Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dear Uncle Aldie,
How are you?
I am writing from UnNamed Country in Asia (U.N.C.I.A) . I am here at the request of my Donor Country which is not really anywhere near Canada, but the sun does shine a lot. The flight here was only 9 hours, instead of 24 to Nairobi which was a pleasant change. Dad is so proud I am following in your footsteps, first working for a HRI affiliate and now as a less than reasonably paid junior consultant. (L.T.R.P.J.C.)

Being a consultant is turning out to be like working for a HRI affiliate but there are no interns to assist with the spreadsheets and no one else to (blame) suggest may have done their role to a better standard when things go wrong. now I am that person for my Reasonably Paid Senior Consultant.

Within two days of arriving in-country the R.P.S.C contracted an exotic disease and insisted our driver rush her immediately to the nearest international hospital. I saw her updating her face book status on the way to the car, so she must of been really sick.

This all means I am in the field evaluating a program without a driver , also without a translator and with no senior consultant. ( I don't mind the last part, to be honest with you).

I am not as fluent in this language as the other three that Dad insisted I learn (to follow in your footsteps!) so I must of misunderstood the community leader asssigned to take us to the program when he introduced me as his second wife and had booked accommodation in a shared villa rather than alone or with our female local aid worker as I had asked. I am sure there was also a reason he was walking around the house with no shirt on in the evening despite the stares of our local (very religious) aid worker.

Anyway Uncle Aldie, that's about it from me for now, except to say I hope we get our driver back soon. I have been keeping up with the S.C. return to health by her facebook updates every two hours and her blog every day.

Oh, one more thing Uncle Aldie. to post you this letter meant passing additional security questions and maybe many people trying to contact you in your retirement this way have not been able to get through.
I know you are busy in retirement and playing golf, but it would make me very happy if you would share some of your wisdom again.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Usurper

I am the one who changed the password. You can call me The Usurper. And I may change it again, just because I can.

Now that Aldie has retired, the aid blog scene is as boring as a peace-corps party given for the local mormon missionaries. Even this place starts to look more like some retard's tedious myspace (please-please friend-me). 

Here is a fact: aid blogs get as much critical thinking as the UN's strategic plan. I have just done a round and for fuck's sake people, have some dignity. 

All you get is pretentious wankers writing endlessly about some obscure shit or if not, some other sort of long, tedious, self-important masturbation of people who most certainly perpetuate the sort of inneffective "aid systems" they are busy rationalizing on their stupid blogs. You get categorical statements and pompous attempts to formulate pseudo-scientific principles about "aid", in bullet points. And you get smug, patronizing morons desperate to attract more hits on their shitty websites and please anyone "influential" enough to get them a like and a follower on twitter.

It's like a ride in an UNDPKO elevator, but worse.  

You even get people trying to sell their own t-shirts and mugs (Aldie even you are twitter chums with some of them).   

Who the fuck reads all this shit, never-mind write it? When do they find the time to "save lives" and apply the higher standards they preach?

What you people need is more beer. And a life.

Piss me off and I'll return with links.

The Usurper
PS - Aldie, if you delete my post you are a shit like the rest of them and I'll change the password again.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pretty Fucking Please With Sugar on Top

So here I am enjoying my retirement on a humble golf estate, out of sight/ out of mind of some train-wreck of a slum, with the right mix of good climate, availability of wine and good choice of servants, practicing my swing and lowering my handicap, when "work" catches up with me in the form of an emergency.

As all of yous remember, I have decided to crowd-source this important newsletter to impress donors with HRI's modernity and innovation and to free up some space on my busy agenda for more serious activities, such as the aforementioned improvement of my handicap.

Work catches up, I say, in the form of an emergency, complaints filling my inbox reporting that some asshole changed the password, making crowdsourcing very difficult as it were, putting the whole well-thought strategy at risk, endangering lives and wastuing everyone's time in the process.

So I rushed and responded to this emergency with the sort of speed and efficiency that made HRI famous, and here are the new credentials:

(comic sans forever)
So guys? Pretty fucking please with sugar on top, don't fuck with the password anyomore. OK?

Now, where was my wood?

Monday, October 31, 2011

I am Aikido Aidworker

Dr. Kurtz has humiliated me in public long enough.

I am Aikido Aidworker. I am strong. I am peace. I am Zen with my logframe, and business class ticket.

I am here. Next to you on the plane, behind you in the working group, in front of you in the passenger seat of the Land-cruiser as the driver illuminates the past into the present.

I am Aikido Aidworker - the Usurper.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Doctor's Orders

This is Dr. Peacekeeper. Your friendly "Bones" in an unnamed peacekeeping operation, usually in Africa. Oh Africa, what a gawd awful place, at least its a long way from my ex-wife. No doubt she feels the same.

I am very grateful to HRI for allowing me this space.

Unlike HRI, and Dr. Kurtz, I really do not give much of a toss about stakeholders and you hand-ringing Aid types. However, I am very fond of the fresh volunteers that get off the C-130 every week. The most interesting ones are the alluring HRI interns looking for a way out of country.

One thing that I have discovered is that the lost and earnest EAW and UN Volunteer wants to fly on my UN transport planes. Without a little chit from me they cannot get that all important MOP (Movement of Personnel) form signed on short notice. I have real power, as they desperately want to get out of country.

Why are they so dedicated to the 3 day trip beyond the wire? So they can skype back to Mum and Dad from their shiny iPad telling them how bloody hip it is to be a peacekeeper. All from the edge of a salted pool, with slinky bums parading up and down the pool deck.

The things they will do for that chit. They follow doctor's orders.

I might have to get back to the bar now. I do not blog or tweet much, its just not as satisfying as a Pink Gin.

Who is Dr. Kurtz?

It's been a while this "electronic newsletter" going - so long that I have lost count of all the interns that passed through and learned the ropes under my visionary leadership.

I have also had my share of constructive feedback, which I duly "actionized" using the appropuiate tool-kit, in order to become a better person:
And obviously, this improvement of the person process has also not gone unnoticed:

But most importantly, during all this this time I have never allowed myself to step out of character, and have generally tried to remain dignified in my bubbly existence.

Like you, at times I have been accused of being "that guy who writes that blog", and like you I have duly denied it. The fact that it may have been me is obviously irrelevant because you knows it: all of yous is just a little bit Dr. Kurtz, just a little bit Hand Relief.

So then, in order to allow Dr. Kurtz all the creative freedom his oversized ego deserves, why not bring this to its logical conclusions and spell it out right here right now, black on white:

Who is Dr. Kurtz?
Well, obviously, it is you, reader.

And if you don't believe me, go to blogger.com and check it out:

(comic sans forever)
 And in the unlikely event you are wondering what the angle is, well, I have it from reliable sources that donors these days are suckers for "crowdsourcing", so why not crowdsource the shit out of this "newsletter" and ride the innovations gravy train?

Sure, it may happen that the "newsletter" will turn into a platform for promoting "intimate enhancers" and business opportunities involving Gaddafi's many surviving relatives, but to the right kind of eye that in itself is nothing but a great "PPP" opportunity.

So, see you around the next junket, reader, and do keep up the enabling environment synergies that build capacity and continue to streamline cooperation - those vulnerable people in our calendar pictures will be forever grateful.

UPDATE: here's open source at its best: some despicable character has changed the password, so here is the new one:
comic sans forever 2
And Guys? Do me a favor? Please stop fucking with the password, ok? Think of all the poor children that need our help.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Important Communication to All Aid Bloggers Related to the Urgent Need for Better Coordination in the Sector

Dear Stakeholders,

It has come to my attention that there really are too many aid blogs out there, aren't there? That's obviously not good for the aid-blog sector, because as you surely agree there is too much "duplication of effort" and lack of "sharing of lessons learned" and "best practices" and "leverage of knowledge" among the different stakeholders.

Obviously what we need is more coordination.

As a self-appointed leader of the sector HRI is hereby suggesting we start focusing on coordination of all aid-blogging activities across the aid-blogging sector. HRI has already helpfully received an award from The Donor to support with this coordination effort (why would it have been competed? better to "sole-source" these things to the coordination experts) and as we speak a reasonably paid consultant is on the way here and should be shortly in touch with some matrix or other.

What you all need to do now is nominate a focal point (for now - you will need more focal points shortly as we expect coordination activities to start branching out across sub-themes and sub-committees).

The plan is we'll start by having weekly meetings at the heads-of-blogging-agency level and there will be weekly focal point meetings in the coordination task force. Various sub-themes will be then identified (aid, development, M&E, snark, etc.) and Lead Blogs will be allocated to each of these themes.

Sub-committees should be in place ("scaled-up") by mid-October and leading agencies should start reporting regularly to the Task Force and Coordination Group regularly. The Coordination Matrix will be filled in by individual blogs and then reviewed by our consultant. Tool-kits shoudl be distributed in January 2012.

In the following phase, a Communication Coordination Sub-Group will be set up that will be tasked with "clearing" any new post in the aid-blogging sector, to ensure coordinated messages and to avoid conflicting communication. We are also expected to agree on geographical priorities and different countries/ continents will be allocated to different blogs to ensure uniform coverage and "bridging of gaps".

Finally, sometime next year, HRI's M&E consultant will be in touch with a strategy that will prove beyond any doubt the added value of a truly coordinated strategy.

Thanks folks for your cooperation - and I have no doubt that together we'll successfully coordinate the shit out of the aid-blogging industry!

PS: costs will be shared across the sector, please ensure you allocate sufficient resources in your 2012 work-plans for this important activity.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Dilemma that Wasn't

Straight from the hip, boys: there comes a point in this business when every single one of us has to make a simple choice:

  1. You either go for "impact" (however you choose to define that, let's not get into details); or
  2. You go for pleasing The Donor.
It is the business' oldest trick, all of us will get to this fork in the road sooner or later and do spare a thought for the poor bastards who make the mistake of crossing a donor for the sake of some weak-assed idea that no-one gives a shit about anyway. Spare a thought for them I say, because their days in this business are numbered and few as they are, they sure aren't any fun.

What's this "impact" business about anyway? No-one can define it and it's achievement remains in the realm of opinion, and you know what they say about opinions:

Opinions are like assholes
Anyway, whine the poor bastards as they may, this "impact" vs. pleasing the donor dilemma is not really a dilemma at all and any HRI employee worth their salt knows what to do: it's an easy case of yes-sir-yes-ma'am all the way to "sustainability".

And therefore, since I always wanted to mark the place where Prados are doing u-turns in the reasonably-sized yard of our office in Moroni, around the place where our visibly branded vehicles get expertly washed by our drivers, I am currently having a duly-procured contractor put up a tasteful 3D sculpture of "A Donor's Logo" as a long-lasting testimony to our right order of priorities.

Make sure you come to the "unveiling" - Emma will be there and let's be honest: it will be a great opportunity to network.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dr. K's Annals of Unsolicited Advice: How to Handle the Hunger in the Horn

This is probably obvious to those familiar with the business: the nature of our life-saving work in Somalia has subtly changed since last time we spoke about it, on account of several fortunate complex events, the most significant of which being a massive famine in “The Horn” and, of course, the fact that it is easier these days to pop by Mogadishu for a photo opportunity than has ever been since the fateful events of '93. (just a few weeks ago a simple stopover at K50 would be a badge of honor for the field-conscious HRI employee).

Among those in the know, another fact has not remained unnoticed: there is more money flowing in than used to and that, reader, is excellent news.

The shit continues to be real in Nairobi, the dignified hub of any meaningful Somalia project, with necessary field trips to Dadaab, where HRI has quickly  set up cutting-edge infrastructure to ferry high-flyers through, complete with up-to-the minute roster of the photogenic fresh arrivals that can be summoned in an instant with their families for that perfect picture, should the visitor require one for the cover of their all-important trip report or their obligatory article in newspaper of choice back home.

A few months ago it was all about “clan complexity”  and supporting the right “government” with capacity building and in general organizing logistically complicated but symbolically vital series of life-saving meetings, many of which requiring state-of-the art teleconferencing facilities to accommodate participation on the New York-Geneva-Nairobi-Shithole axis. These days the increased level of emergency and the “comprehensive” nature of the required “response” made it necessary for HRI to “scale up” the extent and nature of the staple life-saving meeting portfolio that defines our “proven approach”: In addition to bi-weekly inter-agency meetings in all relevant locations, we have daily standing briefings in Nairobi, bi-weekly “country team meetings”, task-forces, cluster meetings, NGO coordination groups, technical meetings, action groups and of course emergency coordination initiatives and ad-hoc meetings called to coordinate this or the other situation, incident or VIP visit, all of which require all hands on deck and then some, not to mention a newly energized army of interns, volunteers, consultants and support staff tasked with the all-important job of compiling minutes and reports and having them approved by participants and other “stakeholders”.

Of course we have increased “boots on the ground” by a factor of 100 to the pre-emergency levels and we have rapidly deployed an efficient newsletter creation and dissemination task force, complete with a “new media” wing - efficient in distributing links to pdf versions of the respective newsletters to millions of defenseless twitter and facebook users – and a special calendar creation team, tasked with the development in real-time of calendars containing the best photographs of big-eyed starving children, the staple of any “complex” emergency.

Like best things in life, a good emergency always boils down to money. Raising it (a matter of principle) and spending it fast.


Emergencies are never about subtleties and if you are new to one, here's an advice: spend the shit out of those budgets and ignore your natural tendencies to cringe. Visibility is everything: get your flag in every picture and make sure your logo is on TV, ideally behind the Kevlar-suited anchor.

This, reader, is the time when it's all about triggering emotions in punters – HRI's form of “brand awareness”: no-one on the street cares or understands what can be done “out there”, but everyone wants to “give well” and that's perfectly fine because of a simple fact, proven again and again by HRI:

If you throw money at a catastrophe, it will go away.

And as a bonus, you get to sleep better at night, bless your generous soul.

And soon enough, with all the additional “experience” we are currently acquiring, we will be best placed to handle the next catastrophe, perhaps in Libya?

And in case you wonder how will we approach that I am here to tell you that we are well prepared: don't you worry about the details – we'll just throw some money at it, and this one, too, will go away.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Letter to our Donors

Dearest Donor,

For a long time now, I have wanted to write you a letter, as yet another opportunity to flatter you and reassure you that you are doing a tremendous job of alleviating the poverty of the miserable lot we are are mandated to help, one prudent coordination initiative at a time, and to thank you one more time for a strong, mutually beneficial partnership.

I said it before: we have also always been delighted about the high complexity of your award procedures. Our reasonably paid consultants do a way better job than those small-timers who try to compete partner with us of putting together  a decent application and our roster of "Key Staff" has always been better populated by the sort of degree-flaunting over-achievers that have implemented the shit out of so many other paradigm-shifting projects you have so generously funded in the past, both here and elsewhere.

I should also mention how thankful we have always been to be able to exploit your high interest in stories in the local media reflecting your generosity and support; an interest far superior to your interest in developing an independent media in respective country, if you know what I mean. Sure, as your partner we have always been keen to create an enabling environment for an independent media, where "creating an enabling environment" is an euphemism for inviting the media to residential "trainings" at the Dusit Thani about the universal and inalienable right of any journalist to write positive stories about the programs you are supporting and the partnership between relevant governments.

May I also take the opportunity to commend your commitment to transparency. We love the fact that you choose sometimes to publicize your partners budget on the internet, as that allows us to compete against them with a symbolically lower overhead rate, as a way to ensure we always remain competitive. The fact that your performance indicators are both mind-boggling complicated to define and impossible to measure in any reliable fashion conveniently ensures that evaluating performance remains in the realm of politics where it belongs, a world we naturally navigate much better than any of our competitors partners.

We also need to mention here your brilliant approach to staffing your own presence on the ground. We have always been excited to work with a large team of inexperienced micro-managing bureaucrats, fond of back-stabbing each other while faking cooperation and incapable to take any decision that would threaten our own unwillingness to move away from life-saving meetings as expressions of smart aid. We love to exploit their inability to interpret data, the reassuring comfort they take in a well crafted progress report and their general fondness for the right kind of visibility not to mention their commitment to coordination meetings.

Speaking of progress reports. We love your reports time-lines, always. And the fact that there are the same with all other affiliates, which ensures your overworked staff love a well-edited copy-paste affair, with flash photos featuring the right characters and heart-lifting success stories.

We love also your predictability. The detailed negotiations years before implementation. The difficult procedures involved in revising budgets and strategies. There is nothing HRI loves more than spending millions on irrelevant activities and promoting dated development theories around the world.

In short, you are the best, Donor. Please don't change anytime soon.

Sincerely yours,
Dr. Alden M. Kurtz

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Interngate and the efficiency of Class Warfare

Don't know about you, but I quite enjoyed the intensity of the most recent episode of interngate, fought like all good battles by the forces of good an evil, neatly grouped in easily identifiable formations.

It made me realize that in the tactical arsenal of the discerning theoretician there has rarely been an option more powerful than the Class Warfare. As asymmetric than asymmetric warfare itself but much more reliable, class warfare has a history that is surprisingly similar with the history of this business of hours, in the sense that it has always involved a lot of obfuscation and "coordination" but rarely has it helped the "beneficiaries" on behalf of whom the war is always waged.

Have a good look around - it will be hard to find a place where class warfare is not fought this very moment, be it by a politician temporary adopting the accent of a mortal while campaigning in some shithole full of potential voters or by some visionary leader sacrificing his health to lead his dim-witted people out of the darkness, from the back seat of a Merc S600 doing 100miles an hour past the galaxy's second filthiest slum.

And I'm not making this shit up. I know it because I am often following the Class Warrior's S600's in my HRI branded Land Cruiser and I spend much of my time patting their backs or the lesser backs of their numerous minions.

And why the trouble? Well, I do it for the poor and the vulnerable, me. I am a class warrior.

The truth is I do feel guilt for my privileged upbringing, my liberal art education and my six post-graduate degrees which I earned at six different "respectable" education establishments. And it is indeed this class guilt that has been the foundation of my brilliant career and of my willingness to trade a mediocre job in the private sector complete with small suburban house somewhere in Ohio for a series of dignified residences and the opportunity to slap backs with dignitaries, the world over, on behalf of the poor and vulnerable.

It's hard, but someone's gotta do it.

And I can't be alone in my suffering, because as far as I can tell most HRI employees have a similar background, with the visible exception of the occasional token colleague, usually holding only three degrees themselves rather than six, a convenient detail that will also ensure that we are intellectually aligned and that we have "continuity of ideas".

Of course I never held a real job until I was 36, after which my expectations were quite high, what with my six degrees, so I finally accepted a management position with a HRI affiliate quickly impressed by my pile of degrees, and I learned fast that competence, or the absence thereof, must never be regarded as a limiter in one's own professional growth.

I also learned to make good use of the intern, a skill that continues to served me well in an industry that loves as much free labour as it can get. Of course, some HRI interns get higher stipends than the salaries of their senior "local" colleagues, which is a class warfare in a class of its own, often fought drunkenly over $10 beer at the local night-club, the parking-lot of which comes alive at night with hundreds of drivers waiting in hundreds of vehicles for hundreds of interns to return them safely to their respective accommodation.

The truth is, it's all very complicated. But who am I to miss an opportunity to simplify a complicated reality in order to prove my class warrior credentials on the internet? So, in less than 140 characters, here is my position on interngate:
Now, if you are still concerned with interngate and wonder what you can do, here is a solution: You should start up a charity that fund-raises and puts together pay packages for less privileged people who want to do internships with HRI but can't afford to do unpaid work. Just remember, please, we only accept people with at least two degrees from "respectable" institutions.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On the Significance of Facial Hair

In our donor-fueled pursuit of grand ideas and grander gestures, it is often too easy to lose sight of the smaller details which, as so often in life, turn out to be more significant than with hidsight.

Take facial hair for example.

More than an individual choice based on personal hygiene and esthetics standards, facial hair is to the keen eye also a pretty reliable sign of character and competence that must not be ignored if one pursues the highest echelons in this business.

Here is some advice:

The humble mustache is a pretty good tell-tale sign of a certain touch for leadership:

You've got the timeless "Hitler"
Or the more tasteful "groomed sheriff"

Then there is "The Cleric", known to give the wearer an air of trustworthyness and maturity

You've got of course the "Wilford Brimley", an excellent compliment to a comb-over
"Did you say something about my mustache?"
And of course, the "Charmeur" a.k.a. the"Paint-job"
Perhaps you never thought about it, but it is a matter of fact that it is rare to see a dictator this days without a mustache and only a fool will ignore the causality in this correlation. Of course, in certain schools of leadership, partiality to 60’s porno shades trumps a mustache any day:
Shades > Mustache
In our business, of course, mustaches are the thing of donor agencies ("The Bart Reynolds” is the second-favourite mustache style there, after the “Ned Flanders”). However, mustaches are also favored by various accountant species and certain “Asia” old-hands who sport them in combination with side-parted hair and self-darkening eyeglasses, a particularly potent combination that helps with the charm factor in seedy karaoke parlors around Manila.

The three-day stubble of course will forever remain the domain of logisticians and certain HQ people who want to flaunt their field cred and/ or “operational” past. It is often sported in combination with "The Skubble”, a combination of bald patch and stubble (you know the one, right?).

The goatee is a more complicated matter. Volunteers favour them (in combination with various hats specially-made for the tropics), but so do M&E types and consultants. It is fair assumption to make that there is a reverse proportionality between the presence of a goatee and decision-making authority, and Mr. Meles Zenawi of course is the exception that confirms this rule (and there are experts who dispute the goatee characteristics of Zenawi's facial hair and prefer to put this to this style in a separate category, known as "The D'artagnan":

The D'artagnan: Is it a goatee or a mustache? Hard to say.
The side-burn, or the mutton-chop is pretty much a non-French-working-for-French-medical-NGO exclusive, very rarely also seen among veterinarians working for small Italian NGOs. A niche.

Finally, "The Sage" is an interesting one as well – it has only been seen among junior aid enthusiasts around their third year internship and, or course, economists:
"The Sage". Or is it a goatee? Hard to say
Finally, from the fine people at visual.ly, here is a more complete and not industry-specific taxonomy of beards, arranged by trustworthiness:


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mistakes? I haven't made a few!

Reader, I need to go on record once and for all with a clarifying statement:

Unlikely as this may sound, no-one in HRI has ever made a single mistake


Sure there was that fateful excel incident but that was the cock-up of an intern and mistakes made by interns don't count. 


This is not to say that shit doesn't happen. Shit actually happens all the time, but look closer and you will find it is always a problem of:
  • coordination; or
  • clan complexity; or
  • "absorptive capacity"; or
  • government incompetence; or
  • lack of local capacity; or
  • lack of commitment expressed in unwillingness of some stakeholders to attend the right meetings; or
  • lack of resources (of course);
Indeed, never has there been any known instance where shit happened because HRI made a mistake. 

Can't happen. 

I dare you, reader to point out to me a single mistake we ever made. Millions of children, women, refugees, poor and vulnerable people will disagree with you. People who know better because their very survival depends on our perfect execution of life-saving workshops. They have a voice too, as one of them sometimes represents them all in the occasional high-profile workshop. The rest are just content to inhabit a world of children happy to receive a "NFI" here, a better education facilitated by an education advisor there. A world of individuals displaced by unspeakable catastrophes who take solaces in an embrace of a rock star. In Emma's understanding smile. In the opportunity to be photographed by a world class artist. A few square meters of tarpaulin. 
The stuff of dreams, delivered daily by the fearless individuals who populate life-saving meetings and never rest or take a break. 
Or make mistakes. 

A world accurately reflected in so many high quality newsletters that our interns tirelessly put together with your money. 

Go out an read them if you don't believe me.
And, hey, do me a favour: spread the word, will you? We need all the back-slapping we can get.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bad News, Good News

When flying in a Cessna I always insist to sit next to the pilot: aside from making a point of being in the front even where there is no business class, I take pleasure in bantering over the two-way about syncing the torques and tales of Cessnas flying on moonshine and Antonov 24s belly-landing in deserts and mythical Russian pilots walking away from wrecks in their wife-beaters.

That is the least I can do to mitigate the indignity of awkwardly getting my red-faced chino-and-pink-shirt-clad body in and out over the wing of the aircraft.

As we approach, the landscape looks familiar: arid lands scattered with "informal settlements" built out of corrugated iron, cardboard and HRI-branded tarpaulin, surrounded by fences made out of thorn bush and rusty rear axle links cannibalized off who knows what unfortunate trucks. Children forever frolicking nearby along goats and donkeys (a scene also known in the business as a "photo opportunity"). As we approach the camp, we beheld more solid structures and the signs of a lucrative business: people selling building materials, a bizarre and counter-intuitive reality of every respectable refugee camp.

This one here is not just any camp of course, we are about to land nearby Dadaab, the mother of all camps and beloved destination of Hollywood stars and every HRI official worth their salt.

Rule of the thumb is when the construction-materials business is picking up, the seasoned HRI employee knows that fresh refugees are coming in and is moving towards unlocking the necessary sources of "emergency funding" to ensure the HRI presence in the camp grows accordingly. HRI "people on the ground" have done an awesome job out of hijacking every meeting around, cluster or no cluster, and ensuring that HRI is well present in every committee and action group, the better to "leverage" whatever funds are bound to be unlocked by the most recent, highly unfortunate, drought across the border in Somalia, a country few of us actually have visited, but many of us know very well from coordination meetings in Nairobi, field trips right here, in Dadaab and the regular security trainings organized nearby Nairobi to make sure everyone is prepared to talk tough over moccachinos at Doorman's or Java House.

Indeed, bad news are piling up this summer and that is good for business.

Just yesterday I landed in Nairobi all the way from Juba where I was celebrating along other international HRI staff the official independence of Africa's most recent country. Take it from me: these moments must be savored and one must enjoy both the enthusiasm of the masses and the business opportunities while they last.

Sure, the business opportunities always lasts longer than the enthusiasm (shit, sometimes when enthusiasm leads to disappointment which leads to "social unrest", the business gets even better, along with the "hardship pay"), but good news, bad news, we enjoy them all while they last.

Besides there will come a point when someone will ask: "Where were you when so and so happened". Being able to say "I was there" is crucial to both your field cred and the ability to pass as a better "key personnel" in various applications for funding.

That is all good for business.

Of course, like you, I am looking forward to more opportunities to absorb the enthusiasm that comes with a new country, speculate on the new Government's inexperience and monetize on donors' optimism in such situations. In many ways, you will agree, a newly independent country is a perfect storm for HRI.

As of Dadaab and the drought in Somalia? Well, the global tarpaulin experts are here to help! Ka-Ching!