Thursday 20 October 2011

Reasons to be cheerful Part 3

( I suspect only readers of a certain age and disposition will get what the the title of this blog refers to  = everyone else – go google!)

The fact that power cuts happen has never been a real issue. Reality is that Orissa sells its power to better off neighbouring state of Andrah Pradesh. And powers outs are fine when they are regular or scheduled. No power between 7 and 8PM? No problem just make sure you have the water boiled for your nightly cuppa before 7PM, then puts your feet up in the dark and sip a nice brew.

We’ve been pretty lucky recently, with our power outs being scheduled or at least occurring at a regular time. But this week has been back to 20 minutes on, 2 minutes off, 10 minutes on, 30 minutes off etc etc all through the day. It is unpredictable, irregular, unscheduled.

We have UPS power backups in the office, one is attached to each PC. The idea of these Uninterrupted Power Supply units is that their battery charges when there is power and then when there is no power, you have battery supply for 20 minutes. Plenty of time to finish a piece of work, save your work and properly close down the PC. That is if they worked properly.

Sadly their battery life is not good. With the above erratic power outs being typical the batteries never get much of a chance to fully charge up.  Instead of 20 minutes of power in reality you get about 5 minutes. After about 30 seconds their warning buzzer starts bleeping (Annoying noise No.1), and then the interval between bleeps gets shorter as time passes until it is bleeping constantly (Annoying noise No. 2). Finally it just completely cuts out.  Eventually the battery cannot recharge and just bleeps constantly if switched on.

In practice this means that all work which involved an electrically powered piece of equipment stops for a length of time from 30 seconds to all day. That means no PCs, no router, no internet. No fans, no light. And try not to open the fridge door too often if the power cut if for more than about 4 hours or your fridge will start to become an incubator. Any ice in the freezer compartment will have melted so good excuse to have another one of those frozen fruit juice slabs – cold, sweet – or frozen water melon sticks (Upside No. 1)

Of course if you have a laptop you are not dependent upon mains power. But remember that battery that started of as having life of say 5 hours (depends on what you run and how) now after two years of tropical dampness, low and changeable voltage power supply only has a life of under 1 hour.  My colleague’s laptop’s battery is basically fried which means her laptop goes down, without warning, each time their is a power cut.

So “what did you do when the light's were off?”  I can always find something to do, even if it is jotting down some thoughts onto paper. There are also tasks around an office which need doing and which everyone puts of doing. Once I got everyone to muck in a clear the paperwork off all the shelves and sort what should be kept from what could get flung away; we’ve done planning on pieces of paper. By the way I have been a whole 2 years without seeing a yellow sticky or any other form of Post-it note either in use or available!

But doing something during power outs is not the usual state of affairs. Normally everyone has nothing to do ,so they sit around and chat.

This is grating on me more than usual this week! Perhaps it is because I am very busy working to complete things before leaving India. Perhaps it is people’s lack of initiative. Perhaps it is that managers don’t plan work for their subordinates to do during such times. Perhaps it is because I feel a little stressed. Probably it is all of the above and more. There you have it .

Reasons to feel stressed part 1

(1) Perhaps it is because one of the jobs I am doing is one I don’t really know how to do, I have never done before and I am not finding it straightforward to figure it out.

(2) Perhaps it is because one particular person in the office when he does not  have anything to do has the habit of standing beside me watching and asking inane questions. I have been through the polite requests not to do this. I have been through the assertive requests not to do this. I have been through the blatant “Go away” request. What to try next? Blockhead!

(3) Perhaps it is because having agreed a completion plan, new tasks keep being added. OK I know all about requirements creep and I can manage  prioritising and reprioritising no problem. But it is still reflective of the same lack of planning and lack of  urgency which abound here in India. Several of these tasks could have and should have been done months ago. Most required action on someone else behalf after my initial involvement and before my final involvement.

(4) I suspect the last few weeks are amongst the most stressful for volunteers - tying to get things finished, trying to get flights home arranged, trying to get your exit paperwork in order, trying to figure out what you will be doing when you get home, where to live, will you be able to find work

(5) I hate formal goodbyes and I just know there will be one here. Indians really like their formality, speeches etc. Me, I like to just quietly go.

(6) I took a gamble earlier this month and told my house agent to find new tenants now my existing ones have vacated amicably, so effectively I have no where to stay when I get home. If Plan A AND Plan B fall through  - sXXt ! :) 

Reasons to be cheerful  part 2

(1) I will have completed the whole 2 year placement! and with some nice sustainable work outcomes. Hooray! No mean achievement, girl!

(2) I am still financially solvent. I feel like giving a “I’m still standing” finger to those politicians, bankers and economists who mess with folks savings!

(3) I will get to eat cheese, and ham,  and lamb …

(4) I will get to drink cider, gin and tonics…..

(5) I will get to see friends and talk with them for more than 5 minutes

(6) I will get to show emotion, to hug and be hugged, to hold hands, dance and let my hair down

(7)  Plan A has always been to volunteer. As of this week, Plan A is looking at least feasible. I received a placement offer from VSO with a tentative start date of mid February 2012. The process is for me to consider this, do due diligence, and give a basic Yes/No response. Then if Yes, write up my reasons why I think I can do this role, send this to VSO for the recruiting NGO and await their decision. So for now I am in due diligence mode. There are pros and cons, not least because it is a poorly drafted  job description – why are all organisational development roles so poorly spec’ed out?  I’ll post more about my due diligence efforts in a separate post. For now, I’d love to hear from anyone with experience of living and working in Nigeria, or who can put me in touch with someone they know who has lived and worked there, especially if that was in the northern part of the country, Zaria city, Kaduna state to be precise.

And that all has to be weighed up against Plan B  - a tip to toe overland Africa trip

(8) Plan B has always been to go travelling, specifically I wanted to do an African transect. NSEW. Arab Spring makes North Africa crossing still a little fraught and recent developments in Kenya have to be watched closely, but one cannot live one’s life in fear and crossing the road is perhaps the most dangerous thing we do every day without giving its hazards more than a passing thought.  So the thought was to go with an overlanding truck group. Whilst would love to do it free style  and organised trips have their limitations, they also have the advantages of less hassle over driving and coping oneself with mechanical failures and for me just now the advantage of company after 2 years mainly on my own. Ok my ideal would be to hitch up the wagon with the right company, have a mechanic in our midst and go slow in 4x4 packed with tent, sleeping bag and spending numerous nights under the African skies by the camp fire. Dreams.  Reality could get close, but with the sacrifice of speed.

These trips have fixed start dates, with West coast route leaving in November before I get home. So I had been looking at just doing the East Coast route. But just when I think I had identified my first choice operator (trying to avoid the totally party time 18-30 type trips) this idea took a set back in October when they pulled out of running trips in Africa.  So back to the drawing board and what I have come up with is an other operator starts London in early April, crossing Europe, Istanbul, down through the Middle East, Cairo and then on down the east Coast route, crossing over via Botswana to Namibia and ending up in Cape Town in mid November? I’d love a companion – anyone interested? 

(9)  Plans for the period immediately after flying home on 12/13th November are slowly beginning to take shape. I am dependent on friends sofa and spare rooms until I can get dental  and medical checkups done formally should I take the VSO placement route. Also I need to get my eyes tested and new spectacles lenses in all my glasses and sunglasses. Mundane things but critical. I also need to buy clothes  - in typical girly fashion, “I have nothing to wear!” Time is constrained because I am heading back to Algeria so need to get  visa for there renewed. Hopefully all that can be completed by early December letting me spend 6 weeks or so chilling in the dry desert heat, by the camp fire, with good companions. Anyone else feel like coming? Then a few weeks back in the UK before either heading of on placement, or a slightly longer few weeks before heading of travelling. or something completely different, who knows!

reasons to be cheerful >>> reasons to be stressed = life is still  good!


  1. Gosh, I'm such a wimp. I have just been reading the various blogs of volunteers experiences in Nigeria and heard mention of regular all day power outs, and one volunteer who has no power for 20 days!!! Perhaps I better get re-used to drinking hot water, yuck, I never have worked out why it tastes better cold!

  2. Wow and I felt sorry for myself today when the power went out during a storm...for 3 hours.

    What a set of blogging you have going here Sheila.


  3. I browse I imagine your web site is obviously fascinating and weblog articles with this distinctive unique web site and h -AS acquired collections of tips which were amazing 부산달리기