Thursday, October 22, 2009

welcome to the jungle

I wonder if it's a coincidence that it snowed in the Northeast right after I left for Indonesia?  Well according to Master Shifu there are no coincidences, so we'll go with no.  The landscape here is absolutely beautiful and it feels like a jungle even when it's urban, a bit of that is the heat and humidity, but part of it is all the palm trees and the roads lined with stands full of tropical fruit!

So I made it here after long hours of traveling and watching more moves and tv shows than I can count. I've managed to make quite a few fast friends on the way which has been helpful and hopefully forecasts a very nice trip. A friend on the plane from the US had his driver bring me to another terminal where my plane was to leave from so I'd make it on time. Sadly said airline lost my reservation and I stayed the night in Jakarta, but the effort was appreciated. I also made a friend at the place I am staying who offered to take me out to dinner last night. He was here for four years after the tsunami and said he'd want someone to look after his daughter who is my age if she was here. So did he take me for sate or noodles or Padang or Aceh food? Nope! Pizza and beer! (Medium pizza, $4, 1 can of beer $4) Who knew it could be found here. Apparently the owner, who is originally from Aceh, was living in Italy at the time of the tsunami and decided to come back and try to help get businesses started again. Now he's got a pizza place, a bungalow for guests, a fish farm and is starting a surf school soon. It was a delicious evening and through talking to Robby, who works in microfinance, and a couple other ex-pats in the restaurant I got a very interesting take on what's going on here.

Apparently the organization that hired my consulting firm is among many that are shutting down the majority of their operations, given that it's now five years after the tsunami and the emergency and even redevelopment phases are now winding down.  But it seems that millions of dollars when unspent and all this money has been turned over to the World Bank, who is now sub-granting out to organizations doing finance and economy related projects, both micro and macro, in order to continue building and growing the economy here. Aside from any prejudices I or anyone have about the World Bank, it's an innovative solution to a brand new problem. More money for aid and development than everyone knew what to do with.

So back to my work, for now I'm working with a team of national staff to interview staff from the organization as well as members of the government and other NGOs to get at their thoughts and perceptions of the work and it's successes and failures. Then the plan is to head out to the field on Tuesday and start gathering data through interviews, surveys and focus groups.  The countryside is supposed to be beautiful, so I'll be posting lots of pictures soon. But here's a picture of the Grand Mosque, which is absolutely on my itinerary for this weekend.

Take care and keep warm!

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