Hello again to all in TCinGC! I wanted to apologize to Joe and all my adoring fans that this post is coming so late. This is now our 6th week in Nauru, I can’t believe that we will be leaving at the end of this month!
Since my last post, our project has continued to be interesting, but very busy, work. We have continued interviewing and observing government employees who include the Secretary of Home Affairs (who has told us a vast amount of interesting information about Nauru’s history, employees in Public Health, teachers and administrators at Nauru College which teaches 7th to 9th graders, and the Police Commissioner (whose duty ended a week after we met with him!) just to name a few. Our interview and observation period took a little more than 4 weeks and really made me wish I had invested in a tablet PC, I have gone through one and a half yellow legal pads using both front and back (!) plus I have been trying to type up all my notes for future projects in Nauru. During our down time, Hans and I also began writing our massive Context Analysis report, which ended up being about 25 pages! Though, it will hopefully be cut down with some help from Joe. The past couple of weeks we have been working on an automated time sheet generator and fuel rationing system. Since the government employees are most comfortable with Excel, we designed both systems using spreadsheets and macros, which has also meant knowing much more about Visual Basic than I ever really wanted to know. The systems are pretty slick, and we are working with pertinent employees to ensure the sustainability of our systems. This has also included writing documentation (user-guides), which have been taking a while to write; however, we found it necessary after learning that very few government processes are documented, which lead to a lot of loss information and time whenever government employees go on leave or switch positions (which happens quite frequently). Documentation is one of the key goals that we have developed and will recommend in our final report.
We only have 18 work days left in Nauru! During this time we will be finishing our systems. After reading my last blog post (thanks to Google), Marcus also thought it would be a good idea for us to implement some of our ideas for Information Management policy on the Police Department, using their four departments as a case study for government wide initiatives. We also have a lot of documents to write, which include a proposal for a National ID system and of course our final report which will include suggestions on Information Policy management and future technology planning. We will definitely be busy until the end of our project!
As I promised in my first post, I will finally take some time to describe what we do outside of work here in Nauru. To start, Hans and I listed 5 goals to accomplish while we are in Nauru:
- Eat at all the restaurants on the island
- Walk around the island
- Watch a cock fight
- Go deep sea fishing
- Go Naughty Birding
The first two goals were created because we thought it would be pretty cool to say that you “ate at all the restaurants in a country” and “walked around a country at one time”.
About the first goal… We were told that Nauru had about 30 restaurants on the island. Within the first three weeks, we were doing pretty good, we had eaten at about 20 restaurants thanks to persistence and boredom. However, perhaps the greatest catastrophe in our time here occurred when our government vehicle broke down. We were told that a part of the engine had broken but that they had a spare part in a another car; however, we have yet to get our car back for about 4 weeks now, and the Land Transport Office also decided to sell the car that they were going to get the part from. Now, you may be wondering why we would need a car on such a small island such as Nauru. Well, given that (1) the Menen Hotel is in what they call the “country” in Nauru, meaning that it is almost opposite of all the things to do in Nauru (2) the blazing sun from 12-5 and (3) stray dogs that will chase you (and even bite your fingers off, from what we hear), it’s pretty hard to walk around the island. Anyways, we have only 3 more restaurants left, which is pretty exciting except for the fact that nearly all the food in Nauru is basically the same, very basic Chinese food, beef, fish, chicken, and pork always served with rice, and maybe noodles (which they call “wire”) if you’re lucky. It’s pretty tough to eat the same thing every day here, especially when you don’t have the option to cook your own food and eat any fresh produce (they have to fly everything to Nauru). I’m pretty sure I will be eating everything in sight when I get back home. One good or maybe bad thing about the restaurants here is that they all serve massive quantities for food for a very low price. Each dish is piled with rice (about 4 – 5 bowls worth) and costs less than $5 Australian Dollars (about $4 US). Given this ridiculous amount of rice and the fact that most of the food is pretty oily, it’s very easy to gain weight here, which might explain why Nauru is apparently one of the most obese nations in the world.
To combat gaining massive amounts of lbs, I decided that I needed to do some physical activity every day after work. At first I tried to play basketball, but couldn’t find any older people to play with in the afternoon. So instead I decided to train with the Nauruan Boxing Federation. I have never boxed before, so it may have not been the best decision, but I have definitely done a lot more running and lifting here than I have done in the US for a long time. The picture below if of a boxing tournament they had a couple of weekends ago. The guys I am training with said that I was going to fight that day, luckily they were joking, but I also sparred for the first time the day before the tournament, and got beat up pretty bad by a 16 year old.
The rest of our goals have been pretty hard to obtain, mostly because we don’t have transportation, and because we have not met a lot of locals. Naughty birding is much more tame then the name suggests, it involved playing bird sounds and then catching local “Naughty” birds in nets, it sounds pretty fun. This past Sunday, we finally officially finished one of our goals, walking around the island. It took us over 5 hours to walk, with dinner included, which was much more than the 3 hours we were originally told. We met quite an interesting character on the last part of the walk, but that experience isn’t very appropriate for this blog… The picture below is of Hans laying down on the airstrip during the last part of our walk.
Some other highlights of our time in Nauru include going caving, which can be seen in the pictures below. The first is a view from the cave’s entrance, which was surrounded by the roots of a tree. The second shows Hans entering the small cave entrance. The third is a view from the bottom of the cave. It was quite a cool experience, and very unexpected on a Saturday afternoon.
At the end of June, I participated in the Coca-Cola walk, which was a 5km walk starting at 8am. It was pretty tough to wake up, but it was nice to see all the Nauruan kids coming out and being active, and seeing a lot of government officials I met through work. The next two pictures are from the walk. The first is of the finish line, just to prove that I made it. The second is of the Nauruan president, Marcus Stephen. So far the picture is the closest I have gotten to the President, although I hope to meet him and become best friends before we leave the island.
We have also had the opportunity to drink Kava with a co-worker from the ICT Department and Fijians who are doing work in Nauru. You should Wikipedia Kava, but basically it’s a popular Pacific drink, made to drink in a large group of people, which also makes you very tired, yet according to Wikipedia also makes you very aware (I’m not sure if I agree with the Wikipedia article). Kava makes you very lazy and tired. The second time we drank Kava, we got back to the hotel at 2am, and I didn’t get up until 3pm the next day!
I think that’s about it for now. Hopefully this post makes up for my long absence. Hans and I have a lot more work and things to do in Nauru, and hopefully we can achieve everything before we leave on July 31st! I’m glad to see all the other TCinGC projects seem to be achieving a lot and still having some great experiences, and it’s good to finally hear from the team in Palau!