Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I just enjoyed reading some of my wife’s recent blog posts, and realized that I could loosen up as well as just talk about life a bit more.  So, here’s some random happenings in the men’s world here:

·      Our son is turning into a motorcycle man.  I am borrowing (which probably means buying) a motorcycle from one of our staff, and my boy absolutely loves to ride it.  Actually starting the engine and leaving the yard is not required for him, he’ll sit on the top of the gas tank, working the throttle, making his own motorcycle sounds for a while.  We do go on some family rides, and he wedges between me and the sloped gas tank perfectly.  His mom and I are pretty sure, from the look on his face and wind in his hair, that he loves it.
·      On one of our family trips to the bazaar, little t and I stayed on the bike while his mom went to buy some fruit.  An old man approached pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with miscellaneous scrap materials, and a canary.  He stopped in front of us and started to praise God for such a beautiful child.  This was really incredible, he really went over the top in lavishing his affection on my kid.  Then he scrounged through his scraps, but not finding what he was looking for, he then dug in his coat pockets, and produced 4 old sunflower seeds in his filthy hand, and a smile.  He continued to praise both God and my son while he put the sunflower seeds in little t’s hand, then he went on his way.
·      Between the regular shopping and my little house projects, I have started relationships with a lot of shopkeepers.  For each project, I have a favorite shop I go to, so now I have a plumbing guy, a square lumber guy, a small wood guy, a nuts and bolts guy, a wrenches guy, a small wires guy, a fuses guy, a big wires guy, a light bulb guy, a fan guy, a nails and screws guy, not to mention the diaper wipes guy, and the baby Tylenol guy.  This has been fun, because by becoming their customer and doing business with them in their cultural ways, they seem to be happier to see me each time.  I didn’t even know that fan guy and I were close until he invited me to his brother’s wedding. 
·      I have had to do sort some conflicts at work lately.  A big part of my role is management support for our local leaders, and our project manager and administrator do not get along at all.  They took issue over a word that was translated wrong, and it became a yelling argument that neighbors heard down the street.  I stood between them so that they wouldn’t attack one another, and talked very straight with both of them about how they’re going to have to stop making these petty issues so personal and learn to cooperate, because neither can do their job without the other.  We are going to have to carefully reopen these issues with each guy in private, and make them take responsibility for their own responses rather than trying to manipulate and blame their co-worker.  I am thinking a lot these days about how hard my job will become if the other foreigners in the project move on.
·      My outdoor spring projects are done.  I built a wood and cloth awning in front of the 2 rooms of our house that are not shaded by a tree.  It has already helped cut the heat a bit.  I also built little t a massive swingset.  So far it only holds his swing, but the timbers I used for the legs will be strong enough to hold up a playhouse/fort for him when he gets bigger.  Now I’m trying to decide what project is next: a sandbox digger, or a 3-wheel kick scooter for the t-man, or…
·      Lately I am having lots of conversations with guys about the state of this nation, the killing of Bin Laden, and other big events.  I have asked a number of them if they see a massive civil war in the future of this nation.  I have an eerie suspicion that this type of war is inevitable, it’s only a matter of time.  Some don’t see that, but the older wise types seem to agree.  In this land where revenge just does not die, there are issues generations old that are still worth fighting for.  How are we handling this at the moment?  One day at a time.  We thought we might be shoved out of here just 6 weeks ago, and we are back, but something might happen and we’ll be shoved out next week.  We believe there’s enough reason to be here today, and we have enough common sense to have a sudden exit option for the tomorrows.  Til that is needed, it means something to us and to these people to work with them and improve and challenge their lives, because that may impact the way they live in the future, come what may.

Project Cycle Management Training

I haven’t had much to say on this blog for a while.  Tonight I was sitting here wondering why I haven’t had much to say, and what I came up with is that I am finally settled into work that is somewhat familiar.  If you used to read our blog in our first term you probably remember that many posts were written about bewildering experiences in a culture and work that we were shockingly different and new to us.  There’s still plenty of crazy things going on, but I don’t rush as quickly to write about them, because I’ve found other ways to process the crazy aspects of life here, like talk to teammates, staff, or neighbors.  This is probably a better way for me to handle stresses here, but the downside is that I have to be more deliberate in thinking of and taking time to write interesting things for you.

Well tonight you’re in luck because I am determined to write something!  I debated writing about our wildest staff member, but somehow I imagine his stories about training in Quetta (decades ago, before it was on the world map), shooting RPGs at Soviet helicopters and smuggling artillery would not be comforting to you.  Fortunately this fellow considered his mission accomplished when the Soviets were ousted, and for the past decades he has taken up more peaceful activities, like working for us.

Now it’s time to get back to my own peaceful topic for tonight, which I titled before writing the above paragraphs.  Training is the somewhat familiar work that is busying my days lately.  A month ago I started a long training program for our facilitator team (the locals that we hire to implement our various community development projects).  The team has worked in community development much longer than me, and they are all closer to the age of my parents than myself, so I have to be careful what kind of training topics I push.  The opportunity to train came from hiring 4 new women for the team in April.  They had to start from scratch, so I was given the nod to bring participatory development training, which is one of the things I am most passionate about.

I have to admit, I was questioning my passions when my first training here completely flopped!  It flopped mostly because I just couldn’t get my tongue to cooperate and spit the words out right.  I decided after that to take a different approach, and I’ve been training 1 or 2 individuals from the 14-member team so that they can turn around and train the rest of the team.  The pressure is off when I’m working with 1 or 2 at a time, and there is time to work through the hard parts in the training and find the best examples that will prove the points. 

What are we training on?  After some basics about the distinctives of our organization’s development work, and the role of community facilitators, we plunged into working out a participatory methodology for our project cycle management.  I could try to define that, but it might be easier to just give you a diagram we use, and then describe an example project for you.  Here’s the diagram:
This diagram illustrates how we put our work into an action-reflection cycle.  Reflection is central and relates to every part of the process; it is the checkpoint between each action, to ensure that we are doing things right.

For an example lets use diahrrea, after all, ‘tis the season here!  When we first interact with a community, we start a discussion around 2 pictures: 1 young person and 1 old person.  We ask the community to pretend these people are from their community, and then ask them, “how is life for these people?”  In this discussion problems will surface.  Our next activity with the community is to draw pictures of the main problems that they have stated, and have the community members rank the importance of the problems.  Ranking is easily done with dry beans given to the participants, and the result is that the community has voiced their main problems, and our project has seen which problems the community is most motivated to address.  For our example we’ll say that diahrrea was #1 in the community ranking.  This is problem identification.

In problem analysis the goal is to expand the understanding of the stated problem, and expose the causes of the problem so that is can properly be addressed.  If diahrrea is a main problem stated by the community, our facilitators tell stories and show picture cards that illustrate the causes for diahrrea.  The stories are simple: A girl does not wash her hands after using the latrine, eats her lunch, and gets sick.   A boy poops outside his house, flies transmit filth from his poop to his food, and he gets sick.  A woman changes a baby’s diaper and does not wash her hands, prepares a meal, and the whole family gets sick.  A drinking water container is left open and flies transmit filth to it and people get sick.  A man poops on the riverbank, and a boy downstream drinks the river water and gets sick.  After telling each story we ask if this ever happens in their community, and then they tell their stories.  After telling all our picture stories we line them up to show that diahrrea, the main problem that they stated, has many causes.   It is essential for these problem causes to be analyzed, before there is any talk about solutions.

If you were really enjoying this post, I apologize that it is going to have to be a “to be continued”   This is long enough for one post, and I’m out of energy, so I will pick this up another evening, thanks for reading!

Monday, May 2, 2011

O the enemy

Osama is dead, in case you didn’t hear.  Somehow I imagine you’ve heard.  I won’t take a lot of time to say how we feel about this, because like many, we have mixed feelings.  I will just write shortly tonight to say that so far there’s been no indication of insecurity or attacks in our corner of this country.  My guess is that we are not in a high priority location for retaliation.  Sure they will look for soft targets, but they’ll also look for targets that provide maximum press, to try to stoke their image.  Also Osama is not a good name around here.  Insurgents here hold to the purpose of gaining control of this land and its resources, not destroying the world.  Our staff are all happy that Osama is dead.  Of course, they would be happy, because by working for a foreign organization they make themselves targets for terrorists.  But, the death of Osama does not seem to be a big deal for our security here, yet.

Of course I have a lot more to say, but since these two writers said it so well already, I will give you the links to their articles, and then add a few comments…

My favorite quote from the above article, “It is a tempting yet dangerous practice to look around the world for evil people and target them. That is just what Osama Bin Laden thought he was doing. We must be vigilant that we do not become what we despise.”

Now on to the next one:

The whole second half of this article is worth reading again.  There are reasons that bin Laden used and Al Q will still use to attack America from any angle they can.  The question is not whether we agree with their opinions/convictions, the question is- do we know our enemy?  If we don’t honestly know how our country’s policies have made them so angry, how can we ever hope to understand them, let alone turn them away from their hate?  And this does not even come near the hard words by a famous man, who said, “love your enemy.” 

This is quite hard talk, perhaps it is much better to just kill them.