CardStories: A gift of live chickens and a stalk of plantains

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I was a Peace Corps volunteer and had recently moved to post. My market was an hour away so I would go into town in the morning to give myself plenty of time to shop and walk back before it got too hot. One day, after buying my normal weekly provisions, I stopped to buy a pineapple from a woman with two toddlers sleeping at her feet. I asked if her kids were twins, which are sacred in my country of service, and she nodded. I pulled out a photo of me and my twin and she got so excited that she started yelling to everyone around us, “The foreigner is a twin!” While I answered her questions about my sister and ate the pineapple she gave me for free just for being a twin, more gifts from who-knows-where piled up at my feet. I wasn’t quite sure what was happening, but among other random items, I ended up with a stalk of plantains three feet tall and two live chickens.

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CardStories: Bicycle-powered water pumps pedaled by malnourished 8-year-olds

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This card idea was inspired by Stop Trying to Save the World: Big ideas are destroying international development. As JadedAid cards attest, snark and dark humor are two ways many of us cope, especially when it comes to that great new idea from a donor or a top leader who just went to that high-level “innovation” meeting.

The thing is, it’s rarely the idea that’s the problem. The problem is the human tendency to fixate on the idea as the only solution, the solution that will solve all the problems, if it is done just so like was done in India/Uganda/Vietnam, but since we don’t have infinite funds, well, guess we’ll need to cut this other project…

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CardStories: To the Surprise of Funders, Joseph Mbuntu…

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When I was sitting there trying to come up with JadedAid cards, I immediately thought of GiveDirectly. Superficially, it would be a lot of fun to think about what Joseph Mbuntu might buy when handed a wad of cash.  It also has a deeper element that draws out jaded-assumptions about the people we serve and the role of development – a perfect card for the deck! Continue reading CardStories: To the Surprise of Funders, Joseph Mbuntu…

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CardStories: Sexy UNHAS Flight Attendants

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I worked for USAID for seven years and got to travel to all over the place — and one of the things I liked the most was travel within or between countries. It was sometimes fun, sometimes scary (landing at Kandahar Airfield, for example), and always weird.

One time I was on a month-long deployment to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and for whatever reason I wasn’t allowed to use PIA, the Pakistani flag carrier, to fly between Islamabad and Kabul. Instead I was told to take UNHAS, the UN Humanitarian Air Service, which is run by the World Food Programme. UNHAS flies small, often propeller-driven planes and helicopters to ferry aid workers, UN officials, journalists and such around Afghanistan and between major UN sites in the region.

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CardStories: The eternal tension between prostitution and entrepreneurship

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Originally submitted as “The eternal struggle between prostitution and entrepreneurship.”

In my first posting overseas, one of the host country nationals in our IT shop worked a lot of late hours.  He’d happily stay in the office far into the evening. We were all impressed with his dedication to duty until we found out he was using the company’s reliable, high-bandwidth internet connection to download gigabytes of hardcore pornography, which he then burnt onto DVDs and sold in the local market.
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