It’s 8:15 a.m. (Philippine time) and I just got out of bed, still feeling a little bit dizzy from the turbulent flight from Manila last night. I can barely move both my arms as they still feel numb from the four vaccine shots I had in the last two days. Today, I am scheduled for two more, but I don’t think I can take them. I will have to pass and see if I can have them on Friday. I need to have all the protection I need before I fly to Ethiopia on the thirty-first.
For those of you who don’t know yet, I have been accepted for a two-year placement to do development work in Africa through Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). I have been lucky enough to be offered a nice placement in Ethiopia, the seat of one of the oldest living civilizations, but at the same time considered as one of the poorest nations in the world. (But we’ll talk about Ethiopia later.)
I will be working as a physical therapist in Gondar University Hospital, providing PT services to the local patients and at the same time training my colleagues and establishing a registration and referral system in the PT department. Sounds easy and clear-cut, right? Unfortunately, development work is not as simple as it sounds. As I learned from the five-day WRV (Wider Role of Volunteers) training held last week (January 14-18) , every volunteer needs to get out of his or her shell and think out of the box to be effective. In my case, this means having to mainstream HIV and AIDS awareness and gender sensitivity in my workplace, build individual capacities through team building activities and trainings, promote transfer of skills through workshops and networking, and maybe even raise funds to support the projects I will propose. Well, there could be lots more, and I don’t think the five-day course was enough to brace me for development work—a concept which is not unfamiliar (as I live in a developing country) but at the same time is still somewhat new to me.
In less than ten days, I will be in a strange country, alone. How scary is that? I just learned that I will be the only Filipino VSO volunteer in my placement and that there are not many Filipinos in Gondar.
I am yet to wash and pack the clothes I am going to bring to Africa. Ethiopians, I learned from Google, are smart but conservative dressers. So I will have to shop for slacks, formal blouses, skirts that fall below the knee, and corporate dresses—no shorts, sleeveless blouses, see-through material, tight jeans, etc. Meaning, I will basically leave three-fourths of my entire wardrobe behind.
I was robbed last New Year’s eve and lost everything valuable including my indentification cards and professional license. I have yet to have them replaced, and I’m running out of time.
Panic! Panic! Panic!
I am going to Ethiopia on the thirty-first.