Monday, March 15, 2010

the pee

I'm sitting here at Jason's office, actually it's not his office. His organization, Zimbabwe AHEAD, rents space from another local NGO. They've worked together for awhile and over a year ago, agreed to rent an office to Zim AHEAD. It's a nice enough place - an old home that has been added to and turned into a suitable offices - it's the way a lot of NGO's operate here. Last October and November, I came to the office every day with Jason to job search, work on cover letters and so I wasn't stuck at the house, unable to get anywhere or do anything during ZESA outages. After coming back this year, I decided that I didn't want to come to the office with him every day. One of the main reasons is because of the atmosphere here. I think it has a bad vibe. It sucks for Jason because he doesn't have much of a choice - he has to come to work! Usually I come to the office with him one or 2 days a week, so I can use the internet and continue the job search. Otherwise, I'm happy staying at home and trying to fill my hours without having to deal with the bad juju. I can't put my finger on exactly what the issue is but when it comes down to it, I think it's the people. NOT the people in Jason's specific office - his coworkers are great. It's actually everyone other person here that works for the other organization. They are the least friendly Zimbabwean's I've met so far. They are cold and don't bother to try to engage us in conversation.

The organization hires a caterer to bring in lunch, usually just the traditional stuff, sadza (pap) and chicken stew or beef stew. Nothing special and for $1.00, the price is right and it fills the hole. So we sit outside under the big thatched amphitheatre thing along with everyone else and no one invites us to join in their conversation. Mostly the conversation is in Shona and we don't understand what is being said but even when we're right there in the midst of it, there is no effort made to explain in English what is being said. If we come in after people are already seated, quiet greetings are exchanged and that's the extent of how we're acknowledged. I feel bad for Jason because he does this every day but he's better at not taking things personally than I am so he lets it go. Last week, there were a few more people than usual who ordered catering and by the time we made it out to get our plate, our plates had been taken so we had to go with dry chicken and rice. And then when we joined the group, there was space for one person and if shifting could happen, another could easily be squeezed in. No effort was made, there was barely any acknowledgement from the 12 people sitting around the table and finally, after awkwardly trying to add a chair, we just decided to sit at a table outside the area and really feel like the outsiders. It was a horrible feeling and confirmed why I don't like this office. It's the people. That and the crappy slow internet (but at least it's free).

Friday morning of last week, Jason and Innocent (the finance guy for Zim AHEAD) arrived to a notice that told them they had to vacate their office space by the end of the day. That's another thing about this place, they are NOT professional at all. Who gives less than one day notice? Not my issue to deal with so I tried not to care and just let Innocent deal with it. They arranged to move to a smaller office next door and this morning when we arrived, it was clear there was no space for me so I'm sitting outside under the thatched roof biding my time till lunch. Today I would have stayed home but I have a meeting with a woman from CARE to discuss possible volunteer or internship opportunities. In the meantime I'm being chomped by the millions of ants that they can't seem to get rid of - no matter what, they just crawl up the chair I'm sitting on as well as my feet and legs. They aren't serious or really the biting kind but they are a pain! And now I have to pee. Ideally I could just get up and go to the toilet and resolve the issue without a second thought. But it's not such an easy fix today. Evidently the municipal water that they have been relying on is gone. No water coming from the taps or flowing into the toilets. What's frustrating is that this organization's main focus is water and sanitation and they have not sorted out another backup, which most people in Harare and the rest of Zimbabwe did ages ago when the municipal water started to fail years ago. Where's the bore hole? Trucked in water? Aside from needing to pee, where am I going to wash my hands thoroughly before I dig into my lunch that I have to eat with my hands? In the bathroom they have hand washing posters to promote safe hygiene - except they have no water in there to wash your hands with! The irony.

Luckily my meeting is at a coffee shop just down the street so I'm sure I'll head over early to use the facilities there. It's unfortunate that the people are not friendly and they've created such a negative environment. I'm pretty sure they must feel threatened by the fact that Jason is now apart of Zim AHEAD and maybe that's why the cold shoulders. It sounds like they are on the hunt to find a new office, which can only be a good move!

Just another day in the life of Christy...

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