Stuff Expat Aid Workers Don’t Like

There is a site called Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like (SEAWL) which is popular amongst overseas-based workers because it pokes fun at our profession a bit.   Although my work is generally more in development than aid, many characteristics are shared. For instance, there can be a need to establish your street cred and an inverted snobbery can develop.  Having a lengthy tropical disease CV, a history of curfew experiences in different countries,  photos taken with visiting celebrities, passports bulging with rare and “sought after” stamps and visas, a diversity of experience spanning conflict zones, social unrest, remoteness and climatic extremes all give bonus points for your credibility.  There are all sorts of things which expat workers like and this is one example.

However, there is one thing which we all dread.  That is the phone call, text message or email from family which tells us that all is not well back home.  The news of accident or illness of a loved one.  It sends us into a spin of helplessness, making decisions about when and whether to jump on that plane and hurry back, making three way skype calls in the middle of the night to try and get details.  In my 12 years overseas receiving difficult and unwelcome news has happened three times, twice resulting in that long and painful journey, bracing for an emotional and sad family reunion.

I received a dreaded email on Saturday morning, and learned that my father has been hospitalised.  My world has again been shaken violently.  We are working hard to get details and work out if a visit now, or later is the best course of action.  Turning up from the other side of the world can give an unhelpful message in those first days when things are unclear.  Timing is critical, and also depends on his condition over the coming days.

So at the moment, all the pieces of my life have been thrown up in the air again and I am not sure how they are going to be assembled when they fall. This might be one of those events which turn out to be less serious than feared.  Or it might not.   I will keep you posted.

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