Tag Archives: Photographs

Trinidad’s bird life


I had been to the Asa Wright Centre, high in the Arima valley in Trinidad’s Northern Range, briefly once before in 2011.  It was therefore great to be able to spend some time there yesterday once again, absorbing the atmosphere, and seeing some of the richness of the island’s bird life.  I hope that the pictures below capture some of their beauty, although the tiny humming birds, flitting from one flower to another, are so difficult to capture with a hand-held camera!  If ever you are in Trinidad, this is definitely a place to visit!

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Liming in Tobago…


I guess a short visit to Tobago did not give enough time to enjoy the full sense of liming – that very special occupation of working hard at doing nothing while sharing food, drink and laughter with friends – but it did provide an insight into just what a pleasurable activity that can be!  The island is actually much bigger than it might appear on a map (300 sq kms) , and it was crazy to try to circumnavigate it by car in just one day!  Definitely not liming – although evenings spent with Carib beer and local rum to wash down the fresh fish went some way to make up for the energy spent swimming and walking during the day!

For those who like hidden away, almost empty beaches, the east of Tobago is far preferable to the larger beach resorts on the flat western tip of the island, and the forested slopes of Main Ridge, which was designated as a protected Crown reserve in 1776, provide a rich habitat for the diversity of colourful birds.  Argyle waterfall is also definitely worth a visit – but the unofficial guides at the entrance by the main road are to be avoided.  Visitors should make sure that they go to the main car park and official pathway!  A bit of effort also takes one to some of the beautifully maintained historical sites such as Fort King George and Fort James, and it is definitely worth wandering around the capital Scarborough, with its colourful buildings and murals.

Thanks to all of my friends who persuaded me to visit – at last!  I hope that the following pictures do some justice to the island and its people.

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Pre-Christmas skiing in Kitzbuhel


It is always a risk going skiing before Christmas, but Kitzbuhel usually has snow when many other places do not.  That was certainly the case last week!  As the pictures below illustrate, although the valley was snow free for most of the week, there were enough runs open with good snow to enable us to have some great skiing.  Skiing in bright sunlight above the clouds down in the valley was amazing, and we only lost one day due to the cloud and rain!  It was also just so relaxing walking through the beautiful town in the evenings.  Thanks to Jonathan for making all the arrangements, and to everyone else on the trip who made it such a good week!

 

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An evening walk through Doha’s Souq Waqif


One of the many challenges of attending conferences is that one usually has to spend around 12 hours a day deep underground in cavernous halls, or in dim windowless rooms watching images and words on large screens!  Not only is one left bereft of natural light, but air conditioning is no replacement for the oxygen of fresh air!  So after the main activities of ITU’s Telecom World were over today, I took myself back to Doha’s Souq Waqif just to immerse myself in the smells of spices, shisha and the wonderfully rich oud perfumes, to glimpse the rich colours of the textiles and jewels, to hear the laughter of small children and the squaks of parrots, and just to walk among ‘real’ people far from the robots and aggressive capitalism of many in the ICT and telecommunications sector who were expounding the virtues of the latest technologies at the conference!  Although this souq is a relative modern re-interpretation of the souq that used to be here, it continues in that rich tradition of sounds, smells, tastes and textures that have always dominated markets in the region.  I hope that the pictures below capture something of the reality of this world beyond the virtual!

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Jenny and Al’s wedding, 20th September 2014


Yesterday was a very special day – Jenny and Al were married at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. All of the hard work and attention to detail that they and so many others put into the preparation paid off enormously.  It was truly a fantastic day, from the practice session and dinner the night before, through the early morning hair, make-up and dressing, to the service itself, the reception, wonderful meal and evening party!  Thanks so much to everyone there who made it a really special day.  Jeremy, Arnold and Kathleen made the service itself very memorable and joyous.  The staff at Emma did a brilliant job with the food.  Ettie made an incredible cake – well, actually three cakes in one!  The musicians and band (The Zoots) were great – and it was so rewarding seeing everyone dancing and enjoying themselves so much!  I hope that the informal pictures below capture something of a truly memorable day.  Thanks to everyone for making it such a very happy celebration.  Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Bowe!

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Grameenphone hosted cultural dinner at CTO’s Annual Forum


One of the very real privileges of being Secretary General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation is the opportunity that it has given me to visit so many different countries and people across the Commonwealth.  It is so important that we celebrate our cultural differences and richness, rather than trying to create a single uniform market across the world! The CTO’s Annual Forum is always an occasion when our host countries share something of their culture, usually in the form of dance and music.  Last night was a very special occasion.  Grameenphone, which started with the Village Phone programme to empower the rural women of Bangladesh in 1997, became the first operator to cover 99% of the country’s people with network, and is now  the leading and largest telecommunications service provider in Bangladesh with more than 48.68 million subscribers as of March 2014.  It was such an honour to meet with Vivek Sood, CEO of Grameen phone and his staff, and I hope that the imagery below captures something of the  excitement, beauty and energy of this wonderful evening. Thank you so much to all of the dancers and musicians who shared so much of their culture with us.

 

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Imagery of Samoa


Over the last few days participating at the UN Small Island Developing States conference in Samoa, I usually left my hotel before the sun was properly up, and have returned after dark. Having come all this way to the Pacific, I could not resist the temptation to go and explore something of the countryside this morning, and so decided to set off for a couple of hours walking along the south coast near the Sinelei Reef Resort. Below are some of the images I took to try to capture the experience.

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I have a kaleidoscope of reflections about Samoa and its people! They keep asking me what I think about my all-too-short time here, and so I also want to share some thoughts here.

It is amazing how much effort the government and people put into convening the conference. This is visible everywhere, from the bunting and painted coconuts along the roadsides in the villages, to the tremendous effort that has gone in to arranging transport for the delegates. This shows the enormous warmth and generosity of the Samoans.

I really appreciated learning from the government officials who accompanied delegates in the mini-buses and shuttles that took us to and from our accommodation. They went out of their way to be helpful and to provide deep insights into island life. Much of what follows reflects their voices. I have to say, though, that not all delegates treated them with the courtesy that I think they deserved!

Samoa seems to be a very gentle and peaceful island, and it has had remarkable political stability over recent years. In part, people say, this is down to culture, and especially the role of Christianity. I don’t think I have ever been somewhere where there are so many churches, often several of different denominations in a single village!

One of the most striking things is the open-sided houses that are to be seen everywhere in rural areas. At night, as I was regularly driven across the island, people were very visible just relaxing in their houses, many of which had bright white mosquito nets showing up very brightly in the electric light.

As for agriculture, the dominant crops were definitely coconuts, bananas and taro, which could be seen everywhere in the lower lying areas of the island. However, I was surprised to see so many cattle grazing, and somehow had not expected the very considerable number of horses that were to be seen! These were the main form of transport before cars were introduced, and many still remain, both as beasts of burden but also for riding for riding and racing.

The island, though, has very clear vegetation zones, and as one ascends the hilly centre, and then falls down to Apia in the north, these are very obvious, with the bananas and coconuts being replaced by a wide range of forest trees. It is also reflected in the weather. One night, there was torrential rain where I was staying, but it had been perfectly dry in the capital, Apia.

The coast itself is amazing, lined with coconuts and with beautiful beaches, stretching away for miles. My photos do not really do this justice! For those who want to get away from everything, and just relax, this would be an ideal place to do so. I can also thoroughly recommend my hotel, the Sinalei Reef Resort! It has a rustic, eco-friendly atmosphere, so very different from the modern luxury resorts to be found across many other Pacific islands. The staff were wonderfully friendly, and were always there to offer advice in the gentle Samoan way.

Samoa also seems to be much less influenced by US culture and style, when compared with other islands such as Fiji. This was wonderfully refreshing! However, other external influences are increasingly obvious, not least the Chinese, who helped to develop the impressive new hospital in Apia, are running many of the shops and small supermarkets, and are also constructing a new building complex in one of the villages through which I walked – apparently, I was told, a school.

I confess I did not know that Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped was buried on the hill overlooking Apia. Next time I visit, I will have to take the long walk to the top to understood why this was his chosen spot!

My one sadness was that almost every child I met on my walk said to me at some point “Give me money”. This was not an aggressive begging, but it made me think back to the wise advice I was given by my dear friend Sudhir on my first visit to India. What, I think, saddened me most about this was the sense of dependency that was being created. The resonating “Give me money” came so often as I walked past buildings funded by donors such as UNDP and the EU, and it made me realise that all too often such aid, alongside the practice of many tourists who not doubt do give them money, is in some ways demeaning and creating even amongst the youngest islanders a dependent relationship that has to be damaging to their culture. I wanted to say to the children, “Give me your wisdom”, or “Let me learn from you”, but I did not have the linguistic skills to say this.

Overall, I am so grateful for the warmth, gentleness and genuine hospitality of all those Samoans who I met. I have tried to capture my fresh memories here, as a small gift to them, and to encourage others to journey across the oceans to experience something of the peace and beauty of the island. Tread gently, though, so that our presence may enhance rather than damage this wonderful island.

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