Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Workshop Day 1

Our day began with breakfast outside under the gazebo - Omelets, MZuzu coffee, beans and fruit. I slept well last night and fortunately I had heard the problems with Iphones and their alarms in the new year on tv just before I went to bed. So I used the fix recommended and set the alarm for multiple days. Needless to say I was up checking the time often during the night. Which was an interesting project as we have mosquito netting over our bed – and I am paranoid about malaria – so everything had to be inside the netting when I went to sleep. It is a queen sized bed so there was enough room. There I was with the Malawi cel phone, my own cel phone, my glasses, and my ipod and earbuds all lined up beside me.

The workshop was being held in the new conference room – past the pool – way far on the other side of the resort – not really a problem but given this issue I am having with my heel and the sun beating down on me while I was wearing a sports jacket – lets just say I was a bit worse for wear by the time I got to the proper room.

The room is new, round official looking place. It was organized with heavy wooden chairs and table with white draping over the shoulder of the chair. Brand new and so quite pleasant but the a/c didn’t work. But we stayed the morning anyway.

We were supposed to start at 8:30 but first we needed the opening speeches, etc. A number of speakers spoke including Harry the V.Principal of the College. There were about 24 people there – most of whom were deans or department heads and some instructors – about 10 women and the rest men.

I got started at 11 and went through until 12:30 when we had an hour’s lunch and a change of venue. This time in a similar room but closer to the pool. The nice thing abkout the room was that there was an air condition on the wall behind me so when the heat was too much I’d walk over there and let some cool air hit me.

I’m not sure how the participants sat in that heat without falling asleep but they were a great bunch – good questions – some really good insight into the evaluation process and they seemed quite engaged with what I was doing. Let’s hope the good will carries over tomorrow.

We ended at 4 sharp – I made sure of that! I haven’t checked my email for two days and I am starting to feel separation anxiety. So I went over to the business centre – the wifi wasn’t working but I bought 30 minutes on his local machines – Helene sent an email to the kids through her hotmail account and I posted a note on Facebook but I wasn’t able to get into the Uregina email system. I will need to use my own machine – hopefully tomorrow.

A drink in the bar – a place as exotic as this country – an immense, intense rain shower for almost an hour and then the buffet dinner – chicken beef and chambo but this time the chambo was filets rather than the whole fish – rice, nsema and some kind of green steamed (boiled?) vegetable - this diet is starting to get boring. Between the heat and the diet I should be able to lose some weight here.

And now – bedtime – at 8:51 – perhaps I’ll be rested at the end of this week too

Blantyre to Mangochi

The room, at the Mt. Soche was well air conditioned – a high compliment as opposed to other criteria such as comfort and cleanliness. Helene and I had dinner at a restaurant next to the Protea Ryall Hotel – the number one choice of Trip Advisor and we made reservations there for Monday and Tuesday of next week when we return to Blantyre. The rooms are much nicer but let’s hope the air conditioning works.

Because of the good A/C and a queen sized bed we slept fairly well. Breakfast is provided in virtually all hotels in Malawi so we headed to the dining room. We had a fairly typical breakfast – omelets, toast, etc. Noel, the department head showed up around 10 and we met for a few hours discussing the sections of the workshop. He had a need to identify each section for every day and to indicate when the tea breaks would happen.

Lunch, packing and our driver picked us up around 2. First a stop at the People’s Grocery store for water and peanut and then a brief stop at the Polytech Management development centre and then on our way to Mangochi.

The terrain was quite surprising to me. I’m not sure what I was expecting but the rolling areas as well as climbing and descending mountains was a surprise. The vegetation went from basic scrub to forests and with every inch in between filled with maize/corn plants or tobacco. Housing/shelter was either red brick covered with thatch or completely made out of thatch.

The highway was a two lane highway with many, many, many people walking on either side and filled with cars, bikes and the occasional motorcycle. This didn’t cause our driver (Fredson) to slow down it only encouraged him to use his horn more.

Needless to say the air conditioning didn’t work so we drove with the windows down – the breeze was nice but the humidity and heat built throughout the day.

Out of Blantyre, past Zomba, past the Liwonde Barradge and finally through Mangochi and out to the lakeshore resort called Sun and Sand – another one of the Sunbird chain.

We have a bungalow right on the water – 506. A front room with a tv, sofa and chair and a bunk bed. Down a hallway, bathroom on the right – fairly large and a nice sized bedroom with a queen sized bed, a tv and mosquito netting.

No internet tonight – perhaps tomorrow – I’m told

Dinner was complimentary and was a barbecue with tables set up on the grass – made me a bit nervous to be on the grass in the middle of Malaria country but no one else seemed to mind. The BBQ was steak (without steak knives) chicken and Chambo – a local fish.

We met many of the people that will be at the workshop tomorrow and sat for quite a while enjoying the steaming heat.