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Published: December 12th 2005
Marfikar, Nalde, Me, Eric, Goen
Well the first couple of weeks were relatively easy. I wasn’t being given that much to do at work. I was pretty much finding work for myself, learning Microsoft Access, to play with a prototype database they had for all their logistics data. I was enjoying the social side of things as well, hanging out with Oliver who I knew from Auckland and going to parties Sean and Remko from Sabang (Palau Weh). I went to an MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) party one weekend, A Red Cross Party the next weekend. They were fantastic parties with heaps of interesting people (You have to be to do this sort of work!)
The following week things at work got hard. My boss (Nick) was away on R&R, the other Logistics expat was in the field and I’d been put in charge of the transport department, pretty much managing two people. I feel slightly uncomfortable in the situation, because, I am younger than them and less experienced than them in logistics, but because I’m foreign, I have been put in charge. However as time progressed I didn’t have any spare time to worry about this, as I concentrated on getting the job done.
Me and Syafrin
Syafrin is the Indonesain Logistics Manager at the IRC
I should probably describe what my job actually involves. There is a lot of monitoring of vehicles and fuel. To make sure that we are getting the most usage out of them, and to make sure they are not being misused. Apparently theft of fuel is a huge problem. I am shocked by the lack of information systems in place, and have taught myself Access to try and get all our information into a database. However I am beginning to realize that the scope of the problem is far too big for me to design a solution for!
There is a lot of other following up work. Making sure that contracts are produced and signed, checking the terms, chasing up people to make sure they get stuff done.
I don’t think there is anything particularly difficult about what I do, especially considering that I come from a profession where I used highly specialized skills. However the variety of work required and the situation I am working in make things very hard: First of all I am learning on the job, finding out what is happening in the department. There are language barriers, although fortunately most people speak reasonable English, but sometime I am never sure if they understand what I am saying. I am trying to learn a little Indonesian, but I am typically too busy or tired to put any energy into that. Then there are cultural differences. I seem to have to continuously follow things up to get them done and sometimes it is impossible to get a clear picture of what is going on.
However I am getting along well with the local staff, I think that I have earned their friend and we have all been over to coffee after work a number of times. However I don’t think that the Friday afternoon coffee has the same relaxing effect as the Friday afternoon beer!
I think I am making some progress at work; I am gradually getting my head around everything which is going on, am making sure that we are collecting all of the information which we need. I feel like I am actually being useful.
I think the hardest thing is that, with all that going on, I don’t have any of the normal support networks of friends and family (I miss you guys!). That just makes things harder when I am under so much stress. Away from my usual life, the comforts, the escapes, the pleasures, the familiarities, the play.
Wanting to break down in tears, but no one to really go crying to!
This seems to be endemic of the Development environment, which I think is a big problem. A lot of people I have talked to are working a lot harder than I am. It doesn’t seem like a healthy way to work, and I understand why most people get paid R&R every 3 months. I personally think that NGOs should be responsible for providing a more holistic working environment. More reasonable work loads, more relaxation available in the field, some personal support provided. I seriously doubt that a bunch of stressed out expats working insane hours is the best solution to save the world.
I am currently trying to set up my life with a few more outlets. I’ve been for a couple of runs, although I’m not sure how culturally sensitive it is to be running in shorts! At one point, when I was running round a field, I was stopped by a TNI (Indonesian Army) soldier (they are all over the place). Considering the TNI have been accused of a number of Human Rights abuses, he was very friendly, and simply explained that I had to stop running while the Mosque was broadcasting its call to prayer.
I’ve also discovered the food here. I remembered that some time ago I had fantasies about being in an exotic location, with local markets full of amazing and cheap food. I brought half a tuna for $6 which I made into 2 meals. Eating marinated tuna steaks, seared to perfection: Happy Place.
I think I’m winning.
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