Learning and writing

So far nothing has changed my positive impression of the DRC. I spent most of Saturday and Sunday preparing for the next event, taking a few naps and on Sunday afternoon a break at the pool. There was a soft breeze and the temperature was perfect. As soon as I sat down a waiter appeared with some snacks without hassling me about what I wanted to drink. I volunteered a local beer which came in an enormous bottle (Primus), plus more snacks. Of course nothing is free and I pay a premium for everything I consume in this posh hotel. A nine dollar beer and a 60 dollar tab for my evening meal that includes a buffet and a glass of South African wine is the going rate.

On Monday morning the driver from the office, Ali, picked me up and addressed me in perfect English. Unlike Cote d’Ivoire where there is great reluctance (and inability) to speak English, here many of the people I have met so far speak English. Ali’s English came from educational escapades all over the region. I asked how he got himself in, for example, the business school of Makerere University in Kampala. “I just managed,” he said. So this is the famous système ‘D’ ( for débrouillard) that I had heard so much about. When one lives in a situation of constant turbulence, and one where at one point (when I set foot across the border from Goma into what was then Zaire, 23 years ago) a few millions of the local currency bought nothing more than a small tube of toothpaste, one learns ‘to manage’ as Ali had done. He was used to be kicked out of one country and try his luck in another. He has degrees in business administration and mechanics – yet here he is our driver. I found similar underemployment in the assistant who has been assigned to help me – she has a degree in international law but is an office assistant.

Everyone is very eager to learn which omens well for the Learning Organization workshop. A group of professional staff took advantage of my presence and called an impromptu meeting to pick my brain about writing papers and proposals for conference presentations. I know how intimidating this kind of writing can be as I have been there myself. I suggested to start small and write for each other small pieces and then use Louise Dunlap’s process for providing feedback, the most positive and encouraging way I know of to help people get comfortable writing. Axel used her materials extensively in Kabul at SOLA while working with high school students on their essays.

Our office is in a very nice 5 story building where everything seems to work and the workspaces are clean and airy. Again, I had expected something not quite as together and am constantly surprised in a positive way. I am welcomed warmly by everyone and found everything ready for the workshop which starts today. I am glad this trip didn’t get canceled.

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June 2014
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