Drowning

Harry Rud is no longer an aid worker in Afghanistan. He’s a bean-counting text bitch in an international NGO’s headquarters in London. It’s a long way from the hari rud. It might be the death of him.

Life’s sweet. Going to see plays and exhibitions, bookshops I want to eat, restaurant menus to study, friends old and new, the certainty of abode allowing the excitement of planning. Proper breakfasts with toast, a pot of coffee and the Saturday papers. I am feeling incredibly fortunate.

I’m still on a river too. Well, a canal that spills into the Thames.

I’m feeling less sure about life in HQ. There’s just not the same comedy value in an open-plan office as there is in watching expats trying not to get kidnapped in the wild, for one. A sudden attack of dysentery while driving through a mine-field has so much more story-telling potential. And yet the ‘when I was in…’ stories, mine and others, are even more tedious than before.

I read blogs from far off lands and feel a twinge of envy. I remember curling up in an old wicker rocking chair in my garden in Kabul on hazy evenings, watching those birds. For a moment, I almost miss them.

The biggest thing going on in my new office is the daily delivery, and cross-departmental theft, of the milk. And we work in Haiti. All I do is demand and consume information from overseas country offices. Numbers and stories which are never good enough and are just grist to the mill anyway, ground up and fed to the donor. It’s a decent job with some nice folk, but only a few months in and I’m too cynical for my own good.

It’s been a frustrating week and I feel the need to bitch is all. There’s a post-it note curling on my computer that reads ‘at least you can walk to work’. It’s an important reminder.

I’m not ready to kill off hari rud completely, but don’t expect much from him. He’s too busy bragging about all the time he spent as this kick-ass aid worker in Afghanistan.

15 Responses to “Drowning”

  1. zenpeacekeeper Says:

    After a year in INGO headquarters (well, as far as anything in NZ can be called HQ) I decided to quit and see if I could make a living teaching yoga online. I’m not sure what that says about me, except that I may have gone completely mad.

    I think “at least you can walk to work” is a very good reason to stay anywhere for a while. That and bookshops.

  2. Michael Says:

    I hear you. Plenty of cliches come to mind, about balance, and quality of life, and all the rest, but fuck it. Most days I’m happy in SF, and some days I’m not. I think I miss two things – that sense of being close to the center, and the excitement that comes with being closer to the action, whatever that action is.

    And, even harder, the way that being an aid worker provided me with an identity; an identity, a way of seeing myself that I quite liked. And as time went on, it became harder to see myself apart from that identity.

    Fuck it again – enough time on the couch. If you’re ever passing through SF, drinks on me.

  3. Rob Says:

    I became a postman. Really good job. No colleagues(only at the end of a shift which is nice), you get fit. You provide a much needed service to the people and everyone is happy with you. Ok I did get a few complaints early on delivering mail to the wrong address. Just a thought for an alternative career.

  4. Phil Says:

    ahhhh, we need a club for ex aid-workers. somewhere rough, where the beer is warmish, sporadically available and every now and again, someone lobs a handgrenade through the door.
    Us? we are going back to Afghanistan. Not though, for excitement and all that. It will be our 7th year there. I think is is becoming something deeper, more painful, more permanent…

  5. Peter Says:

    3 years at HQ were enough for me. I did not realize fully what the place did to me, until Haiti happened. They needed someone to run the Dominican side of the operation and asked me “Interested”?
    I told them: “Twist my arm”…

    5 months later, I stepped back into HQ, and realize… MMMMnah… And filed for 6 months sabbatical. To start with.

    I like Phil’s idea for a club of ex-aidworkers. Would also add that always the same CD has to be played, electricity has to go off every 30 minutes and grilled chicken is always fresh (but you have to wait for 1 hour to get one).

    So, how are you holding up?

    P.

  6. Captain Cat Says:

    Harry Rud… I miss your stories and your writing and although you may not feel as though you have anything to write about anymore, you are still Harry Rud and you kick ass, aid worker or not. Please send us regular dispatches from the front. And I mean that. Life in London is a frontline battle for the soul, leaving internal injuries invisible to the naked eye, but which ache long after the lights go down. I would love to hear more about your every day shenanigans. You will always have Afghanistan and it will always welcome you back. I think people like us get caught without realising it and before we know it, we don’t really belong anywhere. Maybe we should get together and write about this, about how to cope in the after-life. We could call it ‘The After-Life’. Or we could be more upbeat and hope that there is life after this stuff. Either way, let’s have drinks in August, I’ll be home for a couple of weeks and would love to see you. xx

  7. Welcome to “Erbil”, the bar of ex-aidworkers – Scribbles Says:

    [...] read through the last (for now) post of Harry Rud, an aidworker who returned from several years in Afghanistan, now working at the [...]

  8. harryrud Says:

    Almost worth keeping blogging on just for the comments of such wonderful people.

    I read that you were returning Phil, meant to drop you a line, hope it all goes well – keep us updated. Not sure about the bar idea though. Makes me think of the Frontline Club in London, a swanky hang-out for debauched journos swaping war stories about the time they spent propping up the bar at Gandmack’s. Though I’d probably begrudgingly, secretly enjoy it. So is that the plan for your sabbatical then Peter? Let us know if it is and ‘Erbil’ comes into exitence and I’ll drop by and try and get that drink from Michael.

  9. roadie Says:

    If you drop by, drink’s on the house (ding-ding!)…!

  10. Inaie Says:

    Just keep writing, please….

  11. TheLightSideoftheRiverCrag Says:

    Harry,

    I’d pay good money for any book you should ever choose to write about your experiences in Afghanistan.

  12. Welcome to “Erbil”, the bar of ex-aidworkers Says:

    [...] read through the last (for now) post of Harry Rud, an aidworker who returned from several years in Afghanistan, now working at the [...]

  13. test post Says:

    [...] read through the last (for now) post of Harry Rud, an aidworker who returned from several years in Afghanistan, now working at the [...]

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    [...] read through the last (for now) post of Harry Rud, an aidworker who returned from several years in Afghanistan, now working at the [...]

  15. Voyageuse Mondiale Says:

    Hey Harry,

    How’s life treating you in London?

    I’ve gotta say – I’ve missed reading your blog! You are an extremely entertaining writer and the first aid blogger I stumbled across when researching this field a few years back.

    I’ve been in Haiti for the past 13 months and I’m debating taking an HQ position in Canada – definitely not as exciting as London….I’m a bit tired of the field but I’m not sure I’m ready for the stability of an HQ position.

    So I thought I’d check in and see how things are going for you. Are you hanging in there or debating going back to the field?

    I look forward to reading more of your blog whenever you decide to start posting again :)

    Take Care Harry!

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