Expat Living, Learnings, Somaliland
Comments 4

on getting out of the way

Headed into the field last month to check out a few work activities, including the construction of a borehole in a rural village in Somaliland, complete with pump, piping system, and troughs and faucets for livestock and people.


The borehole and its components are doing hard work during these dry months, following nearly a year without any substantial rain for the agro-pastoralists that populate this part of the world. prospects are grim all around, and if the Gu (heavy, Spring) rains fail this year, catastrophe looms. nevertheless, spirits were relatively high in the village of Geedabeera, where the borehole is pumped near-constantly these days.

The local water resources committee is taking good care of the infrastructure, ensuring efficient and fair usage both for village residents and travelers from distant parts in search of water.


The piping system pushes water into nearby satellite villages, where laborers are wrapping up construction of an above-ground tank…


…and a distribution point for residents.


As we examined the borehole under a warm sun, camel bells jingled in the distance, and a lively herd appeared through the trees. They galloped towards us and I, for one, was thrilled – these bizarre, outlandish, downright prehistoric-looking animals seemed just as happy to see us as we were to see them, up close and in-person!


At the last minute a flock of hands waved us out of the way, scolding and laughing at the same time. Evidently we had been standing, gleeful and oblivious, between the thirsty herd and the borehole. A few more seconds in their path, and we would’ve been camel-dust.


Right, of course, you’d think I would’ve picked up on that after three years of field visits around all sorts of livestock. But animals bewitch a suburban girl ad infinitum, especially when they’re so near.


I took this as a metaphor as I climb a remarkably steep learning curve in my new job, hurtling towards crisis and near-certain famine, with the stresses that accompany the weight of disease and death all around: Get out of the way. In my mind, a leader at her best is a conduit for the talents of others: guiding, regulating, facilitating, motivating. Executed properly, you can lead your team more efficiently, more productively, and with more fun and growth towards the goals it already knows how to reach. Get in the way, and you’ll find yourself trampled by well-intentioned dromedaries with a strong thirst to quench, and no time to waste.


  1. Water is such a crucial issue in this part of the world, it’s a matter of life and death. On this side of the red sea, green public spaces are watered several times a day , to make us forget that we are the middle of a desert. A lot of evaporated water and money for a visual illusion. Such is life, or death.


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