14 October 2010,
Just met a journalist, who wants to do something with our story about the Government leaving housing out of the National Development Plan (which I still think must be an oversight?!).
He's taken our press release and he loved the open letter, and he's coming back on Saturday to do interviews. Result.
13 October 2010,
Zambia is very flat, so the horizon all around is low. Even at 6am it’s about 17°C and we’re warm and sticky. Driving from the airport towards Lusaka, it could pass for a southern European hot dry country - blue sky, yellow earth, palm trees. Except there's a burnt, nutty smell hanging on the air, making my nose tickle. The roads are pretty good, straight and smooth. It’s early and there’s not so much traffic, but we pass loads of cyclists, making a laboured journey towards town with their bikes laden with parcels wrapped in various materials, mostly straw, built up in a well-balanced if precarious heap up the back of the bike.
When I got in the back of the car I automatically went to put on my seatbelt and, struggling a bit, asked where the buckle was only to be told with a smile that it was ok. I wondered what was ok, then realised that he was telling me it was ok not to wear a seat belt. Then I noticed that both men in the front weren’t wearing seatbelts either.
I later learnt that the smoky smell is charcoal burning, and many of those brave cyclists we passed were carrying bundles of it to sell by the roadsides in Lusaka.
13 October 2010,
Spent a packed day meeting, greeting, listening to some pretty amazing people. I’ve already got a much better picture of who does what, who funds what and why. The NGO sector is huge in Africa, and for the most part it deals directly with civic and community organizations, but at some points, for example the Civic Forum on Housing & Habitat, where I am, it has to deal with the government in a lobbying and advocacy role. Interesting, as the Forum is funded by the Swedish Cooperative Centre, which is itself funded by the Swedish Government.
Some things are surprisingly familiar - there are issues that the Zambian Government wants organizations to mainstream: sustainability is a familiar one; gender, perhaps; but HIV/Aids is a well established agenda here, and anti-fraud and corruption is actively being promoted now (I should know, I had to sit through the meeting!)
28 September 2010,
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
6 September 2010,
I've just found out the dates I'll be working in Zambia - I'm off on 2 October, and all of a sudden it feels very, very real!
I've got more jabs I need, I've got to sort my visa out, not to mention all the jobs I've been muttering to myself that 'I must do before I go...'. There are some things I really must do, like taking the cat to the vet and the car for its MOT (musn't get them mixed up). But I think painting the kitchen's off the list.
I've also got to publish our financial report, a 56-page discussion document and two books. All in two editions, Welsh and English. And carry on production of the 176-page book on our archaeology collections, and development of the brand new companion guide to the art collections. And recruit a new translator. And a few other things...