Or so to speak… I arrived in Lusaka, Zambia on June 11th, arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi yesterday on June 13th, and leave for Maputo, Mozambique on June 17th. I don’t think I’ve ever travelled so quickly through so many countries! It’s not my usual habit, as I prefer instead to spend time in the places I visit, gaining a deeper glimpse into local nuances. But I am in a rush to make it to Maputo, Mozambique and need to make sure I coordinate bus connections with room to spare in case of delay. Beginning on Tuesday June 19th in Maputo I will be participating in a WHO- and UNICEF-organized conference on the development and implementation of policies on point-of-use water treatment in three countries: Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia. My role at that workshop will be to act as scribe (“rapporteur” in development speak), occasional presenter, and communications liaison for the International Network on Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage.
Certainly it would have been easier to fly directly to the host city. But in looking into flights I discovered that a flight to Lusaka was almost 800 dollars cheaper. And as an added bonus I could travel overland by bus (see photo) from Lusaka to Maputo via Lilongwe at least allowing me to “see” a bit of these countries ahead of the workshop. This would give me an opportunity to meet with a handful of local NGOs and experts, collect their views, and carry them with me to the workshop, giving a voice to those who could not make it due to financial or time constraints. In addition, these face to face meetings help build rapport with “Network” stakeholders and allow me to better understand the challenges they confront in their work. Thus I chose to fly into Lusaka.
So far over the last three days I’ve met with an NGO in Lusaka, a local water and sanitation expert here in Lilongwe, and have been able to connect with a few others via email and telephone. These discussions, site visits, and photo opportunities offer a valuable learning experience and are exactly the reason why I decided to combine work and pleasure during this 6-month backpacking trip (I am working only part-time). All in all, I believe these travels and field experiences can help me be more effective at the work I do to support the Network while allowing me to see the world too! As time and Internet access permit, I’ll share those lessons with you here! (Unfortunately I am on a slow connection in Lilongwe right now, so will save this for a write-up in due course).
I hope to return to both Zambia and Malawi at some point in the next couple of months, and might spend some time visiting Mozambican beaches and scuba-diving after the workshop.