I've just come back from talking to people who are in the process of applying to go to Africa with ILO next year - Cohort 2, as they're called (I'm part of Cohort 1). It was really enjoyable, there was such a positive buzz of anticipation I felt quite uplifted afterwards. It was also a useful process, as I had to reflect on the whole application and preparation process and all it entails - which is a lot, as it happens. From sending off my application form to sending off for my visa, it's already been a journey, before I even get on the plane.
I've had to think about things like the NGO culture and the housing support sector in Zambia, cram up on branding issues for not-for-profits - so often seen as a low priority - set personal objectives, make contacts ... will I even remember to pack?
Luckily for me John was there, who's only just returned from Zambia, bless him. He talked about the practical things that I guess will make such a difference when I'm there, like getting around, Zambian tv (he says to take a radio), that shops in Lusaka ignore sell by dates, the fact that it's dark at 6pm and, apparently, going to start raining on 24 October.
I was already feeling pretty lucky - about my assignment, the location, the accommodation - and now I get to benefit from John's experience too. We're meeting up soon for lunch, so that he can pass on his wisdom; and some left-over mosquito repellent, some currency, and a sim card.
Lucky, lucky me.
Read about John's experiences at www.johngrimes93.blogspot.com
Find out about the ILO programme at www.wales.gov.uk/psmw