Sunday, November 19, 2006

VSO in-country training

November is green grasshopper (nsenene) season in Uganda so you'll often come across hordes of people out collecting these edible delicacies for selling and frying. The grasshoppers are particularly attracted to lights at night. We still haven't been brave enough to try them....

The 12 VSO volunteers in our cohort re-congregated at the Lwesa Conference Centre a few kilometres outside Kampala for a week of debriefing and political and cultural training 6 weeks into our placements. The high stodge institutional food and solitary TV for entertainment provided the background for our varied and various grumblings. VSOs overriding priority - as a result of donor pressure - is volunteer numbers rather than quality of placements. Half its funding comes from the Department for International Development and it is set various targets to meet. So when we complain of jobs that don’t bear any resemblance to job descriptions (like ours) or jobs with unsupportive employers (crap housing or failure to pay the subsistence grants) or jobs with organisations that are blatantly corrupt, the response from VSO sometimes seemed a bit half-hearted…..
In order to keep morale up, we both skived off several of the sessions as the ones we attended, though interesting, tended to be of a Ugandan style lecture based format and could easily hit 2 hours long without a break. My attention span is a maximum 20 minutes in that kind of setting. Instead we hit the shopping centres, finding ourselves wandering dazed and drooling through the huge and shiny shopping malls of downtown Kampala. We’ve bought loads of books to satisfy Jan’s thirst for reading.
Kampala is a medium sized, grotty, smog choked traffic jam of a city so it was good to discover some of its nicer aspects. We ate really well! First with Mya and Alastair, then at the CafĂ© Roma, Le Petit Bistro and finally at the Speke resort. We also spent a comfortable afternoon (and then most of Jan’s birthday) lounging in the luxurious environs of the Speke resort. This is a deluxe hotel complex on the shore of Lake Victoria with possibly the nicest 50 metre swimming pool ever built.They also had 2 storey goat sheds in their grounds!!

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