Cookie dough is fatal

I had brought back from my last visit to the US a large bag of Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips. It sat in the refrigerator until Saturday when I finally decided I better use it before I leave. I made the dough and put it in the refrigerator, rolled up in wax paper, so it would harden before baking. The thing looked like a baguette, it was that long. By the time I came back from my language classes it had hardened nicely (which makes it so bad for your arteries). I cut it into more manageable chunks. Of course I tried some and decided not to bother baking the cookies. Cookie dough is fatal; I like it better than the baked thing.

This morning, as I was having a conversation with a colleague I found myself searching my brain for an adjective, saying that something was “too….[something].” But I couldn’t find the right adjective. I think in this place there aren’t enough English adjectives to describe things, people, or events. I have no doubt that there are enough adjectives in the local languages. There are so many ways to say the same thing if you were to translate them into English, but we’d miss the nuances. As an example, there are at least 9 words in my small dictionary to describe the color brown, a very present color in this country. There is snuff colored brown, almond brown, coffee brown, cumin brown, sugar brown, walnut brown, pistachio brown, dust/dirt brown (khaki) and wheat brown.

I went to the ministry for our weekly meeting with the future boss of the leadership program. We are now meeting very orderly with an agenda, and action items recorded. The agenda and action items related to space, tomorrow’s last leg of the leadership workshop, an update on recruitment and e-learning.

As I enter the ministry I always have to be searched in the women’s section that is separated from the entrance and the male guards by a curtain. Today a new clean curtain had been put up. I wondered how it got there. Had some woman complained, or a man? The woman who is supposed to search me was back after her (successful and umpteenth) pregnancy, with the latest addition coming to work with her, all swaddled in a little carrying basket in the tiny guardhouse. Mom’s name is ‘Light’ or ‘Clarity.’ She knows me now and doesn’t think I am bringing explosives into the ministry compound. The checking is done with a very light touch.

To kill the time between her searches she is embroidering a man’s shirt that has the finest stitches. I don’t know how people can do this. She did admit her eyes hurt. I offered her one of my spare reading glasses. A big grin indicated that the stitching would be easier with those and I told her should keep them. I took a picture of her handiwork.

I went to SOLA in the afternoon and we held a real meeting, including the creation of an agenda, the assignment of a minute taker and a final round of AOB to discuss the orphanage English teaching project. The girls are running into all sorts of surprises: first the fundraising has netted double what they needed. It is nice to have extra money but it also creates the responsibility of being a good steward of the money. I gave them as homework to do a real budget, in an Excel sheet. One of the girls knows how to do that and so she will take the lead.

And then there are the classes that are too big, the beginners books too basic for the older kids, too academic for the 4 year olds, the missing blackboard, the mismatched expectations between the orphanage director (‘just keep the kids occupied, all of them’) and the young volunteer teachers who want manageable classes, commitment, homework done and attention during class. And then there are the mentally disabled kids, two of them, that disrupt H’s class which is already difficult with 20 boys.

Among the action items is one big one – a serious conversation with the director. Next class may well be about negotiation.

2 Responses to “Cookie dough is fatal”


  1. 1 Jo Nelson August 21, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Sylvia, Z says your classes at SOLA about project management are really helpful. She is going to miss you a lot, and so are the others.

  2. 2 axel August 22, 2011 at 6:10 am

    “And then there are the classes that are too big, the beginners books too basic for the older kids, too academic for the 4 year-olds, the missing blackboard, the mismatched expectations between the orphanage director (‘just keep the kids occupied, all of them’) and the young volunteer teachers who want manageable classes, commitment, homework done and attention during class. And then there are the mentally disabled kids, two of them, that disrupt H’s class which is already difficult with 20 boys.

    Among the action items is one big one – a serious conversation with the director. Next class may well be about negotiation.”

    Beautifully captured: The magic of doing what you think is simply conveying a chapter from a book turns into something altogether more fascinating, more complex, more puzzling. Our attempts to make it all work, with all the complications, take us into some entirely different domain. I learned of this as “goal displacement”. I also observed that I often didn’t know what the goal was in the first place, which made getting back to the goal, all the more difficult. I hope the ladies can get back to the goal once the negotiations are over.


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