Saturday, September 25, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
But, my biggest hurdle by being in Kuwait is that the ingredients are not all available - simple things like Caster Sugar to more difficult ingredients like food colour paste and sugar paste are almost impossible to find.
However, we need to solider on and I asked Tristan to choose a cake for me to bake. He chose butterfly cakes - because they were like the fairy cakes he loved as a child.
Fortunately most of the ingredients were easy to find.
The basic gist of the recipe is that you use a sponge batter and put it in the cup cake holders and bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile you whip up a batch of vanilla or choclate butter cream. When the cup cakes are cooked and cooled you cut a shallow dome in the middle, put a spoon full of butter cream in the middle, cut the dome in half and put on the wings.
Quick question for the folks at home: Can you post recipes from books online?
Friday, September 10, 2010
The biggest noice-itie for this week is that I got told that I passed my last module and I will be getting my Certificate in Archaeology from Leicester University very soon! It's very noice to have some sort of direction in my life.
I'll hopefully get into university in La Trobe (MELBOURNE! WHOO!) and study archaeology. I could then be one of the following:
- Archaeologist Person
- Archaeological Conservation Person
- Heritage Management Person
- Museum Person
- Teacher Person
- Indiana Jones (I need to start practising with a bull whip!)
See... some sort of direction! Or maybe I'll still be a firetruck when I grow up!
- I brought my cats a pack of rubber spikey balls - this is the only toy that Lyia has EVER shown interest in. The funny thing is not only does she likes to whack it around, pick it up in her mouth but she also likes to... talk to it?
We hear her meowing, she is often staring at the ball meowing at it?!
The bad thing is the balls are so bloody small. We had 6 of them and the majority have already disappeared! We will have to start hunting under stuff soon.
- I finished reading the Mist Born trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. Wow, what a read! =)
- Tristan has finally got a hobby - Sodoku! This is Noice because he isn't always focusing on his PHD and doing something to relax.
- The weather is in the early 40s - meaning... WE CAN GO WALKING!! WHOO!
Today marked the celebration of the end of Ramadam - and Tristan and I met a group of Western friends at a restaurant for Breakfast to celebrate.
For a Western expat in Kuwait Ramadam is not an easy experience to navigate. While it is Ramadam we are subject to laws which will not let us eat in public. Tristans' work explained this was because Kuwait is tolerant to other cultures. As a result of this law Kuwait completely shuts down. Every form of entertainment is shut from sunrise to sunset. Movies would not start until 9, shops open from 6.30 - 8.00 and the only thing open during the day is the super market.
Although the temperature has dropped, making it possible to walk outside during the day, that was even something we could not do because we could not drink water.
This all may sound selfish, but suddenly your life just stops!
You are stuck in your home, the is your only friend and the resulting cabin fever makes tensions high.
Work helped elevate the boredom. We had to 'sneak' away to designated areas to have something to eat while Muslim colleagues are fatigued and hungry (making me feel like a dirty ferret!). What amazed me was some of the Arab colleagues who would stay up to 3 or 4 in the morning and still come to work.
As an outsider being in a Islamic country where Ramadam is practised, you feel isolated from the experience. Although it is still an interesting one. But, I'm glad its over!
Sunday, September 5, 2010
10 days is not enough time to experience Nepal, this was compounded by the fact that Tristan and I were both ready for a holiday where we could chill. We didn't venture out of Kathmandu much - truthfully we didn't venture out of Thamel (the touristy area we stayed in).
Most of the time in Thamel we explored the small Restaurants and Pubs away from the busy streets. We spent our time sampling the delicious local cuisine, having a quiet drink and play Uka or Canasta.
Occasionally we listened to some live music and I can tell you quality of cover bands are the same world over. We did however have a chance to hear the local group, Samundra, who played traditional Nepalese music which was a pleasure to listen to.
Our trips in and around the city were quite adventurous, although the first place we visited was the Garden of Dreams, a quite place built within the city for Romantic interludes. Well not actually built for romantic interludes, it was built in 1895 as part of the palace. It suffered a period of neglect then was has been reinvigorated by local and overseas conservation groups. Now it is a peaceful place where you could have peace and quiet.
After one year of marriage - we're obviously not the interluding type!
Or at least not on purpose!! As white tourist we managed to gain lots of attention.
Such as when we saw the sign for a 'Dance Bar' we went in because we were up for a boogie. When we saw the stage and pole - we really thought 'What have we got ourselves into!'
When people went on stage and started dancing – we were even more confused – because it was just dancing! The woman got up and shook their hips, the men got up to do some awesome bollywood dancing. The pole was basically to whirl around on. We thought we had gone into the twilight zone!
After a little while of watching some of the dancers came and sat with us. Asking us to buy them a drink and we did because we thought why not… but Tristan leaned over and asked 'I wonder if this is like the Wire – they get people to buy drinks for them and that's how they get their money!'
We thought we had cracked the way things worked out here and felt very street smart. So we sat back and enjoyed ourselves. When we told the dancers we couldn't afford any more drinks, they slowly drifted away to other groups. Until we had just one dancer sitting next to Tristan and on my side a woman who worked in the club. While I'm having a broken English conversation with the woman next to me (She's me showing pictures of her husband and children).Tristan is being told how nice his wife is, and how pretty she is (ego boost!). During his conversation Tris leans towards me
"She just told me that she finishes here at 12." I look at him a bit dumfounded. "She wants us to come back to her house."
"I don't know! She just keeps us asking us to come back!"
Well, I turn my attention to the woman next to me – who explains it would be 500 ruppees! She was pointing at the drinks… but I'm sure that's not what she is referring to. I tell her, and then tell Tristan to relay to message to his conversation partner that we were leaving on a tour bus at 6am and we had to go, thank you we had a wonderful night!
Then we paid our bill and RAN AWAY!!!
The next morning we looked up the dance bars – the poverty forces many of these men and women into this industry. Here's a couple of articles on it:
The next day we decided to trek down to Durbur square, the religious centre of the city. While on our way down we started to have chat with a young man, a local arts student, who promptly started to follow us. He was playing tour guide. I have to say that compiled with the fact that the streets were chokingly busy made this a situation to hard for me to handle. We ended up buying our 'freedom' with rice and oil. We started to move back through Durbur square when we were being approached by a 'Holy Man' who would want donations – and that was it I had, had enough and we went back to the hotel.
I'll admit I'm completely embarrassed about how I reacted to the whole situation – I hated being out of control of the situation, hated how we were conned and most of all hated how I felt angry at this man who was trying to get food for himself and his family. It was one of the few times I have had to face such poverty which is so in your face. After days having people including children asking you for food or money and saying no was stomach churning. Tristan told me that a lot of the begging was organised, a lot of the children had families but chose to stay on the streets because of the money and food and that the only way to solve poverty could not be through a tourist actions – but through social reform. I thought at the time that this was heartless and wanted to believe that Tristan was wrong and there was something I could do.
After all that I gave Tristan the ultimatum, I wanted to get out of Katmandu – I needed some air to breath. The next day we went down to Chitwan National Park a 6 hour bus ride through the mountain. Since we booked last minute we got the seats on the back of the bus – the seat was steep –my feet couldn't even touch the floor because of the lack of suspension, I learnt what it was like to fly up high!
But with all this I enjoyed the bus ride, the Nepalese country side is amazing. The mountains are so green and it was interesting to see the farms and the villages. There were little cable cars (really just a metal box) and occasionally flying foxes that are use transporting people up and down the mountains and over the river.
When we got there we met with our travelling companion, Constantino – a lovely guy from Spain. He was the only other person in our hotel. We stayed in this lovely little bungalow, double bed with mosquito net. Sure the electricity went out a couple of times, and sure the hot water didn't work but, it was so damn humid hot water was not needed.
The experience there was amazing. We went through the forest saw elephants, two types of crocodiles, monkeys and a gadzillion birds!
We also saw…
And not just one… three!!!
The first one we saw while on a canoe trip…
Well, not while on the canoe trip we had to get off the canoe. We were told to be very quite, but since the tourist is the stupidest animal in the world we had people shout 'Why have we stopped!'
We got to run through the grass (higher then me!) and see a big male Rhino. He was so majestic, so magnificent. As he moved, you could see his armor move so intricately. Wow!
The second time we saw a Rhino was while we were on elephant safari (aka elephant paparazzi!). Four people were put in a box on an elephant and had to straddle a corner. Not the most comfortable way to travel! There were about 8 elephants all together.
Our elephant will be named 'Miss Tetchy' because she liked to stop in the middle of nowhere for no reason and was scared of little tiny wasps!
After a long ride around the jungle and the grassy savanna we started hearing men making bird calls. My heart started pumping, would we see something exciting?! We moved towards the sounds and found another Rhino. The elephant driver pointed and said 'Small Rhino! Small Rhino!' and we thought after seeing the big male rhino, this one was indeed small. It was only after a couple of seconds to realise he wasn't referring to the female; he was referring to the baby. He so cute!
We got a couple of pictures as the Rhinos moved off. I was happy, but the driver wasn't. We started following (see elephant paparazzi!) – and that was all good until all 8 elephants had surrounded both the mother and the babe. The mother didn't seem to fussed, but the babe was not happy.
He started to move this way and that – trying to see if he could get out of the elephant circle. He couldn't.
So he did the only thing instinctual to him… charge… right at 'Miss Tetchy' the Elephant.
Since I'm writing this you can assume that we survived. 'Miss Tetchy' turned her tail and ran for it and with her we went crashing through the jungle with a trumpet of fear. Life didn't flash before my eyes I was too worried how this bamboo saddle would survive and if we fell, what it was going to be like underfoot of a rampaging elephant. Thankfully, we came out of it with a few scratches and bumps – and I guess one hell of a story to tell. I was incredibly glad that we had an uneventful journey home.
The last full day in Nepal was spent touring Katmandu valley.
First a visit to a Buddhist temple, which we walked around wondering if we could take photos. It was only after we did a full circle that we saw a Tibetan monk taking photos that we thought it had to be fine!
We saw this huge statue in a side temple – you couldn't help being awed.
Next we moved to the Monkey Temple – a Hindu temple which, well, had monkeys!
We had been warned that like our previous experience someone would just try and guide us. This did happen, but after a few firm 'No thanks' he went away only after he showed us the cremation area – here I was thinking 'oh are they cremating offerings?' I was 'dead' wrong! (Sorry!)
It was extremely confronting. But when you look at how many people are around, it is hard to have a private life. Everything is out in the open. Tristan was reading a book on Nepal. The Nepalese can be very confronting in their questioning; a routine feature of their conversations is the question why? Why are you doing that? Why are you going there? But this is like our greetings and small talk. There are standard replies that are soon learnt and will satisfy all but the most ardent of inquisitor. While being forced to be public these standard responses can be evasive thus keeping some of their lives private.
The rest of the temple area was interesting, but since it was holy day it was packed. The amount of people there was staggering. What's more staggering was the amount of beggars – they were starved, disfigured and there was a large amount of children. While we gave to couple of people, it was not enough. Nothing we could give would ever be enough. It illustrated the hard truths that Tristan was telling me a couple of days before. It made me very somber.
Our last place to visit was Baktapur, a medieval city which use to hold the royal palace. It's temples and palaces were stunning. It was also amazing to see how this old city was still a working city. Peoples whose families had lived there in its prime still did and still worked the trades. We saw knitting, pottery making and so many other trades.
Nepal was an amazing experience, less suffocating then India and it is somewhere where we will go again. Next time we will see Mount Everest, go on a 8 day trek to find some Bengal tigers, experience the country in its full. We will also volunteer at a orphanage – while we cannot change the world, maybe we can make an impact on a couple of lives – as repayment for the impact that they have had on us.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Toby introduced us to the site and what they had found there so far: Roman burials; Viking housing plots; two Churches; Victorian drains; ovens; lots and lots of cess pits; a communal loo's. He showed us some pictures of some of the lovely finds such as a beautiful stone carved face which was found original turned over to the smooth side which was being reused as part of floor in a guild hall (See lots of recycling back then!).
We would be working on block H2 a very small section of the site.
Toby proceeded to explain to us the difference between stuff and things (This was very amusing to me, some of you would know why!). Stuff being bulk finds like animal bones or pottery shards, things being something that has been crafted liked a worked piece of antler or a piece of metallic blob!
We we're then taken out and shown around site, and told we would be split between three trainers and Toby left them to choose - I have to say when he said that it felt like it we were being chosen for a sporting team at high school.
Since we were in the first couple of weeks there were very few trainees, and that was awesome because we got more one to one time with the trainers.
My trainer was Ben, a really awesome guy he was very willing to have a chat with us, answer all our questions and explain what needed to be done. He was also very patient with me when my trowel committed suicide by plunging into a deep pit... filled with water... he was heroic when he tried to fish it out but had no luck (damn thing doesn't bite) he told me that I would have to come back next year to claim it. Or if they find it; it would be a lady in the lake scene, angels sing, trowel shining, new king of England, ect!
For the two weeks I was with an American guy Jacob; who was 16!!! and this was his second dig!!! (Not jealous at all!) We also had another American join us - an over 6 feet tall rugby player Jim.
We had two placements looking after us - Jeff and Matt. Poor guys had the best jobs; like weeding, emptying out sludge from pits, wheelbarrowing and having to tell us trainees 'No that's just a rock!'
Our tools for digging we used mattocks, shovels, spades and trowels. The pit we were assigned to for the first week was a medieval refuse pit which was dubbed by the end of the week 'The Pit of Confusion' - because as Jacob and I dug down it had step on one side and we couldn't find the edge of the other side - and it just kept on growing and growing!
Since the ground was hard - we had to mattock a lot of it... I've never used a mattock before - and for nearly that whole week I was stiff from my butt down to the back of my knees. I was walking like a zombie and every time I sat it was as if I was 100 years old!
Mostly in this pit we found lots and lots of animal bones and shards of pottery. Funny how our enthusiasm and carefulness went slowly evaporated as we went further down.
Later I wasn't as excited: bone... *chuck in finds tub* bone... *chuck in finds tub*
'The Pit of Confusion' did hold a few pretty little surprises for us: Ben found a copper alloy ring, Jacob found what looked like a modern day nail - but it was actually carved out of bone, I found a blob...it was a iron blob - we weren't what it was, it would have to be x-rayed.
The second week Jim and Jeff took over 'The Pit of Confusion'
Jacob and I were were assigned to a new pit - we dug down it became too small for two people - so I got to take over the digging. The content was slightly different to 'The pit of confusion' there was less bone and pottery, and had more organic material such as ash, charcoal, and bits of clay. Ben thought it was a cesspit - yummo!
But it was very fascinating; I cleared one layer and we came to a very different layer underneath - it was kind of yellowy/ brownish. First I had to find how far this layer went - this was a fun job... this layer was sloped down and was very thin in some sections so I had to be careful.
Of course doing the photo wasn't easy either - Matt and I had to wait for cloud cover to take it. Once when we had got it I grabbed the chalk board with the information on it... and smudged it! So I had to rewrite the information and we had to wait for more cloud cover to do it.
After we did that we had to do the rest of the recording which included; evaluating the soil type, mapping the pit (which I managed to stuff up, even though I mapped once before!) and doing the levels.
Then it was up to me to dig that layer out and we put all this lot into an environmental soil sample to find all the interesting bits in it!
Other then the digging we had lectures on finds, pottery, conservation and matrices. Which most of them were really interesting.. . The conservation one really peaked my interest - conserving wood and metal is such a delicate process which I would like to look further into. Although I would rather work on metal over wood - only because of the fact 2 - 5% of wood is conserved. The rest is just thrown out - how depressing!
The group cleaned finds, bagged them and sorted through the organic finds. Sorting through the organic finds I dubbed 'shifting through shit' - because while you got some lovely bits of bone and rock occasionally you'd get a bit of moss with some shit hanging off the end, if your lucky with some fruit seeds in it!
The skill was to be able to tell if something was a rock or a bit of poop which you did by testing it's strength - if it breaks... it's poop!
The first time we started organising the organic finds Toby popped in, showing us a giant Viking poo - "Just remember this isn't the actual size it would have been, it would have shrunk! I'm surprised we didn't find someone dead next to it!"
Toby was good at popping in showing us cool stuff - like a whole horses leg and a 5,000 year old stone axe that was found in the pit next to 'The Pit of Confusion'
After work, we were very social. We went to the pub and had a few pints together, we did a fast ramble around York once a week (I call it a fast ramble because Toby was our tour guide and he set the pace and it was a very disjointed tour of York - but far more interesting then any walking tour anyone would provide because there were so many little intricacies only an local archaeologist would know). On Fridays its BBQ or dinner night - one of those nights I got home at 5.30... really didn't know I had it in me!
My Nan proceeded to call me a Dirty Stop Out from then on!
The two weeks were just amazing. It was nice to be in such a great working environment and I've learnt I like to work outside (away from the computer!)
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Hell no! Relaxation is buh-buh-buh-oring!
My holiday will be dedicated to digging, knitting, studying and possibly some drinking!
The most exciting part of my summer will be the fact I'll be taking part in an archaeological dig in Hungate, York.
Hungate is a huge dig that proceeds a major development project that will start sometime after 2012. It's major finds have been a mid 19th - early 20th century communal toilet block (bet you never saw Indiana Jones interested in that sort of crap! ... sorry), 19th century mill and a Viking building - there is a promise to uncover a Roman cemetery. It shows how diverse in time this site is.
Another grand thing about this whole visit is that I will be able to stay three weeks with my Nan. She has promised me that I will be flocked by relatives.
I'm not looking forward to see my stomach after this - my Nan prescribes to breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and supper. Not included snacks - and a bucket load of cadburys which is essential when going into town.
I can't wait to see her again - I really hope we will have to chance to really know each other. I want to know all about her life.
What I have needed to get ready for the trip and the dig:
*I booked flights with Etihad Airways to Manchester
*I booked my train to York with trainline.com a cheap 10 pounder direct train made me a happy little Vegemite!
*I needed some functional tops and where better to get them than threadless.com. Not only are these shirts comfortable, and full with wonder and quirkyiness - they are great for when I come back to Kuwait. They cover everything and allow me to keep some form of individuality. (Damn them for having a $10 sale the week AFTER I sent my order through!!)
*With functional tops, purchased I needed some functional pants. I got one pair of jeans and two pairs of cargos from Marks "thank god they have pants that fit me" Sparks.
*I needed some archaeological gear; steal toed boots, a trowl and gloves. I was feeling desperate after searching Kuwait for good quality boots! I thought I'd have to spend my first couple of days in York trying to find this gear - and not having a clue where to go.
Allison at Archtools.co.uk saved my life. I found her site on Saturday, thinking I had no chance of getting them next week I emailed her. Through a couple of emails and one phone call to the lovely lady - she has organised a quick delivery of
they should arrive before me! (Lets hope the shoes fit!!)
While I'm doing all that digging, I have to study as well. I'm 3 weeks in my Medieval Archaeology course. I'm hoping that the dig will contribute to my essay or give me more of an understanding of this period.
Etsy is the place where I got all my patterns.
Now, you might have noticed the lack of Tristan in this whole thing. Disappointingly, we are being all adult, and even though we planned him to come along to the UK - we wont be able to afford both of us to go.
But he will be going to Bahrain while I'm away - and hopefully when I come back we'll be able to go somewhere more local.