This weekend I got together with a couple colleagues for lunch in Defense Colony. We had South Indian food, thali, which is a collection of poori (puffed and fried bread-type thing), rice, papad, and Things You Dip The Starchy Stuff In. Here’s an example, but this is a Google image, not exactly what we had.
Anyway, apparently <6 weeks here qualifies me as a tour guide, so I spent the rest of Saturday with the new intern from the States. We went to the market, found some Indian clothes and we found a bookstore too. On Sunday I tried to find the yoga place, but it is so hard to find anything here! I did eventually get there, but only after 1.5 hours of walking in the midday 45˚C heat. It’s supposedly within walking distance, but there are no street names and the blocks, which go by letter, aren’t obviously sequential, at least not to me, so I ended up just going up and down random alleys I knew were in the general vicinity. I did eventually get there, but by this time yoga was over and I was seriously reconsidering whether or not I wanted to register for a class that will probably make me sweat on purpose. So I did grocery shopping and went home (drenched) and collapsed for the rest of the day, downloaded a yoga app, watched the rest of Community Season 2, and read a book. How productive. I have to keep reminding myself that profuse sweating is a sign that my thermoregulatory system is functioning optimally. It also feels gross and means I do a lot of laundry – but no sunburn or heatstroke yet!
I came across a strange conversation starter, wherein someone asks someone else “Do you have AC?” The thing about people asking this is that it actually implies there is an alternative to having AC. It’s so bloody hot, and what’s weird (from a Canadian viewpoint) is that it doesn’t cool off at night. It goes down to the mid-30s from the mid-40s, but it doesn’t ever really break. You can’t just wake up early and go for a walk before it gets hot – it’s still going to be hot no matter when you try to go outside. The bricks and tiles are always warm, like if I lean against the counter or wall when I’m in the kitchen I can feel the heat through my clothes. I’ve heard you can actually blister your hands on the steering wheel of a car too.
Work-wise, things are still a little slow. I don’t think it’s me, everyone is a little confused and hesitant about this whole shift to a program approach from the current project approach so it’s difficult to get my work going in the midst of that. We decided that the interviews I did in Hyderabad are not sufficient to stand alone as case study, but can be used as supporting examples if we use SAKSHAM as a case study in itself for community mobilization approach. I still need the “how” part of how community mobilization takes place, and the answer is slow coming… I can’t invent it, but people seem unable to tell me. We can’t just pretend it’s intuitive if we want to use this as a potential model and position ourselves as a knowledgeable organization in the field of community mobilization approaches. In the meantime, I’m learning about case method teaching, theories of change, and organizational knowledge management. There’s still a lot of debate on this though within the organization… I’m finding that people at CARE are really good at identifying challenges and barriers and in broad terms what needs to be done, but less skilled at working towards implementation or solutions. It feels like everyone is waiting for something, but nothing is moving forward in the absence of real ownership and buy-in. I think there are a lot more differences between my Pfizer work and CARE’s work that I hadn’t initially been aware of either: it’s not just the difference between private and non-profit sectors or Western and Eastern work styles, but the difference between science and social science too. Sometimes when I’m looking at the theory of change stuff it almost looks like religious or spiritual training materials and it feels like the written discussion is going in circles. I have the stereotypical reductionist science mentality of “just SAY it! Minimal word count! Can’t this be summarized in a table?” so it feels like a lot of reading for a minimal increase in understanding. Ah well… I know better than to try to “proceduralize” community mobilization, but surely there is a way to capture this knowledge, taking into account geo-social context, impact populations, and respective roles of NGOs and communities, and actually have some sort of deliverable, adaptable, usable end result. In any event, they seem to like my writing so far so I’ll probably be doing more of that.
It sounds like I might be doing more field visits too. West Bengal was mentioned in a telecon yesterday; there’s a project there using community mobilization approaches in rural villages to try to hold government health service providers more accountable to their constituencies, and there’s another project in Uttar Pradesh where CARE is involving peer educators for family planning services in urban slums. So we’ll see, I might be travelling again.
News from the home front (aka Little Things I Miss):
My brother Noel should have landed by now in Rio de Janeiro for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. He had to work fast to get ready in time, but the Brazilian Embassy was very cooperative with his visa when they found out it was for the UN and even waived his fees! My cats, currently causing structural damage to his place, are going off to torture my long-suffering mother while he’s in Brazil.
My other brother returned last night from a week-long 150km solo canoe trip to Temagami in northeastern Ontario. I’m missing the canoe season entirely this year so next summer we’ll have to make up for it. Here are a couple pics he got of beautiful Temagami:
Two of the three dogs (mine and my brother’s), who were enjoying Golden Retriever Summer Camp at my uncle’s place in the country while my brother was swatting mosquitoes paddling, have also returned to mom’s house. I wonder how it feels to be her, with a constant rotation of furballs in need of a temporary home due to her adventuring children. She’s such a good sport, managing 3 dogs and 5 cats! And also, I probably owe her a big gift that is NOT a kitten.
This weekend, I have tentative plans to go to Haridwar, a pilgrimage city which is up in Uttarakhand (north of Delhi) where the Ganges enters the Indo-Gangetic plains of North India. Still have to see about this though. Other than that, not too much new…
Oh, and Safety? I heard about the Wine and Cheese. Sounds fantastic. Guess what we’re doing when I come home…. 🙂