Friday, December 25, 2009

Everywhere but home

If I'm writing about everywhere but home, everywhere is anywhere at the moment.

What makes a place a home? Is it where you lay your head? Eat your meals? Feel safe?  Where you miss when you aren't there? Where people miss you? For many people all of those are different places. The more places you go, the more places, people and moments you have to fall in love with, and the more you have to miss. But what is longing? Is it merely a yearning for the past or hopefulness for the future?

And so I'm off on a new adventure, moving from the East to the West coast. Packing up and shipping off and seeing what's between here and eastern California.

Some people believe in soul mates, I believe in places you're meant for and places that are meant for you. There are people you meet who you feel like you've known your whole life. There are places you find that feel like you've returned after an odyssey. I'm still looking for mine. I've lived many places I've loved, but my perfect place feels just out of reach. Maybe I'll find it. Or maybe I've been moving and traveling and wandering long enough that the idea of my place is my home.  Maybe it's in my blood, and maybe that itch that I get after being in one place for a few months or years isn't going to go away. And rather than ignore it, the thing to do is scratch the itch and love the journey.

Merry Christmas and happy trails

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Archives: Alaska

Where to start with the archives? Why not from somewhere near the beginning of the adventures? I'm not sure where I contracted wanderlust, but it's quite possible it's genetic.

Before my sister and I were born my parents agreed that when we moved from 5th to 6th grade we would get to go on a trip to a place of our choosing with the parent of the same gender. The reasoning was that teenagers often have trouble getting along with their parent of the same gender, so the trip might help head off some of the problems. Unfortunately for my dad, they had two daughters.  My sister headed to Hawaii with my mum while my dad and I drove up to Montreal through Acadia on mini vacation of our own.

Then my turn arrived, first I considered Greece, but ended up settling on Alaska. We arrived in Whitehorse in the Yukon in the summer so the hours of darkness were few and far between.  After a quick stop at the Dairy Queen, a family tradition, and settled in for a night before taking off. The next morning we started off on a white water rafting trip down the Tatenshini River, from the Yukon into Alaska.

There were about 8 of us on the trip, along with two guides, one of whom was the second woman ever to scale Everest.  There were also two French Canadians working at an oil site in Alaska and a couple other people, but I was the only person under 30.  Although I was only 11, I was already tall and excited about getting to paddle through the rapids. Unfortunately they didn't expect me to be able to help, and only brought enough paddles for the adults. While this might sound like a godsend, where I could just sit on top of the luggage and take in the breathtaking cliffs and be in charge of spotting bears, as the rain began my mum and I realized it might be a problem. It started raining on our second day and never let up for an entire day until the end of the trip.  Sitting still in the rain, I began to shiver, and just got colder and colder as the days went by. The trip was exciting, the rapids were powerful and the scenery was incredible, but the longer I sat still the closer I got to hypothermia. Eventually I could barely get myself off the raft, and when the guides tried to get me to run up and down the beach to warm up I was just too tired.

One night we camped inside a dried up river bed after a full day of paddling and darkness slowly arriving. I was filled up with chocolate and tucked inside a sleeping bag in a tent while everyone else cooked dinner. I slowly began to warm up, but then I heard worried shouts. The rain was starting again and running down the river bed into our camp. It was too late to move so everyone started building walls out of rocks and sand to keep the water away. As I lay in my tent still cold but slowly recovering, listening to everyone hurriedly working together to save our campsite, I remember being glad I had come. Because although it wasn't quite what I'd signed up for, with the cold and the rain, the baby grizzlies and the cliffs and jumping into an Alaskan river to a very quick bath and hearing stories from all the interesting people I'd met was certainly above and beyond the average 5th or 6th grade experience.

I haven't been North of Vancouver since then, but am absolutely planning to go back. With a warmer coat and a paddle of course.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Back in the East

So it's been a week and some days, my jet lag is finally gone, my report (or most of it at least) has been turned in.  Although I miss the warm days and bustling streets of Aceh, and the food and people for sure, it's always good to be back in the states. You can't go wrong with abundant skim milk and being able to open your mouth in the shower. Probably not something most people think about, but try taking a shower and never letting a single drop of water get in your mouth. Really hard when doing things like rinsing your face while breathing out of your nose...

Now I'm in the great state of Massachusetts for about a month until the next adventure begins. I'm working with members of the Indonesia research team to get our report, as well as the reports from India and Sri Lanka, ready for their first submission. Hopefully the back and forth process between us and the NGO that hired us won't be too long. Who would have thought that you could request changes in an independent evaluation you commissioned... apparently that's the case though. I'm determined to stick with what we've found and I think everyone else is too. Whether the study gets publicly published is a different question, depends what the all knowing board that's based in the US thinks I guess.

Now on to a bit of a new stage with the blog, I'm going to start a stage called "The Archives".  These will be stories from escapades in the past, for the sake of documentation and entertainment. And of course, on my life list is publishing a book of travel short stories, so I figure this is a lovely place to start. Suggestions from readers are more than welcome if you've got an adventure in mind. If anyone would like to be taken off the email list just let me know, you can always check out the blog at if you don't want to get an email each time I post. I'm aiming for once a week. That's all for now, happy travels.

Here's a rainstorm running into Pulau Weh Island (Sabang) off the north coast of Aceh.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Syariah Bank

I arrived in Jakarta yesterday, flight one of my four flights home. I'm spending the night here because there are no early morning flights out of Banda Aceh. My Canadian/Indonesian friend (mentioned in earlier posts) insisted on making me a reservation at the hotel that is part of the corporation that his brother used to work for. Quite a good example of a part of Indonesian culture, once you make friends, they always know someone who can get you or sell you what you need and are happy to help. So not only did he make me a reservation at this fancy hotel, and get me his rate so I'm paying about 1/4 of the price, he also had his brother pick me up from the airport. Given how far outside the city the airport is, and how much traffic there was, it was a big favor. In the car on the hour and a half drive to the hotel, I first made pleasant conversation. Asking about his family, how his retirement was going, if it's always rainy in Jakarta, basically New England-esque pleasantries.  But then my curious streak kicked in. He mentioned that he had never been to Aceh although he had lived in Indonesia all his life.  I asked what people in Jakarta thought of Syariah (Sharia) law.

Granted it was a bit of a non-sequitur. He said oh yes yes we have them here too. Confused I asked again, and soon realized he meant Syariah Bank, Islamic banking. This is actually a good example of how pervasive religion is in all sectors here. Similarly to the United States where you can invest in mutual funds that adhere to Christian values, Syariah Banks are described to be more community focused, allowing greater participation and with a greater focus on the common good.  When I explained I meant Syariah law, he said "Oh, we don't like that".

The explanations I've heard about the reasons for Syariah law in Aceh province are quite varied, depending on who you ask. Aceh gained a good deal of autonomy after the 2005 MOU between GAM (Free Aceh Movement) and the Government of Indonesia. Some people say that Syariah law is Aceh's attempt to distinguish itself from the national government. That the motivations are more political than religious. This comes from non-Acehnese and international people I've met.  On the other hand, I've met Acehnese who say that Syariah was forced on Aceh by Jakarta, something like a pacifier. Aceh asked the central government for support, and Jakarta sent along Syariah to quiet them down. Check out the link to a New York Times article to the right if you'd like to read an article from the first perspective.

Day to day, I'm not the person to speak on what Syariah means, especially to women. It only applies to Muslims, and after the influx of ex-pats after the tsunami people are generally very tolerant of westerners, although dressing conservatively and being aware of customs helps.  Generally speaking women cover their heads, but young women often wear tight trendy clothes, but always with legs and at least 1/2 of arms covered. There is a Syariah police, I never met them, but they can reprimand, fine and even imprison people for not following the religious laws. But given that outward expression of those laws can only be seen on women's bodies (there is no dress code for men), it stands to reason that they will be the ones punished, except for those eating or not attending mosque on Fridays.

Then comes the bigger question. The Syariah law here is expanding. Several people have told me that it will never be enforced. But having a law on the books that says a woman must be stoned to death if she is convicted of adultery doesn't bode well. The New York Times article describes members of parliament who disagreed with the law, but didn't vote against it for fear of being called infidels. Regardless of whether these laws are being implemented to force the population to follow the word of the Koran or to cement political power with the religious conservatives, some day a woman will be caught in a very public case of adultery, it's bound to happen. Given that no one spoke up when the law was passed, who will speak up as the preparations for a public stoning begin?

 "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing." - Edward Burke

And in case you were wondering, no, men don't get stoned for adultery.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Please sir... can I have some more?

What's an orphanage for?

It's not something to which  I, or most Americans I'd say, really give much thought.  I even took a look at the one orphanage I know by name, The Home for Little Wanderers. According to the interweb it's not actually an orphanage, but more like a group home.  This is the shift that has taken place in America. A place where children go without their parents is a group home. Most often they go there because the State has decided their parents are not fit to care for them, or on rare occasions they are in fact orphans, and have no extended family able or willing to care for them, so again, the State steps in.  However, if you decide you can't care for your children. What happens? What should happen?

Here in Aceh (I can't speak for all of Indonesia), orphanages are called Panti Asuans. They are often, though not always, associated with Dayahs, which are Islamic boarding schools. I've been to two orphanages so far, as well as have read many reports about an program that took place at and around them, which is part of the evaluation I'm doing. I was utterly surprised when I heard that approximately 80-90% of children in the Panti have at least one parent, many have two. These children are not orphans in the classic sense, only 10% or less are. On one hand surprising given the 30 year civil war plus the tsunami. So what are children with parents doing in an orphanage? Essentially sometimes parents of children from poor families feel that they can't care for their children, in particular they can't afford to send them to school. So they send them to the Panti, thinking that at least that way they will be able to graduate from primary school, many junior high school too. However, the conditions in the Pantis aren't always better than living at home in a poor family. The education is important, but as we've all read, orphanages and group homes are rife with opportunities for abuse and neglect. And with hundreds of children and few staff, and underfunding, it's next to impossible that children will get the attention and care they need.

So what do we take away from this? That in Indonesia parents send their children away in hopes of giving them a better life, whereas in America they are taken after the neglect has occurred? Or that in Indonesia some families have more children than they can care for and give them away to (often religious) institutions, whereas in America the foster system is flawed but functioning.

The goal of the program being evaluated is to discourage families from sending children to orphanages, giving livelihood support to parents to help prevent it and hopefully bring children already in the orphanage back home, as well as to facilitate visits and environmental and hygiene education in the panti. Whether the livelihood support essentially pays families for sending their children to an orphanage has been debated, and whether giving brooms to children so they can sweep up the institution gives a false sense of improvement. But changing the cultural norm of sending children to institutions, assuming they receive better care outside of the family, and discouraging the government from funding Pantis per child, thus encouraging increased enrollment, is all part of the puzzle.

Appropriate care of children is a sensitive issue everywhere, but more importantly, the care of children is a critical issue for parents and caregivers in Pantis alike, because if nothing else, everyone involved seems to truly believe they're doing what is in the best interest of the children.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Best Laugh in a While

Here's the joke of the day. Things to keep in mind when reading... Aceh province has Sharia law, head scarves are mandatory for women, they just passed a stoning law to punish female adulterers, I believe men get jail and a fine. ( So R1 and R2 are about 40, married, kids, very smart, but not so up on current things. R3 is 25 and not married (relatively unusual), owns a couple stores and loves American pop music.

R1 and R2 both dropped their cell phones today, breaking them a bit.

Me: I'm always on the lookout for an unbreakable phone, the one I have right now has a rubber case so it doesn't matter that I drop it all the time.
R3: (starts singing Unbreakable)
Me: You do love pop music don't you
R3: I think everyone wants an unbreakable relationship. Ha ha! To make your relationship unbreakable you also need rubbers, just like your phone!

R3 and I laugh, the other two are confused.
R3: (points to them and says) they don't know about any of that.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What's it to you?

I consider myself an american, with some canadian mixed in, but i've often wondered where, or if, american/north american culture really resides.  It's easy to look at what's around you and see a lack of culture, compared to what appears to be the very rich culture of other groups, like recent immigrants for example, who often make a great effort to preserve (or occasionally reject) their own culture. So here's a list of things that Aceh has made me realize are part of American culture, aside from the obvious ethic and religious differences. More exciting posts to come, but after a long day of car rides and still not speaking Bahasa a list is seeming like a best option.

1. Using a fork and knife to eat, occasionally a spoon. Here hand (only the right one) are choice #1, only a spoon is choice #2.
2. A firm grip with your handshake. Here you touch fingers as women, loose grip as or with men, then touch your heart. Quite a nice gesture when you think about it.
3. Shoes, in the US you take them off when asked. Here you take then off whenever you go inside essentially, including into a health clinic or a gym or school.
4. Passing in front of people. You might apologize in America. Here you crouch a bit and gesture down with your hand as you scurry by, it looks truly apologetic to be interrupting.
5. Toilets. Sitting down and toilet paper in the US. Here everything from a squatting situation to literally peeing on the floor (sorry to be graphic) then you wash it and yourself with a bucket of water from a standing reservoir, out a drain in the back if it was the floor. You roll your pants up to your knees before you do any of this. Flip flops are (sometimes) provided, sometimes not.
6. Paying. In the US it's a negotiation, either you split it or one person pays. Here it seems to be a hard and fast rule that one person pays. Who pays rotates. This made giving out per diem a bit difficult at first, but we figured it out.
7. Sitting. In the US it's generally chairs. Here it's chairs if you're in an office or school, but it's a mat (handwoven often) if you're in a village or mosque.
8. Driving. Other than being on the other side of the road, signals are used entirely differently. For instance going through an intersection on a red light seems okay if you have your hazards on, but I've heard this is just lack of enforcement.
9. Gender relations. Other than the headscarf, sharia law issues, which are currently "under investigation" by yours truly, the amount of personal space is different, although I suppose that's to be expected. Traditional men will not shake my hand, it took weeks to get anyone on my team to sit next to me at lunch, and only the young "rebellious" survey does it regularly. Same at meetings, seating arrangements are by gender to try as much as possible to avoid seating opposite genders together, although this is sometimes not done.
10. Visiting. In the US someone will often offer you a drink if you visit them at their home or office. Here drinks just appear, from mini-fridges and desks and under tables. First come what look like plastic cups of water with seals, which you poke through with a mini straw, then super sweet coffee or tea may come, or if you're in the whole country a whole coconut and a straw or even some cake if they knew you were coming.

That's all for now, I'm open to additions!  I head back to the states on Nov 20th, see everyone then!

Friday, November 6, 2009


I've been spending 10-12 hours a day with three Acehnese who are part of our research team. Through our research we've gone through areas where there was intense damage from the tsunami, as well as damage from the 30 year conflict that ended soon after the tsunami. Very simply, the conflict was between the Indonesian government (GoI) and The Free Aceh Movement (GAM), Gam wanted Aceh to be free from Indonesia, and the government disagreed. Depending on who you ask the conflict had political, religious, cultural and/or economic motives. After the peace agreement was signed in 2005, Aceh was given a good deal of autonomy and former GAM leaders and combatants were elected to local government. For many, though not all, people, GAM members are still local heroes. I went to a cafe run by an ex-combatant and the walls were covered with pictures of him in uniform holding a Kalishnikov rifle. I've sat with mayors who were leaders and members of farming cooperatives who were soldiers.  However, the years of violence and even longer history of tensions hasn't been forgotten, but on the other hand it seems like communities and people who were affected by the conflict are trying to move forward, while holding onto their loyalty to what is now Partai Aceh (political party of GAM). Here's a story I heard more than once over the course of the week with new details being added each time, and from several different people (general gist from a bule (westerner) details from team members).

A while ago, after the peace agreement had been signed, the organization that hired my research team was working in a rural area of Aceh Utara, where the former center of GAM activity was based. This organization hired a new security director who saw it fit to hire security to send to the schools in the former GAM area. He claimed that this security was to protect the school children. However the villagers were suspicious and questioned the security officers. They found ID cards in their bags that identified them as members of the GoI military, then they found disassembled guns. The security officers claimed innocence, saying the guns were broken. While the "security officers", now identified as GoI soldiers (TNI), were tied to a tree, ex-combatants reassembled the guns and shot them into the air. A driver who is still with the organization was my driver this day and he talked about how he was also tied to a tree because he had driven the security to the village, not knowing they were TNI. So with evidence of foul play in hand and soldiers tied to trees, the villagers went to the government with proof that the military was trying to spy on them.
It was later found out that the head of security was in fact high up in the Indonesian military.

A terrible mistake by the organization that could potentially have restarted the conflict. Yet somehow these same villagers, including ex-combatants, spent upwards of an hour telling us how much the organization had helped and how all they really wanted was to earn a living and help the school. They started a farmers' cooperative and 10% of all profits go to the elementary school. Amazing.

Next time... more about GAM, TNI and where Exxon Mobile fits in...

Check out this link for a preview

JFK the farmer

Just a quick story, we were talking about famous people and got onto the Kennedys...

Indonesian PhD student: I like to know, why are the Kennedys always get killed and die?

Me: Well I'm not really sure, I don't think there's just one reason...

PhD Student: You know what we are thinking? We are thinking the Kennedys, when the Europeans come to take land in America, they are take a lot of land and have big agriculture. So this is why they are rich and people want to take their land now and kill them.

Me: You know, I'm not sure the Kennedys are the farming type of people...


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Just a little update

Ever have that feeling where whatever you do at work is the last thing you want to do when you go home at night? If you're in school it might be reading? If you work in an office it might be working on  the computer. Well for me home is hotels at the moment and work is anything involving reading and writing, really trying to keep track of anything, so forgive the lack of posts, I'll see what I can do about picking it up.

So let' see, I left the states a little over 2 weeks ago now and things have been moving along quite well. This week the research team  (3 national consultants) and I headed to Bireuen, which is about 4 hours away from Banda Aceh, where I'm based. We got to go out to villages, talk to people there about the programs and hear about the changes that have occurred since the tsunami. Many of the villages in Bireuen were actually far enough inland so they weren't affected, but 30 years of conflict leading up to the peace agreement that was signed after the tsunami left their communities in almost equivalent ruin, with schools and health centers burned and communities afraid to send their children to school and the like. I'm amazed by how much progress has been made, and by the fact that a severe natural disaster managed to bring an end to such a long civil war. From what I've heard, after so much devastation from the tsunami, neither side could go on the way they had and a peace agreement that gave Aceh a relative degree of autonomy was arranged. Given all the classes and degrees and theories about how peace is brokered, what does Aceh tell us? It doesn't necessarily tell us that those things don't work, but rather than sometimes it takes something shocking and out of the ordinary for fighting groups to stop and agree to peace. It seems like real lasting peace is so hard to achieve, that it's really a wonder that it appears to have succeeded here.

So back to it then. Village visits have been fun, but a bit trying at times because I don't speak Bahasa (Indonesian) or Acehnese (local language) so I try to participate, but also spend a lot of time looking at pades and watching people harvest rice, and trying to find shade to hide in.  The work is coming along well, although it's a lot to wrap my head around. But one of the senior researchers is here now and he's a very big picture guy so it's great to see what he thinks of all the community ranking exercises and interviews we've done.  So back to the field for a week tomorrow, off to Lhoeksamawe and Aceh Utara and I'll be back to Banda Aceh (and maybe heading to Sebang over the weekend!).  It's about 5-6 hours to get out there so I'll have some deep thoughts for my next post. Hope everyone's having a great Halloween and thanks for staying in touch!

Friday, October 23, 2009

welcome to the jungle

I wonder if it's a coincidence that it snowed in the Northeast right after I left for Indonesia?  Well according to Master Shifu there are no coincidences, so we'll go with no.  The landscape here is absolutely beautiful and it feels like a jungle even when it's urban, a bit of that is the heat and humidity, but part of it is all the palm trees and the roads lined with stands full of tropical fruit!

So I made it here after long hours of traveling and watching more moves and tv shows than I can count. I've managed to make quite a few fast friends on the way which has been helpful and hopefully forecasts a very nice trip. A friend on the plane from the US had his driver bring me to another terminal where my plane was to leave from so I'd make it on time. Sadly said airline lost my reservation and I stayed the night in Jakarta, but the effort was appreciated. I also made a friend at the place I am staying who offered to take me out to dinner last night. He was here for four years after the tsunami and said he'd want someone to look after his daughter who is my age if she was here. So did he take me for sate or noodles or Padang or Aceh food? Nope! Pizza and beer! (Medium pizza, $4, 1 can of beer $4) Who knew it could be found here. Apparently the owner, who is originally from Aceh, was living in Italy at the time of the tsunami and decided to come back and try to help get businesses started again. Now he's got a pizza place, a bungalow for guests, a fish farm and is starting a surf school soon. It was a delicious evening and through talking to Robby, who works in microfinance, and a couple other ex-pats in the restaurant I got a very interesting take on what's going on here.

Apparently the organization that hired my consulting firm is among many that are shutting down the majority of their operations, given that it's now five years after the tsunami and the emergency and even redevelopment phases are now winding down.  But it seems that millions of dollars when unspent and all this money has been turned over to the World Bank, who is now sub-granting out to organizations doing finance and economy related projects, both micro and macro, in order to continue building and growing the economy here. Aside from any prejudices I or anyone have about the World Bank, it's an innovative solution to a brand new problem. More money for aid and development than everyone knew what to do with.

So back to my work, for now I'm working with a team of national staff to interview staff from the organization as well as members of the government and other NGOs to get at their thoughts and perceptions of the work and it's successes and failures. Then the plan is to head out to the field on Tuesday and start gathering data through interviews, surveys and focus groups.  The countryside is supposed to be beautiful, so I'll be posting lots of pictures soon. But here's a picture of the Grand Mosque, which is absolutely on my itinerary for this weekend.

Take care and keep warm!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Get ready... get set...

One of my professors' favorite, or maybe just most used, descriptions of emergency response work is that rather than "get ready, get set, go" it's more like "go, get ready, get set". You're off the starting block before you have any chance to prepare, because that's the essence of an emergency. You can do your best with emergency preparedness, but to a large extent you will always be somewhat unprepared.  And so off I go to Indonesia. For those of you who've been asking, I'm working on a project assessing a major NGOs 5 year long tsunami response program, which is in the process of winding up. We're evaluating whether their outcomes match their objectives, whether the money was spent well and whether it was effective at causing change. I'll update more about what I'm doing as I do, but for now I'm working on reviewing program documents starting in 2004 before the tsunami and designing data collection tools, quite the task!

I'm leaving NYC on Thursday morning (and am off to Indonesia on Saturday) and I'm almost surprised by how nostalgic the idea of moving away has made me. Since I moved here in 2006, from living in the Bronx to Washington Heights to Harlem and all the rats and late night reggaeton I've heard in between, I've always know New York wasn't the city for me. I love the range of things to do, places to eat and people to meet, but I'm more of an open spaces person I think. But above all, leaving has reminded me how many great people I've met here and I'm glad I'm going to be able to come back in December to finish out my work and see everyone again, and definitely go ice skating. I went out to dinner with a friend tonight (pupusas!) and he asked me what I regretted not doing here. After I made a list of things like apple picking, ice skating and kayaking, he pointed out that they were all things that could be done other places. So as much as I'll miss it here, I'm at go, here's hoping I'm ready and set.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

On the Road Again

Just a little update/warning to everyone subscribed that this blog is going to be back in action, for the time being at least.  Some of you are on an email list so you get emails every time I update, I thought I would give you fair warning before you get barraged with updates. New news to some and old news to others, I'm heading to Indonesia in a bit, leaving 3 weeks from yesterday.  I'm working for a small private consulting firm/NGO until the beginning of December. I'm working on a final evaluation of the tsunami response programs implemented by an INGO (international non-governmental organization), and I'm working on a literature/desk review for about a month from home, and will then be in Banda Aceh, Indonesia for about 5 weeks collecting data and then contributing to the final report.  Banda Aceh is in Northern Sumatra and is run relatively independently of the rest of Indonesia, operating under Sharia law. To the right there's a link to news updates about Banda Aceh if you'd like to learn more. I'll give more updates as I have them, but thought I'd get back into the habit of blogging now. Below you'll find a poem I stumbled across that describes one side of NGO development work and it struck me as quite accurate (in some but not all development situations). Enjoy, happy fall, and thanks for reading.

The Development Set, by Ross Coggins

Excuse me, friends, I must catch my jet
I'm off to join the Development Set;
My bags are packed, and I've had all my shots
I have traveller's checks and pills for the trots!

The Development Set is bright and noble
Our thoughts are deep and our vision global;
Although we move with the better classes
Our thoughts are always with the masses.

In Sheraton Hotels in scattered nations
We damn multi-national corporations;
injustice seems easy to protest
In such seething hotbeds of social rest.

We discuss malnutrition over steaks
And plan hunger talks during coffee breaks.
Whether Asian floods or African drought,
We face each issue with open mouth.

We bring in consultants whose circumlocution
Raises difficulties for every solution --
Thus guaranteeing continued good eating
By showing the need for another meeting.

The language of the Development Set
Stretches the English alphabet;
We use swell words like "epigenetic"
"Micro", "macro", and "logarithmetic"

It pleasures us to be esoteric --
It's so intellectually atmospheric!
And although establishments may be unmoved,
Our vocabularies are much improved.

When the talk gets deep and you're feeling numb,
You can keep your shame to a minimum:
To show that you, too, are intelligent
Smugly ask, "Is it really development?"

Or say, "That's fine in practice, but don't you see:
It doesn't work out in theory!"
A few may find this incomprehensible,
But most will admire you as deep and sensible.

Development set homes are extremely chic,
Full of carvings, curios, and draped with batik.
Eye-level photographs subtly assure
That your host is at home with the great and the poor.

Enough of these verses - on with the mission!
Our task is as broad as the human condition!
Just pray god the biblical promise is true:
The poor ye shall always have with you.

Ross Coggins
"Adult Education and Development" September 1976