Notes from the field

Our work takes us all over the world. Here we share some of our more personal perspectives on some of the destinations we have visited, filed on location.


Mexico’s political upheaval

Approaching Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport by air I catch a glimpse of a beetle-like shape etched into the ground on the outskirts of the city, thin lines and dots indicating where construction equipment once dug and shifted. more >

Madagascar between pepper and vanilla

On a recent trip to Antananarivo, a contact asked us over lunch what the perception of Madagascar is in the UK. Having just discussed Brexit in some detail - as I had with several taxi drivers over the course of the trip - it was almost shameful to admit that in the popular imagination here the Dreamworks film named after the island almost certainly remains people’s most immediate reference. more >

West Africa’s oasis of stability

After spending a few days in Cotonou, Benin’s largest city and still very much its political and economic heart (Porto Novo, about 40km to the east, is formally the capital), one cannot help but ponder how this West African country of around 11.5 million inhabitants has so successfully avoided the security problems faced by its neighbours. more >

A wary Colombia enjoys peace dividend

They were images that spoke of Colombia’s guarded optimism as it seeks to move on from decades of conflict with left-wing rebel group FARC that left scores of thousands dead and displaced millions. more >

Reconstructing Dushanbe

Days before my arrival in Dushanbe, a prison riot in the northern city of Khujand, allegedly sparked by Islamic state militants, led to the deaths of over 20 inmates and several guards, raising a few eyebrows in the office. more >

Investors keep a watchful eye on Mexico’s new leftist leader

The Mexico of today is very different from the country I first experienced in the late 1990s. Back then I was based in Mexico City – the local population was still reeling from a banking crisis and severe recession. more >

The changing face of Beijing

Walking through Beijing’s hutongs – alleys bordered by rows of single-story courtyard houses that criss-cross the city – it is immediately apparent that the Chinese capital’s urban landscape is changing rapidly. A large proportion of the streets that were once lined with small restaurants and bars, filled with the bustle of shoppers, the heady aroma of street-food and the laughter of running children, are now noticeably quieter, cleaner, and more uniform in appearance. more >

End in sight for Israel’s water crisis

Driving along the shore of the Sea of Galilee (the Kinneret in Hebrew), you don’t get a sense that this historic lake, the setting for so many Biblical stories, is under severe threat. It’s an idyllic, ageless panorama. Blue waters shimmer in the spring sunshine. A light westerly breeze ruffles the reed banks. And the Golan Heights in the distance provide a brooding backdrop. more >

Hariri drama underlines Lebanon’s fragility

Beirut had changed little since my last visit in September. It was warmer then, of course, and a bit busier too. But the grey smog that seems to envelop the city still hung in the air. The city’s streets remained awash with rubbish and clogged by geriatric cars. Saad Hariri was still the country’s prime minister, as he had been before. more >

Precarious Nepalese reconstruction efforts could be bolstered by new China-leaning government

Two and a half years after Nepal`s worst earthquake in over 80 years, the scars it left are still evident across the country. In the Kathmandu Valley, home to about 20% of the population, piles of rubble and roofless buildings are a common sight. Many temples in the centre of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur have been damaged beyond recognition. While scaffolds have been erected around some of the larger temples, smaller ones are propped up by wooden beams. The most seriously damaged are little more than piles of bricks and tiles, and are cordoned off. more >

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