Venice euspen Conference

The weather forecast was electric storms for the duration but each day it was sunny spells and hot and the forecast had changed to be electric storms starting the following day.  It didn’t start until our last day on Friday.  We were glad of the aircon in the venue for the euspen conference in the end.  Our first challenge was that the conference was being held in a building near the ports which is a 15 minute walk from the main bus station and Venice.  The accommodation (Jolly Campers) we were allocated was not actually in Venice and was therefore not covered by the 3 day pass we were bought for transport.  Jolly Campers did provide a shuttle bus that dropped us near the port but it only started at 9 am and last but 9 pm which was not suitable for us mostly as the lectures started at 8.30 am and finished around 5 pm but we also had dinners and other functions so could rarely catch the last bus.  Also, you had to buy tickets in advance.

 

 

We started our week with a welcome drinks session that was in Venice but unfortunately, we arrived too late for the workshops we had chosen in the afternoon.  The welcome session was great and helped everyone adjust and start to network a little.  To find the event, Saurav our course director, used google maps while taking pictures of the journey with his selfie stick.  Once the event had closed we all scooted off to find a suitable venue for us all to eat in a restaurant.  Many people that know me will know that I’m famous for saying, “There are no restaurants in Venice”.  I say this from previous visits because most are really tiny cafés with many seats outside.  The only real restaurants are the ones in hotels.  I can categorically state that I was wrong, there are very many really good restaurants in Venice and we found one with an internal courtyard to accommodate all 15 of us.  Four Mres from Cambridge, eight from Cranfield, our two lecturers, Saurav, Claudiu and lastly Adam, who did his Mres at Cambridge and transferred to Cranfield for his PhD.  Adam is a great guy known by most at Cranfield for his hard work, knowledge and helpfulness.  He is finishing his PhD this year but may still be around next year on another project.  You can find the full team of Mres students here, https://www.cdt-up.eng.cam.ac.uk/directory/mres-students.  We were spread over two round tables that paid their bills independently.  We enjoyed our meal but were a little surprised when the bill came.  Although we hadn’t requested, bread sticks and bread rolls came out and we hardly ate any of it.  This turns out to be standard all over Venice, they always add a cover charge per person including, bread, place settings and napkins etc.  They sometimes also include a service charge.  Unfortunately, many of our table had left, paying for what they had first which of course didn’t include their share of this charge.  As we had to pay for the bread rolls, Katherine being a vegan, struggles sometimes to find suitable food, took these rolls in her handbag on top of the receipt.  It was hilarious when the waiter asked for the receipt to check it, to watch Katherine taking the bread rolls out of her bag in front of the waiter to get the receipt.  This alone, made it worth the charge!

 

Being our first return journey at night with no transport tickets, we did well negotiating a bus journey and 45 minute walk to eventually find “Jollies”.  We even managed to get the last drink in the bar to replace fluids.  The following morning, I was down for breakfast around 7.30 which was a sparse buffet breakfast but adequate and free.  As long as we have hot and cold drinks and a small snack we are happy.  It was a very long day Tuesday at the conference but also really enjoyable and informative.  There were also people we had already met on the CDT program from other events.  euspen gave everyone a small rucksack on registration that had various goodies inside, including a program that listed all the presentations with times and a few lines about each paper presented at the conference.  Prof Richard Leach, from Nottingham University, whom I had been for an interview with for my PhD presented five papers at this event alone.  Now I understand how he has managed to be involved with over 250 papers prior to this event.  He is a legend and certainly “the man of the moment”.  Euspen also included a usb stick that included all these papers.  What a great start.

 

Breaks, followed presentations, that followed breaks until it looked like we would have time to walk to the bus station to convert our travel card barcode onto a real card and maybe even take a couple of pictures of Venice.  However, there were some awards that we felt it would be rude if we didn’t attend followed by short talks from all the exhibitors at the event.  To get the most from talking to the exhibitors, it seemed we should listen to these also.  Two of our group walked to convert the travel cards taking our barcodes with them so at least we could use them from now.  We had already missed almost the entire first day of the transport but we had them anyway.  Once these talks were finished euspen had laid on a student networking dinner that didn’t finish until 10 pm.  This was very nice but we felt that we should at least have seen Venice.  Once we realised there would be no time we arranged to take the following afternoon off because we had not been invited to the formal dinner that evening anyway.  Following the hour long lunch was one of two, 2 hour poster sessions where we could read the posters and ask questions about the owners projects.  There were two from Cranfield resenting posters, Rita (an Mres) and Adam just finishing his PhD.  We explained to them what our intensions were but they had to be by the posters for both events and they agreed to meet us following this session.  We could all then attend the important final poster session where the votes were counted and prizes awarded.

 

We had a wonderful time around Venice, starting by getting the boat to Murano where they have made glass since at least the 1400’s.  In fact this is where Galileo bought his glass that he made the first telescope with in Venice.  I had missed it on all of my previous visits but finally made it there.  The glass is very expensive but beautiful and probably the best that money can buy.  However, these days it’s likely that most of it is first imported from China.  We visited the Murano glass Museum which was expensive but enjoyable.  Not sure why the museums in Venice are so expensive; it’s a shame as I fear many people do not go in because of costs.  We walked to the nearest ferry port and returned to Venice main island – next stop St Marks Square where we were to meet Rita and Adam following the poster thing.

 

On previous visits, the square has been so packed I have not enjoyed it there but this day it was reasonably clear with people feeding the pigeons.  People think that pigeons are fat but they are not, they just have very large breast muscles that allows them to be the only bird that can manage a vertical take-off.  Dileep turned out to be bird man and every time he put his arms out they seemed to land on him.  Dileep only likes the girl pigeons landing on him.  He is from one of my favourite places in the world, India and so is self-funding.  He works incredibly hard without complaint, doing everything we do plus manages a 40 hour week working in a local petrol station.  He also never misses an opportunity to pitch for funds towards his PhD.  Remember the course fees for international students is two to three times as much as for home students.  He cannot get funding from home without first returning to India for two years before he will qualify.  Anyway, we met the other missing students and split up because the Cambridge guys had been invited to the formal dinner and had to head back.  There were a few missing because Venice flu seemed to hit our group from day one and some were in the rough early stages in bed.  The remaining Cranfield students agreed to walk to the Rialto bridge which is probably second on the list to St Marks Square.  We were starving and settled for the Rialto Restaurant right next to the bridge.  Man, now we were living, I had a huge 1 litre jug of beer and the food was very good and not as expensive as most places.  Its so expensive in Venice as its almost all tourists and they don’t have to impress because new tourists will be along all the time.  Once finished we started the long walk back to the bus station followed by a 15 minute walk back to Jollies.  They had a pool party on that night that finished at 11.30 pm.  Sounds good but we are living in caravan rooms that are semi detached and can hear every noise outside.  Once the band had finished they seem to play music until 1.30 am most nights and my neighbour always rose at 6 am.  This shakes the caravan around so much you can’t possibly sleep so it was late nights and early mornings every day.  Still this meant that I was always one of the first down for breakfast.

 

Thursday was another long day but the main event was the poster competition and were pleased when that finally came around.  We asked Rita many difficult questions which she was very able to answer and of course we all voted for her.  Adam was magnanimous in encouraging everyone to vote for her even though he was entered himself.  I asked Adam for his poster number so I could vote him second but he wouldn’t let me as any votes for second and third are effectively voting against your first place.  PWAO2154The announcements; third place was awarded, then second and finally first place out of around 250 posters.  Rita’s real name was announced (Junguo zhao) and her face was a picture – she was so shocked but the roar that went up was incredible, everyone was going mad. Yahoo, well done Rita!  Her parents are going to be so proud and well-done Adam for his part in this victory and honour.  This is the event that Saurav won when he did his Mres, not all that long ago and now he has over 40 papers published.  The event finished around 5 pm so we all left for dinner following Tommy from Cambridge who had eaten at an impressive place a short walk away previously.  Unfortunately, it was already full by the time we arrived there so we headed off, eventually finding a larger restaurant in a square with enough spaces to accommodate us all.  They pushed lots of tables together so it all felt quite medieval.

 

On Friday we had a choice of three industrial tours but again the logistics didn’t really work as we were so far out.  Fortunately, Jollies had an eight seater minibus that we booked.  They only had one so we had to do two trips.  As it started raining at 5 am our first group had to stand in the rain until the others arrived.  Different minibuses arrived for tours one and three but a full sized bus turned up for our most popular number two.  Number two was an excellent tour around a university.  They split us into 3 groups and each was let around five departments.  It all worked so smoothly and run by intelligent people.  As usual Dillep took the opportunity of asking for PhD funding.  The university had some great equipment and were working mainly on trouble shooting for industry, solving any problems that arose by trying to understand the problems.  Understanding is the only true way forward – there is no point just being lucky to find a solution.  If you truly understand something, you can design whatever application you like from it, if you were lucky you only have one solution.

 

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Bra Bar

The afternoon was free and again we wandered around Venice, but this time without the aid of google maps so we kept finding dead ends.  We headed towards their Natural History Museum but they wanted 24 euros each.  We found two other museums but again, as students they were too expensive.  We eventually found ourselves at the Rialto bridge again and crossed back onto the normal side where we ate at the restaurant last time there.  This time we used google maps to find the famous bra bar that my friend Evonne had told me about in a Facebook comment.  It was literally two minutes from the bridge.IMG_8469  We had a drink there but prices were quite high – even for Venice.  Following this drink we set off to find the others who had eaten at the restaurant we couldn’t get in previously.  They had already left but amazingly we bumped into most of them walking by a market.  Strange how these coincidences happen, with all the people in Venice how we should meet this way.  We all went for a seat in the shade in a local park following Tommie’s expert guidance once again.  By now the rain had stopped and the sun was back in force.

 

We were not all on the same flight home for our return, the Cambridge gang were flying back from a different airport to Stanstead while we were at Marco Polo to Gatwick.  Today they has a staff strike at the airport that ended at 5 pm and our flight was at 9.50 pm.  However, we spent most of our time queueing because of the backlash.  Again, when we arrived at Gatwick we must have taken a couple of hours to meet at baggage claim.  We finally set off finding the minibus for our return but the M25 have overnight roadworks and is down to one lane at 40 mph.  We got to the M1 to find it was closed between the M25 and Milton Keynes so had to drive around the houses to get back to Cranfield.  By the time I got home it was just past 3 am and I seemed to be developing a sore throat.  The dreaded Venice flu, so I took a lemsip before going to bed.  Awoken by a phone call at 8.30 am, I still felt tired but two more lemsips seemed to keep the cold at bay.  What a fantastic trip which was also educational and interesting and we all managed to get several contacts for our PhD projects which I will talk about in a future blog once I have accepted my best choice offer.  Only two weeks away from our next conference in Edinburgh.  Where am I going to find the time to finish my Mres thesis properly?

 

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Ethiopia 5 Gondar

IMG_7704Gondar was a dead loss as far as the Internet goes, I hardly got online at all.  We had a walk around the palace or castle which was really good because our guide was very good.  We had some lunch at the famous Master Chef which was just down our street and got our guide again to go to the church.  It is supposed to be the most decorated Ethiopian church and I believe it.  In the church grounds was an amazing variety of birds.  We saw huge ravens, vultures and lots of really colourful pretty birds.  We had a drink at our hotel and caught a Bajaj to a hotel at the top of a hill called Goha with fountains and an alga pool.  Back down to the other guide book recommended restaurant called the four sisters for dinner then home to bed.  An early start in the morning as we were picked up at 7.30 am to go to the airport to fly back to Addis.  IMG_7708We were both pretty knackered by now as we have had a demanding ten days.  Once we landed, we walked around to the international airport next door to check ourselves and our bags in so we didn’t have to drag them around all day.  Also it should make it easier when we go back to fly to London.  The taxis wanted 300 birr just to go to town so Georgina rang her friend at ETT travel and they sent a car for us.  The car took us around IMG_7721the red museum then for lunch at the most expensive Chinese I have eaten in.  They wanted 625 birr for chicken soup and there are 37 birr to the pound.  Following lunch we both started to feel wiped out and asked to be taken to a quiet place for a drink that wasn’t so expensive and he took us to Ghion hotel with nice grounds.  Once there he saw we were knackered and offered us a complimentary apartment what’re we could have a nap and relax before our journey home.  We couldn’t get online but it’s a place to relax and wind the hours down until they pick us up at 10:30 pm tonight.IMG_7745

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Ethiopia 4 Lalibela

Very thorough check in we had to put bags through twice and both inspected.  Flight was DSCF3565less than an hour and our bags brought to door.  Someone had Georgina’s name on a card and took us to our hotel, the Top Twelve hotel.  Best rooms so far with proper shower and balcony.  We went to a restaurant called Ben Adana which is very unusual and the food divine.  I had spiced Ethiopian shepherds pie and salad, yum!  We went to the office to pay for tours and guide Tady which was very expensive and around the churches, finishing at St George’s cross.  Amazingly, we bumped into Mateus, the German and so arranged to meet for dinner at the Seven Olives Hotel.  I couldn’t resist the peppered steak.

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Ben Adana Restaurant

Last day at Lalibela and even more churches to see.  There are eleven all together in town but we rented a minibus this morning to visit another one about 40 km away.  Of course lost of walking up hills for probably an hour, then we had to walk on a rough floor with no shoes on again for ages.  It doesn’t seem to affect the others like me because I have more weight on mine and they are covered in

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Dik Dik’s playing

blisters.  Back to Lalibela to the museum which was quite interesting.  We tried to have lunch at our hotel but they only had a three course special so we went next door to the DSCF3579Paradise hotel for cheeseburger and chips which were really nice although a little pricey.  The afternoon was spent seeing the other churches around town that are

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Ethiopian shepherds pie
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Ben Adana

chiseled from the rocks.  I’m churched out now, they all look pretty much the same to me.  Another priest blessed us with his gold cross so we should be ailment free now.  We had to go to our favourite restaurant to watch the sun go down with a drink and then the Ethiopian shepherds pie.  What a place!
Saturday was a bit of a washout as they took us to the airport so early we spent most of the day there. Also we hadn’t paid for the hotel until we left so that left us both without much money.  When we finally

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Georgina blessed

set off the journey was only 30 minutes and a car was waiting for us.  The hotel is a family run one and it’s ok butIMG_7647 not as nice as some of the others we have stayed in.  We dropped out stuff and walked a while to find five ATMs but none would give us money so we found a little dirty hotel for lunch and shared a pizza.  When we walked back the ATMs were working.  I didn’t feel very well so went to bed at around 5pm.  I woke every hour for the IMG_7656toilet so suspect it’s something to do with diabetes.  The church wailing started at 10:30pm and is still going at 7am when I finally got up.  Although frequently waking, I slept for most of the time.IMG_7675

Ethiopia 3 Aksum

We left Mekele around 9 am and visited a church that was cut from solid rock on our

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Queen of Sheba Palace

way to Aksum.  Although the driver went quite fast we did not get there until after 1 pm and our hotel was almost full, only suites left so I rang Gerry and he came over.  There was a new one opened 6 weeks ago called Serina hotel so that’s where we are.  It’s literally next to Gerry’s shops and house.  I used to work with Gerry, years ago at Mertech.  There were four of us in the office, Chris was exactly ten years older than me and Gerry was exactly twenty years older than Jim.  When Gerry retired he came to live here in Axum Ethiopia as he married an Ethiopian lady while working here years ago.  They have seven kids who all live in IMG_7489Luton.  Unfortunately, Gerry’s wife died of cancer a couple of years ago.  He supports six Ethiopians with food, shelter and clothes.  He is building quite a few houses so they all have somewhere when he dies.  He also has five really nice shops next to his house.  We went to his house for traditional coffee then had lunch then went out in a Bajaj to see a few sights.  We saw the Ethiopian equivalent of the Rosetta Stone plus a highly painted church.  Although they are mainly author ax Christians, there are similarities to Islam.  Like the wailing they seems to be constantly coming from the churches.  Georgina and I had dinner at the nice hotel we couldn’t stop in then had an early night.  I woke as usual at 4am but found that I could use the Internet because nobody else was.  Finally got some postcards sent off.  Tomorrow we will be visiting the sights with Mr Gerry.  Back to sleep for me now for my second sleep.  See you in the real morning.

IMG_7496Mr Gerry did us proud, we had seen all the sights by 4 pm and that included a 2 hour lunch break and traditional coffee back at his house.  Aksum is to the Christian church what Mecca is to Islam.  The Muslims have been trying to build a Mosque here but they have been told that when we can build a church in Mecca, then they can build a Mosque here.  I particularly liked the museum, the old fella that looked at our paperwork guided us around and he really knew his stuff.  U fortunately, we couldn’t take photos inside.  There were two tombs actually inside the museum that were being excavated slowly.  One had already been done and lots of the artifacts were dug from this tomb.  In the evening we started by getting a Bajaj to the Yeha hotel where we had IMG_7506several drinks.  We even finished off the two bottles of red wine that I had carried up and down the volcano.  We then got a Bajaj back down into town and stopped at the Antika Cultural Restaurant where we both had fish goulash.  It was a bit like the Chinese dish crispy shredded beef but fish, very tasty but then again was the local beers.  We had one final beer back at our hotel and then to bed to sleep it off.  In the IMG_7514morning we packed and got a Bajaj to the Central breakfast cafe in town that we had spotted in the guide book.  I had my usual egg sandwich, tea but a fresh mango juice.  Georgina had the more traditional full which is spicy beans with eggs on the top with bread.  Our taxi hadn’t turned up so 15 minutes later we ordered another one to the airport.IMG_7523

Ethiopia 2 Active Volcano

IMG_7261We were picked up at 9 am and taken to the travel agent where they paired us all up into our land cruisers.  We had Elizabeth from Virginia but living and working  in Chad.  They gave us a list of stuff that we should take as its an extreme trip.  It was on the internet but we didn’t have enough to read it, or time.  I asked the driver to stop at a shop to get a towel as I hadn’t brought one.  It took ages but eventually found on for 300 Birr, a out £8.  We set off and it wasn’t long before we stopped for coffee and we could sort of meet the people from the other four land cruisers.  They are numbered 1 to 5 and we travel in convoy.  I was surprised that the IMG_7297roads were tarmacked.  In fact they were tarmacked most of the way.  We stopped for lunch, a sort of pasta and rice dish with vegetables.  They are fasting here at the moment and don’t eat meat.  They offer tuna to go on your pasta which always adds a little flavour.  It was many hours travel before we reached our camp but then we set off to the salt flats to watch the camel trains come by.  Incredible, mile after mile of salt flats and we could travel as fast as on the roads.  We set off again to the surfer fields but by now the temperature was 44 C in the shade.  And guess what?  There aint no shade.  Also the heat was reflected from the salt.  There was a long steep climb to reach the surfer fields with the pungent smell the whole way.  I haven’t brought a hat so used the yellow towel that I IMG_7307bought in Mekele over my head.  By the time we reached the duller I was feeling I’ll with overheating.  By the time I got down again I was feeling sick so he put the aircon on and I stayed in the car.  The next stop I missed by Georgina took some pictures for me.  We then moved on to a salt pool and people put there feet in.  It really turned out to be an unusual day.  Then we drive to the salt lake and I had a paddle.  By this time the sun was going down but not the temperature.  We sat in between two cruisers in the shade to wait for the sun set.  Out came the wine an Ouzo.  It really was turning out to be my kind of trip.  IMG_8962IMG_7312This is when you get to know the people with you, when the drinks start to flow.  Wine finished and sun set we set off back to base camp for dinner and more ice cold beers.
We are sleeping under the stars tonight in the open air.  They have some wicker beds and a blanket each.  I used mine as a pillow until I woke up cold then used my towel as a pillow and put the blanket over me.  I woke between 3am and 5am but then slept until 6am when we got up for breakfast.  The biggest challenge is that there are no toilets anywhere.  You have to walk off and squat.  IMG_9002Bloody nightmare.  I had to go at 3.15am which is quite normal for me and has the advantage that it’s dark.  It’s also a disadvantage as you have no idea how good is your aim as its not something you practice often.  Today we had a long drive of about 8 hours DSCF3526to get to the volcano.  We had quite a bit of off reading which was fun, especially the sand part.  When we got to a station they insist you have a guide to guide you through the lava field.  It was unbelievable.  30km over lava like Lanzarote, I wouldn’t have Camelbelieved it possible if I hadn’t done it.  Once at volcano base camp we had dinner and waited for it to get dark.  The plan was to ascend the volcano in the dark so it’s cooler and sleep on the rim.  Get up at 4am and go to look at the lava.  They didn’t think I could make the 11km hike so booked me a camel to go up on.  Cool ehh!  Climbing an active volcano on a camel at night.  The walkers set off but they had a real job getting me onto the camel.  Someone had to fetch a chair to stand on.  Once on I was completely unstable and it’s really high up.  I was gripping on for grim death and though I would never make 4 hours on it.  Twenty IMG_8929minutes later the camel sat down and refused to go any further.  I had to walk the entire way up in the dark without enough water and no torch as I had given it to George.  I was the last one up by over an hour.  Twenty to midnight when I got there.  I got a bed and went to sleep.  Four am as promised they wake us up to collect the beds and pack the camels while we went to see the lava as it was smokey at night earlier.  I didn’t go as I needed my morning routine.  This was a challenge climbing over volcanic rock to look for a suitable spot.  This is what my IMG_8942nightmares are made of.  Suitably packed up we set off in the dark again.  It was only 30 minutes or so before I could switch my torch off that I recovered from George.  I was completely exhausted by the time we got to base camp with the bottoms of my feet covered in blisters.  I can hardly walk at all now.  We had breakfast at base camp before the long treacherous drive back.  I couldn’t face breakfast only having water an melon.  I like there breakfasts normally, eggs with onions and spices, pancakes etc.  What IMG_8932a three day trip!  I have never been on anything like that before.  The towel was the best 300 Birr i have ever spent, i used it as a blanket, to sit on, to keep the sun off me and as a pillow.  Pretty much the only thing i haven’t used it for yet is to dry myself as i haven’t washed for three days.  I didn’t even take my clothes off either.  Quite surprised i couldn’t smell anybody, perhaps we all smelt as bad and we didn’t notice?  Tonight we will meet Mateus, a Fat old German that took a shine to me and always sits with me for food and IMG_8970drinks.  He has been off immense support to me as he gave me a hat and water on theIMG_7404 way down the volcano.  We went out for dinner with him when we got back.  I had peppered stick and chips, but i am glad to say it was a typo and was wonderful.  Georgina had fillet IMG_7399fish and fresh vegetables and chips and Mateus had fish goulash that he really enjoyed.  A few bottles of beer and all in a posh restaurant for about £10.  Tomorrow morning we will travel to Aksum to meet Gerry.

Ethiopia 1 Addis Ababa

As Georgina is working in South Sudan as a diplomat, I wanted to see her there but she thought it better if we met in Ethiopia, next door and had a holiday together there as it is much safer than South Sudan. The first chance we both had was March once my lectures had finished and prior to my thesis work starting.  Georgina had finished her MSc and

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British Embassy

just about caught up with work so as last the time was here.  I caught bus from MK’s new coach way which was a few minutes late. Once I was dropped off at Heathrow main bus park it’s easy to walk to T2. Checking has evolved since I flew last year.  You do it at a terminal and it prints your boarding pass out and your bag label that you attach yourself.  Not sure if I was lucky but it seems to have eliminated the queues completely.  Here I am already through security with a couple of hours to go.  There is even a Ted Baker here, very upmarket.  Mohammad tells me there are three at Heathrow.  Georgina messages me already so I guess that she’s already in Ethiopia.  She will stay the night tonight but I won’t arrive until early morning.  Just had another message, Georgina has arranged a shuttle from the airport to her hotel for me.  It’s 3 hours ahead of here so 21:15 there so she will eat, do a little work and sleep.  I on the other hand have to sit here or on a plane until the morning and being so big I can never sleep.
We have the day in Addis to visit museums then fly to Mekele for the night but are staying in a cheap hotel.  The next morning, we are off on a three day treck around Danakil desert which is the hottest place on Earth and we can’t even wash so starting with a bang.

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British Embassy

The flight started well, we boarded an hour before taking off, given free papers and headphones and could watch films immediately.  Well it’s still surprising me, could watch the film even when taking off and I have three adjacent seats.  We took off 15 minutes late but who cares?  It just keeps getting better, free red wine and snacks.  The wine is lovely, much better than the stuff I normally buy.  We also have a mean soon, probably with more wine.  Already watched, “Focus” with Will Smith, just trying “Run all night” with Liam Neilson.
We flew down the Adriatic Sea and over the south west corner of Crete, the old Myan grounds.   The food wasn’t to my taste (kid’s food) but the wine kept on coming. When it’s free, you have to make the most of it, but be subtle, hide empties until you don’t want any more.  Ask different girls for another one every time they come past.  Not quite sure how many red wines they gave me but they were very obliging and I managed to save two for another time. Arrived about 15 minutes late but managed to find the minibus to the Caravan hotel.  When I arrived, Georgina came out to greet me.  Altogether a pleasant trip.

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Ethiopian Injera

We set off to the travel shop when they arrived at 9 am having had breakfast at Georgina’s hotel first.  Georgina settled up as I already transferred half to Georgina’s account before I left.  The guy that picked us up seemed to want to be our guide for the day and wanted to take the car to the phone shop so Georgina could get a local sim.  My phones locked so I couldn’t.  In Ethiopia they only have one phone company run by the government so it’s a real faf having to get passport picture and visa picture.  Georgina hasn’t got a visa as she is a diplomat but they didn’t recognise that so they couldn’t use hers.  I got the passport copy and had my picture taken so Georgina could get a sim.  Why does everyone laugh when I have my picture taken?  See, you’re doing it again now.
As it was a 2 mile walk and my legs had gone we got a cab to the British Embassy so that Georgina could drop off her two laptops for safekeeping until we come home next week.  They have golf and giant tortoises there, it’s a huge place.  I don’t think I have been to an embassy before.  Nice houses on the site as well.

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Lucy

We then got another cab back to the ETT car and drove to the museum where Arne and Lucy live.  3.3 and 3.2 million year old remains respectively live there.  What a treat, there are so many hominid remains at this museum, plus other normal more boring religious stuff.  They are mainly orthodox Christians here and there are churches everywhere.  There was one opposite the museum and they wail like they do at Islamic places.  And they do it every day for three hours.  Next stop food at the Lucy Restaurant on the museum site.  Yes, we could still hear them.  Georgina had a funny vegetable dish served on fermented flat bread.  I had lamb and chilies served on the same.  Very ripe and fruity.  We also got soup and bread to start and fresh fruit salad to finish even though we didn’t ask for them.  By this time we were running out of time as we were flying to Mikele at 6 pm and we needed to go back to the travel place to pick up our backpacks before going to the airport.  This still left us time to drive up the mountain to take some nice pictures first.

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Arni
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Mountain women

Lots of old ladies carrying piles of wood down the hill.  One old lady came to the car to beg as we were getting back in to leave.  I brought $100 dollars in $1 dollar bills for tips so I gave her one.  She seemed so excited and appreciative it was amazing.  She spat on my hand and kissed it.  Pew, did that stink.  It was ages before I could wash the bloody smell away.  Our drive said as we were driving away they she had realised it was a single dollar bill rather than the ten she had first thought.
We got to the airport, had a couple of beers and flew to Mikele in a prop plane that was full.  A driver with our names on a card was waiting to take us to the Stockholm hotel.  We dropped our bags and I had a quick shower.  The water was freezing.  I had switched the heater on but had no time to wait for it to warm.

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Selem 150000y older than Lucy

There was no toilet paper but one of those squirty things they have in India.  It wouldn’t work until I switched the local tap on, then water squirted everywhere from leaking pipes before I even pressed the squirty.  I then braved the cold shower and just when i didn’t think it could get any worse, all the lights went off.  I had no idea where my phone or torch was as we had just arrived.  I fumbled around until I found my phone which helped me find the torch.  Only just got sorted out and the lights came back on again.  Seventy percent of Ethiopians do not have electricity but the other 30% only have it for half the time, that’s why they want to build this dam for hydroelectric power.
I went downstairs to find Georgina and we nipped out for a vegetable pizza.  Literally, with carrots, courgettes, mushrooms, spinach and pineapple; no cheese.  Funny, it was really nice with hardly any fat and they brought an accompaniment of mashed peppers and chilies.  Straight off to bed for my first sleep since I was in England a few days ago, but not before writing this up before I forget.  Early start in the morning as we are off in a bouncy truck to the hottest desert in the world where we are to climb a volcano.  Georgina has reserved a camel to take the old man up.  What a day, see you early in the morning.

Social Life

Somehow, I have managed to retain most of my social life as much as possible.  I don’t like to work evenings if I don’t have to anyway, but I have retained my three evenings out.  I meet Jim, my best friend, at the pub I can walk to on a Tuesday, where we normally eat and talk about all things science.  I am out with the old boys on a Wednesday night where we also eat.  Dr George, who was my course tutor at the OU is one and Jim comes along occasionally.  There are usually 4 or 5 of us, including, Steve, Prof Alfi and Georges son Chris.  Alfi isn’t really a prof, he just likes to think he is.  He has never owned a tv or been married so he has the knowledge of a professor anyway.  The feature picture is a sign outside the Red House where we eat on a Wednesday.  I thought of another one, “When its foggy, look for the VW”.

I have recently resurrected a Friday, early doors night out with Dr George and his rugby crowd.  I used to stop off for a drink with them years ago but only started again since I have been single.  Claire, my ex-wife comes around, on her way home from work on a Sunday for dinner and takeaways for the week.  The only social things that have suffered so far is, seeing my Mum and Harriet.  Quite often Harriet and Billy would come around on a Thursday after work for a pancake supper.  I did get back to see my Mum again last Sunday but that’s the first time since I started this course.  Claire has been a couple of times, which has helped.

DSCF3297I haven’t seen much of Georgina either lately, but that’s because she has been working in sub-Saharan Africa for over 12 months.  This Friday, Georgina texted me to say that she had to come home early because some troubles had flared up in South Sudan and it wasn’t safe.  Normally, this would be good news, but she had a few interviews set up which are crucial for her thesis for her MSc that must be in by January 5th, 2018.  She won’t be going back again until December, so it doesn’t leave much time to rearrange and write up.  On the plus side, she couldIMG_6876 come back to Melton Mowbray with me to see her Grandma last Sunday.  Grandma was pleased to see us both and had prepared a nice soya cottage pie with vegetables because Georgina is still a vegetarian.  If it’s got lamb in, it’s called shepherd’s pie, if it’s got beef, it’s a cottage pie, maybe a vegetable one should be called a ploughman’s pie?

This is Georgina’s “field kit” for when she travels in the wilds of South Sudan without an armored car.  A stab vest, hard hat, satellite phone and what looks like a puncture repair kit.  She had to use this 2 weeks ago when she visited some of SS’s top officials.  They are rolling in it while their people are literally starving but are looking for aid to sort all their problems out.

DSCF3239We had another trip to Cambridge a couple of weeks ago for a “Kick Off Meeting” to start organizing our student led Conference.  We started by electing a Project Manager for both Universities and then I was elected Secretary and I don’t even have a short skirt.  Sorry to put that image in your mind.  Anyway, we have already set our event date for DSCF3242Thursday 24th May 2018.  I was also assigned to create a poster for the event.

Poster

I just noticed when I selected the poster to put here, that I had the date wrong.  That’s so me, the only mistake on the drawing is the title or the date.  Don’t tell anyone, I will replace it with the one on our shared Google drive and they may never know.  I’m surprised that nobody else had noticed it either as this is the third version I have done.

It was an early start in the morning and Bilal was very tired.  Dillep was tired when we got back as well but that was probably more to do with his 40 hour a week job that he has because he has no funding.DSCF3269DSCF3245

 

 

 

 

 

DSCF3246Another event that I managed to attend, was (Wednesday night) Steve’s wife Jan’s joint 60th Birthday.  Jim and Shirley went as well so I managed to get a lift so I could get a few downDSCF3247 me.  It was nice to find that the bar was free for most the night but when you had to pay, they hit you hard at £10 for two draft beers.  It was a great night as Jan has also just passed her business degree with The OU.  Quite an achievement, especially for a girl that has been doing it part time whilst handling a full time job at the same time.  It was also nice to see their kids, Dan and Charlotte, but I only managed to get pictures of Steve and Charlotte.

IMG_6863I even managed to catch up with Harriet and Billy, when we went to the Cosgrove Park firework display where Claire works.  It was cold but we had a lovely time eating hot dogs while drinking beer and watching the display.  They had spent over £7000 on fireworks and it was really spectacular.  I intended to put a great firework video at the end of this entry but I have to upgrade before I can.  Never mind, I will get photo’s next year.  I was also going to put some pictures of some of the sights around Cranfield University, but will have to save those for next time now.