Thursday, November 23, 2006

-21 is cold and condom crisis averted...

Well condom crisis averted – managed to get over 200 brought to me from the regional AIDS centre for free so that at least sorts out World AIDS Day but will need to find some more for the volunteers in the not too distant future as they will be carrying out themed seminars and need more. (When I phoned home and spoke to everyone at the weekend on speaker phone it was relyed to me that Dad had a minor fit when I said I had been looking for condoms for the week)

The workshop/training went well and I am quite proud of what it achieved. IN the end I had an interpreter come down from the regional city and then also an AIDS specialist from an organisation working in schools advocating awareness about HIV. I could not have done it without either of them – Alibek, the translator, worked the whole evening translating the materials I had produced and putting them into a work pack which came to 8 sides which is a lot of translating and of quite difficult language. The woman from the HIV organisation really helped because she was able to answer all the technical questions about HIV and AIDS with confidence and also in language that was appropriate although at one point she did say HIV was contained in salvia as proved by transmission through oral sex which, from my understanding and everything I have read completely untrue and that the risk, which is small, comes from the possibility of infection entering the body through cuts or ulcers in the mouth. Did mention this to her but not sure if she listened. Still in my work pack all information is correct – I checked it twice against two different documents (one from the UN and one from and AID organisation). Still if I am wrong please let me know.

Anyway the training as first with 34 college students and went down well. They were interested and seemed to have more knowledge than I expected – I had tried my activities out on some colleagues and friends and thought I was starting from a low base but the college students were quite clued up although not always with the correct information. Then we held a session with the health workers (like sex education teachers) in each of the schools as well as with a few people from the volunteer centre. This session, being smaller, functioned a lot better and I was really impressed with the approach to learning taken by the health workers. They had been brought together to learn from me some interactive ways of teaching about HIV and AIDS rather than in the standard lecture format which seems to be favoured here. Most were writing notes and clarifying how to hold the training themselves. They genuinely seemed to be keen to learn – most know the basics about HIV and AIDS but as they said they have no idea how to turn this information into palatable and memorable seminars for the students. Using the materials I put together next week they will hold the seminars in their schools and I will go to assist each person once. My first training of trainers and I feel proud.

Aside from the HIV training the next biggest thing in my week has been the cold. It has plummeted in temperature and as I write I am wearing two thermals under my jeans, three pairs of socks, a t-shirt, polo shirt and jumper and a fleece. Still it is better here than the room I held the seminar in – I was wearing gloves for most of the day. It is -16 today and on Tuesday it was -21. There is big difference because at -16 the hairs in your nose do not freeze but at -21 they do! All the windows are covered in ice and you can’t see out and in the canteen in the orphanage there is ice on the inside window not just in the gap between the two panes of double glazing. My heater is working overtime and it is still cold when I wake up and my window sill has turned into a fridge which is a definite benefit as my fruit and tomatoes are keeping a lot longer.

Got caught out on Monday with an upset stomach – you have to bring your own toilet paper everywhere. I always manage to hold on until I get home but on Monday I had to use the toilet in the government office which you think would be nice. Think again. And then there were only pages from a book with economic statistics from the USSR available – no double velvet.

It was liver again for lunch which tastes so similar to the smell of dog food it is uncomfortable. Something has recently clicked because I have just received a lot of invitations to people’s houses to eat; I have been given a food package to take home with me and had offers to knit me homemade socks if I buy the wool. Maybe it is because the weather has turned that people are trying to soften the blow of me not being warm again until I go home! Just over three weeks left until I am taking my Xmas holiday –three weeks in one go for Xmas and New Year in Almaty and then Kyrgyzstan with Sergey assuming visa is easy enough to get.

Nothing else of note happening at the moment or not that I can think of. So take care


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