Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Brandished hand gun

When I was being driven home last night in Kabul I noticed a tall man in Afghan clothes (Peraan Tunban) being firmly taken from the Shaw-i-naw cinema property towards the street. At the street a tall man in a grey western business suit pulled out a hand-gun and pointed it at and about 15cm from the tall man's head. I didn't see what happened next because my driver zoomed us away from the scene. Police and other armed men were watching from a block away and one man had taken the machine gun off an armed pickup truck and was aiming it at the situation. My Personal Security Detail radioed the situation to our Operations Room and even three hours later that stretch of road was out of bounds.

I've been told the man in the suit was probably part of the local security force and I'm assuming nobody got shot and the tall man is now enjoying the comforts of an Afghan jail. I've seen Ethiopian jets bombing Asmara airport and I've heard Ethiopian police shooting a man in Addis and I once had a gun pointed loosely at me at the Djibouti-Ethiopia borders ... hm, this is the first time I've realized that those events all involved Ethiopia ... but this really disturbed me because I've never seen anybody point a gun at anybody else before. Despite being thrilled when I fired an AK-47 a few months ago guns make me nervous. But it's probably good to get an updated dose of reality.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I've added Rachel Carson to my list of personal heroes.

The fun of my job

Twice a month I have to gather and edit contributions to my organization's 'bi-weekly report'. [I would rather not talk right now about the proper frequency of a 'bi-weekly' report.]

I often have to interpret and distill input like this:

"The Development Coordinator facilitated the NGO coordination meeting held on 5th May 2008, the international, national and local NGOs including [....] and line government entities attended the meeting. The issues of coordination among government and NGO organizations and their activities has been discussed in the meeting and decided to improve the level of coordination among government and NGOs organizations based in [....Province]."

I don't know whether to despair about the writing or the apparent lack of achievement at the meeting - but either way I change the text to something like this:

May 5: The Development Coordinator facilitated the NGO coordination meeting at which NGO and governments’ plans for 2008 were reviewed.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

TLA 01

My profession ('Aid work'? 'International Development'? 'Skimming Overseas Assistance'?) is rife with acronyms. Because our program has projects ranging in nature from teaching disabled business people the motorcycle repair business to digging out clogged irrigation canals to establishing carpet weaving cooperatives to building swanky regional training centres, we hear acronyms from a wide range of contexts and it's particularly hard to keep track. My new favorite, uttered by an engineer, is CMU. A vertical structure is to be constructed from CMUs. They are Concrete Masonry Units. Blocks.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

It had to happen ... but so soon?

Fearing aging as I do, I dreaded the day when a major nation would have a leader born after me. I haven't been monitoring every country but that day seems to have come now - as Dmitry Medvedev (aged 42 - I am nearly 46) takes over in Russia. Gulp. He may be younger, but at least, apparently, I'm taller...