What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The World Bank

So I had the interview with the World Bank today. Took the bus down to DC from NYC in the morning, met an old friend for lunch and then hit the interview.  Headed back now on the bus.  Bottom line is that I don't know that I could pass up this opportunity, but that I don't really want to go, nor do I know that I am actually the right person for this job.  But I suppose I should start at the beginning of the interview. 

It was myself and two other guys. We hit it off right off the bat. Immediately developing a report. It turns out that I was pretty much hand picked out of the stack of resumes. This project in Kenya has apparently been having a problem in relation to the government. Apparently they usually take people for these positions that are phd students in economics that can just come in and do the research. This position in Kenya is apparently different though, and they want someone a little older with management experience and the capacity to either demand or garner respect more readily both through demeanor and experience. They seemed to think I was an ideal fit for this on paper, and expressed mid-way through the interview that I seemed just right for it.... then... they started asking the technical research based quantitative questions.

Basically, the job itself would be to oversee a huge operation. I would be overseeing the entire field assessment project for to educational programs in this region of Kenya and all of the data collection. Over 50 schools for just one of the two programs and a research company with a team of some 50 plus people, and several local personnel directly working with me on the local environment and cultural aspects of the study. Then additional, I would be working directly with the Kenyan government, the World Bank, their implementation team, local universities, researchers in the US, and who knows whatever else.

This project has also been going on for 4 years and has yet to have an impact assessment due to these issues they seem to be facing with the Kenyan Government. My roll would be to be able to come in and "play hardball” and get this thing done.  I actually kind of think this may be a great thing for me managerially and in terms of my interpersonal skills and ability to softly be assertive, but it also begs the question "why?"  Why do you need to play hardball with the Kenyan government?  This needs a lot more research and assessment.  Also, while I am managing all of these people, I would still have to be setting up and running a data collection operation using quantitative skills that I have not used in a number of years. I have spent most of my time working with qualitative methods and more culturally sensitive approaches. Listening to people rather than giving them questionnaires and codes. My job here would be to set up the questionnaires and finalize them. I would have local assets to help bring cultural relevance to the project. Most importantly though, I will be working on generating the sample sizes and and orchestrating their adherence, helping implement and design the entire research project. This is something that I have not done on this type of level.

I suppose I need more information as to what type of support structure I would have there to get this done before I could say that I felt comfortable that I could definitely succeed in this job. I of course believe that I can do anything. I can learn/refresh these research skills quickly and easily. I also think that they would be tremendously benefited by the other skills that I bring in research terms and my ability to think against the grain and outside the box. But ultimately, they need the data sets to be flawless. Can I guarantee this will happen? Can they be certain of this? This is the crux of it all and I'm not sure what they will think. But if they chose me, it is because they think that I am the best person for the job. I would have to take that as confidence in my capacity to make this research project happen. I know I could manage it. And I know I could be a part of designing and implementing the research design. However, if I am responsible for doing this on my own, then I would have to think about whether its the best thing for me.

There is of course another factor with this: the compensation. I was thinking that the World Bank would send you abroad with a solid support structure behind you. An expat type structure with housing, stipend, etc. Nope. They fly you there and put you in a hotel for a week or two while you find your own accommodation and get things set up there by yourself. Really? The World Bank?!?! And then they pay exactly the same as the admin assistant job I just interviewed for in NYC? $40-45?!!? Really?!? That project described above and the same pay to shuffle documents and flight itineraries for three executives? Yeah the cost of living is obviously different, but still, it's a temporary position that I don't even think now comes with benefits, insurance, a computer, whatever. I have a lot more questions about this. Is there an office? How do I set up a life, internet, communications, etc. You just want me to be able to drop myself down in Kenya and make shit happen at the high level that the World Bank requires? This can't be right. Any company I've ever known of any salt helps you get set up, or at least outsources it for you. Some assistance.  If is that's ll you get though, it truly must take one hell of a special breed of person to be able to do this in random and different countries in the world. I just don't think it can be right and goes against what I've heard about them in the industry.   There must at lest be someone there to help.

But that is to be seen I guess. When I am offered a job, I can start discussing that. But it is a discussion I will definitely be having if offered. Because if I have to set up my whole life there on my own from day one, jet lagged, unfamiliar, and with no support, their project is going to suffer. It is one thing to show up in Prague and figure it out, China, Sierra Leone, etc, when you don't have anything you have to get done that day. But there..... I step off the plane and its go time. Get the project up and running, while you look for a place to live and a life all with no help. Would be amazing. If I could do that, I could do anything.

For the Love of Unemployment!!

At the depths of my soul there is this warm and tender place where I really just wants to be loved and to love every single last person that I come across.  This is a difficult thing to bare.  There are lots of people out there and they all have their flaws and their amazing things that make them burst out of crowds.  We all have these things, we all are wonderful.  And I guess it is how we handle the fluctuations within ourselves and thus who we end up presenting to the world that makes us stand out to more people than not.  I must say that what the last couple years have done to me is to threaten some of what I bring to the table in terms of all things amazing. 

I am needier than I once was, and I think it hurts me daily.  But I don't think it is that I as a person have become more needy, just that my situation has created more of a need within me right now.  There aren't as many avenues today to feel love as there once was.  A wonderful person said to me the other night that me and my situation take up most all of the space in our conversations.  I didn't really know how to react.  I know this I suppose, and I know that I am spending so much time right now leaning on other people for support.  I need to talk, I need to stay positive, to have fun with others, even you could say to be distracted by the wonderfulness of people and their humanity.  And I don't mean that to belittle anyone as simply a distraction, but the point is that we all have things in our lives that provide us with supportive emotions, positive feelings and negative ones.  Finding a balance that allows us to function on a level of happiness that makes it worth soldering on with a smile is important.  I have had to rely on others too much for that, for too long of a time now. 

You know, when you're job is going well, you can manage personal strife.  When you're happy with your personal situation and take pleasure from it, a shitty job somehow seems half as bad.  Someone to go home to, friends to hang out with, things to do, whatever.  But when these other things are all sporadic elements of daily ups and down and don't provide much support, work seems worse, interesting things seem less interesting, and you start reaching out for more space.  Encroaching upon the world. 

I think this is where I am right now.  I have no job, I have a tenuous housing situation, and a good deal of personal turbulence.  It all forces me to lean on other people for emotional support. And people are something that the unemployed are not generally surrounded by all day.  For example: today was an absolute emotional roller coaster for no reason at all.  I woke up just fine, good thoughts for a positive day.  But then I went  to check on an application I submitted a while back for a position that I really liked: assistant to the democracy program at a research, legal, think tanky thing.  I was of course resoundingly shunned at the door.  They don't have time for that kind of in-person stuff, I'm only worth what I can put on a piece of paper after all.  Yeah, I could have bullshitted my way past the gatekeeper, faking knowledge of something or an appointment, but I'd like to think that my integrity won't give way to my desperation.  So I left not thinking much of it until I got on my bike and started feeling this physical reaction.  Was it anxiety, stress, despair, desperation?  Something surrounding all that most likely.  My throat was tensing up, my breath became a bit askew.  Why?  Why would some simple guy not alowing me the time of day mean so much?  Why would I react like that?  I called my mom, texted a friend. 

Then I pounded away on an application for another hiking store job.  This time a big chain that would probably pay me this time.  lol.  I've been waiting for openings there for months and finally.... there are 14!!  Yes, fourteen openings for sales floor people.  I'm golden I'm thinking!!  I get the application in and ride my not so shiny Schwinn right the hell down there and walk in the door to tell them exctly what I'm there to do. 
"I just applied 15 minutes ago, and I want to speak to a manager about it."  
I get sent downstairs to the next level of interrogation.
"I know they don't usually see people, but I've got experience!" I pronounce in a subtly magnanimous tone. 
Person to person, I slowly get closer until after a decent wait, wala!!  I get one minute with the hiring manager and the assistant manager of the store as they walk past me on the way to something usually more important than unemployed stalkers.  And it works, my 30 second elevator view into "timistan" that I punctuated with a lots of eye contact, overt magnanimity, and a smile that seemed to have won them both over. 
"What's your name", the manager said as he pulled out a pen and wrote it down, the hiring manager then said "you'll be hearing from us soon".  
I of course cap it off with a
"Hey, I'm ready now, I can start tomorrow and be on the floor for labor day!"  
I'm smiling as I head for the door.  Maybe it just might have worked! 

Also, just before I left to go there, I got an email back from a woman I interviewed with a month ago with a Children's organization.  She said I hadn't gotten the job because other candidates had food justice expertise she couldn't ignore, but said that she really enjoyed our interview and my perspective on justice, youth, and life, and that I would be great in a classroom with kids.  She wants me to apply for the other jobs I'd seen just recently (yes, she was following up from my pestering her) and that she'd stump for me in their office.  This is great!  Especially on top of the hiking store...  I come back and get started.  Ugh... now I've got so many applications to do, but when?  I get another application in that a friend sent me for a temp agency working with non-profits.  I send out an email that may some day lead to my current dream position.  I'm feeling good. 

But then I start yearning for someone to talk to and I start wondering why I haven't heard from such and such.  As if people don't have things to do.  It starts getting deeper and deeper within me.  Why does this get so internalized?  I mean who cares?  It's a text message, a simple communique that means so little in the larger scheme of things.  So why am I so emotionally week right now?  Why do I want or need so desperately to be loved right now?  Is it because my every day is spent getting rejected?  Cover letter after cover letter, no response.  And I looked at the position for the legal think tanky democracy position I stoped by at and the person in that spot now; shit, yeah I'm not going to get it.  I've got plenty of democratization experience, researching, writing, whatever, but its all on international issues.  Sure I'll get work in Kenya, or Moldova, or the Mars.  But no work in the US.  All my experiece is abroad, and on issues abroad, how does that translate here?  I know the world, but how many people here care about the world?  We have a lot of our own problems.

So anyway, back to the narrative.... I decide to head to a movie, 8:30 at Union sq, that Borne movie.  So I get there and its not there.  I try the other Union Square theater, nope not at 8:30, only at 10.  So I missed it all and go home annoyed at my computer, slowly emotionally digressing.  It's a freaking movie?!?!  Turns out Google somehow thinks that the Union Square in NYC movie link is best suited to send you Union Square in San Franscisco's cinema page... who knew!?  But hey, their three hours behind maybe I can still make that one!?  Need to get that teleporter of mine fixed anyway... ;)  But yeah, my point is that this stuff doesn't matter, yet it so tremendously affects me right now.  Little things that are now a struggle that never were.  But most importantly, what I am trying to say, is that its about the space I am taking in other people's lives. 

I sit around wanting to hear from them, needing to almost.  And in my head I worry and wonder like I never used to.  Like the bonds are somehow closer now.  Like I somehow need them more now than I once did.  I never used to need people.  I simply wanted them.  But now it feels more like a need.  Like I have such an uphill battle everyday just to stay upright that it helps to have someone to hold on to.  I miss Occupy, I miss my Africa work, but most of all I miss being strong enough to work on them.  It is sad. 

I know that I am hurting myself in my personal relationships right now.  I dive in, give myself to every person I meet.  But they don't do the same.  They don't need to, shouldn't even.  They have jobs, and lives, and friends, and whatever else content stable people have.  I have none of that.  I have dreams and desires, and lots of potential energy, but little of the kinetic stuff.  This is a long way away from the me that I've always known.  Yes, I've been through spells when I haven't had work or didn't win the big game or whatever and I reach out more, as we all do.  But when things are going well you don't need other people to help things go well.  I don't know how I'd manage if I didn't have so much self-confidence.  Even as I write this in fleeting despair, I feel that success will come, that some day I will say I told you so!  If I didn't believe in myself and my abilities I'd be a mess laying in an alley way somewhere. 

I guess in all of this the only thing I can ask is that people try to understand where I am.  I reach out because I need something to hold on to.  I take up this space because I'm struggling.  And it pains me to know it hurts you all, all I want to do is know more about you, about your life, but all I'm capable of right now it seems is trying to hold mine together.  So I talk and talk about my dreams, desires, and potential rather than listening to stories about your jobs, and lives, and friends - because that's what I want - and what I want for you, and what I want for everyone and their relationships, but feel I can't do.  To be able to revel together in ourselves as strong separate wholes.  Unfortunately for my part in that bargain right now I am a volatile needy half.  I promise it is not the life I've had and want, but it is the one I'm in right now, yes in the plight that I'm in Sam, Sam I am.  So please world, bare with me.  I will return both here and there, as a mouse, and in a house... we all will....