Jingle bells, how rubbish is Hels…?

I have single handedly failed to send Christmas cards this year. I apologise.

However, in my defense…1). I have been living in Africa until a few days ago and 2). I was banking on cards, stamps and a post box in Heathrow..1 of which failed to materialise so it was either postcards from London for everyone or….

a blogged best wishes so here I go…

Wishing you a very merry Christmas! I am very impressed you have managed to have a word with the man upstairs and make it feel very Christmassy for us returning Brits…very festive! Thank you!

I hope this year has been good to you. I have felt incredibly lucky this year and had some truly amazing experiences.

So I raise a glass (of mum’s mulled wine if you want to know!) to a fabulous Christmas and a truly smashing 2010.

See you next year!

p.s and lets face it THIS is what a family Christmas is all about…(and yes that IS the chef still wearing his cooking apron!)

Our HR department ‘bush-style’

The last few weeks we have been recruiting and training new demining teams. We try to recruit locally wherever possible so this recruitment drive was very much based out in the bush!

Once we have our teams it’s time for some HR admin…this is how we do contract signing in the bush…

Man sits down, ask his name, he says a weird and wonderful name like Viola Mesa (roughly translated from local language to Portuguese to English this is Violin Table). Ask how to spell it in local language, he doesn’t know so write phonetically.

Ask if he is single or married, he says married. Legally married? Does he have a ‘wife’ or a ‘woman’? (There is a difference! Over here men sometimes ‘take a wife’ so they might never legally marry the women they spend their lives with but they will consider themselves married and refer to their partner as their wife. We need to know which one it is for insurance and the like).

It’s particularly confusing as the word for woman is mulher, there is no word for wife so they use mulher!

Complete all his details like his address…normally along the lines of the white house next to the big tree in so and so village.

Ask him if he can read. If yes he reads his contract, if no we read it to him.

Ask him if  he can he write, if yes he writes his name to sign his contract. If no we smear his finger with ink and press his fingerprint onto the bottom of the contract.

All of this is done sitting at our good old plastic table and chairs, in the shade of a huge mango tree, weighting down contracts from blowing away in the breeze with rocks plucked off the ground next to us, with me dashing off every few minutes to print another contract from my dusty old printer stashed in the back of my landrover and being powered off the car battery!

It’s HR but for sure not as we know it in England!

                                Contract signing ‘bush-style’

40 litres on your head

The last few weeks have been tough, and tiring, and frustrating…hence radio silence on the blog for a while. After a rough day in the field the last thing I wanted to do was sit down and re-live the day by writing about it. It would probably have been slightly therapeutic but still not enough to motivate me to do it.

In all honesty more often than not (don’t read this part mum!) I hit the bottle! Ok so not seriously but sometimes a strong G+T is the only thing which hits the spot. Anyhow, its medicinal..well the tonic part is…and the gin just makes it taste nicer!

So having set up one new programme I thought setting up the second would be child’s play. A few things I failed to factor in however – the first time round I had a good support team…an accountant, an ops officer, a storeman, a logistician…this time round the accountant was…well…me! Oh yes and the ops officer, the storeman and logisitician all rolled into one.

This programme is meant to be just an extension of my existing programme but that’s easier said than done when the 2 programmes are 7 hours drive away (NOT on a good road!).

In the words of a journalist who recently interviewed me, I was running the programme out of “a rudimentary shelter serving as an office” (The devil is in the detail) so after a few weeks of hardship I was ready to start sleeping in a bed again surrounded by 4 brick walls.

On one of my last days in the field I had a wee chat with a couple of young children. Next to our camp was the local well, the water supply for hundreds of families, and each morning I watch the local women lining up to fill their jerry cans before starting their long walk back home to begin their chores.

To be honest the whole thing was quite amusing as this water hole was quite the local mothers meeting…all sorts of gossip was passed down the line as the women patiently waited their turn.

This morning 2 children turned up so I went over to speak to them. Although shy at first the older, slightly bolder of the two girls eventually gave me a small smile, told me her name was Maria and she was 10 years old. She had been sent with her little sister to collect water for the family.

Walking 2 kms to the well she fills up a 40 litre jerry can, hoists it on to her head and walks the 2 kms home (her little sister is ‘in training’ so only has to carry 20 litres!).

As I helped her hoist her dripping bright yellow container onto her head I asked her if she goes to school, she said sometimes. I asked her how often she has to collect water and she said every day. She is 10 years old!

Maybe my few weeks living in a tent and working from my ‘rudimentary office’ is not so tough after all!