It’s my first job as a project coordinator (PC), or ‘FieldCo’, as they say, or even the RT (responsable terrain in the French of yesteryear, to be more polite). And when the CR (Country Representative) or the CDM (Chef de Mission) or in other words the HOM (Head of Mission) of MSF Pakistan offered me this job, I immediately accepted without really knowing what I was getting myself into.
Here, I’ve discovered the joys of acronyms. Reading the first reports, I found myself faced with a load of totally incomprehensible abbreviations. From the first lines, the MedCo wrote of a meeting with the DOH at the THQ aimed to get the MOU changed. It talked about AWDs, WIRs, CFRs, or ARs with such frustrating frequency that this poor novice nearly gave up. When the COFIRH asked me if my CR had been drafted, I finally cracked.
First, at the risk of looking like an idiot, I didn’t dare ask all these people what they’re talking about.
But slowly, I got used to these accursed letters. Now I decipher the subtleties of the Sitrep (Situation report) with the same satisfaction as you’d feel on a first date (okay, I might be exaggerating a little).
The acronym is king in our language, the language of humanitarian aid in particular. It’s part of our world, and to master it requires a certain insight. I do believe that somewhere, people have fun with them, play on them, look for just the right abbreviation, compose…. For example WHO, pronounced W-H-O, has nothing to do with the famous 70's rock group fronted by R.D. (Roger Daltrey), as I’d thought. Instead, it signifies the more serious World Health Organisation (OMS in French, because initials translate too). Just like CRASH, which has nothing to do with plane crashes or crash test dummies but with a very smart organisation, a part of the Fondation MSF (www.msf-crash.org) and whose website I suggest you visit regularly.
Initials are part of my daily life. They amuse me; they call out to me. They bring me into the exclusive circle of those who understand them, yet distance me from a language that I love to death. At the end of the day, I’m French, and Pakistan is an anglophone mission. So here, I have fewer misgivings using this technique.
I’m off-topic, I’ll give you that. At no point did I talk about my project, about my difficulties (not that these bloody initials aren’t one of them!) or about Pakistan. This’ll serve as a good introduction. It’ll excuse any future acronym abuses that affect your understanding.