Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Kacper is going to Nairobi - Post 22

He unlocked his office’s door, opened it and looked at the floor. It looked strange; like… if it was moving. It was already dark, so Kacper couldn’t see very well. He turned the lights on. ‘Oh my goodness, what are these ants doing here?’ he exclaimed, though there was no one around to listen. The floor of his office was literally covered with millions of ants – all moving orderly in several different directions. ‘What is it that they want in here?’ he wondered.

He went to look for his Chadian colleague, who is responsible for maintenance work. He wanted to ask him to come over, so that they could decide what to do about the ants. His colleague was nowhere to be seen and it took Kacper over 45 minutes to find him. ‘I have millions of ants invading my office!’ he reported, when they finally encountered. As Kacper was talking in English, and his colleague’s English was as bad as Kacper’s French was, their conversation was not going very far. ‘Formigas, formigas…’ tried Kacper desperately in Portuguese, hoping it will clarify something. As formigas didn’t seem to work, Kacper grabbed his arm and pulled him to his office. ‘Look…’ said Kacper pointing at the floor. He did not believe… all of the ants – 1 million of them were gone! There was nothing on the floor! ‘Floor dirty?’ struggled Kacper’s colleague, still confused and surely wondering, what the silly foreigner might have wanted from him.

Kacper sat behind his desk looking around and wondering whether the ants would return. The enemy seemed to have departed for good though, so he tried to concentrate on his work. He still needed to finish some documents related to the Scenario Planning Exercise that he had led with his colleagues a day before.

He opened his email inbox. ‘Great…’ he thought, when he noticed an e-ticket for his trip to Nairobi that he had received from N’Djamena. ‘Now, I can book my hotels’, he decided excitedly. Kacper was to travel to Kenya, where he will be interviewed for a job. Some weeks ago, he applied for a secondment opportunity to his present organisation. If successful, he would work for seven months in the Regional Centre for East Africa, when he completes his present mission in Chad.

Great news was that on his way to Nairobi, Kacper was going to stop over for a night in Addis Ababa, where he would be able to meet his friends! ‘This is fantastic!’ he couldn’t help smiling. ‘Paz, Taamir, Kate, Robert, Amare… here I come!’ he thought to himself. This was definitely a wonderful bonus that he didn’t expect. He missed his Ethiopian buddies, and it was just a wonderful thought to be able to eat out with them again!

Kacper first arrived to Ethiopia around a year ago. He was sent there to help setting up a response programme to the droughts in the Somali Region, in the areas along the border with Djibouti.

He loved his Ethiopia experience. First of all, he found the country fascinating. The people were friendly, tones of history, and the landscapes… He spent lots of time travelling in a car, and he never got bored. Ethiopia was simply stunningly beautiful. ‘I wish, I could bring my mother here…’ he dreamt once, when their car was trying to make its way through curvy, mountainous roads, just after leaving Dire Dawa towards Addis Ababa. He was convinced that she would have loved it there.

But, it was mainly the people he worked with that made all the difference, and why he enjoyed being in Ethiopia so much. They somehow managed to create something that Kacper liked to refer to as ‘the Dream Team’. Yes, as sometimes happens, there was some mistrust in the beginning, but they managed to go through it all and build the team that worked.

He still remembers his conversation with Amare, his Ethiopian colleague that he – Kacper was to manage and to work with. ‘You Globals from Oxford, you are always so arrogant and unfriendly’ started Amare, when they had a chance to talk for a first time. ‘You just come to places, set up things, according to what you believe is right, but without any consideration of people that have worked in Ethiopia before, and then you leave!’, continued Amare in a slightly bitter way. ‘At the end, we – the Locals, are the ones, who clean the mess that you have created!’ he concluded. ‘Wow…’ this was going to be a difficult deployment, he thought.

The conversation with Amare just confirmed to Kacper, how negative feelings many people have in regards to the Globals working for his agency. Sadly, he needed to agree with much of the criticism! Many of his colleagues were precisely what Amare had described. Of course, there was no point trying convincing him that, Kacper was going to try to do things differently, no point in promising he would be inclusive, and sensitive. Kacper just needed to prove himself, and try doing whatever he could to win Amare over.

Ethiopia programme was blessed with a wonderful country director, who had just arrived to take his job, two weeks before Kacper did. Taamir, a Canadian of Pakistani and Dutch origins was probably one of the best bosses Kacper had a chance to work in his entire career. He was bright, witty, hard working, great sense of humour, confident, fair, yet very compassionate too. Taamir was able to listento people, and he did not do it just to show off that he cared; he actually seriously took people’s opinions into consideration, when taking decisions.

Taamir lived with his British wife Kate, who although didn’t work for their organisation felt like an integral part of the Dream Team. Kate, like Taamir was extremely bright, and knowledgeable, but what Kacper loved most about her was her sensitivity. She just knew what to say when to make people feel well. ‘Wonderful human beings’, Kacper recalled them both.

Then, there were Paz – the business support manager from the Philippines, an Australian Jane, who was in charge of donor relations, a German Anita – an advocacy manager, a Norwegian Pernille – in charge of food security, and two Bangladeshi boys: George the accountant, and Sadhan in charge of media work. Later, towards Kacper’s end of stay, Robert – a friendly chap from the UK came to take over Anita’s responsibilities, as she needed to urgently go to Afghanistan for another mission.

The objectives of the Dream Team were to set up the humanitarian programmes, shape them, and then hand them over to existing structures of the country programme. They needed to do things quickly and efficiently, so they could leave the country as soon as possible – after all, having all these foreigners working in one place was expensive. It was not necessary to have them there for a long time, especially in a country like Ethiopia, where there are many well-educated and capable citizens.

They all worked hard, but they also had fun doing so. Kacper went to work with enthusiasm and pleasure. He liked the way they were dealing with challenges and problems, he loved their discussions on difficult humanitarian dilemmas that they needed to face. However, what made Kacper especially happy was a fact that Amere seemed to feel good in the team!

They all soon became friends, not just colleagues. They talked about silly and not-so-silly stuff. They knew about their partners, love affairs, hobbies, ambitions, and dreams. They spent lots of time together. Kacper even convinced Paz to come over and visit him in Poland for her New Year break! Jane, who was a freak of healthy living, on the other hand convinced Kacper to start looking after himself.

‘Honey-bunny’ she told him once. ‘We are going to work out a healthy eating plan for you, and you will start swimming, as of tomorrow’ she decided rather than suggested once, when Kacper again complained about his aching back, and muscles. ‘But, but…’ Kacper wanted to resist. ‘There is no buts, you will just do it, and you will love it!’ So they did! Kacper swam 3 times a week, and changed the way he nourished his body. Thank to Jane, he lost 10 kg within 8 weeks – something he thought he would never be able to do (Kacper still is leading his ‘healthy plan’ even now, when he was without Jane in Chad).

‘Amere, you need to apply for my job’ Kacper tried again to talk him into it. ‘I will be leaving soon, and you are the one, who will do the job best!’ he carried on. ‘I do not think, I am ready Kacper’ kept on answering Amere. This made Kacper crossed a bit. ‘Stop talking crap, and just do it!’ exclaimed Kacper impatiently. Amere just smiled.

The interviews to choose a successor of Kacper were long. Finally, after days, the recruitment panel took the decision. It was Amere, who was considered to be the best candidate!

Amere was taking over a job of being a big boss of humanitarian department for Ethiopia, and Kacper was preparing for his departure. The organisation’s decision to send Kacper to Chad just speeded things up. Once again, as it happened so many times in the past, it was time to say goodbye to his friends, to the country and its people. As always, Kacper was looking forward to new challenges that his exciting life might bring. A part of him was also very sad. ‘I wish, I could keep all these people with me somehow’ he dreamt, when they all waived at him, as Kacper was approaching the security gates of the airport of Addis Ababa.

PS. Kacper is pleased to learn his dad is feeling better!

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