The video above, sent to me by a friend, just about sums up the vast gap between idealistic development worker and tired expat. I’m already feeling it – starting off thinking you’ll not be like them, and soon needing (or thinking you need) to treat yourself to luxuries as a sort of reward for surviving the day.
The local staff at my office all live far away and travel for hours to get to the office – literally up to three hours if the traffic is really bad. We live in the rich area. No doubt I get paid much more than my (locally-employed) boss does.
I walk past people in the street selling newspapers or bananas and step into the enormous air-conditioned lobby of a 5-star hotel, and think how great it is that even here I can get a coffee for 2 euro.
I understand now when people say expats have a hard time adjusting to western life again – the driver, the cleaner, the instant access to the most luxurious parts of the city – you might look scruffy and caked in dust, but you’re white so they’re happy to have your custom – I can see how it could get a bit addictive.
How do I make sure I don’t get spoilt, become cynical? Is it inevitable? Will I find the right balance between spending time with expats, with Africans, and on my own?