#208 Hanging with people from the same chronology
Submitted by Brian Harding who blogs a little bit at ANairobic Inspiration
You are a few weeks into your new duty station and you have made a few friends. These friends will be your friends for the rest of their time in the duty station. This is because EAWs don’t like to mix up chronologies.
If you arrived in June 2010 in your new war-torn country, then your friends will principally include those people from plus or minus three months of your arrival. These are your friends. You will most likely not hang out with people who arrived in 2008. They have their own friends that arrived then.
There is only one way to get access to people in different chronologies. This is simply if you are vouched for. It could happen that you got to strike up a conversation at the cluster meeting or the house party and you did not make a complete fool of yourself. Like the young kid who joins the older guys, Red, Andy Dufrain, Floyd and Ernie at the dining table in Shawshank Prison, fundamentally, you better have something to offer fast. (Do remember he ended up dead and the other guys ended up at the beach.).
Making a complete fool of yourself is easy however. If you do not know the name of the president, his party (it’s generally a man), what FGM stands for, the local name for transport (e.g matatu), have some local words, the location of anything, the head of such and such an agency etc or if you make the mistake of possessing any degree of idealism, you’re doomed. The list of potential errors is long and not clearly defined and if you mess up, you are out, before you even have a chance.
An important part of being new and meeting people from outside your chronology (even if you have made a complete fool of yourself) is to say that you are staying a long time. “I have a 90 day contract but I’m planning on staying for 2 years”. This is appreciated by all EAWs and some day you will appreciate hearing it too.
If you do meet people from earlier chronologies, you will find that indeed many of their friends are from around the same time that they arrived but initially they didn’t like all of the people in their group. “when I first met him, I thought s/he was a complete [alcoholic, womanizer, A-hole, etc] and didn’t want to be near him, but then we ended up on a weekend away and now s/he is like one of my best friends”. Yes, “like one of my best friends” …..but certainly not my best friend.
EAWs learn fast that first impressions count for nothing when your friends from the duty station begin to leave. It’s always better to hang out with people who you don’t like but are from the same chronology than with the newbies.