Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Mother of All Junkets

Barely have I had any time to recover from the grueling work done around trafficking at the world cup, and I am already preparing for the next epic trip, attending the mother of all life-saving activities – the biggest-ass bi-annual HIV/ AIDS mega-junket, organized this year around in the German city of Vienna, a cultural hot-spot for the dubious immigration policy enthusiast.

An ideal place in other words to organize this most comprehensive of life-saving meetings about a disease that mostly affects people with the wrong kind of passport, and I am thrilled by the prospect of catching up with my fellow Africa and development experts, some of whom I haven’t been in touch with snice “back in the day” in Mexico.

Unfortunately, La Negresse, who in her capacity of HRIs Director of Diversity (DoD) is among the most trusted of my executives (where “trusted” is another word for “eager to have around for corporate photo opportunities”) will not be part of my entourage for this European journey, although her name has been added in smaller script as co-author to several of HRIs submitted abstracts authored by me and put together by Nathan the intern out of recycled USAID “success stories” and some unverifiable stuff made up to fit the audience. Some of these abstracts were “accepted” which means that HRI staff will be busy delivering “presentations” and “posters” while the main author (me) will be busy “networking”.

I expect the week in Vienna to also allow me some time to reflect on my the weeks in which I have been using the little free time I had between games counter-trafficking activities in South Africa to visit HRI programs in neighboring countries, including the hermit kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland as well as "Zim", up there with the best of HRIs favorite locations due to its ideal comfort of living : hardship allowance ratio.

HRI’s work in the two hermit kingdoms alone would deserve their own “newsletter” (Nathan is already working on the “concept paper”) but suffice to say that due to their interesting combination of size, HIV prevalence, good infrastructure, as well as a relatively uniform devotion to the right sort of religion as far as some of our donors are concerned, these two countries are well on their way to becoming HRI favorites. The hype (which is another word for $$) around Male Circumcision also helps and, as a result of my recent visit, I can already tell you that HRI will play a very important role in “creating an enabling environment”, by implementing a package containing just the right mix of “Lima Bravo Sierras”, “Avalanches”, “Hulk Hogans” and “Diegos”, with a few “Trojans” and “Weasel Hold’ems” thrown in for good measure, all topped up with a glorified “High Five” few years down the drain line.

I expect the strategy for the hermit kingdoms will be sealed and sorted during “networking sessions” Vienna, but meanwhile let’s not forget that the battle against trafficking at the world cup is not yet completed. Apparently, HRI & affiliates vigilance has also paid off so far and countless cases of trafficking have been successfully avoided at this world cup as well. But we can’t drop our vigilance now, not before the last three games are over.

As I have been walking in and out of dignified hospitality suites, past strategically placed crowd-control vehicles (the sort designed after extensive R&D “in the old days”) at various world cup stadiums, I could not but be repeatedly impressed by the diligence of the organizers who have spared no effort in ensuring that every street peddler and hawker is dealt with swiftly, lest they compromise the purity of handing loads of money in exchange for sponsor-approved shit around the stadium, the ultimate experience of any global sporting event.

Ayoba to that, as they say, and see the ones of you with the right passport in Vienna!


  1. Vienna is Austria, not Germany. The capital. Is it still "a cultural hot-spot for the dubious immigration policy enthusiast.?"

  2. you are new here, Mr. Skinner - the good doctor's humor is an acquired taste :)

  3. Passports are like club mememberships, while some clubs have a swimming pool and tennis court, others have squash and croquet,

    Nationality wise, some clubs have health care, security and education, others have adventurus roads, exciting culinary experiances and landmines,

    Be born into the right club,

  4. Cher Dr. Kurtz-

    Vraiment! I was just as surprised as you were to find my visa applications revoked for this incredibly important junket. As an African Woman, one of the most vulnerable of vulnerable groups on the planet especially in the face of this devastating disease, I honestly could not fathom why Austria would grant me a Shengen visa. Something about a 'flight' risk but honestly, who are they kidding? I haven't overstayed in Europe since at least 2008 and I can explain that particular incident (circumstances outside my control and I have no idea how that... package got into my bag. I was seeing a Nigerian at the time).

    I am disappointed in you, in UNAIDS, in the donor community, in the international community, in immigration services, in Europe and a little bit in you Dr. Kurtz. I thought it was a bit insensitive of you to leave me screaming at the airport security guards when you went to board the plane.

    La Negresse.