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September 2010

Wales for Africa - I should be so Lusaka

Posted by Mari Gordon on 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

Wales for Africa

Posted by Mari Gordon on 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...

Wales for Africa

Posted by Mari Gordon on 2 September 2010

Came in this morning to a very interesting email from John, who's already in Zambia working with one of the Forum's member charities. The email said that someone in Lusaka had asked after me. Now, initially I had the usual moment of 'oh, wonder who that is' that most people from Wales - even more so from Bethesda - get all the time. Then of course remembered that the message is from Lusaka and to my knowledge there isn't anyone even from Bethesda there at the moment (though I could be wrong). Reading on, it was just that the Forum already have my name, and so John was very kindly passing on the message that I'm expected and they're looking forward to meeting me. How amazing, to make someone feel welcome and we're not even on the same continent yet!

I'm still waiting for the specific date when I start work there. Frustrating. Although, it is becoming more and more tangible, partly perhaps because I went for my first jabs this week. Typhoid in my left arm, as that's the one that will hurt most they breezily informed me while wielding the needle, and combined Hep A&B in the other. Not too painful at all at the time, it seemed to me. To be honest I was more concerned with how I looked as I left the surgery with the fluffy ball of cotton wool taped to each arm (ridiculous, is how I looked). However, woke next morning with shoulders and upper arms stiff as a board. Followed by very mild sniffles, probably because of the typhoid jab.

I've also been filling in a questionnaire in preparation for a coaching session next week. The support for the personal development aspect of the ILO scheme is really thorough. The questions included some highly sensible ones about objectives and commitments, as well as a couple I didn't entirely understand if I'm honest. But I know I'll get help and support, which is what matters really I suppose.