October 4 Briefing
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September 30 The beginning
October 1 Paris
October 2 Conakry
October 3 Freetown
October 4 Briefing
October 5 Laurent & Me
October 6 The field
October 7 Nearly in Charge
October 8 The phone
October 10 No Generator
October 11 My Life
October 14 How much Missing?
October 19 My Informants
October 22 Always do it yourself
October 27 Why an Evaluation?
November 9 The Donors
November 20 R&R was great!
November 21 Is this me?
November 27 No Project !!!
December 3 The Beach
December 10 The Office
December 17 Club Med
December 24 Tuscan Rendering
December 30 Sienna Cream
January 7 It's Personal
January 14 Caring!!
January 21 Getting to know You
January 28 Need Assesments
February 5 Closer
February 12 Police Harassment
February 22 Beyond Borders
March 1 Obsession
March 8 It's Time (nearly)
March 10 Radio Silence
March 18 Represntation
March 31 Assessments
April 10 Re-Assessment
April 20 Security Matters
April 30 You can never have too much!!
May 6 The Strong Leader
May 14 The Times They are a Changing
May 25 Richard the Third head of mission
June 2 Learning Opportunity
June 10 Indecent Proposal
June 13 The Handover
June 14 Evaluation Time
June 17 Debt, Drugs and Pot Plants
June 17 In Transit
June 24 Home Alone
June 29 Knowing Me Knowing You aha!
July 1 THE END

["The immigration officials said that since I didn't have any money on me on Saturday, that I had tried to bribe a customs official with a stinking piece of Camembert cheese and some chocolate."]

Monday October 4th

11:00pm: Well it was a really tough day and a bit of a bad start to my mission, but it can only get better. I got up early since I was still Jet-lagged, had breakfast early on the balcony and watched the sunrise over the mountains. The residence is right on the bay in Freetown and a really beautiful spot. The city stretches to the south along the coast and some fishing boats were coming into the bay and some others had finished off-loading and were tying up just below me. I guess I started to finally realize that I am in Africa, something I had dreamed of ever since I was a kid and saw the movie Ghandi. I met the Financial Administrator, Anne before she left to work she seemed pretty nice. She's the only other person in this house at the moment.

Well the Head of Mission Laurent De Loop picked me up at 10:00am and was really in a bad mood and said to me that Immigration had rung him up asking where I was. The immigration officials said that since I didn't have any money on me on Saturday, that I had tried to bribe a customs official with a stinking piece of Camembert cheese and some chocolate. I said that I wasn't trying to bribe them, I was just explaining what I had in my bag and then the conversation got a bit out of hand when I mentioned the issue of humanitarian access for essential relief items. They got pretty angry over this comment and called me an idiot. Laurent had this kind of amazed look on his face at this point and turned the radio up and so I thought the conversation was over.

We went into the immigration office and Laurent told me not to say anything, the immigration official was really angry and so was the customs official as well. They said to Laurent what had happened, which was pretty different to my version of events. Laurent said he was sorry and that I was deeply sorry. He said that I had never been to Africa before and that I acted in an immature way. This completely untrue, I had been to South Africa with some mates from Uni in 1995 for the rugby world cup. They also said that Hope wasn't a registered non-governmental organization in the country, and although the government had not charged duty on our imports before it would be from now on. Laurent said if they did it would cost hundreds of thousands dollars more to run our operations. They said if we wanted the boxes from customs that we had to pay $3,000 USD to get them out charging 100% customs duty on the goods. Laurent was getting pretty angry but thanked the officials for some reason anyway.

We left and Laurent said he had been working on the registration for the NGO for 9 months and he expected it in a few weeks so it shouldn't cause to many problems. However we would have to pay the  $3,000 for the boxes. So we went back to the office and then I spoke to Christian the Logistic Co-ordinator he's from Belgium and we had a good talk and he explained heaps of things to me in a general kind of way, since we didn't have time to get into specifics. I said I knew what its like, working as a sales Engineer I always found it hard to explain things in detail. Then he asked did the satellite phone and the HF radio come with me. Then I explained what happened. He got a bit upset and said he couldn't believe that I had got in such a mess and seemed a bit pissed off. He said he had called the Paris office constantly for a few weeks trying to get them here. They are vital for security and now they are going to take a few week of negotiations to get them out of customs and that his communications budget has been blown for the year. Well it sounded like pretty poor planning on Christians part if his budget was already blown.

Next I had a briefing with Anne the financial Administrator, we had a good talk about how to run the bookkeeping, but didn't have time to go into specifics. I think I have a good general picture I think. Then she asked did I have any receipts and I showed her the receipt for excess baggage and she really flipped. She said how could you let yourself pay such a bill of 523 Euros. She sort had this stunned look. Well I would have liked to have seen what she would have done in my position.

I didn't get to meet the health Advisor or the Food Security officer since they were in the field I think.  

We all had dinner this evening and it was pretty relaxed and when we were having coffee, Christian with a bit of a smile asked me if I brought anything from Paris. Then Laurent asked where is the piece of Camembert you tried to bribe the customs official with. That comment relieved the tension a bit and everyone laughed. Then I explained what had happened to the chocolates, cheese and wine etc. They seemed a bit disappointed and they were a bit quiet. I suppose they would have liked a treat. We went to a nice local bar, the Concorde. Christian is pretty popular with lots of the local girls, everyone seemed to know him. I think Anne likes Christian a bit or there had been something between them, she seemed a bit jealous when Christian was talking to his female friends. Christian is sort of an unusual guy to be surrounded by beautiful women, he's pushing 40 a bit overweight and has that ruddy complexion from someone who likes a drink. Hey but good luck to him.

I came back with Anne to the house a little while ago, so I think I'll climb into bed. I guess I have learnt a lot over the last few days. How to deal with officials in these type of countries, learning about the struggles of the people. Well this is all part of being a Humanitarian and Wow! what a roller coaster.

 

 

 

 

Dave (me)  Claudia

 Angelina   Ricardo  

 Claude      Christian

 Jen             Petra

 Bono          Dick

  Anne         Peter

 Veronique   Richard