Posts Tagged 'Addis'

Nearly there

I had a long drawn out breakfast with my colleague. It was nice not to have to look at my watch. We talked for hours. We were the only ones from our party who had not left. Downstairs in the lobby an unmanned piano played Auld Lang Syne and other seasonal melodies.

I had planned to have a massage in the morning but my Ethiopian friend E said she’s come to pick me up for a coffee at 9. She never came and I never had my massage. Instead I finished some administrative chores and then went to the airport.

The baggage check revealed something metal in my luggage. To the man behind the computer screen this appeared suspicious. I had to unpack my suitcase. I knew what he was looking for, the bronze Nepali temple bells which I use to indicate that time’s up in my workshops. He asked what they were and I told them they were bells for praying. His supervisor was called and this time I told him these were bells I used for praying. He smiled and decided not to confiscate them when I indicated that I really needed them for my religious practice.

In Nairobi I stepped into the wrong bus, the one that went to the terminal. When I was asked to pay 20 dollars for a transit visa I protested. That is 5 dollars per hour for my 4 hour wait, I said. When the immigration official understood that I wasn’t going to leave the airport I was handed over to a nice gentleman who organized a small bus to take me across the airport to the transit hall.

The KLM double-decker Boeing packed us like sardines, and then, 8 hours later, deposited hundreds of us at a drizzly Schiphol airport before 5 AM. Here I am now, waiting for the next and final leg of this long trip. I feasted on beschuit met kaas in the KLM lounge. I didn’t touch the speculaas or the stroopwafels and licorice because I am still on a no-processed-sugar diet, quite successfully I might say. I am experiencing that mental clarity I was promised 6 weeks ago. Indeed!


My last assignment has been completed, goods delivered, people inspired and ready to change whatever they can around them. I think this is why I am an optimist when it comes to people (and a pessimist when it comes to governments, systems and structures).

We finished today with an Open Space session which was, as usual, a big hit. There were moving and honest conversations about the experience of working in a dysfunctional team, the undiscussables, the double agendas, and working in dysfunctional societies.

I recognize the privilege of going home to a peaceful place when I think about our teams: the team from Burundi returns to a volcano that is waking up, and rumbling ominously. The people from the DRC go back, with all their enthusiasm and good intentions, to a system that can never function properly as long as the top leaders drain the country’s treasury for personal gain, setting the tone for everyone below them. The Niger and Tchad teams go back to a place where Boko Haram roams free and with too many weapons floating across their deserts and environmental calamities always on the horizon. The teams from Madagascar and Togo are probably the best off, with Togo having made it peacefully through an election and Madagascar recovering from a bad spell.

One of our participants had a stroke, probably right after he landed. We noticed his bizarre behavior on the first day. When he started to get incoherent and when we saw his mouth drooping and his hands holding on to the walls when walking, we sent him off to the hospital where he remains until tomorrow.

Tonight we spent about 3 hours going back and forth to the hospital, the airport, the hotel and the hospital again trying to get all the paperwork arranged to fly him back to Lomé tomorrow morning, with the rest of the Togo team. He didn’t recognize us quite yet, although he has improved greatly, walks, and talks again; the attending doctor believes he will recover completely.

And now I am packing my bags for the last time and having some fun with numbers:

8 different hotels (ranging from -1 star to 5 stars); 10 take offs and landings; 1 B-class upgrade; 10 times unpacking and packing my suitcase; 1250 km on the road and 23000 miles in the air; 1 laryngitis, 1 sinusitis, 2 visits to medical establishments (1 for self, 1 for a participant), 6 events; 190 participants; 4 trip reports; 2 linguistic zones; 4 billing codes; 2 writing assignments after hours; 3 other jobs on the night shift; 2 pedicures; 2 massages; unknown numbers of monkeys, lemurs and zebras, 5 sim cards, 2 phones, and 3 passports.


I have transited to Addis – taking a whole day of flying, a stop in Lomé where the Togo team came on board, and then a two hour wait in Addis where we joined the Niger team. Both the Togo and the Niger team have a participant in a wheelchair and so everything takes a bit longer.

It was nice seeing everyone again at the hotel since we last said our goodbyes in Lomé at the end of July, the day Saffi was born and the day I lost my travel smart phone in the consternation of an election rally ambush.

After my zero star experience in Cote d’Ivoire I am now again wallowing in luxury, with real coffee (macchiato) any time I want.

In two days I am completing my trip and I am about ready for that, although I am still having a lot of fun with the ICRC teams. I have seen small and big transformations.

After having finished the Congo book I no longer believe that we can change a health system as long as the leaders of that system, as well as their political bosses, are lining their pockets with money at should have gone to education, health and agriculture. They are counting on US, European and Japanese taxpayers to foot the bill of their country’s development and we gladly obey. So I look closer, to the individuals that grow more confident, dare to speak out and, in short, start to exhibit behavior worthy of a leader, or rather, as we call them, managers who lead.

April 2018
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