Significance Addicts

Michela Wrong

  • Six Months in Sudan: A Young Doctor in a War-Torn Village by James Maskalyk
    Canongate, 340 pp, £14.99, May 2009, ISBN 978 1 84767 274 2

As a member of Nairobi’s press corps, I often used to socialise with aid workers. The Kenyan capital was a perfect base for us. Its air links meant Africa’s various trouble spots, our professional bread and butter, were within easy striking distance: its shopping plazas, cafés and cinemas made it a place where those who had spent too long in the field dreamed of unwinding. Stints were short, so one always seemed to be saying goodbye to a rangy youth or slim blonde from Concern, or Care, or Goal, or World Vision, or Save the Children or any of the countless humanitarian organisations that wore their hearts on their logos. They tended to be rake thin (some wasting African parasite lodged in their intestines that would take years to clear), hairy (beards, ponytails and stubble that had nothing designer about it), and distinctly clubby, with little interest in anyone outside their world of clipboards, airlifts and white SUVs. They gave off a kind of Ready-brek glow, the aura of the consciously high-minded.

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