Went back to work, after taking off Sunday (week here is Sunday – Thursday) and thought it might be interesting to give my typical work routine.
6:00 am – wake up to switch on the hot water boiler so that I can take a hot shower, then go back to sleep on my deeply uncomfortable bed. Most of the time there is city power (or the generator). So far there was only one morning without electricity (which also means no water!).
7:00 am – Get up properly, open all windows and doors so that the musty smell of my shed can be replaced by fresh air. Shower and get dressed for work (some wide tunic, long trousers, headscarf). No need to comb my hair as I keep the scarf on all day. Most women (including many nationals) take it off in the work compound, but anyone who’s seen me taming my ‘fro, knows I’ll gladly use any excuse to avoid that ;-)
7:50 am sharp – Be picked up by a work car to be taken to the office.
8:00 am – 12:00pm – Working away. Anything ranging from proof-reading draft documents, doing background research on topics like youth policy, microfinance or civil service policy to taking the minutes at meetings (we meet with donor countries, other departments and we do so a lot), visiting workshops and training courses that we are organizing or allocating money towards. On good days there’ll be a workshop (like on politics and development), on a really good day I get to leave the office to have a meeting in a different office or even accompany someone doing some monitoring and evaluation of a programme and I get to interview trainers or participants. Seeing anything in Kabul is still quite the thrill, since security restricts us so much.
Around Noon – Rush to the Afghan canteen. It gets really crowded from 12:00pm when everyone in the office (around 40 people I’d estimate) comes down into the courtyard to get their lunch. The crowds aren’t really a problem at all though, because one of the upsides of the much talked about status of women here is that we don’t have to queue. It’s really rather fabulous! The majority of workers are men anyways, and my female colleagues and I get to walk to the very front of the line where the gentleman next in line will politely offer you his space. It rocks big! I was lucky to have been taken under the wing of my lovely colleague Homa, who meets up with some of her colleagues for lunch every day. They try and speak English most of the time for me, but I am starting to pick up very little pieces of Dari too. The discussions are always interesting and fun. Though much more sophisticated that my lunch-talk at home… They send each other poetry for instance and will then talk about literature and poetry over lunch. These things are an intrinsic part of the culture I was told. And while I would instantly leave the table if someone dared pestering me with poetry over my pizza back in the US, this is really interesting (and humbling as I read my last poem at age 9 or so;-) 12:30 – Get back to the office. More meetings, more write ups etc.
4:30 pm sharp/ 6:00pm sharp / 7:00pm sharp – Run down to the parking lot, where there’ll be about a dozen cars taking all staff home again. They leave super punctually. I was three minutes late once and that was already too late. Most national staff at the ‘lower ranks’ leaves with the first shuttle and then depending on the work load, the more senior the person the later their shuttle home. Luckily being an intern is pretty much the bottom of the hierarchy, so if I’m still on my desk at 4:31pm someone will come and shush me out of the office. Especially, the national staff is very sweet about this and always worried that I am working too hard.
Post work – Twice a week I spend an unacceptable $30 to go the town’s only gym (per visit that is). It’s at a fancy hotel, but rather badly equipped (6 cardio machines, only 3 of them work) and some weights. Still with the delicious food here there’s really no choice. I spent about 2.5 hours there to make sure I get my money’s worth. The good thing is that the gym’s connected to a spa-area with sauna, steam room, fancy towels etc. I make sure to shampoo and soap myself about three times to really max out those $30. If I don’t gym it up, I usually meet up with friends, go home sit in our Garden Eden trying to teach one of the parrots to say my name or try convince one of the males around me to accompany me somewhere (work rules say I’m only allowed out with male company…). Later we have dinner at my house. Not always all 6 of us living there, but I rarely eat alone. After that I might go out again, read, etc... And then go to bed to be awoken again at 6am…
Ps: just to clear things up, I don’t really work hard for the money, seeing that the internship is unpaid ;-) But didn’t wanna miss out on the title.
This trip and internship would have never been possible without the very generous support of theNancy Germeshausen Klavans Cultural Bridges Fellowship from the Women in Public Policy Program (WAPP) at the Harvard Kennedy School. http://www.hks.harvard.edu/wappp/students/internships/indexngk.htm