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Tuesday, 10 April 2012

November 2010 - really?!

I've been thinking about the blog recently. Do people blog anymore? Last time I did a 'next blog' flick through, it was all cancer and Christians. Now there seems to be a swing to blogging about adoptions...

So, what's been going on in my world since November 2010? A lot. Take a deep breath....

.... continued working in Libya, had a couple of awesome short trips in Libya, Xmas 2011 in Egypt (loved Cairo, meh to the amount of hassle in the other places I visited - nice old stuff; too many people...), cold winter in Libya, troubles in Libya, evacuated from Libya to Poland and sub-Arctic temperatures, forced to go back to London, continued freezing, sent to Doha, Qatar to work for four months, awesome, bla bla, had a long summer in Sri Lanka, mainly on an ayurvedic retreat, ended up in Abu Dhabi last September where, shockingly, apart from a couple of trips back to Doha I've only been away once - to Sri Lanka again, at Xmas.

Right. Caught up. So why the blogginess now? Partly because I've become utterly undisciplined at everything - took up the guitar in October - put it down to go to Sri Lanka and not picked it up since; put down my Arabic in February 2011 - and not restarted on that either...

But also because I think back to the old blog and the years I detailed there and think it's a shame I stopped.

Of course, Japan is unique, meaning there I had a constant source of amusements and amazements to talk about. Everything was just so .... weird.

Life in Libya / Qatar / the Emirates is actually quite normal in comparison. There's an utter lack of stupid conversations to repeat, people don't wear stupid clothes, and the (lack of) festivals are all very very normal. Not seeing it's boring, just very easy and very convenient, and everyone speaks English.

Not that I'm saying Tripoli, Doha and Abu Dhabi are the same. But they're not Japan. I miss nights out in izakayas or doing karaoke. I miss hanami and Yoyogi park and old places. I don't miss the weather. Abu Dhabi's temperatures sway through a spectrum of hot enough to way too hot. I've not been out of sandals since I got here.

Abu Dhabi, and Doha, are just so new and sparkly. Not neon explosion Shinjuku sparkly (I miss Shinjuku) but 'look how much money we're poring into this' sparkly.

Abu Dhabi is compact and I live very centrally. My definition of 'centrally' here being I can walk to lots of bars (all inside hotels - as are all restaurants with booze), can see the Corniche from my window and am about 5 minutes taxi ride from a few massive malls. Doha is a bit more spread out and not so user friendly. Drivers are used rather than taxis there.

Of course, Tripoli, or rather Janzour on the outskirts where I lived is a different story. Pavements were optional and badly maintained / half finished. Roads were flat. It rained a lot. Therefore roads were often flooded beyond passing.

There weren't any cinemas or malls (well, one cinema but impossible to tell what was on there) and things were quite spread out with shops and restaurants appearing and disappearing all the time. But it's the blue skies I really miss. The sky was always such a bright blue - even when it was cold. I liked the rundownness of it all. The other areas of Libya that I visited were drenched in old cultures and ancient history. The people amazing.

While some people were glad to leave, I felt my time there had been prematurely cut short and it took a long time to feel closure with the place and the evacuation experience.

Abu Dhabi is a very modern city. Where Tokyo had convenience stores and vending machines every few metres, AD has mosques. A ridiculous amount of mosques. Standing in the street and spinning around (not necessarily recommended) you can often see five or so at a spin.

Whilst a religious country, it's not as conservative as some other countries in the region and I imagine this could be partly to do with how multinational the place is....

Okay. Very unstructured rambling post but need to start back somewhere...

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


Sorry for not blogging. I've been trying to keep an ever increasing number of balls in the air and blogging time is way down on list.

A big post promised soon. Honest!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Oh, really?

Libya produces oil.

There's a petrol shortage locally at the moment.

Go figure.


I got a cheque book yesterday. And watched it being produced, printed, stapled and bound. I was fascinated. Sadly, I'm easily amused!

Sunday, 10 October 2010


Regular blogging, what? The intention has not exactly been followed through, has it?

I've a couple of reasons for this: firstly, my home monthly internet is shockingly limited and I used it up within about 8 days of getting it, and haven't gotten around to getting more yet. But boring. Secondly, I've been busy!

Libya rocks. The chaos suits me. I like the way this country rolls. Namely to it's own beat. Because something is today, doesn't mean it'll be tomorrow.

Every work day starts with a smile as I get out of the taxi, feeling the sun on my skin, and looking at the sea spreading out in front of me, framed by a cloudless sky. Three of my working days finish early enough for me to go and swim in a private pool or hang out on a beach near my house. At the pool, I can sit around, not worrying about what I'm wearing, feeling the sun on my back and loving every second. At the beach, I'm a little more careful, but mainly because I don't want attention, and stay reasonably covered up (swimsuit under clothes kind of thing), but it's not a big deal. I can still work and be on the beach 15 minutes later.

I have a rooftop terrace too that I can hang out on without eyes seeing me. I'm not too bothered by the way I have to dress here – after all, I'm hardly a mini-skirt, tits-on-display kind of girl, but you do have to consider what you wear here as the dress code is generally conservative. The majority of women wear headscarves but hey – no need to worry about having a bad-hair day!

There are (mini-) buses to get around in, but the nearest flaggable spots (bus stop? what?) are about 15 or so minutes away, and more often than not other people in my building are going into work at the same time, so hopping into a passing taxi is the simplest thing to do. I'm getting a bank of drivers numbers which is useful at times, but generally there's no problems – other than getting to the private pool which is very secluded and not the easiest place to find. Every couple of weeks there are 'party' nights there where ex-pats can relax and not worry about local laws/customs too much. I hadn't expected this. It's fun!

Where I live is an area called Janzour, just outside of Tripoli. It's a popular area with splatterings of affluence around. The beach in Janzour is part of a tourist village, although it's been mainly Libyans there when I've been. It's now 'winter season' though, so come summer, who knows. 'Winter season' is not winter, just to be straight. It's still very much summer, although the evenings are getting chillier in the dead of night.

In Janzour, there are three apartment blocks of teachers in my company. We are very secure here. The blocks are spread out but walkable distance from each other. We have double locked doors at the entrance and a lovely Ghanian security guard to look after our every need from dusk to dawn. He took me shopping for some plants the other day. I'm actually trying to keep plants alive. I'm far more excited than I should be at this prospect. I've killed cacti and bamboo in the past. This is a real challenge but my apartment needed them. He also gets us to stop our night time taxis where he's standing in case there are any problems, finds us things like bathplugs that we can't find, snatches our shopping from us if we go shopping in the evenings and carries it up for us, cleans, irons.... awesome!

And I love my apartment. I love having a whole apartment to myself. I've never had this before. And it's all falling into place now I know where to get good chicken (good place for raw or another for spit roast) and veg and all other things I need. There's heaps of supermarkets and shops of varying sizes with a large array of European style things. Bread is obscenly cheap here. The other day I filled a carrier with bread rolls, pitta bread, flat bread, and it all came to under a pound. In shops, and some supermarkets, they don't have baskets, you just fill a carrier bag and take it to the till.

There's a lot of order to the chaos here.

I love my job. I love my students. I love working in an organised company. I teach four groups, each for 2.5 hours, twice a week. And I adore them. I also feel really lucky as I don't have any problem students but motivated learners that try hard and have personality! My lower classes are mainly Libyan, but my intermediate group has French, Turkish, Egyptian, Omani... and I adore the multi-cultural mixture.

I have a couple of late evenings and some of the students walk out to pray about 45 minutes into the lesson. I work around it.

When I'm not teaching, I wear another hat: I'm the Young Learners Co-ordinator. That means I'm part of middle-management. Me. I have to pretend to know what I'm talking about. And get my head around the multitude of duties involved (documents, meetings, too many emails, decisions...) whilst trying to get my head around my own classes and other things I need to do... like deciding whether to get involved in strange dance classes I've never heard of and probably can't do (zero sense of rhythm) but could be a lot of fun. And organising holidays. Of course. I mean I've been here ages now – over a month – so, naturally, I've decided where I'm going for all my vacations over the next 12 months. Could be worse. Could have planned them for two years!

I've joined the local archaeological society which organises lots of interesting trips to places that would otherwise be a bit awkward to get to.

Anyhoo, once I get the net again at home, the long promised pictures will be posted.

In the meantime, just picture a clear blue sky, green palm-type trees heavily weighed down with dates, black roads, sand, half-built / half-destroyed houses. Hand-scribbled signs, the sea, a clean swimming pool, a decent workplace, a nice apartment, me with tanned skin, lovely buildings, the sea, the sea, the sea... and the sun.

Right now, there's nowhere else I'd rather be.

* for Sanchia!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Information Overload

I woke up this morning to rain – but it didn't last long leaving a bit of a muddy trail on the roads outside. We're still in the middle of induction – there's been four days of it so far with one more to go. We've been told all about the country, the students, the company and safety while here. I'm having no problems adapting to Tripoli 'it'll happen when it happens' time. At all. Still loving the heat although, admittedly, most of it has been spent inside airconditioned classrooms!

Last night we got taken shopping to a fantastic souk. It's the nearest equivalent I guess of a shopping centre with (I think) five floors of shops selling pretty much everything – household goods, clothing, jewellery, shoes... and a massive supermarket in the basement. Some prices are a little hefty but there are a lot of imported goods here.

After having been here for almost a week I've decided Japan really is strange. This all feels much more real to me. All of the Libyans we've met have been really lovely and helpful and really try to communicate as best they can with us. On the subject of which, we've now had four hours of Arabic lessons and I can't wait to get more. Lots more. Whilst my motivation to learn Japanese was really low, and whilst I can probably get by without learning Arabic, I really want to. Thing is, Libyan Arabic is more of a classic version meaning it differs from, say, Egyptian Arabic and although they're reasonably well mutually understood, I think there's a limit of books available that cater to learning Libyan Arabic.

I'm still loving my huge apartment which is a little chaotic at the moment and which lacks a personal touch and colour. But all in good time.

Getting around is a bit of a challenge although I'm beginning to get my head around directing the taxi back to where I live. Other teachers live in the same block so I haven't had to travel alone yet.

Thursday is my next day off. I plan to do more exploring and in the evening we've a pub quiz night. With real alcohol. Normally this is every fortnight, but the quiz means we get an extra one. Somehow we've got dispensation to drink legally in this one place. I'm not complaining. It's generally just once a fortnight anyway.

I've seen that remnants of Hello Kitty have hit Libya. But I guess they've hit pretty much everywhere by now.

The majority of women here – although by no means all – cover their hair at all times. Apart from that though they generally prefer to dress in a more Western style. The men dress as men everywhere.

Because of the induction there hasn't been much time to do much else. I still haven't got a new sim card for my phone and the internet should be up and running in my apartment by the beginning of next week. Inshallah. In the meantime, and when time allows, which hasn't been often, I've been popping onto the computers at work.

I'll try to post this tomorrow and then update again on Saturday if possible (Thursday and Friday are my days off). Saturday is my first teaching day. Yay!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

First couple of days in Tripoli

Libya. Seated on my balcony in Janzour, listening to cars passing by and Eid fireworks, neither that I can see. Glancing up, I see the mosque opposite me. Lots of mosquest. Lots of minarets. All around. Twice a day – the call to prayer. Loud. But short. My street has no name. My house, no address. Lots of shops that all sell the same things. Like an overworked building site. Rubble. Sand. Half built properties. Lost and deserted shoes, cars. Boys run up and down playing with toy guns. They have time to respond to a smile. Shop keepers. Patient. Kind.

My apartment. Big. Bigger than one person needs but I like it and can't wait to personalise it and get some colour into it. Photos don't really do it justice, but I'm getting to know it now.

My flight was fine. A small delay, I think, but I wasn't keeping tabs on the time. Small plane. Most passengers on transit flights. All hand baggage was weighed and many arguments broke out about people not being able to take all their hand baggage with them.

I paid a little extra. I'm glad I did. Wasn't prepared to leave anything behind anyway. Flight landed. Pilot said it was 38 degrees outside. I smiled and excited anticipation rose in me for what was to come. As soon as I got off the plane and into the terminal it felt like a time-warp – a place waiting to catch up.

Queued for immigration. Got sent to an office. Office looked at my passport and sent me straight back to immigration. Had my hand luggage xrayed. No, I wasn't trying to smuggle any alcohol. Baggage collection. Chaos. No trolleys inside. Had to go outside. Had to pass hand luggage through another xray machine. Like maybe I'd picked up alcohol since the last time it had been xrayed, five minutes previously. I still didn't have any. Went outside into terminal. Lots of people. Couldn't see trolleys and couldn't be bothered to go right outside and hunt for one. Saw my driver and said hi. Told him I'd be back out shortly. Went back inside to wait for bags.

Waited. And waited. And waited. And waited.

No cases. Neither of them. Not either. No cases.

Needed to ask for help. Who worked there? Who was visiting? Waiting for someone? A bag? Security? Many people milling. Confused.

Saw an office. Found someone who spoke English. A kind man. A patient man. He double-checked that all the London baggage had been unloaded. And he told me not all the baggage had turned up the day before either. Not exactly comforting, but things are done differently in different places and no point getting het up about it. Filled out a form. Today, still haven't heard. Hopefully they'll turn up in the next couple of days.

In the meantime, improvisation! I had a few – very few – things with me. Thankfully I have a washing machine. And a kind neighbour who's lent me a sheet and towels until mine arrive. Hopefully this isn't going to be long.

Got to my apartment. Ran around it exploring every corner, every cupboard. Security guard told me shops would be open later (Ramadan opening). He said he'd let me know. He did. And he went with me in case I needed help. Nice man.

Sleep was erratic to say the least. But that's hardly surprising. It has been for ages. Felt a bit sick. Swollen glands. Felt that brewing from a couple of days ago. Never mind. I'll live. Probably.

This morning went for a walk to explore my road. In the afternoon – after a nap and after it had cooled down a little – went for a walk to explore the other way. Saw lots of people hanging out in the streets. Trees, heavy with their burden of dates, many of which had already come crashing down to the ground. Buildings. Yellow, white, brown. New. Many of them very new. The sea – near my house – but I didn't realise that until this evening.

This evening was nice. The guy who recruited me came over to hand me an envelope stuffed with money. Nice! We chatted a little and then he said he'd promised to take another couple of people who'd just arrived to buy coffee and bits and pieces. I didn't need anything but thought I'd go along for the ride anyway! (Diplomatic car). Had a nice drive around, getting a slightly better idea of where everything was and stopped at a few shops – where, of course, I got a few more bits (I got some essentials last night and a few more during my walks earlier) and got to explore more shops. The food shops are all quite small. Lots of canned goods. Some had fresh, but a limited selection, although we did pass some grocers that looked like they had more.

Lots of English brands. More things that I recognised than didn't. Found soya milk, almond milk, and lots of familiar things. No shopping baskets. You grab a bag, fill it, and the shop staff empty it, total it up and pack it up again. Not exactly Sainsburys!

Next stop was a Chinese restaurant where we nattered, ate far too much and drank alcohol-free Becks, whilst talking about how every second Thursday night the alcohol (the real stuff!) flows at the British Embassy. Yay! That'll be two Friday hangovers a month then! Thankfully, Thursday and Friday are my days off. So I can really make the most of 'Oasis night'. (Yes, that's the name of the night, it has nothing to do with the band).

Fun evening. After recruity guy dropped us off the three of us chatted over tea for a while, and then went to look at our HUGE rooftop terrace.

I have no teaching until Saturday 18th, so lots of time to chill out and get used to things here.

It may take a while to get internet access at home, so posting will be pretty sporadic until then.


After spending much of the next day just pottering around my spacious apartment – oh, how I'm loving it! - I met up with the teachers from downstairs and we went off to do some exploring. We caught a taxi – the only way to travel around here – to the Medina (the Old City) to check it all out. Wow, wow, wow! Loved it. From the sea to the souks – small streets full of shops, most of which were closed yesterday as people take a three day holiday to celebrate the end of Ramadan and Eid.

Men were dressed in a mix of Western and more traditional clothing – a bit like you'd see in India basically – and although we saw quite a few women in short-sleeved t-shirts and so on, the majority were pretty covered up. People were generally either friendly or ignored us and little girls ran around giggling in pretty dresses while the boys were often seen playing with toy guns.

Almost everything was written only in Arabic, but that wasn't really a problem – that said though, I do really want to learn to read as soon as I can.

We found a lovely cafe with seating outside. Surrounded by cobblestones, small streets and beautiful old buildings, it was a lovely way to while away the time, sipping on ice coffee, chatting and watching the world go by. We carried on wandering around. It being a Friday (holy day) AND a holiday (see above!) most things were shut – but we'd expected that.

We wandered over to find the Marcus Aurelius arch. The last remnant of Roman Tripoli and weren't disappointed. It was beautiful and the details very clear to see, especially on the one side that away from the sun and the port and so hadn't been battered by centuries of salt and sun in the same way. The carvings stood out clearly. The griffins. The clothing. The chariots. We saw a cat a metre up a vertical post trying desperately to reach a bird fluttering metre higher up on the same wall. I realised how lucky we were to be there and how few tourists had got to see – or perhaps ever would. It's not like Tripoli needs tourist money, so maybe it never will be opened up to the world at large.

Next to arch was a restaurant. We came back to it later.

Wandering back around and past Green Square again – a packed place full of people just hanging out and cars, we wandered around further alleyways and met another teacher that one of the neighbours had met briefly in London whilst sorting out visas. We chatted, and she joined us as we felt the need to return to the first cafe for more caffeine. Inside we chatted with local men about football. As neither I, nor my female neighbour knew that much about the subject, it didn't last long, but it was nice.

After hanging out for a bit, watching kids running around and relaxing we went back to the restaurant by the Arch which was illuminated and looking stunning by this time. We took a terrace table metres away from the beauty of the arch, ordered alcohol-free beer, enjoyed the complementary olives, pizza, humous, babaganoush.... and I decided to order baby camel.

Last year in Benghazi (another big city along the north coast) there had been, apparantly, an outbreak of plague caused by camel meat – but that was last year. Unfortunately we were warned it would take a while so I reverted to lamb instead. Next time, camel. I ordered a dish called Algarra. It's a little difficult to post pictures at the moment as I'm blogging on a document, transferring it to a memory stick and then using a work computer to post – until I get the internet sorted at home. But pictures will come.

The dish, Algarra, is cooked in a clay pot which is covered in bread (you don't eat the bread). Inside the meat and vegetables are in a delicious sauce. The smell of the rosemary fills you with anticipation. It's brought to the table still flaming. The waiter carefully taps the pot all the way around and then breaks off the top half of it spilling the mouthwatering contents onto your plate. As your tastebuds fill with excitement another dish arrives that you didn't realise was coming – steaming melt-in-the-mouth couscous and vegetables.

Already partly full from the pita bread and dips, it was way too much to eat. I secretly fed bits of meat to a stray cat looking up at me with huge eyes, from under the table. We were both satisfied.

We wandered off into the night, making sure our new friend knew where she was going (she's only in Tripoli shortly before being sent off to another city, so staying in a hotel in the old city) and found a taxi.

In Japan many roads have no names. Here it's even worse. We told the taxi driver to head to Janzur and as we neared it we played a game – who would the be the first to spot something – in the dark – that they recognised that would give some slight indication of where on earth we were to direct the taxi driver to our block. We were bad at the game and it took a long long time as we drove around, doubled back, sped around, got put onto the drivers phone to talk to someone who spoke English – not that that helped much. Eventually we somehow managed to find our way back. The driver, suitably irritated, tried to charge us a lot but our lovely security guard saw us arrive back and came over to intervene.

After we'd explained what had happened and how we'd been told by our boss that our residence had no address, the lovely security guy told us it did and got the guy in the shop next door to write it in Arabic for us so that, hopefully, we won't encounter this problem again. It was an adventure anyway!


The last couple of days I've been having induction. Getting to know what's what and who's who. Information overload. Lovely people – colleagues and other staff. Patient. Helpful. From the school we can look at the sea. Frothy waves crashing against the bluest sea. The sky, always clear. Beautiful. We've been learning what to expect from our students, w hat's expected of us. Where the shops are and where's best to get what. We started some Arabic lessons today. We're getting six hours to help us out. Difficult! We've been learning how to use the interactive whiteboards and are getting help with sorting out our phones, internet connections and life! At the moment I can pop briefly onto the computers at work but don't really have time.

My suitcases arrived too. Four days after me. I'm happy!

I'll try and get this up to date later and post tomorrow. Access is still limited.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

From Tokyo To Tripoli

A lifetime ago – well, mid-June – I left Tokyo, where I'd been teaching English for almost six years. The time was well-overdue to leave and armed with the knowledge that I had my next two jobs sorted out, I trotted back to London for a summer of campus life teaching English to foreign teenagers.

This is an extremely quick overview of the summer – before I head to Libya tomorrow.

I found London life pretty overwhelming to start with, having only been back for six days over the whole period I'd been out, and I suffered from major sensory overload at first, exaggerated by sleeping, eating and teaching on the same site all week and not really seeing the outside world.

One of the things I loved about Tokyo was the ease and ability to tune out what was going on around me. I didn't understand people, and so they didn't bother me or distract it. It was simple really.

In London though, I did kind of understand people – although it did take a while to get my head around some English accents which was strange and involved a lot of concentration and an annoying inability to tune out what people were saying. If I was at a pub, I found it hard to listen to what people were saying as I was so distracted by conversations around me.

I also found that because I wasn't spending much money (I didn't have the time to),every time I opened my wallet I got confused by the coins. For quite a few weeks! I found them a funny size and weight and I'm sure they've all changed design and / or weight and / or colour in the last few years.

London is not built on the idea of convenience. At all. If you don't have the exact money for a machine, forget it. Or you have to hunt around for a shop that can help you. Vending machines? You must be kidding! If you can find them, can you actually trust they'll do what you want them to? Namely, take your money (exact change only in many cases, remember?) not keep it and actually give you a drink back in return.

Train stations? I found them understaffed, bloody expensive, and with machines that only sometimes worked – and often wanted exact money only. Dirty, smelly, messy, no aircon on the trains...

I basically enjoyed myself though and time flew by. The days were hot constantly at the beginning and the evenings seemed to stay light forever, which I found really hard to get used to again as Tokyo gets dark so early. In London, it was still light around 10pm for part of the summer.

I taught teenagers at a summer school on London's largest university campus. Most of the teachers, and all of the students lived on site, and there was a canal alongside the campus, which was lovely to sit by, chatting to the other teachers or drinking chilled wine. It would have been a shame to not have taken advantage of the weather.

The teaching was very different to what I'd been used to. In Tokyo, on the whole, books were involved and syllabus and pacing dictated to us. In London we had rolling enrollment. Students came for one to three weeks and then left. Every week classes would have members joining or leaving – and there were no texts to follow - just 90 minute slots to fill.

Some of the students were lovely. They generally came in large groups, mainly from Italy, Russia, Greece, Slovakia and the Ukraine. There were also Jordanians, Kazahks, Germans, French..... It was certainly interesting to learn about their cultures and to see who was the best behaved, had the most 'attitude', and so on. And, as far as teaching went, it was challenging. Although quite exhausting by the end of the summer.

The social side of things was reasonably limited. As teachers, we always went out (to the same pub) on a Friday night and the rest of the week didn't really do that much.

For me though, this wasn't a problem. The teaching was tiring and I found being around the same environment and same people all the time to be exhausting. When I wasn't teaching or prepping, I didn't want to be wasting money in the pub – I prefered to just chill out in my room.

And of course, a summer in London meant being able to catch up with and spend time with the friends I'd been missing whilst I'd been away. And that, to me, was the best thing. The weekends spent hanging out with my old London friends. Enjoying them and enjoying London.

Summer school drew to an end. In the final week teaching went down to mornings only and teachers led activities in the afternoons and at weekends. This involved having to wear a lovely orange t-shirt but, the less said about that the better! Highlights of this week included going to Stratford-upon-Avon (bloody awesome) and seeing both 'Wicked' and 'Grease' (musicals) for free. Awesome!

As everyone packed up and left, I was in the position to have two weeks holiday available before Libya so I packed up and went off. Luckily the visa I'd been waiting 3.5months for came through just days before I was due to hop on a plane and fly off into the sunset – er, Glasgow.

Why Glasgow? Why not. I wanted to see the lovely Nix and hadn't ever spent more than a half day in Glasgow before. Although the trip started off rather cold and wet, the weather, thankfully, cleared up somewhat and was nice and hot and sunny, which made going out so much more inviting and it was lovely hanging out with Nix, mooching around and seeing things in Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh – including a few things at the Fringe Festival.

After that I went off for a few days in Oban and Mull by myself – which were breathtakingly beautiful and very peaceful – and just what I needed in the build up to the new job.

Next stop was Paris to catch up with Jen, Jan and the adorable twins. Two days were spent just hanging out at Jen's and near the house – which was fine – it was the main reason I went there. I've lived in Paris before so sightseeing wasn't that high on the agenda. Saying that though, I did have a lovely day of walking my feet off with Elise on my final day. The weather also behaved impeccably and I fell for Paris all over again!

So, now I'm back in London and off to my new adventure tomorrow.

People keep asking me: why Tripoli? Why on earth am I going to Libya? Well... it really comes down to timing. I was desparate to leave Japan but my timing was wrong. I got persuaded summer school was a good idea. (It was). But that left me back in February knowing I had a summer job and knowing I'd need something for September - and not many jobs get advertised so far in advance. I also knew which employer I wanted to target and, well, things just kind of came together and thus... Libya.

I'm excited. A little nervous, but mainly just excited. I've armed myself with as much information as I can, but still don't know the reality will match the expectation in any way.

Come back to the blog to follow me on this adventure...