When I came to Kabul, I was still an acronym-virgin.
I followed the spelled out words in their form that seemed to flow naturally into my ears until someone said to me “welcome to aemaeneeee”. I looked at him confused. This someone whom I didn’t understand was my boss.
He kept on talking in gibberish short forms and eloquent abbreviations: “aemaeneeee is an important tool for the PIM and IM. We follow with it the MDGs and of course the ANDS layed out in the SNGP by the IDLG. But you can find all this in the new OM, where you can find more information about the FPs as well as the HCD-Projects.”
I sat there smiling and sweating, wishing I had a translator at hand to help me out of this situation. Why was I not literate in the native tongue of expat office workers language? Can you take courses in Accronymic? Then I read a sign and suddenly understood the first abbreviation that had warped in my consciousness into double dutch: aemaeneeee, M&E, Monitoring and Evaluation! Suddenly it made sense!
Two weeks, many acronyms later, I sat at UNAMA talking with someone from UNHCR, AAD and USAID about why GTZ had changed into GIZ, about the new ToRs they had to write and about a girl from TLO who was interested in IDP-issues but who had to fight with the MIS. They were all aware of the work of DACAAR, AKND and MADERA, but thought that the O&M costs for INGO-projects will be a problem once ISAF pulls out…it seemed I had found my way into the maze of acronym-country.
“So, whom do you work for?” I got asked on one of the embassy parties and I spurted out the learned letter-combinations that let you pass away from work into another part of the conversation after the appreciative nodding of the opposite person. But this time, my conversation partner pointed at me and said: “zero points”.
“Your friend gets two points. He hasn’t used a single acronym to explain whom he is working for while I still don’t get what you really do.”
With this comment he had captured my situation perfectly. In a short time I had been totally emersed and sucked into a ‘lost in expat-translation’, while now I have to find my way out of it…