#115 Their Very First Posting
Submitted by S.
Nothing beats the nostalgia Expat Aid Workers feel when it comes to their first field experience. Just like your first love, you cannot help but compare everything and everyone coming later to that fresh, breezy feeling of initiation.
The love and nostalgia for their first posting is especially strong when EAWs have just arrived in a new spot. Everything and anything relates to their previous experiences and nothing (the local market, means of transport, the work load) compares to what they have lived through in the good old days of their aid worker career debut.
Ideally, this first posting was a long-term commitment, beating your average 3-month internship not just in length, but also equipping your EAW with this special kind of soberness only true love –er- aid work can give you. Contrary to greenhorn interns, the EAW does not return from his or her first real posting with original braids, henna tattoos and local fabrics, because by the time he or she is leaving, all of the above have grown and washed out.
You can establish even more field cred if you not only mention your first posting in every possible conversation, but subtly relate it to all the places you have worked in since then. Like “In Niger, our small NGO had such a great relationship with the local community of the remote desert region we worked in. After that, I had a hard time fitting in with the UN in DRC. All this hierarchy! And I really did not care for the humidity in Goma. So I was really happy to get a post in Bolivia afterwards, I could meet up with some friends I met during my volunteer years in Potosí. But like I said, Niger was special.“
There is one hiccup though: developing countries carry their name for a reason. They develop, not necessarily and always in a positive way, but change is bound to happen. So when the EAW finally manages to use an R&R or gets a short consultancy to revisit that first posting, he or she cannot help but be utterly disappointed. Phnom Penh is growing too fast and loses its charm, street food in Azerbaijan used to be a lot cheaper and the nice Ethiopian pastoralist family in the highlands has apparently moved to town and taken up day jobs.
But that’s the way life goes. Your high school sweetheart has most likely also become old, chubby and lame by now, and this leaves you with two options: Deal with the disenchantment or stick to your nostalgic memory. The latter will at least serve to annoy and/or entertain your new friends in future postings.