Friday, December 2, 2011

A day at my desk

With the window shut my room smells strangely of cat. With the window open, sitting next to it at my desk, the cold breeze sneaking in makes me gaze out on the wider world. In the house Classic FM is playing, but outside is the gentle but constant rustle of the wind combing through the leaves still hanging on. A hidden crow coughs out it's croaking call. Seeing as it's only 1 o'clock maybe calling this a day at my desk is a bit much. However when the morning has been spent trying to fill out job application forms, I feel ready to call it a day. I might go for a wander and sit under the tree I've been looking out on every few minutes. Seeing as I want to work for an NGO geared towards saving the environment, it would be good practice to go out and appreciate the environment, wouldn't it?

Ah, the job hunt

After graduating I spent three years travelling and teaching English. I even have a Cambridge qualification to help me along with it. Unfortunately, I'm a little tired of living abroad, not knowing the language or understanding the culture. So it's been back to the UK for me. However it kind of means back to square 1 for me, like being a recent graduate all over again, except now I'm 24. During an era of record high unemployment I decided it would be a good idea to start looking for jobs in a sector I have no direct experience in. Ha ha, I'm a friggin' genius.
However, I'm still hopeful that I'll find someone in the environmental sector willing to pay me to help save the planet. My time spent travelling opened my eyes to a variety of environmental issues. Living in Iraq helped to internalise the externalities of using cheap fossil fuels to provide the energy we use. Our street was provided power by a generator that stepped in during the frequent power cuts. The generator was constantly surrounded by oil drums and emitted a thick oily smoke. Having such a clear demonstration of the costs of my energy usage certainly encouraged me to try and limit my electricity needs. Even though I am no longer living in the exhaust of my power source I clearly understand the needs to cut unnecessary energy use.  While volunteering in Costa Rica I was made aware of the need to conserve water. Despite the deluges of the rainy season, the dry season was beset with water shortages. Not knowing whether or not water will emerge when you turned on the tap made me acutely aware of the uses I was putting the available water to. At Lower Upcott Farm in Devon I am learnt the techniques of farming using traditional, sustainable methods. Understanding first hand the effort required to produce our food in a sustainable and responsible manner has opened my eyes to the benefits of sourcing ones food from local and dependable sources. These experience have shaped my values, creating within me a desire to live lightly and to limit the impact I have on the planet. 
I'll let you know how it goes. 


Overdue Update

So I arrived back in the UK in July after 6 months in Iraq. Safe to say I don't think I'll be returning there in a hurry. Lovely people, the Kurds, but the school I taught in was a little rubbish. Anywho, after returning to the UK I've spent most of my time down in Devon, volunteering at Lower Upcott Farm. I had a great time there; building, farming, cutting down oak, corralling pigs, getting stepped on by shire horses, picking apples and generally having a good time. Here are a few pics from my time there.

Shire horses

Ben using the shires to turn hay.

Jack the Russell

More hay turning

Taja, the peahen.

Chickens running for breakfast.

Ducks also believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Almost corny this one.

Shire mare

Doogle, the water spaniel.

Taja with Dill, an Oxford and Sandy pig.

Some Oxford and Sandy piglets.

Red Ruby Devon cow.

Young male Red deer

Maybe some sort of milk cap, not sure.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lunar Eclipse over Iraq

Last night I got to see a total lunar eclipse. It was fun to watch, in a slow kind of way. When the eclipse was 'total', the moon wasn't completed blotted out as I was expecting. Instead it turned a reddish colour. A little creepy, but the sun rose the next day, so no harm done.

Click on the photos for a larger view.

All taken on a Canon 30D, 300mm f2.8 with a tripod.

Friday, March 25, 2011


 Old Town

 Strange creepy statue

 218 year old book
 Dammstugan, the cabin we stayed in at Gransfors

 The Gransfors forge

 Very hot axe head

 Lots and lots of axe heads

 A fika (Swedish coffee and sweet stuff)

Testing out the snow banks!

Just spent a fantastic week in Sweden. One of the few direct flights out of Erbil! We spent a day in Stockholm before heading north to Gransfors to see a bit more of the Swedish countryside, including where they hand forge axes.We spent a few days there before heading back to Stockholm for a final day. All in all, it was a fantastic vacation.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Iraqi Kurdistan

I know, I know, long time and nothing written. Since I last posted here I have taken up a new teaching job in Kurdistan. It's been a pretty weird experience so far. I will take today as an example.

It's Friday, the Islamic day of rest, so no school, which means our weekend is Friday - Saturday and our week is thus Sunday to Thursday. A little temporally discombobulating. Nevertheless, we're adapting to it. We got up, had some breakfast and went for a little walk. There's an access road behind our neighbourhood which skirts the fields that lie between us and the airport. As we turned onto the access road we were met by quite a strange site; a flock of sheep (and a few goats) being herded along the mounds of earth that line one side of the road. Three young Kurdish shepherds were tending to the flock and paid less attention to us than the sheep did, who eyed us suspiciously while they chewed whatever greenery they came across.
We continued on our way, only to have a small car filled with soldiers stop behind us. The driver, quite excited it seemed, jumped out without applying the hand brake so, halfway out the car, had to fumble to stop it rolling away. He jogged up to us, smiling broadly, always a good sign. He asked if we spoke Arabic, we indicated that we didn't. That however did not discourage him from blurting out a stream of information, something about the direction we were heading in. A lot of thumbs up and smiles indicated that nothing was (hopefully) amiss. I nodded and tried to repeat whichever words sounded important in an understanding tone. Seemly satisfied with his work, he jumped back into the car and drove off again.
We wondered on a little further. I got distracted by some small bird of prey hovering over a grassy enclosure. Possibly a kite, but I'm not entirely sure what stalks the skies here in Kurdistan. By now the flock had caught up with us, we let them pass then headed home.
I feel the morning today neatly sums up most of my time here so far: lots of lamb and friendly people!