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Monday, December 11, 2006


Praying for snow

AWBF board members practice team work.

We found a fun way for AWBF board members to learn about collaboration.

The entire drapery selection team.

Kate and Athena stumble onto the drapery selection team.

Foot traffic in front of the new RKA store.
But we're not worried, there's a hot new restaurant down the street.

Our cleaning crew polishing the RKA window to a sparkle--a first in Kabul.

Leading one of these missions means you have to keep track of talent, brains, passion and ambition as it runs all over town. Appointments to be confirmed, drivers and translators to be assigned, interview guides to be prepared for interviews, presentation decks to be prepared for meetings, new resources and partners to be identified, supplies to be delivered, samples to be picked up, debriefs and adjustments, you name it. We four on this mission all miss Marla not only for her capacity to handle all of this with ease, but for her easy humor and good thinking.

So what do the four of us share? Same as all people on these missons: A desire for impact. And frustration that we can not expand the space time continuum. Never enough time. Pam left this afternoon, the rest of leave Thursday. I am actually praying for snow to keep us here a few more days. Pam and I tried to stay, but all seats out of Kabul are booked through late December.

So instead we forge ahead with the time we have.

Athena and Kate were with the Afghan Women's Business Federation (AWBF) board of directors today, leading a collaborative leadership seminar. This project is a consulting project for them, seperate from the Bpeace TOT training which we delivered earlier in the week. Both projects are aimed at making AWBF successful. More on this tomorrow.

Pam wrapped up her loose ends (fixture plans, shopping lists, process definitions), right up until the second she got on her plane, meeting with Steve, Laila and some of the associates at the store and then the hotel this morning. Najib and Steve were on a mission to outfit the RKA store, as per Pam's instructions. Armed with shopping lists and fixture plans, they set out to to accomplish the impossible: Find perfect fittings for the store.

The team had been having some challenges locating their vision of Afghan soul. Kate suggested showing Najib some of the furniture pieces which line the Serena lobby. Yureka! Najib, immediately said "Chicken Street", the infamous Kabul shopping area as it has attracted foreigners (as well as crime and insurgent activity) for years. So today the team started in the glass shop area, to purchase glass tops to match the 'branch' tables purchased yesterday. On Chicken street, they went to a fantastic furniture store filled to the ceiling with Afghan soul and purchased a number of pieces, spending $660. Najib and Steve bargained hard on behalf of RKA and everyone walked away happy.

Najib and Steve met up with other Bpeace associates Laila, Bakht Naziara and her husband Khan Aga to choose fabrics for the dressing room and slipper chairs at Khan Aga's friend shop. Lots of lively conversation with the store owner, as we viewed sample upon sample of embroidered bed coverings. Several selections and spirited negotiations were completed with pictures, hand shakes and hugs. A final stop around the corner led to the purchase of the wrap station, another beautiful Afghan piece that will decorate the store.

Kate: Athena and I are were in the car headed to Nasima's shop after we had completed the day's AWBF training. As we pass a shop window I see that it is crowded with many familiar faces. It's Steve and what is now HIS entourage. The group are in the midst of what is now a familar scene, piles of samples. Jump out in time to be shown several pieces of wonderful Afghan fabric which was being purchased for RKA. The owner of the shop was quite the model, showboating coin covered hats and embroidered coats for the group and the camera. Steve looked so damn happy I am wondering if he won't soon be requesting we move. It isn't the worst idea I have heard, but know that we have been staying at the Serena, which insulates you from the day to day challenges of living in Kabul.

As Athena and Kate returned to the Serena they ran into Wendy Summer's Kabul business partner, Shalha, who was at the Serena searching for them to arrange the exchange of some samples. Shalha owns a construction company and we discussed the Apprentice Road Trip. Women in construction in Afghanistan? Shalha promised to take us on a picnic up north if (when) we return in the Spring to see some of the spectactular scenery which graces this country.

Dinner was with CIPE and Aid to Artisan teams at L' Taverna. CIPE was our host for refreshments at their comfortable compound before we headed to dinner. Bpeace, AKB (Kate and Athena) and ATA are all doing projects with AWBF, which for those who follow the money in NGO speak is a USAID funded project led by CIPE. It was so so great to FINALLY get outside at night. We have been too busy to leave the Serena. Shared road tales and lessons: beware of dead fish in overhead compartments.

I must meet the writer of the bpeace blog for she (or he) is an observer after my own heart! The details are fantastic, I can see Kate bounding out of the car to view the fabric, I can taste the excitement, the exhilaration of the chase and the hunt for those perfect details to make the shop something everyone will be proud of. Kudos to all of you...and thank you for sharing the small moments that make these missions unforgettable (even for those of us at home). Sending you love and safe travels,
Ellen Lubin-Sherman
So great to see the pics, and all the smiling faces! (Although someone needs to clean the lens on the camera that was used inside the drapery store...). Steve, looooove that red and black hat you're sporting. I bought a very similar cap one day in a store that Najib took Wendy, Farah and me to in April.

Stay warm, and enjoy the rest of your time in Kabul! Warm greetings to the women, Khanaga and Najib. And big hugs to you all!


Hey Steve,

It seems like all is well in Kabul. I'm glad you and your crew are working well together!!! Looking forward to the stories when you return.

Paul S
Hello to Kate, Steve and Athena and everyone reading and commenting!

For the vicarious travelers, comments regarding leading a mission and the minutiae required is oh, so true! Marla, your name in conjunction with the word "miss" (in various tenses) was voiced at least once a day, and probably thought by Kate at least once an hour.

Am in the Amsterdam airport appreciating the report from yesterday and comments posted. And yes, ELS, Kate has written almost all of the blog.

The guys in the drapery/curtain store are great, when Laila and I scouted it Monday, they invited us to have lunch with them the following day, so Afghan! Yesterday during breakfast I mentioned to an Afghan-American the similarities between southern and Afghan hospitality, he laughed and said yes, we say Afghans are "Texans in Turbans".

Steve, if you have time am SO interested to see a photo of the panels selected by the committee. Did you buy enough for chairs too? What furniture did you buy? You are a natural at store design, processes, management. Could a career change be far behind?

After the Dubai delay, maybe you've earned one on the other side? Staying tuned and hoping for the best, whatever that may be.

Athena, had a very good image of the half-pipe and round object game, must have been a good ice-breaker. In the short time spent with you, clearly understand why you are so good at what you do!

With love and misses,
Hey Paula that ain't dirt on the lense, that's dust in the shop! The gang had been shaking all that old textile fabric around!
Steve will be sending you a full report including photos but for a preview, the drapery selection team is standing on one of their purchases. I am howling with laughter and cringing at the same time. Safe travels. We miss you.
p.s. Steve was devasted to have missed saying goodbye and is most appreciative of the gift you left behind. xoxoxo
hello wonderful people
such a delight to read of your adventures! I giggled a great deal at the Afghan translation of the 'Space and particles' exercise - I like the coloured pipes - a great innovation Athena, that Tom would be proud of - as I head off to the final retreat of the Leadership project where Athena's involvement in Afghanistam was born, I am touched and inspired by the fruitfulness of what you have all created in the last few years - wonderful to see the projects flourishing - Bravo to you all for your dedication and for having such fun with the 'Texans in Turbans'. No need to hurry back, 'tis dumping rain here - get yourself some snow and a few more days of giggling impact.
I'm so blown away by what you have done, I can't even write it all down...I'm just sitting at my desk, crying...what incredible stuff and humans...YEAH all of you
Safe home,
I've been following the blog with great interest ever since you all started posting in Dubai. I have such admiration for all that you have achieved in such a short period of time. The main thing that has struck me is that in this country that talks about "rebuilding" Iraq and Afghanistan you all saw a need, did not cluck your tongues and say someone should do something about this instead, got your shots, rolled up your sleeves and went to work. Bpeace and its members are truly fantastic!
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