OGDC – I won’t deny the difficulties or mislead you. Life in this particular arm of the Diplomatic Corps is tough, but… who said life is easy.

Let me share a typical day last week:

5:15am – the alarm in the bunk next to mine goes off, I wake knowing the alarm’s owner will completely disregard the wake-up call and it will fall to me to rouse her from her pit when my alarm goes off a full hour later.

6:15am – after a fitful half sleep waiting for the irritating phone alarm sounds of a “waterfall in autumn” it is time to rise. As I lazily stretch my body to its maximum length, letting all the not so young joints and muscles flex before the onslaught of getting up,  the occupant of the bunk next to me manages to fly out of bed, leap across my prone form and exit for the shower with a mumbled “Good morning” as she passes. With only the one bathroom this leaves me with crossed legs again.

6:25 am –I am alone in the common area. I stand at the top of the stairs, we bunk downstairs in this crazy camp where the streets run vertically up the mountain side, I survey the mess and sigh. I take a few moments to reflect on the sorrows of the world and the infinite unfairness that exists across the globe. I muse to myself still frozen to the spot. I shake my head and regain my senses, this is my job I am a member of the OGDC. I clear up the mess.

7:30 am – During the past hour I have battled with the cultural differences of an unfamiliar dietary regime in a compound where it is my responsibility to ensure a hearty breakfast is eaten. Each of my three charges has diverse tastes and none relish the idea of anything resembling “full English.” There is a leaning toward sweet things which I counter expertly demanding that a semblance of “real food” is eaten first.

I have cleared up the mess left by my housemates in their rush to enter the fray that is the working world and with only a half sigh as to why I need to turn off all the lights. I have negotiated a fine truce between two warring parties and avoided physical harm to either faction. I have ensured the correct books and educational materials have been despatched as needed and luxuriated in the secret pleasure of washing the dishes with hot water. The dishwasher stares at me, insulted and shocked at being passed over. Back home in TZ hot water for a shower is tepid at best and the water from our taps is a comparative luxury.

7:40 am – coffee, water and a quick breakfast of yoghurt as I hurriedly negotiate the final settlement agreements with the three different factions.

8:00 am – I finally wend my way down the 85 steps to reach ground level. Now comes the real tough part, all my diplomatic training of the past umpteen years are really pushed as I traverse the paths delicately playing to the whims of each of the three factions. Each has a diverse requirement of me and each wants to test my spirit. They will not make the challenges easy.

War soon breaks out between two of the group and I niftily lob a curveball distraction by breaking into a flat-out run to capture each of them. One dodges my breathless onslaught and retreats into the woods. What to do? If I give chase in the woods I have to leave the opposition unguarded and risk defeat from this quarter. Quick thinking in such delicate situations is a given in the OGDC and I whisper in the oppositions ear that we should set a trap together at the base of the hill where the woods lead. Success, we set off at a trot and my inadequate trainers, trainers which everyone infuriatingly informs me are sandals not real trainers, whichever, they let the moisture of the early morning dew in on my feet as we scurry across the boggy grassland.

8:15 am – We have arrived at the despatch point and I have successfully united the two warring parties and even earned a high-five of subdued respect. But… my third and most challenging charge had been left neglected. Spotting a wayward football bouncing away from charge number 3 and the look of defeat and embarrassment on my charges face I spring into action and race after the ball. The perpetrator of the vicious kick that had outsmarted my charge looked stunned at this sudden interference and then we were all three racing for possession. I knew I had to win and ensure the ball was deftly reunited with my third charge. This was life or death, pre-teen rivalry and the chemistry contained therein could be fatal if it was ever bottled by the unscrupulous. I am certain it could be used for chemical warfare. I win the ball and sensing the prowess of the newcomer with her feet I switch to basketball and bounce the ball across to my charge who takes up the challenge and shoots at the hoop, narrowly missing. Actually she was way off but my diplomatic skills and cheers and shouts of “way to go, so close,” saved the day. Anyway the hoops have gotten smaller over the years, I am sure of it.

8:30 am – All three factions have been united with their individual squads and have left for the day’s training. Each has awarded with me a mark of approval and I know that I have completed my first mission of the day successfully.

Overseas Grandparents Diplomatic Corps – It is tough being a part-time GranGill, I have little time with my son, daughter in law and three wonderful grandchildren. When I do see them I am filled with love and racked with guilt for the distance between us. Being a long distance grandparent leaves you feeling left out of important upbringing decisions, missing out on so many important life events and each visit sees you greeting new little people, for the ones you remember from last time are long gone and a whole new and more grown up version stands in front of you.

Being a member of the OGDC is not easy, it requires considerable patience and tenacity and it creates a ridiculous urge to do daft things and attempt to appear as a “Cool Dude GranGill” when your son probably thinks you should be settling in a corner with your knitting patterns! But the rewards are high and each visit makes the torture of separation worthwhile.

Applications now being accepted – apply or just share your own experience below.

Wishing you all a very good week from Bergen, Norway.

 

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