Friday, June 03, 2011

The calm before the storm (May 10)

Or maybe the storm before the even bigger storm.

Today has been chaotic and extremely stressful. Because of random national holidays and miscommunication, we haven’t been able to visit the vocational schools we wanted to until today, the day before we give our presentation to the PEF missionaries and probably someone from the Area Presidency. The IDE market group has been done with their visits for a few days now and has had time to gather their thoughts and plan out what they’re doing. As of this morning we still hadn’t even finished our research.

After breakfast I divided our team into 3 small groups and sent them out to visit the 5 different schools that we had appointments with. While they were gone Talia and I sat in our respective hotel rooms, trying to make sense of the research we have so far and typing it up furiously. By lunch we had made some significant headway, and we were finally able to start adding the research we had collected this morning. We met as a team again and worked out a plan to finish our PowerPoint presentation and most of our paper by tonight.

Feeling optimistic, we then all got on the bus to visit the embassy again. This time, instead of trying to fix stolen passports or desperately using the bathroom, we visited with two US international development agencies: the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and USAID. I unfortunately didn’t pay very close attention during their presentations—I kept thinking about our own impending presentation tomorrow. Plus, the USAID presentation was a true death by PowerPoint experience: nearly an hour of slowly reading thick walls of text on slide after slide after slide. I had already visited both during the career trip to DC last November, and I’ve been following them for a while, but it was still cool to visit the embassy and stuff.

We got back to the hotel with an hour for more feverish project work before dinner. Ben Markham, the guy who invented Empower Playgrounds, came to eat with us and I was fortunate enough to sit next to him. Although my mind was occasionally elsewhere (this project…), it was amazing to hear his stories and talk with him about his experiences with social entrepreneurship in Ghana. Like I said when we visited Whit Alexander and Burro, I’m totally not the entrepreneur type, but I admire what people like Ben and Whit do.

Once we finished dinner and Ben and the Empower people left, we held yet another team meeting to plan out the rest of the evening and the split off to work like mad. We had a few more regrouping meetings at 9:00 and 11:30, desperately trying to figure out what we’re really doing tomorrow. I think we have the presentation figured out at this point, which is fantastic considering that we had no research finished this morning. This whole project has been far too stressful than I had imagined. Almost done!

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