A new arrival

Carmel arrived on June 15, 2017, a few weeks early, but very happy and healthy. There’s something exhilarating and scary about being handed your daughter for the first time.

Sitting on the steps in Kathmanu

I loved watching people hang out on the steps of the temples around Kathmandu. It seemed that people were happy just to hang out.

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Remember ICQ?

Just for fun I’ve logged in to ICQ. Seems no one uses it anymore.

News photo of the week

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The caption reads, “Keeping the Sabbath holy: An orthodox jew is chased by an Israeli police officer during a demonstration at a Jerusalem carpark which operates on Saturdays.”  It was associated with an article in The Australian on October 17.  I couldn’t find the photo online so I scanned it.

I’m not going to comment on the silliness of the situation, I just happen to think the expression is hilarious.

Gunung Ciremai Photos

The scenery was pretty spectacular even from the ground.  The rain clouds that seemed to be following us during our ride in suddenly dissappeared the moment we started hiking.

Look how energetic everyone was when we were setting off.  Compare that to the photos of us reaching the top.

At one point, our progress seriously stalled because of both fatigue and the strong desire to turn around and check out the scenery.

Here’s Sarah reaching the summit.

She was followed closely by Kastan.

I forgot to take a photo looking into the crater, but here’s one along the rim.

 

I personally liked this approach of brining a small folding stool and sitting at the top for hours enjoying the view. 

We set up camp right on the edge of the crater.

 

Off in the distance, other volcanos were poking through the clouds. 

The descent was much easier, and punctuated by frequent stops for snacks.

Howie had been waiting the entire trip to crack open his pack of Double Stuff Oreos.  They were incredibly tasty.

First Earthquake

The first earthquake in a new apartment building is a scary moment, especially never having experienced one before. A 54 story building sways like crazy.

Reasons why Canada should stay in Afghanistan

A colleague forwarded this article around the office, and I thought it was worth sharing further.  It makes a very strong argument for why Canada’s role in Afghanistan is critical, and why we should plan on being there well after 2009.   [full Maclean’s Article]

Everyone has seen the recent statistics of Canadian soldiers killed.  These numbers, combined with the cost of keeping our troops active have added up high enough to cause Stephen Harper to announce that unless parliament supports an extension, the government will pull out of military duty in the country and continue only with development funding.

Sometimes, however, the math is meaningful, because there are other important developments in Kandahar. The Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (KPRT) working with the Afghan government and aid agencies is the “build” part of the equation. Lt.-Col. Bob Chamberlain is the commander of the KPRT; he and his staff offered up some startling statistics. First, a polio vaccination program has nearly eradicated the disease in Kandahar province and throughout southern Afghanistan. Second, infant mortality in the region has taken a dramatic downturn. In my travels, I also noticed more and more children in evidence, many around the ages of 4 to 6, possibly the results of a post-Taliban baby boom. In other words, the next generation has a higher assured survival rate than the previous one, which was severely depleted due the effects of nearly 30 years of war. Even an Afghan friend of mine who lost both legs last year in an ambush is the proud father of a baby girl.

The need to nurture and protect this generation is obvious if Afghanistan is to survive as a viable nation. Co-operative aid projects with the Afghans might well make that possible, and these are finally getting to the areas where Canada has been most active. Bob Chamberlain’s KPRT force protection company, from the 1st Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment, is the “delivery system” for the Foreign Affairs, RCMP, Correctional Services Canada, CIDA and USAID representatives who either mentor the provincial government, assist Afghan agencies in assessing the state of affairs, or deliver direct aid. Known by the Afghans as “the Tabernac people,” sorties of Van Doos, over here from their base in Valcartier, Que., probe into an ever-expanding number of rural districts, at great risk. This is part of a new approach designed to help the Afghan people become partners and not merely aid recipients.

I am also amused by the Van Doos being known as “the Tabernac People.”

Customs in the news

A couple of Customs stories caught my eye today.

I had a good laugh with this National Post article about a Canada Border Services Agency notice on how to spot bikers at the border.  I remember that lesson in training.  I also remember being disturbed at the meanings of a large number of coloured wings.

And on the other side of the border, I look forward to seeing the outcome of this case where a judge had the common sense to have a second look at whether customs officers should be able to inspect the information on laptops at the border.

Personally, I think that Customs should be restricted to dealing with goods.  If the computer is not stolen, dangerous, or a weapon, they should need reasonable grounds to go snooping further.  I don’t necessarily buy the logic that you can leave your laptop at home, or that the innocent have nothing to worry about.  I can’t travel without my laptop, and I don’t want someone rifling through my financial records, and confidential work documents.

I think the most compelling argument is that trillions of bytes flow freely across borders without inspection (except in China) through the internet, yet when that information is contained on a physical device in someone’s bag then a government official has the right to examine every bit.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong isn’t nearly as chaotic as I was expecting. Coming from Jakarta, it was a real pleasure to be in an organized, functioning city. The fact that 7 million people can be move around such a small territory with such fluidity is absolutely amazing, and a result of the incredible infrastructure of the city.

Here’s the view from my hotel window at night. So far, it’s the only photo I’ve taken. I’m sure I’ll take more, but up until now I’ve been completely focused on shopping.

Hong Kong from my hotel room at night

I can also say that this is the first time I’ve stayed on the 54th floor of a hotel.

Bali with Peter & Liz

We went up into the hills of Bali for a weekend. It was a great, laid back weekend.

Of course, there were the requisite touristic visits to temples and such which necessitated the wearing of sarongs.
Peter in a sarong

Even the giant trees are wearing checkered versions. Apparently, the Balinese believe the trees have souls, and therefore deserve to be dressed modestly.

Tree in a Sarong

We wandered by the largest spider I’ve ever seen. He was big, black with yellow markings, and scary enough that I didn’t want to reach around to see what he looked like from the top.

Spider

At one of the temples, we each received our blessing from the priestess.

A random hindu statue that I liked.

At the rice terraces
Rice Workers

We took a cooking course at a Balinese restaurant. Liz is now addicted to tempeh.
Cooking Class

Puncak Tea Plantation

A couple of shots from the tea plantation. It was nice to hike around outdoors.

Tea Plantation

Tea Plantation

Tea Plantation

We crossed paths with a group of Scouts. There’s nothing quite like walking past a single-file line of kids who all want to practice their, “hi Mister!” Intimidating almost, although no where near as amusing as the group of school girls who wanted to take turns having their picture taken with Peter.