Thursday, February 14, 2008

One week 'til take off.

Here goes my second entry – and your second glimpse into what I’m thinking and experiencing as I near departure.

EWB is intense, which is great. I‘m not sure if I’ve ever learned so much in a one month before?

They keep teaching us big complex things such as - facilitation methods, various frameworks, concepts, tools… and intermingled among them all are words such as; approach, leverage, gender, culture, capital, transformative change, humility…all of which I am now able to speak at great lengths about what they mean and how they relate to the work I’ll be doing for the next year.

The Team

Meanwhile, I haven’t been doing this alone. Every step of the way there are 11 other people beside me, we eat together, walk together, train together and all of us live in the same 3 bedroom house in downtown Toronto. Lately we’ve been taking turns telling our life story. Each night, one of us sits down in front of the candle while the rest gather around. This person takes us all on a journey filled with personal challenges, their ups and downs with family, friends and of course, relationships. I highly recommend taking the time to do this with your grandparents or friends. So far they have been far more entertaining than any movie I’ve seen.

The team walking through a winter wonderland.

I also had the chance to get-out-of-town for a weekend. I went to the Hillside-Inside music festival in Guelph. Not only did I get to dance for 10 hours straight, but I saw and met people who are so caring and happy and sincere and ya, I just felt what it was like to belong to a harmonious community for a weekend.

So am I ready to go?

Surprisingly, I’d say yes. Maybe I'm a bit too comfortable with the idea? I sorta feel like I’m in the Truman Show and now it’s my turn to head off into the unknown world that I’ve only seen or read about. I want to see it with my own eyes, to hear the laughter of the children, to smell the forest and…well I guess its rainy season in Zambia, so maybe to taste the rain? How will it be different? I decided to look up annual precipitation trends for north-western province and found out that they have 116 days where it rains more than 10mm. This didn’t mean much to me until I looked at what it was in Vancouver, which in my mind is pretty wet, and they only have 39 of these days a year. (note to self – don’t forget rain jacket)

My checklist is almost done - I have a haircut, my Malaria meds, pictures of family and girlfriend, a journal, a camera and a ticket to fly. For sure I’m forgetting something.

It’s just hair.

(this paragraph is mostly for me)

We’ve been told to write down 10 things we love to do so that two months from now, when our ‘honeymoon’ phase is over and the culture shock hits, we can look back and see which things we are not doing. My ten things include – music, taking leisurely walks, reading, seeing the sun rise, seeing the moon rise, listening to stories, riding my bike, watching movies, seeing live music and taking pictures. I also enjoy seeing the northern lights, skating outside, hearing from Laure-Eloise and speaking to my mom…all of which I anticipate to be more difficult in a weeks time.

(this paragraph is for all of you that are interested in development)

What has been surprising so far?

  • If you want to promote good hygiene practices, maybe it’s possible that Unilever (a multi-national food and soap company) is better positioned than anyone else to do this?
  • Most things are common sense, however, there is a big difference between the theory of common sense and the application. (hence the 1 month of training req’d)
  • The power of questioning – this is an extremely effective way to learn and to help others learn.
  • The development sector is broken! Flat out. Aid money isn’t working and EWB is trying to improve it. The key issue here is accountability. Ask yourself - whose head rolls when a project fails overseas? How can feedback systems be used to improve this?

So it’s been a big month to say the least. My Grandpa passed away in January, which is tough, but I was able to say a proper goodbye before I left Calgary. He seemed to be very much at peace.

To prevent rambling, I'm going to sign off in hopes that you will check out my next update which is sure to be from the capital city of Lusaka in Zambia!

It'll be strange to leave Canada for such a long time. Up until now I've only left Canadian soil a handful of times, and never for more than two weeks.

All smiles.



Anonymous said...

I envvy your passion man. You are one of the finest people I know so take care of yourself. Honeydipped cheese?


Adam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam said...

Giddy up, mang.

Check out Nsolo (also called Mancala). It's a highly popular african game somewhat like chess (and one of my favorites). It's incredibly simple (you can play it just about anywhere with a handful of pebbles/seeds) and is language independent. Take care and be well!


Mark Hemsworth said...

Good looking game Adam. I am also bringing a hacky sack and some cards for those times when language is a barrier.

Christopher & Jodi said...

Best of luck Mark. I admire what you are doing and why you are doing it. I notice that you didn't list cheese as one of your top ten things...I'll eat your share while you are gone.
Take care,

Christopher Lammiman

nicole said...

Hi Mark,

It was great meeting you last week at the send off party, and thanks for giving me a calendar!

I hope you guys are enjoying your training in Lusaka. Remind Hans to take his malaria meds please!!!

I'm curious to hear why Unilever is better positioned than other CPG companies in promoting good hygiene.

Stay safe!