A Lovely and Disorienting Day

I am in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

I just got back from having lunch with a new colleague of mine, a Rwandan doctor named François. François, I learned, happened to have worked for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Holland  in the east of Chad, while I worked for MSF Holland in the East of Chad. We were bordering on giddy when made this discovery.  Let me tell you:  it’s pretty rare to meet anyone who has ever worked in Chad, let alone the east of Chad, which borders Darfur. Outside of colleagues that I worked with and whom I see at MSF functions, I have never met a single person who has ever worked there.  And here I am in the Ivory Coast, neither François or I still working for MSF, and we are so caught up in trading horror stories of our work there you would  think we were old buds.

Chad, at least while I was there, was not an easy place (sadly I doubt it is any easier now).  It’s hot, dry, there was low-level but ever-present conflict, violence, poverty, theft, malnutrition, scorpions, you name it.  It was always the media-starved, borderline-invisible-but-almost-equally-as-bad, next-door-neighbor to Darfur.  Even within MSF crowds, when you meet someone who has worked in Chad, you subconsciously give them the nod: respect.

Now I am back at the hotel, doing the following:
  • Reminiscing about Chad. Happy but also a bit sad that I will not likely be going back, and almost definitely not in that capacity.
  • Coordinating with Dave while he buys tiles and grout without me. This is stressful for Dave, because I have left him with a series of aesthetic decisions to make himself.  Dave aims to please, and he also knows that I care much more about the color of the grout than he does, so I feel for him having to make these decisions in my absence.
  • Buying toilets online.
  • Casually working on questionnaires about female genital mutilation prevention in rural Ivory Coast.
  • Fighting jet lag.
  • Struggling to wrap my head around it all.
Note: the pictures above are from Am Timan, Chad, in 2007.  If you are interested in learning about MSF's work there, check out House Call... to Chad, a blog written by a Canadian doctor working there.

Also: Make no mistake.  Working in the East of Chad is hard.  Living there, as a local or a refugee, is infinitely harder.

No comments:

Post a Comment