Put a group of aid workers in the same room and I guarantee at some point the conversation will run along the lines of: ‘when I was in DRC blah blah blah’ ‘when I was in Goma blaaahhhh’ ‘well when I was in Darfur blah!’ ‘I remember when I was in Sri Lanka and…’ Blah.
Sharing diverse experiences is of course a good thing, especially when it involves experiences of great danger and bravery, killer insects and tropical diseases, the best bars and drunken debauchery, and how fucked up such and such a thing/place is.
Sharing serious experiences is of course a good thing, especially when comparing the education policies in Haiti with those in Somalia. And when the ‘when I was in’ story is used to put oneself above one’s national counterparts who haven’t had the privilege of travelling to such exotic places.
Oh, so I know I exaggerate a little and it’s perfectly harmless and just part of normal conversation and we all do it, but ye gods it can get tedious.
Did I ever tell you about the time when I was working in Khartoum…?
[When I was in Afghanistan, I wrote this fantastic blog that was really interesting and that wasn’t at all a series of ‘when I was in’ stories written in the present tense. Damn.]