I am in the middle of an interesting few days as we finish up our larger projectsvwith official ceremonies. Those of you who follow Michael Yon on facebook know where I am and what we have been up to. What is interesting to watch is Michael, myself and our friend (and co-worker) Chadd Nyerges, trying to process the thousands of pictures and a dozen hours of video we collectively shot over the past 48 hours. We are all writing reports, posting on the internet, trying to figure out what we have with all these photos and waiting for the plane to come back and get us.
The place for me to start my narrative of the trip is right in the middle. Yesterday morning we found out none of the State Department folks or Marines from Leatherneck would attend the ceremonies. This made me the senior American present a fact which I failed to think through before walking into the reception hall for the morning program of recognition for the US AID in general and my company specifically. As I entered the hall my Afghan provincial manager, Bashir greeted me with most unwelcome news. “You are the senior man, Tim; you have to sit next to the Governor.” I said that would be fine, but I needed to find the men’s room first. Bashir said that was not possible, and I had to go to my seat “right now.”
So I’m stuck in place, and I know that if I get up and the Governor shows up and I amble on over to sit next to him after he has sat down…that would just not do, so I wait.
As I sat, concentrating on positive energy for the test of wills that was to come, Deputy Provincial Governor Haji Qasem Khedry walked in, said his greeting to us and sat down next to me. The clock had finally started, and I settled in, determined to hang tough. A number of community elders came up to praise the US-funded Community Development Program and the management team in Nimroz, headed by Bashir Sediqi, who is my best provincial manager.
I was pretty confident we were at least half way through the schedule of events when fate intervened in the form of an unfortunate event which allowed me to make a brief graceful exit.
Once I caught the commotion over my right shoulder and recognized there was a medical emergency, I took immediate action. I bolted toward Bashir and pointed to the man saying, “He needs a doctor, and where is the toilet?” Bashir said, “Downstairs to the left.” I flew down the stairs with Mike Yon in hot pursuit. “Do you know where the men’s room is?” he asked. I told him we were on the way and stayed in front in case it was only one stall. But it wasn’t – there were plenty of open toilets, as we had beaten the rush down to them. We were back before the ceremony re-started, and I resumed my post.
During the past three years, we have accomplished some amazing projects. I’ll be posting in detail about two of them in the near future. What is important to remember, as we close down our Nimroz operations and move on, is that all the projects we did in Nimroz were conceived by, designed by and built by Afghans. As the only American in the lash-up, my role was limited to minor writing of reports and moving money for paydays. The Boss was the man with the vision to tell USAID we could go down to Zaranj and work, and he proved he was right. I know I sound like a broken record, but I am trying to point out how easy it is to get things done in this country when you know what you’re doing. And if you know what you are doing in Afghanistan, you will never walk into some public awards ceremony without first visiting the men’s room. I now remember that I once knew that, bet I don’t forget it again anytime soon.