Thursday, November 29, 2007

Careers, Wardens, Gestalt & Random Acts of Kindness

Now, as for me & my career... it's been a funny day as funny days go...

I finally got my two month UNDP contract extension letter today (backdated to early November) good until the end of December. So far so good. But the best part was that
I received a raise that was unexpected since my supervisor, as far as I knew, hadn't done my annual appraisal yet -- even though I'd sent him a few gentle reminders the past month.

Still, there was a new salary: significantly more than my first year's Association of Limited Duration (ALD) contract salary! Mira, the wonderful woman who keeps us sane here in our office, brought it to me and I was, to say the least, surprised -- since I really wasn't expecting anything more than I'd been earning last year. "This is odd.", I told her since I didn't think my performance evaluation had been done.

Maybe it was one of those random acts of kindness our friend, Donna-Christine in Santa Barbara is writing a book about. Someone appreciated the isolation and, at times, loneliness of my work here in the National Human Rights Commission last year, with no Commissioners appointed for 15 months, the savage internal staff politics within the Commission, and the complex human rights environment outside.

As one wag said before I joined last year, knowing that I was coming from a first career with Save the Children, "Oh, child rights is like child's play compared to human rights!"

Hmmm... I thought, what exactly did Ben mean?!!? But, I certainly found out. Human rights work is seriously more political than my previous experience in community development work -- especially in a conflict or post-conflict scenario, like Nepal, where the right to life, abductions, disappearances, torture and killing are the tapsestry of our work.

Not to mention the inevitable clashes of the fragile human ego where select individuals prominence and reputations in the public arena and cloistered world of human rights depends, at times, on who participates on what fact-finding mission or has access to the media to raise their profile or is aligned to which political party or faction. Novels could be written about such situations, not to mention a few film-noire dramas set in the dark, cynical and tempermental world of human rights and wrongs...

"Rick, Rick, you must save me...", as Peter Lorre pleaded with Humphrey Bogart in the near-perfect screenplay of "Casablanca" as the Gestapo or Vichy authorities were about to arrest him for the murder of two Nazi officials in North Africa.

But, personally, I cannot complain to the g-ds or higher authorities. I feel fortunate to be engaged in this work, especially on behalf of the more disadvantaged communities in Nepal, those whose rights have been consistently violated by all forms of government and leadership. I can't claim that the Commission can achieve alot. We have our voice and our investigative powers, but results are rarer without a government that is willing to meet its verbal and written commitments.

Nor, did most of us come into this business for the $$, even as I've seen my salary grow beyond my earlier anticipation. But, it's an odd world, with values and incomes and public respect not always aligned. We each simply do our best in the situation we find ourselves. Not racing for money, rather simply ever-searching for meaning. The lifelong quest of a philosophy major with a spiritual bent... in a very spiritually bent world...

Still, middle age is a funny old world, one one quite never expects to inhabit, with our two big & lovely teenage boys off to $40k/year colleges soon enough, and adorable Ms. Leah Prajna Rose only in 1st Grade, I think I'd be wise to carefully lock away a few paychecks for those rainy days... and keep plugging away amid the day-to-day mirages and hopes of human rights & wrongs...

Yet, on some days the rain comes in torrents...

Later today I received a call from the UN Security folks about my living location and the fact that I'm not near any other UN staff. Duh? Who else wud be foolish enough to commute 1/2 way across the densely polluted and congested Kathmandu Valley five days/week??!! Especially given how fearsome the crush of motorcyles, bicycles, busses, taxis, cars and ubiquitous SUVs have become in the heart of the city.

Because I'm so far out (thank-you!), Shreesti said that I may have to become my own warden for Budhanilkantha. "Ok," I said, "whatever..."

Then, she sent me an email congratulating me on becoming a warden. When I read my warden appointment letter, it noted that I will receive one day of leave compensation for every two months given these extra responsibilities. Basically, another week/year! For what exactly? Being on a radio call at 7:30 am on Mondays, attending a monthly meeting and talking to myself about my security.

Sounds, like so much in the UN system, well, ahem, reasonable... ;-)

And with those highlights of this week, I'm going to find Dr. Ed, my Vermont psychiatrist/artist/searcher friend for a drink at the Maya Pub in Thamel. Shaks is working late b/c she has a South Asia fashion show in Delhi on Dec. 5th whichI'll try to fly down w/ Leah & Ez for the w/end. Not to mention, she seems a bit frazzled by expanding Xmas orders from Germany.

Then, we'll head home to find our lovely daughter and I'll spend all day Saturday puttering around the back garden pondering my future life choices, with reassurance, I hope, that my career options won't dissolve anytime soon...

I guess I do enjoy the gestalt... ;-)

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