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#127 Being Busy

January 9, 2012

submitted by Tembo4One

Saving the world is a time-consuming activity. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, the developing world cannot be dragged out of poverty overnight (even if you’ve promised your donor that you’ll permanently change negative perceptions, successfully instill female empowerment, convince a government to adhere to human rights and change an entire cultural mindset dating back thousands of years. All within a 9 month project timeframe).

Because of this, Expat Aid Workers are a busy bunch. When they’re not hunched over their grubby ThinkPads (iPads for HRI reasonably paid consultants), building up wrist calluses while beating out the next innovative, gender-sensitive, cross-cutting development proposal, they’re out “in the field”, running RCTs, chatting to beneficiaries and rocking around in 4x4s behind a smashed up windscreen and a floppy Codan antenna. “Out of Office,” informs their Outlook Office Assistant. “In the field between this and that date. No access to internet. For important matters, contact somebody other than me.”

The EAW will often complain of having 2000 unread emails in their inbox and that they’ve never got time to read them. This, they will inform you while preparing a cup of coffee (hurriedly, because they’re BUSY), is one of the reasons why they’re ignoring your stream of progressively agitated emails. Nothing personal. Just too busy. Lots of generic and non-specific work to do. Got this report to finish. Pressure from HQ. Serious rounding issue with the budget. And so on. Then they’re gone, back in the zone, staring intently at their monitor, pretending that you’re not still standing in the doorway.

busy... REALLY busy...

When you do somehow manage to coax a response from your busy EAW colleague, it is short, dismissive and void of manners. This is because the EAW is BUSY and believes that a lack of manners denotes a lack of time and not, therefore, a simple lack of manners (despite the appearance). No time for an acknowledgement of your name. Maybe a generic “kind regards” if you’re lucky. But rarely any relevance whatsoever to the information requested in your email.

– Sent: Fri 17/06/2011 9:33am

“Hi Dave, really really need your help here. I’ve already emailed you 16 times about this and the deadline is 3pm today. I really need to find out why those remaining NFIs are still stuck in the store and didn’t get distributed like they were supposed to. Also, how many are left? Let me know asap. Cheers mate.”

– Replied: Tue 02/07/2011 11:24am

“Yeah they’re still in the store, 435 jerry cans, Mike”

Later that day, after you’ve lied about the NFIs, doctored your report and sent it off to your donor, you log onto Facebook and spend a few minutes stalking ex-girlfriends and good-looking girls who appear in your friends’ photographs. While on, you see that your EAW colleague has, just 20 minutes previously, updated his status with self-indulgent humanitarian philoso-waffle (“rains may fail you but we won’t East Africa! Hang in there, we’re on our way!”) before posting on the walls of everybody he knows to inform them, without provocation, about how BUSY he is in a DANGEROUS and HOSTILE environment.

Your boss suddenly walks in and you quickly close Facebook and replace it with a half-finished document full of important-looking track-changes that you’ve strategically left lingering in your taskbar.

“Did you get my email?”

You shuffle in your seat.

“Er…no, sorry Stu. I’ve got like, 2000 unread emails in my inbox. Was it important?”

“Just wondered if you’d be able to attend a workshop in Khartoum about non-revenue water management for urban water and sewage authorities?”

You smile apologetically and point feebly at the document on your laptop.

“Seriously Stu, I’d love to but, well, I’m just too busy I’m afraid. Can’t you send Mike?”

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