11 January 2009

Sarawak

I just arrived home from Kuching in Malaysia. I spent about two weeks there with friends over the New Year period. I had a fantastic time. (It was the first holiday I have been on that involved an extended hotel stay since being a kid; I could get used to the daily cleaning and regular cooked meals!) Our hotel was right on the Sarawak River. One morning a group of us went for a run through the local villages after crossing the nearest bridge which was a few kilometres away, before catching the little boat back over to our hotel. It was at least ten kilometres altogether. As I was taking pictures and getting over a cold, I got seperated from the pack. Here is a selection of my favourite shots.

















I took all these photos with a tiny point and shoot Canon. That is why I bought my little camera - to take running. In some ways, it is very liberating to use such a small, light and relatively cheap piece of equipment, when compared to my Canon 20D which I use to shoot races and everything else. I have just ordered some new gear which should be here in a few days: the Canon 40D and a L series 70-200mm F2.8. This probably won't mean much to the non-enthusiast.

Despite the lavish expense, I have personally displayed a remarkable frugality, even parsimony. This is because Canon have just released a 50D and updated their 5D. Normally I am all for bigger and better, but the 50D just adds more pixels without an increase in sensor size. I know the 40D will be a reliable and solid piece of kit. The new 5D costs four times as much as the 40D, so that wasn't too hard to talk myself out of. As for the lense, Canon make an Image Stabilised version which costs $1000 extra. I am not that big a fan of IS and know I can take razor sharp shots with what I am getting.

Further photos from my trip are on the way.

Reading - The Middle East

The Carpet Wars by Christopher Kremmer documents a reporter’s experience of the Middle East. Afghanistan is the primary focus but we visit all the surrounding countries too. The author collects Persian Rugs and this recurring motif is woven through the book. In the midst of myriad civil conflicts and Western military intervention in the region, I met the ordinary citizens who compose the bulk of the population. These people have such a tenuous control over their circumstances and exhibit an inverse tenacity to survive.


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Warrior Poets by Benjamin Gilmour is the story of a Sydney paramedic who hung out with the Pashtun in the tribal region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He filmed a largely unscripted movie without any official approval from the Pakistani authorities. It is called Son of a Lion, but I have not seen it yet. What came through was the legendary hospitality of the Pashtun people. Interstingly, I learnt that the Pashtun have a very strong taboo against audibly breaking wind. (A good reason for me to avoid traveling in the region.) Enjoy the trailer for the movie: all of the performers are untrained locals whose stories I learnt in the book.



It is worth checking out the commentary of the inimitable David and Margaret. And here is a short documentary on the film which includes an interview with Benjamin Gilmour.



I then read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I found this to be a compelling and emotional piece of fiction. It had huge commercial success. From Wikipedia: It "...tells the story of Amir, a young boy from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, who is haunted by the guilt of betraying his best friend Hassan, the son of his father's Hazara servant. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of the monarchy in Afghanistan through the Soviet invasion, the mass exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the rise of the Taliban regime."