Belated Happy Easter to all! Hope it was wonderful! I have been at the beach and decided not to take my computer and modem so that I wouldn't have to do work when I was supposed to be having some much needed R&R.
My housemate Susan and I had a ride to the beach in an IFAD vehicle on the Thursday before Easter, which made the 5 hour trip much easier (it would be double that or more using local transport. We stayed at the same place I visited at Christmas time (Hamilton Beach, Samso's Resort) but this time had two rooms in one of the beach huts. We had peace and quiet Thursday and Friday, but the beach was busier on the weekend, with a giant local beach party on Saturday and again on Easter Monday, with loud music, dancing, beach soccer and such entertainment. One of my friends, another Canadian, from Toronto, joined us on Friday and stayed until Monday morning, and some other VSO volunteers joined us on Easter Monday, just for one night. There was much laughter, lots of beach games, good conversation and food and drink aplenty. Susan and the others headed into Freetown on Tuesday. I was supposed to have been picked up and taken back to Kenema for an important meeting, but for some reason the office manager cancelled the meeting, then gave all of the drivers the day off, so I had no way to get home. He told me I had to find my own way back, so I decided that I'd just stay at the beach for a few more days. His loss....I would have worked all week if he'd kept his commitment to get me back to Kenema. The reality is that it is very hard to find alternative transport, and despite my efforts I couldn't get from the beach into Freetown, let alone back to Kenema. Partly because Easter weekend was followed on Wednesday by Independence Day (and this year it was the 50th anniversary, so there were big celebrations) and most people took the whole week off. The owner of the resort drove me into Freetown on Thursday morning, to the IFAD office, as not even he could find me a charter taxi to do the job. He is a good host and obviously appreciates returning customers!
It was odd to be at the beach at Easter, but even though there was no roast lamb, there was grilled barracuda, shrimp, bonita, crabs and lobster pretty much every day. Rice or chips (except when they ran out of potatoes, and then only rice, which they serve with a delicious onion sauce. I managed to convince the cook to give me his recipe - but he only did so when I shared my chili-lime-ginger-garlic salad dressing recipe with him. A friend had bought onions and cucumbers at the local market and she made the salad and I made the dressing - invading the kitchen like we owned it, much to the delight of the staff. I told the owner that next time I stay there I will bring the ingredients for a vegetable curry as a change of pace. He does not serve any vegetables at all and is reluctant to try anything new, but the British ex-pats would be happy to see some sort of curry on the menu, and the cook is eager to have some new things to prepare, so we'll just do it once and see how it goes over. If nothing else I'll have a good vegetable curry dish to eat! Maybe I'll also convince him to serve some fruit with the eggs and bread in the mornings....what a concept.
I'm working today (Saturday) to try to catch up and get back up to speed before the weekly management team meeting. I am effectively doing two jobs now, so I must juggle in order to get everything done! I led the manager and one of the technical assistants through a simple project management process for an important project we are working on, and it was fun to see their excitement at something so simple and useful. We've put the project management timeline up on the manager's wall and he's tracking progress by crossing off the things that are completed, and deadlines/names have been assigned to all the components, so it's a good visual tool and he can see who is pulling their weight and who is not. We also prepared a new organizational chart for the office here (as it will be essentially independent of Freetown on May 2), and we've re-deployed some staff, need to hire others, and need to cut some dead wood. The staffing issues will be taken care of over the next few months as the organization evolves.
On the swampy side of things there is good continued progress and the rains are holding off so far, so we may actually get more done that we thought we could given the delays we've experienced.
That's all for now.....busy busy!