As of this Thursday, I will have been in Afghanistan for eight weeks. It feels twice as long. I knew I would be happy to go on my first leave. But I had no idea that I would feel so *desperate* to get out of the country for a while at this point.
I've been far weaker than I expected on my first long-term mission abroad. The security situation has really gotten me down: no walking, no hiking, no site-seeing, no strolling down the avenue looking in shop doorways. Drive to work, drive to home, drive to a restaurant for lunch or, on Fridays, for brunch. Get to be outside only at a restaurant or my guest house.
Also, I thought I could handle the separation from Stefan and Albi better. Stefan and I were apart for six weeks when he was in the USA, and I was okay - just cried twice, I think. What was different then is that he was having a fantastic time, and I was home with my dogs, with a couple of friends just a phone call away.
I thought I would be a lot tougher. I'm not nearly as tough as I thought. I'm eating my humble pie -- and with no complaints. Obviously I had something to learn.
In so many ways, I was prepared for the day-to-day needs here - I brought most of the right stuff for making myself comfortable. I credit my preparation to all the traveling I've done. But mentally, I was NOT prepared for this, not nearly as much as I thought.
I've also struggled to get into my groove at work, and that's affected my time here as well. I feel like I'm oh-so-far-in-over-my-head at times. Development/aid work has a specific language, and I'm still so green at it. I'm really struggling to be able to develop an outreach strategy that would really add value to what's happening here - what do I really know about rural rehabilitation and development?!?!?. This is not easy. Not at all. I would say it's the hardest thing I've ever done. I sit in meetings and feel like I don't understand 90% of what's going on - so how am I supposed to talk about it to anyone? I have always gotten a buzz from work, but right now, I'm just feeling frustrated and ill-prepared.
But on the flip side, it's been nice to get back to communications activities and away from all-volunteer-management-all-the-time. I've long ago accepted this isn't a job I'm going to make a big splash in. I'm doing my best to learn. I have even been scanning some old WPA campaigns and developmentgateway.org, as well as various other resources, for inspiration. I just hope to do a solid, basic job, to pave the way for greater things by whoever follows me, and to learn things that will help me in the future.
I also still feel grateful for this experience, intestinal attack and all.
Some things I've been grateful for while I've been here:
the Internet - when it's there. With the restrictions on movement, the Internet has often been my only social interaction. For those of you on instant messenger in particular - bless you. I cherish talking to you! As for Skype - it's been a disappointment. iVisit has been much better.
most of the Afghan people I work with - they inspire me, and remind me why I'm here, in a good way. And it's been so nice to work with people again; being an independent consultant is lonely...
your emails - sometimes, what's gotten me through the day or night is hearing from you. It's kept me in touch with the reality that I know is outside of Afghanistan. There was one encouraging email from Alex that I've read about three times to keep going - it's the email ass-kicking I need for this experience. Please keep those emails coming - please at least let me know you're reading these blogs.
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The personal opinions expressed on this page are solely those of Ms. Cravens, unless otherwise noted.