Tuesday, December 05, 2006
What No One Tells You
I wish there was a school for humanitarian aid workers. In this school they would tell you all the things you’re supposed to know, and don’t, when you arrive in any given disaster or war. They would tell you that your job will not be even remotely exotic, adventurous or exciting. They would tell you that you will spend a great quantity of your time finding out if, and how, people are stealing, how to catch them and how to fire them. They would tell you that you are not going to save anyone’s life – that you are not helping the war you’re going to and, in fact, that you might be prolonging it. They would tell you that you will spend a lot of time with other people, exactly like yourself at coordination and security meetings. They would teach you important things that help you get by – like how to enjoy drinking lukewarm water, how to change a tire, stop a leak, tie a knot, what all those gadgets on your pocket knife are for, how to remove splinter without tweezers and how to smuggle more luggage than allowed through airline check-ins. There would be a language course in how to explain Avian Bird Flu to people whose language you don’t speak. There would be special classes on keeping your sanity in 42+ degrees Celsius, how to pretend you don’t have diarrhoea, how to enjoy drinking ORS and how to read by kerosene lamp without losing your eyesight. The cafeteria at this school would serve inedible – albeit authentic – ethnic foods that are unappetizing but the only food you’re going to get. The dorms would be outfitted with mosquito nets and the rooms filled with an amazing array of flying insects of every variety and size – just so you could become accustomed. The temperature of the classrooms would be kept at an unbearable temperature, either too hot or too cold and from time to time either sirens or prayer calls would go off over the loudspeakers. I’m pretty sure that this school would weed out about half of us. The other half should be taken away and immediately institutionalized.