(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, March 16, 2015

Supervisor's Visit

I’m usually the first to arrive at work with the exception of one of the cleaning guys named Martin. This morning I unlocked the security gate of the main building and then unlocked the front door only to be confronted by a tremendous stench. We have a mouse problem and I immediately knew that one of Martin’s traps had been successful over the weekend – probably from Friday night given the powerful smell. I think his record is four full traps in one morning. He ran around in front of me to go fetch his kill, all the more urgent since the trap was placed squarely in front of my office. As I arrived to unlock my door the smell was overpowering. On the floor remained only the mouse's tail and some of the maggots or whatever it was that was feasting on the carcass. Happy Monday.

A couple weeks ago my supervisor was in town. This is a relatively rare event. Hasn’t happened since I think 2011. Granted, I changed supervisors early last year so it hasn’t been that long with the same one. In any case, it’s infrequent. Generally that’s not considered bad news. He sort of needs to spend his time in some of the rougher places in the region that have more issues. I was told by my previous supervisor that I should take it as a compliment that things are humming along nicely and it’s a sign of good management. I’ll take it.
one of the embarassing things you do in this line of work - in front of 160 of your staff

For this visit we tried to make it welcoming and give him a good idea of what’s going on. It was not even three full days so it was impossible to provide him with the full tour. As it was it seemed to work out pretty well. My team did a great job of showing what they do and, fortunately, there weren’t any logistical hiccups along the way.

We started off by a day in Bujumbura meeting with some of the leadership and giving them a chance to talk about the types of activities we do. He already had a general idea but this gave him time to ask questions of the staff themselves rather then get information from me or through various reports.

our office in Muyinga

The tension in the country provided an interesting backdrop to the visit. He admittedly felt the stress in the voices of the team. It’s gone on for a long time and I think we’re all a bit weary knowing that the security situation could unravel at any time.

participants in a project supporting the elderly

On day two we headed up to the north to visit one of the refugee camps. He’s no stranger to camps so it was important to show him things that we do that may not be like what he has seen elsewhere. A couple of things stood out. One was our logistical support program. We do all the trucking, warehousing, vehicle maintenance, fuel, etc. for the camps. It’s not something that our organization does in other countries and I think he enjoyed seeing this aspect of our work.

it's all about the hat

Another thing that was different was an activity with the elderly. We tend to focus on child protection, women’s protection and empowerment, livelihoods, etc. but he said he’d never seen this type of focus on the older people in the camp.

students no longer working in the plantations - happy to be in school

  I have to say, though I knew the activity existed, I’d never been in a camp when the activity was underway. As such it was a nice opportunity for me as well. These people were driven from their homes in the Congo relatively late in life. They have been forced to live in a camp setting and it’s unlikely that they will be returning home anytime soon, if ever. Though sub-Saharan African cultures tend to treat their elderly with more respect than some Western cultures, it’s still a sad way to reach your twilight years.

a view of the area where the tea plantations are and our child labor project

That evening we had a big gathering with staff. That office has a little over a hundred staff so it was quite animated and they pulled out all the stops. After a good night’s sleep in the cool air of Muyinga and a bucket shower, we were back on the road towards the capital. We stopped along the way to visit the tea plantations and a child labor project. It was a beautiful day and a chance to spend some time in the countryside. 

The remainder of the day was spent in meetings and contingency planning. All indication is that from a security standpoint, we have a bumpy road ahead.

vivid colors and a warm welcome to a village savings and loan activity

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