I can't believe how time has flown past; this week marks my half way point on my 7 month internship! That means I better start doing all those things that I keep saying "oh, I have lots of time, I'll do that later..." such as visiting nearby countries, find some hiking to do (I am surrounded by mountains, I'll make my own trails if I have too!) And make sure that I am getting everything out of my experience working at MEDA as I can. Well, fate just has a way of making things happen, and just as I realized how little time I have left to do all of these things, some opportunities fell into my lap this week.
First of all I am very sad to say that Brad, our Program Manager in Tajikistan, had a family emergency and had to fly back to the US early this week. When he left I let him know that if there was anything I could do, please let me know... wow, I didn't know what I was getting myself into!
While Brad was on his 48 hour journey home, I received a text... "Kelly, can you do me an important favour?" I thought... hmmm... sure, water your plants in your office!? Maybe cancel a Russian lesson you had planned? "I need you to contact EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) and they wanted to meet with me over the proposed concept paper. Can you contact them, explain my situation... (Yes, no problem, of course, I'm sure they'll understand).... and then maybe you and the finance manager can meet instead of me... (What? me? meet with EBRD? for you? oh boy!)...I need a $1.5 million dollar commitment! .... (Seriously? is this really happening? I'm supposed to ask them for over a million dollars? This is an exciting opportunity, but I hope I don't blow it!)...
*note: fate -> wanting to get everything I can out of my experience working at MEDA
Well, after a phone call Wednesday afternoon I had a meeting arranged for Friday evening. That meant I had 2 days to learn everything about investment funds that I could, and to memorize the concept paper and go over all details with a fine-tooth comb. I contacted MEDA headquarters in Canada to ask the investment fund specialist for as much info as he could give me (thanks for that idea Mel!) and I learned all the terminology that is thrown around... including in the concept paper. I also hammered out some details that have been discussed since the initial concept paper was written. All those meetings that I sat-in on in Dushanbe with Brad were really going to come in handy! (I knew they were preparing me for 'the future', but I didn't realize 'the future' was 2 weeks away!)
So Friday came faster then I had hoped, but I was thoroughly prepared and excited for the meeting. And there was a little confusion with the date/time of the meeting, so we ended up moving it to lunch... good thing I did my homework ahead and was prepared to go in early! And it didn't help that when the finance manager came into my office to say it was going to be early he added "and by the way... you're doing all the talking!" So now the pressure was really on! But I felt fine about it; I was actually looking forward to it by now.
The meeting was held at a nice restaurant, so it was a comfortable atmosphere. And when the representatives from EBRD arrived they were very friendly and quite relaxed, phew! Then we exchanged business cards and started introductions... and it turned out they weren’t actually involved in investment funds and they weren’t familiar with the concept paper! So in a way it took off the pressure, as they were not involved in the decision if we would receive funding or not. But they were very curious about MEDA and about the paper, they asked a lot of questions and they contributed with some suggestions. They told us who we should contact, and in their opinion there was funding available, and they liked our idea, so all-in-all it was a good meeting! It gave me a chance to explain the whole concept from the beginning (like I had heard Brad do in our meetings in Dushanbe) and answer any questions they came up with. I was glad I did all of my homework, as I never felt stuck for an answer!
After about an hour and a half discussing business, we said our goodbyes and headed back to the office. What a sigh of relief! Then I wrote up a report on the meeting to send to Brad who anxiously awaited it... although I don't think it was what he was expecting because we did not meet with the 'decision makers.'
So Friday night I celebrated by staying home, baking cookies, and doing Russian homework (a usual crazy Friday night in Tajikistan). Earlier in the week I had received an email from a foreigner I met quite a while ago to make plans for the weekend, he asked me if I wanted to come along with him and his wife to a market on the border of Kyrgyzstan Saturday morning, so of course I said yes!
Saturday morning they picked me up, and we headed to the border. The driver was Tajik and knew where he was going... but we didn't! We thought the market was in Tajikistan, but I had my passport (and Kyrgyz visa) just incase, but the other 2 didn't think about bringing theirs. As we pulled up to border control (men standing around with big guns) they asked for ID's... well, 2 of us could go across! Philip and his wife ended up telling me and the driver to just cross over, buy a few items for them, then come back to meet them. So I walked across the border onto Kyrgyz soil, we went around the corner to the 'market' and it was empty... completely abandoned. So we turned around, asked the 'nice' men with guns what happened to the market, and they laughed and said it was on the Tajik side today... after all that negotiating and problem solving we found out it was for nothing! So we walked back across the border to Tajikistan and met the others, and drove up the street to the market.
*note: fate -> wanting to visit nearby countries
At the market there were much of the usual Tajik items, but there were a few Kyrgyz hats we found. We were looking for Kyrgyz slippers too, but there was none to be found. Some nice vendors said they would buy some slippers and bring them to the market for us in a couple weeks, so we will go back to get them! We also found some nice silk material, and I bought some beautiful knitted wool socks for only $1, some things are just too cheap here!
Then we stopped at a Tajik carpet making facility and bought some Tajik slippers... they are literally slippers made from carpets, kinda weird, but very Tajik!
Next stop I introduced them to the "American" store, where you can find a selection on imported products, such as spices and high end liquors, yesterday I even found tissues! I had never seen them here before!
Then we finished the day with lunch at my favourite Khujand restaurant "The Rose", it is underground, but has a great atmosphere, the walls and ceiling are covered with bamboo and there are traditional Tajik artefacts decorating the room. And they have a great Chinese dish of rice and vegetables that I can order without the meat!
Later that night I had some girls over to my place for dinner. It was very nice, I have only met a couple foreigners, but we are all so busy we barley see each other, so it was nice to get back in touch with them again! I had made pasta, tomato sauce (from scratch, using fresh tomatoes even) and garlic bread, and they brought a delicious chocolate cake and cherry sauce, yum! Then we talked away the hours before we realized it was getting late... we must get together more often!
And finally, tonight Philip and his wife invited me over to their place for dinner and to watch a Christmas movie, can't wait! And they also invited me to spend Christmas with them; we will cook a big dinner and spend the day together. It's great to have friends to spend the holidays with, but I will miss my friends and family back home, but this is the next best thing :)
I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays wherever they are!
Next mission: to go hiking, somewhere, somehow!