A light-hearted post for you to lift your spirits despite the daftness that is hitting us daily these days.
I realized only this weekend that I have not been ‘home’ for more than 2 consecutive days since mid December. Yup. That’s 7 weeks ago.
By home I mean the Colombo apartment … you know the place where all my stuff is. Ok, it’s only one bag, but still. But it’s also the place where I chop up tropical fruit for my fruit & curd bowl of goodness for breakfast, make my morning coffee with the stove-top espresso maker and where the building management give me big smiles and shake my hand when I arrive back from my trips at various times of the day and night. You get the picture, it’s where there is familiarity and routine. When you temporarily break the ties from your real home these things kind of matter!
I’ve been away this much all because of this mammoth road trip that takes me the length and breadth of the Northern and Eastern provinces, conducting assessments on 12 businesses. I rate the change in their capacity to run a profitable and sustainable business since first receiving financial aid and technical assistance from the BIZ+ project between 3 and 5 years ago. Phew!
Each assessment takes a bunch of hours as it covers the gamut of the business – from all the corporate functions to the factory floor and everything in between. Let me tell, you I know more now about the manufacture of biomass briquettes, steel building components, PVC and polythene packaging, auto repair shops, garments, ice and construction materials than I ever did before!
The equally mammoth task of writing up the report after each assessment takes all of my concentration and energy . Don’t get me wrong, I just love love love doing the assessments and hearing the pride in what has been achieved (mostly) and the bright hopes for the future. It’s the paperwork that gets me, particularly when I’m low on caffeine.
The work is a far cry from the work I do in Canada but the thing I have grasped these past few weeks, is that the businesses do not have to be complex, they just need to be approached with some common sense with a sprinkle of innovation, and always always always look after your people. So there you have it from Expert Volunteer Kate. No need to read any more business books. That’s it in a nutshell. 🙂
This week I was back up in Meesalai, a small village less than one hour east of Jaffna in the Northern Province. It’s where that small family-run garment factory is located, where young ladies with minimal education are hired and where they are taught a skill that will last them a lifetime. This is not a sophisticated outfit and these young ladies have not had much experience with the discipline of turning up on time for anything, putting in a full days work or the whole concept of team work. We’ve been working a little on that and at the end of every education session, I bring biscuits for the tea break (the delighted mob savage through three bumper packs of biscuits every time!) and we do some sort of game which they get to choose.
This week was the balloon dance which is basically where a couple need to keep a balloon stable while they dance to music. A pretty simple game but played with much hilarity … and competition too! Check out the short video of the final two sets of competitors.
If you look closely, you can begin to see the balloon between the couple in the back, slip a little. The couple in the front won the Grand Prize of … wait for it …. a KitKat each. It was less about the prize and more about the bragging rights. I’m sorry I never took a photo of each sewing machine station flying a balloon that afternoon. Too cute!
On the 7-hour train journey home yesterday afternoon/evening, I sat in next to a lady in the AC carriage who, as it turns out is a Community Medicine Doctor doing very similar work out in the remote villages as my friend Tandi does north of Yellowknife …. only Dr Indu’s work is in warmer climes, just a tad. She travels ‘up north’ almost every week and this week she attended an emergency health meeting to discuss a current epidemic of dengue in Vavuniya resulting in a number of recent deaths. Yikes! She then traveled on to Jaffna to sit on the Examining Board for soon to be qualified doctors and was on her way home to Colombo, in time for Independence Day celebrations.
As an aside, today (February 4th), Sri Lanka celebrates it’s independence in 1948 from the British. Lots of national pride today! Here’s the President’s address earlier today, he stressed the importance of having honest politicians – all countries can take note of that. There was also a military parade showcasing the military prowess of Sri Lanka’s forces … all a bit alien to me.
But back to Dr Indu, who I discovered was quite the celebrity on the train – she had a steady stream of visitors to her seat, which meant I got caught up in the chat. All Doctors. All with various specialties – cardiologist, oncologist, neuro something and later, a pathologist joined the carriage in Vavuniya. All travel to the north regularly, providing in-person expertise and coaching at the regional hospitals. They’ve all got to know one another intimately as the guys amongst them pass the time with a game of cards (no betting though!).
As it turns out, the neuro something Doctor studied in London in the 90s under an Irish Doctor by the name of O’Brien (that narrows it down alright). He is a huge fan of Irish music – even meeting Marie Brennan after attending a Clannad concert. Wow! He’s also a huge fan of Mary Black and Chieftains and named a few other well known Irish singers and musicians too. He knows his Irish music.
He also is a fan of Billy Idol (go figure) and also met Mr Idol after a concert. So here we are on the train between Anuradhapura and Vavuniya in Sri Lanka, discussing Clannad and Billy Idol … I had no other choice but to combine his two great loves and introduce him to the Dropkick Murphys (couldn’t resist Gord!!).
Now I have a picture in my head of him doing his neuro thing headbanging to the celtic punk of the Dropkick Murphys. Pity their current tour covers just Europe and the US.
Enjoy the rest of the weekend everyone.