Basra, Iraq. The same types of buildings a lot of dirt, unpaved roads, the same type of architecture; the women cover their hair and wear long sleeves and long skirts, however, they cover more loosely here. I arrived late on a Friday night and thank goodness there was someone to pick me up at the airport.
He took me to the Moony Hotel, which was rather like a Holiday Inn, except really run down, the red carpet in the hallway was pink on the sides and almost threadbare in the middle. The air conditioner even when on quiet made a constant rumbling noise. There was no top sheet just an acrylic mink blanket that was really worn on one side; you know how a fleece is so soft when it’s new and then eventually it gets almost scratchy. Well that’s how the blanket was on one side, the other side was passable. The TV was tiny and mounted two inches from the ceiling with 200 some channels, with approximately four English channels. I just kept it on FOX movies, occasionally checking out MBC. The amazing thing was that I had internet in my room. You could actually get internet in the lobby and because my room was on the first floor I could get internet in my room.
The staff was the best thing the hotel had going for it; they were very friendly and helpful at least once you got your point across. Unlike Kuwait where all the workers speak English or Iraq where I was on a military base, here people don’t speak English they speak Arabic so maybe I will finally learn how to put some sentences together. However, the Arabic here like in every other Arabic speaking country is slightly different.
The office here thought I was going to be in a wheelchair so they were frantically trying to figure out how to get a ramp into the office, this came out when I met the Deputy Country Director in Nairobi, we had a brief conversation and a laugh about it and then I think he informed the staff in Khartoum that I didn’t need any accommodation.
I spent four nights in the hotel, the work week here is Sunday – Thursday, so I only had a one day weekend. I spent it working. I’m the Monitoring and Evaluation Manager for the Building Responsibility for the Delivery of Government Services Program, BRIDGE for short. There are nine partners and I have yet to figure out how many projects. My predecessor decided it would be a good idea to track 117 indicators on the BRIDGE program and the excel spreadsheet she designed would probably stretch at least two city blocks if not three. It’s one of those systems where only the person who designs it understands it. So, I have been trying to recreate the wheel. Today I succeeded in getting all the targets and actuals into a format that I can manipulate. Next, I will decide which indicators we are tracking going forward and create a spreadsheet based on that. I made need glasses before all this is through.
On my one day off I work up late and then Laus the Regional Finance Manager, who is based in Nairobi and I met Tess the Finance Manager based here and went to a café to work and hang out. By the evening we were so tired and I was squinting that we called it an early night.
Starting on Sunday, I got into a routine. I would wake up, get dressed, head down for breakfast, when was always a circular egg omelet, with tomatoes and cucumbers decorating the edges and two pieces of bread, plus coffee or tea. I logged on to the internet, checked my personal e-mails, checked worked e-mails ate and did some work while I waited for the driver who picked Laus and I up at 8:45 a.m. We went to the office. The first day I was in the office, I spent most of the day in a meeting, on Monday, I spent most of the day transferring data from the spreadsheet from hell into a more manageable format; Tuesday was pretty much spent doing the same thing. However, on Tuesday I moved into the guesthouse. A large grand building four floors that when you look at from the outside you think “I get live here!” but when you get inside and start turning things on you start thinking “I have to live here.”