Turn Me Loose!
March 26, 2007
I think it might be a bit better if you work for an NGO here rather than the UN, as far as freedom. Way less pay and bennies, true, but much more flexibility when it comes to travel, within and outside of Kabul. UN workers are, officially, not allowed to walk the streets of Kabul AT ALL -- we walk from our UN vehicle, driven by an official UN driver, into whatever secure location we are going to (work, guest house, security-approved restaurant, another agency, etc.). I think I may not even be supposed to go to the A1 supermarket, but until I get caught, I'm going, because the prices and distance to get to the PXs out on Jalalabad road are STUPID. NGO workers, on the other hand, may use one of the private security taxi companies to go places, go visit historical sites, and pop across the street or down to the corner store for a cola. Ofcourse, as a foreign woman, I wouldn't even be able to pop down to the corner store for a cola, certainly not alone, if I worked for an NGO, even with my burka (which I'll pick up on Friday)... it's not the terrorism that's the threat -- it's the crime. Theft is a huge problem here. And guns are widely and readily available, and not well-maintained - I'm affirmed in my belief for gun control more than ever now, seeing the situation here. A fully-armed, often desperate-and/or-angry public is a mightily scary thing.
I hate this woman for being able to do all that I may not... and I know EXACTLY where this hike is. I pass it every day on my way to work.
Speaking of NGOs: Beyond the 11th supports Afghan widows affected by war and terrorism, by funding programs that provide life-sustaining financial and emotional support. Beyond Belief, a documentary about the work of Beyond the 11th, has been selected to be a part of the Tribeca Film Festival."
So, what have I been doing at work?
There's a young guy at work who works in procurement, and fills in on some IT stuff, and he *loves* cricket. I realized it when I went downstairs for whatever, and saw a cricket page on his computer - much like my Yahoo brackets page for March Madness. He says he's on the Afghanistan cricket team. And, well, maybe he is - I doubt they get to play many matches and, therefore, I doubt Anyway, I call him "cricket" and he calls me "basketball."
- getting rudimentary-but-updated information on our program's web site.
This was a huge endeavor, as least when it came to my UN employer and this program's sponsor, because the UN IT guy flatly refused to put up the new information on our existing page unless I provided the page completely in HTML, with absolutely no mistakes, ready to be FTPd to the site and fitting into the existing design perfectly. There's no web master right now at my UN agency, hasn't been for about two months, and this agency hasn't appointed anyone to fill that role while they eventually maybe perhaps look into possibly hiring someone. ALL of the contact information on the ENTIRE site is wrong (so, CNN, if you were looking to interview anyone from this UN agency, or Bill Gates, if you were looking to fund a program under this UN agency, well so sorry). I got emails from three other people as well from the UN agency, assuring me that it was NOT their job to help me. So, I went to the TechSoup message boards and asked for recommendations on easy, easy, easy-to-use HTML mark up software for a non-Mac, something as much like BBEdit as possible (that's what I use on my Mac). I got several recommendations, and downloaded EditPlus and NVU, and used the former; it worked brilliantly. But I have no idea if the change has been made, as I haven't had Internet access since I sent that file over.
Tell me again why people think the UN will try to take over the world? And kudos to the government ministry for being the polar opposite in their approach to getting the information up.
I've still lots to do regarding the web. The pages are all updated, but they are BORING. Other development agencies have really great sites with exciting info. It's long overdue for this program to follow suit. The web pages aren't so much for locals as much as donor countries and expats looking to see that their country is on the rebound.
- editing whatever the Ministry gives me to edit. They are thrilled to have a native English speaker on the compound. Well, they are thrilled until they get their documents back from me... I don't use red as a markup color because the shock of all that color might make someone have a heart attack.
- taking photos of whatever I can find to take photos of. And this is a huge challenge because a lot of what my program does here on the compound is have meetings. Ah, meetings... nothing like photos of meetings to put ya to sleep.
- reading and preparing some short, pithy presentations on various aspects of communications. I'm really glad I brought a huge "to read" folder full of docs and PDFs I've been meaning to read for a while with me to Afghanistan, because if I hadn't had that stuff, I'm not sure what I'd be doing now at work with no Internet. Plus, I brought a bunch of my own digital library of communications/outreach resources. I've pulled a lot of what I need for these presentations from all these digital files. Hurrah for me. I love when I do something right - 'cause, if you know me, you know I absolutely beat myself up when I do something wrong.
His colleagues in the Ministry IT department know me now because I call one of them every time the Internet goes out - I call and whichever answers says, "Hi, Jayne." Anytime one of them fixes it, I text him on my phone to say thanks. Last time, one of them wrote, "Welcome, dude." So now, whenever the Internet is out, I write, "Dude, where's my internet?!"
Actually, they are giving up on wireless at work. We had no internet at work for three days. The two IT guys have been walking around taping up cables and, soon, we'll all have wires dangling down from the ceiling to hook up to our laptops. Won't THAT be attractive... I guess you have realized by now that these buildings are NOT up to code. They say that the reason we have so many problems with the wireless connection is because of the frequent power cuts. There is NO city power grid; every compound - indeed, every house - has it's own generator. And the power goes out for from a few seconds to a few minutes several times a day, at the guest house, here at work - all over town. Apparently, when the power comes back on, the wireless doesn't reboot or whatever. They feel switching us all to cable connections will mean they won't have to reset so many Internet-related machines each time the power goes off and on. Whatever. Who knows.
So, Stefan has this program that produces a world map and shows where every person who has visited his web site is in the world. I always know when members of my family have looked at his site by all the little circles in Western Kentucky... I visited the site so he could have a dot for Eastern Afghanistan, and he screen captured the map and did a little edit on it. I've uploaded it to the shared files section of this yahoo group, and printed it out and posted it next to my desk at work. Every time I look at it, I laugh.
I finally got sick. I knew I would. Glad it didn't happen during my first three weeks, when I didn't know my head from my... elbow. I've kept working while sick, sticking to two-day diet of nothing but tea, chicken broth (hurrah for me again for remembering to bring that from Germany), saltine crackers, soup from the evening buffet and a little Afghan bread. Today, I dared to eat a piece of pizza (and it wasn't bad - but nothing can be as bad as the pizza at the Bad Godesberg train station pizza). Gunda had some medicine as well (which I stupidly forgot to bring myself). Why did I keep working? Because I just HATED the idea of being stuck in that dang room, I really did. Time passes much more quickly when I'm working.
It's already so warm here. I've got two of my windows open right now, and it's past 8 in the evening. That means summer's going to be scorching. Ugh. Really glad I brought a good mix of clothes. I was expecting the seasons to change before I went home the first time, but not so quickly. Yes, great weather for another holiday - this time, it's April 1, Prophet's Day. Or, as a colleague accidentally wrote in an email, "Profits Day." Not that I'll get to enjoy the weather much... If I didn't have a huge window in my office, I'd pull my hair out.
If you have read this blawg, PLEASE let me know.
Comments are welcomed, and motivate me to keep writing --
without comments, I start to think I'm talking to cyberair.
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