One night, she took me to a tiny restaurant run by two Chadian women. She drove through the dark, chaotic streets of N’Djamena in her agency’s jeep, past sheds and mud-brick buildings where groups gathered around small cooking fires, past an endless procession of people along the road, all coming into view and going out again as the headlights swept by. The restaurant was in a dim, stony courtyard lit by kerosene lanterns, and consisted of a few plastic tables and chairs. She knew the women who ran the place and greeted them warmly. She ignored the cold stares from a table of men drinking beer in the shadows.
Over a meal of fried plantains and bony fish from the Chari River, she told me that, among the variety of aid workers, two broad categories stood out: the runners and the seekers. The runners were fleeing their past lives; the seekers were looking for adventure or enlightenment. She was a runner, she said, but offered no details.
She went on to say that she had reached a point in her life where she must make a choice. She was thirty-three, young enough to return to her country and try to establish a life with marriage, children, and a home. Or she could continue on as she was, with reassignments every few years and little chance for marriage and children. “Look around,” she said, “and you’ll see that this business is full of women thirty-five to forty-five who are strong, competent, good at what they do, and single.” She had never had a long-term relationship. She must make a choice, she said. It seemed to me that she already had.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Aid Workers in Chad
The Jan 5th issue of the New Yorker has an essay on aid workers in Chad. This part of the reporter´s interview with an employee of an unnamed "large well-known humanitarian organization" hits a little too close to home: