Livin’ the high life

It's been nice to be livin' the high life this week. I've got television
(with 6 different channels!), a hot shower, a wide variety of vegetables and
cold beer in bottles. Ah, yes, the good life! One really learns to
appreciate the small things in life living in a village.

Before coming over to Honiara for this training workshop, I had started to
lose weight, which I was pleased with. I need to lose about 15lbs or 8kg and
I had started on that path. I thought I'd set a goal for how much I'd lose
before getting back to Buala and my scale, but that went out the window. I
decided it was better to take advantage of the opportunity to load up on
vitamins (in the form of tomatoes, greens, eggs and all sorts of delectable
foods that are rare in Buala). I also noticed that eating a lot of carbs
made my run the following morning much stronger and faster (hmm). So now my
goal is simply to maintain the few pound loss I'd already achieved, which I
think I have, but I'll know for sure on Wednesday morning.

There was a little "blub" in the June Runner's World which I was just
reading which said that when people cut back on their training, they gain
weight (duh) and that women need to run at least 30 miles a week to lose
weight. Aha! This past week I ran 32 miles, so I'm right on track.

The training workshop I came to Honiara for was on Planning and Budgeting
for the folks in the Provincial Governments who are involved in our program.
Part of the PGSP (Provincial Government Strengthening Programme) is a grant
for development work in the Provinces called the PCDF (Provincial Capital
Development Fund) which is funded 50% by donors and 50% by the Solomon
Islands government. There are rules about planning, budgeting, procurement,
accounting, etc. related to the PCDF which we intend that they implement not
only for this fund, but more generally in the Provinces. So this workshop
was part of our capacity building along those lines. Of course, the whole
project has been very delayed, so the planning process for 2009-2010, which
should have begun back in June or July, they were just getting trained in at
the end of November. Before we came over to Honiara, I met with the Premier,
the Deputy Provincial Secretary and the Treasurer, and we looked at the
planning and budgeting process and timeline. We decided what things we would
cut out of the process and what we had to do in order to have a reasonable
development plan to present to the Provincial Assembly in March. There is
still a ton of work to do between now and then – and at least a month when
most people will be on holiday – so (hopefully actually) it's going to be a
busy time when we get back.

It is particularly important that Isabel Province gets all its ducks in
order because they did not pass the minimum conditions set for 2008-2009 and
did not receive the PCDF for this year. Each Province is assessed on the
minimum conditions each February. This is part of making the PCDF a
"performance-based" grant. It is interesting to see the attempts that people
make to try to get around this, but the program is firm. And the minimum
conditions really are "minimum"-a successful annual audit, necessary staff
in place, following the processes as laid out in the planning & budgeting
and procurement manuals, that sort of thing. Isabel did not pass for this
year (even though there was an exception made and they were given a second
chance) because they didn't really have a development plan. That was because
there had been a UNDP project here previously-the Isabel Province
Development Project (IPDP)-which created a 3-year "development" plan without
including any Provincial Government staff in the process. So the Province
was given a document which is basically just a list of nice, unfunded
projects which no one on staff was involved in planning. I'm not sure if
there are any project plans or not. I think the IPDP is one of those great
examples of how *not* to do a development project.

This is some of what I'll be working on in the next few months.

I'm looking forward to see how Christmas is celebrated here. Grace, the
Provincial Treasurer, my neighbor and my roommate here in Honiara, told me
that Buala village is divided into 5 neighborhoods, each of which is
assigned a particular day for their Christmas party in the village hall. And
it sounds like there are a lot of parties, visiting each others' houses and
drinking that happen. Church-wise, they have the usual services and
apparently the youth are preparing liturgical dances for the Christmas
service, which is a new thing. I think she said someone from the Mother's
Union learned liturgical dance at a recent conference somewhere. I love this
aspect of the Anglican Communion-the sharing of liturgical innovations like
that around the world.


About Seth Longacre

primal health coach, vision fast guide, itinerant discalced Episcopal Deacon, barefoot runner, photographer, spiritual director, yoga teacher, minimalist, pilgrim
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