Sunday, November 02, 2008

I will try to find my place.

Yesterday was November the 1st, a Saturday, which means that it's the first day of the week for me (my weekend here in Afghanistan is Thursday and Friday). Yep, if you didn't know, I'm still in Afghanistan. I got here in August of 2007 a pretty scared guy, not really knowing what I was getting into, on a six month contract to be the fill-in IT guy for the International School of Kabul. I was eventually asked to stay on as the permanent IT guy, so I signed up for the rest of last school year, and then this year.

November is when it starts to get cold in Kabul. Because of the security situation, we've been on 'lock down' most of the past three weeks, meaning we have limited chances to get out. I can't walk anywhere locally, and to get off campus, I have to check in with our security guy before I leave to make sure it's OK to get out. Now, some of you may be saying at this point, "I haven't heard from you in nearly a year! Why are you e-mailing now?" Well, if you remember the last time I sent out an e-mail like this, you'll remember what happens in November at my school. We receive an 'intent to return' form, which asks, "If offered a contract, will you return next year?" The forms were distributed yesterday. I took mine out of my box, signed it, and turned it into the principal. They're not due until December 1st, but I figure, I know what my decision is, so why wait?

I've spent a lot of time thinking and praying about this decision, and have talked to a couple of trusted counselors. I feel pretty confident in the correctness of my decision. My plan is to return to Kabul and to ISK for the 2009-2010 school year. I'm not entirely sure what happens after that, but I currently doubt that I will be returning to Kabul after that time. I could be wrong on this, and I'm trying to be open to that. But currently, I feel like next year will be my last.

You may be wondering, if I'm planning on leaving after next year, why am I coming back next year? That's a legitimate question. The answer is that I have to come back next year. I really can't tell you why from a pieces-of-data point of view. There are reasons, but they actually don't exactly add up to staying. In fact, I have no particular desire to return. "OK, Russ, this is weird. You don't want to go back, but you still are?" See, I don't really want to leave, either. I'm entirely open and willing to where it feels like He wants me to be. And right now, it seems like He wants me to be here. It's hard to explain; I'm not a necessity here at the school, they've got someone else who could do my job if I didn't come back (and I'm not so vain as to think that they couldn't find someone else to replace me.), and there are conditions here that make my job difficult at times. But I know I'm supposed to come back here.

I feel like I have to come back because it's possible that we could have a 50% staff turnover next year, and out of a staff of 40, that's considerable. Plus, some of our senior administration and day-to-day operation people could be leaving, and so I think being here to help with the transition would be good. We also still have plans to move to a new campus in the near future, and I would like to be a part of the planning and maybe implementation process for that. I feel that there is enough to do here that I wouldn't be leaving well to take off after this year. Besides, I'm kind of planning on riding out the recession in Afghanistan. The U.S. economy should stabilize in a year and a half, right? :)

How does this reconcile with me saying that I'm going to leave after next year? Well, I think that part of my skill set is an ability to adapt to new situations fairly quickly, to 'hit the ground running,' so to speak. I think that to be able to use that skill, I have to go to another place, because when I'm still in the same place, I'm already hit and running. I think that something that I need to do to move my technical skills and my 'career' forward is work in an IT department, with a knowledgeable and experienced boss and co-workers from whom I can learn best practices, how to work in and manage in an IT department (which I don't know that I want to do, but I think I may have to do in the future). I don't know what form that exactly will take, whether programming or network/systems administration kind of
stuff, but I've been the IT department everywhere I've worked since 2002, and while I've gained a lot of knowledge and skill in that time, I think I need to spend some time as an employee, for lack of a better term, to move myself forward from a career point of view.

A note about coming back. If you've read any of the news recently, it's obvious there is a lot happening in this country and in this city in particular that makes me concerned about my safety. Kidnappings, killings, threats, numerous incidents have happened since I made this decision in my mind. None of what has happened shakes my conviction that I am supposed to be here, now, in this place. I handle being locked down pretty well. I am OK with flexible boundaries to my world (plans can change three or four times during the day because of security). I am fine with my world being confined to one block most of the time. I mean, I really want to get out for Frisbee once or twice a week, and it's nice to see and hang out with non-school people when I can. But if that doesn't happen, I'm OK. I'm a flexible, available person, and I am also fine with having flexible job duties sometimes. I was made to be here in this place, at this time. I really made this decision about a month ago, and my prayers since then have been trying to discern if I was making the wrong choice. I know this can be hard to understand if you haven't been out in a place like this before, but I'm excited about making this decision.

You may want to tell me how it should be, and I'll be open to listen to you. But my mind is made.

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