Friday, April 28, 2006

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Five-minute old boy (and his mother) at the Liberian Government Hospital, Buchanan, Liberia.
April 29, 2006

President Johnson Sirleaf with Grand Bassa County Superintendent Madam Julia Duncan Cassell (left), Sophia Craig-Massey (my boss, right) and a senator at the opening ceremonies of the new Outpatient and Medical Imaging Departments at the Liberian Government Hospital, Buchanan, Liberia.
April 29, 2006

Ellen works the crowd.April 29, 2006

President Johnson Sirleaf throws the schedule out of whack by diverting towards the Pediatrics ward at the Liberian Government Hospital. The smiling faces in Merlin shirts are Bassam (left) and my dear colleague, friend and roommate Ruphine Olouch. (Ruphine instigated the diversion.)

April 29, 2006

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Today was a big day. It began just after midnight with the terrible news that one of our guards had died in a motorcycle accident. We had a brief team meeting this morning for prayers and tears and then resolved to carry on with special plans for today - the official opening of the Outpatient and Medical Imaging Departments at the Merlin-supported Liberian Government Hospital, to be dedicated by Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of the Republic of Liberia.

Despite a few glitches but because of the extremely hard work of my staff we think the event was a success. I was delighted to shake the President's hand. She's a charming politician - the person making introductions in the receiving line gave up before reaching me but she carried on and quickly and positively reacted to my Merlin T-shirt. Later, as she was getting into her car I called out and again she remarked on the work that Merlin does in Liberia. In between she gave an eloquent speech without notes that included diplomatic responses to preceding speeches. At the end she drove out waving to the crowds that had not been allowed into the hospital compound.

The day ended better than it began and the event marked the end of one of the sources of stress in my life. I'm hoping I'll have more time to post blog entries in May.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Seeing Red in Edinburgh

July 9, 2005

I've just posted a little vanity photo collection on - shots of Edinburgh that kept popping into my viewfinder with tiny splashes of red. (Please click here.)

In the hospital last night I couldn't help correcting the Administrator's English on a memo - he'd written about staff's 'land managers' (instead of 'line managers'). This is so typical of Liberia - I think because as the second half of a word is rarely pronounced, people don't necessarily know what the rest of the word really is. I'm not always very good at tolerating this. The first time I blew up was a few months ago when someone (a law student) wrote to me about 'action points' but actually wrote 'acion poin'. The national language is 'English' and most Liberians speak nothing else (although there are local languages such as Bassa which I'm slowly learning) but it is not uncommon to need translation between 'International' English and 'Liberian' English. I shouldn't be such a snob about my English, I suppose.

Anyway, today is St. George's Day, which is not only the day for the Patron Saint of England but also the anniversary of our emigration to Canada. Thirty-six years ago Mom, Dad and I flew by BOAC Boeing 707 to Montreal and then by Air Canada DC9 to Ottawa where we were met by Dad's new boss, Andy Molozzi. Tomorrow will mark the 31st anniversary of our becoming Canadian Citizens. (Back then the wait was five years, now it's three.) Happy Canadian Anniversary, Dad!!

It is great to be able to watch Formula 1 races on TV - last year I was in Kabul where we worked on Sundays. I just watched Michael Schumacher win in Imola - quite against my predictions.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Camera in the Atlantic

Crab and Fateful wave, Buchanan, Liberia
April 14, 2006

I had a bit of an adventure last weekend - the wave shown in the picture above swept me off the rocks where I was crab-watching. (The picture below, shot previously, sets the scene. I was sitting on the rocks on the left but further back where both sides were sunny.) I went under water but held my camera as far up as I could. The surge was nice and strong and would have been pretty thrilling if I hadn't been worried about my camera and the fact that the park safety officer hadn't inspected this ride yet. I surfaced out beyond the rocks out of my depth where I treaded water and noticed that the lens was still dry! I had to time my kicks toward the rocks with the waves and brace myself the surf as I clambered onto a shelf - still holding the camera as high as I could. When I was stable I tried the camera - it seemed to work once I'd turned it off and on but I think it must have had a shock because it's been moody ever since - sometimes displaying nonsense on its status screen and sometimes refusing to auto-focus. Little does it know I'd been thinking of replacing it anyway.

'Surprise Notch', Buchanan, Liberia
April 14, 2006

I hope it will pull its socks up because we will have a special guest at the Liberian Government Hospital next Saturday - Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia. She's coming to open our new Outpatient and Medical Imaging Departments and we have a lot of preparation to do. People are asking me if I'm excited but all I can think of to say is that I'll be excited when it's over. Luckily the photography won't fall to me and my camera - we've got an expert coming and although she doesn't have a Canon (this is one of my few big brand loyalties) I know she'll do a wonderful job.

I just did hospital rounds with the hospital matron. This job is teaching me so much - about development, myself, and a little bit about medicine. Tonight we saw a two-year old boy with severe malaria who is very unlikely to survive.

Everything else is the same - work personalities are testing my diplomacy and I'm really terribly busy, tired and lonely.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Sierra Leone, Elamma

Lumley Beach, Freetown, Sierra Leone
March 26, 2006

Goodness! I only wrote one entry in March - and none in the first two weeks of April. The main reason is that I've been very very very very busy at work. I have had two brief respites though. The first was a nice long weekend in Sierra Leone... the main relaxation indicator being that I read three books in four days, and one a le Carré at that. (By the way I list what I've read here.)

Elamma Varughese
April 9, 2006

The other nice break was an afternoon trip with my dear friend Elamma to a waterfall at the rubber plantation last weekend.

In other news Merlin, in an uncharacteristic lack of recruiting wisdom have offered to renew my contract until December 30. And I very cautiously predict that I am going to have a bit more time in the next few weeks to post new blog entries. If that turns out to be untrue I might edit that sentence out...

Things I've learned since taking on this job:

  • Accountancy can be interesting after all

  • Management is a skill and an art never to be belittled

  • There's no substitute for not maintaining an up to date to-do list

  • Attending your work appraisal, taking notes on the understanding that you are to type them up for submission to the boss, but then losing them is not generally advised.