Monday, March 09, 2009

Here's one I prepared earlier


The international staff who work in the NGO X Field Office live together in a ramshackle guest house. It is truly international -- at the moment there are people there from Malaysia, Chile, Kenya, Iraq, Sweden, New Zealand, the US and the UK. It is also truly ramshackle, though necessity is the mother of invention and people produce the most surprising things -- nutritional yeast for vegetarian pasta sauce, data projectors for outdoor film screenings, shisha pipes, ipod speakers, taco shells... the plumbing may leave a lot to be desired but you can have a surprisingly relaxing time on a Thursday night, considering.

I believe that diversity is good, and I love being in the middle of it, but you're never quite sure of yourself and there are occasional misunderstandings. My UNHAS flight back to the Capital City was one of them. It was made entirely clear to me (for reasons that may now be obvious) that I should return no later than Monday, but it remained entirely unclear to me who was booking it, and whether or not I needed to chase it up. It turned out that it was entirely unclear to everyone who was booking it, and that in fact it wasn't booked, but it could just as easily been entirely in hand.

So on Saturday, a rush booking was made for Tuesday. (There is a three day lead time because bookings need to be approved via official channels, and official channels take three days. You know if you have cleared the channels when your name appears on the flight manifest.) On Sunday, Monday's manifest arrived. My name was on it. And on Tuesday's. I had two flights out.

But two is a lot better than none. I condensed everything into faster typing, shorter conversations, detailed emails, and ran around looking for a pair of trousers that had mysteriously disappeared. All schedules are out the window at the moment anyway, and the only thing you can expect is the unexpected, so it actually seemed fairly unremarkable that I had my last couple of meetings at top speed while I was eating my lunch, while the car waiting to take me to the airport waited outside the gate.

'You'll see we have saved the bum beans for your last day', said one of my colleagues. She has quite a strong English accent, I wasn't sure if I'd heard her right. Sorry? I said. 'The bum beans,' she said. 'I hate the bum beans'. I looked down at my plate. I was indeed the only person in the room eating the ful -- cooked fava beans, raw onion, undersalted, not great, and with flatulence guaranteed. But if you want to be a vegetarian in the Hot Place, you take your protein where you find it.

I rolled my eyes, and said yeah, but what can you do?

The room fell quiet as we ate, and there were more of the dull, reverberating thudding noises that I'd heard first thing in the morning. I'd been ignoring it, as I'd been ignoring the late night gunfire ("usually a wedding, don't worry about it"), and the fighter jets screaming overhead, because everybody else did. The jets are so loud that you can't hear anything else over them, and they reminded me, in a weird sort of way, of the weekly fire alarm tests in the New Building, where everyone stops mid sentence for five seconds, then picks up exactly where they left off.

But this noise was different. And then I realised that it wasn't an everyday noise, and that it was getting to people. And *then* I realised that D hadn't been talking about bum beans, she'd been talking about bombings. And then I felt like an idiot. And then I left.

However, safely back in Capital City, I had to run back from dinner, slithering around on the sand in an undignified fashion as my stomach made ominous noises. I reached the guest house just in time, and as the world fell out of my bottom it occurred to me that she might have meant bum beans after all.


I am back now. There's another post, but I think it may need vetting, so maybe I won't. I don't really know at the moment, and I'm not really ok, but I have Talked To Someone, and apparently if I'm still crying randomly and dreaming about deleting files in five days time, then I might have a problem, but until then, it's all to be expected. In the meantime I am drinking red wine, lying under a blanket, listening to 80s tag and trying not to think about anything very much.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to hear from you Jo - I was getting genuinely worried.

Hang in there.


9:07 pm  
Blogger Beth said...

...and if you're still listening to anything 80's tag in five days time you've got a problem.

Glad you're back!

8:13 am  
Blogger Jeremy Dennis said...

xx Glad you're back

10:17 am  
Blogger tatton said...

Welcome home! Glad you're back! Lots of love. I have a lovely photograph of the world spinning in space and am sending you and everyone else on it healing vibes. Love and peace.

10:30 am  
Anonymous Kate said...

Thinking of you. Hope your world feels a little more even in 5 days (or less!) even if the actual world isn't. love Kate xx

11:40 am  
Blogger tomato said...

hey there desert veggie....

you know, if you do want to have a chat to someone who's also done the crying randomly/computer paranoia stuff, let me know. i'm up for that. the sand is still stuck between my toes. (and so are the helicopter noises)

Sounds like you might have already done that though. so be good to yourself.


1:14 pm  
Anonymous cookie said...

So relieved! If you feel like an escape to where the only noises are from my chooks--you know you & M are always welcome. We could have sewing machine races. xxx

7:11 pm  
Blogger Jo said...

E - have emailed you.

Beth, yeah, you're probably right, but you know, love is a battlefield (woah woah woah woah WOOOAAAH)

Tomato, ever since I got to the desert, and certainly since I got out, I've been thinking about you a lot. And yes, I'd love to talk. I can't find an email address for you, can you drop me a line at NGO X? xx

Generally: I intend to spend the rest of the year focusing on people and not politics. So hope to hang out with you all soonest.

9:34 pm  

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