To live or to collect? That is the question…

New country, new continent, new people, new job. Three months have already passed by, so fast that I can hardly believe it.
I clearly remember my first weekend here, invited to crash   birthday beach party by an Italian girl that I had met the day before (national solidarity rules). I arrived too early  (only around 10.30pm…) and did not know anybody there. I began to introduce myself to the people around me, following a well-established set of questions that rarely move away from “whatisyourname, whereareyoufrom, whatdoyoudohere (clearly referring to which UN agency or NGO the person is working for), howlonghaveyoubeenhere, howlongareyougoingtostayhere”. Questions that rarely imply a real interest in the answers, mostly a longer version of “hi, I am X, nice to meet you”. Continue reading

Limits

An NGO closed down all its activities for lack of money. Bad management? Unavoidable problems linked to the economic crisis in Europe? I do not know and there is no point in trying to walk on the slippery ground of mistakes, guilt, scapegoats & co.

They closed down and the expats working in the country left in hurry for fear of becoming victims of the (more or less fair) claims from the employees and various creditors.With no more money left the only thing to do was to sell the remaining belongings in order to pay the last salaries. Pretty logical.
Did they leave one person responsible for that or choose an external agent with the mandate of managing the exit strategy? No.
They wrote and signed a paper where – in one paragraph – they named a local staff delegate in charge of selling the remaining goods of the NGO and distributing the money to her colleagues. Orally, they told her to take a percentage as “compensation” (her contract, and her regular wage with it, had ended along with all the others) and that was all.

It is maybe just my personal point of view but leaving a person with such a responsibility without a clear mandate and no help of any sort led me to think about how difficult it can be to trace the line between stupidity and criminal act.  Continue reading

Retour

Ca fait déjà quelques années que j’ai quitté la ville où j’ai grandi. Depuis, mes retours ne sont jamais très longs mais ils se succèdent avec régularité, une régularité dictée surtout par mes origines et statu familial: italien, fils unique. Pour ceux qui connaissent assez l’Italie et les italiens il serait superflu d’en ajouter d’avantage, pour les autres on renvoie à la littérature spécialisée (Discipline: sociologie ou psychologie. Mot clé: “mamma”).

La dernière rentrée, bien que marquée par plusieurs épisodes plutôt intenses, n’a pas manqué de me rappeler comment certaines étapes clés restent des passages obligatoires dans cet étrange rituel qu’est le “retour”.

La première étape, un grand classique, est franchie environ une semaine avant le départ et vois ma mère qui me pose pour la première fois une question qui se répétera jusqu’au jour de mon départ, avec une appréhension grandissante et jamais très bien dissimulée:  “tu veux quoi à manger???” Continue reading

Left Alone

My two other expat colleagues had to leave almost at the same time and the first replacement was supposed to come only three days later. Thus, for three days I was the only expat working for the clinic run by my NGO in Bangui.

Cataclysm?

“You’ve been left alone” was repeated by several people.
“Alone”? 65 people working in the same place, a lot of them with competences that totally excluded me from giving them any kind of help in their domains. And still…
The first times I heard this I answered with a weird feeling of embarrassment: “Well…uhm…A lot of things to do, yeah… But there are also the locals”.
I then became a bit more aggressive in my answers but, to be honest, never found a good response. Continue reading