Thursday, September 4, 2008

The little things are the biggest

Living arrangements in the field are always challenging, to say the least. I have lived in disgusting little bug infested hovels, relatively nice high ceiling'd traditional homes, cement hot boxes and many things in between. Few people go to conflict and post-conflict countries expecting luxury and, therefore, we aren't surprised when we don't find it.

The thing that is most frustrating, however, is that in NGOs, we often are forced to live in guest houses. This means a number of things. One, it means you are living and working with your colleagues, which is tough to say the least. No separation of church and state. Two, it means you are often sharing personal space with people from wildly different cultural backgrounds and age ranges. I can assure you, I have had many a disgusted look from older middle age African men when they see me behaving in a manner which, for a 25 year old girl from west is downright prudish but, for a girl from his village would be considered one step in Sodom, one in Gomorrah.

Finally, and most annoyingly, though, is that you have very little control over where you live and when you move.

A decision was made for me, apparently, that I am moving out of my current, perfectly comfortable and convenient office/house combo, and in to a new guest house. I am supposed to move in there tomorrow, apparently, so, today, I was taken out to see it.

Seriously, I'm holding back tears right now even writing about it.

First of all, the road to get there is pretty much a lake, we almost got stuck twice and it hasn't even started raining yet. Apparently the land used to be swamp and was filled in a couple years ago so it is soft, wet and malarial. Second, it is miles away from anything. Seriously, we are in the middle of nowhere surrounded by tukuls. I won't be able to go out, to get to the office or to get people to come pick me up. The house itself is badly made, dirty, dark and dank. My two other colleagues who are exiled with me already claimed rooms, so they are getting the relatively spacious rooms with ensuite bathrooms and hot water. I have the pokey room near the sitting room with a cold bucket bath rooms for a shower.

Now, all of this would be less insulting if my other three colleagues, those who selected the houses, weren't moving in to a beautiful, modern, airy house next to the office, in easy proximity to main roads, power, internet and not at the bottom of essentially a mosquito pit.

I have to say, this is coming dangerously close to being the straw that breaks the camels back. I am now 28 years old. I am not getting paid enough or getting enough job satisfaction to deal with this nonsense!

Watch this space for a revolution.


Alanna said...

I hate the guest house culture, and I suspect it has a lot more to do with employee culture than employers suspect. Just give everyone a housing allowance!

Anonymous said...

oh honey, that's rotten! isn't there SOME way you can stay where you are? i thought I had it bad that my temporary B&B won't have internet in my room :( stay strong! at least you're not alone out there! xoxox, erin