Sunday, September 26, 2010

Working 9 to 5

Have you missed me? It's been a while since my last blog post but as promised here's my blog post about my work. I've been trying to come up with thesis ideas in the weeks since I last posted a la Beautiful Mind (before you realise he's schizophrenic) so hopefully news on thesis shortly.

I am on placement with WUSC-Sri Lanka (duh?) and I'm based in the Badulla office which is located in the Southern region of the country and responsible for programming in not only Badulla but also the surrounding districts.

My official job title is Junior Program Officer - Micro-credit and Employment Services and as part of my work here I'll be working in Badulla, Hambantota, Moneragala and Matara.

A primary focus of WUSC's work here is the empowerment of women and marginalised youth thus these are the key target groups for all the developmental efforts here in country which includes the provision of Vocational Training and micro-credit. Presently there is a shift towards building the capacity of the local partners and less focus on direct implementation by WUSC.

As part of the capacity building efforts, the first task which I am working on is the design of a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) system for micro-credit organisations. The system will hopefully address the deficits in reporting which presently exist as well as allow these organisations to track their performance and improve their sustainability.

Right now I'm working on visiting these organisations and assessing their present M&E structures. This part has been a bit challenging given the language barrier but I am trying. I have managed to pick up a little Sinhala. So far most of my vocabulary is limited to issues of microcredit or buying vegetables in the market and while I know how to ask the questions - understanding the responses is a different issue.

During the course of the year I will also be working with micro-credit partners to expand the range of service currently provided to clients; Vocational Training partners to develop or strengthen production units, and the Regional Employment Strategy for the South.

So that's a brief over view of what I'm doing here for the next 9 months - time is flying quickly lol. And it shouldn't be so long before my next update...


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hot Food and Iced Tea

I'm a thinker. I like to theorise. After my first year in Canada I presented my hypothesis on Public Displays of Affection (PDAs) and how they are affected by the prevailing climate.

For those of you not familiar with this piece of research the theory states that PDAs are more socially accepted in cold countries as a function of the human need for body heat during the winter months. This is why one sees more couples "hugging up" in Canada than one would find in Barbados i.e. Barbados is too hot for that madness. [You may cite this study as Lubin, 2008]

I'd now like to present the preliminary findings of my time here in Sri Lanka thus far.

Hypothesis A: Hot Food and Iced Tea
I drink juice. I'm not a soda person in fact I have never really acquired a taste for it. I'm a big fan of juice and since my migration to Canada I have become a huge fan of iced tea which is usually my beverage of choice when out for dinner but I haven't had iced tea here in Sri Lanka. Only hot tea!

In Sri Lanka there is morning tea which is usually served around 10.30/11 and an afternoon tea around 2.30. Initially, I assumed this to be remnants of a colonial history and well Ceylon is the home of tea but further investigation revealed a more interesting source of this Sri Lankan affinity for hot tea.

"Come and eat while the food is hot" OR "At least have a cup of hot tea to break the air." We've all heard these admonitions, the latter especially if you grew up in the Caribbean (it's a mantra for older people). Sri Lanka however seems to have a different take on the matter of consuming hot food.

When I say a different take I mean what I can only term as an aversion to the idea. I have yet to have a hot meal other than what I have prepared on my modest stove at home. I recently spent the past week in Matara with a host family and was called each day to meals just as they were ready but they were always cold. I also visited a buffet with my supervisor and was shocked to see fans positioned directly over the food (which I assume was to chase flies) but served also to ensure that the food was room temperature at best.

I was thus led to the conclusion that given that meals apparently are never consumed hot, Sri Lankans consume multiple cups of hot tea daily to "break the air".

Hypothesis B: Flies and Spice
As noted in an earlier edition of this blog, on occasion one's meal may be thronged by flies. I have noticed however a reduction in my level of annoyance by their presence. Indeed I still have not completely over come my disdain for the creatures but have reached an uneasy tolerance for them.

I have found that one is less disgusted when one believes that it is not a fly but indeed black pepper in the food. And the movement of that piece of spice as you stretch your hand towards the food is the function only of a perfectly timed gust of wind.

Next week I'll be giving you a taste of my real research and work in Sri Lanka so stay tuned.