13 December, 2013

Bring me flesh and bring me wine

Oxford Winter

I am ending a week spent in Oxford. It has been chilly but very fulfilling intellectually, musically and for my tummy.

I have interacted with many experts of participatory agricultural research.

I have listened to rowdy caroling in the streets of town, wonderful choir music during evensong at Christ Church Cathedral and a festive delight of early Western music by Poeticall Musicke.

I have enjoyed cooked breakfast and enormous puddings at the dining hall of Saint Anne's College.

Good King Wenceslas
Various artists, Carols from Oxford, The gift of music

Photo: Tejvan Pettinger

11 December, 2013

It's gonna take patience and time ... to do it right child

Keith Child, ILRI staff

I was invited by my colleague Keith Child (pictured) to facilitate the monitoring, evaluation and learning planning meeting of a large research-for-development program. Read what I took out of it here.

Got my mind set on you
George Harrison, Cloud nine, EMI UK Beatles

13 November, 2013

I can hardly express my mixed emotions and my thoughtlessness

Women in Côte d'Ivoire Celebrate International Women's Day
To read about three lessons I have learned from participating in a gender workshop, click here.

John Lennon, Double fantasy stripped down, Capital records

Photo: United Nations Photo

23 October, 2013

If you've got no place to go...

... for a long week end, consider Stockholm.

I have just spent three wonderful days discovering the capital of Sweden. I have come here for work but managed to come early so as to visit some of the city's landmarks, partake of some typical Swedish food and listen to music.

I arrived last Sunday morning and had already booked my ticket beforehand to go to the Royal Opera for Wagner's Parsifal: 5 hours and 30 minutes long! I was not sure I would actually be able to sit through the whole show having flown in from Nairobi the preceding night. I did yawn quite a few times but the show was riveting: singers' emotions were intense, the music equally so. I have to admit that I was lost in the first act: I had not studied the plot beforehand and my German was not good enough to follow everything that was being sung onstage. Wagner's lyrics are not meant for aria with da capo, so one only gets one chance to get the meaning of words. Subtitles in Swedish were unhelpful for me. But I still managed to receive the very intense emotions from the singers despite not knowing what was happening. I nonetheless went to buy the programme at the first interval and discovered an extremely complicated and mystical storyline.

The next day I enjoyed more music but in a completely different style. I spent two very gratifying hours in the brand new Abba museum. Lots of songs, lots of glitter: all the memorabilia of the Swedish pop group has been assembled in one place to understand what went on behind the scenes to deliver the Abba songs we love so much. I was definitely singing Abba tunes when leaving the premises.

As for the food, I concentrated on sampling fish because that is rather sparse in Nairobi. Cod, herring and salmon, usually in a butter sauce with a touch of egg, or mustard, or cream, and always some kind of fresh herbs as garnish. That's what I take away from Swedish cuisine after just three days. And of course, there is always a great selection of cakes on the buffet table. At Café Blå Porten next to the Abba museum, there was even a whole vat of home-made vanilla-flavoured whipped cream to scoop from...

Take a chance on me
Abba, Gold greatest hits, Polydor

18 October, 2013

I read the news today oh boy

Found some Buffalo News front page stamps (?) at a garage sale from 1946-1947!
Jo Cadilhon saves himself and 57 other people from death by powerpoint!

Read all about it here!

A day in the life
The Beatles, Sergeant Pepper's lonely hearts club band, EMI

Photo: Nick Quaranto

12 October, 2013

Où sont les femmes ? Avec leurs gestes pleins de charmes

Indian dairy sweet shop wares and counter

To learn about my involvement in a dairy value chain assessment study targeting smallholder women in India, read here.

The good thing about interviewing dairy sweet traders is that one gets to sample the goods... We were treated to a cup of custard when we interviewed the owner of this sweet shop in Hyderabad. I then purchased some sweets, just to make it worth the time the owner spent answering our questions about his business.

Où sont les femmes
Patrick Juvet, Paris by night, Decca international

Photo: ILRI/Jo Cadilhon

09 October, 2013

Tell me more, tell me more, how much dough did he spend?

Retailer of small dried fish in Nakagwa Market, Kampala, Uganda
To learn about the lack of coordination in the farmed fish value chain of Uganda, read here.

Summer nights
John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Soundtrack from the original motion picture Grease, Paramount

Photo: ILRI/Jo Cadilhon

24 September, 2013

Luxe, calme et volupté

I have just come back from one week of African holidays with my Uncle Tom and Aunty Betty, visiting me from Singapore.

We went for three days of safari in the Masai Mara, staying in a tented camp just outside the parc with outstanding overhead views of the park savanna. The food served was very well prepared with hot soup every evening when the temperatures went down. Hyenas and other wildlife provided background noise at night. Although our guide and driver was surprised by the difficulty of stalking the big cats in this part of the park, I was extremely content. Wherever we went, we could spot numerous elephants all the time. I just could not tire myself of observing these majestic and ever-active animals.

After a short rest in Nairobi the three of us flew to Zambia to see the Victoria Falls. The waterfall was very impressive, particularly so on the Zimbabwean side. There was little water on the Zambian side of the falls due to the dry season. I particularly enjoyed our river sunset safari on small motor boats taking us into the small channels of the Zambezi river to observe numerous birds, the wary hippos submerging as soon as they would see the boat and more unconcerned elephants crossing the river, bathing or grazing in front of us. As they introduced the open bar on the boat, the boatmen and rangers told us: 'the more you drink, the more game you will see...' They served us some delicious snacks on a small river island after having checked that no big animals were hiding in the bushes.

L'invitation au voyage
Henri Duparc, Gérard Souzay, Gérard Souzay Vol. 1, Documents

PS: So it was with great sadness that I came back from all this natural beauty and peace to a Nairobi under shock from the still ongoing terrorist attack in one of the major malls of the city.

02 September, 2013

And every mountain and hill made low

Me Mountain Biking
Well: it did not feel like it...
Read my impressions from two days of mountain biking in Northwest Vietnam here.

G-F Haendel, Howard Crook and The English Concert directed by Trevor Pinnock, Archiv

Photo: Lee Brimelow

27 August, 2013

Every valley shall be exalted

Read here about my working in a Vietnamese mountain resort on building partnerships for a research program on HumidTropics farming systems in the mountainous region of Northwest Vietnam.

On the evening after the meeting I went to sample traditional ethnic minority Hmong food at the new branch of The Hill Station restaurant on Fansipan street in Sapa: simple sauces with forest herbs that replace the usual Chinese spices in the meat stews. An interesting change from the delicious Vietnamese food.

And on the next day I went to see this:

Upland maize and rice - terraced rice mixed cropping system in rural Northwest Vietnam

G-F Haendel, Howard Crook and The English Concert directed by Trevor Pinnock, Archiv

Photo: ILRI/Jo Cadilhon

12 July, 2013

In every life we have some trouble

Click here to read about the quintuple whammy of low Internet connectivity, patchy mobile phone service, no accommodation, bad roads and no electricity faced by the actors in the agricultural and food system of the Upper West Region of Ghana. Take a closer look at the photo, then reflect on the resilience these people need to keep doing business.

Don't worry, be happy
Bobby McFerrin, Don't worry be happy, EMI

Photo: zen Sutherland

04 July, 2013

Ils étaient trois petits enfants qui s'en allaient glaner aux champs

Cow herd grazing in Northwest Ghana
Read here what three young professionals in agricultural research for development thought of their field trip in rural West Africa to study livestock value chains and innovation platforms.

La légende de Saint Nicolas
Traditional French song, harmonized by Gevaert
Les petits chanteurs à la croix de bois, Marianne Mélodie

Photo: ILRI/Jo Cadilhon

23 June, 2013

There's music in the air

One of the worries I had when I left Paris to come to Nairobi, was that the musical scene in Nairobi might not be as vibrant as that of the French capital. I am very happy to have been proved wrong. This past week has been a musical marathon, the more delightful as I was just enjoying it as a spectator.

Last Sunday the Nairobi Orchestra gave a concert celebrating 50 years of independence. It featured a Wagner opera overture, the first movement of an intricate Mozart Sinfonia, and the world première of an uplifting piece by Kenyan composer Njane Mugambi depicting the parallel ordeals of building the Mombasa-Uganda railway on one hand and the Kenyan nation on the other. The highlight of the show for me was Beethoven's 5th Symphony. Given that the orchestra is composed of mainly amateur musicians, and that some instrumental sections are rather depleted for lack of available players in Kenya, they gave a fine rendition of the famous work.

(Monday was a musical break in the week although I did play an hour of piano.)

Tuesday evening Christian and Claire Turner invited me along with other of their musical friends to their residence for a private recital by British pianist Anthony Peebles. It was a delightful evening of romantic piano music: Brahms, Schumann, Liszt, Chopin. The Turners' cook had also prepared finger food so our stomachs would not rumble while our ears enjoyed the music.

On Wednesday I spent the evening searching for music for the next concert of the Greenwood Singers. We are still discussing what we will be singing but a consensus seems to emerge that this group is not just about rehearsing good music; we also want to keep inviting each other to dinner on rehearsal evenings and keep having fun. All that is fine with me and I really look forward to September when we start singing again after the Nairobi winter break.

Thursday was adventure night as I ventured out and got lost in the Industrial Area of town. I was looking for Choices Pub and Restaurant where Thursday night is live music night: live jazz, blues, rock, soul every week. When I finally found the bar, I discovered a medium-sized room with lots of snug corners for groups of friends to sit in, a large selection of drinks, and a centre stage for the band. This Thursday featured the acoustic string trio Kabon who delighted the audience with their folk-blues interpretations of Western and African standards.

Finally, Friday evening - day of the Fête de la musique in France and in many countries all over the world - I went to a fund raising concert of the National Youth Orchestra of Kenya. This was a black-tie-and-evening-dress event where everything we ate and drank was charged. The small audience got to see these young promising players perform some very challenging pieces. We saw that they could also improvize and dance while playing African rythms and harmony. We got to mingle with the musicians during the dinner interval so as to learn more about the challenges of training young Kenyan musicians to classical music and how the National Youth Orchestra of Kenya is striving to reach that goal. All the proceeds of the evening will go to the orchestra so as to buy instruments for these young musicians and pay for the travel of trainers coming from abroad to teach Kenyans how to play some of the rare instruments that actually have no local teachers in the country. The next public concert of the National Youth Orchestra of Kenya is on Sunday 14 July at Strathmore Business School in Nairobi. I think it is really worth while to go support these promising young musicians.

Up above my head
Hovie Lister and the Statesmen, Chordant

20 June, 2013

Together - we will learn and teach

At the mosque at Bani
To find out what I have learned from my first trip to Senegal, read here.

Go West
Pet shop boys, Very, Capitol

Photo: Rita Willaert

14 June, 2013

A new fantastic point of view

To discover how boring numbers can become fascinating stories, read on here.

A whole new world
Music from the original motion picture Aladdin, Walt Disney video

Photo: eye/see

12 June, 2013

Medley: You are not alone - We are the champions - How can I tell?

Read about my impressions after working a whole week on innovation systems in agricultural development here.

You are not alone
Michael Jackson, The essential Michael Jackson, Epic/Legacy

We are the champions
Queen, Greatest hits, Hollywood records

The shoop shoop song (it's in his kiss)
Cher, If I could turn back time - Cher's greatest hits, Geffen

Photo: Cody Hoffman

05 June, 2013

Step by step, ooh baby, gonna get to you

Read more about how I survived organizing a strategic meeting of over 200 people and see a recent picture of me here.

Step by step
New kids on the block, Step by step, Sony

Photo: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet

01 June, 2013

Es war um 1780 und es war in Wien

I sang last night with the Greenwood Singers, the small vocal ensemble I have joined recently.

Christian Turner and his wife Claire were very kind to host our choral soirée in their residence for a few of our friends. A small audience of 58 fit snuggly into their living room. There was just enough space left for the 13 choir singers, a small orchestral ensemble around the piano and our conductor Duncan Wambugu.

In line with the general practice of the choir, the singers provided food to their guests in the form of home-made cocktail niblets, cheese and crackers, fruit. One of us had the great idea of producing a rich chocolate-and-walnut brownie to give us energy before singing. There were even scones with cream and strawberry jam to recover strength after the concert.

We sang a few Renaissance and baroque motets in the first half. There was also a lovely Bach sonata played by flautist Claire Hollis and pianist James Laight. In the second half we sang the Coronation Mass by Mozart.

Judging by the genuine sparkle in the eyes of the audience and their smiles, I think we put on a good show. The content of the donation bowl collected after the concert was also witness to the audience's pleasure. The donations will be shared by the Turning Point Trust and the Kenyan micro-finance project Kipepeo.

Two of my guests, who do not know each other, particularly pleased me by telling me they felt privileged to have heard this music in such an intimate setting. Indeed, it is one that is very close to the original setting of music making in the 18th century when professional musicians would perform to the private enjoyment of their sponsors and their guests. In our day and age of mass entertainment when football stadiums are filled up to watch large-scale productions of operas and symphonic works, I now feel just as privileged to have been able to endulge in the simple but exclusive pleasure of performing chamber music in a 'chamber' setting.

Rock me Amadeus
Falco, Falco 3, Gig Records Germany

Photo: The Municipal Archives of Trondheim

23 May, 2013

Sometimes I am frightened but I'm ready to learn

(This post was written on Wednesday 15 May but only posted today for lack of time.)

 Today is the first day of ILRI’s 2013 Annual Planning Meeting; it is a regular strategic meeting where many of ILRI’s staff members get together to discuss the way forward for the Institute.

I am part of the organizing committee of this year’s meeting. It has been hard work to come up with a relevant program of activities that will keep a mixed crowd of researchers and administrators engaged during three days. The meeting also has to reach its objective: to figure out how ILRI can unlock livestock development potential through science, influence and capacity development. This is all part of delivering our new strategy.

Together with colleagues Barry Shapiro, Iddo Dror, Peter Ballantyne, Siboniso Moyo, Stuart Worsley, Sylvia Silvestri, and an army of diligent and helpful national support staff, we have worked under the stimulating supervision of Peter Thorne, chair of the organization committee, to devise the program of activities, set up an enormous tent to hold the event on the ILRI Addis campus, make arrangements to feed and house more than 200 participants, and try to keep everybody happy.

Last night, the biggest worry for some of the organization committee members was that the 'sauce' we had prepared for our colleagues to taste might not go down well. Some of the facilitation methods we have chosen require strong commitment from participants to attain the desired objectives. We can only be confident that these proven knowledge sharing methods like open space will work once again. 

There are still a few things to sort out before the meeting starts this morning but I am sure it is going to be a great event.

The power of love
Céline Dion, My love - essential collection, Sony BMG

APM2013 logo: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu
Photo: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet

19 April, 2013

Take me out tonight where there's music and there's people and they're young and alive

I have just had a completely surreal evening, one only possible in a city like Nairobi.

The evening started rather badly with heavy rain around 18.00 just as I was leaving home to go into town centre. As a result, I was caught up in a massive traffic jam in which I was at a standstill for 20 minutes. I only managed to get out of the jam by snaking across lanes at 90° from the traffic flow between enormous lorries that were, luckily, completely still.

Once out of the jam I took a back road into the city centre where I quickly found my way to the Alliance française. I wanted to go see a puppet show by Théâtre MU. It was the very moving story of a child soldier somewhere in Africa who had escaped his tragic ordeal and overcome his tortured inner feelings through the art of puppetry. Indeed, the whole story was told with wooden puppets playing the main protagonists. I really wanted to go see this show because the child soldier phenomenon seems to be a recent plague in several conflict-ridden African countries. I am still discovering the continent and wanted to hear this story from somebody who had lived through this ordeal.

At 20.30 I was out of the Alliance française and ready to go join a new group of singers I have just started singing with in Nairobi. This small group used to be led by Stuart Tibbs who just left Kenya to go back to the United Kingdom. I had met Stuart on the production of A marvelous life last month and he had persuaded me to go take his place as the only tenor in the group. The choir rehearses once a week; singers take turns to host rehearsals and the host provides dinner and drinks before, during and after the singing. Needless to say, the concept of this singing group is completely in line with my personality.

I had asked the lead soprano Cathy Sampson to send me directions to tonight's rehearsal place. During the puppet show, I had received a text message, which I opened after the show had ended: the choir manager Diane Skinner was giving me directions to a house in a certain area of town. I had already been to that area so I knew how to get to it from city centre. I took out my Nairobi map to find where the exact roads were and off I went.

Arriving in the residential area, I was surrounded by darkness because the roads were unlit. I found the road intersection I was supposed to go to, turned the corner and found myself in front of an enormous cast-iron gate with lots of guards around it. Puzzled, I paused for a while. I then turned towards the gate to find myself in front of the residence of the British High Commissioner to Kenya. The guards asked to confirm my name; I seemed to be expected. I drove in with the car into the gravel alley, parked the car under a tree and was ushered into the residence by one of the guards.

And suddenly there was light! I walked through an impressive wooden-floored hallway flooded with light; I went straight on to where I could see people through a door on which I knocked. It was the dining room, also flooded with light, chandelier hanging from the ceiling, candles on the table, table set for 10 guests, waiters serving wine, a buffet of curries. And to greet me to the table was the British High Commissioner himself: Christian Turner. To my surprise, I found myself in front of a delightful young man of my own generation.

What followed was delicious food, an intense hour of sight-reading new pieces, meringues for pudding, tea and coffee in a beautiful setting. The evening turned out to be extremely pleasant after all.

There is a light that never goes out
The Smiths, WEA

Photo: Linh H. Nguyen

18 April, 2013

Out to the woods away, we'll hunt the stag to bay

Read here how I found myself being the game of an interesting hunt.

Foresters sound the cheerful horn
Henry Bishop
The singing club, The Hilliard ensemble and Paul Hillier, Harmonia mundi

Stag hunt: David Hoffman

05 April, 2013

I like simple tools

What made us so hungry that we literally wiped the plates clean at lunch time during a research workshop in Northern Vietnam? Read more here.

Simple tools
Ry Cooder, Pull up some dust and sit down, Nonesuch

23 March, 2013

The sun's ashine in the blue

After having sent my father off on his plane back to Chile and faced flight delays because of the snow in European airports, I have returned to Nairobi immediately to go on stage, taking part in a production of a delightfully British musical.

'Glamorous life' portrays the life and works of Welsh composer Ivor Novello who lived in the first half of the 20th century and produced popular hits during the first and second world wars. The cast is all dressed up for a dinner party during the 1920s in the first half and then during the 1940s in the second half. We play and sing deliciously old-fashioned and romantic music while our audience is having a three-course meal.

Concentration was high before the show in the men's changing room last night - or was it everybody reflecting on the oddity of heavy snowfall in England in late March as broadcast on the television? We all had a great time on stage afterwards because the weather is fine here in Nairobi and Novello's music is so light-hearted it is difficult not to be happy when hearing it.

Waltz of my heart
Ivor Novello, The dancing years, Hallmark

Grief should ne’er approach the fair

I have spent one month in cold still wintery France lately because my father had to undergo two operations for unrelated problems. Coming out of hospital after major surgery is hard on the patient because doctors discharge their patients as soon as the latter can stand on their own. This allows the hospital to reuse the room for another patient. So the first few days out of hospital are really hard because one is back home but one no longer has all the medical and general care provided by the nurses.

I decided to leave Nairobi to go take care of my father for a whole month between the two operations and after his second operation. I think it was a wise decision because I noticed how debilitated he was from the grueling experience: one is asleep during the operation but it takes a long time to get over the pain afterwards. So I spent ten days in our Parisian flat, one week in a Bordeaux hotel while my father was being operated upon and another week in our aunties’ house in the Southwestern seaside village of Mimizan. My mother could only come for two weeks because she had lots of things to sort out back in Chile in preparation for my parents’ final move back to France in May when my father retires.

The good part of looking after my father was that he had to be fed lots of good food in order to get back into shape so I spent a lot of my time cooking and preparing his favourite dishes to make sure he would eat. I just needed to watch out for his now strict diabetic diet and control all sources of sugar in his food. That meant cutting my own consumption of wine and – alas! – desserts so as not to be tempting him. This was one more reason to stay at home and eat home-cooked food, the ingredients of which are easier to monitor than what one eats in a restaurant. Special highlights for my father were the beef roast I prepared on his second day out of hospital in Paris, a butter pan-fried sole meunière freshly fished out of the sea by the local fisherman in Mimizan and the roasted suckling lamb chops and shoulder, the leftovers of which I then recycled into a simple but delicious Basque stew. 

While in Bordeaux my mother and I tried out some of the numerous restaurants in town because we could not cook at the hotel. Of course, my father was jealous and sulky because he was eating hospital grub. I was delighted to catch up with Antoine Moga, a high school and agricultural university friend, who took my mother and me out for a delicious dinner and a refined bottle of 2002 Burgundy wine. Antoine works as a wine broker for the more prestigious Bordeaux wines so I guess he has very good suppliers.

While the food was French, the music was British. When in Bordeaux my mother and I got an opportunity to go to the city’s grand opera house to take our minds off our ordeal. We saw a good show of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in a very minimalistic stage setting, which fitted the extremely concentrated and tragic plot of the piece. All this time, I was working on solos and ensembles for a musical based on the early 20th century Welsh composer Ivor Novello’s life and works; I also managed to squeeze in an hour of tuition with my Parisian voice coach Mary Saint-Palais to prepare my solos. I had to know the music by heart because as soon as I would come back to Nairobi, stage rehearsals would start for the musical show. Read more on that in my next blog post.

My father is now well and resting at home in Chile.

Dido and Aeneas
Henry Purcell, Les arts florissants, William Christie, Harmonia mundi