Yesterday, a colleague needed to go shopping at the local supermarket, and I jumped at the chance to get out. It feels most confining to go between the guest house and the offices in a vehicle, and then back again. So we went to the Finest Supermarket, if I heard the name correctly, and there I exchanged a $20 for the local currency. And immediately set myself to buying spicy dried chick peas, and 3-in-1 coffee packets (Néscafe, milk solids, sugar)–I got addicted to the stuff in China. Comfort food, eh?

Of course, totally forgot that I wanted a bedside lamp, despite the fact that the upper floor of the supermarket said furniture and cosmetics. My digs at the Guest House are spare, which is fine, but not terribly comfortable, and it would take so little to make them so. For instance, lamp lighting rather than the all-too-bright overhead and wall sconce lights. A chair in which to read or sit comfortably; the bed would be just fine if the headboard was higher or there were more pillows. Electrical sockets. Plug-in strips that actually held your plug in place rather than falling out. Hangers in the closet? I’m just being picky; the key issue is that my body just doesn’t cool down and the heat is difficult to bear, glued as I am to the stationary fan, now that I’ve figured out the angle at which I should position it so that I get air (sideways). And the withdrawal is still intense. I am still coughing, albeit a little less, and it is clear that the cough has as much to do with the sinus drip as it does with anything else. I seem to be getting less winded climbing the three flights of stairs to get to the coffee/tea room at the office or back to room from dinner at the guest house. We’ll see. At the moment I feel like a blimp, despite floor exercises in my room, and walking in the large foyer/hallway connecting all our rooms. I have to ask how to turn the treadmill on. But will I get on it in this heat?

It was also the last day of Ramadan yesterday. Even though I did not fast, not having food available until the evening, with the exception of the cookies in the tea room and the power bars I brought with me, I did and do get the sense of the internal discipline required—just as I am with quitting! The solidarity with those who have far less, who do not have options—whether you connect with that in a day or over a month, the important thing is to connect, viscerally, with every fibre of your being.

End of Ramadan, eh?

End of Ramadan, eh?

So, today is Eid! Perhaps this evening one other person staying at the guesthouse and myself will make it to JK for evening prayers, and we might also go to JK tomorrow, Friday.

Yesterday, I talked to someone from the Education dept about gender mainstreaming—a really interesting and articulate young person who is also from Calgary! I was sorry our conversation had to end because I had to take the shuttle back to the guesthouse, but perhaps I can reconnect with her on Sunday, when the offices reopen after the Eid holidays.

The day before, Tue, I had a chance to talk to the director of the health sector about his work on issues of women’s sanitation, etc. The documents he sent me are all in the local language, and I am still mystified as to where my little black grammar rules and vocabulary and conjugation lists as well as grammar and dictionary are. The point is, I need to find out from the office if they have any dictionaries or grammars or offer any help with learning the language.

I was also able to talk to the person in charge of evaluating all projects for their gender mainstreaming. She is local, and stressed the point about the need for local fieldworkers who understand the culture and the gender norms—I need to ask her why that is so important from her point of view. Is it because she feels that delivery is not being done in a sensitive manner, or that receptivity to the programming would be much higher?

I feel so privileged to be able to talk to all these people. And that the director of rural development is facilitating these conversations. I am not sure whether I’ll be able to produce what he needs me to deliver and of course I am terrified that I will disappoint or come up short. So I must, once again, rely on the knowledge and certitude and hope/faith that I am here for a purpose and will do the best I can given what I know and that it will be what it will be, just as it is what it is. Did I expect to be here four months ago on my birthday? Absolutely not. I didn’t even know this was on the horizon. And yet here I am.

Sufi Restaurant

Sufi Restaurant 

Yesterday, just before leaving the office, the director sent a note that I am to accompany him to Badakhshan for a very short, 4-day trip, so that I can meet the fieldworkers and ask them about gender mainstreaming in their projects. It is unlikely we will visit Yumgan, which is where Nasir-i Khusraw (d. 1074 CE, on whom I wrote my MA thesis) spent the last years of his life in exile. I am over the moon at the possibility of seeing the province in which he hung out, so to speak. Was the Jāmi‘ al-Ḥikmatayn (his magnum opus, The Harmonization of the Two Wisdoms, i.e. Reason and Revelation), written there?