Friday, March 26, 2010

Of Dubai Layovers, Church Sex Scandals and "Saddlebacking"

So here I am, in Dubai, enjoying a leisurely layover en route to New Delhi. I am at the Grand Hyatt downtown, where Emirates put their stranded discerning travelers and where I was taken by the shuttle when it became apparent that I won’t make it on my connection flight.

As it sometimes happens, the business class was full – they did have some places on coach and for a moment the airline liaison person attempted to suggest I board in coach but one look over the Irish coffee in the lounge where we were having this conversation and she immediately organized the Hyatt voucher. Here I am, the international man of development, at home in DXB lounges, I am to fly coach to New Delhi and ruin my hard earned reputation? Sure I would if I was in a hurry or anything, but I’m not – I am on my way there at the invitation of one of our affiliates to give a presentation about income generating activities (believe me, I know a lot about that sort of stuff) and the conference won’t start til next Wednesday. Why would I rough if with the commoners in coach when I could put up with a night at the Grand Hyatt?

Never the one to argue with sound logic, here I am in my dignified room overseeing the infinity pools, pillow arranged by service beautifully enhancing my confort in the king size bed, a tray with half-eaten Beijing duck next to me, telly on. Perfect time to reminisce about my recent trip and a few current events.

Dubai airport, for starters, is my kind of place. They know how to treat their first or business travelers and the experience is even more delightful as you observe through the well-coated lounge windows the over-crowded jet-lagged masses, trying desperately to get some sleep on the floor while hugging their laptop bags. Whole families on holiday, refugees, migrant workers, cheap-flight connoisseurs en route to that postcard destination and bargain hunters are all rubbing shoulders with cell-phone shop owners from all over the world on stock-up trips and the occasional junior investor looking out of place, trying to sleep in a stiff Marks & Spencer suit on a bench specifically designed to make laying down impossible. The kiddie corner, with its enviable soft floor has been taken over by a group of Philippino hospitality workers while the Starbucks table are all occupied by what looks like a massive group of student-union rejects, but which are actually separate small groups of back-packers, NGO interns & volunteers crowding the wireless with long updates to their blogs. The “duty free” downstairs is haunted by zombies in elaborated funny packs on the look for cashew nuts and sugary drinks to keep them going during that golden watch bargain hunt.

Meanwhile, in the first class lounge, HRI executives on their to or from Afghanistan are catching up with the international press over sushi while dignified business people in full thobe & guthras chat about the latest consequences of the “crisis” with well perfumed investment brokers and their silent, dolled up girlfriends.

As I’m watching the telly and catching up with the lates news, my favourite story must be the mud hitting the fan with the most recent series of catholic sex scandals. I don’t want to be misunderstood – just because I am an observant pastafarian doesn’t mean I enjoy seeing our fellow institution having their skeletons finally taken out of the closet (for the gazzilionth time). But as a veteran of quite a few peace-keeping missions, not to mention plenty of other postings in the sort of places where the proverbial red line is thinner than we would care to admit, I have always been amazed by the apparent contradiction between the surprise that people profess when some scandal hits the press and the passivity-inducing consistency and spread of the knowledge of that particular scandal going on.

Raise a hand if you ever been in Kinshasa and saw a HRI vehicle parked in front of Savananna, complete with HF aerial and donor branding!

Raise a hand if you ever had a beer with the HRI affiliated Nepali army contingent in Dili at the Obrigado Barracks overhearing war stories from Bali!

Raise a hand if you were in Cambodia during the days of the HRI-sponsored UNTAC – no need to say more;

Raise a hand if you ever spent a night on the town in Djibuti and run into drunken army boys taking the edge off that tedious military routine!

Raise a hand if you had few drinks with the US troops in Haiti recently!

Are these hands perhaps the limbs of people who are outraged to read reports of abuse from refugee camps to karaoke parlors patronized by people linked to HRI directly or indirectly?

Are the people outraged to hear the stories of children abused by clerics the same who have sent their children to religious schools to keep them away from the “dangers” of the world? Parents who would rather have a dignified institution run by sexually oppressed men in frocks taking care of educating their progeny?

Finally, Saddlebacking anyone?


  1. all my hands are up! and my feet too.


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