Cairo Update

I have ten minutes before I head out the door to lead a training from 10-3:30. I have virtually no idea what I’m going to do, besides the obvious: wing it.

Of course I have notes, but to get a good flow you have to be the riverbed. You have to find a way to become lower so others can move like a river to the ocean. That’s not a new metaphor for me in my work, but I certainly get to explore it at a new level today.

This will be my first attempt to teach coaching methodology entirely through an interpreter. I have no idea what the education level of my trainees is, how much of my English they will understand before it gets translated.

It will be important for me to establish for them why coaching is a Biblical model for leadership development. It’s not listed in Scriptures, only hinted at. But they are a group of Christians, so putting it in a context where they can embrace it is very important. Once I’ve done that I’m going to go with my gut about what to teach next, picking exercises out of the old hat that is my memory. The thrill of spur of the moment decisions.

As soon as I’m done I head off to Alexandria for two days. Now that I’ve seen the Nile, I’m excited to follow  the river down the highway, through the cradle of the Civil War… oops, slipped into Paul Simon there for a minute.

Alexandria sounds cool to me. The place where the world’s largest library once existed, a sort of World Wide Web in one place, a place where learning has been cherished. I’m excited to see what I will learn there.

It looks like I will do another one of these trainings on the 9th, again from 10-3 or so. It’s fun to be invited for stuff like that after meeting people once.

The meetings I had yesterday were amazing, but I’ll have to save that update for another time.

Sorry no pics, I’m posting them to Facebook and Instagram but I don’t have a good way to move them to my tablet.


What do Egypt and Belize have in common? I’m going.

HERE’S the SCOOP: This is a personal update to my friends, family and global community plus readership.

Writing: The first Stetson Jeff Adventure is published. I’m making slow but steady progress on Zeppelin Zeke. I write a decent poem every now and then. Megan and I will be working on Your Guide to Understanding the Twelve Purposes of Art this fall once kids get back in school.

Coaching/ Training: For my nonprofit work I’m preparing to travel some more. It’s a long story how I ended up looking at a trip to Egypt and Belize in the same season, but for brevity, let’s just say that’s where I feel strongly in a spiritual sense that I’m supposed to go next. At an event several weeks ago things began to gel for a trip to Egypt, when I met two people who both enthusiastically encouraged me to go there in early October. These connections were not random and gave me a certain confidence in this direction, something that’s been percolating in my brain since February.

Honestly I’m not entirely sure what God has for us to do there. We’ll take our coaching and coach training experience and skills in our hip pocket and go see what the Father is doing. That feels a little nebulous, but there’s definitely been a growing sense that this is next, so I’m going for it. When I say we I mean myself, and two other guys who are considering going.

I have friends ready to go work long term in Belize; I get to drive them to the airport on August 5th and they will arrive there the same day to get to work, so it would be great to go see their lives after they’ve had about three months on the ground. I hope to go in early November. I’ll be in a coaching support role for them long-term so it will be really good to get to know their context just a little bit.

So here’s the deal: I want to invite you to consider giving to my nonprofit work. For these two trips I still need to raise $4700. If you’d like to give, electronically or by check, please click here.  I want to channel donations to Evergreen Leaders’ travel fund if you give through this blog, so drop a comment if you’ve given something (you don’t have to say how much) and let me know on the blog so I can route donations appropriately. I don’t often do asks through this blog, so if you’re wishing this blog was about coaching, or poetry or something else… next time!

Long Voyage Ahead

The invitation stands to come back to Congo again. When? Who knows. We can hope it will be as soon as next year.My bags are packed and in 90 minutes or so the company called “Jeffery Travels” will send a minivan to take me and Bill to the airport. We anticipate a two hour traffic jam followed by three hours at the airport, multiple checks of our baggage, and I’ll be back in the friendly skies by 10 PM.

On the way here I enjoyed the sparse scenery of the Sahara Desert and the Alps around Geneva, Switzerland, caught a few glimpses of Belgian Countryside on the way into Brussels, and saw Brazzaville and the Congo River at dusk.

Bill will be flying on a different airline, so my homeward bound adventure may not consist of much besides watching a movie or two, listening to a book on Kindle, and eating weird things. My health has been good almost the entire time (my stomach didn’t feel to great yesterday) and I’ve really enjoyed the people I worked with.

We’re just short of the rainy season, I think if we stayed another week I’d probably get rain, even now we feel the humidity beginning to come on.

What’s next? I guess we’ll find out pretty soon because I don’t have a whole lot lined up. I hope to be able to coach a few of these Kinois as I’ve been training them, and we’ll just have to see about the rest.

What’s the real value of Ten Bucks?

When I left in 1988, Congo was called Zaire, as was the river and the unit of currency. The zaires were practically worthless in ’88, but it got even worse in the 1990s.

Now, what the Congolese want is the American dollar. Well, mostly. I’m told that as a foreigner I’ll be expected to pay with VERY crisp bills. In Kinshasa, when you’re buying something that costs $5 or more, people want the good old buck. But nobody’s interested in one-dollar bills. That’s what the Congolese franc is for. I suspect that this is one way they protect their own currency from inflation. I doubt it’s policy — unless you call street value “policy”. And it is! In fact, we Americans forget so easily that a dollar does have street value, even here. We judge that street value every day when we wake up, as long as we work, sell products or services (if you work for an employer, you sell your service) and buy stuff we are judging the street value of a dollar.

I suspect that this is how people have adjusted to keep their currency from running away and hiding. Congo, one of the poorest countries, ranking all the way up at #4 on the Fragile States Index from the Fund for Peace, one of the five countries listed as “Very High Alert.” The Congolese, it appears, not only want American dollars they can trust, but they want crisp ones.

I’m told from a credible source (he was there earlier this year) that a $10 bill with a tear may only be worth $7-8. A very beat up one perhaps less. In a strange way, it makes sense. The dollar isn’t printed there, and it’s pretty hard to come up with new bills. Every time they get handled, they lose a little value. Think of it like paying for something with a car. You drive it for a few days, maybe it’s worth the same. But if you dent the fender, it might not be. The dollar used to be a piece of paper that could stand in for gold; now, a dollar stands in for a piece of paper. And newly minted paper is best. Another way to look at it is like a baseball card or any other collector’s item that’s preferred in mint condition.

Strange as it may be, I’ll be carrying the crispest bills my credit union can find. No ones, only fives, tens and twenties. I’ll be able to exchange a ten or twenty for Congolese francs on the street. They trade at about 920:1.

Weird stories involving currency: in April, a drunk Australian offered me 50 Euros for $50 cash (the Euros would get me probably $90 at my bank). Nobody wanted him to drink any more, so he wasn’t able to swing the deal. Bank value of 50 Euros, $90 (or so) and Street Value, when we don’t want an even drunker drunk on our flight makes $50 US Cash … wait for it … priceless.

Weird story 2: hearsay only! Can’t find an article online to support it! I heard about 10 years ago that the currency in Bangladesh had devalued so much that the beggars went on strike. What? That’s right. Muslims and some Hindus as well have a daily requirement to give Alms as a religious duty. They support an entire class of people: the beggars. In Bangladesh there was a standard amount (for example, $1). But that standard amount (based on percentages, if you ask enough people in the course of the day, you will earn a certain amount begging, just like selling credit card processing in the USA) was no longer enough to feed the beggars’ families, so the entire caste went on strike. People could no longer do their religious duty! It resulted in a national crisis and the president had to tell the entire nation that the standard amount was changing. You know your currency is being judged on Street value when the beggars strike!