Friday, October 26, 2007

Day 5, wigs, and the Nile

In answer to Ellen's question, yup, I've been wearing a lot of wigs. I didn't mind them much until Michael, a fellow trainer, said something about all our head sweat making the wigs foul by this third training workshop...

I’ve just reviewed the workshop evaluations and they are quite positive, except for complaints about the power cuts, which we trainers also did not appreciate (it also meant lack of Internet access). This Africa team was stellar compared to the other two. Part of it, we realized, is that we were better at coaching them.

My soul is doing well. My body is tired (despite getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night), but I feel really good about this work. Still, I am happy to have 3 workshops down and just 1 to go. I am definitely feeling middle-aged among these emergency responders, though the average age of the trainers is not much younger than mine. I see more and more how global warming and the “War on Terrorism” are creating the need for these Africans, Latin Americans, and Asians to have greater capacity to respond to emergencies. I am glad to do my part.

The Nile pouring out of Lake Victoria was something to stare at for hours on end, as explorer Speke did in the 1800's. The ride back to Kampala was interesting, but the scenery went by too fast until we got to more boring Kampala, and then we were quickly tired of sitting in the Friday evening traffic...

I'm off to the airport tomorrow at 6:30 a.m. and looking forward to being home again.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Day 3

Today, Day 3, we each took out a group of trainees on a scavenger hunt using GPS equipment. The location was a golf course that just happened to be within walking distance of the hotel. It was both stressful and fun. My group did the worst, only finding 3 of the 6 clues, so they were less happy about it all, but still learned a lot and enjoyed it somewhat. We all got a lot of exercise, which was nice, and glimpses of the beautiful uppermost part of the Nile River . One Ugandan trainee said to me, “How beautiful this is! I have never seen this beauty before. I am from Uganda but this is my first time here at the Nile .” Good thing we haven’t kept them totally cooped up in the hotel.

The training team is getting along fine, though I sure do miss Sonia, who was the leader for the first two regional workshops and is taking a break this time. She has a good, positive attitude and that feminine side. (All my fellow trainers are men – two Americans, one Frenchman, one Kenyan, and one Serbian.)

Oops, past my bedtime and tomorrow's another big day. I hope all’s well with you.


Day 2

Have snuck out of the simulation to get on the Internet and send e-mail that I've been waiting to send since last night. The business center was locked 3 hours early and then today there was no electricity...

The conference here at the “Official Source of the Nile ” is going fine. Day 2 (Tuesday) went well, though the trainees are less happy. Still, at the close of today’s session they gave high marks on the first two days on their quick written evaluations. The other workshops showed a pattern where on Days 2 and 3, people get unhappy with the time pressure and the lower standards in the quality of the work they are able to complete. Something like no pain in the training, no gain. The long-term development people especially suffer. They are used to taking weeks for assessment of the population's needs, rather than hours.

This afternoon wore me out. I had to run all over playing so many roles: World Vision rep, Ministry of Health rep, Office of National Disaster Coordination Director, woman who lost husband in the cyclone, young woman with sick baby, not to mention Spee the facilitator and time-keeper. We were all rewarded at sunset, when roiling black clouds rolled toward us from the lake in a spectacular fashion. Many of us watched from the balcony for a long time.

Tomorrow is the outing where we send the group on a scavenger hunt using GPS equipment. The location will be a golf course that just happens to be within walking distance of the hotel. It should be fun. Too bad there are no bikes for the trainers (in Thailand we had rental bikes that allowed us to travel around more quickly than the teams).


Monday, October 22, 2007

Emergencies and a rainy season

The trainees may well go straight from here to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is imploding, or to a flooded area in Ethiopia, or to a flood area in Uganda, or a fourth locale. It's very practical training and there sure are a lot of emergencies to respond to. I really do miss my "boss" and the main organizer of these workshops, Sonia, both her spirit and the workload she covers, part of which I am covering. As Jens says, they are lucky to have me. :)

We had a rainbow at sunset as the rain came toward us from the main part of Lake Victoria to the south. Now it’s raining gently.


Day 1 and Logistical challenges

My suitcase arrived this afternoon, delivered all the way from Entebbe by a British Airways person (it’s about a 2-1/2 hour drive). Because the Save the Children staff in Kampala didn’t believe that BA would actually deliver my suitcase in a reasonable timeframe to a destination that far away, they had kept my lost-baggage official form. When the delivery guy asked me for the form and learned I did not have it, I thought he was going to leave and take my bag with him. Fortunately, instead he took a written statement from me and let me keep the suitcase. What was I most happy to see? My sandals, underwear, pants, flash drive, and train whistle that I use to call a group back into session.

It’s clear we’re in Africa and not another region of the world. The staff are far more experienced in management and emergency response. They are just wrapping up their work for the day at this late hour of 8:45 p.m. We are all managing through multiple logistical challenges: off-and-on electricity, off-and-on water, all kinds of problems with our communications equipment, especially the hand-held radios, etc. There are flying bugs of various sizes and types, geckos, huge cockroaches, and bats inside the hotel. We are trying to avoid getting diarrhea or malaria. But we keep our sense of humor, which is one of the rules we gave the participants today, Day 1. Overall, Day 1 went very well and I'm tired but pleased.

That’s the news for now.


Work, work, work

I am totally wrapped up in this intense training workshop of the members of the Africa Emergency Response Team. While I had one day at the beginning to explore Kampala and get to know a bit about Uganda, now all of my focus is within the hotel compound in Jinja (the town at the "official" Source of the Nile) and with the 32 other participants and trainers. However, from the main training room and my hotel room nearby I have a high-up, gorgeous view of the finger of Lake Victoria that turns into the Nile River . The birds, the boats, the water, and the changing light and color are magnificent. We were speculating that those far-off bumps in the water were hippos, but we have yet to confirm that. (We later confirmed they were not hippos, but floating clods of dirt.)

There sure are a lot of missionaries here, also using this hotel facility. I am reminded that the missionaries around the world have historically given some preference to locations where the climate is less hot and humid (we are at 1, 200 meters above sea level) and the countryside more appealing. I’m also remembering that Hudson has a sister city in Uganda and has recently begun doing exchange visits. I can see why those visits are popular.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hi from Jinja

We made it to Jinja by noon this morning. The ride was very slow along the main route around the edge of Lake Victoria. I was very sorry not to have my camera with me (it's in my suitcase. delayed in airport land), as I saw some wonderful things to photograph, including bicycles loaded with an amazing amount of interesting stuff.

Got to hit the sack, my jet lag is hitting me hard, and I need to be fully ready mentally and physically for Day 1 tomorrow.



I am not too worried about the training workshop because the format is very similar to the last one, but still, there is a lot to keep on top of. It's a complex agenda with a large team of trainers plus a few other resource people. I am sure we will do fine, but I have to be especially diligent about the details since Sonia's not here. Rod is already stepping up to the plate, though.

I'm fighting jetlag seriously and must hit the sack. It's
9:45 p.m. Uganda time. We leave for Jinja at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow. I don't have much to pack, but I'd like to get in a walk before we go. I find everything around me so fascinating.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fascinating Uganda

Here in Uganda I find everything around me so fascinating. So far I can see that the topography and flora are distinctly different from the other African countries I've been to. There are lots of green mangos on the trees right now (maybe I'll get to eat some ripe ones :) ) and I saw pineapple, banana, papaya, melon, and other unknown fruit at the market. The countryside is indeed lush, as described in the literature. Kampala is sprawled out in a bowl and on small hills with a center that has a few tall buildings. The air pollution - mostly from diesel fuel (trucks and mini-busses, especially) - is terrible. The stores seem to offer a good selection of items.

The big news here is about the murder during a carjacking in
Johannesburg of a S0uth African big reggae star, Lucky Dube. The Ugandan press says that after South Africa, Uganda has had the must Lucky Dube fans and all are in mourning, while also wondering why South Africa can't decrease its terrible crime rates to low levels like Uganda has.

So far I've been hanging out with the folks who arrived early and are staying at this hotel in Kampala. Only 1 is African - an Ethiopian, and the rest are Westerners with various English accents. In Jinja we will have the full group of 33 with about 7 Ugandans among them, so I expect to learn more about the country, perhaps especially when we go off to some park to have them do a scavenger hunt in teams using the GPS equipment.


Hi from Uganda

I made it to Kampala, Uganda this morning without much trouble, except my suitcase missed the transfer at Heathrow Airport in London and is coming on Monday afternoon. I was the last one out of the airport, but the Save the Children driver was still there waiting for me, fortunately. Today after arriving at the hotel and napping for 3 hours, I went out and bought a blouse, skirt, and sandals to tide me over until my suitcase comes. I had packed in my carry-on bag only one extra outfit. (Funny how while I was packing on Thursday night, Carolyn and I had a conversation about why I was putting so much in my carry-on bags and how often luggage gets delayed or lost.)


Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean

Hi, all -

It's Saturday and I’m on a plane to London , where I transfer and take a second flight to Uganda . I’m excited about this first opportunity to visit that country. I’ll be training Save the Children’s emergency response team for Africa – a couple people each from Sudan , Malawi , Uganda , Ethiopia , etc. Should be fun, just like the one we did last month in Asia and the one in August in Latin America. The best part is when the trainees go back to their home countries and put their skills to use right away. The bad part is there are lots of emergencies giving them the opportunity to practice.

More later.


Monday, October 15, 2007


Saturday we celebrated seven years on the land in East Chatham, the addition of a new member family (Scheible/Hanley), our first residents in the farmhouse (Beers), and the building of two houses (Michauds and Brauns)!

Starting about 1pm we worshiped as one, kids included, in the farmhouse, then went outside to play games together. After we laughed and ran around, we settled into the pleasures of pressing apples to make cider. All hands were needed to make this happen and, indeed, everyone helped. Some kids scrubbed the base of the press with wire brushes, other folks washed apples and cut out rotten spots, still others tossed the cleaned apples into an amazing shredding machine to prepare them for the cider press. When the press was full of shredded apples, folks took turns pushing and pulling the handle to squeeze out the last drop of cider.

As the buckets catching the cider filled-up, they were brought to a picnic table where the cider was carefully poured into various containers. Then came the onerous task of tasting the fresh-pressed cider. All were required for this task, too, just to be absolutely sure we were in agreement as to its deliciousness. All agreed!

By the time all the apples were pressed and the cider transferred to containers for folks to take home, it was almost time for dinner. But first there was time for one more game and releasing of milkweed seeds to fly sparkling into the evening sun.

After dinner came the bonfire with cider donuts, marshmallows, and more of our friends to share the celebration. We sang silly songs, some serious ones too, and enjoyed the warmth of the fire and our friends.

See illustrations of all above events on

New Idea! First post ...

Tonight, some of us were talking about how to be more welcoming of diversity in our community and the idea of informally publishing, in more detail, some of the amazing things people in this community do seemed like a 'no brainer' to me.

At this point I should be clear that I am writing from my personal point of view, which may or may not be shared by others in QIVC! And hopefully, if one or more of them wants to add to, modify or otherwise embellish my views, she (or he) will feel free to do so.

That's all for tonight. Just an introduction. More tomorrow, hopefully.