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#18 Motorcycles

January 31, 2011

This guest post comes from Dr. Ashit Dey who works for the Foreign Service.

expressing solidarity with the local poor...

Expat Aid Workers love motorcycles.*

Riding motorcycles underscores an Expat Aid Worker’s “freedom” and simultaneous (not to mention ironic) “connectedness” to the local geography and people.  Nothing says “I am in solidarity with the attainable aspirations of the poor majority” quite like weaving through traffic on a Honda Dream II or Soviet-era Minsk.  At the same time, an Expat Aid Worker astride a motorcycle declares both a risk-embracing approach to life and sexual availability to potential partners (expat and locals.)

It is very common for Expat Aid Workers with motorcycles to also own a copy of “Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work.” (Note: neither @talesfromthhood nor @shotgunshack own a copy of this tome.) A motorcycle can also help distinguish Expat Aid Workers from non-EAWs (normally foreign extractive industry professionals, diplomats, or private security contractors) who exclusively rely on white SUVs (preferably Landcruisers) for transportation.

one more way to be a "nomad"

Some Expat Aid Workers own multiple motorcycles.  They first need a locally produced model or a second-hand Asian import (the Hongda “Wife 110″ is an old favorite) for daily use.  They may also have a larger touring bike for road trips and “field work.”   The selection of their second, more serious bike depends on the laws of the country where they are based, but should generally be as large as can be afforded without appearing ostentatious (must… remain… in… solidarity…).  Chiefs-of-party, operations directors, and successful locally-based consultants may also own a third motorcycle. This one will definitely not be in running condition.  It will be either a locally procured antique restoration project (everyone who visits them will be asked to mule motorcycle parts, purchased on eBay, which will prove impossible to get through customs), or an alternative fuel-source conversion to run (theoretically) on jatropha oil or a distillate of fermented cassava starch mixed with kerosene.

Expat Aid Workers who don’t own or ride a motorcycle themselves enjoy riding on the back of one, often without a helmet.

Expat Aid Workers were born to be wild**.

*Importantly, this does not contradict the Expat Aid Workers’ love of  Drivers – it is just one awesome way of establishing  field cred, and perhaps may also be an attempt to blend in.

**This link is not meant to imply that all EAWs are American or male or white.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 31, 2011 9:33 am

    This is one of those posts where I both laughed and hung my head in shame… You nailed it, sir.

    On a side note: For most Peace Corps members, “riding a motorcycle is grounds for immediate administrative separation”
    http://peacecorpsonline.org/messages/messages/2629/2076558.html

  2. February 1, 2011 9:54 pm

    It’s also possible to have a motorcycle with a driver, which is my preferred option. :)

  3. Jason permalink
    February 3, 2011 12:18 pm

    Its a little eerie to see yourself described so well. And we all think we are “one of a kind!”

  4. February 10, 2011 2:55 pm

    I prefer dunkeys. I like to blend in.

  5. motojourneyman permalink
    May 20, 2013 4:57 pm

    Reblogged this on motojourney and commented:
    Brilliant, absolutely spot on. I’ve connected with the locals!

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