Chasing windmills?

While talking to my mother on the phone last week, she remarked that I am fiercely independent. She also said that she doesn’t know where I got that from. I don’t know why she is surprised. Both my grandmother and mother have a history of achieving great things in spite of some tremendous obstacles, ranging from financial limitations to segregation. Is it that surprising that I may have inherited a gene for determination and perseverance?

And that is how I find myself in this somewhat quixotic situation of trying to work in a country that, in general, does not want people like me working here. People like me meaning foreigners. Whether you can attribute the current climate to a fear of neo-colonialism or simple economic self-interest, I am not saying that the government should not try to protect the livelihoods of its people. The salary and benefit situation is objectively inequitable due to the resettlement packages that expats receive. So the Mozambican government has recently passed a law, placing an extremely high bar for organizations that hire expats for jobs. The expected effect is that more Mozambicans will have access to jobs that might have been previously occupied by expats. The actual effect is that the work of NGOs has gotten that much harder.

I spoke with a friend who also recently arrived about working here. She said that her country director has a general rule: You can not expect to do both capacity building and program implementation well in the same project. Capacity building means that you are teaching and training someone, and inevitably this means that work is generally less efficient. The end result for the organization is that they have to cope with the even slower pace of work to follow the new employment law or spend precious time and resources to get personnel that they truly need to do work that saves lives.

Paradoxically, all of these impediments make me want to try even harder to work here. I have realized that I work even better when faced with obstacles. I think it makes me break out of my typical thought processes and behavioral patterns. As a result, I become more resourceful. I am sure that this adversity has contributed to my improved work prospects, although still not without some frustration. My volunteer work has begun to open doors, making my goal seem that much closer.


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