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#25 Toyota Land Cruisers

February 18, 2011

This post was submitted by a reader calling himself Mr. Mlungu in Southern Africa.

The Toyota Land Cruiser… big and white and powerful. With everything you need to survive a marathon drive through the bush, this beast of a vehicle is more utilized by country directors and staff to plow through the streets of the capital city to get from meeting to workshop to off-site and then back to the office before heading home after a long day of capacity building.

Accessorized with everything from tow bars to winches, gas cans and spare tires on the top, the Toyota Land Cruiser is the dominate vehicle for aid workers. It  builds credibility to show that they have the means to get to the people in remote parts of the country, even though in reality it will never go farther than 50 kilometers from the country office one or two times a year when people from home office are visiting or on a media trip to show the hard work of the aid agency.

The credibility factor is further enhanced by bright shiny stickers advertising the agency to which the vehicle belongs, acting as a totem to ward off corrupt cops and soldiers when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs won’t issue Diplomatic Plates for the aid agency vehicles.  However, this has little effect when the bulk of law and order officials manning the check point are illiterate, leaving a flustered aid worker to instruct the driver to “tell them who we are and that we are here to help their country” in the local language.

The vehicle may leave a carbon footprint the size of France, but this is offset by the selfless mission it is being used for. As any experienced aid worker will tell you, going to the field in a Prius is not an opition because it could not handle the rugged terrain of the bush.

26 Comments leave one →
  1. Christina permalink
    February 18, 2011 3:34 pm

    Ouch and so close to home …. the CDs usually keep the good ones with all the necessary field equipment in the cities, while giving field offices the older broken down pieces of !@#$. Go figure that one out …

  2. katy permalink
    February 18, 2011 6:22 pm

    There was once a small new country gaining independence into which these monster vehicles arrived en mass and began to crowd the main city roads, as a result aphrase emerged “How can you help when you can’t even walk by yourselves..”

  3. Sergio Zegarra permalink
    February 19, 2011 9:59 am

    So true! Good post!

  4. Nicolas Gerard permalink
    February 20, 2011 3:19 am

    And the pecking order of who’s got the biggest, newest version, with the biggest radio antenna … and boys and their toys !

  5. mzee permalink
    February 20, 2011 4:00 am

    Even old Land Cruisers are sooo much better than locally manufactured 4 wheel drives. Worried about cred? Don’t be seen anywhere near a locally manufactured vehicle unless it’s a motorcycle, or unless you’re in a Land Cruiser and in convoy with local partner vehicles.

    And it goes without saying that donors should NEVER support local partners to buy Land Cruisers; it’s so detrimental to local industry.

  6. Dave Larson permalink
    February 21, 2011 10:37 am

    What about R&R, or, better, yet, PAID R&R (with organizations that give such).

    Not on your list of 25…or have I missed it?

    It’s certainly, and honestly, one of the things that I’VE liked most as an ex-pat :).

    I’d make this post longer, but need to get back to work…planning my next R&R…


    • SakPase permalink
      February 21, 2011 5:48 pm

      Snap! I jst posted R&R on Twitter… also SEAWH improvements in-country leading to cuts in R&R allowance.

  7. Nicole permalink
    February 22, 2011 11:27 am

    As a wife of an expat aid worker, I do not like our Toyota Land Cruiser at all. It’s too big for me to drive (I’m a small sedan kind of girl), gobbles down petrol, and generally makes me feel like an a$$h@le. I’ve pestered my husband to sell it and get something more sensible and he pretends to listen but I can tell that it’s a losing battle. I recently found out that he drove a Land Cruiser during his romanticized Peace Corps days, so that squelched any remaining hope. Thanks to this post, at least I understand that it’s an expat aid worker thing and thus out of my control. ;)

  8. February 23, 2011 1:13 am

    I would add Nissan Patrol to this as well. I really miss my wife’s issued Patrol from her last mission. That thing was able to drive over anything that was already driving through anything. Four wheel drive worked great to get to the secluded beaches on weekends. Was happy to leave behind the Central African mix tape that was stuck in the cassette player though.

  9. Jon Custer permalink
    February 23, 2011 7:53 pm

    Another fun Peace Corps story: in the country where I served, they had a very very low fixed exchange rate with the dollar. Also, PC was required to A) buy only Land Cruisers and B) sell the Land Cruisers after they reached certain predetermined mileage (40,000 perhaps?). Brand new Land Cruisers in a country where a 1981 Lada will get you to even the remotest villages: not that unusual. But since they imported the LC’s at their nominal dollar value, and sold them locally still in near-mint condition for local currency, they actually made a huuuuuge “profit” each time they had to get rid of one — enough to pay all 60-odd PCV salaries for a month or two, in cash. Delivered to our sites via Land Cruiser, natch.

    (And aside to Nicole: in today’s Peace Corps, driving anything, even on vacation in another country, is cause for immediate no-appeal “separation.” This includes motorcycle taxis, tuk tuks, and a horse or camel if you aren’t wearing a HELMET!)

  10. February 24, 2011 10:06 am

    Sweet truck, however, I prefer the Land Rover Defender! More rugged, more utility and comes across to the people as humble, “i’m here to get things done”

  11. Jason permalink
    June 25, 2011 8:04 am

    No mention of the mandatory gun – not sticker? A symbol universally recognized by those who may otherwise want to stop you and demand a ride fully armed?

  12. Nancy permalink
    July 6, 2011 7:49 am

    Ah, but you also MUST have the obligatory snorkel to prove that this vehicle has the capacity to negotiate raging full flood rivers in the pursuit of carrying out the agency’s mission—or (more likely) to get thru the worst of monsoon flooding in a city like Phnom Penh

  13. bdh permalink
    July 15, 2011 10:44 pm

    Something else EAW’s like – self important bitching when someone, usually in accounting at HQ, tries to pass off a Prado (see photo above) as equivalent to an actual Land Cruiser.

    When the motor pool tries to give you the Prado, they will tell you – The Prado is fuel efficient! Compact! Easy to park! Good in traffic! …..And it will leave your ass stranded 1200k up country with a punctured oil pan.

    Easy tip for the new field/technical side folks who can’t yet tell the difference from 100 yards: The LC has a horizontal grille configuration, the Prado vertical.

  14. EOO permalink
    February 10, 2017 6:24 am

    I’m an Intern, I needed to fly to one of our field offices. The driver had to pick the CD from the airport so we drove in the new landcruiser meant for the CD and dropped me off and at the departures in full view of everyone there. I had 2 HOT ladies hitting on me because I came in an “NGOs landcruiser”. LOL


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