Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin

Noloholo, Day 69: Teamwork and Rice Pudding

My day begins with a new pair of contact lenses. Oh, the joy of being able to see everything without eyeball pain! It begins cool and overcast, with eggs and toast and my cup of Africafe.

The morning of leadership training begins without a hitch (aside from the fact that I pretty much have to drag Tuma into the classroom to get him to join). Huff. Youngsters always seem to think that the “rules” don’t apply to them.

I’m amazed overall though, at how enthusiastic the staff is at participating and sharing their thoughts. Every single one of them is turned on to the activities. Even those who are more introverted and quiet are taking notes, or absorbing others’ points. I explain the tasks, and sometimes add a comment or two, but for the most part they make my job easy – I just get to sit back, and watch them be brilliant.

We have a bit of a hiccup over lunch. Basically, the person who was supposed to help me coordinate staff schedules for the training got sick, and so…it didn’t get done. The cooks were pulled away from their usual cooking times, and although the scheduled allowed for 2.5 hours break in the middle of the day to make lunch for everyone, one of them flat-out refused to make lunch (saying that it was outside of his normal cooking times, and therefore wouldn’t do it). It all got sorted eventually, after Kelly went down to the staff kitchen and made peace, but it was an awesome opportunity for the staff to have a “difficult conversation” immediately after lunch about the value of taking responsibility (I myself apologized for my own communication errors) for the team’s well-being. There was a definite sense of: “Oh that’s his job. I’m not allowed to cook so I can’t help.” I silently gave a thousand praises to my COLE training that I was able to approach that conversation fearlessly to take blame away from myself and the cooks, and turn it into a conversation around being a good teammate.

In the end, the training provided us with a pretty emotionally intense day, and the staff continued to put all their energy into the activities, even when they began to tire in the afternoon. Overall, I think it was successful in building a foundation and common vocabulary for the staff here to talk about teamwork and individual responsibility.  And I learned a lot about how to adapt my usual leadership exercises and discussions to a group with a different cultural background.

I realize, as I sit in the sun-kissed office later in the day, how lucky I am that Laly and Buddy gave me the opportunity to lead this session for their staff. There is always the possibility, with these trainings, that one will meet a sea of blank faces rather than have one’s ideas and activities embraced….especially if people have been told that they must be there. Every minute with a group like this is, then, a gift.

After our training, Christy informs me that it is National Rice Pudding Day in the US. So of course, we go make pudding. Tuma is curious, “Is that soup?” And when we say it is pudding, he clearly has no idea what we’re talking about. After a dinner of rice and beans, we have rice pudding with cinnamon – a delicious end to a satisfying, exhausting day.

Tags: cooking, leadership, travel - tanzania
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