Sunday, March 13, 2011

That Was Then, This Is Now

Today is a stunning spring day in Washington, but I am not enjoying it as much as I ought to be because there was an earthquake in Japan.

Until last summer I worked in USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). Catastrophes were my job. And even now nothing sets off alarm bells and trumpet calls in my head quite like the word "earthquake." I took my turn working on the Haiti earthquake response last year - 12 hour days, 7 days a week for a month. I made spreadsheets and took meeting notes and wrote memos and talking points, so it's not like I can take any personal credit for anything good that happened in Haiti after the quake, but I still felt like I had made a contribution.

Nowadays earthquakes are not my job. My job is to sit in a classroom five days a week and learn how to be a consular officer. So when things like this happen I can't really do much more than watch the footage and send in some money (Cash is best!), like all the other people in the world in non-disaster-related professions. I miss feeling like I did something good for humanity. On the other hand, my friends at OFDA aren't enjoying this perfect spring day either because they're hard at work saving lives, alleviating human suffering, and so forth, and doing a fantastic job as always I'm sure. They get to be awash with happy do-good feelings but they'd probably really like to have a weekend as well.

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