#139 Pre-Deployment Shopping
Submitted by Peter Blair
Nothing brings joy to the heart of an EAW like the shopping spree that precedes an overseas deployment. Not only does this give EAWs a chance to start mentally preparing for the mission (picturing themselves handing out sacks of WFP rice in that dashing blue Oxford button down) but it also lets them ‘be enigmatic’ to complete strangers and show off their field cred to lay-people.
Pre-deployment shopping gives EAWs an excuse to buy any piece of technology or kit that they’ve secretly been pining after during the last few months of pre-pre-deployment (i.e. when they are ‘between jobs‘).
This is the perfect time for the EAW to buy that 12″ combat knife or to convince herself that a tattered old copy of ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ doesn’t scream development worker in quite the same way that a brand new Kindle or iPad might. All of these expenditures can easily be totted up in terms of how quickly they can be written off (‘Well it only really costs four days of per diem’) and measured in terms of how much an EAW’s quality of life will be improved in the field with the product.
The wildest dreams of EAW contingency planning can also be indulged, as scenarios involving saving the entire mission staff with 16m of bungee cord and duct tape run riot. It becomes criminal not to make that crucial mission purchase because if you don’t, someone might die.
While actually shopping for deployment-wares EAWs will have ample opportunity to display to complete strangers just how serious and uncompromising their aid-worker lifestyle is. Something as mundane as shopping for socks can quickly be elevated to extreme importance with a few questions such as ‘But can you guarantee these socks will survive sub-zero temperatures and be suitable for protracted desert hiking?’ or ‘Do you know anyone who’s worn these to Somalia?’
None of this is boasting, it is simply a demonstration that because of the hard lives EAWs live, they need clothes and items that mere civilians can’t comprehend. The unique needs of an EAW can be further demonstrated with stories of how previous purchases held up on the last deployment overseas. This will help the store clerk deal with any other future EAW inquiries, and potentially swing a sweet discount.
Seasoned EAWs will always be refining and culling their deployment wardrobe – each deployment will see old pairs of boots or technical trousers falling by the wayside to be replaced with the spangliest, newest equipment. But the ultimate goal of any EAW is to get all their combined deployment possessions down to the size of a 15kg go-bag. This means they are ready to either deploy or evacuate from any situation at a moment’s notice. Nothing is more intimidating to a rookie EAW than arriving in-country dragging three suitcases only to see a seasoned EAW step off 22 hours of connecting flights with nothing more than a small hold-all and a pair of Ray-Ban aviators.
So the next time you come back from a shopping trip looking like The North Face catalogue threw up on you, spare a nostalgic thought for what you took with you on your first overseas deployment. Chances are you managed to cope pretty well with just a pair of old flip-flops, a roll of duct tape and a few cotton t-shirts.