(We’ve included a few pictures with this post but haven’t figured out how to arrange them properly. They are all from Sarayevo.)
We are in Cairo and have spent our first few days becoming acquainted with the city and the work that we will be doing while we are here. This was preceded by a 4 day orientation in Akron, Pennsylvania (to MCC) and a 4 day orientation in Sarajevo, Bosnia (to MCC’s Europe and Middle East Programs).
Based on these days, we make the following “first impressions” comments. They are just that–first impressions, and they will suffer from the shortcomings that first impressions usually have. Firstly, MCC is not the same organization that we left 25 years ago. It is more “professional” in its program approaches. For Communitas staff, you will be happy to know (or not!) that the logic model and evidence-based practice is the prevailing program paradigm and MCC has its own version of Sharevision. There is no escaping it, it seems!
In addition, the after-effects of the “New Wineskins” re-org are finally settling out between Winnipeg and Akron staff and we were repeatedly told that things were working well between the two offices. The orientation time was tightly packed and very informative. We felt truly welcomed and staff operated very much “on the clock” and with relevant agenda.
Following a rather exhausting trip via Chicago and Istanbul, we arrived in Sarajevo and spent the first full day exploring the significant parts of the city….on foot. As with many European cities, it brings with it a number of historical traditions: Ottoman/Turk, Austro-Hungarian, Yugoslav/communist and most recently, Bosnian. Remains of the most recent war are still evident, many buildings still sporting bullet holes from snipers perched on the hills immediately above the city. Nevertheless, the city is alive, bustling and doing what it can to get on with the business of living. The old part of the city is very charming. Outdoor cafes abound, walking streets, small shops of all kinds, churches and mosques, large and small form part of the fascinating old part of the city. It didn’t hurt that temperatures in Sarajevo were unusually mild. Amela, our MCC Area Director introduced us to MCC’s Europe and Middle East programs, as well as some of the staff for Eastern Europe. We were very interested to find out that the Florence Centre and Lucy Romanenkova’s name was well known in Sarajevo. The hotel we stayed at was modest, but clean and met our needs. It served us the best coffee we will likely have for the next year.
We proceeded on to Cairo and arrived on October 29th. We have very few things that we can compare Cairo to. It is a massively big city and very crowded. Our only comparisons are with Surabaya, Java, Indonesia. The driving is about as chaotic, and the crowded living conditions are almost as severe. Having said that, Surabaya is only a third the size of Cairo. Surabaya is hot and muggy; Cairo is hot, dry and dusty. Surabaya is still a relatively
“provincial” city; Cairo is an African/middle Eastern/European crossroads. It is, right now, a city that is also at a cultural, religious, and political crossroads. Only time will tell which way it goes, and even then, for how long. We have spent the last few days becoming more familiar with the program in Egypt and how we relate to our partners…a very crucial part of our work. We are also slowly learning how to get around, where to shop, what our specific roles will be (yes, Jane will be involved with the books, and I will be involved with program reporting, design and development). Audits are coming for both finances and program. We will be strongly supported by local Egyptian staff….another big change within MCC. We will be doing Arabic language study for the next two weeks and then the final two weeks of November will be the transfer of responsibilities from the existing country representatives to us. As of December 1st, we will be flying solo.