Messing About with Paint


Oil on Canvas 15cmx15cm

A small painting of Polly, ensuring that her ‘sheep’ don’t disappear

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Oil on Linen 35cmx50cm

I have too much stuff!!! Certainly not the backpack it should be. Granted, my painting bits are a fair amount of it, however there still seems to be a bunch of bits. Not that I managed to throw any of it away in the move across from the apartment to the house at the UN compound, Juba 3. A bunch of new security after the Mogadishu bombing.

I have set up the studio on the enclosed patio, with a fan to make it bareable. The temperatures under the metal roof are ugly. Painting at first light a must. I have my light stand for working in the evening if I can.

The various bits are unpacked, the Nespresso operational, there is red wine and cheese for dinner, my jogging route measured, the shower is hot, and I even have my own gecko! No linen as yet, so I’m using my sleeping bag liner. Haven’t figured the setting on the aircon.

‘Irises’, a painting from one of the many gardens in Japan. Nothing fancy, a bunch of purple smeared around the canvas, creating an undemanding, restful, painting.

A quick hop across to Nairobi for meetings. The trip through the city to Tribe no less harrowing for its familiarity. Nairobi also gave me the chance to get linen for my bed at Juba3, as well as few necessary supplies, such as cheese. After lunch with Chiba, I stumbled across a deli called Prime Cut at the Village Market. Splendid! Mature cheddar packed for its journey across to Juba Town.

As I was concerned that with my early departure to get ahead of the traffic, I would leave it in the hotel fridge, I parked my shoes at the fridge as a reminder. I was ready to head out the door and only when I turned to find my shoes did I remember the cheese. The affects of the wine from the dinner we had??

At the office in Nairobi, I bumped in Simonetta who I had last seen in Kabul. With Gerard in there for a course and Chiba, on route to Canada, we managed a lively, fun evening, not bothering to solve anything.

I have changed my exercise schedule, as getting in a jog before heading to the office was uncomfortable given the need to leave early to be across town ahead of the traffic. A bit nuts trying to squeeze everything into the first 2 seconds of the day. For now, the early evenings are cool and there are no traffic issues running the circuit around the compound.

The fairies have been to clean the place.

Diary of an Adventure

Yambio Adventure

Jungle RockYambio Western Equitoria State
Jungle Rock, Gangura near the DRC border

Yambio, on the border with the DRC, is a green world, of forests that stretch as far as you can imagine. We flew low over a sea of trees, intersected by rivers of pale green grass. A vast area without a person in site. Occasionally, a snake of brown is visible through the green, indicating a road, but for the most part it is mile after mile of green. The town itself is a nondescript collection of buildings on either side of trashed red dirt road.

Our landing was bumpy with the approaching storm, which broke soon after we arrived. The Minister was waiting and we rushed to go through the protocol stuff. MoU is signed!

The UNICEF compound where I’m staying, is built around an old colonial house that looks as if its constantly at war with the elements trying to swallow it. Big trees, the evening sounds of the tropics (with the generator of course), internet and even a warm shower. Not so sure about beans for dinner.

Gangura, is a village on the road we are rehabilitating to the DRC border at Nabiapai. A ride that does everything possible to dislodge your brain from inside your skull, brings you to the start of our work. The narrow track trough the 4m high vegetation, opens into what seems a freeway.

The opening ceremony differed from others I have been part of in that the singing was done by a youth group from the area. South Sudan rap in the jungle, with three gyrating dancers that certainly had the crowd awake. Don’t think the Bishop was impressed. While most of the speeches were predictable, the speech by the Chief to the ancestors was fascinating. As graves needed to be moved for the widening of the road he asked for their understanding by highlighting the benefits of the road for the development and security of the people.

The Chief Whip arrived in a pile of technical cruisers and serious men to claim his spot in front of the people. His blatant hijacking of the event as a political platform, claiming the development was a result of the hard work by the SPLM was humoureous and entertaining.

Lots of talk on the impact from the LRA activity in the area, which has displaced large sections of the population. Many are returning, with the road a key security link. Already there are numerous SPLA camps along the route to enhance security.

Our roads are indeed opening the area for logging, which at this stage is on a small scale. When you see the extent of the forests you wonder how it could ever be of concern, but of course we know that it doesn’t take long before the serious guys move in and cause major damage. Still something for the government to control. I did bring it into my speech as well in our debrief to the Ministers.

Back in Yambio after a long day in the field. Lots of small issues to address and major concerns about how we will work through the rain season. It rained this afternoon, turning the roads into skating rinks. If I’m exhausted, I would hate to know how the drivers feel from the concentration, wrestling the vehicles over these nightmare surfaces.

The forests are beautiful, although I imagine you could quickly get ‘green’ illness, from the layer, upon layer of green. No monkeys, elephants, or birds. They do have an abundance of incredible butterflies. In almost every size and colour moving almost too quickly to identify.

Diary of an Adventure

Nairobi Adventure


Tribe hotel Nairobi

Kenya, the iconic acacia trees against dark storm filled skies, lifting spirits, imagination as wide at the savanna.

The traffic is Nairobi is either stopped, or racing. At ridiculous speeds, through the streets to get involved – as rapidly as possible – in the next traffic brawl. Pedestrians charge across the three lanes, momentary shadows in the headlights. I was wrecked by the time we arrived at the very smart and comfortable hotel, Tribe. My room is luxurious, if affected by traffic noise.

I have no idea where I am actually in the city, other than close to the UN and the US Embassy. The hotel is full of Americans! Met Mr Bruce and a bunch of the managers for dinner at a long table in the lounge area to catch up and start the discussions that will dominate the week.

Security checks at the entrance to the hotel and its neighboring shopping centre, a reminder of the tension caused by the ongoing intervention in Somalia.

Dinner at a Thai restaurant, some twenty minutes drive from the hotel into the suburbs of Nairobi. The menu was extensive with some interesting choices, with a random selection for the bunch of us, which included sushi; a green chicken Thai curry;a shredded lamb dish; noodles and rice. Far too much food, which was very good if a tad spicy. A fleet of taxi’s brought us back to the hotel around eleven.

At the hotel, there was the opening of an exhibition of art, which included paintings and photographs. They had digital panels that showed the art on display in other rooms, which was innovative. The most interesting to me was the depiction of wild animals, almost like block print, but paint in primary colours on gold foil, by Alexandra Spyratos.

Grey and wet. Not that it disrupted my sleep! Too much wine???

I met Trevor and Rob, whom I haven’t seen since Afghanistan days, at a restaurant called Seven, in the Village. Bruce joined us after a bit. We have all changed, but not really. As expected the chat covered everything, and somewhere along the way, I think we decided that world peace wasn’t in our best interest. Although it would be great if the next war, or disaster, wasn’t in such lousy places.

Although they advertise themselves as sea food specialists, they have great steaks. My fillet on the bone was excellent. I did find that the butter medallion was too rich, and I couldn’t mange the marrow bit that came with the steak. Broccoli added some sanity to the dish. Belleruche Cotes Du Rhone, a smooth red, perfect.

Diary of an Adventure

Kyoto Adventure


Kyoto Adventure
The shinkansen (bullet train) whizzed us across from Yokohama, although no one told us that there isn’t any space for luggage, which you need to tuck under your legs somewhere. Very polite assistants offer ice cream, including the green tea option, which you have to judge carefully to make sure it’s eaten and the rubbish deposed of before you exit the train during its two second station stop.

Yakisoba noodles, tempura bits and a spicy beef onion dish in the Nishiki market. The place chosen for its cold beer advert, which after five hours of shrine stomping was a priority. Fortunately they brought Terry’s LV bag we left behind to us, and Terry found the 5,000 Yen note that I dropped on my way out.

The golden temple (Kinkakuji) was regal, its pond setting majestic. A bit ‘over the top’ sort of ostentatious, as apposed to the beautiful water lilies, bridges and pagoda at the Ryoanji Temple. Renowned for its stone garden, its a world of wonder. Dragons on screens, waiting to be woken. Gold fish shimmering in a patch of sunlight slanting through the delicate maple leaves, and water lilies inspiring Monet paintings.

We have found the secret to choosing the local supermarket. Find the spot that has a zillion bicycles outside, with their very own policeman to direct the flow. If you can get past the scary little old ladies who will kill you in a heartbeat if you are in their way, there is an Aladdin’s cave of options. Salmon and tuna sashimi, as well as prawn tempura, was where we stopped for our dinner.

Ladies in kimonos are, as promised in the guide books, seen on the streets, and although the drink looking over the river Kamo can be skipped (Supposedly one of the unforgettable things in Kayoto) the walk along the street leading to the famous area of Kiyamachi Dori Street is special.

Heian Jingu Shrine, are “Vermillion lacquered buildings that flourish from season to season”. A complex of buildings, surrounded by gardens and ponds with irises and water lilies creating multiple reflections. The pathways are swept in a herringbone pattern and at each turning there is another view through to a stone lantern, maple tree or building. A covered wooden bridge crosses the main pond, which has islands strategically positioned to give scale to the view. Amazing and well worth getting lost for. I missed the stop and we needed an additional 20 minute walk.

In vain, we searched for the fabled roaring dragons of Kayoto. A taxi ride across to one of the five great Zen temples in Kyoto, Shokoku-Ji, where the dragon has its lair, came to nothing. The building is closed for renovations, leaving us stranded with only a bad poster rendition of the dragon. Lunch alongside a pretty stream, some consolation.

Diary of an Adventure

Yokohama Aventures


Ice Sculpture – TICAD V Reception

Green, calm, gentle. Refreshing after the demands of being in Tokyo. Joggers, ice cream barrows and artists, sitting comfortably in the gardens along the harbour. This part of the city is stunning, with wide green avenues, elevated walkways, a mixture between modern and historic architecture, small interesting alleys, and pockets of secluded areas that are pedestrian friendly and full of boutique shops.

Hours lost watching the seemingly random movement of ships, harried by Border Collie like tugs. Excellent sushi while sitting at our incredible picture window at the New Grand Hotel (where Gen. McCarthur stayed after the war) that had views out across Yokohama Bay.

I did find out why I have had such a painful big toe, after dropping my suitcase onto it – again – in getting down the stairs from the pedestrian overpass. Our legs are battered after a week of walking, muscles unaccustomed to the dozens of stairs faced each day and the hard surface of nature, subdued by paving.

There was an amazing ice sculpture of the Yokohama skyline at the opening reception for the conference. The battery of cameras focused at the huddles of men who surrounded the Heads of State. Speeches, mercifully short; great food and excellent wine helped revive us after another long jet-lagged day. Fukushima chicken served to reinforce the claim that there is no lingering effects of the radiation leak following the Tsunami meltdown.

Needing to get a page printed, scanned and emailed proved to be a step too far. Trying to understand the Japanese, unworkable; communicating with the shop assistant, impossible. Terry patiently steering my frustration to the safety of Starbucks.

China Town, with its streets of food and tacky souvenirs. Lively, busy and colourful. Didn’t do the dumplings, as they were too large to manage as street food. Chiba took us to one of the places where we had a varied meal, including jelly fish, duck skin and prawns.

At the Sankeien gardens, purple irises are in full colour, hounded by a host of cameras, mine included. While the gardens are known for their collection of historic buildings, its the irises that grab attention. We were there for the week during which they open the gardens at night for the fire flies. In a sheltered gully, like something out of a children’s story book, the glowing dots held us mesmerized.

A collection of artwork from the Sankei era, amongst which is a stunning purple iris on a folded gold screen. The similarity between it and the approach taken by Monet in his painting of purple irises is striking, but hardly surprising given that Japan was the largest market for his work. The paintings have a delicacy about them that seem to add strength to the bold colour of the iris, rather than detract from it. The use of charcoal in some of the work was fascinating. Again with a lightness of touch that mine are missing.