[Ed. note: This entry was originally posted to International Relief and Development's blog at www.ird-dc.org/voices]
Jason and I finally got a chance to visit the Black Sea last week—we still had to work, but we had the weekend off to enjoy the beachside resort of Batumi. We have been really working like crazy people to help get a plan ready; for the uninitiated, this helps NGOs (and private businesses as well) prepare for the Request for Applications that is published by USAID. Very large sums of money are at stake, and the competition can be fierce. Often a proposal writer has an advantage if she can get agreement that her ideas will be supported by the government in question.
Thinking this through, I decided that the very best prospect for support for an RFP would be the President himself. President Mikheil Saakashvili, that is. I knew I had to start small, though, so I started out by meeting with my neighborhood green grocer. She didn’t speak English, so I moved on.
Next I started interviewing dozens of small NGOs to find out how to get in to talk with Misha. They were not very encouraging. I refused to give up, so I asked myself who else I should ask, and I thought maybe, just maybe, Misha hangs out with the Big International NGOs. I went to each and every one of them in Tbilisi, and if you know anything about this city, you know that it is a testimony to both my determination and my street smarts. But still, no one could tell me how to find the Big Guy. So I moved on.
I thought to myself, perhaps I am approaching this the wrong way. I went to the local expat watering hole, which happens to be a very snappy hotel bar, and walked up to the first person I saw. He turned out to be some sort of consultant for USAID. I was elated! The U.S. has given Misha literally millions upon millions of dollars to turn Georgia into a democracy, with a transparent government and fair elections. Surely this guy could get me in.
I was thwarted again. As it turns out, our friend Misha had other things in mind for all of that money, and now USAID is back in Georgia to fund projects that are meant to help the people get a hold of that slippery democracy thing, and they weren’t exactly big on Misha. Alas, it was time to move on.
Rethinking the entire project yet one more time, I wondered if I went and spoke with the permanent protesters who have “cells” that are blocking access to the parliament building and the executive offices, they might have a better idea of how to get to the Pres. Then I watched on the opposition party news channel (that only reaches about 25% of Tbilisi—and none of the rest of Georgia), about how some folks over there at the cells were getting beaten and kidnapped by mysterious assailants. I moved on.
The light bulb went on! I would go try to see a governor—Misha appoints them because the people aren’t as smart as he is—and I finally felt the first thrill of success. I didn’t get the governor, but I did get the deputy governor of youth and sport. I figured everyone likes youth and sport. Surely she knows Misha and would give him a call for me. Not only that, but in the first five minutes of our meeting, she explained how the entire government of Georgia is so concerned about its citizens and their rights, they have a total open door policy! All I had to do was find Misha’s door! I moved on.
All of my excitement faded when I realized that my time here in Georgia was short, and absolutely no one seemed to know where to find Misha’s door. The vacation weekend to Batumi seemed the only way to recharge myself so that I could carry on until my last moment in Georgia, to find Misha’s open door.
When I got to my little hotel, I noticed that there seemed to be a big hubbub going on. Police cars shouting through loud speakers, guys walking around with batons, streets blocked off, and all right next door to where I was staying. The focus of this display was surrounding the nicest, newest, most expensive hotel in Georgia, in the best resort city.
I felt a funny feeling in my stomach. I asked my interpreter what was up with all that fire power, and she said, “Oh that’s just Misha—he comes here all the time to hang out at the beach.” His door! I ran out to the street and headed for the huge hotel. Several police cars suddenly appeared in front of me, and started shouting in Georgian on their loud speakers. I asked my interpreter what they were saying to me. She said, “They are shouting that you had better move on.”
It seemed I had learned a very important lesson: sometimes we just need to do the real work, and have faith that the right door will always open.