of the metro stops along the route in case I got too lost through the winding streets or the weather turned. About 5km, the first part of which was fairly uninteresting. Lots of people with luggage walking to and from the main station which was almost midway along the route, stopping under the street lights to consult maps before deciding on the lottery of which of the five or six streets to follow leading from the intersections. No simple four way blocks here! The last part of the walk, was downhill, the cobble streets well signposted with ceramic plaques high above any vandalism. Church bells rang out above the city and only one wrong turn took me to her apartment in the Moroccan section of the city.

In the very best, restless development life tradition, her loft apartment has interesting bits from her postings across the globe, reinforced by floors seemingly taken from a wooden sailing ship. The walls, a mix of satin finish and exposed brick and the central kitchen, a modern master piece. The table was all Italian, as was the food, with the exquisite old linen tablecloth begging for red wine stains. I was ultra careful, not to oblige!

Carmen cooked food from south-east Italy, the taste and textures exquisite. A first course of Orecchette pomodorini e acciughe (orecchiette si a pasta typical of the Apulia region in south-east Italy), followed by Mozzarella di Bufala affumicata e friarielli (smoked buffalo mozzarella cheese and special broccoli, both from the Campania region, which is her home).

Breakfast at the hotel, a feeding frenzy as a horde of business types, in a zillion shades of dark suits and jackets, descended for refueling before they get on with the important task of meetings. Think if I see a burnt orange jacket I will get it in protest! Escaped to the coffee shop for a cappuccino.

My day, done by mid afternoon; the sun, still out, I grabbed the chance to head out for a walk to some of the main sites of Brussels. The Jubilee park with its triumphal arch is close to where the hotel is, so went up there first, full of kids out enjoying the one of ten sunny days a year!

As with much of the city, there are bunches of beggars camping in doorways and protected overhangs. They aren’t aggressive and a few have dogs who are in excellent condition, even if the owners are seriously tatty.

I stopped and did the tourist thing of a beer overlooking the square before joining the commuter rush.

Back down across the city to the Grand-Place with its fabulous guild halls, glistening in the afternoon sunlight. The best part was stumbling across Mary’s chocolatier. They consider themselves to be the last artesian chocolate maker in Brussels, which doesn’t really matter, as the chocolate is scrumptious.