With Francesca, our short-term volunteer, here at the moment with her passion for cooking, we decided to introduce the gastronomy students at the Training Centre to a feast of English cuisine (shepherd’s pie – pye de pastores; apple crumble – crocante de manzana; bread and butter pudding – postre de pan y mantequilla) for the day. While Francesca managed the main course, we took turns to teach the desserts, which we reckon are the best bit of British cuisine. It was occasionally pandemonium, but many students valued the opportunity to be introduced to new foods and new ways of cooking.

Had to work by myself today as my volunteers didn’t turn up and Francesca was too tired after travelling, so it was a late one, but I did manage to get the base done and return in time to do my teaching at the Training Centre.

I staged my equivalent of The Apprentice yesterday, asking each of my small business teams to present their business plans to a panel of potential investors. Some were good and some weren’t, but I could never be as harsh and ruthless as Alan Sugar. Using the very small fund that we’ve created from selling my text books, we have decided to invest in 6 businesses which will be running for the next 4 weeks (and possibly longer if they proved to be money-spinners). The businesses are 2 yoghurt businesses, a taco and an oriental style empanada (pasty) businesses and, from amongst my fashion design and sewing students, 2 businesses that specialise in short, fashionable (here at least!) waistcoats. 4 weeks to the day of reckoning when we find out who had the most successful business and whether I have any money left in our “investment fund”.

Been a bit quiet from me for the last couple of weeks since I’ve had my head down. While this has involved a few job applications, I’ve also managed to get 3 new business-related courses written for the Training Centre, so it’s off to the printers today and then picking up the teaching and text books on Wednesday, just in time to start teaching again on Thursday. I had some of my students last week tell me that they’re loving the way the course is put together (low on theory and high on practise), although that hasn’t stopped 4 of my morning class failing the course. Still, I don’t think the course (or the teacher!) can be blamed for that one – they are, coincidently, the 4 students who never/barely ever turn up to class!

I’m also now half planned for the forthcoming smokeless stoves project too. Should be going shopping this afternoon to look at prices and allow me to draw up a budget and then I’m getting up nice and early on Friday morning to head out to a distant village where a local producer could well be able to make the combustion chambers, the heart of the stoves, for me. Should hopefully have more of an idea by the end of the week about what the scope for this project is going to be and how it’s going to run.

I subscribe to a few development job internet mailing lists. One of them encourages you to pay to receive notice of jobs by sending them to you free only at the last moment. So, when a job possibility (in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) landed on my electronic doormat this morning, I had to drop everything that I’d planned to do and dedicate myself to that. The application is now completed and in, but it’s going to be a long night trying to get done all the things that I was meant to be doing today (the small matter of finishing writing one of my business courses, by adding in material for 3 more weeks of classes!!)

Managed to get quite a lot done today on the business course I am writing, so I thought I’d send off another application whilst I was at it. So, there are now three irons in the fire, this one being in the Ecuadorian Andes  in a job that sounds fairly similar to the one I am doing at the moment, although for a much larger and award-winning organisation.

The problem with deciding that you’re going to leave somewhere is that all the work you had stretched before you over the next few months gets compressed into much less time. The start of the next module at the Training Centre is mid-May, by which time I need to have written 2 new business courses from scratch, both teachers’ books and textbooks. That’s going to be a tall order in itself, but add to that the need to get the toilet project and the home-gardening project with the families finished and a new smokeless stoves project started before June, then it’s going to be a very, very busy few weeks ahead!

Being a teacher brings with it the inevitable marking. Well, in theory, at least. I’d spent last week teaching most of my students about how to design questionnaires and set them the homework of doing market research questionnaires for the products they are going to launch. From one of my classes, I only picked up one piece of coursework today (and not a very good piece at that), so I guess I won’t be spending quite so long marking as I thought.

With some time of my hands, I went out to see the Vegetable Garden I started with some families in one of the villages. I’ve been told that the families keep talking about it and are very proud of what they’ve been able to do (showing that it’s not just about improving diet, but self-esteem too). It was a bit of a surprise, therefore, to see that there were stinging nettles everywhere; it hadn’t been fenced in while I was away as promised and that something has been eating the cabbages. I’ll have to organise a workshop with the families to address some of these issues…

You know that strange sucking sound that all workmen make when you ask them for a quote, well we’ve all just made one here. It seems that to get the health and safety clearance which with help the Training Centre become a nationally recognised Technical Institute and registered with the Ministry of Education that we can expect a bill of around £2,200… Ouch!

It’s a lot of cash, but essential if we’re to grow student numbers (which is a key part of the plan towards becoming fully self-sustaining), since it allows us to offer nationally recognised certificates and greatly increases the perceived worth of their training. We’ll just have to bite the bullet I guess…

First day back in front of class and I had 3 of them (that’s 6 hours in total) today, which makes for a very long day. The first was great. The second was a little insipid and the last, our night school group, were positively disinterested, but that is understandable to some extent since they unfortunately get the pure theory course (since they’ll leave soon and there was no time to teach them in any other way) – even I’d be bored if I had to do that.

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