Thursday, 24 April 2008

This man is an island.

"Only wimps need handovers."
First job: buy a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant). I could't live without one. No discussion. With it on my belt, I no longer felt naked: a talisman perhaps; I felt the sap rising in me sufficient to resist a request to attend a politically sensitive government meeting in a neighbouring country next month, in place of a junior colleague. A meeting we needed to say some "No"s at. Of course he would be out of his depth and embarrassed. Tough. His hosts would forgive him since he was a junior. Not me. I'd just be out of my depth and what with my authority, our organisation would lose some serious 'face', I knew that much. Anyway, this early in my new job was the only time I'd be able to make such a gesture look innocent (and this bunch certainly needed a gesture). But in future it would only be interpreted as it actually was: a snub, not forgiven in a general round of bonhommie. Again - tough. (I was feeling tough.)

Second job: handover from my predecessor. Completed in eight hours. This was minimal. Very minimal. Virtually pointless. For such a large programme, it was actually far beyond disappointing. Forget it. I was tough. I was going to orientate myself to the field operations. Handovers? Only wimps need handovers.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Barbecues, barbecues everywhere, nor any time to think.

"...try to avoid it."
It was a quintessential 'nice house'. Quiet area, garden, near shops and public transport. Not pretty. Not big. I began hoping; my experience taught me that we'd be pretty much be able to settle into whatever we'd arranged in the first month, and that delay only led to despair. "Get over it and get on with it," had helped me settle quickly into new countries in the past. Maybe it would help us here too.

Barbecues. For some reason everything was barbecues in our first couple of weeks. Maybe those around trying to help us settle thought it would remind us of home? Can't think why though.

Giving an impromptu speech at my predecessor's reluctant farewell took the biscuit however. I'm not sure I can give you useful guidelines if you face it yourself, except perhaps to try to avoid it. I didn't know him from Adam and it was hardly tactful to lay out my agenda for changing everything he'd cherished till now. (Maybe there's another guideline for you.)

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Did Jesus promote Dependency?

"Tried to snap out of it with a rubbery omelette"
Awoke to the nauseating smell of breakfast at 40,000 feet. Dreamy cobwebs remained, mostly related to feeling too young and stupid to be doing this job. I'd also been debating whether or not Jesus promoted Dependency ("Come to me all you who... I am the way, the truth and the life... No one can come to the Father except through me... Take my yoke upon you... Follow me...") or was a model for Participatory development. Tried to snap out of it with a rubbery omelette. (Please don't send me your comments: it was just a dream.)

What wasn't a dream was the paperwork for a poorly constructed project which someone was funding and I was doomed to oversee. I re-read it. Worse, the donor wanted to take the project to the public for funding. Talk about negative exposure! And who was I - green about the gills - to question what others had previously approved? Just move forward and be accountable for it's implementation! Not something to fight over. Yet.

We landed. Hot. Sticky. Strange temporary lodgings with unrestored pre-war furniture and about five mezzanine floors like giant steps up to the ceiling. Anyway, shops nearby, food manageable, and kids and wife reasonably happy, so that's good enough for me for now. Only the jet lag to defeat.

Monday, 21 April 2008

I'm back. And I'm going to tell you a story.

"I'm too passive, verbose and terminologically convoluted"

Hi! I'm Dan - Dan the development man. And it all began with a turkey. Or a turkey farmer anyway. He saw the advertisement (I thought he was my friend) and he e-mailed it to me. "Do it!" he said. So I did.

First came the interviews. I was embarrassed by my high powered competitors. But apparently the Board wanted a change of direction. And being the only one pointing in that direction I was offered the job (although apparently I'm too passive, verbose and terminologically convoluted). Surprised, I took it. Anyway, another application had just been rejected and the job I was otherwise heading for would have had me walking the streets at night (seriously).

Next came the admin. I'd forgotten the complexities of taking on a new overseas assignment. Or the orientation: anachronistic to say the least, with some crucial aspects underdone and others overdone. But a bit of self-advocacy; incorporating a couple of field trips; and I was pretty much as well prepared as I think I could usefully have been.

Themes from The Poisonwood Bible drifted silth-like through my nightmares as I flew, with my young family, into the darkness.