Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 8 Our trip up north

    Our day started pretty normal as the sleeping here is taking some time to get accustomed to. The time difference still plays games with our minds, the bed net, albeit like a bird sanctuary, is strange, and they have the universal bird here too.....the crow! And they start their days the same time about 5:30.

   After breakfast we walked to the MUSCCO, which is the Central, and had a meeting with Sylvester, the CEO; Lillian, Business Development Manager and Swanzie, Business Development Officer, these two ladies met us at the airport when we arrived. Also attending the meeting was Fumbani, Head of Finance and Administration. The meeting was very informal but productive. Again I might mention the friendly nature of the Malawi people and these people treat you like none other.

   From there we said goodbye to the other teams and Scott and I started off to our SACCO's we would be meeting. We did find out that although the distance is only 470 kms we would not make it there today which I found unusual. But after about one hour of travel I knew why. 

   Let me start. You do not drive for 200 meters without passing someone walking by the road. There are numerous villages that you must reduce your speed to 50kms an hour. The traffic starting out was very heavy as Lilongwe is a city of 2 million people. the roads are in good condition but very curvy. It may seem frustration to many of you but what a truely beautiful road to travel that you cannot try to do justice by describing and pictures I'm sure will only tell half the story. truelly amazing!

   And to top it off we could not have asked for a more genuine, conscienious, and informative drive, who was Swanzie. I learned so much of their cultures, families, beliefs, and country in general that it will be difficult to remember all the details.

   We arrived in Mzuzu at around 5:45 and planned to freshen up a bit, meet for dinner and I would assume hit the hay, so to speak right after. We have to be up early and on the road to meet the SACCO......and would assume the universal bird exists here too to wake us up!

   PS some pics will be added, I think I took at least 50 today.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 7 Chill time in the Africa heat

    After a heavy downpour of rain overnight we woke up to clear blue skies. I hit breakfast at 6:30 which was made up of beef sausages, potatoes, fresh fruit and juice and topping it off was fried chicken heart (ussually served as an appetizer back home and quite pricey too). Delicious, and not to mention the things I did not eat.

   I took a quick stroll through the city as the heat haden't hit too bad yet. The friendly faces and upbeat demeanor of the locals is something that really captivates you. There are people pushing bicycles, ladies walking with things balanced on their heads, cars darting past you (which is scarey as they drive on the other side of the road) and they come by unexpectingly.

   The coaches met for lunch, mine was a whole Chambo (which I will post a pic later) and we decided to take a taxi to Century Park (I think) to see some wildlife. It was refreshing to get some excercize and witness the lush beauty of a bit of Africa.

    Upon return we headed for dinner at an Italian owned restaurant to change the menu up a bit, and it certainly hit the spot. From there we were back to the rooms to do some final prep. for our meetings tomorrow with MUSCCO and our journey to the north. The day to gather ourselves was timely but we are eager to get duties accomplished.

   We will see what the likelihood of posting blogs is at when we arrive in Rumphi tomorrow!

   With that I bid goodnight all!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day 5 and 6

    Up and down pretty much sums up these two days. If we weren't flying we were sitting in an airport, sleeping in a Yotel, grabbing a quick bite to eat or just hanging out for a plane.

   The first leg was about a 7 hour flight from Ottawa to London (Business class was certainly a treat which included drinks, salmon appetizer, cod main course, full reclining seats to mention just some of the "perks"). And we haven't taken too much "crow" from the rest of the coaches.

   In London we had a 10 hour layover and that is where we spent time sleeping in the Yotel. A compartment with bed, bathroom and TV. Just before midnight we were off from London to Nairobi an 8 hour flight.

   After a breakfast at Simba lounge and a 2 hour layover we were on our final leg to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. We arrived just before noon local time and the MUSCCO staff had us in our rooms by 1:00. We checked in and took a quick tour in the local area to exchange cash and buy phone cards. Now to figure out how to work them.

   The coaches split off into their rooms for a sleep, internet update, and cleanup. We met for dinner and all seemed pretty excited to be getting back into our rooms.

   After al lthe different time zones the body isn't sure what clock to follow. I get a good sense of what it is like to be a newborn and have their days and nights mixed up.

   Tomorrow it sounds like our meeting has been put off for a day so a little free time and prep work for our Monday meeting with MUSCCO. From there Scott  and I are off to our Credit Unions in the Rumphi regoin.

   Sorry no pics available at this time but certainly will be added I hope. Now off to the bednet (which I will get a pic of) and try to catch some sleep.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 4 Ottawa to London

   The morining started with the same ritual of the morning coffee, visiting with coaches and sharing more stories. Except......this morning would be special as before leaving Canada it was important to grab a chance of Tim Horton's coffee and a sausage and egger!

   From there we were back at CCA to go over final prep for the trip. Just when you think they have filled you with all the required knowledge......they have more to prepare. We also got a few tips on "writing a story". Especially good ideas for us "journalistically challenged" individuals.  The afternoon plan is for direct training for in country information and also a presentation from the second year coaches.

   Our flights are planned to leave at 10:05 local time and with the helpful assistance of Scott I will be flying business class for the next leg of our trip.

   That is my entry for today as it is an overnight flight and we expect to arrive in London 10:00a.m. local time.

   Found some time at the airport and thought I would add to the blog. First pic is the teams going to Ghana and Malawi in the airport, boarding passes in hand and ready for security check. Oh yeah! After through security I met Scott in the Super elite status bar, yes all because of an awesome partner I get free drinks, a quiet lounge and a very comfy flight to London. Not the most popular with the rest of the coaches but how could one resist. The last picture is Mister Super-Elite himself.

   I think I have heard from all of the coaches that we are all ready to be there and start our project, so until I get internet and time see you all.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 3

    After a wonderful nights sleep the day started again with a continental breakfast and more visiting with the other coaches we will be departing with.

    At the training center we had a presentation from Carol Hunter highlighting the role of CCA and the impact they play in both domestic and foreign development. Basically there is too much information to accurately share on here and I have asked for a summary in order to fairly share the details.

   From ther we continued on with the Intercultural learning. A large part of the day surrounded communication and "single story" theories. As much as this inforamtion is helpful on our current role, I believe the information will remain invaluable in all of our roles back at our branches also.

  The training session ennded a little earlier today, giving us a some time to walk down to the parliament, Rideau canal and gard a drink, or two, at one of the local pubs with Janice and Lennie who will be going to Ghana.

   After a tasty, and spicey, East Indian dinner we are back at our hotel for the last leg of our stay in Ottawa.

   Day 3 is coming to an end soon. Ps. hopefully a pic will be added tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Learning a new culture

    Day two came really fast as expected. A quick meet most of the coaches downstairs at the continental breakfast and we were off for a short 2 block walk to the office of CCA.

   Our morning started with an introduction from the CCA staff and some of the coaches that we hadn't met at breakfast. From there we were preety much imersed in cultural learning from Jas our India (I think) facilitator that brought awareness to cultural sensitivity and awareness.

   We then got to meet as teams with people of Malawi (Stella and Mathias) who were invaluable in teaching us their customs. It was so interesting to learn of what the people we are going to be visiting are like. For them to share their stories makes our mission easier and provides energy to our work ahead. After sharing lunch with them and hearing more of their country and people, we rejoined the group to go through a group exercise on understanding cultural differences and our reactions. A useful tool and we had fun doing it.

   From there it was a brief presentation from John as to  CCA and how the organization works, is funded and the vision and mission statement of CCA and we were off to our final group activity....dinner.

   After a couple of drinks a big tasty dinner and the length of the day.......sleep won't we far away. And likewise morning.

   That in a nutshell wraps day 2. Very educational, with meeting many new faces and especially people from the country we are visitiing, highlights an exciting day!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Today is take off day

   As I sit in the airport preparing for the first of several flights, the stomach has an unusual feeling about it. So many new things, everything from Brendon dropping me off at the door, to getting my boarding passes, to signing onto wireless for the first time. It feels like I've never done these things before.

   A couple hours to take off. I sit waiting for a familiar face as we make this journey together. Last minute notes to compare, apprehensions to settle, and interests to discuss. Seems all so like a dream.

  Security and boarding passes create no hitches and the flight is off to Winnipeg. A quick flight change, meet some new coaches and again in the air to Ottawa.

  Our flight gets in a little later than scheduled but still good time to have a good rest tonight....if one can sleep that is. But we must try as it's getting close to midnight local time and seeing as I will be operating on everyone's local time for the next few weeks.....I'm calling it a night.

  Day 1 in complete!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Staff sendoff

 As the time gets closer to takeoff, my co-workers along with family, friends and community held as steak supper sendoff for me. What a fantastic way to celabrate my send off to Africa. During the night staff had questions to answer about how much they really knew me. Most struggled to get the correct answers but all had fun in trying to think how well they knew me. In addition to the questions, a 50/50 draw was held and a silent auction. In total the event itself raised over $1,000.00 to help me in my contribution to the trip.

 I have posted some pics of the evening as you'll notice they did have some fun at my expense....I guess they were helping me in my packing dilema I asked at one of our last conference calls.

 I truelly want to thank all that came to see me off along with all that gave donations. The support I have received for so many people is certainly unexpected and appreciated.

 Keep in touch as more entries happen

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Preparing for the trip

   Just getting ready for the trip seems to be be a task unachievable. What does a person pack? What will a person need? we have received all the information, it's just a matter of organizing it and we will be fine.

   The anticipation of what we will actually be doing crosses the mind every so often during the day. You feel like you have to pinch yourself to snap you back to reality. Just a little over a week and with all the final things that need attention, it will seem like just a few short days.

   This is my initial blog entry. Please follow me as I post my daily (hopefully) happenings in the experience of a lifetime!