Feb 1, 2008

Weeks 33-34

Week 33

We had a good time in Agou Avedze last week. It was nice to visit a small village after being in Lomé for a few days. We had a good time and got another volunteer hooked on Battlestar Galactica (I have the first two seasons on my laptop). Nadia and the Peace Corps Admin Officer didn't quite finish the preparations for their presentation on how to create and manage a project budget, so Nadia headed back down to Lomé on Monday. Then she went up to the Peace Corps Training Center in Pagala, in the western area of Togo about halfway up-country. She came back on Wednesday and said the presentation went well.

While she was gone, I met with an ecotourism organisation in Kpalimé. They received some donated laptops a few years ago, and now they need some general maintenance. It looked like the fan had gone out on one. I couldn't get the case open to see if it was fixable. The other one seemed to just be loading up too much junk at startup. The director of the organization said he's interested in taking the laptops out to villages without power to give brief introductory classes to students. I'm not sure the batteries are up for the trip, but I respect that they're sharing their resources.

We didn't do a whole lot else this week. Our French tutor didn't show up for class on Wednesday or Saturday and hasn't answered our phone calls or text messages. I hope he's ok. We cancelled a few times on him last month, but he didn't mention that he was unhappy with the class situation last week when we saw him. He's supposed to start an English club with Nadia next month, too, so I'm really surprised that he dropped out of contact.

I tried out the free thin client software I mentioned last week. 2X ThinClientServer offers more configuration options than I think I need, but ThinServer's live CD was simple enought to not really need any upkeep. Unfortunately, I just realized that the old Pentium machine at the microfinance institution that I was going to use a smart terminal has no network card. Sometimes I feel like the guy that said, "If I had some cheese, I could have ham and cheese...If I had some ham." Ah well, we'll work with what we've got. I hate to ask the director of the microfinance institution to order a new card that costs 9000 FCFA (around $20). Maybe someone in Kpalimé is willing to sell a used PCI or ISA network card.

I get frustrated because I literally used to throw old hardware like that in the garbage. Here in Togo, it would be incredibly useful. Qu'est-ce qu'on va faire?

On a brighter note, I think I've got a pretty complete set of requirements for ICEC's computerization project, and Nadia helped me solidify the necessary business process changes. I'm confident that they are capable of sustaining this new paperless system, and I'm confident that the new system will help the employees do their jobs more effectively and more efficiently.

Week 34

Nadia and I spent Monday through Thursday in Pagala with our homologues (in-country counterparts) for a seminar on funded community projects. I found a few sessions useful. Nadia's presentation on budget management was very good, and we had some interesting discussions on raising funds within the community. Several sessions turned into open forums for complaints, though, and I have very little patience for such things.

I don't think my homologue really felt like he got much out of the training, which is unfortunate since the seminar is more for the homologues than the volunteers. Thus far, I've primarily focused on my role as a business/technical consultant, so neither I nor my homologue and have really thought about community-wide projects. This seminar really required me to start thinking more about the needs of the community at large. It's tough since I live in a city. I guess I'll need to identify a subset of the population.

Next Monday, Nadia will start her training on Excel at ICEC (her homologue's microfinance institution), so I'm helping her get the training materials together. I'm going to spend next week trying to branch out more into the community. I'll talk to a few businesses about my availability to help with IT-related issues. I may even try doing some simple community-need analysis exercises like community maps or seasonal calendars or something. I think I'm spending too much time at CIFAID (my homologue's cyber café).


Anonymous said...

I miss y'all!!! Thanks for the updates; it's great knowing what goes on in Togo. I'm so proud of you and look forward to hearing more from y'all. We'll be in Turkey sometime in May, and I expect y'all to visit. Love you both so much! Claire

Tristan McInnis said...

Thanks, Claire! And thanks for the Christmas stuff. We just got it. We especially enjoyed the letters from everybody. It's nice to get updates from everybody in the family.

So you guys are going to Turkey like a month after the wedding? I'll bet you're pretty busy at the moment. Good luck with all the preparations!