Sunday, June 27, 2010

The baseline endeth

Sooo back South from Arua I trudged.

Upon arriving in Kampala I decided to swing by the (new!) office to check in and have a couple meetings. Pia was entertained by my attire and state of haggardness, so insisted on a photo:
*note the super-rad drum I bought outside of a church in Arua town, made of a little old formerly-painted-green and well rusted oil drum, and cow hide. The guy I bought it from was borderline offended that I didn't also buy the two accompanying larger drums, because... how can you play music with only one drum?? After lengthy discussion and pleading, I finally convinced him that 1 drum is still superior to 0 drum.

After a day or two in Kampala, I headed over to Mukono - only about an hour's matatu-ride from the office. The Mukono teams were some of our strongest, and the team leaders in particular are notably awesome, so there really was not too much for me to do as I hung out with them for a few days, other than idle survey review. Mostly I wound up traveling with them to clubs and setting up camp somewhere to do other work, and just remain on hand to put out the occasional fire.

It would have been nice, except for the room I was staying in. Suffice to say I don't think I really slept for three nights straight. My inability to sleep was doubtlessly somewhat psychosomatic... potentially in some part due to the combined psychological effect of the mattress being covered in rubber and this sign being posted in the room (note point F):

Aaaanyway. How about some pictures?

Tea plantation, being harvested:
By the way, I learned something: chewing tea leaves fresh off the bush is not as delicious as tea. Unfortunately I couldn't get myself to chew long enough to find out if I'd get a caffeine buzz.

This is a cow.

These are more cows.

I want to dip this into a big steaming mug of what those will become:

Nice path for a wander


My neighbors for a spell while I worked

Red, green, blue, white

Lunch being cooked

beans and rice
fried pork with strips of chapatti

Ugh, I hate when the neighbors disturb me in my office

Not a bad spot to work for a few

After a few days of seeing that Mukono was proceeding swimmingly (or, at least, was no better off by my presence), I retired to Kampala.

At this point I was, in three words, massively burned out. I became aware of this the next day when Charity informed me that I needed to stay home for a few days because she could tell that I was too exhausted to be useful... just by my tone via text message. Impressive.

I had planned to head West to Mbarara for a few days, but I let Charity talk me into staying in Kampala and letting her head over. Thank you, Charity, I'm pretty sure you saved (what's left of) my sanity.

The baseline proceeded to run for another week - a full week past when it was initially supposed to end. In celebration of its completion, I decided it was time for.....

Baseline Beard Begone!

(unfortunately the Baseline Bags have not been so easily removed)

I asked Ricky to be gone with everything except the moustache, which I'd like him to just "clean up a little bit". I forgot for a second that I'm in Africa, so Ricky would - given that the preponderance of his clientele are African men - give me a black guy moustache, also known as slightly-long stubble. Looks great on African dudes, not so hot on me. Said upper-lip-poop-streak was removed shortly after this photograph was taken.

Since the Hair Removal Fest of 2010:
- three friends have reintroduced themselves to me
- more friends and acquaintances than I can count have looked quizzically at me for more than a few moments before some identifying non-hair feature (nose? glasses? voice?) confirmed their suspicion that I'm me
- Charity had a 10 minute conversation with me and Pia in the office, apparently thinking the entire time that Pia was being awfully rude for not introducing her to the new guy

Aaaanyway. Last week was the "Training of Trainers", which is a development-jargon-y way of saying "the 5-day thingy where we trained the people who are going to go visit the clubs to deliver the financial education curriculum that Daniel developed". It actually went quite smoothly, and I was able to duck in and out and attend to other business... such as writing the statistical programming code to conduct the random assignment of clubs to treatment or control groups. Woo.

A couple snippits from the ToT (as the cool kids call it):

They loooooved these "energizers" and "ice breakers"

One of the groups performs their "Saving Song" as part of one of the curriculum sessions:

Aaaaand off to the field I'll be going again, starting this weekend, to oversee the implementation of the intervention. Wooo....

Monday, June 21, 2010

How about some more pictures from a day of surveying in Arua? Okay!

This is what cassava looks like when it's on its way to becoming cassava flour

Matt, I seriously considered trying to smuggle him away in my shirt for you, but decided it would be "unprofessional" or whatever
Mmmm... bacon...

I made the mistake of chuckling and commenting on "Saturday is holly" within earshot of the matatu driver, and was rewarded by a long diatribe (which I immediately tuned out) about some Bible passage something something about Saturday something being holy. I didn't even get around to mentioning that Saturday isn't a plant.

Soooo after leaving this club, the day turned interesting: the enumerators pretty much threatened to strike.

Hooray for first-hand experiences with labor disputes!

Needless to say, I was already a bit underwhelmed with the enumerators' performance. After both teams failed to mobilize their second clubs of the day, I decided that we'd have to work at least a half-day the next day to make up for it, rather than taking the day off as they'd planned. I didn't decide this (just) because I'm a jerk - they'd had several 1-club days and, frankly, we just didn't have the money to extend the baseline any more. And there's the (sad) concern that some enumerators could be trying to work slowly so that they'd only cover one club a day so that the job would, in effect, be extended, meaning they make more money.

Mind you, also, that by this point I had not had more than a few hours at a time off in six weeks, so I wasn't terribly sympathetic to the complaint that they'd worked for nine days straight.

Welllll, regardless they weren't too pleased with my decision. Actually, the consensus response was (and I paraphrase), "we're not working tomorrow". Or, more verbosely, "we're not going to work tomorrow even if you tell us we have to work tomorrow."

On the down-side, I was pretty miffed, and seeing all sorts of horrific budgetary catastrophes in my mind's eye. On the up-side, I got an accidental part-day off! Hooray!

At least the nice waitress at the hotel facilitated my desire to cry out my woes into dinner by having food ready for me when I arrived... without me even realizing I was hungry. She apparently picked up on my affinity for salad and avocado (and rice and "cow peas"):
I think she liked me.

I started my day "off" with some survey-review and a dosa for breakfast at a mediocre local Indian place:

and then went for a walk, and was reminded that my sense of humor has not matured beyond peri-pubescence

A friend had told me about some nice hotel just outside of town with a pool... called White Castle (teehee), so I decided to have a look-see. And I decided to try a new means of transportation.

There's nothing to make you feel like a lazy, overindulged, exploitative Westerner quite like paying somebody to transport your lazy, overindulged, exploitative Western butt using their own physical labor:
So I made myself feel better like any good lazy, overindulged, exploitative Westerner would: I overpaid and gave him the rest of my water.

Apparently school was letting out:

And White Castle turned out to be quite nice

Unfortunately it wasn't quite pool weather, so I had a stroll and a lay down instead, and reviewed some surveys (shock of shocks)



So it was good to have a day at least not seeing any enumerators, and not spending ALL of reviewing surveys.

For the rest of my time in Arua, I mostly tried to hang in the background, with the dual goals of allowing/forcing the team leaders and auditors to take more control and authority (which they did, admirably!) and in order to ensure enumerators' fear/resentment of me subside a bit.
Though apparently the enumerators continued to ask the team leaders every day when I'd be leaving. Hah!

And generally, after that day, the enumerators really did step up and start doing a significantly better job! So much for my disbelief in negative reinforcement...
We did decide to fire one enumerator, but while his replacement was en route via bus, one of the other enumerators' children was injured and she needed to leave. Sooo the guy who was supposed to replace the problem-enumerator instead replaced a dang good one. Alas.

A couple more pictures from Arua:

Who needs church bells when you've got a metal rod and an old rusty car-wheel hanging from a tree branch with rope?

While waiting for the rest of a clubs' respondents to arrive, the enumerators do a bit of cassava shopping:

and we ate some fruit from the bush. If I understood correctly, the oil from the seeds is "shea oil" (as in shea butter?). Kinda tasted like very sweet avocado

I appreciate the sentiment, posted in a copy-shop:

Had a wander in Arua market

On the way back from a club the next day(?), I passed the Congo border. Look, you can almost see the lawlessness over there!


Fortunately, I resisted the urge to go have a look-see at the DRC.

I got so excited the first time I saw one of these signs, only to have my boss laugh at me and ask if they didn't call cross-walks "Zebra Crossings" in the US also. Dang Germans...

Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of it, but probably the single best thing about Arua was this little down-an-alley hole-in-the-wall Ethiopian restaurant where I discovered a full delicious meal, an ice-cold beer and a hefty tip set me back... 8000 Shillings, or about $3.50. AWESOME. I ate there three nights in a row.

The next morning I decided to reward the enumerators for their hard work by... leaving.

Back to Kampala I went, then to next check in on the Mukono teams. More as soon as I can...

Oh wait, one other lovely thing which I just today realized must have happened in the dry, dusty dirt of Arua, in which I foolishly wore sandals.
One of these little suckers decided my big toe was juuuust the right kinda place to raise a family:
(I'll go ahead and do you all the favor of not posting either the pictures I've found online of what it looks like in real life, nor the photo I took of my toe to send to my brother so we could squeal like little girls to each other over the internet)

Sooo I had some fun pocket knife + alcohol-swab action, and I'm thinking I'll delay my arrival at the training tomorrow to instead stop by a health clinic and, uh, make sure I got all the bad stuff out.