Monthly Archives

May 2016

Bosnia & Herzegovina The Sunday Letter

The best introduction to Bosnia

Hello!

I hope you’re having a good day. I’m coming to you today from Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The city is nestled along a river in a mountain valley and has been described by at least one person other than myself as ‘the world’s largest village’.

In fact, Sarajevo (pronounced ‘Sarah-hey-vo’) is a city of about 500,000. That’s about the same population as Halifax, Nova Scotia, for Canadians reading this.

One example of my incredible luck during this past 48 days of travel is how I got from the Sarajevo airport to my hostel.  I landed in Sarajevo at around 11pm, after being delayed in Zagreb, Croatia for several hours. As I stood in the airport trying to use my 15-minute allocation of free airport wifi to contact my AirBnB hostel host in order to arrange a taxi, airport security started turning the lights off – the airport was shutting down.

There were two people left working at the airport – a guy in a rental car agency trying to sort things out with a frustrated tourist and a girl just shutting down her Enterprise rent-a-car booth and getting ready to leave. I went over to her and asked her awkwardly if I could call a cab (my phone had NO SERVICE, ack).

“Where are you going?” she asked, “city centre?”

“Yeah.” I replied.

“If you don’t mind waiting five minutes, I can take you.” she said.

“Really? Thank you! That would be awesome.”

Not that taking cabs are expensive here, but I was so tired and it meant I wouldn’t have to wait, plus I’d get to chat with this girl. My first friend in Bosnia!

As if getting offered a ride wasn’t great enough, when I showed her on Google Maps where I needed to go, she knew my hostel right away. She lives around the corner from it and her brother is buddies with the owner.

Yes. In a city of half a million people the first person I met was basically the perfect person. It was like landing in a foreign country and being greeted by a family member. She was so nice and was telling me all about Sarajevo. She was born in the city when it was under siege during the Bosnian War. Her and her boyfriend drove me right to the door of the hostel, helped me get my luggage out and then wished me a good evening. If they’re reading this: You are the best! Thank you!

In the morning, this was the first thing I saw:

So, a better introduction to this country I couldn’t imagine.

Also, I highly recommend The Doctor’s House hostel. If you want this view, book the 6-person dorm. It has a balcony where you can sip a beer and watch the sun go down over the valley while listening to evening prayers echo in the valley. In short, paradise.

There was a great group of travellers at the hostel while I was there (I just moved today to an apartment arranged by Project 1948 for the rest of the month). A lot of solo women travellers, which was great as we all teamed up to explore the city together.

With that update, here are some great things on the Internet this week:

So that’s my song for this week. As for your week, I hope it’s a good one.

p.s. Okay like 30 minutes after posting it I realized CBC had published my story about FGM education in London! It’s the last piece I did as a part of my CBC London internship and I’m pretty happy about it! I pitched, researched, interviewed and photographed it. Thanks to everyone who helped! Either with letting me talk to them or helping me edit it afterward. ❤️

England

Behind the Scenes of a Cinderella Story in Leicester

(and also ramen and Oxford)

After traveling to Windsor the week before for the Queen’s 90th birthday, I prepared for Week 5 to take a backseat and be a little less exciting. What’s better than a cheery old lady promenading from her castle to thousands of adoring fans?

Oh Mel, you silly Canadian.

Tuesday brought Robert to London. All of a sudden, I had someone to do all the romantic-y fun London tourist things that I’d neglected, like going on the London Eye:

Nothing says 'romance' than an out of focus rain shot with shiny lights. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

Nothing says ‘romance’ than an out of focus rain shot with shiny lights. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

Going on ramen dates:

_DSF0788

_DSF0791

Some of the best ramen I’ve discovered in this city is at Tonkotsu. They have six locations across the city and their signature dish has pork broth simmered for up to 18 hours. It is silky and delicious and more please. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

And strolling around the pastoral academia that is Oxford University:

_DSF1112

Charming doors with primary colours in Oxford, U.K. (Mel Hattie)

Charming doors with primary colours in Oxford, U.K. (Mel Hattie)

_DSF1133

_DSF1077

_DSF1088

Found this babe hanging out at an ancient university. (Mel Hattie)

Oh yeah, CBC. Right. Focus.

I did feel a bit guilty at having to work 10am-6pm as he was here throughout the week, but he occupied himself by doing fun tourist stuff and then we met up every night when I finished at the CBC and we’d rendezvous near Oxford Circus.

My brain was in a bit of a haze as my pitch to do a story on FGM education in the U.K. had been accepted and I was in the midst of lining up interviews and finding people to talk to for the story, so sometimes when I was with Rob I’d suddenly zoom in on a thought and then have to reel myself back in to the present (sorry, babe!).

It was a good week at CBC. On Wednesday the Royal College of Physicians released a recommendation that e-cigarettes be offered to smokers trying to quit, including the statistics that vaping is 95% safer than smoking (although in the same breath the report said that they still don’t know all the long term side effects of e-cigarettes).

Off to report the news, I headed out with Thom to find a vape shop we could shoot in front of. We landed out in front of a place called Vaperz near the British Library where we stayed until 4pm, doing live hits for CBC News Network. At one point Rob stopped by and dropped off some sandwiches and coffee, which was nice.

See! I exist behind the camera! Doing things! (Thanks Thomas Daigle)

See! I exist behind the camera! Doing things! (Thanks Thomas Daigle)

In between hits we shot and sent (via Dejero) a teaser for Thom’s piece on Leicester City soccer which was airing that night on the National, and during our last hit, we were visited by a woman who very much wanted to be on T.V.

Luckily, Twitter was there to capture the moment for us:

Thank you, Twitter.

The next day, we were on the train up to Leicester to report on the Leicester City foxes soccer story. To sum it up: Premier League soccer in Europe is usually won by big teams with lots of money who then get more money by winning more games, in this very ouroboros cycle. This year, Leicester City, a tiny team with no money who finished 14th in the league last year ended up winning the league on Monday, May 2, beating 5000-1 odds. Definitely a family channel movie-in-the-making. Every time the story gets told, the phrase ‘Cinderella story’, ‘underdogs’ or ‘fairytale in the making’ gets thrown in.

_DSF0920

Check out those Air Force 1s. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

We headed up to Leicester on April 29 (my birthday!), pre-win. It so happened to be blue day (totally planned) and everyone in town was sporting the team’s colours.

IMG_0076-2

We weren’t the only journalists around. It was also a really strange weather day. At this point we were having flat out hale, then ten minutes later the sun was out. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

IMG_0080-2

Giant meat pie with the players’ names on it. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

It was a really fun day. There were lots of fun people to talk to, lots of run things to shoot and a live interview by a Leicester Shop owner who is the sole printer of Leicester City merchandise. Not a bad way to spend a birthday. Plus, I got to ride the train and it is a truth, universally acknowledged, that trains are awesome.

_DSF1031

When we headed back to town I headed off to Covent Garden to meet with Rob and our friend Matt at the MEATMarket for  beers, burgers and birthday milkshakes. My batteries were dead, so there are no photo, but there are lots of stomach memories.

Matt also may or may not have accidentally tossed his glasses in the garbage along with our food trays. We may never know (Matt – did you find your glasses?).

Responses also started trickling in for my FGM story, so all in all, a really good week.

The Sunday Letter

The Sunday Letter

Friday brought the last day of my internship with CBC in London. In a way, it’s good because I don’t think I could have afforded living in London much longer (although I am now a connoisseur of £2 dinners from Sainsbury’s). On Thursday I fly out to Sarajevo to begin an adventure in the Balkans with Photographers Without Borders, where the cost of living is significantly cheaper.

Using the McDonald’s scale, a combo in Bosnia costs 8KM (convertible marks), or about $6 Canadian. The same in London costs £5, or about $9.40 Canadian. I am very excited just typing that.

The Project 1948 Sarajevo trip has grown a lot since we first started planning it. What started as a project based solely in Sarajevo now has us traveling through refugee camps in the Balkans, with a whole team of NGO workers and Fujifilm to tell the stories of families caught up in this forced migration and also deliver aid.

Speaking of forced migration, you may have heard Canada mentioned in the news recently. There’s a wildfire bigger than New York City burning through western Canada right now. Here it is in the New York Times. It may take months to put out.

While firefighters wait to get the rain they desperately need to help put out the fire, 80,000 people have been internally displaced. For many, there will be nothing to go back to except scorched earth.

Right now the Canadian Government is matching donations made to the Red Cross to help fight the fire and get supplies needed by people who’ve been displaced by the fire.

I donated. It’s really easy.

Even $2 could buy a coffee or toiletries for someone having a really bad day.

A lot of us Maritimers (those of us from the East Coast of Canada), are especially feeling the pull to help Fort McMurray. There are a lot of east coasters working in the oilsands. In the ’90s when Nova Scotia’s fisheries industry collapsed due to a federally-imposed moratorium in cod, lots of east coasters headed out west. Rob’s sister used to live in Fort McMurray. I feel confident in saying everyone in Nova Scotia knows someone who’s gone west to look for work. Here’s hoping everyone in Fort McMurray can find the help they need.

What I’ve been reading on the internet this week:

That’s a wrap for this week. Wish me luck as I’m gearing up for a trip to Wales, then on to Sarajevo. Finally!

The Sunday Letter

The Sunday Letter

You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. -Samuel Johnson

This week I had the best surprise I didn’t think I was going to get. Rob got a last-minute ticket from Halifax to London and came and visited me for a week. I was still working at my CBC internship during the day, but by night we toured around London, saw the city from the London Eye, had some amazing ramen, enjoyed British pubs and spent a day at Oxford and London’s West End before he had to catch a flight back to Halifax this morning.

It was just nice to be together. Five weeks have passed since I left Halifax, and seeing his face was a love-filled reminder of home. It was the best birthday present. The Mophie case he got me is going to be really helpful in keeping my phone (a.k.a. a journalist’s best friend) when I’m in the Balkans next month. I also picked up Susan Sontag’s On Photography, a signed copy of the Girl of Ink & Stars, and Martha Gellhorn’s Travels with Myself and Another at Waterstones book store in Oxford.

During his stay Rob discovered (for me) that I’d won an award! Although I couldn’t attend the award ceremony as it was in Toronto, I ended up taking home 1st place in the audio storytelling category and they also wrote a nice blog post about me. Not a bad surprise to get.

Then today, after leaving ourAirBnB at 6:15am, getting separated on the underground to Paddington (take note: if traveling with someone you should never make a mad dash for the closing tube doors without alerting the other person), re-uniting for a brief breakfast and then saying goodbye as he went off to Heathrow, I went back to my home for the next few weeks at the Victoria League in Leinster (Lin-ster, not Line-ster) Square and promptly slept for a few hours before wrangling the washing and then heading off to do a lovely interview on the other side of town.

When the hot, sweet sun came out this afternoon I fled with other sensible Londoners to Hyde Park for a few glorious hours of Vitamin D. I’m even watching football (whoops, soccer) and can feel myself slowly turning British. That’s when you know you’re good at colonization, when visitors to your country start assimilating for you! I’m hoping I leave the country with a silly walk.

Here’s what’s good on the internet this week:

Hope you’re having an awesome day!

Mel Hattie Signature 2016 - Final - Mel Only

 

 

 

 

 

p.s. Do you like the header video? Bam! WordPress magic. I took the video at Kensington Palace in Hyde Park this afternoon. It’s partially the reason why this is going up so late. Technical difficulties (and maybe that nap this morning…maybe).