It wasn’t all nonstop fun and adventure in England. Because I had been to Ethiopia, I had to watch a security video. It had been a month since I’d returned and I finally got around to watching it.
There are all sorts of ex US Marines and ex MI5 types who sell security training to nongovernmental organizations. I don’t want to poo-poo the seriousness of the security risks in some locations. Aid workers do get kidnapped, raped, and killed. But it’s rare. The worst risk I ran in Ethiopia, I think, was getting hit by a truck. A lot of people who are new to international work might assume that kidnaping is the biggest danger, while they’re stepping out into a chaotic street full of speeding land rovers and tuk tuks making up rules as they go along.
I plunked down on the couch with a cuppa (a cup of tea). Below is another iconic item you find in British homes—the tea bag caddy. They come in an endless assortment of shapes, materials, and designs. You can buy one for 99p. They are always stained with tea, like mine below, and usually piled with wet, cold used tea bags.
The tea bag caddy is not to be confused with another item of the same name.
This second item holds a selection of tea bags. This is often given as a hostess gift and politely stored in the back of a cupboard until the tea becomes fossilized. This is because, like anyone, Brits have their regular tea they are accustomed to—usually English Breakfast or Earl Grey. They may try a bag of oolong green tea with ginger hibiscus super antioxidant goji berry essence—once—which will be enough.
Most homes have a box of PG Tips, which is referred to as “builders’ tea.” This means it’s strong—strong enough to get a construction worker revved up to go back to his heavy labour. It’s a utility tea—you only need to dunk it into hot water two or three times to get a massive hit of caffeine; no herbal tea “steep for seven and a half minutes in 140 degree water” here.
Plus they have an amusing spokesmonkey.
Back to the security training. I try to keep an open mind and assume I will learn something new. But I have watched similar videos at least four times before, and I’m also a woman who lives alone in the city and who travels the world on her own. So yes, I am aware that I should always lock my hotel room door, and wear a seatbelt, and not leave my drink unattended in a bar.
The video was narrated by a robotic female voice. I felt like I was on hold for an hour with a nightmare call to my internet provider customer service line.
The video was really a powerpoint with whiz-bang transitions. The clip art below isn’t from the security training, but it featured menacing versions of these ubiquitous blue playdoh powerpoint people.
The internet at Sam’s was so slow that the training kept freezing and shutting down and I’d have to restart it. I was missing pieces of it, I knew, but it seemed to be all about men in balaclavas kidnapping aid workers. This would be, of course, anyone’s worst fear. It’s also how they sell these security trainings.
Again, I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of using common sense and taking precautions. You prepare for the worst and hope for the best, as they say.
Smarty pants me, there was a test at the end and I couldn’t pass it because I had missed one of the scenarios:
“Your car is stopped at a security check point, and soldiers demand you get out of the vehicle. What do you do?”
- Loudly inform them that you are American/British/Etc.
- Get out, then run in a zig zag pattern into the bush.
- Politely refuse. Do not make eye contact.
- Offer them a small bribe.
None of these seemed like a good idea so I chose a different one until I passed. I am recreating this from memory, so don’t ask me the correct answer.