Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Very scary jetplanes

I'm supposed to be at a workshop in Thailand as of Sunday. Which puts me in the strange position of standing in the middle of the office, screaming at the footage of protesters in Bangkok on BBC going "Have the dang coup already!" See, I reckon that once they actually have the coup, everything'll be fine but, if they don't, who knows when some crowd in yellow headbands will interrupt my travel.

And this travel is going to be bucket loads of not fun. To start with, it is something along the lines of 28 hours in transit. My flight will go Juba to Kampala, Kampala to Addis, Addis to Bangkok, Bangkok to Chiang Mai. So that sucks. But that isn't the worst part.

The worst part is that we are bringing local partners with us, women who work as volunteers for small, innovative local organizations here on the ground. This all sounds wonderful, right, and it is. Three or four months ago we told them about this trip to Thailand and then began the HUGE job of getting them passports and visas and yellow fever vaccines and notarized letters from their husbands allowing them to travel and luggage locks. All good.

Then last week my program officer is talking to one of them and she's says something about Uganda. The PO looks at her oddly and says "What's in Uganda?" "Thailand" the Sudanese woman says "Isn't it a town in Uganda?"

Oh sweet lord. The woman thought we were going to a conference across the border, not across the world. We started to explain to her the distance we would be traveling on a plane (sample question: "How will I go to the toilet?), the fact that we were going to an Asian country (sample quote: "They're almost white!") etc etc etc. Panic, of course, ensues and lots of frantic communications between husbands and money being set aside for children.

My PO and I were talking about it later, we were wondering if we were wrong to just assume that they knew what Thailand was. There are so many things we take for granted and I do wonder sometimes how much of my conversations with staff goes straight over their head whilst they smile and nod politely at me.

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