(I've changed the name from "Rants" given that I can't really rant about many things that frustrate me here, at least not without getting into some sort of trouble. As such, you'll have to wait for the book.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Moving Situation

And the farewells begin. Moving is always a bittersweet time. There are gatherings of people that you haven't seen for a while which is nice. You have people who say nice things about you (the ones who wouldn't say nice things likely don't come or remain silent). You also have the recognition that you will be leaving so many people with whom you have spent several years – most you will unlikely ever see again. Everyone goes through this at various times in their lives though I feel like I've gone through this more than most.

Just an idea of some numbers. I have moved out of my residence 15 times in the last 22 years. Of those moves, 6 were to a different country from where I was living – 5 of them to a different continent. If I were to include my college years, it would be even worse since I changed residences every single year.

One would think that I enjoy this sort of thing – the adventure of changing houses, going through my belongings, throwing things out, etc. Nothing could be further from the truth actually. Traveling is one thing. Moving is another. I detest moving. It seems rather to be a consequence of a restless disorder that I have. It's not moving for the sake of moving but shifts in my career that necessitate radical changes in my living situation. I love what I do but I must say that I tolerate the changes. I may be wrong but it seems that if my career allowed it, I (and from our frequent conversations on the subject I suspect Priya as well) would hunker down in a single place, plant trees, get involved in a community, church and so forth. I would have a local pub where people would know my name.

Last dinner with home group
Apparently that desire is not enough to make us alter our careers, or at least not yet. As I said, I very much enjoy what I do. I'm sad to leave Tanzania and the wonderful people I've met here. At the same time I've already met many of my new team in Burundi and I'm very much looking forward to finally joining them. If all goes well we may be able to dig in for a few years. It sounds like it's going to be an interesting and challenging new adventure. It's just that this transition unfortunately requires us to move. So that's how we spent the weekend.

Eustache and family at our farewell party
We did have a nice farewell party at our apartment on Saturday. With most of our lives already in boxes, we at least kept the things on the walls to make the place a bit more welcoming. By Sunday evening, however, our flat looked as though the Grinch had made an appearance as the walls and floors are now bare. It's getting to be time to leave.

Strange pink sun that was invisible to the naked eye

Monday, August 16, 2010

Beginning of the End

Over the past couple of weeks there have been a number of topics that I have felt blog-worthy. With a fully-loaded schedule, I was not in a position to sit down and draft any of them. Now, back in Dar and attempting to get caught up on things, I'm realizing that the topics are: a) forgotten, b) not as interesting as I thought they were at the time, or c) just as interesting or more interesting than I was thinking at the time but inappropriate to communicate to the entire world.

Regarding the last one, I've wondered how it is with people who have more interesting jobs than I. I picture some Interpol or CIA agents who discover some fascinating information, possibly incriminating someone famous, and they successfully keep the information for themselves until they die or write their tell-all book some 25 years later. I certainly don't compare my withheld stories to such things as that, though I do think that there is some pretty crazy, sometimes even humorous, stuff going on that would likely get me into trouble if I wrote it up. I fear that such stories will, over time, veer into the "not as interesting as time passes" category. It's tough to guess what things age well.

Last week I went to visit the camps and staff in the field with the Regional Director (aka my boss). It was a good trip overall and things seemed to be moving along well. The situation in the Burundian camp is tense and still likely to come to a head at some point. The standoff between the refugees and the government continues and the latter, in the opinion of one UN official, will eventually win out. We shall see but don't expect me to speculate on it here.

Camp Visit
The one program that I am excited about is the Community-Based Rehabilitation sector. It's particularly interesting to me because I haven't had much experience with it in the past. 
Child being treated for clubfoot, therapy that will enable the child to grow up with normal functionality. The condition would have otherwise crippled the child for life.

The program focuses on people with disabilities. In a refugee camp this is a marginalized group within a marginalized group. The staff conduct home visits, physiotherapy and orthopaedic support as well as counseling. They also do awareness campaigns in the camp on issues surrounding the disabled. The program has been hampered in the past by lack of resources, materials to build prosthetics, a generator to power tools, fuel, etc. so it was good to see it actually up and running. 

 New wheels for guys that otherwise would drag themselves around or need to be carried. Very cool.

We also visited a new drop-in center for our Gender-Based Violence sector. It's not completed yet but it's in the final stages. There was already one center but due to the significant size of the camp, we decided a second one was necessary to make it more accessible to women who live a long distance from the other one. It's actually an area of the camp I don't know very well. It was easy to see that they don't get visitors much. 
Kids came from everywhere to see what the white visitors were up to. I was shaking hands and bumping fists with the waist-high mob. These kids crack me up and I always wish I had more time to hang out. Their grubby little hands were covered with everything from dried snot to red dirt, mud, etc. As I got back in the Land Cruiser I noticed that my right hand was covered with traces of my contact with the exuberant horde. I figured it wise to avoid eating with that hand until I cleaned up a bit.

It was my second to the last visit to the camps. I have one more before we leave for Bujumbura. It's going to be sad to leave this all but it was very nice to see that things are going well. This was confirmed by the positive comments we received in our visits to the UN and government officials. Pretty cool, after all we've gone through over the past couple of years, to leave behind something you feel good about. 

"Let's pray that the human race never escapes from Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere."
C. S. Lewis