Sunday, August 27, 2006


So this post is probably going to seem a little ironic, following immediately behind the last one about being called to work in justice, but hey, my life is ironic.


Many of you would think that after working for 3 years in this development that I would have developed some pretty high reaching goals for myself. That I would dream of the day I become the head of a USAID mission to a country, or chief manager of a multimillion dollar Millennium Challenge Account project. Or perhaps of moving back Stateside and putting all of my experience towards research or study to get a PhD or MD or some other impressive combination of degrees and perhaps climbing that ivory tower of thought and philosophical writings on justice and charity and the whys of why the impoverished are a constant in our lives.


But you’d all be wrong.


No, my greatest wish would be to follow in the footsteps of the heroine’s father in that old black-and-white (and more recently remade) film, Sabrina. I want to move permanently to Madagascar and be a chauffeur. Or at the very least, a compound guard.


So often when on mission I find myself contemplating my driver’s role with more than just a twinge of jealousy. Here’s somebody who gets paid to drive a vehicle down the road, which is markedly more exciting than being left to be a passenger in the popcorn-popper and, once you arrive at destination, do nothing other than make sure the vehicle doesn’t get too many nasty words written in the dust on its sides. So you sit. And you sit. And you might wander the village a bit. Pick up some of the local gossip. And sit some more. As a chef de mission, I sometimes find myself feeling guilty for the boredom of the driver while I sit in endless meetings with local authorities and then spend the evenings writing reports or just wanting to go to sleep as soon as dinner is done. And yet, if I were that driver, those hours of boredom would be a glorious boon – think of all the books, magazines, newspapers, journals I could read, all of the books and stories I could write! I could sit and gossip in village coffee shops, then return to the safety and comfort of the vehicle and have hours to contemplate what I heard over a sound nap. I could practice photography. I could do research – rapid rural assessment, find out what people in the towns really think. Yet, I’m the one stuck racing from official forum to official forum with only time for a dutiful nod to all those real people out in the communities. And my driver sits. Every once in a while, sleeps.


Then there’re the office guards and the guards at the nicer compounds in the city. They work endless shifts – true that – 6 to 6, at least 3 days a week, often more. Your job is to make sure misdirected people get to where they’re going, no cars leave the compound without appropriate authorization, and that not too many ragamuffins wander in and out of the place. Occasionally light gardening and maintenance duties are included – but those are mostly to cut down on the boredom factor – and about 90% of that time is sheer boredom. Again, hours of time available for the better pursuits. Only downside to this is, unlike a chauffeur, napping is not allowed (although it does happen). And no regular change of scenery.


I suppose not life is really as good as it appears to be (grass is greener, and all that), but I do find it disappointing that more of the people in these roles don’t take advantage of the opportunities available to them and instead spend their lives in a state of almost constant boredom (except for drivers who split their time between mortal fear and near death-inducing boredom). And maybe, some day, I too will get paid for reading my favorite book. Again.



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