After four straight weeks in Mogadishu, for reasons that were never entirely clear I was sent to Hargeisa. For one week I stayed in a hotel and texted friends excitedly that my bathroom had hot water. For the next I stayed in the work guesthouse and was sorry to find the cats had all moved on. For the middle six of ten working days I sat in all-day meetings, 8 to 5, that mostly had very little to do with my work. I volunteered as minute taker in order to keep awake. One of the meetings was an induction, to which I was scornful of being invited until I arrived in the meeting room and found a Somali lady who had been in the organisation for ten years. She had never been inducted until now either.
I went to a party and a restaurant and both times had to send a Sorry email to the Security team for being caught returning home after curfew. Curfew is 9pm. It was better than Mogadishu but Vegas it was not.
What non-meeting time was available I mostly spent locked in administrative death grips with the Ayatollah of HR in DRC’s Somalia Office, a tiny lady with an sweet smile whose pedantry has been known to bring staff to tears. Applying for either Annual Leave or R’n’R takes two separate paperwork processes that have to be signed by a number of people in precisely the right order. If you would like to combine R’n’R with Annual Leave, as I did, you have to submit four separate pieces of paper with a total 14 layers of approval, each in the right order both within and between the four documents. There is, as you can imagine, a great deal of scope for pedantry in this procedure, and woe to any innocent Knowledge Management Officer who imagines that no-one really minds if you get one or two of the 14 layers of approval out of order.
Emerging at the end of two weeks barely alive but with my R’n’R and Annual Leave approved, I offered ambrosial thanks to HR for their kind assistance and fled to Kenya. I spent four days in a cottage outside Nairobi sleeping, listening to the radio, and reading, and thought about things other than work. It was good.
From there I went to Ethiopia, where my sister and a close friend from London were meeting me for a long-planned holiday. We spent ten days together and it was wonderful. We ate pizzas and dish after dish of Ethiopian food, danced in bars, compared ourselves to skeletons of the first human ancestors in the Natural History Museum, took a bus journey that we thought was from Addis Ababa but apparently was from Hades itself, saw castles, vultures, waterfalls, and baboons, got 3,700 metres above sea level, played cards with mountain guides, and drank little Ethiopian coffees boiled on charcoal stoves shared with incense. We didn’t get robbed or get sick. Everything that could have gone well, went well. Such holidays are a rare thing, and it will live long in the memory.
At the end, it was back to Somalia. I returned to work in Mogadishu with three weeks left on my contract. To my disappointment, but not my surprise, there was nothing in my inbox about it. No offer of an extension, no notification that an extension was not being offered. I wrote an email to my boss and two other people stating my end date and saying I hoped they were aware. My boss wrote back and asked if I was intending on staying, to which I said no, and asked what would happen in that case. He sent this:
>>Sent: 11 September 2017 15:51
>>To: Dominic Naish
>>Cc: S and J
>>Subject: RE: My contract ends on 4th October
>>Ok, thank you for your response.
>>Regarding exit, there is normal procedure that HR would introduce you to.
>>I have copied in R so she can inform you about the process
And that was it. 12 months of employment wrapped up in three or four short sentences. Later the same week, M, my boss, told enquirers that I’d quit. This past week I have sat in an office on my own filling out departure paperwork. I had an exit interview with HQ and a final meeting with a Director on Friday, but at this stage even a sympathetic ear won’t make much difference. I feel weary and resentful of being treated so dismissively, and angry at my boss in a way I haven’t been since at school and being angry at unkind teachers.
Still. The benefit of such an abrupt ending is that it will be over soon. And I have to remember, and not take for granted, the many great privileges this last year have brought me, in learning and growing my professional skills, meeting people, and seeing some remarkable parts of the world. I hope in time that the management I’ve experienced will similarly feel like a benefit, as you surely learn more when things are tough than when everything goes smoothly. For the time being, though, this chapter is closing, and soon I will be able to look on it with hindsight.
What I’m listening to:
- Angelo Badalamenti, “Dance of the Dream Man”
- Kwesta, “Ngud”
- Martina Topley-Bird, Quixotic
- The National, Trouble Will Find Me
- The Seraphims, “The Consciousness of Happening”
- Synthesise the Soul: Astro-Atlantic Hypnotica from the Cape Verde Islands 1973-1988
What I’m reading:
- Still Tristes Tropiques
- Edith Warton, The Age of Innocence
- Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel
- Sebastian Junger, The Perfect Storm
- John Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven