La vie en Francais…

Saturday 27th September 2008

Salut everyone!

Well after only a week here I am fully immersed in French culture, and straight in at the deep end on this course! Vive la fromage! et le vin! et le pain!

It’s been pretty good so far, but we have classes from 9am til 4 or 5pm, so there’s very little time to do all the mountains of reading I’m supposed to do!
They’re already asking me for my dissertation topic, which I have no clue about, and I’m still staying with my cousin in Lyon so the commute out to Les Minguettes, where Bioforce is, means getting up FAR too early!
However, everyone on this course is lovely – they’ve all been very welcoming and kind and keen to help me catch up. They all keep emailing around useful articles or websites, and have regular “brainstorming” sessions to help think through our research projects and spot potential problems as a group etc.

I have now got some alternative accommodation sorted out courtesy of my fellow students – there are 16 of us, but only 10 are doing the full masters, while the other six are only doing this module, which means that after our exam in October they’ll be leaving. Lucciano, a lovely Spanish guy, suggested that I come and stay at their flat on a mattress on the floor, and once they leave I can have one of their rooms. One of the other guys has a spare mattress, and they’re insisting I don’t pay any rent until November! So I’ll be living with Lucciano (Spanish), and Sayad (from Yemen) and Misini (from Tajikistan) – quite the multicultural group!

It’s terribly sweet of them and it’ll be nice to live near everyone else and be able to walk to class easily instead of spending well over an hour in rush-hour traffic twice a day!

Les Minguettes itself is not an especially lovely area – I think the term “urban decay” definitely applies here! There are a large number of 60’s/70’s era tower blocks, mostly inhabited by a mainly muslim community, and they’ve apparently been digging up all of the roads for at least the last decade in order to lay a new tram line. (Rumour has it it would have been finished far earlier but people kept nicking all their equipment!).

However it’s not so bad as it first appears. The tower block I’m moving into has a delightfully quaint little lift, lightly scented with eau de stale urine each morning, that shakes and rattles as it groans it’s way upwards, giving one a fantastic sense of adventure every time you enter or leave the building!

I’ve attached an article about Les Minguettes for those of you who are interested in reading more about it – Bioforce sent it to me before I arrived. It gives you an overview of the troubles they’ve had in the past, but it’s not actually that bad now (I think the article is about 5 years old) and in my opinion it’s rather over-dramatic (burning cars and riots feature heavily…).

As far as the course goes, we’ve started a module called Project Cycle Management, and I’m learning all about problem trees and log frames, planning and implementation, and all sorts of other big words. Our lectures are scattered with acronyms that I frequently need to decifer, such as LFA, or PCM, and of course ALL of the NGO’s and UN bodies and other groups and consortia like OCHA and ALNAP etc.
We have hilarious debates about the semantics of certain words, such as the difference between an aim and a goal and an objective (as the logframe format requires that you have a principal aim and a specific objective etc).
Then there are all the causal pathways, and ToRs, and the DAC, and using triangulation methods to reduce bias, and using the SMART framework to assess your indicators…..

You’d be amazed how much stuff my brain can actually absorb in a week!
Although mind you, it hasn’t all gone in, and looking back through my notes from this week, I have no idea what MoU stands for! (Methods of Understanding? Memorandum of Understanding? Something like that).

Hopefully it’ll all come together in my brain before the exam, and I can “synthesise” the data etc.
Not much else to report just now, as I need to stop procrastinating and finish writing my first assignment, due in on Monday, (a 3,000 word field experience report).

So, hope you’re all well, and thanks for all of the lovely emails of support and things – I promise to continue to update everyone when I have time!

Oh and also – I have just sent our first ever monthly donation through to the orphanage, so I’m proud to say we collected £120 this month to send, which Priya received this morning, so the system finally works!
Anyone who’s interested in making a monthly donation (even as little as £5 a month) please get in touch and I’ll send you our banking info.

Tons of love

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