August 14

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Mountain (Mis)Adventures

If you so choose, even the unexpected setbacks can bring new and positive possibilities. If you so choose, you can find value and fulfillment in every circumstance.  – Ralph Marston

A few weeks ago my team and I went to the mountains to observe more instances of the World Food Program (WFP) Food Distribution program. The goal was to gain a good understanding of the current process, in order for us to see what we could improve upon when building our program.  We wanted to go to two different districts in order to see differences and commonalities between the sites.

Because of the distance, this trip was going to take a few days, and we had to leave bright and early on Monday.  Initially, a time of 6:00 am was suggested.  Now you all know what a morning person I am…I cannot even begin to tell you how glad I am that someone else vetoed that start time!!  Instead we decided to leave at 7:00 am.  Definitely a much better start time!!

So it was the Sunday prior to the trip, and I still hadn’t packed my bag or washed my hair. It was coming up to 10:00 pm and I had a decision to make.  I could either wash my hair and pack my bag then, and sleep longer in the morning, or, I could be lazy and just go to bed and get up at 5:30 am to pack and wash my hair.  Well, I’m not proud to admit this, but laziness totally won out.

Now I know many of you, at this point are thinking “There’s no way she got up at 5:30 in the morning” and you would be…WRONG!! I totally managed to wake up that early.  Just because I don’t like mornings, doesn’t mean I can’t get up when I know I absolutely cannot be late.  I just need a boatload of coffee to function…So, I got up and got everything done that I needed to.  I was also very well caffeinated by 7:00 am and ready to go.  And then I waited, and waited, and waited some more, and waited even more.  Our ride (one of my roommates is on my team and she was going on this field trip as well) didn’t get there until 7:30 am.  I could have slept for an extra half hour!!  But hey, as long as I’m not the one making us late, it’s all good.

So we start on this trip and I have a fair idea of what to expect since I had been on a mountain trip in my first week in Lesotho. Well, not quite.  You see Maseru is at 1,600 m elevation, which is quite a bit higher than the 156 m of Mississauga.  Still, I hadn’t really had any issues with the altitude and didn’t expect any this time.  Boy was I wrong.  You see, we were going to a district that was at 2,200 m elevation.  My body did not handle the ascent very well.  About two hours into the trip I started feeling nauseated.  I was concentrating on breathing and trying to will myself into feeling better.  Unfortunately, that didn’t quite work.  I’ve never been more grateful to get to a rest stop before in my life.  To just be on solid ground, which was not moving, in the fresh air, was amazing.  The funny thing is my roommate who is Basotho was also feeling the same way.  Both of us had been fine on our previous mountain trip, but this one was doing us both in.

We started out again, and I thought as beautiful as the scenery was, (trust me I would have loved to be able to stop and take pictures of all the beautiful images I was seeing) I figured my best defense against the nausea was to try and nap. Which, I managed to do, until about the last half hour of the trip.  I woke up as we left the wonderful, and smooth, highway pavement, to us bouncing around on a rocky dirt road.

You can only imagine how happy I was when we finally made it to the site and I could get out of the car. The thing was, we weren’t quite at the site.  You see we ended up at the convent that services the site, but is about 200 m from the actual site.  It took us about half an hour to figure this out.  At first we thought we were still a long way away.

While that was being sorted, I was trying to do some more deep breathing to get my nausea under control. Now, I had made myself a tuna sandwich for lunch that day.  Well, I can tell you I definitely was not going to be eating tuna feeling the way I was, that was for certain.  At the same time there were three cats walking around which belonged to the convent.  One of them reminded me of my of my own cat back home.  They were all looking for food, so I took the tuna from my sandwich and fed it to them.  They were so cute I couldn’t help myself.

We finally figured out where the distribution point was. One of my colleagues decided to walk the rest of the way, and I joined him, as I did not want to get back into the car again even if it was only for a minute.

Once we got to the site, we found out that there was another distribution occurring about 20 mins away. We decided to split up so that we could see both distributions in order to have more data to compare.  Luckily, I got to stay at the current site.  What I noticed was that this distribution was very similar to the last one I saw.  The only difference really lay in the food storage.  You see this site cannot accommodate long term storage as the previous site I was at could.  Therefore, all of the food needed to be distributed that day.  In situations where there is left over food, it will go to new registrants to the program that day, instead of them having to wait for the distribution the following month.  If there are not any new registrants, then more food is given to the existing registrants until all of the food is given away.  This will definitely be something that will have to be taken into account in the distribution program we want to set up.

The rest of the team came back and we compared notes and then headed off to our accommodations for the night. Luckily, we were only about an hour away so the nausea didn’t get to the same levels as before.  I was able to enjoy the scenery a bit more.  The mountains in Lesotho are breathtaking.

Last time I was in the mountains, if you recall, it was freezing cold, the electricity shut off at 10:00 pm, and I needed to use a bucket when I showered. As we were making our way to the Motherland Guesthouse, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Good thing I didn’t have any expectations, as they would have been shattered into smithereens.  The Motherland Guesthouse was fantastic.  I was in a really nice room with a super comfortable bed.  There was an electric heater which kept the room nice and warm.  The shower was amazing, no bucket needed.  The food in the dining hall was great.  All in all, I was quite impressed.  Good thing too since we were staying there for a couple of days.

The next day we headed out to the next food distribution centre. The nice thing was no nausea!!  I must have acclimated to the altitude the night before.  I cannot even begin to describe how supremely grateful I was for that.  You see the day before we had traveled 90% of the way on roads that were in good condition.  Going to this next site, which was really remote, we traveled 90% of the time on “roads” that were no more than paths cut into the side of the mountain, or what I would consider to be walking trails.  There was a lot of jostling and bouncing around in the car that day, but again no nausea.  My roommate and I kept saying how lucky we were that we were on those roads, that day, and not the day before.  I don’t think either of us would have made it if that was the case.  It’s funny how something that can seem bad one day can all of a sudden be seen as a blessing in disguise when viewed through a different lens.  Talk about re-framing the situation.

I have to say, I was so impressed with our driver Lebohang. He was amazing the way he navigated the terrain.  If that was me driving, I would have white-knuckled the steering wheel as those roads are not for the faint of heart.  Below are some pictures of some of the roads we were on.

Since I could enjoy the beautiful scenery on this day, I decided to take as many pictures as I could, to try and show the beauty of the country. Below are pictures that I took out the window of the car as we were driving by.

Boys on Donkeys

Boy on a Donkey

Boy on Path

Boy on a Mountain

Boy on a Mountain 2

Creek Bed in the Mountains

Mountain Stream

Reflecting Stream 6

Tree Silhouette

Mountainside Forest Close-Up

Vibrant Mountainside Forest

Twilight Silhouette

Now, it was going to take about 3.5 to 4 hours to actually make it to the site. We were going to a facility that was extremely remote.  That meant that there were no rest stops along the way.  About halfway through the journey, I had to go to the bathroom, except there was no bathroom.  We’re bouncing around in the car, and I had a full bladder.  That was not a great combination.  Luckily, I work with an awesome team!  We stopped at a village and one of my team members asked a woman from the village if I could use her washroom, and she said yes.  Our driver had a roll of toilet paper in the car so I was set.  The washroom was an outhouse, but unlike the ones I’ve used camping, this one did not smell at all.  A little water and some hand sanitizer later and I was good to go.

We made it to the site and observed the food distribution. The thing that struck me was how long the health talk was.  I mean this talk went on, and on, and on, and on.  It was about an hour and half.  That is just way too long; additionally, it showed me that we need to standardize the way the health talks are given.  We have to make sure that we are very clear and to the point in our message in order to ensure it resonates with the intended audience.

The site we were at was quite beautiful. Below are a few pictures I took while I was there.

Lesotho Postcard

Walk on Path

Horse Station

When we got back to the office, my boss wanted to have a brainstorming session about how we could improve the process of food distribution, and he asked me to lead it. Now, those of you that know me well know I’m a nerd at heart, so you won’t be surprised at all when I tell you I was really excited about this.

We have this program at GSK called Accelerated Delivery and Performance (ADP) which has a lot of tools. The purpose of ADP is to accelerate change by narrowing the focus to what the actual issue at hand is, and what is the best way of moving forward.  I led my team through a silent brainstorm, grouped our ideas by theme, and then input them into a Bold Moves Matrix.  Afterwards, we voted on which ideas we wanted to further pursue.  Some feedback I got from the team on this process was that it was really fun, and that the brainstorming session was excellent, informative, and very value added.  I love that I was able to bring a little bit of GSK into CHAI.

ADP in action.

ADP

Now, I need to go and work on fleshing out the ideas that were assigned to me.

Until next time,

Christina