I have been trying for the past week to carve out time to post on this blog. Tonight, I've finally made myself stay awake long enough to handle the wickedly slow internet and now, strangely enough, I find I have little to say.
As is common with overseas work travel, these past few weeks I've been consumed almost constantly with, well, 12 hour work days. Not that I mind; I think it's well documented that I love what I do. However, unless I want to devote myself to endless descriptions of my tedious work schedule and adventures in Tetum translation, it doesn't make for very exciting blog posts. For that, dear readers, I'm exceedingly ashamed. Because really, is there really *nothing* I can find to write about East Timor? I mean, who the hell gets the chance to go to East Timor? And I have nothing tosay about it? That's messed up.
And yet, I've had very little time to find something interesting to tell you.
So I guess this is going to be a work blog post. Since my colleague Michael has arrived, and graduation has ended, my focus has completely shifted from "holding down the fort" to "batton down the hatches". That is, full steam ahead with extending our program here for another three years. In a nutshell, this has meant:
1) meet with potential partners, press the flesh, get to know your NGO neighbors and see how you can partner/overlap to make both/all programs a success. Also, poach staff.
2) continue meeting with the East Timor Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, keep them happy and get them to agree to fund 1.5 years of your program. Create, review, translate and sign MOU. Lather, rinse, repeat for subcontract that actually gives them the funds to do it.
3) meet with the three school directors to a) finalize the entrance exam for next years students b) finalize the teacher needs for next year and c) keep them happy
4) handle staff turnover. This has largely fallen on my plate, and I don't mind. However, it's been tricky to deal with attrition of old staff and trying to recruit new. Not only am I advertising new positions (wait, back up, that means actually assessing what our new staffing needs will be, and writing job descriptions and getting them translated) but I'm also trying as best I can to communicate to current staff that they will no longer have jobs. This is going mostly well, minus a few tearful breakdowns.
5) Rustle up 50 students for each school we work in for the 2008/2009 school year. If we don't have enough students at each school, we don't have a program, so this has also been trickly. My colleague and I came up with an off the cuff recruitment plan last week that I *hope* will work. We'll find out tomorrow when our staff come back to report out.
It's challenging, but mostly, I'm energized. Michael paid me what I felt was the best compliment ever one morning over breakfast when he said, "I can tell you're doing what you're supposed to in life. You've found your niche. You're constantly smiling."
And yes, it's frustrating. Last night, I just about wore myself to tears after working for twelve hours and realized I'd put the wrong contact information on our $600 newspaper advertisements (and that's only for one week!). It's also become patently clear to me that my hope of being hired on long term to this project will not materialize; there simply isn't enough money in the budget. I didn't really realize how much I'd been motivated by this possibility until suddenly, it wasn't there anymore. Also, it helps to break for lunch.
Today, I've chosen to move forward and just enjoy the last week I have here. I've met some amazing people; eaten a ton of fresh fish; run along the beach; eaten banana chips with homeless kids; snorkeled along a deep coral reef; met Jesus on a mountain top; watched an entire two seasons of Boston Legal; drank a crap load of Bintang beer; gotten a full body massage; karaoke'd until dawn; met old friends; made new ones; seen beautiful sunsets; flirted with Pakistani UN soldiers; received a gift to ward off the "evil eye" from the Turkish restaurant owner; learned Portuguese swear words; and eaten so, so, so much rice.
My boss in the States emailed me today to thank me for extending my stay, saying that he knew "East Timor is not an easy place." Don't tell him, but I haven't minded a bit. I don't know if I'd want to stay here forever, but I haven't minded being here for a month. The sunsets are beautiful and I keep running into good people.
Plus, there's beer.
What more could a girl want?
King of a boring post, but that's it in a nutshell. I'm still alive. I'm still kickin'. I still find joy in my ridiculousness.