It may not be obvious to the casual observer of today’s Expat Aid Workers, but despite all the cynicism, overt attempts to demonstrate how out of touch with popular culture they are, and silverbacks who wantonly and shamelessly destroy the idealism of the newbs, at the end of the day, many battered EAWs simply want to be heard.
Let’s get something straight: No one can understand us. We’re much too enigmatic for that. No one but us will ever truly get what we’ve been through, or the sacrifices we’ve made to be here (“here” = at the house party, driver waiting outside…)
But then, after years of trying in many and various ways to “be one with the people”, it’s hard to know who we even are in the first place. And doesn’t it make sense, in the context of a global, 10s-of-billions-of-USD per year industry, allegedly tasked with making the world better, that maybe we should figure that out? Actors, singers, and college dropouts alike all think they can do our jobs better than us. They think they can show up in “the field” with some high-tech camping gear and be us. But then, who are we, exactly? Half the time we don’t even recognize (or pretend to not recognize) each other. Who are these Expat Aid Workers of whom everyone speaks? And when was the last time someone actually asked you?
Your years of waiting are finally over.
Public Service Announcement: Co-founder/blogger of Stuff Expat Aid Workers like, J., has teamed up with some super smart academic dude from Elon University, to actually study us, in order to answer this vexing question. Who are we? This is a serious academic research project, and a serious opportunity for you—all of you, expat, local, anyone and everyone in the aid industry (we’ll include dropouts, too) to be included.
It begins with a census-style survey, here. (yes, we know, you’re very busy. It takes about half an hour to complete, depending on how long you agonize over the open-ended questions. Just do it. Brag about it, or bring the righteous indignation, on Facebook later).
There’s also a blog hosted by Elon University, where J. and the academic dude will post regular updates, give you all the chance to participate in mini-polls, give long-winded feedback, and more.
Click through the survey. Check out the blog. This is your chance to be heard!
EAWs, regardless of generation, love being hipsters.
Submitted by JDW
You are not a true EAW until you have written your own job description at least once. In the real world, this is generally unheard of, but in the land of EAWs this is a well-established norm. The only place where someone advises you to write your own job description in developed countries is in visualization games in self-help books.
EAW offices are very busy places. People are knuckling down fighting poverty and building resilience and capacity. This can mean there is a terrible strain on staff to get mundane tasks completed… such as actually developing a well-thought-out job description.
There are a number of scenarios where you get to write your own job description. You might be an intern or volunteer and have proven yourself in some way. It could be that you slept with someone, sucked up a lot or astonishingly actually did a good job. Anyhow, you are put to work at developing some terms of reference for yourself and someone looks under couches to scrape the money together to pay you more than a top national civil servant in the country you now find yourself in.
You may be a consultant or freelancer and you know an office has some money that they need to spend. So, yes, they come up with something for you to do. It is important to approach organisations at the end of their fiscal year. You can prepare the job description before the meeting. What you actually do may not even be needed, but it will keep you in a faraway land on your tourist visa and get you paid– and that’s what really counts.
On occasion you may get the big paid job with the allowances and the over-inflated prestige with the dark side of the UN or with an actual donor. Normally this process will take as long as the gestation period of a blue whale, so by the time you actually get the letter offering you the job, the original position is no longer relevant. First day, first task …… “update” the job description.
Since there is so much capacity to be built and gender to be mainstreamed, the EAW manager is generally too busy to have any concept of the actual role or name of anybody in the human resources section. They must always feign shock that such a simple administrative task (i.e., hiring someone) should take so long, roll their eyes at the administrative deficiencies of the organization and beg to push this new job description through immediately.
Of course, many EAWs believe that because local staff are often the ones responsible for admin, it can’t help but be inefficient – the poor dears don’t understand the urgency in hiring this new person. Let’s not consider that local staff know full well that 47 of their colleagues have been bypassed for pay increases for the last four years and rushing that job description stinks more than an EAW riddled with giardia.
Of course, if the job description ever hits the internet, it is imperative to: give it the absolute minimum amount of allowed time to be displayed on a website that no one checks; have a start date that is ridiculous and could only be fulfilled by someone who already sits at the desk; have qualification requirements that exactly match that of the person who wrote it; and, importantly, include a section on upholding the ethical principles of the organization that you are about to work in.
Soccer moms have Fifty Shades of Grey. Adolescent girls have the Twilight series. The security manager has more than twenty “Dirk Pitt” books.
But what do Expat Aid Workers have?
Sadly, while most other romanticize-able professions have their own associated literary pop-culture associations, humanitarian fiction remains a literary genre as yet not fully fledged. Beyond a few attempts at novels about aid workers, there is just not much out there specifically for EAWs.
That is until now!
“Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit combines the passion and intensity of Jeff Sachs with the wit and charisma of Bill Easterly. I couldn’t put it down.” -Laura Seay, Texas in Africa
It started with Disastrous Passion: A Humanitarian Romance Novel, a Barbancourt-fueled lark that was naturally birthed during the Haiti earthquake response (e-book edition here, print version here) by SEAWL’s very own J. He thought it would just be a one-off, but so many of you loved it, that he decided to write more. And here it is, another humanitarian novel, just for you, Expat Aid Workers:
Will the heart-wrenching plight of an endless supply of refugees stretch Mary-Anne to the breaking point? Or will she rise beyond the challenges? And what will become of Jean-Philippe? Will prolonged separation cause their hearts to grow fonder? Or will she find comfort in the arms of the mysterious, brooding Jonathon Langstrom? Will she take a job at HQ? Or will she continue to answer the humanitarian call from a dusty refugee camp on the border of Somalia?
Through it all, just how close will Mary-Anne come to crossing the lines from missionary to mercenary, and from mystic to misfit?
Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit is a story about humanitarian aid, written by a real aid worker, using the language of humanitarian aid, addressing issues that aid workers face. This is not some satirical romance novel. Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit will make you think. About what you’ve done (if you’re an old hand). Or about what you’re about to do (if you’re just starting out). It’s also available for download as an e-book exclusively from Amazon.com. Buy it here. Now.
Then you can spend the summer blogging about it for the folks back home, and updating Facebook with your favorite scenes and quotes. You can get all righteously indignant about it, or discuss its deeper meanings in authoritative tones at the expat bar. Any way you look at it, Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit is a total EAW win-win.
“Sandblasts away the illusion that humanitarian aid work is a straightforward and consistent act of selflessness… A grimly realistic portrayal.” - Avril Benoit, Médecins Sans Frontières
There will be a print version available eventually, too. Follow the Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit Facebook page for this an other urgent humanitarian fiction updates.
Don’t miss out. Buy Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit now. Blog about it. Tweet about it using the #MMMM hashtag. Leave a review on Amazon.
Special Offer: For a limited time, J. will provide a free .PDF version of Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit to any blogger who promises to read it and publish a review. Simply send an email, including a link to your blog, to evilgenius.pub@gmail… with “#MMMM” in the message header.
As we know, EAWs love to gossip. They also love sex. But most of all, EAWs love to gossip about each other’s sexploits. Fortunately for those wishing to indulge in their favourite hobby, there is a steady stream of raw material to fuel the gossip mill. Barely a week will pass by without a brand-spanking new sexploit being unearthed and circulated in all its gory detail. Once in possession of a new piece of gossip, the EAW can comfortably discuss it ad nauseum with everyone she or he meets, confident that before the subject becomes tired, a new sexploit will be on the horizon to sate the EAW scene’s omnipresent hunger for scandal.
The grapevine is an important indicator of social standing within the expat world. How quickly you find out the latest juicy titbit is testament to how connected you are to the scene. When recounting your sexploit to others, be sure to accompany the story with details of how quickly you found out. This ensures that your social standing in the hierarchy is given the requisite credit. If someone confides a piece of information to which you were already privy, a head-shake and a sigh of “yes, shocking isn’t it?” is appropriate, before letting the person know exactly how much more connected you are: “I heard it at lunch the next day”. This will ensure that your confider is left in no doubt that you are ahead of him or her on the social ladder and will encourage him or her to buy into your confidence with information at the next available opportunity.
The chain of information is also of high import. You should always endeavour to understand the linking chain of whisperers which led to the gossip reaching your trusted ear. The shorter the chain is to the horse’s mouth the more reliable the information is (note: this is of minor relevance), and the closer you are to the epicentre of the gossip mill. Being “in the know” is a sought-after position of power. Your ability to find out things quickly means that others will want to be part of your trusted inner circle, and their best means of buying into this is by sharing gossip with you in the hopes of reciprocation. Cleverly managed, this can result in you ascending through the hierarchy apace. Climbing up the greasy gossip pole, however, is a finely-balanced exercise. One cannot gain a reputation as a “gossip” as this will diminish some of your access among the more cautious EAWs. Your strategy should be to cultivate an impression of being a very discreet, yet highly plugged-in, person. Think Varys in Game of Thrones.
Trading gossip is the main means of gaining currency in the sexploit market. Higher credit is earned if the dishing onwards is presented as if you are reluctantly divulging to a trusted confidante. Emphasize the exclusivity by saying things like: “you are the first / only person I’ve told”. You may wish to attempt to protect your position as a source of the gossip by swearing others to secrecy first (“I’ll only tell you this if you don’t say you heard it from me”). This is a wise precaution to take to avoid being tarred as a gossip, but of course be mindful that this strategy will only mitigate, not completely vitiate, others becoming aware of your position in the chain. When coming into possession of details of a sexploit which you wish to circulate as widely as possible, tell one person. That will ensure that everyone knows by 2pm the following Friday.
Top tip: create a spider diagram with names and connecting lines to indicate hook-ups. This will help you navigate the perilous world of the sexploit / gossip market. It will also be a handy go-to reference tool in the event of a STI breakout.