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#28 Helicopter Rides

February 26, 2011

This post was submitted by N.V.

The Expat Aid Worker enjoys many a form of local travel, (see drivers), but for establishing field cred, nothing beats  a UN helicopter ride to  a remote village, preferably one on the far edges of a volatile country that shares a border with another, even more volatile country.

A helicopter ride is an undeniably exciting experience but the EAW should save any public displays of excitement for their facebook status updates and blog entries. Any overt displays, such as asking to see the cockpit, taking pictures, waving back to the throngs of children whose quiet villages you have just descended upon, even staring too intently out the window are all dead giveaways of the novice aid worker.

The seasoned EAW will nonchalantly don the noise-absorbing headphones and busy himself with his pen and notebook, staring out the window only while deep in thought over the project proposal in his lap “Hmmm, is this Training of Trainers Women’s Capacity Building workshop an activity or an output?” If you are a Country Director and not sure everyone on the helicopter knows this, you may want to sleep through the whole ride then loudly proclaim upon landing while stretching and staring around, semi-bewildered, that you “haven’t napped in the middle of the day in years!”

Bonus points: motorcycle picks you up at the landing and drives you through the village to the project site.

Super Bonus points: you got drunk off home-brewed vodka with the Russian pilot at the previous night’s aid worker party, thus enabling you to update your FB status to “…flew to Nunnatumba on a UN helicopter today! Ummm… glad the pilot wasn’t as hungover as I was!!”

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2011 8:13 am

    Am I the only one who enjoys the idea of a helicopter ride more than the actual experience? Helicopters scare the @##$ out of me when I’m actually in one.

    • asdf permalink
      February 28, 2011 6:19 am

      perfect form well done

  2. February 26, 2011 11:57 am

    What about leftover coldwar giddiness with Russian pilots and Mi-8s? And yes, Texas in Africa, Mi-8s are amazing but scary.

    And too right about the motorcycle ride, although I think most agencies strictly prohibit.

  3. morealtitude permalink
    February 26, 2011 11:45 pm

    Great post and absolutely true. What I think the author forgot to mention is that the one thing the EAW loves even more than a regular helicopter ride is an evacuation by helicopter. That not only bumps up Field Cred and countless attempts at nonchalant Twitter and Facebook updates, but also provides material for multiple blog posts, and possibly a chapter in the forthcoming book about life as an EAW (and surely somebody’s going to submit ‘Writing a Book’ to SEAWL…?)

  4. Brendan Paddy permalink
    February 28, 2011 7:07 am

    Bonus points will be awarded for anyone who can maintain their studied nonchalance when it becomes clear that their ride was put together from the wreckage of two crashed Mi-8’s by drunken Ukrainian mercenaries…

  5. Robyn Kerrison permalink
    March 3, 2011 10:56 am

    I presumably haven’t a shred of field cred left, then, as I love heli rides and routinely hippity hop with excitement while waiting to board. (does it make up for this at all that I often do manage a nap, tho?)
    My other pre-flight heli routine is to beg the pilots to detour to the Minaret of Jam. Hasn’t worked yet, but I’m approaching it as a numbers game… the more often I ask, the greater the odds of someone finally saying yes.

  6. ann turner permalink
    March 8, 2011 2:12 am

    @ morealtitude perhaps, but opting NOT to be evacuated at all gets maximum cred.

  7. Matt permalink
    June 25, 2011 4:27 pm

    Ah, but getting the ex-Soviet pilots a bit drunk before flight is mandatory. You don’t want them sober and in the midst of DTs when you’re skimming the treetops.

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