personal reflections on human rights...and other stuff

Chasing sunrise

Just past midnight, Saturday. I’ve been here just over two days now, and I have to keep reminding myself which day of the week it is. So I’m in Istanbul, one of the guys working at the hotel has been in and out of my room for the last half hour trying to fix my busted air conditioner. I didn’t have any Turkish coffee tonight, so I should be able to sleep at a reasonable hour, unlike last night.

I arrived a couple of days ago, mid-afternoon, 33 degrees just outside the airport. The flights over were some of the finest I’ve had. Left Montreal in the evening, crossing over the Atlantic with the sunrise always just a touch ahead of us over the horizon. Taking a “taksi” from the airport to the hotel, billboards of Reese Witherspoon sponsoring Avon beauty products and that guy from Lost holding a scotch in his hand. Ruins littering the countryside, some reasonably well to poorly restored architectural masterpieces from the Ottoman and Byzantine empires. Checked into the hotel and went straight to the workshop room, where the first of our two workshops was already into its second day. I managed to stay awake until the close of the day, and began to fade during the debrief.

Oof thank God the AC is back.

Equitas’ first workshop is a training of trainers (TOT) for participants from our Middle East and North Africa (MENA) program. Most of the participants are from Iraq, and they were scheduled to attend the original TOT back in Morocco in March, but they were refused entry into the country. So we had to make it up to them and offer a condensed version of the 7-day workshop in just 4 days. I have to admit that when the time came to review the content of the original workshop and trim it down to 4 days, I only spent about 15 minutes.

It worked out well. Participants reviewed the initial workshop objectives and identified those which were most relevant to them. I think about half of them stayed on, and the others were dropped. So we trimmed down the

Crack. Oh nothing like a tepid, 4 dollar beer. I should learn not to trust minibars.

content of the workshop significantly. One of our co-facilitators (a former IHRTP participant from Yemen) from the original TOT came along to facilitate this “catch up” workshop. We had hoped to have another co-facilitator, but he couldn’t make it.

The facilitator said to me that on a number of occasions I was saying things which were completely different from the first workshop. I think that’s rooted in my early teaching days when I used to teach the same subject three times in a row every day. By the time I got to the third class, my brain was on automatic. After a while I realized that I was doing a lousy job at teaching. I tried to come up with different ways of teaching the same thing, while still trying to make sense. It worked (well, most of the time). So I took this opportunity to rethink how we did our activities during the original TOT and see how we could improve upon them during this catch up TOT. I’m happy with the result, and it made me realize that we can sacrifice the amount of topics we address in a workshop in favour of going more in-depth with issues which are of concern to participants. However, after explaining what a rights-based approach means for about the 20th time, I think I’ve gotten a bit better but I still haven’t managed to explain it as well as I think I could have. Good thing we’re explaining it again for the next workshop which starts in a couple of days…

The group was fun, committed, caring, and eager to learn. And yes, there were tensions as well, but nothing that wasn’t manageable. In the end, we all got the chance to relieve some tension and get some fresh air by commandeering a playground from a bunch of children. Some of the participants getting a workout are in the photo…

So tomorrow morning (well, later this morning actually) we are debriefing on this workshop and planning for the next workshop. Many of the participants from the catch up TOT will be facilitating the next workshop. We’ll be in for a long day tomorrow.

Beer’s done, and time to go.


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