18 March 2012

A Little Schmooze

Field-based Assessment
Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the interesting dicotomy aid work has in regards to professional / social life differences. While all aid workers have their own motivations for doing the work they do, I would bet that one of those reasons is because of their desire to give back to those who have less than we do. 

So, we spend all our work days talking about how to develop, how to respond, working with beneficiaries, spending days out in camps and 'in the field' collecting information, managing the teams that are building infrastructure and conducting trainings to bring a benefit to the communities, and more. We have our days when we are dirty; we have our days when we are sitting under a mango tree having a community meeting; we have our days when we are frustrated with those who don't work directly in this sector because of their lack of understanding; we have our days filled with meetings about strategy and future. 

But that's just during work hours. 

Outside of work, it is possible to live quite a nice, particularly here in Port-au-Prince. We have the restaurants, the pools, the parties. But particularly, we have the people we socialise with.

While here in Haiti, I have socialised with businesspeople, owners, restauranteurs, entrepreneurs, heads of organisations, UN liaisons, and even at one point, the entourage of the President's son. In other words, the influencers on society.

Pool Day Sunday
In life, it is common that getting things done is all about who you know. That is no less true here, and in many cases, is that much more relevant. I received a text today saying that if anything happens while out at our field bases, give this person a call because he knows the head of MINUSTAH (the UN peacekeeping force). Because of my housemate's links at the gym, we have gotten into multiple places for free, gotten invited to parties, and found out about the best new things to do. Because of my manager's network, we stay abreast of the political situation and we get some insider knowledge, or at least additional context, around what is going to be happening. 

What I find fascinating about living the life of an expat is that the people we are here to help, are not necessarily the ones that we get to know. (Before anyone freaks out, we do get to know them too. It's just in a much different context). We get to know the people at the top of the social strata. We get to know the 'somebodies'.

I don't know how I feel about this; I don't know if I would change it. But I can say that I could never have said that about life back home.

It's just...odd. And a part of expat life, I suppose.

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