Well, after an unexpectedly shellshocked start I can now officially confirm that I love the place! Sure, it’s crazy, mental and illogical a lot if the time but it’s also vibrant, interesting, incredibly welcoming and exciting.
My favourite quote from the week was from my driver (yes I know that could sound pretentious but it’s the norm here and how people get about due to the hazardous driving and road conditions!). On commenting on how friendly everyone is here his response was ‘Sierra Leoneans love strangers. That’s our thing. Be you black, white, it doesn’t matter, we love strangers’. Simple but again another example of how open minded the people are here.
So onto my first week at work doing something completely different in an area I know nothing about! :-). All prepared and psyched up for my first day in my new role as ‘Monitoring and Evaluation Advisor’ I meet with my new boss on Monday. I’m struggling with the heat and humidity but soldier on pretending to feel fine when all I really want to do is lay down on the cold floor. We start going through some information and the room starts to spin slightly but I put that to the back of my mind and continue to diligently take notes and ask what I believe are the right questions. We jump in the car, head off for a quick bite for lunch and get back in the car to head back to the office. The room spin due to the heat, city pollution and various generator fumes is then conveniently accompanied by feelings of nausea so rather than say anything I close my eyes temporarily in the back seat hoping it will go away. It does, but only because I’ve momentarily fainted in the back of the car! Noticing that my boss can see me in the rear view mirror I apologise profusely for my inability to cope with the heat and we continue our day. I love making a good first impression…
Day 2 to 4 were back to full health and I was privileged enough to be invited to attend a 3 day workshop on driving advocacy on malaria in Sierra Leone. The meeting was attended by the key influencers and decision makers on malaria in the country and although like a fish out of water I couldn’t have asked for a better induction. We covered items such as the current malaria landscape, how things work here and I guess most importantly what doesn’t and ways around some of the obstacles and difficulties the country is facing in terms of mortality and morbidity rates (which are sadly high with current life expectancy at a very low 47), funding, communication and resource.
They soon adopted me as one of their own and by the second day I was ‘proudly’ presenting our team’s findings back to the group, a picture of the slightly nerve wracking event attached below. I left with an insightful overview and a list of contacts that could have taken weeks to pull together so a fantastic learning and networking opportunity so early on in my new role. Once again the feeling that I have the opportunity to contribute to such a worthy cause for the next 6 months is amazing.
There is also a picture attached of how seriously people view starting meetings and workshops on time – see if you can work out which one…
Outside of work the rains have properly started and will now build to the climax in August where apparently there are two solid 24/7 weeks of torrential downpours where the roads become torrents of muddy water – great! I’m all prepared though as a friend I’ve just made here has copied her Insanity DVD collection onto a memory stick for me. I may soon be a drowned rat for a few weeks but I will have abs of steel so it’s not all bad.
So over and out for now as I just a wanted to update you a little on my first week at work.
P.s a little picture of price marked pack for my L&R friends. You might not be able to buy green vegetables here but the full range of Lucozade is at your disposal!