Monday, January 22, 2007

Sunday, Sunday!
Today started out overcast and cool, and gradually the clouds got darker and darker and it eventually poured down for an hour or so. But by early afternoon it all cleared up and the sun popped out from behind the clouds, so I walked over to the office, marvelling at how quickly the sun was drying up all the puddles.

Some of my friends occasionally query how I spend my days at work. Sometimes I do too! Another week has gone by, and what did I achieve? With the start of the new year we are in the process of selecting partners to work with over the next couple of years. This has involved several visits to eleven different partner-NGOs (local non-government organisations working with children) gathering information about how they work and what they do that will help us select the best partners for our work. The visits are carried out by our local staff, although I sometimes do go out on field visits with them. Otherwise I'm in the office planning the overall work, reading their reports, making sure they keep on track with their work plans, and doing other desk work such as writing sections of our annual report, preparing monitoring and evaluation plans, thinking up ways to improve our work, record keeping and so on. It's amazing just how much time the planning takes - but good planning is enormously important, and saves time in the end.

For the next couple of weeks I'll also be busy managing the day-to-day activities of the office as a whole, since I'm acting head of mission while the real Head of Mission is away on leave. A couple of the logistical items to deal with are preparing the new house that I'll be moving into next weekend (we have a new international expat staff member arriving, and I'll be sharing the new house with him, leaving our Head of Mission some privacy in his own place); and making arrangements for the return of a former vehicle from Uganda. We use Toyata Land Cruisers - not the same as the fancy SUV's you see on the road in the US - specially adapted for field work in really rough places. When our office here was closed down temporarily in June 2004 following a military attack on the city, the cars were sent up to the Uganda program office. We are now retrieving one of them, and it will be driven from Uganda to the border with Rwanda, where two of our logistics team will meet it, and drive it back down here.

And now I'm heading back home, as some friends are coming over for Sunday afternoon "tea" and a chat. Will post more Senegal photos next week!

Fortunately it's still possible to get a really good cup of coffee in Dakar, in spite of all the advertising for Nescafe. But on the street guys are making a living selling shots of Nescafe in tiny plastic cups.

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