Sometimes I look back at my blog and I feel I give a very bad representation of what I’m up to. I look back and I read my (hopefully) inspiring stories of trips to visits to exciting projects, interesting sights on the road, how we are tackling Gender Based Violence and so on, and I realise it’s so much easier to blog about the exciting stuff. The everyday stuff just kinda happens, and doesn’t make for an interesting story.
But most of the time the biggest impact that I have on the little world around me are the dull days. The days sat in the office, writing mundane reports; chasing people for things; proof reading documents; filing paperwork from trips to the field and so on. Essential but often dull, often slow, often frustrating. Particularly in a country where things operate very differently to the UK. It took me 2 months, for example, to try and establish a mobile phone contract with a phone network here. Something that would take what, 30 mins max in the UK? And even after 2 months, I didn’t succeed: I had to give up and seek an alternative solution.
This week, after a great couple of weeks away in the field, was a week for office work. And I feel like I have spent a great chunk of it searching for missing things or people.
Earlier in the week it was missing willies. Later it was a missing person.
Let me start with the case of the missing willies. I know I have your attention…
As part of my work I manage a project that aims to reduce maternal and infant mortality as well as reduce mother to child transmission of HIV. One of the activities of this project is training communities in reproductive health and contraception. We have kits to give to trainers which include a training manual as well as some condoms and… a blue – no I don’t know why it’s blue – model willy.
The kits were kept in the store and last week I asked the warehouse supervisor to pack some of them for me to distribute among some of our partner organisations. He went to count them and 20 were missing. 20 whole willies, no jokes. I thought maybe I had miscounted how many should originally have been in the store. I thought maybe someone else had distributed some without me knowing. I spent time following up and checking these thoughts but no success. I couldn’t understand it: the willies were definitely not to be found, no-one knew anything about them. But then who would steal 20 willies?
I was just sitting wondering how to explain to our country director and UK office that we had lost 20 willies and could we have a replacement when the warehouse supervisor came to tell me to the willies had been found. A small confusion had meant that one box of the kits had been stored elsewhere in the warehouse separate from the rest. He had just discovered them.
The ending to the story is maybe not as interesting an ending as you might have wished for, but I was quite happy to not spend any more time searching for lost willies.
I then had a good couple of days of non-searching until I had to resume looking for the lost: this time a non-existent person called Bill.
I had asked our administrator to give me the contact details of hotels we stayed at on our trip the other week. As he was out of the office, he emailed me all except one which he didn’t have, but fear not, he knew who did. The email that came in said:
Hotel K.: finance office – see Bill
There are two people who work in our finance office. Neither of them are called Bill. In fact I don’t know anyone in DRC called Bill: it’s not a very Congolese name. But I obediently followed the instructions: I went to the finance office and asked if they knew who this supposed person was. They didn’t. Confusion all round as we tried to find this mysterious missing person called Bill.
And then it clicked. I realised that the Bill the administrator had referred me to was not actually a person but was a piece of paper. He had meant ‘see the bill’, i.e. the receipt where the contact information would be written. The receipt which was now filed away in the finance office.
Again, mystery solved: case closed.
So you can see, not every day here is out doing dramatic exciting things. Some days are spent going round in circles looking for missing willies and non-existent people.