Wednesday, May 30, 2007

May 30 - What the heck is this?

Okay this is a short one as I am off to dinner but this creature joined me at breakfast this morning. I have Christie McBiologist on duty to figure out what it is but does anyone else have any idea? It's nose was quite shiney...almost to the point of creepiness!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

May 28 – My first Hash!

No, this isn’t a blog about a new drug habit but my first experience with the Freetown Hash Harriers. We found out about the Hash from Kate and managed to hook up a ride with another Dubliner, Michelle.

The run was interesting. The group follows a ‘hare’ or in this case many ‘hares’ who set out a trail through the streets by marking with shreds of paper or ‘hash’. The trail went all through a neighbourhood as kids and adults shouted ‘keep it up’ and ‘go girls go’. We were in the middle of the pack so there wasn’t much ‘hunting’ to be done but more ‘following’. Today was a short run and I was certainly glad. I am still getting used to the heat here and haven’t sweated that much in ages.

After the run Conor and I were inducted into the Harriers and had a beer with the group. All in all a great event and I think it will be a Monday night tradition. The location changes every week so it will also be a great way to see the city.

After our run Conor and I headed down the beach to find food and ate barracuda on the beach with kittens and nearly a hundred crabs at our feet. Another great ending to a great day. Tomorrow is movie night so we’ll just have to see what that has in store!

May 27 – Trip to River #2

Sunday morning after a good sleep in and some breakfast on the patio in front of our room we made our way by taxi (our first solo trip and some good negotiating by Conor) to the meeting point and off we went to River #2. Btw, I asked…there is no River #1. Who knows the story behind that.

The journey to the beach was about 1.5 hours and included some slick driving in a standard Range Rover with a slow leak in the rear tire on VERY bumpy roads. We passed the time chatting and singing along to Capital radio’s super cheesey tunes. As we drove past numerous villages we were greeted with smiling, waving people. Very friendly and the kids are so cute!

The beach itself was GORGEOUS! Apparently setting up the beach and the infrastructure was a Plan project to help the village to have gainful work and income. The beach has all the creature comforts (chairs, loungers, bathrooms and food/drinks). The water is warm and salty and the sun was shining. We had a great day and the group of ex-pats grew significantly including a couple of Americans who work on the defense team for one of the war criminals. I mention these guys because a student film-maker is making a documentary about them and the trial and the crew came to the beach to take film. They taped us through the afternoon including me throwing a disk around with one of the guys. I had some stellar moments including nailing the camera twice. It looks like I’ll need more practice before I try to find a team next year.

After the beach (during which I did NOT get sunburned!) we headed off to Franco’s a delightful restaurant near the beach and still on the river for dinner. I enjoyed my lobster and the company. A truly remarkable ending to a great day.
The ride home wasn’t nearly as harrowing as they managed to change the tire at the beach with the help of some locals. Then it was off early to bed for work on Monday. What an amazing weekend and from the way these folks talk there will never be a dull moment in Freetown!

May 26 – Ex-Pat Day. Conor and Tina meet the ‘crew’

One of the ladies at work, Anna, is an ex-pat from Essex working in SLE for a few months. This gal is definitely in to experiencing the pure culture of the area and has the best Krio accent (from british to krio is impressive). She’s savy and we certainly lucky she’s here.

We met Anna in the pouring rain at 9:30 on Saturday morning to go and watch the ex-pat football team play a team from the British military training unit (IMATT – International Military Army Training Team I think). Once the rain stopped and we started to dry things became much more enjoyable. We went to the game with Anna, Laura (who works at the British High Commission and is from London) and Kate (who is an Aussie and works at the Special Court (note to self…write about the Special Court sometime this week) who were a hoot. Even the British High Commissioner was there to open the match and present the trophy. Met some of the fellas on the team and I think they convinced Conor to join!

After the game a bunch of us headed for lunch including Abdul (who works with Anna at Plan) and two dutch girls – Quirine (an intern at UNDP) and Emma (who was on vacation from Liberia, yes…people apparently vacation here, who works for Right to Play) We ate on a patio by the bay and chatted for hours.

The afternoon was napping and a quick workout before getting ready to hit the post-game party at IMATT. The party was great. The ‘Africa bar’ was full of players and their friends. There was a pig roast and buffet and they replayed the game on the big screen. After the party, Nana picked a few of us up and we headed to Paddy’s.

Paddy’s is a legendary bar in Freetown and much drinking and dancing was had. I won’t go into details but let’s just say we didn’t get home until 4:30 am and I didn’t even really notice the time.

(sorry no photos. I'll steal some from Conor and post in this post later)

May 25 - The big move

Okay so I know a few of you were a little worried about out state of accommodations here in Freetown but wait no more. After a few hairy moments with our original landlord and a strange gas stop by our driver we made it safe and sound at our new home ‘Family Kingdom’.
This place is park amusement park (apparently the only playground in Freetown), park event centre (there was a HUGE wedding here on Saturday ) and park zoo (there are deer turkey and many birds around here just to name a few). . I promise more photos of the wildlife as soon as I catch it with my camera.
This place is way ahead of the old place. Our ‘flat’ is a one bedroom place with a bed in the sitting room. Chivalrous Conor has allowed me to have the bedroom but I think I will either offer to switch after two weeks or build him a little wall to separate him from the front door. It’s clean and comes with free laundry, internet (which I have yet to get to work) and breakfast. Brilliant!

There is a restaurant on site and it is walking distance to many places plus across the street from the beach. Heaven compared to our last abode. We slept well in A/C sanity, peaceful as babies!

Friday, May 25, 2007

May 25 - We are moving and weekend plans

Well, we've made it to friday evening. Whew!

1) I take back my comment about you guys having a good long weekend for my Canadian friends but the rest of you still enjoy!

2) It's official...we are moving to Family Fun Kingdom!! Seriously that's what it's called. More details on the new digs this weekend. One note: there is a zoo and a swimming pool and it's on the beach! Woooohooo!

3) Looks like a jam-packed weekend with a football game tomorrow and an ex-pat party and the beach and the move and sleeping in air conditioning!!!! wooohooo!

Take care of each other and a huge international HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Jay for the big 3-0 on Monday!

May 25 - Attack of the GIANT Bug!

So far on this journey I have seen no bugs to frighten me until this morning. Lizards everywhere and enough mosquitoes to sink a battleship (I was bitten to DEATH the first night!) . That all changed this morning.

When I returned from my shower in the grunge (the floor has yet to dry since we got here) I noticed a GIANT cockroach upside down beside my dresser. I convinced myself that he was dead and had been there the whole time (better than thinking about him crawling around) but just in case I sprayed him with the big ol bottle of bug repellant from the living room and….he MOVED!!! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!! Eventually I stepped on him and used the ladles from ghetto kitchen to scoop him out the window. Game over. Now people keep telling me that his friends will come back for me in retribution.

Needless to say I am hoping we’ll move to our new home…FAMILY FUN KINGDOM!!

Now we are at work waiting for Nana and the key to our ‘tower’ (they call our shed Twin Tower #1…sort of creepy) which we left in the car last night. He also has our cookie supply for the day…hurry up Nana!!!

p.s. thanks to Christie, Martha and Jay for texting. It’s amazing what comfort technology can provide. I don’t feel so far away after all!

p.p.s. Enjoy your long weekend everyone! I unfortunately don’t get the holiday but will head to the beach on the weekend and celebrate a bit anyway!

May 24 - Dinners of Tall Tales!!

Well we are settled in at work and even have our own fabulously disco cell phones (see photo)now (incoming calls only…talked to mom and dad from the restaurant on the bay last night!) and the folks around the office recognize us and are making amazing efforts to help us feel at home.

The last two nights have included ‘tall tale’ dinners with our Plan SLE team member Nana. Man can this fellow tell a story. He’s amazing! On Wednesday we learned all about leaves that make people bullet-proof and how his grandfather used to teleport to random locations when he was scared. Just wicked stuff. Last night his Ghanian friend Kwame joined us (which may or may not be his real name as Kwame means Saturday and people are often nick-named based on the day they were born), regardless Kwame was right in with the tales and the two of them told us all kinds of things about funeral rituals for Kings in Ghana and people who will ask for money so that you can try to cut them with a blade for this they have become impervious but that we should turn the knife around and smack them with it to hurt them. It was so funny and as they said, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’!

May 22 - (Yes, I know, again) The First Morning

We’re here…oh my! The apartment, the office and the beachHoly crap I am in AFRICA!!! So it has finally set in. We are really in Africa. It’s super hard to believe but trust me the culture shock is apparent. Waking up in a new place is always strange but when you are awoken by roosters, dogs and really bad music it’s a whole new experience.
Since we have to turn the generator off when we got to bed we don’t have neither power at night (so no fans and stinkin hot sleeping) nor in the mornings (so no lights). It’s definitely strange and makes me appreciate home more and more each minute.

How do I describe the ‘flat’…ghetto! I have since confirmed with Nana (our host team-mate) that I am not just a white gal with snobby needs but that our flat is truly ghetto even for a developing country. His face was priceless especially when he checkout out the kitchen. The living room and bedrooms are fine aside from the lack of power when the noisy generator is off.

The sketchy part is the bathroom and kitchen. As Bryce would say, I have earned my ADP ‘stripes’ for this one. I don’t think we’ll even attempt to go into the kitchen for now. There isn’t much in there, no fridge and a tired looking stove, so no big loss. It would be nice to eventually cook for ourselves but we shall see.

The bathroom is tiny and grungy! The shower has two settings, on and off, and one temperature, cold, which let me tell you is amazing after a night of sweating away. I am actually quite proud of myself for managing to sleep. I suppose the heat during the day is enough to knock me out. All this to say I think we’ll be moving by the end of the week. Just need to find somewhere else.

The office is so super cool. We can walk from where we are living and that’s probably my favourite part of the day. The people are super friendly especially when they see where we are going. It’s HOT though and by the time we get to work we’re drenched. Our office is a portable in the parking lot of the gated compound. It’s just the three of us and has all the comforts of home, internet, A/C, hot water for tea and biscuits! It’s amazing how fast you can get directly to work when there is work to be done and it’s nice to have something familiar amongst all this change.

We set off after work to Family Fun Kingdom for dinner on the beach in Aberdeen. Aberdeen is really the tourist centre (if you could say they have one) and a hangout for most of the ex-pats. FFK has a lovely patio across the street from the beach where we enjoyed coke in glass bottles and I ate the tenderest and moist barracuda steak I have ever tasted! Delish! Don’t worry…I am remembering: Cook it, Peel it or Leave it! So far so good with the tummy too…knock on wood.

After dinner and the purchasing of some rather sketch DVDs we headed home to our castle. Tonight I used the mosquito net for the first time and it’s rather cool to be living in a tent. Makes me feel safe. One thing about this place I can say is that they take safety VERY seriously. Our flat is fully gated and complete with barbed wire. . It has two doors, one of steel with many locks. Trust me, no one is getting in here! Off to bed. Still taking calmness in remembering that it’s one moon we are all under. Even if I get to see it 4 hours early!

May 21 - Arrival in Freetown!

After a weekend of avoiding packing (just ask Martha and Laura) I managed to shove everything I think I needed into one suitcase (same suitcase I took for a week in DR…odd). I managed to make it under the weight restriction @ 32kg. whew. So far the only thing I can see I forgot was a beach towel but I am sure I can get one here.

The flight was supposed to leave at 1:30 but we were delayed by the evacuation of a deportee who was saved at the last minute by his sister. Strange situation including a lot of yelling at the back of the plane. :-$ We left an hour late and were told we needed to stop in Malaga Spain to refuel to face strong headwinds in north Africa. So now if you could touchdowns I have been to Spain…it looked beautiful. I’ll have to go and actually get off the plane!

We made our way to Dakar but by then it was dark so I didn’t see much. The airport looked HUGE though (at least compared to SLE). I managed to sleep most of the way and watched Music and Lyrics which was cute. I can’t believe I was on a plane for nearly 10 hours and only saw one movie…BA…hum…

About 1 am we arrived at Lumley airport which is located on a peninsula just outside of Freetown. Immigration was a synch and I was already seeing that Plan was a respected name in this country as we were wisked through customs and our helper Mohammed arranged everything for the helicopter ride. There were probably 50 locals there to meet the plane and every single one was eager to help with each step of the journey which at that point of the night was nice to see.

We pilled onto the helicopter with 20 or so fellow passengers and our entire luggage collection. I have never been on a helicopter before but this one seemed HUGE. I think they are ex-military fliers. The unfortunate thing was that it was completely dark so we couldn’t see anything as we flew in. I also think my departing flight is in the middle of the night so I may lose the perspective from the chopper. Too bad.

We were greeting on the other side of the bay by Daniel, our driver. He looked fairly happy considering we had kept him up until 2am. We loaded up the luggage into the Plan truck and were off. He took us to our flat (more about that below) where we slumped off to sweaty sleep happy to have arrived but growing homesick already.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

May 22 - I have arrived!

More from me later but I wanted to let you know that I have arrived safe and sound in Freetown. It's an interesting experience and will definitely take some getting used to but I am ready for the challenge.

I miss you all and continue to sweat my way through the day so I am sure I will be about a size 2 when I return due to the water loss.

I promise pictures and stuf as soon as possible. I just wanted to say hi and let you all know I am alive and very well.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

May 17 - What can I say...

This is completely not ADP related but I have to say it...take those SWEEP comments and shove em! :-)

go SABRES go!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

May 16 - Oh ya and...

Two additional comments:

1) Martha and I saw Mary Poppins in the West End last night. SPECTACULAR! The house set was amazing (the roof popped off and the top level floated down to the floor) and Mary flew off into the audience at the end...seriously! Plus Super-cali was nearly a hip hop number. Amazing!

2) I have my itinerary in stone now so anyone who's interested here's where I'll be:
  • 21MAY Depart London Heathrow - Arrive Freetown (4 hours ahead of Ottawa)
  • 13JUL Depart Freetown - Arrive London Heathrow (5 hours ahead of Ottawa)
  • 29JUL Depart London Heathrow - Arrive Nairobi (7 hours ahead of Ottawa)
  • 26AUG Depart Nairobi - Arrive Mumbai (9.5 hours ahead of Ottawa)
  • 22SEP Depart Mumbai - Arrive London Heathrow (5 hours ahead of Ottawa)
So ... please come and visit! Off to the gym. (taking advantage while I can!)

May 16 - Wrapping it up

Just thought I would throw a quick post up about my work space here at IH (international headquarters) in Woking before I head out. (and yes, I actually got my tickets visas are another story).

My desk. Note the picture on the right...Franklin of course! There is a guy here who says he's ugly so I don't talk to him anymore. Plus his cat's name is rosepetal or something sissy like that so what does he know? Also note the Tim Horton's mug. A classy touch of home. Thanks Martha!

My fair team-mate (note: the American Express headset was staged and HIS idea). Check out the windows behind him. We have the best office in the building.

The new folks who moved into our space are great but I was sufficiently freaked out by this...
Seriously, how far away do I have to be to get away from Ottawa U??

All I have to say right now is GO SABRES GO simply because I will NOT be able to take the razzing should my team pull a 'Sens' in this series!

hugs to all of you...even the Sens fans.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

May 15 - Ya...I know...don't say it...

I realize that my Sabres are down 3-0. Suprisingly enough I get that news here. Canada may have blown up or seperated and I wouldn't know but I am aware that 1) Tony Blair has stepped down and 2) my Sabres are getting beaten badly by the chokers!!!

Oh well. Countdown to Africa = 6 days. Amazing. Now all I need is a plane ticket and a visa. That's right, ever prepared Tina is without travel documents and within a week of her tour d'Afrique. Trying not to freak out. Really.

Tonight I am heading into town to visit with Martha and see MARY POPPINS!!! I am so super excited that my whole day of Contingency Planning for the project isn't seeming dull at all!

Just for fun here's anothe pic of the adventures of Tina and Martha on Sunday...anyone know what 'Franked Mail' is?

Monday, May 14, 2007

May 14, 2007 – MarthaG and Hockey…what could be better?

To say I was overcome with emotion when the coach containing my friend Martha pulled up at the Woking train station would be an understatement. The moment I saw the bus I realized just how much I miss home. It was so tremendous to welcome Martha to Woking!

We had a low-key day on Saturday just wandering the city and shopping for food goodies. I showed Marth the martian and the mall and…well there isn’t much else to see around here. She even got to meet the other ADPers, Laura and Houman and Laura’s bfd Bryce. We chatted and napped and made delicious dinner and watched my current favourite tv show (the search for the new Joseph on London’s West End complete with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber) and then sat through the sometimes painful Eurovision song contest. Some songs were tremendous…some were tremendously hideous. The countries perform and then the viewers vote. The trick is that you can’t vote for your own country. After hours of revealing the votes country by country Serbia took the crown. A very interesting experience and a perfect day if you ask me.

Sunday morning we got up bright and early to head into the rainy city and find Martha’s hotel. We checked her in and wandered around the city including Soho, Camden and Covent Garden. It was a lovely ‘agenda free’ day complete with fun purchases (polka dot Wellingtons for M). Our only plan was to get to the Maple Leaf bar to watch the hockey game from the night before.

The Maple Leaf was tremendous. A bar full of Canadians (Sens fans!), Canadian beers (Sleeman and Moosehead) and Canadian food (poutine and pancakes)! Carefully trying to avoid reading texts from Jay regarding the game’s outcome we cheered the Sabres on through the game and an OT period. Unfortunately I had to head back to Woking so we left after that knowing deep down that the Sens would win by one despite the first Sabres’ goal was called back (hmmm….can you say cheap?!!? and yes, I am just like Mr Ruff!).

Made it home and happily to bed. Dinner with Marth on Tuesday and then perhaps another hockey game on Saturday before I pack up for my journey to Africa…and yes, I am nervous!

May 13, 2007 – A week in reflection

My apologies for a week without a post. It’s been a busy one that included a lot of recovery from a tremendous weekend. The Road Trip bus tour was a FABULOUS experience and a great way to see an area if you are okay with regressing a bit back to university days which I was more than happy with. We got to Newquay late on Friday night and settled into our hostel, Bellushi’s. I met Laura’s friends from Australia and a learned whole boat load of new words (flick, pash, aw yeh!, etc). Thanks for a wicked weekend gals!

I’ll keep this short but if you ever go to the South-West of England do the following:

Eat a Cornish Pasty or two, three or four: Yummy dinner in a pastry pocket pronounced Past-ty rhyming with nasty but they are far from.

Go to Eden Project: It’s difficult to describe but imagine an old clay mine that was converted to a thriving gardens depicting the relationship between humans and plants. Two HUGE biomes including a Humid Tropics and a Mediterranean dome. Wow!

Hike up to the Minack Theatre: No words of photos can describe this place. An amphitheatre chiseled out of a woman’s backyard right on the coast. Up about 200 cliff-side stairs, the site of this place was breath-taking!

Although not SW Eng specific…go to a Walkabout: We spent two nights dancing the night away at this bar full of young Aussies. Tree Tousand at least! It was wicked fun and really reminding me of the old Engineering conference days. (I have photos but you'll have to ask me directly!)

The work week was motivating as we prepare for next week’s trip. Interesting calls to get office to agree to be our Pilot offices including Burkina Fasso, Ethiopia, Australia, Spain, Sweden and the US. I love my job!

Friday was Conor’s good-bye party so the ADPers headed into the city. Good times were had by all. Not nearly as fun as my many parties (thanks guys!) but a good time none the less. Now I just need a nap! (photos of this event to come!)

Friday, May 4, 2007

May 4, 2007 - I'm Off!

Well the good news is that I survived three weeks here and what do I get for it? A long weekend. :)

Laura (ADPer from Chicago also working at Plan and living in Woking who I met at our ADP training in Feb) and I have decided to play backpackers and hit the road with RoadTrip Overland Tours to the south-west coast of this jolly island.
Here's our itinerary:
Friday: Depart 18.30, Early morning Saturday(approx 1-1.30am) - arrive Newquay.
Saturday: Day of relaxation and time outOptional trip to the Eden project Optional surfing / sea fishing activity Evening BBQ and games Night on the town/sleep
Sunday: Breakfast Tour of Cornwall including;St Ives, Lands End, Penzance (St Michaels Mount)...I am the very model of a modern major general... and a finale of an open air theatre performance at the Minac (with a picnic tea provided). Late evening - Return to Newquay. Evening out/sleep.
Monday: late morning depart from accommodation - Trip to Tintagel castle, legendary birthplace of King Aurthur. Return home to London.

Sounds pretty neat and busy. Unfortunately it looks like the rain is on its way but I am sure we'll still have a ball. We've convinced Carolyn (of ACN and previous post fame) and some girls Laura met on a previous bus trip so it promises to be quite the romp.

Anyway, details on Monday with pics. Have a great weekend everyone! Miss you.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

May 2 - The Plan ChildData Team

Just in case I get going on work stuff here's the break-down of my team. I'll get more photos eventually promise!

The overall team:
Susan (Woking) - Project Manager: Ex-ADPer who I worked with in Toronto. She's Canadian but has lost her 'outs' from all her time here.
Nicki (Woking) - Business Lead
Khalila (Nairobi, Kenya) - Technical Lead
Paulina (Equador) - Process/Functional Design Analyst
Nair/Ness (Mumbai, India) - Outsourced Development Team
My team:
Marte (Norway, need to figure out where) - Functional Change Co-ordinator
Nana (Freetown, SLE) - Technical Change Co-ordinator
Conor (ADPer, Woking) - Test and Training Analyst
L-R: Durba (who recently left the team but was WICKED), Susan, Nicki, Paulina, Khalila and Nair

There are other players in this crazy game including representatives from all our Sponsorship (i.e. fundraising) nations (NOs) and all of our support regions (ROs and COs) so this is truely a global team.

These folks really do rely on technology to do their jobs from Video Conference to Skype and MSN to Web-x. Sometimes connections are good and sometimes communications follow suit but they manage to get some amazing things done around here. More details on our work to come.

May 2 - Imagine being that dedicated

First, a belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my MOM!!! Don't worry folks, I called her, emailed her and sent her flowers like the good daughter I am.

Second, there have been a couple of interesting things happen in this country this week. They have made me think a bit about my dedication to ... well ...anything. Take a look-see:

  1. On the light side: The Kate Moss collection came out at Top Shop this week. Big deal...perhaps but it's still just RW&Co price-ranged clothes that are fit for a waif. Anyway, there were people lined up OVERNIGHT for this stuff. Seriously. That's some pretty high levels of dedication for clothes that they will make more of. Makes you wonder.

  2. On the heavier side: Our office here is now adorned with a protestor who is on a hunger strike. He is disgruntled with the management here at Plan and has lost his job in a re-org. Anyway he is protesting the way Plan is handling something. Imagine being so dedicated to your work that you would go on a hunger strike. I can't. I love my work (why else would I do this crazy stuff) but if they let me go I am not sure I would think twice let alone starve myself. Makes you wonder.