Non-Governmental Imagination

Is It Wrong For Development Workers To Live Nicely?
February 2, 2007, 6:03 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m in a country with hundreds of millions of poor people.  And I don’t mean the kind of poor people who have TVs and expensive jewelry.  I mean poor, poor people.

Yet I’m staying at a Radisson, which is nicer than any hotel I would ever stay at on my own dime.  I eat three ginormous meals a day that are either buffets, catered or home-cooked.  Everytime I walk into the hotel I am saluted.  I drive in cars and vehicles chauffered by others.  I eat at the nicest restaraunts in town and am doted on quite frequently.

I’m supposed to be here helping people.  Or at least helping an organization that helps people.  But I can’t help feeling like I’m becoming one of those development imperialists who live like the rich while helping the poor. 

When I was in Laos a few years ago all the UN workers parked their badass 4-wheel drives outside the nicest restaraunt in town and lived in the old French colonial mansions.  I snottily looked down on them, but it looks like I’m turning into them.

I’m very uncomfortable with it.  I feel much more at home in rickshaws, eating at darbars, not being saluted by a doorman, not having a doorman, etc.  Hopefully I don’t get too used to this pampering.  It definitely doesn’t feel like I’m in a poor country.


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