Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Contracts, funding, and declaring war on Nature

Wow.  Talk about flashbacks to an old life that-- while it's only been five months-- seems very, very far away.  Before leaving my Soil Conservationist job with the USDA-NRCS in early September, I was in the process of meeting with farmers interested in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).  It's no secret that I had a love/hate relationship with this program.  So much paperwork!  Some days that was a good thing (air conditioning!), and some days it was horrible (Conservation Measurement Tool!).  My brain was working in full "program eligibility mode."  At the same time, I had been working with the previous year's CSP participants on getting their documentation on file so that we could pay them for the work they did within the program for 2011.

Cut to Tuesday last week.  This time, I was the one sitting down in an office with my community contact, Ña Merarda, and a man representing the NGO funding our upcoming chicken coops project in San José Boquerón.  I was back to looking over contract requirements, eligibility, and funding opportunities.  Whoa... Where am I?!  Poor Merarda had to sign the contract three times, and we even had to pull in our Peace Corps Deputy Director for a signature (oh signatory authority... I was ok with leaving you in Michigan).  It was all SO FAMILIAR.  But to be honest, for the first time in five months I finally felt like I was back in the driver's seat.  This is my element!  I'm surprised how much I miss knowing what I'm doing, because somewhere down the line I forgot how clueless I was about working here!  Of course, the whole meeting was in Spanish and Guarani, so I didn't catch much of the actual conversation.  But conceptually--I was there!  Hey... these days I take all I can get.  I just love the feeling of holding a contract with dates, dollar amounts, and essentially standards and specifications!

I met with the Women's Comité on Tuesday this week and we went over specifics.  Again I felt back in control, explaining what items were covered by the grant, and how the amount never changed regardless of what was required to actually build the 14 chicken coops.  I found myself using the phrase "this isn't designed to cover the entire project" in my head... which I'm still working on translating into Spanish.  This phrase has been my motto for the last three years of working with NRCS.  It appears that all over the world, not just in Washtenaw and Wayne Counties, people think that receiving funding means that the project is paid for.  Nope!  It's always a give and take.  There's always responsibility for the receiving party. 

I'm a bit nutty.  I kind of love rules.  Rules allow society to function effectively.  I don't know how many avid 30 Rock watchers read this blog, but there was a pretty incredible episode a couple of weeks ago about what happens when rules go out the window.  You get people on the subway screaming about popsicles and wafting their nasty gym clothes odor to scare people away.  30 Rock isn't for everyone, but I love it.  Anyways, I am excited to work on this project!  There are deadlines!  There's a list of procedures!  There's required documentation upon completion of the project!  There's STRUCTURE!  Oh structure, how I've missed you.  Now my challenge is to get these ladies to work within that structure.

In other news I'm still looking for a cat.  I spent the day building shelves in my house instead of asking around, so I'll have to get on that tomorrow.  On Saturday, another volunteer in Carapegua is hosting a taller (tie-yair, Spanish for workshop) on keeping rabbits.  I'm not crazy about rabbits, but there are some interested people in my community who want to look into livestock diversification, so I'm going to learn more.  We had a couple of days on rabbits in training, but I definitely need a refresher on the information.  Other than that, it's more of the same.

I'm not putting anything heavy on them.  They're just old crates--nothing fancy.

They're basically just hung on the wall with wire and resting on a couple of nails for support. 
 And by the way, I'm now keeping my cookies in the fridge.  If the poison won't kill the rats, I can at least make their favorite foods more difficult to find.

UPDATE: As of this morning, I have a new creature to battle over turf with-- Tarantulas!  If I ever find one of these inside my house, I may just have a heart attack and die.  No me gusta!  It's as if the rats, chickens, and spiders are all collaborating and trying to drive me out of my house.  But you know what?  I have a machete, and I will go straight-up Samurai if I have to.  This is war!

Um, no thanks.
Bryce 1, Tarantulas 0

1 comment:

Aryn Shillair said...

You are very brave! I like your shelving idea. Looks like it will work well.
What are cats like down there? It seems like they would be kind of scarey themselves...