Whenever you do something that endeavors to change the status quo, you will meet resistance. It may be slow at first, then fierce. Most people would say, the fiercer the resistance the better of a job you’re doing. I’m not entirely sure of that. Many times the resistance you encounter could be your own stupidity catching up with you, or, God forbid, someone else’s stupidity catching up with you.
With that introduction, here goes.
It’s been a busy time thus far in the semester. The last few days on vacation in the UAE have been some very needed days of rest, without a schedule, agenda, or whatever else. Things really picked up at school pretty much right from the get-go. This was compounded by my boss and the principal of the school leaving on a recruiting trip back to the states for several weeks. Then I left to take some of our students to a Model UN conference in Doha, which was fantastic, but work was just stacking up while I was gone.
Since getting back there has been a ton going on. Land acquisition for a new school (in process), skirmishes with USAID over crappy book-keeping from 8 years ago, securing future funding for the school (in process, looking very good), visa procurement for the staff here (they came through the day before Spring break, thanks MFA for making me sweat it), hiring new staff for next year, helping organize a girls basketball trip to China, and our Week Without Walls program (more on this in a minute).
I laugh now when I think of how busy I felt in college. Of course, finals were crazy, senior paper seemed to drag on and on and on, but really, this has been way more difficult than going to school. Hope all of you soon-to-be-graduates are looking forward to all of your hard work paying off by getting more work. However, when you’re working at something that 8 of 10 times you enjoy, it’s something different entirely. So, to all of you reading this, I hope you enjoy what you do/will do.
Anyway, the last week before break the school did a “Week Without Walls” program. In Afghanistan, you can understand the need for walls and security, but there is also a gigantic need when it comes to people in poverty, especially in terms of education. So, we weren’t able to take most of the kids outside the compound walls, but we were able to bring in about 450 (around 100 kids per day) to participate in a type of day camp where our teachers and students gave lessons/activities in Physical Education, Science, Music, Art, and probably several other things that I’ve forgotten. ISK’s theme for the year is “Living for More than Me.” Most of the kids that were brought in wouldn’t even be able to have coats and shoes if it weren’t for NGOs and foreigners providing the funds to buy them. These kids literally have nothing. It was awesome for our students, some of whom are among the financially and politically elite of the country, to interact with these less fortunate ones. It was so cool to see our students really take ownership and love on this children who came inside our walls for a day. Along with that, some of our teachers and admin staff were able to give some training to the teachers of these other schools. So, not just giving the kids a good memory but hopefully improving their education in the long run.
This is what I’m here for. It’s become clear to me through working with various governmental agencies that I’m not cut out for government service, at least not at this point. I’m not made for bureaucracy, or anything else like it. I’m convinced that I could hang with the best of them but at the end of the day I think I would feel dry and used up. On the ground, helping bridge the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” is where I feel most at home. Even though I was in the office during the week, helping with other things, it’s seldom been more real to me that I’m not cut out for board-room politics, caucuses, or fruitless political discussions led by those who have no real clue what the common rabble is going through. I’m not trying to slam people going into government or whatever, I’m just not cut from the cloth I thought I was. However, I would encourage anyone going into that line of work to take a year or two and work some place like a school, or an NGO, or something like that. It will give you perspective on the policies that you might put in place someday, deciding what dollar goes where, etc. I just hope that you remember that governments serve people, not people their governments. If you do, people like me will be your greatest ally, if you don’t people like me will be a huge pain in your ass. Fair warning.
Spring break is winding down and it’s a bitter-sweet feeling, but i like what I do. And, the knowledge that my next break will take me back to family and friends in the States is an excellent piece of news.
Photo cred: David King