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Posts archive for: July, 2011
  • Goats, sheep and dogs....an explanation

    Everywhere I travel in Sierra Leone, there are goats, sheep and dogs on the roadways. I have always wondered about their behaviour when vehicles come along. The goats always scatter as soon as the horn sounds, the sheep just look up stupidly, and the dogs often chase the vehicle, biting at the tires. Why? I finally got an explanation from one of my colleagues.

    A truck driver picked up a goat, a sheep and a dog and agreed to give them a ride to their respective villages for 10,000 Le each. They agreed and climbed into the back of the pickup truck. The goat's village was the first stop, and when the vehicle slowed down he jumped out of the truck and scampered away, not paying his fare and leaving the truck driver swearing and yelling. Unable to catch the goat he proceeded to the next village with the sheep and the dog, after threatening them with terrible things if they didn't pay their fares. The sheep's village was next and he meekly paid his fare to the driver and jumped down to graze at the side of the road, watching the vehicle pull away with a now happy driver. The dog remained in the truck and they proceeded to his village, where he also paid his fee, but with a large bill as he had no change. Before he could react the truck driver gunned the engine and drove away fast, with the dog barking and biting at the tires in an attempt to get the driver to stop and give him his change. From that day forward goats run at the sound of the vehicle to avoid paying for their brother, sheep just watch them come/go stupidly as they have nothing to pay and dogs continue to chase cars to try to get the change.

    Now I laugh every time we go through a village...

    Another animal factoid....when chickens run really fast (to avoid a vehicle) their heads don't jerk back and forth. And who knew chickens could run so fast?

    Home in a month!

  • Questions and answers

    A friend emailed me today with some very interesting questions....that no one else has asked me about my experience here, so I thought I'd share the questions and my answers! Thanks Karlina!

    You must be anxiously looking forward to coming home soon. What are you looking forward to the most? Hugging Jessica and eating salads!

    I am curious - what are your feelings and observations from this past year's experience? I feel very blessed in my own life. Poverty and poor health are pervasive here, and people die from diseases that are preventable/curable because they can't afford treatment. It is hard to have so much and be surrounded by people who have so little. We are so far removed from the world's realities in Canada.Development aid has not been working and has actually caused a dependence on aid. Programs that train people and "teach them how to fish" are so much better than just food aid or money or things. Women here have very few opportunities and there are very few women in non-traditional roles here (I am a very noticeable minority). It is disconcerting to be stared at and treated differently because you are a different colour.

    Were your expectations that you had going into this experience fulfilled or have you been disappointed? I expected to have a well defined role, but found that I had to define it and take the lead to get things done. The work ethic we know does not exist here. My work has had an impact on people. That's what I wanted. The only disappointment is that I won't finish everything I wanted to because of stupid bureaucratic b.s. I have felt useless and useful, helpless and helpful.

    Do you feel you were properly prepared and trained by the organization for the cultural changes and people you have been working with? Definitey not as well prepared as I would have liked to have been. I don't think that any kind of training can really prepare you for the reality of life here.

    What have you learned that you will bring back with you to Canada? One person can make a small difference in the world. The smiles of the people (and songs and dances) in the communities that I have worked with are better payment than money for the work that I've done. Don't take what I have for granted. Living simply is not a bad thing. I have survived malaria, and typhoid, and food shortages, and have lived without running water and electricity. But that being said, even at it's worst my life here was much better than most because I have money. The technical skills I have are useful, but my people skills are more valuable, and my management abilities may make the biggest difference in the jobs I do.

    How do you feel your initial decision to take on this mission has impacted you - positively and negatively? It was a good decision for me, fulfilling a life long desire to do this. It pushed me to my limits physically and emotionally, so I have grown as a result. The relationships I have built are priceless. It was harder than I thought to be away for a year, and I felt like I abandoned Jess when she still needed me, but she too has grown as a result.I missed a year's worth of events/time with friends and family, and there really is no way to make up for them.

    I assume you will be looking forward to getting back in to your home in Calgary and having all your things back in order again? Definitely. Have decided to move back into the house for a while to have familiar surroundings and people. Will figure out what comes next later.

    What are your plans once you get back to Canada? Home until January, when I'll come back here for 3 months as a management consultant (paid contract). They practically begged me to return, and there is much more that I can do. I wasn't looking for another job but I expect it may lead to contracts elsewhere in the world as well. I will however limit contracts to 3 months maximum and one or 2 per year. I need to spend some time at home to stay grounded.

    Is the organization providing de-briefing sessions for you to re-integrate back to Canada? There will be a package in the mail and then some sort of session either in Vancouver or Ottawa but I'm not sure when that will happen.

    I'm sure you will experience many emotions coming home. It is happy-sad right now. some days I can't wait to leave and some days I'm in tears because it means saying goodbye. It will be good to be home, though. There are lots of things to sort out, and I expect to be a little overwhelmed by the city, the choices, the busyness of life at home compared to life here. It will be challenging.

  • Countdown to homecoming

    The time is literally flying by and I am now counting down the weeks until I come home to Canada. It is hard to believe that my time here is almost done!

    Since the youth contractor training sessions I have been very busy assessing the progress at the Kenema IVS sites and am pleased to say that we've met our targets for the year at all but one location! Construction is almost completed for the season as the rains are getting heavier and the soils are very wet. Land preparation (cultivation, levelling and puddling) is underway and the rice has been seeded in the nursery plots and will be transplanted in the next week or so. It is very rewarding to have been part of this development, and to feel that my being here has helped to facilitate all of this. At every village I'm greeted warmly, and when I tell them how pleased I am at the progress there is much happiness evident. The women often spontaneously burst out into song (in Mende), dancing, and clapping....and giggling when I react to their performance. It is really lovely.

    Unfortunately I dropped my camera and it cannot be repaired, so there will be no more photos. Sad day indeed. I keep seeing interesting things that I'd like to have photos of, so it is really frustrating!

    At the TAA office I am continuing to work with the management as they put in place the necessary elements for TAA to be a company limited by shares. I am currently helping with the recruitment of an HR officer, who we hope will be in place before I leave. We have done a project management plan to map out all of the tasks/responsibilities through October, and the management team will revisit it weekly to make adjustments as things progress.

    It looks like I will come back for a short time next year (in January through March)to continue to assist the TAA as it evolves, but will also be charged with evaluation of the IVS projects in 4 districts (Kenema, Kailahun, Kono and Koinadugu - the 4Ks). It will be interesting to come back and see how the rice actually did in the newly rehabilitated sites, and to scope out the plans for 2012. I didn't expect to be offered consulting work but have decided that I will give IFAD the help they are requesting.

    It is going to be harder than I thought it would be to leave my new friends and my work here. Despite all of the problems and frustrations it has been a very rewarding experience. Knowing that I will be back makes it a little easier to go!

  • Happy Canada Day!

    It is strange but being away from home on Canada Day just reinforces how wonderful it is to be a Canadian! So, Happy Canada Day to everyone at home!

    I hung my flag behind my desk and used my webcam to take photos of various colleagues, much to everyone's amusement. I also decorated my laptop with 2 small flags and gave one to my driver. It has been fun answering everyone's questions about Canada, and sharing some of my favorite stories.

    Now if I could just have an ice cold Canadian, a BBQ'd burger and watch some fireworks!

    Cheers everyone.
    Hug a Canadian!
    Vasile

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