Wednesday, 11 July 2007

35 min of fame

G’day from K – I say that through clenched teeth, as I was hoping we’d be safely ensconced in our 'luxury' compound, which Afghanaid have found for us in Chaggers by this evening... ah well, such are the vagaries of working out in this part of the world. Plans, schedules, agreements - don’t mean nuffink if they aren’t aligned with the will of Allah.

That said, there has been some movement today - unfortunately it centred on my guts rather than gaining approval for our fieldwork. My long-suffering digestive system generally struggles on valiantly for the first week or so when I go on a dig, before admitting defeat in the face of an onslaught of the heat, new bugs and (ironically in this case) a meal in a 5 star (but tastefully decorated / themed) hotel, courtesy of the Aussies. Consequently, I'm slightly apprehensive about forthcoming invites - to ‘swim in swimming pools of champagne’ in the French embassy on Bastille Day, and Piet is confident he can sneak us into the monthly Dutch party, but they will add another couple of notches to our tally of diplomatic outings (we are doing some work, amidst all the socialising, honest!).

On Sunday arvo, as I was waiting for a meeting with the dep minister that didn’t happen (more important visitors turned up and apparently he didn’t realise we were waiting outside), I was informed that it’d be better to postpone Monday’s teev recording – this after I was asked to give the presentation on Thurs arvo and told to invite an audience of 60-100 from embassies and NGOs, etc. and to provide the equipment with which to project my presentation AND the refreshments (the provision of refreshments by the presenter seems to be a national obsession). I was livid – there’s only a certain amount of being jacked around that a boy can take, and I feel that I’ve had more than my fair share over the last week, nevermind the past couple of months.

Half an hour later, the organiser (I use the term loosely) was all smiles again, as it transpired that we could record the programme on Monday at 5pm after all. We piled along to the teev centre at 4:30pm in Fath-e M's minibus, wedged in between the projector screen which Fiona had the presence of mind to say we should also borrow, even if it didn’t collapse properly. The thought that the teev centre wouldn’t have a screen on which to project our images hadn’t even crossed my mind... but it should’ve.

The live audience gradually swelled to 25, although half of them were either team members or teev employees waiting to lock up and go home. A hum of anticipation echoed throughout the auditorium... or maybe it was skepticism that the show would ever start. We did our best to balance the projector on a water bottle and rotate the screen until the image was least warped - it was probably just as well the audience weren't crammed in, back in row 47!

The projector and compoota were happily working together, but a Dari title apparently HAD to be added to the first slide... I was somewhat reticent about doing this, since my last attempt to install the Dari font resulted in the death of my compoota (I’m having another go at revitalising it this evening, as I type). About an hour later, after pasting in every Dari letter from the symbols box in Word, we were finally ready to go... apart from the fact that the projector and compoota had fallen out and were no longer communicating with each other! Arrgggghhh! My mood deteriorated even further when we were told by the organisers that this was my fault and that I should buy a new compoota – yeah, right mate, when I receive my appearance fee! If you don’t like our compoota, why don’t YOU provide one?

Eventually, out of sheer exasperation, or fear of missing our dinner out with the Aussies due to start at 7pm, Jane phoned her computer whizz brother in Dublin and he somehow achieved a reconciliation (even though what he suggested was precisely what I’d been doing for 10 min previously). I finally started the presentation at 6:45, each sentence being translated into Dari by our capable, but somewhat nervous new friend Abdullah (perhaps I shouldn't've mentioned that he’d be talking to a potential audience of 25 million when I sent him the transcript of my presentation!).

I appreciate that different cultures have a less regimented attitude towards being part of an audience, but I was pretty p'ed off when the ‘organisers’ of the show chatted audibly throughout much of my talk, and twice hassled Alison, who was working the Next Slide button, about how much longer was left. If you ask for 30 min, with 15 min of questions afterwards, I don’t think the talk running over by 5 min is a big deal. That’s the whole point of pre-recording – you can EDIT it!

Anyway, I gather that a snippet from the presentation featured on Afers news last night, and the whole thing will be broadcast soon. So point your satellite dishes towards Central Asia and programme the dvd recorder... somehow, I don’t think I’ll get a copy of the show on vid. I don't think I particularly want one either!

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