Tuesday, December 3, 2013

In-Country Briefing

Hello Ethiopia. So this is how a balcony photo call feels like!
Finally met the other volunteers (my intake batchmates, is what we'd say back in the Philippines). I first met four of them, Elias (Hospital Admin, Kenya), Consolata (Midwife, Uganda), Simon (Educ Policy, UK), Trish (Paediatric Nurse, UK), at lunch -- we were all billeted at the same hotel. They arrived a day or so earlier than me, so they already had a chance to get acquainted with each other. Then, there was Irma (MD, The Netherlands) and -- (Nurse, USA), whom we met at the VSO-E (VSO Ethiopia) country office.

The In-Country Briefing (supposedly In-Country Seminar aka ICS, for the regular intake which is every February and September, but since we came in off-season, and are a smaller bunch, we only get a briefing, an abridgement of the ICS sans the language courses, etc.) would take about 3-4 days. It was the usual briefing, mostly VSOE-related, administrative, this first day. Hearing the monthly allowance we would be getting (uniform for all volunteers in Ethiopia, not divulged in the home country orientations only the assurance that we'll get enough to live modestly and even get some extra for beer on weekends), most everyone groaned (in silence), having been acquainted, in the past day or so, with some of the costs of commodities here.

Before coming here, I knew the going monthly allowance here actually, from a rate card published in the VSO India website (the only recruitment to do so, I think), which upon my shock on learning how low it was (gosh!), I readily scrambled to google blogs of VSO volunteers in Ethiopia, present and past, to scan through any mention of the elusive amount in birr called our monthly allowance. Alas, I found one that mentioned "it" -- it was true then, not only will I be a volunteer, I would be an especially penurious volunteer (so not like the experiences shared by former volunteers during SKWID training). Oh well, Ethiopia must be really that less developed, I'd had thought. All the more, it needs me. (Naive!)

Oh well. We talked about "it" and then some, amongst ourselves, prudently. How are we going to survive with that? I don't want to spend my savings subsidizing the already pro bono lending of my expertise in this fragile country.  No fridge? How are we gonna store food? Ahh, newbie volunteers!

Welcome to Ethiopia.

Cheers! Trish and I met up with a volunteer (Trish's would-be roommate in Hossana) and a former volunteer (MD's, The Netherlands) at the hugely popular (to ferenji's at least) Beer Garden. 
First ICB session. Kate, your thermal mug's traveled all the way to Africa!
Writings on the wall.

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