October 2013: Three Weeks, Three Countries

July was not an entirely typical month for this Cowater Project Manager, particularly at a time synonymous to most Canadians with relaxation, cottages, and summer vacations. Instead, my month included work on three separate initiatives in three separate countries, with no shortage of stops in several more along the way. It went a little something like this: Ottawa-Toronto-Rome-Addis Ababa-Dar es Salaam-Addis Ababa-Accra-Addis Ababa-Bangkok-Hong Kong-Jakarta-Manado-Makassar-Jakarta-Hong Kong-Toronto-Ottawa. Phew…

First stop: Tanzania. While it first appeared as though Dar es Salaam had laid out the red carpet expressly for my visit, what with all the newly paved roads and freshly painted buildings, it was all for President Obama, whose state visit concluded only a day before my arrival. While a variety of meetings with our Government of Tanzania counterparts regarding our public sector ethics-related project occupied most of my time, I also managed to sneak in a game of Indian Bingo with a fun crowd of Canadian and American expats and absorbed the latest on Tanzania’s current constitutional reform talks while revolving 360 degrees in the city’s flagship revolving restaurant.

Next stop: Ghana. Thoroughly dizzy, I stepped on a plane to Accra, where I spent a week exploring new opportunities for Cowater. Highlights from my visit included meetings at Flagstaff House, home to the new offices of the President of Ghana and built with support from India, and a close encounter with the morning’s catch hauled in by local fishermen from the Gulf of Guinea. An unfortunate lowlight, however, included making the rookie mistake of eating raw vegetables over dinner at a street-side restaurant, leading to a bout of food poisoning the likes of which need not be recounted here.

Last stop: Indonesia. Still slightly feverish and lacking an appetite, I then hopped on yet another series of planes to my final destination to support our ongoing corruption prevention and local service delivery improvement project in Jakarta and the provinces of North and South Sulawesi. In between meetings with our project partners and staff I enjoyed Indonesia’s comfortable winter temperatures (a cool 25 degrees celsius), caught up with colleagues in town for other Cowater projects, missed my 5:30am flight to North Sulawesi, and underwent a haircut guided solely by hand gestures on my part that, to our mutual surprise, turned out OK.

Though an atypical month in terms of the sheer amount of traveling involved, it did reflect the wide variety of exciting challenges and opportunities associated with working in the field of development consulting. I’d no doubt be hard-pressed to trade these elements away for something more predictable, even if it means a dizzy spell or two from time to time.   

Flagstaff House, Accra

Per Unheim, M.Sc., M.A., B.A. (Hons.) – Project Manager, Municipal Services and Enterprise Development