Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thoughts of Future

First, I do want to agree with Nilusha about the corruption factor here (see comment on last post). I haven't actually seen it first hand (it isn't like Kazakhstan where everyone expects a bribe from you), but I have heard quite a bit. So, yes, probably a great deal of the tsunami donations went into the politicians pockets. And as I said in my last post, a lot of it went to pay expats. [I'd like to note here for new readers that I am not on an expat salary -- I make an incredibly modest local salary.]

Yesterday four people from Trinco stayed at the house. I guess they were going to drive back during the night, but as there has been some recent bombings in Trinco, they decided to travel during the day today. This is all reasonable and I completely understand. What I don't understand is why when people come to our house they don't take off their shoes? It is clear that we do -- there is a shelf filled with shoes by the door. So I asked my team: this is considered rude here and when people go to the Ladies' Hostel they do take off their shoes. And it rained yesterday, so now the floor is a total mess! And I just cleaned the bathroom and it is a total mess too! My team did say that there is a problem with people not being considerate when they stay temporarily at the hostels. This definitely needs to be addressed because it is not really a hostel, it is our home.

This led me to thinking about the future here -- my next six months. I've decided I've sat back and expected things to happen long enough. I am going to be more forceful when I return from the holidays. [Those of you who know me probably think this is crazy because I'm known for speaking my mind. I've been rather uncharacteristically timid here and it stops now.] I'm going to insist on getting out into the field more. I've realized (rather recently) that the reason we don't go is because my coworkers don't actually like going to the field, even though it is part of their job. But I was promised regular trips to the field to actually witness the work and well, I'm ready for that to be delivered. I was telling my team yesterday that I haven't even seen a tank (their ancient irrigation system that is still in use and highly affective), but I wrote an entire research paper on them!

And I'm going to make things smoother for future foreigners. Actually, I'm going to suggest to Sewalanka that they completely stop hiring foreigners, but I'm sure that won't fly. So I'm going to create some documents to help the new people -- I'm going to ask Barbara and Aya to provide information too. Basically, as I told Ms. Kumari the other day, they provide no orientation for us. We are expected to read their minds when it comes to Sewalanka policy and procedures. They have monthly staff meetings, but they are in Sinhala so we don't attend, but no one bothers to tell us what happened. They all got new i.d.'s the other month and no one told us -- Aya and I do not have i.d.'s but were recently told we should! Why not include us when they do it for the rest of the staff.

[Ben just came in and interrupted me to ask when we get paid. This is a perfect example of how little information we are provided when we arrive. I actually missed my first payday and started asking around if I would ever actually be paid and then someone said, "oh, they handed out salaries last week."]

So these are my early New Year's resolutions. I'm going to be more forceful. I will not live in fear of being called the "difficult foreigner" just because I have questions that need answers. Why can other Sewalanka staff sit in Ms. Kumari's office for hours asking her questions, but when we ask one we are brushed aside and told we are being difficult? This attitude has to change.

As for Theo (my palm squirrel, I've named her after my grandma even though my grandma hates her name), she is still around. I haven't noticed more nesting material, but I saw her yesterday. She is getting bolder. She stared right at me for a good two minutes before deciding she should probably leave. I'm waiting for her to feel so at home that she walks across the floor. She looked plump -- maybe I'll have baby palm squirrels when I return from the holidays.

I also have a another room creature -- a miniature gecko named Biff. Most of the geckos never leave the walls (unless it is to hang out in the party that is our garbage can), but Biff lives exclusively on the floor area between my fan and my laundry basket. He eats the multitude of dead bugs that find their way to my floor (so many that he can't even eat them all!). He is very frightened of me and will not sit still for a photo, no matter how hard I try. He is about 1.5 inches long; he has been around for a month and has not grown, so I think he is some subspecies of gecko that are just smaller. His skin looks a little rougher too.

Two more days until I'm on my way home for the holidays.

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