musings on travel, international living, development aid, politics, turkey (the country more than the meat) and anything else that comes to mind...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ding dong, Kim Jong Il is dead... now what?

At long last, our favorite megalomaniac (street justice got Gaddafi, all but Rick Perry's hair has faded from the spotlight and, despite my dislike of him in general, Erdogan isn't quite at Kim's level... yet) has passed on to another world. So, in pursuit of North Korea's Next Top Dictator (to be aired in early 2012 on Fox DPRK), Chris Blattman and Josh Keating have inspired me to read more about the Kim heir apparent: Kim Jong Un.
Lil' Kim remains an enigma to most (likely including our beloved western intelligence agencies), much as his father and father's father have been for decades. The most important information I was able to find about him is that he likes basketball, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and drawing cartoons. Oh, and he looks like his dad. I like him already.

So what's next for the budding dictator? In addition to consolidating his power, beefing up his military street cred and planning his next however-old-he-is birthday party, I hope Jr. Comrade Kim adds a little bit of this, a dash of them, and a generous helping of these to his reign at the helm of... well... quite a royal mess.

As an aside, it has always been a bit sad to me that DPRK and RK share so much in common yet have gone down such different paths. After starting on a level playing field less than a century ago, one is now a global ICT and economic powerhouse; the other perpetually on the verge of famine. Le sigh.

As an aside to the aside, I also like that the most 'credible' information we have about the Kim family (and potentially DPRK itself) is from Jong Il's former sushi chef. Awesome.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Just don't be that guy...

I can picture it now: seasoned expat aid worker decides he has had enough. It's time to donate all his clothes to the trendiest overly-supported local orphanage and burn the pieces even they won't touch. He charges his MacBook Pro, iPad, iPod, and Galaxy S (the last of which was purchased to prove to the world that he did not drink all the Apple juice...) one last time before the oh-so-annoying-yet-infinitely-re-countable journey half way across the world. He throws on his North Face backpack one last time, preparing himself for his re-entry into 'the real world'. As soon as he lands in [insert western city here], it all seems like a dream. Or the last chapter of a book that only grandma would pretend to like.

That's when it starts...

At the taxi driver from the airport: "You think the traffic is bad here? At least you don't have to fight humongous cows and their self-righteous tribal owners for the road every day!"

Over the phone to a friend in Alabama: "You think it's hot there? Try adding to the equation walls of dust coming at you daily and living in an unsealed tent during a year-long drought. Now that's hot my friend!"

To the homeless guy on 14th Street: "You think you got it rough here man? You should be lucky you don't have to contend with black mambas and lions. It could be a lot worse!"

The temptation will be there. It will no doubt be incredibly easy to 'one up' just about everyone in every bar conversation from here until you're sporting the latest model scooter in the old folks home. We get it. You're awesome. You lived in [insert war-ravaged post apocalyptic country here] for 19 years. You are infinitely better than the rest of us in every single way imaginable...

Just don't be that guy. Or girl. Please.

We've all seen them and, not surprisingly, probably didn't ever want to see them again after hearing how our last minute, non-stop road trip from Austin to Greeneville was nothing compared to how she crossed the Sahara last July with nothing more than a camel and a leatherman.

Humility can be tough when awesomeness, along with mysterious other things picked up in [insert remote village in war-ravaged post apocalyptic country here], just oozes out of your skin. But remember, if you're truly cool (and if you want to have actual friends who don't roll their eyes every time you open your mouth), you don't have to always 'win' with the better story. Sometimes it's worth it in the long-run to offer sincere congratulations to your friend who got married at 21 when they tell you that the highlight of their week was catching the final day of the underwear sale at Macy's.

For the benefit of non former expat aid workers everywhere... please... don't be that guy.

This message has been brought to you in cooperation with Michael Jackson.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Need For Long-Term Solutions in the Horn of Africa

People must be able to access what they need through the market rather than indefinite quantities of international humanitarian aid.

Read more here.