Should you find yourself on a plane next to a grumpy person in chinos, tasseled shoes and polo shirt looking busy over spreadsheets on a laptop supported by a large letter sized folder, it is safe to assume that you are sitting next to a HRI consultant, in his “field” uniform. Except of course if the plane goes to Juba, in which case the chinos are replaced by cargo pants and the tasseled shoes by hiking boots, all rounded up with a brown, thin belt conferring the wearer a dignified air while keeping him prepared for the rough landcruiser ride from the airport to logali house and back).
This time of the year, donors issue requests for proposals just before heading out for holidays, ensuring a certain equilibrium: flights out are populated by donor representatives on their way to vacation, while flights in are filled with proposal-writing experts headed for their African destinations where they hope their organizations will score the next big award with no small contribution from them.
Being the executive director of a well respected humanitarian organization, I am little affected by this movement, in spite of the sizeable collective of HRI proposal writers that are transiting as we speak towards or from respective development destinations, some of them transporting letter-sized 3-hole folders and corresponding paper packs (you don’t mess with donor requirements). While that happens, I am flying around making deals on the side and ensuring that development money keeps flying towards HRI, where it belongs, and it does not get grabbed by some unrealistic organization loyal to the falacy that sound ideas get funded. Sure, if they have sound ideas and whatever we are ready to listen, but once wew "prime" the award (which we always do), the budgets get smaller (what with all those fees and expatrate postion absolutely necessary for the "coordination" of activities) and such unrealistic organizations will simply have to prove that they are cost-efficient enough to be worth it of any funding. At the end of it all, we will ensure they get thanked in the footnotes for their "invaluable contribution" to the success of the project and everybody should be happy.
That would also explain why I have been silent all these weeks, busy as I was covering three continents, and, in case you are wondering whether my endeavors were successful, let’s just say that I am really enjoying the complimentary champagne in this Heathrow airport BA Lounge, in spite of the early hour.
And not only have I secured significant growth for this most humanitarian of organizations, but I have also managed to check on certain personal investments of mine which as it happens, are doing well, thank you very much. One of them is a charming art-deco house with significant garden in Panama City, which I have acquired at no cost to me years ago, not far from Casco Antigu, a very dignified part of town. The house was my residence back in the day when I was enjoying a particularly hardship posting in Panama and I procured it by applying the old strategy of using the generous HRI housing allowance to purchase the house rather than paying rent. There are several ways to do that, depending on the availability of mortgage at different locations and some strategies involve the use of a straw-man landlord, but what they all have in common is that one is always well-advised to use the highest allowable rate for rent in the official contract while being posted there and ensure that HRI takes over the contract for the residence at one’s departure, at highest allowable rate and on base of very positive reviews the landlord received from the departing party. After all, any departing expatriate is forever replaced by other incoming expatriates and there is nothing quite as pleasant as consistent access to dignified housing while on a hardship posting, pool, lush tropical garden, servants and all.
I must confess I have acquired quite a bit of real estate over the years using these strategies (highly diversified geographically in case you worry about volatile real estate markets) and I am currently enjoying a certain level of income, to supplement my generous paycheck from HRI.
And so, reader, my mood is high in spite of the grim state of this Lounge (here's another sign that the world as we know it is going to the dogs - BA could learn a thing or two from their colleagues in Dubai) and it is further elevated by the fact that I am on my way back to Moroni, after a long, long absence. Two days from now, I will be finally reunited with my trusty team in Moroni (i carry quality duty free chocolates) and receive an executive director's welcome before returning to my routine of lobster lunch and a humble existence in my house on the beach, which HRI is currently renting for me at the highest allowable rate from a very trusted landlord.