Work is going well – and a safari trip

Sunday 2nd  to Friday 14th December

I am a volunteer with VSO but all entries on this blog are my personal responsibility alone and do not represent the views of VSO.

I had a haircut this week – my hair has been growing much more slowly than at home but finally it needed doing. A completely different experience – there is only one way to cut hair here it seems – very short with clippers. I don’t think I have ever had hair this short!

Things have really started to pick up at work. I have made a few more really useful contacts and I have come up with a way of doing the placement that I think will work and – even more importantly – should mean that it can be sustained into the future after I have finished my time here. And also my boss – my South Sudanese working partner – has come back from extended sick leave so I have someone in the Ministry to check ideas with and make sure that what I am doing is going to be acceptable.

Having said that I was also aware that I could do with a break – I alternate between enjoying the general hurly burly of Juba life, and finding it gets me down. So it’s good to plan to spend some time away when one can – and in the way of things I had two trips very close together.

Firstly a few of us planned a short holiday in Uganda – initially we wanted to travel at least one way by road but we couldn’t get a plan which was achievable in the time available, so we took advantage of a public holiday that was coming up, tacked on 2 days annual leave and went off for 5 days, by plane to Entebbe (Kampala). We then went north from the capital to the Murchison National Park for a short safari trip which was incredibly good value. We saw the famous – and spectacular – Murchison falls, and also saw a lot of animals. Then it was back to Kampala for 2 nights in a very comfortable hotel before coming home. Overall I liked Uganda very much – the city and the countryside seem green and pleasant, it was not so hot as Juba – and in general everything was that much more developed.

In the week leading up to the Uganda trip another plan came together, for 4 of us (from different organisations – I was the only volunteer) to go on a field visit to one of the States to talk with Ministry and county people and see a range of health facilities. I was particularly keen to go to this state as it is one where VSO has volunteers at state and county level and this is going to be really important in my work, building a network of people who can work together on the policy development that my placement is all about.

It was a four hour journey each way on a moderate dirt road but well worth it. Like most places there are lots of problems, lack of staff poor buildings and equipment etc. but the State was impressive in what it is trying to do and all the staff we met were committed to what they were doing – often in extremely remote locations with poor facilities.

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