Saturday, 15 December 2007

Captivating Cairo

MK: I was sent to Cairo for a Global Fund Monitoring and Evaluation Workshop. Because of the awkward flight schedules, I was in Cairo from the 8th to 15th of December 2007.

Fortunately, it gave me time to tour the city and trek to Giza and see the pyramids on camelback. Check out the photos of the pyramids and Cairo.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Stimulating Safari

M and JK: The miracle workers were back at it again.......

Photos on Flickr and Picasa Web Albums.

Congratulations ER and PH!!

M&JK: We would like to congratulate E&P on the birth of their first baby. Mathias Emmanuel Henault was born on the 2nd of November at 1:18 am weighing in at 3 kilos 520 (7pounds 12 oz). Best wishes to the proud parents.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Wedding Bells

M&JK: The infamous couple met on the European continent to attend JK's cousin Agelikki's wedding. It was a beautiful church ceremony in Plaka followed by an intimate dinner at the Grande Bretagne Hotel in Syntagma Square.



Thursday, 23 August 2007

Hash #120 and Hash #121

There is nothing more enjoyable than going for a hike in the forest....... that is, of course, unless you are hiking in the tropical forest of central Africa where poisonous spiders and killer ants haunt you at every step. Once a month in Malabo, a mixed groups of locals and foreigners embark on a 4 hour adventure into the unknown.

JK was lucky - or unlucky depending on who you are - enough to partake in Malabo's Hash Walk ritual on his 35th birthday. Word got out to the organisers and when all was said and done, JK found himself sitting in a cooler of ice and freezing cold water while the Hashers sang to him. When the chanting was over, hey had to chug a beer while everyone poured beer on him. Poor JohnnyK!!!

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Congratulations Melissa and Alex!

MK: We would like to send warm congratulations to our friends Melissa and Baron von Alex on the birth of their second son, Julian Alexander Fama von Schilling.

Although he was late coming, when he finally did decide to make his appearance, he was in a hurry! He arrived on August 14 at a good weight of 8lb 3oz. We wish Alex, Melissa, Enzo, and Julian all the best.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Where on earth is Equatorial Guinea?

You may ask yourself, "why does it matter where Equatorial Guinea is?". Well, this country unknown to the majority of the world just happens to be where our fair Mélanie is hiding.

According to Lonely Planet, "the diminutive Equatorial Guinea is a slowly developing speck of a country that has few tourist attractions aside from its shorelines and jungle interior. It attracts adventurers looking to get off the beaten-path and explore a bit of the unknown."

While, BBC News reveals, "Since independence in 1968, Equatorial Guinea has been ruled by two men - from the same family - who have been described by a variety of human rights organisations as among the worst abusers of human rights in Africa.

In recent years the former Spanish colony has become one of sub-Saharan Africa's biggest oil producers.

Large oil and gas deposits were discovered off Bioko in the mid-1990s and their exploitation has driven spectacular growth. In 2004 Equatorial Guinea had the world's fastest-growing economy.


Politics: President Obiang seized power in 1979; rights groups have condemned his rule as one Africa's most brutal; he faces a "government in exile" and a separatist movement

Economy: Equatorial Guinea is sub-Saharan Africa's third biggest oil producer

International: Equatorial Guinea and Gabon are in dispute over islands in potentially oil-rich off-shore waters

But few people have benefited from the oil riches and the country ranks near the bottom of a UN human development index. The government has started a scheme to divert a share of oil revenues into social projects.

The corruption watchdog Transparency International has put Equatorial Guinea in the top 10 of its list of corrupt states. Despite calls for more transparency in the sector, President Obiang has said oil revenues are a state secret.

In 1996 Equatorial Guinea's first multi-party presidential election was held amid reports of widespread fraud and irregularities, returning President Obiang Nguema with 99% of the vote.

Equatorial Guinea's territory includes the island of Bioko, off the Cameroonian coast, which hosts the capital, Malabo."

For initial photos of Equatorial Guinea, click here.

The question for all of you now is, "When are you coming to visit?" ;-)

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Mumm's the Word

JK: With Mélanie's departure date for Eqatorial Guinea (EG) finally set (it had been postponed for an extra week due to visa delays), we decided to take one last adventure. By Canadian standards, the distances in Europe are so short and offer hugely rewarding end-points. Wanting to do something new and interesting, we decided to take a less than three hour drive over to the Champagne region of France. How we never thought of doing this before, I do not know.

Once in the regional capital of Reims, we checked into our discount hotel beside the train station (OK, we travel, but we economise too!) and quickly made a beeline for the Mumm champagne house. Touring the absolutely vast underground cellars containing somewhere around 20 million bottles was a revelation (see pic below). Of course by the end our throats were parched, craving a sampling of the bubbly elixir. Thankfully we were rewarded by very generous tastings. From there we went straight to Pommery. Its cellars were even wackier and deeper, chalk full (pun intended -- the soil is extremely chalky) of modern art installations (see pics) along with another 25 million bottles. The sampling at the end was just as tasty and generous.

After a nice meal and a laser light show (look above) to celebrate the opening of the TGV speed-rail line to Reims, we inspected the glorious cathedral lit up in the night (look left). The cathedral was the site of many, many royal coronations and retains all of its grandeur to this day. The next day we contuined our elixir pursuit by driving through the "route de champagne", admiring the countryside and eventually stopping in to Moet & Chandon, home of none other than Dom Perignon (in the town of Epernay).

Shortly after that our one night and one and a half day adventure was over. We would certainly go back in a second -- at the very least to find the winery that makes "Cristal", every gangsta's favourite bubbly! ;) Booya!

Bike riding in Knokke

Ah, the lazy days of spring.... this time a bike ride in Knokke (north sea coast of Belgium)

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Galleries Lafayette or Bust!

With JK participating in a conference at the "Sciences Po" university, MK decided she would join in the fun and take the Thalys to Paris for a little adventure! The whole experience was made even more enjoyable with ER there, who was also going to Paris the same day for business.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Chatelain is the place to be on a Wednesday evening!

Place du Chatelain is THE place to be on a Wednesday evening. Place du Chatelain is the most trendiest market in Belgium, if not Western Europe! What could be better than buying fresh cheese, bread, olives, and cured meats in one area and then establishing a position at the wine stand. Amid a congregation of uber-Eurocrats, you can purchase a bottle of wine for 5euros - complete with proper wine glasses - to accompany your amuses-bouches. Place du Chatelain is also where you meet the most interesting characters......

Monday, 28 May 2007

Titillating Tournai

OK, perhaps the title is a slight exaggeration :) but we found our experience in the town of Tournai to be yet another illustration of a tendency we have noticed in Belgium: that the country, for one reason or another, undersells itself. Sure, we all know about Bruges, Antwerp and increasingly Ghent, but many other places in this country don't get the attention they deserve. We felt the same way about Mechelen, Dinant, Namur, Ypres, Mons: all surprises and underated.

Tournai is near the border with France, about a 1 hour train ride from Brussels. Mel and I went for one of our typical weekend day-trips to celebrate her (alas, temporary) return from Rwanda. The UNESCO World Heritage city centre was the obvious highlight, with the not two, or three, but five Romaneque towers of the Notre Dame cathedral being the standout. The main square (pictured above) was also a classic showpiece of Flemish architecture (the city is francophone, but the look is decidedly Flemish). More pics here.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Final observations from Rwanda

MK: Now that I have left, I thought I would share with you my final observations about Rwanda that might not necessarily be evident to an short-term guest or else found in Lonely Planet!
  1. Rwandans LOVE to give long speeches. I am not exaggerating or talking about 10 minutes. I mean hours!
  2. Rwandans - like their Ugandan counterparts - switch "l" with "r" and vice versa. So, in Rwanda, I am known as "Merani". When John came to visit me at UNDP he informed them that he was "son mari" but what they understood was "somali".
  3. Rwanda has the highest percentage of females in parliament in the world.
  4. Plastic bags are illegal and you can get fined for carrying one.
  5. Rwanda is a small village. Everyone is linked and everyone knows everyone. So watch what you say and do!
  6. Rwandans have bad cell phone manners. This is made official when the President bans all cell phones at any event he is at (cameras are allowed). When a cell phone rings in a meeting, it is usually followed by the person bending down, covering their mouth and speaking which actually amplifies their voice!
  7. Women and children feel the need to pull my hair out of its roots. Then when I turn around they act like they have no idea what just happened!
  8. Finally, while walking by some less well groomed locals with a stench that turned my stomach in a million ways, I realised I must have extraordinary olfactory glands.

Goodbye Rwanda, Hello....

....Equatorial Guinea!!!!
MK: After much ulcer-inducing events that occurred over a series of four weeks in Rwanda, I packed all of my personal effects into 2 boxes and had them shipped to what I thought at the time was… a black hole, a mystery to most people in this world (Africans included). This obscure abyss was to be my new home for the next year. But before I embarked on my latest escapade, I was first to be rewarded with fourteen days and fourteen nights with my beloved husband. The next few posts will reveal how our estranged relationship makes us go on interesting adventures when we do get together!

Sadly our time together was to be a fleeting sparkle in our hearts. The Government of Equatorial Guinea was ready to issue my visa so that I could travel to an unknown island (for the most part) in the Gulf of Guinea in Central Africa. I was about to embark on yet another journey. I was going to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea to work with the UNDP as the Programme Manager of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Have fun with the links!

Sunday, 20 May 2007

JohnnyK does Kigali

JK: It was short but sweet. Just days after I got confirmation that Mélanie was leaving UNDP in Rwanda, I found myself on Rwandan soil. How is that for doing my husbandly duty? :) (OK, Mel paid for the ticket, but still...)

Getting down was easy enough since Brussels is the only European city with a direct link to Rwanda. The week flew by, with plenty of social events (I had to meet all of Mel's posse), and work (I was given a little office at the UNDP), but less touring (it was tricky because Mel was working the whole time and Kigali, while a nice city, has virtually no "classic" tourist attractions).

I did, however, take a day trip to the countryside to see Rwanda's Volcano National Park. The weather did not cooperate (but that is on par with Mel's entire time spent in Rwanda), but I was amazed by the beauty of the landscape nevertheless. It truly is the land of the (very lush) thousand hills. Other highlights included a "farewell Mel, welcome John" party at Melanie's place, meeting her hyperactive pootch Nala Shani, visiting the Genocide museum/memorial and spending time with Mel herself.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Mombasa Mama!

MK: I was fortunate enough to attend a Sub-regional Environment Cluster (SREC) meeting in Mombasa, Kenya the week of 30 April to 4 May. About 60 of us attended the meeting from UNDP offices in Eastern and Southern Africa. Our conference took place at the Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort and Spa. I don't think I have ever really been to a resort before but was shocked at every meal. The food was unbelievable! Every day there was a different theme and live music during dinner. I didn't get to see much of Mombasa this time around. I forgot that the Eastern Coast of Kenya is like a sauna! Living in Rwanda and Belgium over the last few years, I forgot what the sun and heat were like! Mid-week, we went on a field trip and saw some GEF projects in action. The highlight was trying honey from sweat bees! Despite the fact that my days were fully packed from 8:00am to 6:00pm including meetings while eating lunch, I still managed to fit in a Kahawa Scrub (coffee grains), a facial, an ayuraveda massage, and a pedicure! What a treat! On the last day a small group of us went for an afternoon snorkel in the Marine Park. To see photos, click here and here.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Bundles of joy!

A belated congratulations to our friends on the birth of their children:

It's a baby girl!

Jaclyn Linnane Leask, weighing 7lbs, 3oz. Congratulations to proud parents Michelle and Jason and older brother Braeden.

It's a baby boy!
Mateo Seth Namer was born on Wednesday, April 11th at 9:38 am, weighing 8 lbs, 11 oz. Congratulations to proud parents Eban and Mercedes and older sister Camila.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

A visit with youth orphaned by the genocide

Posted by Picasa
MK: I was fortunate to link up with the Rwandan Association of University Women (RAUW). We were able to spend some time with youth who were orphaned by the Rwandan genocide in 1994. One lunch hour, we came to their orphanage, listened to a few speeches, heard each orphan present him/her selves and then we made a donation. Following the formalities, we had the chance to speak to some of the orphans. It was a rewarding day. For photos, click here.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Gorilla Trekking with Part NART

Two members of the infamous NART gang used Melanie being in Rwanda as motivation to venture down from Europe to the dark continent. Their 3 week tour included Tanzania (Zanzibar and mainland safari), Uganda (Kampala), and Rwanda (Kigali and Volcano National Park). The day they arrived, Melanie had the pleasure of introducing them to one of Rwanda's hottest night clubs called, "Fair Place" where UNDP was having an "End of Year/Staff Party". The disco lights, carpet, and pure cheese/70's retro decor were too much for these Euro snobs to handle!

A few days later, Melanie, Janet, Erica, Toshi, and Lindsey crammed into a van and headed for Volcano National Park to trek the endangered mountain gorillas of northern Rwanda. The following morning, they woke up bright and early and headed for a gorilla briefing at the ORTPN base camp. It was also at this time where they selected which gorilla group to follow. They decided upon the Amahoro Group due to their numbers and location in the mountains. All seemed well until Erica was the first to be stung by the forests' nasty nettles! Her hand was red and stinging. The guide quickly found the curative plant and rubbed it on her. That began the copious screams by all trekkers stung by nettles. There was almost no body part untouched by their secretions. The highlight of the Gorilla Trek was when one of the gorillas decided Erica looked fun to play with and rammed his fist into her kidney. She tumbled to the ground in a huge silent cry of pain! To see Melanie's photos of the gorillas, click here.

Erica and Janet's Out of Africa adventure ended shortly thereafter and they headed back to Leuven and Amsterdam respectively.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

6 April: Remembering the Rwandan Genocide

MK: Friday the 6th of April 2007 will mark the 13th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. Please take a few minutes on this day to remember all those that died, were maimed, and/or were affected by the hands of the genocidaires during those famous 100 days in Rwanda in 1994.

The stain of genocide is ever-present in Rwanda

Charles Gordon
The Edmonton Journal
Sunday, April 01, 2007

BUTARE, Rwanda - The taxi is not supposed to be on the road this morning and the driver has to do some fast talking to the policeman who pulls him over. The driver explains that he is taking his passenger to the genocide memorial at Murambi, 28 kilometres away. The policeman lets the taxi pass.

Every Wednesday it's gacaca day in Butare, a day when a citizens' court meets to decide the fate of people accused of crimes against their neighbours during the genocide of 1994. During the morning on Gacaca day, all business ceases.

There is no getting away from the genocide this day, if there ever is. The first stretch of road goes beside a valley in which men wearing pink uniforms are working.

They are prisoners, some of whom will have their gacaca moments and others of whom already have. The following day, at the National University, there is to be a conference on "France and the 1994 Rwanda Genocide." All classes are suspended, by order of the rector, to allow students and faculty to attend the event, during which La Marseillaise will not be not sung.

On Friday, it is the 13th anniversary of the start of the genocide. On April 6, 1994, the president's plane was shot down and this became the pretext for a slaughter that began immediately, so well had it been planned in advance.

For three months, people were murdered, with the enthusiastic support of the state, at the rate of 9,000 a day. The international community watched, didn't see and certainly didn't act.

Every year, there is a week of remembrance in Rwanda. All entertainment and recreational activities will close for the afternoon on Saturday, the second day of Genocide Memorial Week. University classes are not held for two weeks.

In one of those small-world coincidences, a man now on trial in Montreal for genocide is from Butare, the city where the university is located. The university has its own genocide memorial on the campus, in which photographs of about 150 students who died are displayed. That represents about half the death toll.

At Murambi, a former technical school three kilometres down a long dirt road from the town of Gikongoro, there is a lot of activity. A metal fence is being constructed and the main building is being painted. This is because Murambi is host to the ceremonies on April 7.

Some women are seated on the ground working and you can hear them laugh. Looking over you see that beside them, on a tarpaulin, are bones and skulls. In Rwanda, the genocide and everyday life are side by side.

Outside the first room in one of a dozen long, low brick buildings, pop music is playing on somebody's portable radio. The room is full of decomposed bodies covered in lime.

The room was a classroom. Now it has four large platforms on the floor, each covered with bodies in the poses in which they died. You are led to the next room and see more, and then to the next, then to another building with more rooms. One room contains nothing but the remains of children, some with holes in their skulls.

There is a room with just skulls and bones, another room in which clothes, most of them red, probably from the dirt, hang on lines.

Somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 people were at Murambi in April 1994, told by the authorities that they would be safe there. Then the militias came, threw grenades into the rooms and finished their work with machetes. It took four days.

Of those killed, 27,000 have been exhumed and reburied; 1,800, or parts of the 1,800, are on display. The rest are in mass graves. French troops installed themselves at the site in the aftermath of the genocide. On top of one of the mass graves they constructed a volleyball court.

It is a little detail that will live on, bitterly savoured by generations of Rwandans.

There is no signage in these rooms at Murambi, no panel displays, no narration. A woman who speaks no English and a little French shows you from room to room, offering no commentary. After two buildings she is replaced by a man, who is a survivor and has a deep hole in his forehead.

Neither of them says much, which is all right. Maybe it's better if there is nobody to explain it.

Charles Gordon is teaching at the National University of Rwanda as part of the Carleton University School of Journalism's Rwanda Initiative. © The Edmonton Journal 2007

Melanie's Collection of photos of Rwanda and Murambi Genocide Memorial Centre. More photos can be viewed at Camera_Rwanda's Flickr set.

The national ceremony, under the theme 'We should remember the plight of genocide survivors while fighting for their justice', will be presided over by President Paul Kagame at Murambi in Southern Province on Saturday the 7th of April 2007.

Friday, 23 March 2007

UNDP Retreat in Akagera National Park

MK: Well, I wasn't back from South Africa for a day when I packed up and went to the Eastern province in Rwanda where Akagera National Park is situated. This time, it was for UNDP's Annual Retreat. The highlight of the week was on the last night (Thursday the 22 March) in which we had a party. UNDP provided copious bottles of wine and alcohol for its staff. However, the staff of the Akagera Lodge felt it belonged to them as well. They had no shame in bringing trays of glasses, taking a bottle of whiskey off our table, filling up their glasses and brining them to the bar only for all of us at the table to watch on stunned! The staff proceeded to drink the whiskey they took from our table!! Other highlights included an early Friday morning Game Drive in which the Rwandese staff pointed at every living creature and exclaimed, "goat!"!!

For photos, click here and here.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

GEF Training in Pretoria

MK: I left John at the airport in Johannesburg and shuttled my way to Pretoria. I spent one week there familiarising myself with my UNDP counterparts in the Global Environment Facility (GEF) - photo to the left. I had a chance to reunite with old friends from my training in Bonn, Germany. Photo below.

I also had the opportunity to meet the relatives of my sister's boyfriend, Malcolm: Toinette, Michael, their 3 children (Daniella, David, and Joshua), and Dandy (Malcolm's sister) hosted me for a few days, took me sightseeing, took me shopping, fed me, sheltered me, etc. They were great hosts! I was very happy to meet such a wonderful family.

I also took a tour of Soweto. What an interesting experience! I saw Nelson Mandela's old house before he was imprisoned and where Winnie spent her days while he was in prison for 27 years, Winnie Mandela's current house, and Bishop Desmond Tutu's house. I also saw the real Soweto townships and met some of the people living there. It was incredible to learn that some of the most expensive houses are located in Soweto .... and of course, some of the poorest! To see my photos, click here.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Reunited in Cape Town!

JK: The Canadian Euro-Africa duo reunited again! This time it was on South African soil -- of all places -- after a string of good fortune landed us both in the same country for respective business meetings (mine Johannesburg and Mélanie's in Pretoria). What a surreal experience it was to see each other in a totally different place -- and what a place! The Western Cape did not disappoint. Stunning is about as accurate a word that I can think of to describe Cape Town and its environs.

Our 3.5 days together were spent exploring the coast and the wine country by rented car. Despite the fact that the South Africans drive on the "wrong" side of the road, not to mention the perpetual warnings about car-jackings and theft, we managed quite nicely. The drive to the edge of the continent at Cape Point was other-worldy, reminiscent of some of the dramatic coast-lines and blue waters of the Mediterranean. Some of the beaches looked absolutely glorious, despite the uber-frigid Atlantic water temps.

Hanging with the African Penguins at Boulder beach was a highlight. The penguins came dressed in their best dinner jackets...(ok, weak joke, sorry). Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope were spectacular, although the winds were so monstrous that the svelte Mélanie was almost hurled into the air on our climb up to the summit (slight exaggeration for dramatic effect). But no wonder there have been over 600 documented shipwrecks around that bend over the last 400 years.

We also headed inland to Stellenbosch to do "the posh thing" and taste some wines. Actually, we were more into finding spectacular locations to have a nice meal accompanied by good wine and tremendous views. We were especially lucky at the Sylvanvale winery (pic below, taken from the winery's restaurant terrace). I should also add that South African wine was a revelation to me. Yum.

And just in case you're wondering, we did not fall victim to South Africa's infamous crime (although we do think the wheel on our car rental was punctured on purpose one night; fortunately we did not have to deal with the problem until the following morning -- in daylight). Ironically, the only time I was "threatened" was in Paris at the airport train station awaiting the TGV (Thalys) back to Brussels. I was approached by four totally emaciated mid-20 something men in broad daylight on a relatively busy platform. I could not understand what they were doing, since clearly it would have taken all four sets of their atrophied arms to pick up my 20kg suitcase. After encircling me (not kidding) they pulled out their customs official badges, as if they were the FBI. It was a bizarre public spot check of my bags and passport. I must have been looking particularly swarthy after the 10.5 hour flight from Joburg. ;)

For our "best of" pics (note: not all are yet uploaded), click here.
For all our South Africa photos, click here

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Buffoonery in Burundi

MK: Melanie and Lindsey - 2 of Rwanda’s 3 Angels - felt that being chased by a girl with a machete and catching their “night guard” smoking drugs while on duty was not enough excitement in their lives. So, they decided to get on a crowded minibus at 7am destined for Bujumbura, the capital of neighbouring Burundi. They were not far out of Kigali when Melanie had to ask the male (dare not say, “man”) squished up against her to stop picking his nose. This resulted in teasing in Kinya-rwanda and laughter from all other passengers on board (about 25 or 30).

The journey involved several stops along the way, not to pick up additional passengers (because we were already over capacity) but to purchase much-sought after food items: brochettes, cartons of buttermilk, grilled corn on the cob, donuts, etc. One female passenger was either starving and had not eaten for months or bored, because she atecontinuously (devouring six brochettes, two cobs of corn, and a donut or two) during the entire nine hour journey (yes 9, you read correctly).

The fiasco at the border (there is definitely a difference between “law-abiding Rwanda” with the “anything goes – with a price – Burundi”) entailed the same famished female going straight from the last person in line to the first person being attended to at passport control. The line-up for immigration never moved because females like her decided they were of noble blood and didn’t have to wait in line for even one second. They pushed their way to the very front without hesitation or concern. Melanie and Lindsey also witnessed a few notes being passed under the table for unwitting quick and easy service.

Just when Lindsey and Melanie thought they were nearing the finishing line and could see Bujumbura on the horizon, Burundian customs decided to stop the bus and search through all the packages and bags on board. Much to Melanie and Lindsey’s surprise, they started taking articles off the bus. Two of Rwanda’s three Angels wondered what kind of illegal substances these passengers had subjected them to. (It is also important to note here that Melanie was actually unauthorised to travel to Burundi in a public vehicle and because there is evidence of rebel activity in the area). They didn’t have to wait long to discover these criminals were smuggling Rwandan cheese into Burundi. How horrific!

With fewer load in tow, Melanie and Lindsey finally arrived in Buju. They quickly found a quaint quest house and proceeded on a walking tour with a guide from the Saga Guest House offering his services free of charge (believable?). He was quite knowledgeable about all the important landmarks: he pointed out the banks (it was Saturday and they were closed), the Kenya Airways office, some nice hotels (although we were already staying at the Guest House he worked at), the RwandAir office, etc. All useful information the next time we want to: fly out of Buju, exchange money in Buju, or stay in Buju. Melanie and Lindsey were then taken to the beach of Lake Tanganyika. This area had a nice (and cheap Hotel Saga Beach), nightclub, cultural centre/theatre, and a few different styles (and prices) of restaurants. Melanie and Lindsey – the celebrities that they are – met the owner of the expansive bar/resto/club/theatre complex) who gave them a tour followed by delicious mojitos. The two Angels were ancy to return to town, so declined the owner’s advances and departed for the Guest House. The escapade was short-lived and Melanie and Lindsey boarded the same overcrowded bus the following morning at 8am.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007



MK: This little baby girl is the latest addition to the Kotsopoulos family. Her name is "Nala Shani" and she is part Ethiopian Wolf although she was born in Rwanda. She came into this world around the 15th of January 2007. She is absolutely adorable, even if she cries, whines, howls, and pees a lot!! Any tips on training or raising a puppy would be much appreciated.

For initial photos, please visit my Picasa Web Albums. To see Nala Shani's mother (Shiba) and her siblings, please visit Jared's Flickr set.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

PAB Project Field Missions - 27 and 29 February

MK: I went on 2 field missions to gather information from stakeholders for my Protected Areas Biodiversity project. One week was spent in the Northern province (Volcano National Park) while the following week was spent in the Southern and Western Provinces (Nyungwe National Park). To view photos from these trips, click here.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Rwanda's Angels

JK: Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to work for the UNDP in Rwanda, and they were each assigned very hazardous duties. But I took them away from all that, and now they work for me. My name is John.

I would like to introduce you to Rwanda's Angels: Lindsey Rae, Melanie Jane, and Adriana Ilieva (aka Melanie's house mates). They are taking Kigali by force!

A Merry Time in Greece

JK: Due to the generosity of the European holiday system, I was given the week off between Christmas and New Years (a perk that allows you to temporarily forget about your tax burden :)). Mélanie met me in Belgium on December 23, flying in on the highly relaxing and time-efficient Kigali-Nairobi-Addis Ababa-Paris-Brussels route, only to be forced back on to a plane to Hellas the very next morning. At least we got to indulge in the ever-expanding Brussels' Christmas Market for one day.

Greece provided us with the usual pleasing combination of family-values time, some exploration time and lots of eating time. We indulged in several Christmas dinners and enough Greek desserts (inlcuding my Aunt Dina's world famous "kourambiedes") to satisfy a small platoon. After a few cloudy days at the beginning, we also got our usual dose of Hellenic sunshine. We capitalised on it by renting a car and exploring part of the Peloponnese (specifically the prefecture of Argolida). Before we set off for Nafplio, our hub, we spent a night at the country home of my cousin's fiancé. They (Aggeliki and Evrikos) are amazing company and I must say it was with sadness that we left them the following afternoon!

Nafplio is a sensational Venetian-inspired city -- a must for any visitor to Greece. The fortress Palamidi, which overlooks the town, is also a highlight. From Nafplio we took day trips to the ancient theatre of Epidaurus, hung around the east coast taking in the sea views, and eventually made our way up to Ancient Corinth. We spent New Years in Nafplio too, which was a tad wacky, since things were unexpectedly low key. In fact, it was an uber-bureaucrat (i.e. bland) on a stage in one of the city squares who announced the New Year a good two minutes before it actually occured!!! This was accompanied by initial silence (or disbelief, since we were all looking at our watches), then expectation, as we awaited some sort of rudimentary fireworks show. Alas, no show was forthcoming. Some music was played, some peculiar people danced, we ate some cake, and then it was over!

The next day we decided to honour La Kootchina (aka Bill Mertikas), with a visit to his maternal village, Nestani. I must say I had to eat some humble pie, because I was expecting a backwater and instead found a beautiful village nestled amongst some spectacular cliffs. I even danced a zembekia in Bill's honour. From there we concluded with a short visit to Tripoli -- a city that leaves a lot to be desired.

For Flickr pics from Greece (i.e. our best), click here.
Click on the names for Picasa pics from Athens , Nafplio and the rest of the Peloponnese. Family pics here.