It’s a Funny Thing, Being an “Advisor”

I’m working on a grant proposal this week, but more of my time is spent being on call for questions that come up. Now is the time that the UN agencies here are setting up their plans for 2014, and the organization I work for does a lot with UNFPA, the UN Population Fund, so my colleagues are setting up projects and budgets for next year. It’s easiest to submit these in Mongolian, so I can’t help directly, but I answer lots of questions about how to present information. We’ve also spent a big chunk of time this week talking about how to improve the work habits of two of the junior staff. (Another time I will vent about how “capacity building” should mean more than just getting people to show up for work, but this is where things are.)

When I came back from lunch today — IMG_0832 they worry that I’m not finding enough to eat nearby, so I took a picture of my sandwich to show them — there was a young woman talking to my colleague/interpreter, and I was asked to sit with them. The visitor is a former tv journalist, now finishing her Masters and wanting to do a series of tv programs about this NGO; can we provide funding for that? Weeellll, I said, not sure we could/would/should fund that ourselves…but then the conversation went on to the idea that she develop her idea for a short series of episodes on gender-based violence in Mongolia. I talked a bit about how to structure a proposal and who might fund the project, and we all got pretty excited. No idea what will come of it, but it would be really fun to watch and help something like this take shape.

THEN they called me in to show me a picture of a perfume box on someone’s phone. Apparently her husband’s got a friend who’s offering to sell this for about USD 80.00, and she wasn’t sure it was real Chanel. (Just for the record: they have no idea I have an insane perfume collection; I think it’s just that I’m a westerner who might know.) My — strong — guess was no, because the box wasn’t right, and since I’m going through duty-free this week, I offered to get her some of the real stuff. Yes, please! At which point I made a poorly-recontextualized and hard to translate joke about drug mules – perfume mules – camels – perfume camels and thought maybe I’d better shut up and go back to my grant proposal.

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