the encounter with the cigar-puffing lion

By far the worst version of the Rolling Stones’ Painted Black screaming through the TV in the corner of the bar. It almost makes me yearn for Mariah Carey’s Endless Love which I hear every morning in the restaurant.

It was the facilitator’s briefing today – all day, starting at 9 in the morning and we left the workshop room a few minutes ago, just after 11 PM. One facilitator, two co-facilitators, one participant observer, one of our interpreters, and me. I occasionally let the team slip out of the workshop room for a bathroom break or a cigarette. Our local partner, an affable and charming man, jokingly likened it to a prison.

It all paid off, though. In the end, the team got everything ready and is well prepared for the most important day of any workshop: the first one. Our energizers are planned, our group work understood, our activities well-timed. I urged them to be creative in their thinking – it took a while to get going, but once they started, it was wonderful. Fear and anxiety made way for enthusiasm and excitement at the upcoming challenge for facilitating. We practiced some of our energizers, including the telephone game, whereby the first person whispers a message into the next person’s ear, and then that person passes the message along until the last person hears the message. “I’m hot, I’m full and I’m jet lagged” turned into something utterly different after passing the message on only six times. And we tried to create a group story. One person begins a story then passes a ball to another person who continues it. I began by saying “I was walking down the street one day when suddenly I saw” – then passed the ball on. In no time the story transmogrified into a confrontation with a lion puffing a cigar. And speaking of balls, the team told me today that my name in Arabic sounds remarkably like “ball” – which regrettably enough means urine. In comparison I daresay the Russian phonetic equivalent of “Paul” which means (apparently) either floor or sex is a bit better. This coupled with the unfortunate farting sound made by sitting on the artificial leather covered chairs in the workshop room made for an enjoyable day.

Walking back from a delicious lunch with the group, our interpreter told us a story of his own. He’s originally from Baghdad and moved to Vancouver, but now lives here in Turkey. Three years ago, his brother, living in Iraq and working for a security firm, was ambushed in the car he was in. He managed to escape, found his way into someone’s house and they gave him shelter. Apparently those offering him shelter were told to give him up or else, and so they did, and his brother disappeared and hasn’t been seen since. He’d left behind his wife, pregnant of four months. I’ve felt pain at the recent loss of a loved one; I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to not know the fate of someone you love. After he finished his story, he simply said, It happens all the time.

Time for bed, a big day tomorrow.


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