#159 Having Stuff Named After Them
Submitted by JP
Some of the greatest experiences of the EAW’s life occur whilst on mission. They constitute the basis of the colourful tapestry of events that is spun for friends and family back home and provide fodder for the usual one-upmanship amongst other EAW’s whilst relaxing in the local expat bar.
Many trophies exist running the gamut from the basic “this rural peasant family invited me in for fufu and sauce“, through “I was initiated into the rituals of the whatever tribe” to being recognised as a deity from a far-flung land of smart phones and decent roads. However, the greatest trophy of all, as any veteran EAW will know, undoubtedly resides in having stuff named after you.
Returning from a field trip to regale his fellow EAWs with tales of woe, hardship and oh-so-slightly-overblown successes, the smart EAW will recount the adventures of his trip in mind-numbing detail, all the while holding back the cherry on the cake. After multiple interventions from other EAWs all trying to out-do each other with their superior exploits (or blank stares from friends and family at home, mistakenly believed to be stunned silence) the returning EAW will drop his “coup de grâce” and announce that his eventful and life-saving visit to a handover ceremony of a newly-constructed health centre resulted in the first child to be born there being named after him.
Obviously, all surrounding him then fall into numbed and respectful silence (which is decupled if the story is told at home, and people haven’t fallen asleep), allowing the victorious EAW to bask in the glory of his own smugness.
However, the smugness that will remain massively on display until the end of the night is not only (though it is mostly) because for the next 4 hours or so the EAW will be “top dog” and worthy of reverence, but also because of the sense of achievement he will feel. Having seen a project through to the end, having endured the harshness of week-long field trips with no running water, a diet of strictly local food, and no Al-Jazeera (which all add to the EAW’s heroism, but are insufferable nonetheless) as well as the occasional life-saving organisational meeting with the logistics department, the culmination of the handover and the reward of having a child, a spring, or a row of latrines named after him, proves that the beneficiaries are grateful, as damned well they should be!
It demonstrates that they understand and recognise the sacrifice the EAW has had to endure by leaving his home country and all the associated comforts, to come to some backwater village and educate, nourish or build the capacity of the local peasants, something they would be incapable of doing on their own.
And considering the number of logos of the EAW’s current NGO on the UNICEF “Who Does What Where?” map, he will wonder, in darker times, why is it that more beneficiaries haven’t taken this basic, costless step to demonstrate their respect and deference? Obviously they just haven’t understood what has been done for them, but then, such is the cross the EAW must bear.