The day I landed back in Rome from my trip to the US, I found out that I was going to be leaving again…in a week..for N’Djamena, Chad.
After a whirlwind of travel in January and February and few weekends actually spent in Rome, the last thing I wanted was to travel some more. But the opportunity to go to a new place and join an interesting WFP project was too good to pass up. So 7 days later, and 7 vaccinations later, I boarded a plane for N’Djamena–my new home for the next two weeks.
At the head WFP Country Office in N’Djamena (the capital city), I was working with a colleague from my team in HQ to develop overall efficiency recommendations for our country-wide operations. It was an intense two weeks of work that reminded me of my time back at BCG (working until 11pm and on the weekends), but our efforts yielded tangible cost savings initiatives. And with those savings, WFP will be able to stretch its dollar further and feed more people.
Overall, working in Chad was quite an experience: hot, sandy, and chaotic. The temperature peaked at 110 degrees daily; gusts of wind kept things a bit cooler, but whipped sand into your eyes. We didn’t have much time to explore, but we did get a chance to see a few N’Djamena’s “tourist sites.” The highlight was a morning trip to the Central Market. People milled about, hawking every possible item you could imagine. The sites and smells of the butcher section–with men hacking away at carcases, flecks of flesh on their faces and blood mixing into mud with the sand, flies swarming on the red meat–are something I’ll never forget.
So after the trip to Chad, and a weekend stop in London to visit Rachel on my way back, I finally returned to Rome last week, ready to enjoy the sunny Spring weather.
And was I in for a treat. This past weekend, a co-worker from WFP hosted myself and a few colleagues at her parents’ house in Arrone, Umbria–about an hour train ride outside of Rome. I expected a pleasant day trip and a nice meal. I was greeted with a five course lunch in a 900 year-old stone home in a medieval hilltop village overlooking the beautiful Umbrian countryside. After the delicious meal (I ate so much that I didn’t have room for dinner…for me, that says something!), Chiara’s father took us to the church next door to climb the campanile (bell tower) and ring the bells.
Chiara’s mom was so impressed by my eating that she insisted that we all return another time. I think she might regret that offer…
If this is what the rest of my time in Italy is going to be like, I think I’ll have a great next four months.