This morning I received a call from the Afghanistan National Olympic Committee asking if I could come today to meet with them. Even though our prior attempt to meet with them did not work out, they were certain that we would meet.
Reshad and I drove in his car to Kabul again to meet with the President of the Afghanistan National Olympic Committee. There was a lot of traffic and it took about 90 minutes to get there. The building that holds the Olympic Committee is quite old and rundown. Once we arrived, it took us a while to find the person we were supposed to meet. Along the way, Reshad ran into one of his lifelong friends that actually worked at the Afghanistan National Olympic Committee. He finally took us to where we needed to go.
While in the waiting area, which really was an office with two desks, with two very old computers, and some extra chairs. The employees in that office asked us why we were waiting for the president. We told them that we wanted to start a national water polo program in Afghanistan. The employees started giggling and laughing for a few moments. They then asked us if we were serious. Our reply was “yes.” Once they realized we were serious, they proceeded to tell me, through Reshad translating, that it would never work.
A few minutes later, someone in the president’s office popped their head through the door and motioned for us to come in. When we entered, the office was full. There were two gentlemen standing. There were a few couches and chairs that were full. The president was speaking with two gentlemen on one of the couches. It was a pretty heated debate, ending with the two gentlemen standing up and leaving, looking defeated on their way out. We were then pushed to sit on the couch.
We were then offered some chai (tea) from the president’s assistant. Reshad and I of course accepted, as it would be considered rude not to. The assistant poured out the cups that were on the table from the previous gusts, poured a tiny bit of tea into them, swirled the cups, poured the dirty tea from there, and then poured our chai into them.
Once the president finished with the next group, he turned to us to listen to what we had to say. I handed him a short presentation on paper and started speaking. As I paused to let Reshad translate, the President started yelling at the people who just walked in and sat down. I then realized that I needed to cut to the chase. I then told Reshad to just tell the president that we wanted to help them develop a national swim and water polo program. He sat for a few seconds, flipped through the presentation, then proceeded to tell me that they have had many Americans and Westerners who have promised the world and have not done anything for the Olympic Committee. He then told us that they already had a national swimming program, which just started at the end of last summer. He finished by saying that he did not have any more time to speak with us.
As we were walking out, the president said that he would have the swim chair contact us and that we should speak with him directly with what we wanted to do and that the swim chair would update him with any progress.
As Reshad and I walked out, I was thinking about the hour that just transpired. The 55 minutes of waiting and listening, followed by the three minutes of our “discussion”, and the final two minutes of walking out of the building. Even though we were not of interest to the President of the Afghanistan National Olympic Committee and definitely not taken seriously, I was determined to follow through with this.