What feels like work?

So it's creeping towards the end of the month, and as usual I'm panicking about the report I'm supposed to be writing by the end of it.

Ordinarily when this happens (my working life tends, unfortunately, to constitute a series of lurches from essay crisis to essay crisis), my ex-Catholic moral sensibility whispers constantly in my ear that every minute I'm not spending mind-melded to my steaming laptop is the equivalent of a minute spent idly murdering babies.

But on this occasion, this is supposed to be a 'fieldwork'-based report - and the unruly 'field' hasn't been obediently offering up nuggests of informational gold as regularly as I need it to. So (via Nairobi and Mombasa) I'm back in Juba, desparately trying to cook up some material as the month of May trickles away. Which means speaking to as many people as possible. So now I'm feeling guilty sat at my laptop: I'm wasting precious minutes in the 'field', dammit, and the only time I feel really calm is on my way to another meeting.

So now that 'work' feeling is bumping around uncomfortably down a dirt road on the back of a 14-year-old's motorbike. Which I know is not something I should really be complaining about.

ALSO: I'm thinking of starting a scrapbook on the seductions of modern orientalism. Submissions welcome. My current favourite is a story an NGO trainer here told me about some young Southern Sudanese trainees, enrolled in an aid agency's training programme, who were all told to go away and do an activity for half an hour, and then return to the workshop classroom. Their NGO trainer made sure they all had watches, and knew what time it was when they left. About two hours later, everyone trickled back into the classroom. It turned out that everyone was wearing expensive-looking watches - but with no hands.

I've read enough E.P. Thompson to enjoy this condescending little parable. Best of all, I noticed that the old man who guards the camp/hotel where I'm staying wears a watch - with no hands! So now I'm truly charmed - practically a whole nation languishing seductively in pre-industrial time!

Except that our guard checks the time all the time - on his mobile phone, stupid, along with the latest Chelsea scores. My (faintly disappointed) guess is that those trainees just thought the workshop sucked.

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