Sunday, September 02, 2007

So, finally an update. It's been a long time coming. Last time I updated this, it was April and I had just gotten off a sailboat and was starting to hitchike across Oman, which was fantastic. But I'll skip over that in favor of updating you on where I am and what I'm doing now.

After Oman and a few stops to see friends in Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK, I flew back to the U.S. for a few weeks before moving to Rome to take up a headquarters post with UNJLC.

I've been on deployments more than I've been in Rome at this point, but the time I've spent in Italy has been fantastic.

The city is eye-poppingly beautiful at every turn. I go for a run and come back with three or four things to look up in the guidebook so that I understand what I've seen. And the history here is thick. There are more thousand year old churches here than Starbucks in Seattle.

The street outside the building of a friend where I stayed for the first couple of weeks. It's a pretty typical scene of Rome.

The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggore. I think it is from the 13th century, but I've been in so many fantastic churches (only a handful of the 900-odd that are in Rome) that I get the dates mixed up.

The view from my bedroom. I'm sharing a flat with a former UN employee and his fiancee. I'm very happy to be sharing a flat, especially since I'm away so much. Which, I imagine, makes me an ideal flatmate. The church tower on the right belongs to a well-known church. It chimes out the quarter hours, which sounds irritating, but is really a nice way to keep track of the time. They go a bit mad with the bells on Sundays and holidays, though, trying to fill the pews (and the coffers, no doubt).

This is not in Rome, but not far away either. The mountains that run the spine of Italy peak at around 12,000 feet and offer some nice climbing and hiking.

This is also outside Rome, in Tuscany. Italy is full of these beautiful old towns.

The problem with my job inRome is that I'm never there. In fact, I started writing this blog while in Pakistan in July for a flood response. Since then, I've been back to Rome, to Sudan, back to Rome, to Denmark (for some meetings, not a disaster), back to Rome, and now to Uganda for a month to respond to flooding here. I landed in Rome on June 19 and have managed to be there for less than half the time. That's getting tiring. I was excited about the job in Rome because it was going to let me be a bit more settled but still go to the field and be involved in humanitarian emergencies. But in fact, I move around more now than when I was jumping from emergency to emergency. I have a place in Rome, but have thick dust on the furniture every time I go back. So I'm still feeling pretty rootless. Aimless even.

But there have been some highlights too. Here are a few photos from Uganda.

The fundamental problem here is large bodies of slow moving water that cut off the roads. These are not flash floods, and produce few dramatic pictures, which is probably why most people outside the humanitarian community aren't even aware that there are massive floods in Africa.

Even the roads that aren't flooded can be deceptively soft. This road is dusty when we drive it with a land rover. But this 6 wheel drive truck sank, as did the other two that were with it.

We used a field outside this school as a helipad to drop off some food for later distribution. I was along to have a look at road conditions to see what we could map from the air. These kids were studying for their exams. Copying questions about genetics and evolution from the blackboard.

I bought a bike and have been on a couple of rides outside the town where we are based. The countryside is beautiuful: very green, with scattered agricultural fields and palms. Excellent biking, though there are still some wet spots here and there. From the shocked (but friendly) looks I get when I pass people, I can safely say there haven't been too many white guys on bikes out there.

John (the bird, not the guy) lives at the airfield where the airlift operation is based.

I go back to Rome at the end of October. After that, who knows. I really hope to stay put for a while. If it keeps flooding all over the world, I'm going to quit my job and start building an ark.