15 June 2013

Let's be revolutionaries

Read today - a letter from Che Guevara to his children:

Dear Hildita, Aleidita, Camilo, Celia, And Ernesto,

If you ever have to read this letter, it will be because I am no longer with you. You practically will not remember me, and the smaller ones will not remember me at all.
Your father has been a man who acted on his beliefs and has certainly been loyal to his convictions.

Grow up as good revolutionaries. Study hard so that you can master technology, which allows us to master nature. Remember that the revolution is what is important, and each one of us, alone is worth nothing.

Above all, always be capable of feeling deeply any injustice committed against anyone, anywhere in the world. This is the most beautiful quality in a revolutionary.

Until forever, my children. I still hope to see you.

A great big kiss and a big hug from, Papa

Let's be revolutionaries, can we?  

It doesn't mean we have to start coup d'etats or take over as dictators.  

But by being revolutionary, we will never stop learning, never stop growing, always be committed to trying to understand what is happening in the world we live and work in, but more than learning, growing and understanding, we must take action - be action people, committed to put forth every effort to change what needs to be changed.  

There is no complacency in the life of a revolutionary, rather there is the knowledge that the road to change is hard, that change is not always possible, that change will be difficult, will take time and one step forward may often be accompanied by two steps backward. But in order to actually achieve change, to revolt against the injustices in the world, we must at least try.

And we must never give up.  

We must stay loyal to our convictions. It is only then, that we may see real change happen. Change taking place from the involvement of our hands. Our hands joined together with those committed to the same cause.  

So, let's be revolutionaries. Yes, I like that idea.

Motorcycle Diaries

06 June 2013

Which one are you? aka MMMM Book Review

When I was in Haiti, I often said that the stress of it all would end up making everyone a smoker, alcoholic, adulterer or anorexic. Or all 4.

One NEEDED the vices in order to just keep a grip on reality.

Ok, if you were really smart, you would just channel it all into a good workout at the gym. Or actually learn to escape – physically, mentally, emotionally (Cocoye trip anyone? Or how about even a day at Karibe, where we can pretendlike we don’t know that loud group of Americans or MINUSTAH sitting next to us?).

And then Disastrous Passions began – a blog documenting the Harlequin-romance-like life of young aid workers in Haiti, falling in and out of love and lust. And it was like someone was following my life! Well, maybe not mine… but it was like a Gossip Girl-esque entity had arrived in Haiti and began documenting all the gossip that emerges out of the need to escape and all the debauchery that ensues.  And who doesn’t love to find out what’s reallyhappening around outside of the office.

“Gossip Girl here. Your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Petion-ville’s aid workers.”

Not that it was true…or so the author, J., wants us to believe. But some of it sounded distinctly familiar to REAL stories I was hearing around town.

Well… Real or not, this blog-turned-book (yes, I was most definitely was one of the first to purchase it) was written by someone who knew. An insider who was telling the story in a jargon that only those who knew as well would understand.

I must admit I have read it a few times…sometimes when you were sweltering alone in your room in Leogane, hoping that the mosquitoes didn’t get too bad, that the inverter would stay on so you could keep entertained by your computer / internet, and daydreaming (or night dreaming) about that hot, loggie Irishman you just met, a read of the self-proclaimed humanitarian romance fiction was just necessary.

Buy the book here!
So when the author contacted me and asked if I would review the next instalment in the series, Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit or MMMM, I quickly jumped on board. Ok, I was EXSTATIC! Find out what happens next to Mary-Anne and Jean-Philippe? Yes please!

And yet again, this book feels like it is telling the story of my life. It picks up after Jean-Philippe, the established, French aid-man, had moved from Haiti to Nairobi to be with Mary-Anne, the innocent, American programme officer and love of his life. But Mary-Anne is pulled away to Dolo Ado, Ethiopia and the Somali refugee response, while Jean-Philippe traipses around the world attending “life-saving workshops.”

Mary-Anne is faced with new situations, new faces, and potentially a new man – the classically named, Jonathon Langstrom. The book’s abstract reads (an excerpt): “Now, with a new organization in Dolo Ado, Ethiopia, she struggles to balance life, love, and career in the wake of ARRA’s decision to open a new refugee camp at Bur Amina. Will this new opportunity stretch her to the breaking point? Or will she rise beyond the challenges? And what will become of Jean-Philippe? Will their prolonged separation cause their hearts to grow fonder? Or will she find comfort in the arms of the mysterious, brooding Jonathon Langstrom?”

Now, I don’t want to spoil the book for you all aid workers who are going to (i.e. should) read it.

But it’s good. And no, J. didn’t pay me to say that.

Ok, honestly, sometimes it is quite negative and/or snarky – BUT anyone who has ever worked in a response knows that there is a heck of a lot of negativity. And J’s reputation of snark precedes him.

And sometimes it a bit dramatic – but AGAIN, for anyone who has been there, drama tends to travel ahead, around and behind any semi-effective emergency response.

BUT… And now the real buts start…

This novel is not written for the general public. Seasoned aid workers may get annoyed with it. But it’s not attempting to provide answers – nor should it! It’s fiction. But for those of us who are living the humanitarian life, whether you are at the beginning, middle or end of your career, will recognise yourselves or others in it.

There’s a lot of reality in the book. It deals with the questions that every aid worker has asked themselves at one point or another. It deals with the career move questions that we all ponder. It talks aid philosophy, work-aid-life-balance, that odd disconnect we have as ‘expats’ living with ‘national staff.’ It talks about the states that all humanitarians end up in at one point or another – as Missionaries; as Mercenaries; as Mystics; as Misfits.

And, of course, it ends ‘To be continued…’ as all of our stories (i.e. lives) do.

And we have J, our own Gossip Girl, to tell it. ("And who am I? That's one secret I'll never tell. You know you love me. Xoxo, GossipGirl")

Although, J? I most definitely did NOT agree with Mary-Anne: “The St. George was just okay. Better than Prestige. Not quite as good as Tusker.”

I haven’t tried St. George. But Prestige is DEFINITELY better than a Tusker.

What I wouldn't give for a nice, cold Prestige right now. Or maybe some Barbancourt…

And, please stop following me around, writing/predicting my life. It's getting awkward.

Just in case you didn't get it from all the links above...
Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit Facebook Page: Here
Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit on Amazon: Here
J's Author Page on Goodreads: Here

And 2 more reviews here and here...and more to come this month!

02 June 2013


One of the things about doing the work that I do - living internationally and all, travelling around from place to place - is that you meet a lot of people. And each person has a purpose. Some, they are there to entertain you just for an evening. Some are there to give you company while you are in that location. Some will be long term friends (although this is more difficult and less likely). 

And some are unexpected. As in, you meet for a night or two, have great discussions and then move on, thinking that you will never see them again. 

Fast forward to this week, when one such person, has re-entered my life for the 3rd time...unexpectedly.

I first met T on Christmas Day 2010, in Haiti. I had just arrived in country, didn't know many people, so when I was invited by some colleagues to a Christmas dinner at another NGO house, I of course accepted. It's kinda lonely spending Christmas by yourself... 

When I arrived, I noticed T - he's kinda hard to miss, with big eyes, big arms, and a big Cockney accent. We chatted a bit about life, living in Haiti and such and then moved on. 

I think we were all out on New Year's eve too. 

I next met T in August of 2012 - over a year and a half later. He was living with a good friend of mine in Haiti, working for another NGO. And even though I had been over to my friend's house many times and had even talked with him on the phone, I had never met his roommate, T. So on my friend's last night, we all went for leaving drinks at their favourite place. 

As soon as I walked in the restaurant, I knew I had known T, but neither of us could remember from where...it was only on a random discussion around Christmases spent abroad that BAM! I remembered...

And that was the second time we met. I never saw him again in Haiti. 

Now, T, my good friend and I are all working for the same NGO. T works in Malawi (just moved), my friend, B, lives in Ireland, and I am in Kenya. So, even though that may bring us a little closer together professionally, the likelihood of all 3 of us being in the same place at the same time was slim-to-none. 

Or so we thought. 

We took a lot of photos. This was the best one.
This past week, all 3 of us were in Nairobi together. Both T and B had booked last minute trips to/through Nairobi for completely different reasons. And I live here, of course. 

Let's just say that a fun night was had, reminiscing and laughing and making fun of each other.

I love it when life throws unexpected things your way. Like friends who unexpectedly move from someone who you barely remembered to someone who you will probably go visit at some point.