Submitted by Sci-Fi Nomad
A scarf is about the most massively useful thing an Expat Aid Worker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the Šar Mountains of Kosovo; you can lie on it during an emergency mapping and market assessment trip to Lido Beach, Somalia; drape it round your head to ward off the fumes during a Jakarta slum tour; wave it during sudden-onset emergencies as a distress signal; and of course cover your head with it whether it still seems to be clean enough or not.
Truly, you can’t consider yourself to be an actual EAW without multiple scarves from sustainable, locally-produced, women artisans engaged in public-private, civil society partnerships. Whether you decide on wearing a keffiya, or a hand-embroidered Huipil, men and women alike know that for the EAW, donning a scarf is more than just dressing like the locals or creating your own fashion — it is as essential as your sat phone or ID badge. (During an evacuation it is unlikely that you will even be allowed on a UN helicopter unless you are wrapped in indigenous, fair-trade, fiber art.)
More importantly, a scarf has immense psychological value. With its multiple uses and adaptability, it demonstrate resiliency. And donors love resiliency. A scarf also imparts immediate field cred. Because if you can provide life-saving emergency interventions and facipulate stakeholder learning workshops across the length and breadth of the developing world, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible proposal deadlines, win awards, and still know where your scarf is, you are clearly an aid worker to be reckoned with. You may even hear someone comment, “Hey, you flip-chart that nomad EAW? There’s a doer who really knows where her scarf is!”