Thursday, October 31, 2013

Eight Months Later

Well, I clearly failed at keeping this updated. 

Eight months, and many, many plane rides later, I have started a new position with the same organization (Heartland Alliance International, for anyone who forgot). Our project in Ghana came to a close in August, as our contract with USAID expired. And unfortunately, because of US “competitive bid” processes, we have to re-apply for funding. Which really only makes partial sense to me. Sure, you don’t want to play favorites and keep awarding funding to the same organization. But if you have a fully established project that is achieving your strategic objectives, why would you stop funding it, causing gaps in funding, loss of staff, loss of property, loss of momentum, duplicative startup costs and other undesirable things? Some overpaid economist should do an analysis on how much money is lost between grant cycles… 

Anyway, I am now a Field Program Advisor, which in theory is a cool transition, but we’ll see how it pans out. I’m taking this attitude not because I’m not excited to bounce around to various programs, but because the funding for my position is conditional on funding from the program offices. So it could be a very short lived experiment :)

But here I am, at my first of hopefully many short-term assignments in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire! Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from lovely little Ghana.


However, upon arrival, I immediately noticed one significant improvement from Accra…NO MORE OPEN SEWERS! (and the crowd goes wild…yaaaay). Yes, thank you Abidjan for having the good sense not to expose all sorts of filth to everyone’s nostrils. However, it is impossible to walk around this city. No sidewalks, crazy traffic, really, really sprawl-y. So, there you go Accra, point you. Its 1-1. Unfortunately both cities are tied in the “horrible traffic” category, so I’ll have to get back to you to see who’s gonna win this horse race.

As for the actual job, I’m really excited to be here. Heartland has its own office, which if you remember we did NOT have in Ghana. And I had met two of the Cote D’Ivoire staff before, one in Chicago and one in Tanzania, so I already knew I was coming into a great team. The project here is very similar to the one we were working on in Ghana, but on a much, much larger scale. We had one local partner in Ghana...there are 15 in CI! And that number is going to increase to 20 in the next month. The other main difference is that while we only had the mandate to do HIV prevention in Ghana, in CI we do HIV prevention, testing, care, and treatment. It’s a busy office. 

Anyway, my role here is pretty varied. And it’s all in French. Ah! The country director and my HQ supervisor have created quite the workplan for me. If you can stand to sift through some NGO mumbo-jumbo, my tasks include a comparative analysis of the three different implementation models for partner organizations, documentation of success stories for external communications, program development, review of the M&E system based on recommendations from a CDC consultant, local partner capacity building and tool development, ensure correct targeting of populations...blah blah blah, I can feel your eyes loosing focus, so I’ll skip the rest. 

But I do have a rather strange story from my first weekend here. I met this Ivoirian woman at a café, who has hence decided to adopt me (which strangely happens to me a lot. I’ve been told more than once that I have an “approachable face.” Maybe I should work on that...) Anyway, we got to talking and she told me about her travels and her work (she owns a farm, fyi), and she told me that her sister owns a restaurant in Abidjan, and her brother-in-law would drive us there.

Sidebar: we had a really awkward moment because the word for brother-in-law in French is beau-frere, which can sound a lot like boyfriend. So at different points in the conversation, she referred to this man as what I though was “boyfriend” as well as husband of my sister. Needless to say I was confused. But I figured it out eventually. 

So I met her brother-in-law, who SHE told me is from Jewish, and would not change her mind no matter how many times I told her Jewish is not a country, but as it turns out he is from France. And yes, he is Jewish. 

We all got in his car, made a stop at my new friend’s mother’s house, to be introduced to who is apparently now my grandmother, and then we went to her sister’s restaurant. The restaurant itself is pretty cool. It has a nice beachy feel to it, despite having no view of the ocean. It also houses several interesting animals as “pets,” which brings me to the weird part about this story. I arrived just in time for a monkey surgery. Whether or not this was a scheduled endeavor and my new friend failed to inform me, I don’t know. But it happened nonetheless. 

Let me explain. Apparently this restaurant plays host to two monkeys, I’m not sure what species. Maybe my environmentally inclined sister can tell me from the pictures. One monkey is still kind of a baby, and his name sounds like Peking, which I find very funny, so I will continue to call him that. But sadly, Peking was attacked by the larger monkey, leaving his poor little hand pretty ripped apart.  

The family who owns the bar did not have (or would not use) the money on the monkey, but one of their frequent patrons, another French guy, is a handy carpenter and apparently now an amateur surgeon. He went to the drug store and bought an assortment of drugs and bandages and a NEEDLE to fix poor little Peking’s hand. 

So when I got to the bar, they were in the process of organizing said-surgery. And my new friend volunteered to hold the monkey down! They gave the monkey some anesthesia (yes, you CAN get that over the counter. Doesn’t that frighten you?), and then the carpenter proceeded to sew Peking’s skin back onto his hand. Not something I was planning on seeing that day, or really any day in my life. 

Surgery slide show:
You can kind of see his wound on this right hand

Monkey surgery commences!

Got a nice little boxing glove.

Monkey treat for being a good boy!

Oh yea, and to finish off the monkey story, they brought back the big monkey that had hurt poor little Peking. AND they gave her a lollipop. How is that for justice?

I also made friends with a mongoose, named Pilou. He licked my ankle. We’re bff. 


Also I'm clearly not in Ghana anymore, but I cannot change the web address of this blog. That would be silly. So I guess I'll start new posts (if there ever are...) with the location. Sound good?

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