Saturday, 30 July 2011

Disasterjunkie jargonbuster 3 - Humanitarian reform

Hello readers! It's time for another round of jargon busting. Humanitarian reform has become quite a buzzword in aidspeak but what does this actually mean? Let's break this down into its constituent parts for a greater understanding. According to the Oxford online dictionary:

Humanitarian ....person or groups concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare

Reform ... cause (someone) to relinquish an immoral, criminal, or self-destructive lifestyle

So putting them together this means "causing a person or group concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare to relinquish immoral, criminal or self-destructive lifestyle". I detect a paradox there. Immoral, criminal or self-destructive humanitarians? Are there such things? Surely not! Our organisational codes of conduct keep us reigned in and tightly bound as the paragons of virtue we all like to promote, especially in front of the cameras, don't they?  After all, I mean sex, drugs and rock and roll are only ways to self-medicate in order to preserve one's sanity under extreme circumstances aren't they? 

Firstly, take emergency sex for example, "ooohh yes please I hear you cry", "oh, if only I had the opportunity, another sighs" as common mitigation measure to reduce stress.  Here are some case studies from the field

Be aware of the risks and if you have to do it, practice safe sex. No I don't think you understand...neither...

nor a quickie during an evacuation, while throwing yourself onto your team mate to avoid a hail of bullets overhead. 

And secondly take drugs, for example, er, no I don't mean "go take drugs" because that would be immoral and criminal wouldn't it? Well apart from things like your doctor prescribes for you like anti-malarials or those nasty tasting pills that you can't take with alcohol to flush out intestinal parasites (I'm sure you've had those).  The side effects could take you places where you don't need recreational drugs. I mean I've heard that lariam can be trippy (and far from recreational) as many years ago a colleague of mine took it and flipped out for 6 weeks in a war zone......not pretty. One has to be careful of side effects. Seek the advice of your  doctor. Your local team of doctors without no, cough, borders, that's it, doctors without borders should be able to assist. 

And lastly rock n roll. Raise your hand if you've been to an NGO party and survived? You must have survived to be here reading this blog, but anyway. Remember those heady nights, a frenzied writhing and gyrating to crackly transistor radio/beatboxes under the moon and stars or in a godforsaken sweaty shack somewhere in the middle of nowhere until dawn comes up? Yes I can see it all now, while peering through the fog of too many deadly local fags lit up all at once (fags = ciggies, just in case you were wondering), hanging from the lips of fellow aidworkers, their hands thrust high clutching at bottles of some dubious and lethal brew masquerading as local light beer, bodies a riot of colour in oversized African print shirts or de-rigeur ripped NGO-bossed T-shirts...ahh happy daze.  

So what is the solution? How does one reform a humanitarian? It would be no mean feat.  Are these examples illustrations of an immoral, criminal or self-destructive lifestyle or simply coping strategies? You decide!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Humanitarian Haute Couture - 3

Talking of Gok Wan and "How to look good naked" in the last post reminded me of how essential it is for a humanitarian to look good in the Buff, anytime, any place, anywhere.  One has to always be ready for anything and this little inspirational garment will keep you ahead of the game and the envy of your colleagues and counterparts.  Hippy chic meets surfer/biker/skateboarder cool in multiple colours and fabrics for all weathers and climes, ideal for that photo opportunity or media interview when you want to be taken seriously. Never again will you be a vision in beige or suffer a bad hair-field-day.

And speaking from a risk reduction point of view, just in case you are puzzling over how on earth to wear it without strangling or suffocating yourself or even knocking yourself out take a look at this handy video manual.


Saturday, 16 July 2011

Humanitarian Haute Couture - 2

Hello readers!

You know you've made it in the humanitarian world when you are given a United Nations safari waistcoat, that's it,  the one with all the pockets you can hide BP5 biscuits in? (see top ten aidworker essentials). Oh the sheer thrill of wearing an item of clothing that is almost an anorak but not quite because it is completely armless. Harmless it is not. Usually it is a size or two too big, in colours resembling the uniform of a safari drive hunting possey or a some local popular defence force militia that is far from popular owing to terrible taste in military clothing - like that is going to help an aidworker 'blend in' and endear oneself to the locals. No, instead one sticks out like a thumb trapped in the door of a Toyota landcruiser, rendering the sorry aidworker a potential bomb target or at the very least the butt of many a joke in numerous foreign languages. Furthermore the pockets can catch on various protruding objects slowing down a potential rapid response. Not to mention, under stress, it is quite possible to forget in which pocket one left the radio, or mobile phone, or leatherman, or petzl torch, or GPS causing further distress. And imagine if you actually had all of these vital aidworker pieces of equipment safely zipped away and then tried to escape from an imminent threat. At a distance and at relative speed the bulging mass could be mistaken for a suicide-bomber's jacket and then you are surely in trouble, watch out for 'friendly fire' that isn't so friendly... I wouldn't wear one in Afghanistan or Libya right now if I were you.  I bet George Clooney would not be seen dead in such a waistcoat....Oh wait...

Can George still be considered gorgeous in this garment? Personally I prefer Angelina Jolie's style, very chic for a UN Goodwill Ambassador...

I think it's time for aidworkers to have a make over. Bring on Gok Wan is what I say. Instead of "How to Look Good Naked" which would not go down too well in many a disaster zone in conservative countries, Gok could do "How to look good fully dressed in culturally appropriate but functional clothing".   And while Gok is waxing lyrical over the Burberry trench coat, enter Vivienne Westwood, stage left, now she knows a thing or two about waistcoats. Try this little number on for size.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Things to do at airports 1

Hello readers! Ever had an interminably long wait at an uninteresting airport where duty free shopping consists of a run down kiosk full of unnecessary plastic objects and the VIP lounge is a minimalist room containing a few hard plastic chairs? Wondered how to pass the time? Try this...

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Washing in Wilderness 1

Living and working in remote locations can present many challenges, not least finding ways and means to wash clothes and particularly those delicate 'smalls' to keep oneself clean and fresh and ready for anything. Detergents vary from country to country. In E Africa, for example, I'm sure many of you have come across this little tub of dynamite....

Do not let the word 'gentle' put you off. Noooo. Guaranteed to strip the skin off your hands as well as removing stains from your clothes and leaving a blue hue behind. Giving a Toss can never be easier.