Friday, August 22, 2014

When work amuses me

STEP 1: run around for two days, trying to get a hard copy or a digital copy of the detailed funding proposal presented to potential high-level donors, with all the lovely detailed narrative I need for a report I'm writing - and get told again and again, "I don't have it." Be unable to find the original author ever in his office - and he ignores emails.

STEP 2: look for something on the Web, and find the digital copy of the detailed funding proposal you have been looking for


Okay, really, such a small complaint. I love it here.

I got this email on Wednesday for editing something urgently for a funding proposal:

Thank you, Jayne, sssssssssssssssssssssssssssooooo much!!! :)

and an hour later from someone else:

This is absolutely great and wonderful
Many many thanks!

I'm in heaven. You have to understand: I've telecommuted on various jobs since 2007. I've been "just the consultant" for 7 years. People just shrug when I do my work as a consultant. I maybe get a "thanks for the report." But I'm not really included in the organization. Not really. Funny that this is the case when I am a remote, online paid consultant - but NOT when I am a remote, online volunteer. When you are seen as part of the team, onsite, here at the agency - oh, yeah, the positive comments and lunch invitations and fun IM messages just never stop! Of course, the criticism is also right to your face... but, hey, I'll take it!

I got an almost insulting note about something I had written from someone who is very important about the big important document I had to write. The note just went on and on and on - no specific edits, just a "here's what's wrong with this, it should have more in it about human rights", etc. So many of the edits so far from various agencies in our network have been content-rich and spot on - I read the edits and say, "Wow, yes, that's a great correction/addition" or "Yes, that deletion makes perfect sense!" And when I don't understand, I've asked, and gotten excellent background that has helped me so much. This note, by contrast... this was "I would have written it differently." It's the edit I loathe. So I forwarded the note to my boss, to see his reaction. It was HYSTERICAL. He comes out of his office, across the hall, sweeps into mine, and starts ranting. "This is EXACTLY what I don't want, comments that say, 'Here are vague ideas about what's wrong with this document, fix this, but I'm not going to tell you how or give you any specifics." Rant continued on for 2 full minutes, and then he took care of the reply. I was highly amused. And I so enjoyed one of those rare moments when you know your boss has your back. I cherish those. Miss you so much, S.C.A...

A key to this job: knowing who contributed what in whatever I'm writing. I draft and I send out, and then the rewrites come in. And I had better know who changed what, so that when someone takes entire swaths of content out, I can say, "Have you checked with so-and-so about that?" When you have several people editing and contributing to a document, the "winning" edit shouldn't be the one that came in last, if everyone is editing exactly the same draft. I try to stick up for each agency when they've made a deliberate point early on in the editing/rewriting process, and then someone later in the process, from a different agency, tries to negate it. I try very hard to get the two parties to work it out - it should NOT be me that decides - this isn't just a word-smithing exercise, this is an its-in-writing-and-will-be-forever-so-get-it-right exercise. I am a communications person, not a program person, not an agency director - it's not my job to change policy nor to mess with oh-so-carefully chosen words that have particular political context. What I have to do is sense when those words are particularly chosen - sometimes it's obvious, sometimes it's not.

I heard thunder one day this week, and my Afghan sensibilities kicked in IMMEDIATELY and I thought, uh oh, were those explosions? Where's my radio? Of course, I'm a world away from "the front." I stand outside my offices with a big back pack and the one guard here looks up at me and then right back down at his newspaper. Paris should be so safe. But I was intrigued by my gut reaction - 7 years later? Really?

And by the way: how in the world did I get on the press release media list for the Afghanistan Cricket Board?!

Speaking of Afghanistan... the big boss has a son that is a veteran of Afghanistan combat. So many people in the USA don't understand that the military forces in Afghanistan make up a TRUE coalition: people from Canada, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Jordan, the UK, Denmark (where my boss is from), Poland, and on and on. They've lost sons and daughters too. Europe and other countries HAVE sacrificed for this war too. They've put in many millions of dollars to both military and reconstruction and aid too. That the numbers are less than what the USA gives, in money and lives, is not the point. Respect.

What I learned this week: In 1789, Mennonites from Prussia (now Germany) accepted an invitation from Catherine the Great and settled in what became the Chortitza Colony, northwest of Khortytsia island, in Zaporizhia, in the East of Ukraine. They built many mills and factories -  all later expropriated by the Soviets. But before that, and after the Russian Revolution, many Mennonites emigrated to other countries, fled to other countries as refugees, or were deported from the area. Few Mennonites now live in Zaporizhia. Mennonite buildings still exist in the area and in the other main Mennonite colony center, current day Molochansk. Zaporizhia is a VERY important industrial center of Ukraine. And it's under siege right now. I'll never see it.

On a lighter note: how much will ya'll pay me if I can get someone here to say "Me Plotting Big Trouble for Moose and Squirrel" on video?

And do I need to change the name of my personal blog yet again?! Because I am a broad abroad!

The Ukrainian woman with whom I share an office said,

"Why is it that the Secretary-General is always 'deeply concerned'? The Secretary-General is 'deeply concerned' about this, he's 'deeply concerned' about that. And today, he's 'disturbed' about something. I think I preferred 'deeply concerned'."

Ah, language… shared that story with the big boss and he laughed and laughed.

Here's my professional blog about a language issue I'm dealing with. But I'll add here that, in so many public statements by large international organizations - and even small governments - every word is carefully chosen, and has meanings far beyond what you find in the dictionary. Concerned is not making a political statement, for instance, while disturbed is. The word crisis has such seriousness of meaning that it's a no-no word in many reports I'm writing - until something meets the international standards of a crisis, and is voted on by some group somewhere as being the appropriate word to use, I can't use it.

Oh, Thesaurus, I love you so…

My Ukrainian office mate also is lately really into David Bowie, and keeps humming "Major Tom." I'm highly amused by this.

One more work thing: the IT guy here, Sergay, has sold me on Google Chrome. I'm here with my old MacBook, bought in 2007, as opposed to my new, big one that I bought last year. My old MacBook gets really hot (it's going to explode soon - I need to replace the battery again before I kill someone or myself) and it was so PAINFULLY slow when surfing the web, I finally had to upgrade to a new computer. But it's MUCH faster now, using Chrome. It's not lightening fast on Chrome, but it's WAY faster than Safari or Firefox (which I always want to call Foxfire).

So, there I was, in downtown Kiev, outdoors at a restaurant, enjoying the evening, talking to a colleague, about… Twangfest! He's from St. Louis and, of course, when I talk with anyone from St. Louis, I ask, "Have you heard of Twangfest?" And he had. He'd never been and always wanted to go, so I answered all his questions and gave him lots of music recommendations. So fun to be talking about Twangfest in Ukraine!

Just watched videos by university students in Ukraine that address various gender issues - domestic violence, stereotypes, etc. Here is a link to one of my favorites (no need to speak the local language in order to understand most of these). The end result: terrific videos, and university students now aware of issues they might not have been before. This was a programme by the UN here in Ukraine. Apparently, the UN is quite active here...

Speaking of the UN: because of the way the phrase that makes up the acronym "UN" is translated into Ukrainian, and because of how it's written in cyrillic, official UN SUVs don't say "UN" on the side. They say "OOH." I am going to try to remember to get a picture of myself next to an "OOH" SUV before I leave Ukraine.

Marketing for "The Expendables" here in Kyiv is OUT OF CONTROL. There are billboards everywhere, some of them ginormous. I always forget just how huge the foreign markets for films are, until I go abroad - so many films that are flops in the USA, that make you wonder why they were made at all, are massive successes abroad - many films are made specifically for the foreign audiences that love American action stars. It's nice to see giant Harrison Ford in the city center - but it's also surreal.

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