We want you to stay up there for a while or the pleasure of unity
I had received from my employer a job description, admittedly a little bit vague in nature, that left room for a variety of joyful and exciting interpretations about my new position and the living conditions in Nara. At the time I liked the fact that this job description was so “open” and that it allowed me to fantasize with my friends and family.
Since the project in Nara was a ” collaboration ” between different organisations I also had three superiors with the same hierarchical powers ( over me ), a fact that should not be underestimated and that can be even under normal working conditions challenging. All three represented powerful, long-established, reputable organisations with distinct mission statements and philosophies. One organisation was a left orientated political foundation, another one an international donor organisation, the pro-longed arm of the German Ministry of International Development and last but not least an independent, fund-raising NGO, the initiator of the Nara project in the 1990’s .
All three were experienced, impressive men with decades of working experience in the field of International Development work and they had lived most of their life abroad. Their political and religious convictions varied and so did their view of life, management styles and perceptions of the role of foreign aid and the technical advisors or assistants (me again) assigned to projects. Each one organised, worked and orchestrated from his regional office as a regional director. I dare to say they did not like it other too much.
Johnny Cash’s song ” The one on the right is the one on the left ” fitted this scenario perfectly.
At the time the sector of International Development Work was a rather wild playground with fierce competition and rivalries between the structures concerning project regions, programme interventions and positions.
Several meetings took place individually between the three directors and me to clarify my mission but instead of enlightenment I felt a tiny little bit of nervousness creeping in. Finally, in the meeting before the last meeting, I got one clear instruction before leaving for Nara.
” We want you to stay up there for a while, that is the most important thing for now,” so I was told by the independent NGO director, who of course had a right to say so because it was him who had created everything in the first place.
“There has not been enough presence so far in that location.” he explained further.
” Yes, up North, in Nara, please you take your time, you observe and look at the situation, look at it from all the angles and just be present and patient . No need to be proactive right now.”
” Ok”, I said. I thought I can do that.
” And then you write us a detailed report at the end of the month about what you have seen with all your personal observations.” he added. ” It should be a bit longer than a page.”
After having arrived up there and having seen the place I had a the necessary and un-avoidable follow-up-thought on my first thought that went somehow like this : Can I do that ?
But then again..
It is going to be stimulating !