It has only been three and half months that I have been here and already I am considering leaving Dacaar early. It is not that it has been a bad experience, I met nice people, got to know a beautiful country, even learnt a lot of computer skills during my spare time, etc. etc. If it wasn’t for the work, which is tedious and boring, I would probably stay. But what am I achieving here? Nothing. I came here, at least in part, to help, and I don’t even feel I am a good worker. More importantly, I came here to be part of an organization I value. DACAAR is a great NGO, but one thing they are not good at (euphemism), is internal communication. I hear through the grapevine about important policy decisions. I would like to be better informed, to feel I am part of it. If it is just a matter of doing a boring computer job, I can do that anywhere, have hot water and electricity and even get paid real money for it (not that I care). Clearly, that’s not why I came here.
We are under high alert, at the moment (fear of possible riots in the next couple of days) and that might slightly affect my judgment as well.
Some things get clearer when you are away from “home.” It has become clear to me that I value a lot my residency in the US, hence my readiness to swap my EU citizenship for a US passport (although I do feel European - not Belgian though). I still intend to travel, but as I said, the US is the place I’ll be back to in between. Additionally, I have had to think about what I’ll do next. I don’t know if I will stay in New Mexico. I might, but I am not sure. For one thing, the job market is very small and I don’t know if I would find a position easily, especially considering I don’t really want to work for the Department of Defense or the labs (and I couldn’t anyway, I am not eligible for a security clearance).
This has led me to think about what I value in a place to live. To my surprise, on top of my list was nature. This is one thing I love about New Mexico. I would like to live in a beautiful place that has national parks and plenty of hiking/cycling opportunity within driving distance. There are some nice picnic spots around here, but no place where one can hike without fearing of having one’s legs blown off. I have been looking at the US state by state. I have only visited a few (seven) states, which makes things difficult. Alaska would be nice but I wouldn’t stand the winter and there aren’t any jobs. Hawaii would be lovely but they have quarantine for dogs, etc. etc. Currently, I am thinking that Southern California might be a good place. There are plenty of openings and possibly the highest concentration of national parks in the whole country. The proximity of the ocean is also a bonus and it is not too far (it is relative) from New Mexico. Rent might be an issue though. At any rate, I will be looking at short to medium term contract opportunities at first. After a while, I would like to travel again. There is an organization (geekcorps.org) that dispatches techies to Africa on short term assignments and I might try to go with them.
Once I get my turn-by-turn homemade navigation system of Kabul working, I will also try to meet with aims'folks (a UN organization that does a lot of cartography, GIS work, etc.), they are bound to be interested and they might have some ideas for me.
I have really liked the people I have been working with both here and in New Mexico. I can only hope to be that lucky in my next job.