Riding forward

We started a leadership program with several directorates from human resources – something I would have killed to have started two years ago and now it was a request. The pushing of the string turned into a pulling of a string. I arrived after the opening, which everyone told me was inspiring, and found 15 energetic people sitting behind small tables at the children’s hospital which happens to have a good meeting room.

The program is done in Dari. I understood enough to know whether the session was going according to plan or not. But other than that I am on the sidelines and this is no longer my show. It should be that way after two years and just weeks before I leave. I am observing the facilitation team that will have to transfer their skills to others in the ministry and I am seeng something that pleased me: a young woman doctor who teaches about leadership full of confidence.

I thought about how she, three years ago, was just starting out as a rookie facilitator, trying to keep order in a group of noisy older males. They ignored her, talked through her session and behaved generally disrespectfully until I called them on it (when then they vehemently denied being disrespectful). Now the entire group of government officials (2 women and 13 men, many older than her) listened to her spellbound. I looked at M sitting beside me and murmured to myself, ‘it is possible but it requires guts.’

Back in the compound I sat with my boss and we charted out my last four weeks, the last two being very short weeks due to holidays and my midweek departure. My focus will be on getting the MOPH team to be ready for their task, despite the fact that the recruitment cannot be completed due to the missing signature on our project extension documents and that the team does not have a place to sit. Other than that we are in good shape. Once the team is recruited I may come out to work with them on charting their course.

After work I went to SOLA and we spent over an hour talking about the Whale Rider. I had assigned individuals to reflect on the roles and behaviors of various actors in the drama: the grand father (a traditional leader with blinders on), a rejected son, a son who had copped out in a different way, the grandmother who was leading from behind and the prodigal little girl who was to lead the tribe towards better times, though she and everyone around her didn’t know it at first.

The context is quite relevant to young Afghans who are in a position of lower power, especially the girls. At the end I asked everyone what message in the film was particularly relevant to them and each talked about resonance in a slightly different way. I left the DVD with them and suggested that when a new crop of girls comes in, this may be a good way to start. The girls who participated today can now lead the conversation. I am sure that when they have this conversation in dari it will be even more animated as language is still a bit of a brake for some of them.

F. called with the good news that he had gotten his visa. So now he can leave for New Mexico. His tennis court project is nearly completed – a few more helping hands and he is done. It has been an amazing ride! We will see F. and his cousin F. hopefully at Christmas when they will join his home-stay parents in Maine and visit us. The connections we have with Afghanistan will continue, no matter what. That makes leaving a little easier.

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