Wednesday, 18 April 2012


So a blog post by a friend has been doing the rounds lately, called 'How Shit Happens'. Definitely worth reading, though probably mostly an in-joke. However, a key part of the in-joke is where the logistician get involved - talking with a heavy French accent and dragging on a cigarette.

Because for some reason, almost all logisticians are French. Also all French aid and development people smoke. I should know, I'm living with enough of them.

Anyway, this has triggered a week or so of entertainment for Team Guesthouse and friends (OK, maybe we should get out more). Why does this happen?

The first theory I got involved 'a certain type of Frenchman, their wives and the need to get away from them', and logistics being apparently easy to get into. The trouble (apart from this being based on xenophobic national stereotyping... not that I'd ever be guilty of that when it comes to the French) is that a lot of the French logisticians are young, free and single (or at least act like it), and anyway I'm not sure logistics *is* that easy to get into. It's possible that it's all an elaborate conspiracy, but I think it's probably time for a new theory.

Next theory was that French people have the right mindset for it - not because they're all adulterers who want to run away from home, but because they're good at the 'go go go do something right now' aspect of a humanitarian response. Anglo-Saxons are, allegedly, more prone to stop and think about what we're doing. My correspondent conceded that this might be a Good Thing, but that for logistics folks you wanted the go go go people. Generally speaking though, I was trying to get away from dubious ethnic sterotyping in my theory-building.

So my next plan was to ask some actual French people. I mainly got a few evenings of drum-beating about how MSF has the best logisticians (not implausible - they do manage to scramble pop-up hospitals incredibly quickly), and some stories about 'well I was in this country, and there was no electricity and no beer, but the MSF logisticians had found beer and rigged up a cooling system using a dustbin, some wire, some straws and duck tape!' 'I was in this country, and they'd rigged up a system of pulleys and levers to pick the beer out of the cooling system so they didn't have to move. It even took the lid off so they didn't have to put their cigarette down for a second!'.

Eventually, though, I got an actual answer. Apparently there's a logistics training school in France. It's in Bordeaux. Which rather makes me wonder whether the French logisticians are good at getting the beer because their logisticians who trained at the French uber-logistics school, or whether the people good at finding the alcohol were also smart enough to find a training school in Bordeaux.

Dammit, why didn't *I* think to do my masters in Bordeaux!

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