Work and play

We finished the first part of the workshop with the local reproductive health society named after a famous British RH advocate from the last century. If you pronounce her name fast enough it sounds like marry-stop. This gets confusing to Pakistanis who know some English. The Urdu name of the clinics has been adapted to talk about the good life rather than stopping marriage.

Monday and Tuesday we covered topics related to organizational management and leadership. We discussed things like mission, vision, values, strategies, systems and knowledge management. The organization scored high, which didn’t surprise us, after having met many members of the top leadership team and read its identity material.

Although originally planned more as a demo than as a real self-assessment, the participants became more than a bit engaged in determining where they were, as an organization, in each of 25 different areas we looked at. People discovered that some were more in the know than others, not surprisingly for a fast growing organization that is practically doubling in size, with much of the expansion far away from headquarters.

Although participation dwindled a bit between Monday morning and Tuesday afternoon, the group retained a hard core of people who followed the process through, from beginning to end. They identified a few topics for immediate attention and placed the others on the back burner.

We said goodbye to some who had other priorities or less to do with the topic of the next three days, social and behavior change communication. I was in the lead facilitator role until now and will play a supporting role for the rest of the week. The days seem to go faster and faster and the end of our trip is appearing on the horizon.

After everyone was gone L and I crossed the road to check out the other hotel, one of only three fancy business hotels in Karachi (Sheraton, Marriott and Pearl Continental). The latter (PC) is the one we had originally booked until we found out we’d be sitting an entire week in a windowless room. The Sheraton across the street could do better within the price range. We have indeed a wonderful room, with big windows letting in light and plenty of space to move around and the most attentive and well trained staff to provide anything we want.

The PC hotel is a little stiffer than hours but they had a small private outdoor area where we enjoyed a simple Lebanese meal. Across from us a gay couple displayed their affection rather openly which both surprised us and made us worry for their wellbeing. Being gay in this country is something to keep very private.

Back in the Sheraton we sat down in what looks a bit like a central holding pen – it is the place to watch and be watched. On Saturday night I marveled at the stream of celebrants for this and that wedding, as they made their way through the security checkpoint and metal detectors.

The place is open 24/7. Here we sit to have coffee, check our mail for free when the (paid for) room internet doesn’t work and where we drink our fresh lime and soda and try out a new flavor of the pricey but very yummy Movenpick ice-cream. It is also a place where people come to smoke the shi-sha or cigarettes, both of which fill our lungs with very fragrant and breathtaking second-hand smoke.

If you really want a drink here, that is, a real drink, you have to go to the cigar bar at the top floor – lots of gentlemen disappear there for after they return from their work day. It’s probably the only way to retain the business of businessmen who expect their drink at the cocktail hour. We haven’t ventured out into the place, the cigar part discouraging us.

At one point we naively thought that the green bottles we could see through the glass door of the Mamma Mia Restaurant, and the wine and champagne glasses hanging from a rack above the bar, meant a glass of red wine could be had there. As it turned out, the bottles were empty and the glasses for decoration only. So we sat down at the red and white checkered table and drank dark red pomegranate juice out of wineglasses. We were only a few of a handful of diners – most preferring the sub-continental food in the main restaurant. We gave the waiters something to do and they rewarded us with free ice cream – for which we rewarded them in turn with an outrageous tip.

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