Posts Tagged ‘aid

08
Nov
14

day 1 of about 200 in liberia

November 8, 2014

I arrived last night and spent my first day getting to know the team, organizing my stuff and generally ambling around town, observing. And it occurred to me that the main drag of Monrovia looked familiar. Not just from my time in East Africa, but it also looked remarkably similar to roads in parts of India, where I was last month. In fact, they all have a selfsame feel in the way that shops displayed their wares, a single asphalt track fell away on both sides to reveal dirt lots buffering shop fronts. The fixtures, the architecture, the shop names – they all had a vague resemblance, despite the countries’ vast differences. I recognized the feeling and what was causing it: we are, in some way, at the end of the world here. i don’t mean physically or even metaphysically, and certainly not judgmentally. This isn’t the end of a normalized civilization or an otherworldly universe. It’s something else: it’s a supply chain issue. The pattern I picked up was that Liberia and other developing countries sometimes don’t attract big brand names or household items. Their markets and shops draw from a hodgepodge of vendors from abroad, many of whom are small-scale or produce knock-off products that they slap Japanese-sounding names on.

Here are a few I noticed today:

1. When you don’t have big box marts around and you need blankets or curtains, you run the risk of creating color schemes that might show up at a classy brothel. The point of being on these sub-branches of the supply chain is you just don’t really have a choice.

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2. And sometimes you risk getting a blanket that says (in French): “a cloud floats in the sky” while underneath, a lamb floats in the sky with a bird.

IMG_32663. I wasn’t daring enough to try one, but I am intensely curious about a “Heineken Mexicano”. Please tell me you know what that is.

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So yes, we are here for a very specific focused task, and we will be throwing everything we have at ending this outbreak. But there’s lots going on here, too, that doesn’t have to do with Ebola. Liberia has a fascinating past and hopefully a strong future. For now, I’m here, and I’d like to show you as much as possible from that experience of simply being here.

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21
May
12

Occupy Bujumbura

From 2008 to 2012, I resided in Bujumbura, Burundi, working as an aid worker for the first three years and then as a radio host and producer of Imagine Burundi (imagineburundi.com). Throughout that time, I became more and more dejected over the divisions that existed along cultural, economic, racial and ethnic lines. My presence as a relatively wealthy individual working in an industry that purported to accomplish humanitarian and charitable objectives made me question our collective motivations. How do we reconcile those competing objectives? Or are we digging deeper lines, between haves and have-nots, between citizens and civil servants, between aid workers and “beneficiaries”. Ultimately, the doubts and criticisms creeping around my consciousness coalesced into a form of protest. This short series of photos is meant to highlight these contradictions, in a place far away – in so many regards – from the a country like the U.S. It is meant as a critique of the international development framework and my presence within that model but ultimately, I hope to illustrate the massive impact that inequality, in any form, has on notions of community and democracy.

You could also say that this entire exercise was an excuse to get photos of my dog online without really blogging about my dog – but that would be kind of insane.

(Special thanks to Seth Chase, Leah Hazard, Dedo Baranshamaje and Chauncey Dog for taking some of the photos, running interference with the police and protesting in spirit.)

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1. “In Burundi, in East Africa, I am in the 1%. “

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2. “In Burundi, the other 99% face extreme inequalities, a paralyzed government, brutal competition, and total despair about any change.”

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3. “Burundi has a democratic political system, but what is a democracy without democratic values?”

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4. “I’ve occupied Bujumbura for almost four years. Little has improved in that time.”

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5. “The status quo here is pessimism, distrust, and stagnation. When we only see inequalities rising, we feel this situation can happen anywhere.”

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6. ‘Foreigners in Burundi like to say, “Life is good.” Yes, it is – for us.’

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7. “Outside Burundi, I might be in the 99% but I believe in values like merit and opportunity.”

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8. “There is a fight out there, to change the rules, to set things right.”

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9. “That is why I am leaving Burundi; I want to join this fight.”

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10. “My ultimate protest is to leave. I cannot support this framework anymore. It’s strange to be in the 1%.”

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11. “It is time to Occupy somewhere else.”

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