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#195 (Not) being one of those unreliable expats

December 21, 2012

submitted by Kabul Zoo

Flakiness comes as standard. (Photo: bankonyourself.com)

There are two types of EAW in this world; Type A – who organise weekend trips away, and Type B – who agree to go on those trips but pull out at the last minute.

Every Type A has been there.  Spending half a week organising a weekend jaunt – a road trip to the nearest hub perhaps, or an adventurous hike sketchily detailed in an old Lonely Planet.   A surprising amount of effort can go in to organising these trips. Hours spent googling, flicking through guide books, checking wikitravel, finding a place to stay, phone calls, emails, text messages….  distances, road conditions, petrol availability.  Will the invite list get on? how tight are they? will they be prepared to pay $50 for the guesthouse with hot water, or is one of them a skinflint who’ll want the cheapest place in town?  What music will both impress and be enjoyed in the car?  The more off-the-beaten-track the country, the less info is out there – the organising EAW then has to check on Google Earth that the road detailed in their 1990s guidebook still exists, plugs coordinates in to the GPS, print off pages from Google Maps, ‘borrow’ the office satellite phone in case they get in trouble.  All this requires a lot more effort than organising some stakeholder workshop!

And boy does our EAW need a break.  Three solid weeks in the office polishing that all important donor report, manipulating the data to show ‘impact’, recycling last year’s stats in the log frame, dealing with comments from HQ about how there need to be more ‘results’…..  our EAW is so looking forward to the weekend…

Type B Expat Aid Worker. (Photo: thefoodpornographer.com)

Already anticipating a high bail rate, our Type A has got 7 tentative ‘yes’ replies from the ragtag bunch of expats he or she has become acquainted with over the past 9 months in-country, knowing that there is only space for five in the car.  Hell, he even invited the lonely banking consultant he knows from the gym – that’s sure to be good karma in future years when he is a hotel-bound reasonably paid consultant desperate for some social interaction at the weekend.

Sadly, in the expat world, ‘yes’ = ‘maybe’ and ‘maybe’ = ‘no’. And what does ‘no’ equal?  Well, its something pretty derogatory.  Unlike in the real world, where friends are actually friends, where you’ve known each other for years / decades, and when accepting an invitation you display at least a little bit of loyalty – as an expat, like when you were a first year student at university, you glibly agree to any social engagement all the while hoping you’ll get a better offer by the time Friday night comes.  Of course all EAWs would love to have local friends with whom to go on that road trip with – but somehow it doesn’t work out that way.  Some EAWs manage to be popular with the locals. The more cynical, single, male EAWs will notice that their colleagues with the most local friends tend to be young, female, and (at least geographically) single….  Hmmm…

By Friday lunchtime our would-be road-tripping EAW has already had 2 people drop out, citing limp excuses about pressure from HQ, and new arrivals at the embassy who have to be looked after  – no worries, still got a car full.  By Friday evening the hot young intern has pulled out, but darn it, our EAW is still going to have a good time, and by George he’s going to enjoy telling her all about the fun and games she missed the next time they bump in to each other at the expat bar.

Yeah, right. (Photo: lifehacker.com)

Saturday morning, and our EAW awakes to the familiar buzz from the cellphone.  He knows what the SMS is going to say… “sorry mate, going to have to pass on today, a few too many last night…” the phone then rings; its Phil, good old Phil, he’ll still be up for it, he never lets me down. “Hello, look, sorry, security have said its ok for me to go to the camel racing this weekend, got to take this chance, only happens once a year – you know I hate to let you down”.  The bastard!

That just leaves our EAW and Steve the banking consultant… its not looking promising.  At that moment the heavens open and the rain starts falling.  Our EAW is soon on the phone.  “Steve, hi, look, have you seen the weather?  It’s not going to be fun in the rain, and a few other people have pulled out.  I’m sorry, but maybe we could try another time?”

EAWs just love (not) being one of those unreliable expats….

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