Ok, so it’s a surf story, not a tale about a development worker, but this post on my other blog taps into a dilemma that I imagine plenty of development types have encountered:
You’re in a developing country, you are befriended by a local. This is great, they are kind, and inclusive, and they help in deciphering the place you’ve found yourself in.
Then they start asking you for money.
You probably give them money, but you feel kind of messed up about it. Were they only ever befriending you to get to a position where they could ask you for stuff? Are they even your friend? Will they keep asking? And will they really put the money to good use?
And then you feel bad about feeling bad. Who are you to worry about a fake friendship, given that you have so much and they have so little? And what does it matter what they do with the money anyhow, you were just going to spend it <strike>on beer</strike> a subscription to the London Review of Books.
It’s happened to me a few times, and it usually leads to at least a bit of angsting ethical death spiral type stuff.
Externally, my current pattern of response, is that I give a bit, accept that the relationship is what it is and, then — after a period of repeat requests, which can be longer or shorter depending on the other person’s need and other aspects of the friendship — I probably switch into avoidance mode.
I doubt this is the perfect response. But I also doubt I’ll ever figure out a perfect response to this one.