I have been traveling in Ethiopia on a project, and I had to look at how I handle situations when things just don't go your way.
A very bureaucratic country where there has to be a form for everything and then some, we were delayed in customs for hours, our cameras confiscated and finally arrival at a hotel with no hot water, minimal lights and springs pushing through the mattress.
Firstly with the equipment, my normal reaction would be to become quite forthright and go into "producer" mode. However before we left I was briefed on how to handle these situations in Ethiopia. Basically just stay calm, polite, and literally just roll with it a little bit. They are proud people and they have their ways.
So when all of the above happened, I just took a step back, proceeded gently, smiled sweetly and kept my patience. It wasn't all that hard actually knowing there was nothing I could really do otherwise.
The following day I was rewarded with the appropriate paperwork and our gear. (I could see many others at the airport that weren't so lucky). However that was just the start of 5 days that tested my patience. We faced challenges and delays I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams.
So it makes it all the more rewarding for what my team and I achieved. I am so proud of how we managed to roll with the difficulties. There was an obstacle at literally every turn and we just had to smile at each other, push through and carry on, as matters were often out of our hands.
I can't honestly say though, that internally my frustration wasn't firing on every level occasionally - but I managed to keep it cool on the outside. Phew!
The best thing about all this though is that somehow synchronistically the things that happened actually improved our film. We were forbidden to shoot at the location we wanted - we found one that was SO much better.
If we had our gear when we were meant to, we would have been caught out in the middle of nowhere in torrential thunderstorms. Instead we filmed on the only afternoon where the weather was perfect. And they are just to name a couple of the wonderful things that occurred.
Moving on briefly to the hotel where we slept the first night - there was no hot water and it was probably the most uncomfortable bed I have ever slept in. I was tired, grumpy and exhausted knowing we had only two hours before we had to get up again. However when I was greeted to my morning in Ethiopia, and to see the conditions with which many of them live, I was eternally grateful for the bed I did have that evening, and for the one I sleep in every night with a solid roof over my head.
We are blessed in more ways than we can imagine when we can see past the way we think things should be, and let things happen the way they evolve naturally. That there can be perfection and grace in imperfection.
I'm not sure I have completely mastered it yet, but it certainly has taught me a valuable lesson that graciousness, no matter what the circumstance, is a very valuable quality.
PS. I hope to share with you the beautiful little film we captured for Maternity Worldwide http://www.maternityworldwide.dk/in_english, which aims to prevent unnecessary maternal deaths during childbirth in developing countries in a few weeks. Watch this space.