activism conservation travel

A drone, a few machetes, and a bit of rope.

Surveying the Land: by foot, by boat, and by air

… With our surveys, we watch the towns spread with octopus-like arms. We watch the expansion of the gridded plantations with their artificial lines and right angles – but we also get to glimpse the forests of Borneo as they were before.

When we’re lucky, having trudged in deep black water swamps, crawling along the streams that snake through the underbelly of the forest or flying with our drones near the clouds, we get to see a different view.

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daily life

Other news

In other news… yes, I am still in California – but I have plane tickets to Indonesia – I’m leaving in just under two weeks! Things have been… very… family. Holidays involved eleven people sleeping at our house on Christmas Eve. What else?

  • A crazy part-time money-earning-thing: I have been ghostwriting a screenplay, which makes for a great-can-only-be-told-in-person story – ie, the ghost part of the ghost writing – but suffice it to say, it has been a most amusing and educational experience – not to mention also, I think, by representing my official involvement with the film industry, unequivocally makes me a Los Angelino.
  • Crashing a car: I was responsible for the unfortunate introduction of a cement pole and a car in a parking structure – other than ripping off a side mirror, there was minimal damage – but it’s still, you know, a damaged car – and it wasn’t mine to begin with, either – and I think I am, from this point on, retiring myself from urban driving.
  • And, as of last week, preparing to leave for Borneo… for sometime between an entire year or maybe I’ll be coming back in March…
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    daily life

    An attic full of bones…

    I’ve been playing with bones!

    I’ve collecting data for my thesis project, that is. Measuring bones. Doing fieldwork. Very official. Very much hard work.

    … and spent all of last week in the coolest skeleton-filled attic ever. There were “my” chimps, of course, plus others that I won’t even pretend to be able to identify (especially not things with horns).

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    And shouldn’t a fairy tale end with a Ball?

    May Ball (at Clare Hall, Cambridge)

    There was a snake charmer. And a silent disco. And “Surviror’s photos” of those of us who managed to be still standing at 4am.*

    And – not pictured – a belly dancer, bollywood dancers, traditional Indian dancers, a play, shisha, gambling tables, masseuses, mehndi artists, an acapella group, a jazz quartet, and two djs. And a crepe stall at two in the morning because, after all, it’s not a party until there’s pancakes.

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    So you want to visit a dig – how to drop in on an archaeological excavation

    So, let’s say you’re a history buff.

    And that museums are cool, and all, but you’re more of an outdoorsy person. You like to see the splendor and size and the reality of sites and you get shivers thinking about standing on a path where others have stood, thousands of years before you – of touching the same wall, of looking through the same window. You probably like to touch things, if they don’t seem too fragile. (You probably have a thing for buildings and architecture, too, but you always hated math too much to take that path in school.)

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    daily life personal essay

    The town on top of the hill. (In the flattest party of the country.)

    The snow has finally melted.

    I hated the snow. I was complaining about it constantly for the last two weeks, moaning and making every possible excuse to stay indoors. But now that it’s melted, I already miss it. I should have gotten a photograph. It was beautiful.

    Not that Cambridge isn’t always beautiful.

    My close-lipped brother – who speaks half a dozen languages but never uses more than half a dozen words to describe an experience (no matter how marvelous or harrowing), who says “fine” and can mean anything by it from horrendous to incredible, from whom getting a story is like pulling teeth, who has lived in Paris for nearly two years now but can’t be compelled to say anything more than that it’s “very French”, who studies at the Sorbonne itself and who himself is no stranger to some ornate facades carved from stone  – he said that Cambridge was a fairy-tale land.

    He said that there I was in Cambridge living a fairy-tale life in a fairy-tale land. Actually, I’m sure he must have said academic. He said academic fairy-tale.

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    daily life

    I graduated!

    This would be everyone. At my graduation!

    This is what it looks like when (almost all of) your entire family comes to your graduation. From halfway across the world. (Because they’re just that amazing.)
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    All dressed up and nowhere to go… Parisian edition.

    We got all dressed up for dinner – a dinner we were late for – at a place that wasn’t where we thought it was – that wasn’t where we were – that closed at a different time, anyway. The only holiday picture with all four members of my family in it… and aren’t we cute? I’m not sure what decade we think we’re in. We were staying in this house (in Paris – family friends) that had this formal sitting room. And we sort of just had to – the room made us! (Sit down and pose, that is.) Oh well. At least we got a picture?
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    activism daily life

    Stokes Croft Riot: As we tweeted it…

    We tried - the few of us that remained seated - to restore some peace... (Photograph taken by Nicole Llyod. Borrowed because I'm in it.)

    Assembling these for an essay (twitter hashtag as piece of material culture, mediating personal experience, archiving the ephemeral) and thought they might be worth sharing. Tweets of a friend and myself during the second Stokes Croft Riot. There were many others tweeting, as well, although the main use of #StokesCroft has been post-riot, as we've been sharing updates, news,  follow-up discussion and analysis

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    activism daily life

    Rioting in Stokes Croft, Bristol

    The people are rioting in the streets. And it's not about the Royal Wedding.*

    Yes, I did say "riot", its not hyperbolic, and it's in my backyard. (Technically, my front street.)

    I got home at 5am this morning. After having sat in the middle of a street full of broken glass, surrounded by police dogs, riot vans, and mounted horseback police.

    I watched the police charge a crowd, watched a man go down under a horse. I watched the police march in, watched the neighbourhood transform into a post-apocalyptic re-imagining of the Haight Ashbury.

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    personal essay

    “My” piece of the Berlin Wall

    I was there when the Berlin Wall fell. I toured with the Rolling Stones. And I was in a stroller at the time.

    I have a piece of the Berlin Wall to prove it.

    My parents got it from the source – the wall itself. The wall had been built the year my mother was born; it fell the year I was. By the time we got there, there was still enough of it left that, as my mom tells it, half of Europe was there to party and hack off what they could.

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    activism travel

    Nepal as case study: demography & development

    Nepal as case study: demography & development

    Nepal is officially classified as a Least Developed Nation (142 of 177 on the UN’s Human Development Index). Over 90% of the population lives rurally with more than 30% under the poverty line . Nonetheless, the last 50 years have shown steady growth in most of the key markers used to gauge success and development – rate of infant mortality, life expectancy, and more. And yet, this hopeful improving “situation” was bad enough to turn the calls for political reform and ethnic conflict that began in the 90s into a full on civil war that killed at least 13,000 and displaced more than 100,000.

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    Peel back your skin

    your skin.

    There’s a
    underneath – don’t you
    feel it?

    Doesn’t it
    It’s made of bone
    and not yours. Haven’t
    you felt
    your body
    fight it?

    Peel back
    your skin
    for me – and we
    will paint
    your features back,

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    personal essay travel

    Mon frère habitera à Paris. Or, Expatriating with grace.

    My brother has a "phobia" of looking like a foreigner. (He told me so himself.)

    Now, I can almost understand. I hate looking like a tourist. I get self-conscious with my accent echoing in my own ears and all the wrong currencies falling out of my pockets.  I feel single-handedly responsible for over-turning all the stereotypes about loud Americans. I refuse to patronise international chains and I've been known to duck into a doorway to surreptitiously peer at the directions that I've discretely scrawled on my hand. I don't carry a guide-book in public. (Actually, I don't carry one at all.)

    My brother takes "not standing out" to an entirely new level. He takes my simile and turns it into a metaphor. He is dignity and assimilation.

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