Monday, March 8, 2010

Musings on Tastefulness and News from Mozambique

It’s been an emotional couple of days.

For starters a certain academic type feller who used to work for one of our affiliates back in the day has dismissed HRI as a mere “satire”, and a tasteless one at that. I’ve said it before: HRI is not a satire. We are a dead-serious organization whose committed staff work day and night in some of the roughest parts of the world to address poor and vulnerable people’s fundamental needs for talking-shops and other life-saving activities. We are, an economist could say, the necessary response to a massive demand for our services. And we are NOT tasteless: from the life-saving cross-sectoral activities we organize in dignified establishments world-wide, to the plug-in 3d paintings on the walls of our headquarters in Moroni (my favourite one shows a placid lake with a waterfall – when you switch it on the water twinkles and the waterfall starts flowing), everywhere we work we are renowned for our tastefulness. Our offices in Cambodia, for instance, decorated by strict rules imposed by the Hok Lundy School of Interior Design are all the rage in local cock-fighting circles; and our Southern Africa regional headquarters, set amongst the hills in Somerset West, at a safe distance from the offending landscape of Khayelitsha, offer a dignified view of the bay and delight the eye with lines well set in Dutch and French architectural heritage. Our cutting-edge offices in Panama located in Clayton, next door to the new and greener-than-though US embassy are the envy of the NGO and IGO world, and not only because the proximity to the embassy allows our staff to minimize the time needed to go to a meeting to only 3 hours, as little as it takes to get through the routine security checks with our privileged, fast-track status.

And don’t even get me started on our vehicles.

Speaking of tastefulness, I spent the weekend in Mozambique and was quite disappointed to see that the Polana is still under renovations. Mozambique is a country where HRI is implementing crucial programs and I have traditionally favoured Polana as a home away from home while in town as well as a place to engage in life-saving workshops and conferences. Not unlike the Sheraton in Addis but with a superiour view, the Polana has deservedly earned its place in HRIs world as a dependable private sector partner where meetings about the regular floodings in the north can be facilitated with overpriced conference packages in a comforting surrounding, complete with servants in tasteful colonial-era uniform (another interesting feature shared with the Addis Sheraton or, since we mentioned Cambodia, the Le Royal, a dependable HRI partner in Phnom Penh additionally loaded with good memories as that was the place where HRI staff were accommodated during the UNTAC days, a period that has provided us in the “development community” the opportunity to learn many a lesson about how to do things in peace-keeping, how to calculate hazard pay and how to support small enterprises post-conflict, one cold thai beer at a time).

Anyways, since the Polana remains in an unfortunate state of renovation, I had to settle with a sub-standard establishment up the street, with an inferior view of the river and an appalling patisserie choice. But then hardship is part of the job and I am happy to report that my trip was very successful – making use of HRIs old boys network in the country I managed to put together an unbeatable consortium of affiliates ideally positioned to win both a massive upcoming HIV/ AIDS RFA and significant CERF funding to build overpriced pre-packaged houses in the flood affected areas (based on our world-class experience with similar activities in Aceh). Ed, the reasonable paid consultant is telling me he is slowly getting sick and tired of Haiti so will shortly fly him into Maputo to get the whole thing started.

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