Ah yeah and I’ve got a tan!

IMG_20130215_213425So I am writing to you from bed. Before I fly back to London tonight for my sister’s wedding and then onto Nepal for some mountains, colour and paragliding, I thought I’d update you and possibly myself on what’s happened of late. Its been a very active few months since Sri Lanka. I’m aware I haven’t written about Sri Lanka yet. I don’t know why. I’ll get around to it. When I don’t know.

Work here continues to resemble a potential bull in the china shop with the constant joke it may all fall apart. Every week something new appears which previously wasn’t considered a problem. I’ve got over discussing or arguing over it. It’s just the standard modus operandi of the business and the country. It’s a snufu kind of place. Agreements are never confirmed and yet flexibility isn’t an option. There are only confirmed once the big guys who frankly know nothing about it share tea together. Then its all on. Until its not.You just have to go with the now and don’t expect anything better.

And yet the knowledge that something previously not an issue will become one gives the place a surrealist tone my sense of humour appreciates. Meetings and agreements cancelled on a whim allow me to go into one of the VIP rooms and use a huge EWB to study. Or watch YouTube or Family Guy. I spend the afternoon studying, downloading, reading or planning my holidays.

Initiative is also not expected or encouraged. Revealing yourself to be willing flashes ‘sucker,’ someone  to be exploited and it’s only met by curious looks from your fellow workers who believe stepping beyond your role is puzzling. Ask them what their role is and they’ll let their eyes wonder, purse their lips and giggle. Further, confidence is admired so its easy to ‘wing’ it if you have experience.

Outside of work, life is flourishing. I’ve got a diverse group of friends. Every Saturday I play football, the first time I’ve played consistently in years. Champions bar is just down the road, often packed and full of screen to watch sport. The complex has a gym here which is pretty empty in the morning. I don’t usually go into work until midday so I’ve got time in the morning. That pool makes me smile.

I’ve had time to write much-needed long emails to old friends, caught up on Skype with others and bought and sent gifts around the world. Distance gives you some perspective to review the past and plan the future. And with the internet and my free phone, I can concern myself with others, helping them out if I can and sharing the knowledge grafted from mistakes or long years of travel. Or just simply discussing music or ideas. Communications should be win-win.

We’ve been to the beach football, the cycling tour of Qatar, Spain vs Uruguay and the men and women’s singles tennis. I was on TV at the tennis, giving my usual irreverent response during a Serena Williams match and met Mark Cavendish at the awards ceremony. Last week I was interviewed for the newspaper on writing and blogging about countries making the front page. I’ve been reading about the Middle East, a book Stu lent me. The very recent colonial, Cold War, land and resources issues of this area are reflected in any of its present trials.

I’ve finally started my research again. With Dhyan, the Nepalese janitor, we went down to old Doha and interviewed 40 Nepalese men. My friend’s friend had translated the survey into Nepalese language and Dhyan introduced himself to the men and helped them through the survey. His help was invaluable. I took him to a Nepalese restaurant later and we had mou-mou, a dish that reminds me of gyoza, mandu or peirogi. I have the Sri Lankan translation to come from my friend Priyanga and Anne generously translated the Indonesian survey. Next month after this trip, I’ll get onto those. At the same time, I’m doing a MOOC through the University of Amsterdam in Communication Science. That’s where the VIP rooms and big screen TVs come in especially useful!

Beyond Nepal, there is the Diamond League athletics, free tickets to Al-Saad, the national football champion’s last game and the British Council festival here. Then there’s the long summer holidays, seeing old friends, music festivals and hopefully the Caucasus Mountains, Iran and some Eastern Europe. There are further complications as per usual but I’ll keep them quiet until they reach more of a boil.

For now the rolling hills of England await. I am looking forward to the train ride through those hedged and roughly manicured fields. I’ll meet old friends and later my extended family for sister’s wedding and then a flight to the highest country on Earth. Can’t be bad eh?

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Euro2012 Semi Final Preview

Before I get to this England and France are out.

England are out. Bulldog spirit and defending can only get you so far. We couldnt keep the ball. Rooney was out of touch, Carroll is raw, Young was poor, MIlner isn’t good enough. Gerrard played reasonably but can’t do it all by himself. The defence were the stars which says a lot. Lescott and Johnson proved themselves to be international class (if not world class), Terry was his usual body on the line and Cole is world class. The endless talk of Joe Hart beocming one of the best goalkeepers in the world sounds like media hype to me. Besides he is 26, not 20. Its about time.

For France the reasons are obvious. The defence is actually weak. Rami is never good enough at this level nor is Mexes in reality. Midfield is average but Benzema hits the goalkeeper all night long. He isnt a real goalscorer. He shows that at Madrid where he still doesnt score enough. Blanc gave up before kick off with that team and tactics. Poor show. The worst two game I have seen here involved France. Similarly with England in 2006 and 2010, it must be hugely frustrating for players to spend two years qualifying for a major event and then go out so pathetically.

I said before the tournament Spain would struggle and they have. Without Villa to put the ball home, they pass the ball all day and lack real incision and pace to get behind the opposition. A bigger blow is losing Puyol but there are few teams who can play with Spain so it doesn’t matter here. In a World Cup it would. Against the pace of Portugal, they will miss his organisational skills and leadership.

They will play Portugal who have finally woken up the the pace they possess. If everyone played to their level, they can really compete. Ronaldo has missed more than he’s scored but the rest need to put a shift in. Its a good thing to lose Postiga too. He’s not good enough. Portugal have the talent to win this if their centre midfield works as a unit.

Germany have the organisation to beat Spain, They too lack pace so the likely final will be a dour-ish affair. I am not convinced by the German centre backs or Boeteng. They have conceded 4 goals so far to average teams but midfield forward, they are a very good team, if not as creatively brilliant as many would say. Schweinsteiger is a German Spaniard (less skill but more presence) and a fine player. Gomez is a goalscorer. Klose will look redundant against the best. But Germany will win this.

Italy were good tonight but they lack real penetration. So many chances tonight and no goals. They are more mobile than in the past but lacking in quality traditionally associated with the Azzurri.The Germans should have too much for them especially after tonight’s game.

Predictions (assuming the teams are as expected)

Spain 0-1 Portugal (that’s right!)

Germany 2-0 Italy

England 6 – 19 New Zealand

Far better performance. We looked…dare I say it… dynamic at times.

The backrow looked aggressive and scrambled well. Shaw brings a lot of power and nous. Does the hard yeards around the fringes too. Considering the front row is missing maybe 4 guys, the pack is looking up.

Hodgson looked game. Cipriani is an England Saxon for a while. Wilkinson not only controls the game well but makes his presence felt defensively positionally and in the tackle. The centres are waiting for Flutey’s guile to come back. Really not convinced by Gerathy. He makes bad distribution decisions, looks lightweight and constantly runs into brick walls. His job is to take the pressure off Wilkinson but right now he almost always puts the team under pressure. Cueto should always have been full back in present circumstances. Neither winger convinces me.
And the guys from the bench were important too. Fairly deep there considering the injuries.

It’s not a win and wins, no matter how, are all that matter. But it’s progress.