Monday 31 August 2009

An intermittent rambling about food - Number 1.

I went out for lunch on Sunday with my friend Gillian who treated me at a local Indian restaurant, Yuva. It got me thinking again about how/whether to change my diet a but before I go, whether to indulge now in all the things I won’t be able to eat once there, or to go completely vegetarian, or what. I know from Hilary’s experiences we are likely to get an Indian cookery lesson as part of the cultural orientation month we spend in Delhi. So I thought I might start an infrequent blog entry about one of my favourite subjects, namely food.

So to begin with here is one of my favourite recipes Oriental Pork Casserole which I just happen to be having today. It is a Delia Smith recipe from her How to Cook Book 2 – don’t be put of by the patronising title I’ve always found her recipes very easy to follow AND importantly they turn out like they look in the pictures.

This one doesn’t take long to prepare, it cooks in a pot on top of the stove and tastes gorgeous. It is a good dish to serve to guests as it cooks away merrily on the stove leaving you time to chat before sitting down to dinner. Or it can be prepared in advanced and reheated. Serve with plain boiled rice and whatever green vegetables you have to hand. Simple.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

What might it be like?

I'm always being asked "Where are you going to live? Do you know what your accommodation will be like?" So I though you might like to hear what my official placement offer says. My rule of thumb is to expect the worse and be pleasantly surprised!

In summary it says that my accomodation will be 'in Rayagada town, independent and have basic amenities, a room with attached bathroom and space for a kitchen'. Now whether the bathroom is of the sit or squat kind is not specified, and whichever doesn't actually bother me. Either way the it could be a with a tap with running cold water or a big bucket water store, no washbasin of course! All very similar sounding to what I've experienced elsewhere. Basic furniture, a bed, table and chair, will be provided. A bed is nice for us "soft" westerners - most Indians locally will sleep on floor mats - but it will be nice to be off ground in case of the inevitable creepy crawlies!. Cooking will be by gas stove and a fridge will be provided - wow now that did surprise me when I first read it as I had been envisioning having to market each morning and evening for food.
Now if it is an electric fridge, then how useful it will be remains to be determined by the regularity of power and the frequency of power cuts. But you see I'm pleasantly surprised already by little luxuries!

So those are my expectations of my home for the forthcoming two years. Naturally I will post on the reality when I get there but for now I thought you might like to take a look over at a colleague's blog – Hilary has just arrived in Koraput, some 100kms away from Rayagada and this post tells of her trip there from Delhi (2 days and 2 nights by train) and her new home, complete with pictures.

What do you think? Is this what you'd expect?

Monday 24 August 2009

Another training course completed.

I’ve just been on my final VSO training workshop – so I really feel like the countdown is beginning. Well at least it is the final one in the UK - I still have a month in Delhi on cultural and linguistic training once I am in country. This Skills for Working in Development course (SKWID) was all about participatory methods and tools for facilitation. As usual the course was held at Harborne Hall, which is a great resource that VSO have in Birmingham - such a peaceful retreat for so intense a training programme - Tuesday to Saturday. I never fail to be amazed what a wonderful job the catering staff do there to keep us all well fed on what must be a very tight budget!

It was nice to meet fellow volunteers, some of whom I have met before, but mostly they were new to me. This time everyone on the course had their placement: some are going very soon, like next week and some not until later. I met a future colleague, Jen, who will be on an India placement in Bhubaneshwar, in Orissa and leaves for the Delhi training at the same time as myself. Somehow it doesn't feel so daunting any more now that I have a face that will be familiar there.

The course tried to get everyone from different backgrounds up to speed with techniques for aiding participation and for facilitating meetings. In additon, and very importantly, it also got us all thinking about how doing this in developing countries would be different than we are used to when working with our exisiting colleagues or clients etc. For example, just think about how much jargon we use in everyday life, how many of our examples are culturally specific, how we expect the person we are speaking with to be literate. And I’m not just talking about technical jargon but our phraseology or turn of phrase, eg phrases like “ to get up to speed”. Very thought provoking and it reminded me of how when I am trying to say something in French and I don't have the words I want to use, I have to slow down and go back to the simpler words that I do know - "small small" as I am always being told :) . A good lesson which I hope I remember regularly when I'm there!

Saturday 15 August 2009

Happy Independence Day to India!

Other than what I’ve acquired through general knowledge, I supposed most of my understanding of Indian history has been through books like Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children , the Michael Wood’s BBC TV series The Story of India and movies like Gandi. So as 15th August is India’s Independence Day, I thought I’d better start to learn more about the history of the country which will be my home for the next two years.

I found a helpful facts and figures page from the The Times of India in its Independence Day special coverage pages. I can't wait to hear first hand news from folks in India about what it has been like to be there today.

Thursday 13 August 2009

Getting the house in order

In anticipation of being away for so long I thought I’d better get the house in good order, so I’ve have a plan to catch up with all those jobs that need doing. With being away for much of last year nothing much got done last summer, and since the house is quite old the list is inevitably getting long.

The first big job was due to be the painter, to tackle the outside of the house. It has been 4 years since it got its last lick of paint and the weather was beginning to tell on the woodwork and so it certainly wouldn’t have lasted. So I bit the bullet expense wise and booked a decorator. Obviously outside jobs are dependent upon good weather and he had anticipated being here towards month end, weather permitting. Well as we all know weather in the UK has not been the most predictable this summer so imagine my surprise when he phones up yesterday to say he can come and start!

So there we were yesterday afternoon in the pouring rain, him spray cleaning and fungiciding the walls and me moving the log pile from aside the house to the bottom of the garden! Drenched in no way adequately describes just how wet I was! At least today has been fair and sunny for cutting back all the shrubs in order to clear a working path to the walls. I now have a satifying glow that my part of job number 1 is done! G&T time I think!

Tuesday 11 August 2009

So what's it all about?

Work permits etc permitting I am off to India as a volunteer with VSO sometime in early November. In effect I shall be based in Rayagada, working as an Organisational Development Advisor for an Indian NGO called Shakti, which carries out projects within the rural communities in Orissa State.

Shakti carries out projects in a number fields including self help group management and micro credit, water and santitation, mother and child health, HIV/AIDs, child labour rehabilitation, women's income generation activies.

Within these, Shakti works to build capacity of community representation, womens representation and empowerment, developing micro plans and creating sustainable secure livelihood options.

However, Shakti have a high turnover of staff/local volunteers and lack the back office systems to affect quality programme delivery. And that's where VSO comes in. VSO volunteers will share their business systems and organisational practice learning with Shakti staff and so help build up Shakti's capacity to deliver. Specifically there is a lack of a way to take information from projects and to reuse this for strategic planning, programme planning, marketing and fundraising.

This is the first time VSO has worked with Shakti and I will be the first and, at least initially, the only VSO volunteer there. - which means I will be the only VSO volunteer in Rayagada! I'm sure that will generate a bit of interest for everyone concerned.

As the countdown gathers momentum towards November departure I'll be posting here about preparations, then arrival and training in Delhi and eventually the India crossing to Rayagada and then full on blogging about my improessions and activities.

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Books to read and listen to

Just been further playing around with this blogging tool and have added in my currrent reading and audio book listens. Fellow book lovers can join in some of the discussion at Constant Reader .

I have also been acquiring lots to take with me on my travels. In addition to the inevitable ipod I've acquired a Sony E-Reader so am stocking up with lots of reading material. Any suggestions would be welcome.