An Efficient Goal with Sluggish Steps in Between

(Nov 2013)

The inevitability of nervousness before departure set in on Wednesday night as this trip to Tanzania requires tasks that I know nothing about, buying cows and confirming proper delivery. I made sure to run down my check list of travel essentials, spent some Q time with the kids, prepped the inventory and reviewed my in-country action list. I felt I was as ready as I could be.

My husband, a frequent traveler, arranged my transport to Houston International. The efficiency couldn’t have been better planned, where some might say it was a ridiculous close call, I rolled in with not a minute to spare, marched through the slow-moving security lines and arrived at the gate as the flight attendant announced “aisle 9-20 is now boarding.” I then determined that efficiency was now the theme of my trip, I locked that in my mind set about for the upcoming tasks with focus and determination.

Luck was in my favor on the first leg to Amsterdam as I upgraded my usual position in the sardine section to economy comfort and was unexpectedly rewarded with an empty seat to my left. My eyes closed and excitedly fluttered behind my lids. I felt a wave of nostalgia as I glanced at the Holland Herald, not because of the repeat itinerary, but because of thoughts of my Dutch dad and what he would think about my creative endeavors.

A sweet-voiced woman and I exchanged a thumbs-up as we were thrilled with learning of our additional personal space of an empty middle seat. She of course was Dutch and I sat humbly listening to her bilingual exchanges with the attendants. A charge of energy seared through me and I wondered how I was going to suppress it for the preemptive night’s sleep required to ward off jet lag. Ah, the polite attendant, I figured a glass of red could only help.

As I sunk into my seat I got to thinking about how at times it is a lonely road that I pave for myself, but it tends to work for me. I end up really paying attention to how people roll up their sleeves, keep a positive attitude and do work that is good and appropriate. Allowing for a sensual experience rather than to be exclusively agenda driven, I reflect on successes, failures and anticipated actions. Sure I sink in tears and hunker down in anxiety at times, but the bitter-sweet reality is the actual productivity of being able to completely engage. Not too different from others before me, certainly not innovative and intellectually superior, but understanding that a tale must live on, a tale of exploration, discovery and challenge. I embrace the good, bad and the ugly to stay focused on the course of action.

Arrival in Tanzania is met by a new season, the hot and dry air fills my lungs and a twitch of nerves hurries my step across the tarmac. Seemingly so, I always experience a similar wave of relief to see my friends awaiting my arrival, not because I don’t trust that they’ll show, but I do know firsthand how quickly the unexpected in Tanzania can change the whole order. But once more, I am welcomed and greeted by my good friend and our familiar ritual of taking in some “welcome back” nightlife is set in motion and I quickly forget about the loss of a night’s sleep by feeling the rhythm of the local life.

A few hours later and mentally exhausted, I drop on the white sheets of the Sal Salinero Hotel and repeat my mantra “efficiency” as the goal of this trip. Quickly my mind starts to spin as I process the contradictory concept of efficiency. Efficiency is largely determined by environments but it is also controlled by individual will and problem solving. The environment in Tanzania is ridden with daily challenges so improvisation is critical as a tool in navigating the social and emotional labyrinth that dominates much of the society. I anxiously tried to shut-down my mind with push-ups and a headstand as I knew I had much to do and little time to get it done.

Like an infant, time is what allows for development, maturity and growth. This project and work is much the same. The production of the marketable product is just the beginning; identifying the right approaches to marketing and distribution is where the real challenge lies. All of these factors require experimentation and this is our current phase of progress.

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