Diary of an Adventure

Copenhagen Adventure

The world quiet, blanketed in mist for the 50 minute walk to the office. Alongside the water, I was accompanied by Gods, Legends, Hero’s, Nursery characters, Monuments and Dreams. Trees bare sentinels, branches etched charcoal through the whiteness. White, redefined by the stark beauty of a swan. Incredibly, with winter still holding tightly, a bank of yellow blossoms.

Excellent hot smoked salmon and a 2009 Chateau La Prade, on special that demanded to be sampled, for our dinner looking out at the impossibly blue twilight skies.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Next lot of linen washed and sorted for the ever swopping of beds as we cycle people through Juba Town.

Our Innovation Dinner in the new Tukal had a different twist with Sher deciding that his innovation was to use the local chefs who provide the daily food for us to do the cooking and to teach them how to prepare and cook Afghan food. The capacity building that is at the heart of what we do.

A hazy morning, the sounds of drumming and singing from the IDP’s. After a night of gunfire it all seems a tad disjointed. Reflected in my portrait of an old women, ‘Gogo’. My energy not quite at the levels I would have liked. In harmony with her environment, the essence of life, yellow highlighting her vitality.

Meetings with government officials to look at priorities for the stabilization of Bor, the Ghost Town of Jongelei. Disposing of wreckage while respecting ownership and environmental considerations. Getting the market functioning. Providing access to safe water. Ensuring that women and other vulnerable groups are safe. While rapidly deciding on what a future city in South Sudan should look like, are some of the deliberations. This while further north Malakal is under attack, making one wonder as to the futility of struggling for funds for another project that may be swept aside by madness.

Went out for my jog under overcast skies the sun hiding under its blanket of cloud. Amazed to see a bokkie in the road! The first bit of Africa wildlife I have seen in South Sudan. They have closed off a new section of the loop around the PoC area, so I had to change my route again. Its now a figure of eight, of sorts, and I think its a tad shorter so will need to see how to get an extra section added.

Lots of soldiers around Juba Town on our way through to the office. Vehicles loaded with weapon toting soldiers. Some crazy with lights flashing emerging from the dust in the middle of the road, others on motorcycles, or walking.

Coffee with Rachael (our environmental, security, gender person) to see if we can do anything positive on the environmental side of the PoC. We have dirty great bulldozers clearing the ground, with scant regard for anything that’s in their way. Large trees are needed for shade, although with 30,000 people expected to be housed there, I’m not sure they will survive the charcoal making process and wood fires for long. Watching the latest pictures on the news, with child soldiers evident, we did wonder if we were creating recruitment camps rather than PoC sites??

Bistro humming with a new wave of young humanitarian workers. Hair still shiny, ears pink from the sun. A few of the older hands sprinkled amongst the crowd, looking slightly rundown. A bit like an old gardening hat that kind of blends into the hatrack.

A tad surprising to be signing a gazillion contract documents, which together with a slight upward tilt in the revenue column indicates that work is underway.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Long night with the team, being available to talk. Endless wait in Entebbe for the flight and then total chaos at Juba Airport. No aggression. Simply chaotic as luggage from the arriving flights was stacked in mounds where it was impossible to get to between the crush of people, customs inspectors and the great big X-Ray machine that wasn’t working. The sun blocked out by the incredibly tall South Sudanese, who formed a wall of black skin covered in brilliantly coloured fabric.

Our program lies shattered across the breadth of South Sudan. Numbers showing the harsh reality of a lost dry season and the security crisis that continues to limit our ability to work. Creativity stretched in finding working methods to respond effectively to donor requirements and work schedules, already delayed by months. The balance between resources, reality and the building work load that is waiting for the first opportunity to unleash itself on our ragged operation. That spirits remain high, and there remains such willingness to find the craziest of ways of getting access to remote parts of the country, only highlighting our lunacy rather than tenacity.

I slept well despite the large volumes of snoring coming from the 3 guys spread around the lounge. Shower juggling time with guys trying to find their bits in their suitcases while finding space to hang towels and place the various toothbrush and shaving bits. They certainly don’t design bathrooms for this.

Took myself off for a jog on a cool morning with the sunrise. Sporadic gunfire in the distance, with the birds and barking dogs the sounds of Juba Town waking.

We have moved people around offices, sorting out the accumulated clutter that seems inevitable. One office, with four people had 18 staplers, with umpteen boxes of pens and pencil. While another had three copiers and six printers.

The refurbished Tukal is operational and I’m again able to get an omelette for breakfast and chicken for lunch. Its clean, functional and almost hygienic.

Around Juba Town, the morning traffic is back to its chaotic best. With roads shrouded in dust, they are selling red Valentines roses.

Time to sort my next painting.

Diary of an Adventure

Brussels Adventures

Brussels, with the sun shining, the wind a tad on the bone chilling side, full of the sweet smells of waffles. We walked through the Grand-place, the gilt on the buildings showing off in the last of the afternoon sun. Excellent music from buskers meant that we had an afternoon music festival as we wondered around. Not too lost.

For our lunchtime meeting, Carmen took us to La Fattoria Del Chianti, where we were happy to follow her suggestion of a home made linguini with artichoke and bacon bits. Scrumptious.

Dodgy wine from the dive around the corner, where they sell anything you have money enough to pay for. My Douglas Green, bottom of the barrel, wine at R100.00, only made reasonable by the fact that in the hotel it’s that per glass, or an equivalent for a coffee. Beer, is half the price.

One of Terry’s excellent decisions was to get us a couple of Reidel travel glasses. Every traveller should have these in their suitcase, as they improve anything you put into them. Fortunately, we have found better wine, along with excellent food. By chance we ended up at Mamy Louise in the Louise district. The food was tasty and elegant, the service good and the apple tart exceptional. In fact, I wouldn’t even bother with food next time, as the apple tart needs more than one serving (already generous) to be truly appreciated.

Tough meetings looking at funding priorities and what, if anything, makes sense, against the backdrop of ongoing chaos in South Sudan. Increasing reports of the mass killing of civilians and destruction of property not making it any easier. Our strategy of moving offices around, changing peoples jobs, and places to stay, to drive home the fact that Juba, and South Sudan have changed was well received, and something the EU will consider for their own return to South Sudan. The focus on ensuring that we control risks through adequate planning and documentation that does not rely on the individual was seen as a strength.

The early evening commute through the darkening city. Trees, black sculptures, shadows thrown by street lamps, dark shapes of beggars huddled in dark doorways, hands outstretched. The welcome warmth of a coffee shop. The endless divestiture of coat, scarves, gloves, bag. Exhausting.

Dinner at Carmen’s loft apartment, with far too much food, great wine and conversation that traversed the world, cultures and time.

The Iceberg, an interactive art installation that changes sound as you move through the space. The blue light on a cold winter night alive and vibrant.

François in Sainte Catherine, chosen for the menu which had fresh coquilles Saint-Jacques, on Terry’s ‘must have’ list. I had Skrei, a seasonal Norwegian cod from the Barents Sea, which we enjoyed with an excellent French Chardonnay. Guess I didn’t need the Belgium chocolate mousse, but it was every bit as good as anticipated. The tart wild berries amazing.

The cards of my South Sudan paintings were well received, and were a great way of acknowledging the support we have received from the various parts of the EU. My bag is packed with new canvases for the next adventures.

Messing About with Paint

A Winters Day

Charcoal and Acrylic on Paper 23cmx30cm

The dark trees, silhouettes of the bridge over the canal. The hint of people against the buildings, with bits of light reflected off the water, provided a wonderful tonal painting opportunity.

The charcoal dominates, creating a somber painting, with mushy dark brooding colours. Not what I was after at all.

Diary of an Adventure

Adventures in Amsterdam

Its cold. No rain, and I think there was something that could have been sunshine. A brief spot that wasn’t quite grey. The flower market, a rainbow leading to the golden wheels of cheese.

Our dinner (Pheasant schnitzel and scallops) was artfully presented, with dashes of veg. The bottle of water (organic, sustainable, green, recycled, expired, carbon neutral) cost more than the glass of wine. The cheese bits, a tasty end to the day before we collapsed. That, with all this Green focus they have plastic, or lousy silk flowers on the tables, is beyond me. Particularly in this city of bulbs.

Terry’s trashed ankle forcing us to reconsider how we move around the city. We used the tram out to the Van Gogh museum, where a wheel chair made our lives much easier. The gallery wasn’t packed which gave us a chance to enjoy the bits that caught or attention, while whizzing past the rest.

Loved his painting of ‘The Blossoming Almond Tree’, which was new to me. Very Japanese in its simplicity and style. Quite beautiful.
‘My work was going well, the last canvas of branches in blossom–you will see that it was perhaps the best, the most patiently worked thing I had done, painted with calm and with a greater firmness of touch. And the next day, down like a brute. Difficult to understand, things like that, but alas! it’s like that.’
Letter 628. Vincent to Theo, St. Rémy, 15 April 1890

The painting of fishing boats at sea, ‘The Sea at Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer’, was very special. The blue, green and yellow of the sea are full of movement, but it’s the red signature, and red in the boat that I found captivating. According to his diary; ‘there’s a very outrageous red signature, because I wanted a red note in the green.’ Vincent to Theo; Arles, on or about Monday, 13 August 1888. Unless you see the original painting, the red in the boat isn’t obvious and can’t be seen on the print.

We did manage the walk up from the station back to the hotel. Barrel organs (which according to the Lonely Planet Guide on Amsterdam, is the equivalent of “Murdering Street Music” http://www.dutchamsterdam.nl/293-amsterdam-street-organs-leave-the-street-for-the-museum) and a glockenspiel. Distinctive, unexpected joy.

The sun came out and Amsterdam brightened. The canals seemed like a good way to enjoy the sunshine, see the city and rest Terry’s ankle after forcing it to climb the gazillion of stairs in the Anne Frank museum. We found a spot out of the wind for a coffee, wondered through one of the artist supply shops. A treasure trove to return to! Lunched in a busy cafe style spot and walked through one of the designer food emporiums, where everything was organic, green, recycled, carbon neutral, sustainable, and beautifully displayed.

Cold evening. The Italian Restaurant on the corner warm and inviting. My pizza turned into a delicious veal with Gorgonzola, and Terry had salmon. The brinjal melanzanne , surprisingly good. The service a revelation, in this city that seems to pride itself on sultry service.

The Hermitage in Amsterdam on a grey, rainy day, to see the Gauguin, Bonnard, Dennis exhibition, A Russian Taste for French Art. Remarkable in that one is able to get close enough to the works to see how the colours were layered, and how they used their brush strokes.

The portraits, in black, red and white chalk, by Paul-Cesar Helleu were excellent and there was a painting ‘Kinderen’, by Edouard Vuillard that I enjoyed. The Rodin, was magnificent, and as with previous exhibits of his work, the shadows created new dimensions. Amazing.

A tad worried that Terry thought I was off ordering water and apple cake, rather than wine!