Travel · Travel Diaries: Work Edition

Tournament travel: Algiers, Algeria

The 2017 summer of handball tournaments began in Algiers, Algeria in July. The concentration of competitions taking place over the summer has meant a busy couple of months for me from July to September since 2015, when I covered my first Men’s Junior World Championship, followed by the Youth World Championship. This year the Junior World Championship was held in Algiers, after which I travelled to Tbilisi, Georgia for the Men’s Youth World Championship.

In Algiers we stayed in a hotel with an incredible view across the city, overlooking a concert venue which treated me to live music many nights after I had finished coverage for the day. One hot, sunny morning was spent exploring parts of the city on a guided tour, where we visited the Kasbah and the Matyr’s Memorial. The Memorial du Martyr Mujahid Museum was a sad, but interesting and clear highlight of the day and visit to Algiers overall.

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A brilliant global commentary from McEwan’s ‘Nutshell’

The book currently keeping me awake past my bedtime and bringing bliss to lazy weekend mornings is Ian McEwan’s Nutshell. I have read other books of the same author before, but, for me, the writing in this one is astonishingly beautiful and clever, even by his standards. I continually find myself rereading sentences to appreciate them completely.

Two passages, in which the protagonist outlines the arguments presented in a podcast about the world as we know it right now, really stood out to me:

“…a bad dream in the guise of a formal lecture. The state of the world.

“An expert in international relations, a reasonable woman with a rich deep voice, advised me that the world was not well. She considered two common states of mind: self-pity and aggression. Each one a poor choice for individuals. In combination, for groups or nations, a noxious brew that lately intoxicated the Russians in Ukraine, as it once had their friends, the Serbs in their part of the world. We were belittled, now we will prove ourselves. Now that the Russian state was the political arm of organised crime, another war in Europe no longer inconceivable. Dust down the tank divisions for Lithuania’s southern border, for the north German plain. The same potion inflames the barbaric fringes of Islam. The cup is drained, the same cry goes up: we’ve been humiliated, we’ll be avenged.

“The lecturer took a dim view of our species, of which psychopaths are a constant fraction, a human constant. Armed struggle, just or not, attracts them. They help to tip local struggles into bigger conflicts. Europe, according to her, in existential crisis, fractious and weak as varieties of self-loving nationalism sip that same tasty brew. Confusion about values, the bacillus of Antisemitism incubating, immigration populations languishing, angry and bored. Elsewhere, everywhere, novel inequalities of wealth, the super rich a master race apart. Ingenuity deployed by states for new forms of brilliant weaponry, by global corporations to dodge taxes, by righteous banks to stuff themselves with Christmas millions.

“China, too big to need friends or counsel, cynically probing its neighbours’ shores, building islands of tropical sand, planning for the war it knows must come. Muslim-majority countries plagued by religious puritanism, by sexual sickness, by smothered invention. The Middle East, fast-breeder for a possible world war. And foe-of-convenience, the United States, barely the hope of the world, guilty of torture, helpless before its sacred text conceived in an age of powdered wigs, a constitution as unchallengeable as the Koran. Its nervous population obese, fearful, tormented by inarticulate anger, contemptuous of governance, murdering sleep with every new handgun. Africa yet to learn democracy’s party trick — the peaceful transfer of power. Its children dying, thousands by the week, for want of easy things — clean water, mosquito nets, cheap drugs. Uniting and levelling all humanity, the dull old facts of altered climate, vanishing forests, creatures and polar ice. Profitable and poisonous agriculture obliterating biological beauty.

“Oceans turning to weak acid. Well above the horizon, approaching fast, the urinous tsunami of the burgeoning old, cancerous and demented, demanding care. And soon, with demographic transition, the reverse, populations in catastrophic decline. Free speech no longer free, liberal democracy no longer the obvious port of destiny, robots stealing jobs, liberty in close combat with security, socialism in disgrace, capitalism corrupt, destructive and in disgrace, no alternatives in sight.

“In conclusion, she said, these disasters are the work of our twin natures. Clever and infantile. We’ve built a world too complicated and dangerous for our quarrelsome natures to manage. In such hopelessness, the general vote will be for the supernatural. It’s dusk in the second Age of Reason. We were wonderful, but now we are doomed.”

And the counterargument:

“Pessimism is too easy, even delicious, the badge and plume of intellectuals everywhere. It absolves the thinking classes of solutions. We excite ourselves with dark thoughts in plays, poems, novels, movies. And now in commentaries. Why trust this account when humanity has never been so rich, so healthy, so long-lived? When fewer die in wars and childbirth than every before — and more knowledge, more truth by way of science, was never so available to us all? When tender sympathies — for children, animals, alien religions, unknown, distant foreigners — swell daily? When hundreds of millions have been raised from wretched subsistence? When, in the West, even the middling poor recline in armchairs, charmed by music as they steer themselves down smooth highways at four times the speed of a galloping horse? When smallpox, polio, cholera, measles, high infant mortality, illiteracy, public executions and routine state torture have been banished from so many countries?

“Not so long ago, all these curses were everywhere. When solar panels and wind farms and nuclear energy and inventions not yet known will deliver us from the sewage of carbon dioxide, and GM crops will save us from the ravages of chemical farming and the poorest from starvation? When the worldwide migration to the cities will return vast tracts of land to wilderness, will lower birth rates, and rescue women from ignorant village patriarchs? What of the commonplace miracles that would make a manual labourer the envy of Caesar Augustus: pain-free dentistry, electric light, instant contact with people we love, with the best music the world has known, with the cuisine of a dozen cultures? We’re bloated with privileges and delights, as well as complaints, and the rest who are not will be soon.

“As for the Russians, the same was said of Catholic Spain. We expected their armies on our beaches. Like most things, it didn’t happen. The matter was settled by some fireships and a useful storm that drove their fleet round the top of Scotland.

“We’ll always be troubled by how things are — that’s how it stands with the difficult gift of consciousness.”

Portfolio

Tour Amigo: Destination Guides project

One of my major projects this spring was writing for the updated Tour Amigo website. Tour Amigo is an Australian start-up made for those who like to travel on a tour, where you can enter your chosen destination(s) and receive a complete list of all itineraries that stop in those places from a variety of companies and operators including Contiki, TopDeck, Intrepid and many more.

I have been working with Tour Amigo since the middle of 2015, contributing posts for their travel blog regularly before the upgrade to their website earlier this year. This involved rewriting the previous destination guides to create three different SEO-ed sections on each nation.

Writing about travel is perhaps the most non-work feeling work there is. I wrote the content for almost 50 countries as part of this project, and learned so much about each of them — even those I knew well thanks to my own travels there. The original content was provided largely by former tour guides, who really knew their stuff after months or years of leading these itineraries.

If you would like to read a few samples of my work for this project, you can check them out below.

botswana-1957716_1280
Elephants in Botswana

Africa
BotswanaEgyptKenyaMalawiMoroccoNamibiaSouth AfricaTanzaniaUgandaZambia

Asia
IndiaLaosMyanmarNepalSri LankaVietnam

Central America
Costa RicaGuatemala

guatemala-2293062_1280
Weaving in Guatemala

South America
ArgentinaBoliviaChilePeruUruguay

Europe
AustriaBelgiumBosnia-HerzegovinaCroatiaCzech RepublicFranceGermany,
GreeceHungaryItalyMontenegroNetherlandsNorwayPolandPortugalRussia
Serbia
SlovakiaSloveniaSpainSwedenSwitzerlandTurkey

norway-2708286_1280Fjords in Norway

Oceania
AustraliaNew Zealand

All photos from Pixabay.com.

Travel Diaries: Work Edition

Tournament Travel: Hungary 2014

Last December, I reached the end of a full cycle of major international handball competitions. My very first, now more than two and a half years ago, was the Women’s EHF EURO 2014 in Hungary, where I was based in Györ, Debrecen then Budapest as journalist for the official website.

When I landed in Budapest, from where I would travel on to Györ by car, I had little idea of what to expect. And I have since learned that feeling does not go away no matter how many competitions I cover — while also learning I can always expect challenging, rewarding weeks that teach me so much I am a different person at the end. The other thing I found in Hungary, which has never disappointed me at any tournament, is that I will be surrounded by inspiring, smart, driven, fun people throughout all of it. Working in such an environment is a huge part of what makes those weeks from the first match to the trophy presentation so wonderful.

As it was December when the Women’s EHF EURO 2014 took place, Christmas markets lay in the centre of all three cities, making them even more appealing than they might be ordinarily. In general, Hungarian cities are beautiful, and the places I had not visited prior to this trip — Györ and Debrecen — did not disappoint. But this visit — my second of three so far to the capital — convinced me there is possibly no city that can compare with Budapest.

We had little time to explore in Budapest as we were only there for the final few days, but I did manage a scenic run one morning when I woke up before the sun, when I was able to run along the river up to the castle as the sunrise took place.

From the EHF EURO 2014, I went on to cover every IHF World Championship and senior EHF EURO since, though I stepped up to editor of the official website for EHF EURO at the last two events (Poland, January 2016; Sweden, December 2016) and hope to reprise that role in the future.

Portfolio

Women’s EHF EURO 2014

A collection of all the articles written by me during the Women’s EHF EURO 2014 in Hungary and Croatia. From December 3 to 22 I was based in Györ, Debrecen and Budapest covering Group A, Main Round Group I and the final weekend.

Features:
Neagu wraps it up for Romania
FEATURE: After a mixed tournament of surprise wins and disappointment, Romania’s Cristina Neagu talks about the EHF EURO 2014 from her perspective.

Tomori: “One person alone cannot replace Anita”
FEATURE: In the absence of Anita Görbicz, Hungary’s new captain Zsuzsanna Tomori is leading her national team through one of its most challenging tournaments, as the co-hosts face high expectations.

EHF Master Coach and Licensing Course concludes in Györ
The participants of the Open Master Coach and Licensing Course, including THW Kiel coach Alfred Gislason, received their qualifications as the course closed on Saturday.

Dmitrieva’s flawless debut
NEWS REPORT: 19-year-old Daria Dmitrieva was top scorer of the match and best player for Russia in her first official international on Sunday.

Huge coverage and exciting arenas
NEWS REPORT: The Women’s EHF EURO 2014 was officially opened in Györ on Sunday with a press conference attended by representatives of the EHF and the Hungarian Handball Federation.

Final stage of EHF Master Coach and Licensing Course opens
EHF President Jean Brihault opened the third and final module of the EHF RINCK Convention Open Master Coach and Licensing Course in Györ on Saturday.

Match previews and reviews:
Norway win sixth EHF EURO gold
REVIEW: Norway claimed their sixth EHF EURO title in Budapest on Sunday, defeating Spain 28:25 thanks to a strong second half after trailing by two at half-time.

A chance to make history
PREVIEW: When Spain take to the court against Norway for the EHF EURO 2014 Final, they have the opportunity to win gold for the first time – and they are ready to grab that chance.

Handball media take their turn on the court
The EHF EURO 2014 handball media took to the court on Saturday for an entertaining match featuring two goalkeepers in shorts, horror movie theme music and dancing referees.

France too strong for Hungary
REVIEW: France won fifth place in the final EHF EURO 2014 ranking with a 26:25 victory against Hungary in Budapest on Friday.

‘Guerreras’ stun Denmark to take semi-final spot
MATCH REVIEW: A deserved 29:22 win against Denmark in Debrecen on Wednesday earned Spain the remaining semi-final ticket from Main Round Group I.

Denmark and Spain fight for Budapest
PREVIEW: When the final EHF EURO 2014 Main Round matches take place in Debrecen on Wednesday, all eyes will be on Denmark and Spain as they fight for Group I’s remaining semi-final spot.

Hungary’s hopes crushed after defeat against Denmark
MATCH REVIEW: Strategic Denmark have ended Hungary’s dreams of reaching the semi-final, defeating the EHF EURO 2014 co-hosts 23:20 in Main Round Group I in Debrecen.

Ungureanu brilliance helps Romania shock Spain
MATCH REVIEW: Romania have won the first of Group I’s second round matches on Monday, defeating Spain 22:20 in an outstanding defensive and goalkeeping battle.

Norway start main round with a thrilling victory
MATCH REVIEW: Norway emerged the victors in Group I’s second main round match on Saturday, recording a 29:26 win against Spain as their unbeaten EHF EURO 2014 run continues.

The main round begins with big matches in Debrecen
PREVIEW: Undefeated Spain and Norway will meet in their first match of the main round when the next phase of the tournament begins on Saturday.

Spain pull off thrilling win against Hungary
MATCH REVIEW: Spain have taken the last two points up for grabs in Group A thanks to a thrilling 27:26 victory over Hungary.

Determined Poland through to main round
MATCH REVIEW: Russia are out of the EHF EURO and Poland progress to the main round after taking a 29:26 win in a very physical Group A match.

Hungary show their true form and qualify for the main round
MATCH REVIEW: Fans in Audi Arena had something to celebrate on Tuesday as Hungary recorded a 29:23 win against Poland, booking Group A’s second ticket to the main round.

Spain first in Group A to make it to main round
MATCH REVIEW: Tuesday’s first Group A match ended with a 25:24 victory to Spain, who have now qualified for the main round and leave Russia to determine their fate on Thursday.

Russia keen to build on promising draw
PREVIEW: Close matches are expected in Tuesday’s Group A matches, while wins for Norway and Denmark could secure two of Group B’s main round spots for the Scandinavian sides.

Tense match between Hungary and Russia ends in a draw
MATCH REVIEW: Hungary began their EHF EURO 2014 campaign with an exciting 29:29 draw against Group A opponent Russia in Györ on Sunday.

Spain unstoppable against Poland
MATCH REVIEW: Spain recorded a 29:22 win against Poland in the opening Women’s EHF EURO 2014 Group A match in Györ on Sunday.

Random

Women’s March Amsterdam: “It can’t stop after this”

Following the first wave of Women’s Marches around the world in January, there is a clear movement to be observed as more and more women take to their respective streets, squares and social media accounts to have their voice heard. On Saturday I took part in the second Women’s March in Amsterdam (the first was in January, when I was watching from a distance while in a handball bubble in France), and it was inspiring to see and talk to the many different people making the most of the opportunity to use their voice.

There were thousands of women, men and children there, and everyone I spoke to had a different story or motivation for taking part, with many important issues represented. For the Dutch one important subject is the upcoming elections, and the many signs against hatred, racism and promoting the female politicians running give some hope.

Evelyn: “I stand for solidarity and the second chamber elections are next week, and I think if we don’t open our voices a populist party will win next week. For me that’s not a solution, because he’s [Geert Wilders] spreading hatred.”

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Mirte: “I work for an international women’s fund called Mama Cash, and at the previous march we just decided to bring the slogan ‘Pussies against patriarchy’. We put it on the [bike] seat covers so women also take this feeling after the march because it’s so important not just to march, but to take it out on the streets and spread it. We’re here with thousands, but it can’t stop after this.”

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Janne: “I made this sign [‘Pussy is not an insult’] because it really annoys me that my friends – my female friends and my male friends – use ‘pussy’ as a negative thing. I think that it’s really strong to have a pussy and to be a woman, especially now in this age. That’s why I made this sign, to be clear, and I think everyone knows what I mean. I hope they learn a bit from my sign!”

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Yannick: “I’m a part of Rood – the young organisation of the socialist party – and when you look at my sign: I’m against sexism, against racism, I’m against classism and I’m for intersectional feminism. Equal rights for everybody, no matter your gender, your sexuality, the colour of your skin. No matter your income – just equal rights for everybody. That’s why I’m here.”

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Lieske: “I got inspired by my American friends after Trump’s election. They all marched so I was very proud that I picked the right friends! I decided I wanted to join a march in the Netherlands as well. I hope we will make the right decisions here in the elections, and in Europe, for him [gesturing at her baby son].”

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