#123 Pretending to Hate Headquarters
by Sparrow and Lady Aga
“Where is my Toyota Landcruiser and my Driver?” wails the EAW arriving at Geneva Airport fresh from Kabul, realising unhappily that he now has to rely on his own wits once more. Gone is the Pashtun home help, the smell of palao cooked by the locals and the sound of Taliban gunfire. For now the EAW must do some time at headquarters. And NOTHING conjures fear in the heart of the Expat Aid Worker like a prolonged stay at headquarters.
Headquarters deprives the EAW of opportunities to engage in heroic acts worthy of Facebook and forces the EAW to cling bravely to his “when I was in Chad” tales of the past while propping up the lakeside bar at the Kempinski wearing a polo shirt and a blazer. So desperate are the fresh from the field EAWs to emphasise their field cred that some may even adopt symptoms associated with post traumatic stress disorder to show how hardy they actually are. Seeing people twitch shiftily around the building is all part of an average day at headquarters. A knock at the door will send the field-bourne EAW scurrying under his desk muttering darkly about being shelled in Mosul, crockery dropped in the canteen provides a perfect opportunity for the EAW to recount tales of sniper fire in Sri Lanka and how she still has to take sleep aids as a result.
And this is just the start. The EAW will manouever strategically, discovering that stays at headquarters actually allow for a larger captured audience to shock and awe with tales of humanitarian bravado than the cynical 3-person staff pool at the field office. Stays at headquarters allow the field-bourne EAW to stitch this field experience into virtually every conversation with a sigh, having previously gauged the field cred of all present through ability to incorporate local dress from field post(s) with western attire.
During working group meetings, special vitriol and snarky comments are reserved for consultants and those with ‘corporate experience.’ Irrespective of whether the field bourne EAW has spent her last 2 years sorting paper clips by size for a women’s empowerment project or assessing baseline levels of awareness over time around our favorite topic: “stuff expat aid workers like”, the field EAW still deserves more money and respect than the lawyer with a PhD and 8 years practical experience. Because really, office rats are not ‘field’ and therefore not really dedicated to the cause at all — they are lowly specimens unworthy of even a chat by the coffee machine let alone an invitation to dine at the returned EAWs rather nice new lakeside pad complete with Bose sound system, African objet on the walls and eclectic fusion menu blending both fufu and borscht.
El Hamdullelah! The lakeside pad is rather nice isn’t it? And there’s polo on next week, and a nice hike in the country, and there are bouncy women everywhere that are impressed by EAW’s job and want to come home with him. In fact, it’s actually really rather like being in the field (just without the sniper fire and those damned ungrateful beneficiaries). Maybe field EAW should just pretend he hates head office and not apply for that hardship post in Congo at all? Maybe his skill set could even be transferable to Deutsche Bank?