Up and up

The day after my arrival, after just 6 hours of sleep, I met with my co-facilitators at breakfast in their hotel and requested a transfer there– the move was easy, no luggage. Staff from our  office took my missing luggage information and planned an evening trip to the airport. Delta, which had failed to book my suitcase through to Monrovia, assured me it would be on the next day’s flight. After that I could focus on the task at hand, the retreat, which was after all the purpose of my trip. It was to start an hour later.

Without my suitcase I had nothing other than my grungy travel clothes with a few unfortunate specks of airplane food. The only way I could hide these was by draping a scarf over the spots, wearing my scarf Indian style. Aside from the warm and humid climate of West Africa, my outfit was, I thought, hardly appropriate for the opening day of a high level retreat.

Although the start was set at 8:30, it wasn’t until 10:15AM that we had a quorum. It is not that people weren’t there; several were leisurely enjoying the offered breakfast long after the official starting time in the adjacent restaurant. We had to peel them  away from the breakfast buffet.

Contrary to my expectations, the opening and everything that followed was of a highly informal nature. My unfortunate outfit actually didn’t seem to raise an eyebrow. Some thought the neatly draped scarf looked rather elegant.

We had divided the day’s sessions between the three of us before we arrived giving each up front time to establish a relationship and credibility with the participants. All of us had a common intent for the first day: to bring the energy up, help the participants see possibilities, and inform each other about what was happening or not happening (positive and negative) in and around the medical center. I believe we achieved this already by noon of day one. When we closed the day the mood was high, participation and engagement had been good (even though we lost a few people after lunch) and everyone agreed they had been learning. And then other good things happened: we had a very informative end of day debrief with one of our counterparts, learned more about the politics, designed the next day, divided roles, I moved into my comfortable hotel room, got the internet working after some trials. And best of all my suitcase arrived with everything in it.

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