A farewell

I knew this day would come. I knew it all the time. I even knew it would come very quickly. But still I am surprised that the day is already here. The day when I go home.

I spent the most amazing 9.5 months in the most fascinating place, little Tari. I witnessed how hot-tempered people here can be, I saw warriors, I saw people injure each other with bush knives, I saw mothers beating their children, I saw limbs being cut off, I saw extreme emotional suffering, I saw people die. But I also experienced the warmth and love that the local people generously share every day, despite all the violence, paradoxically to it.

I have seen how people help each other, protect each other, laugh and joke together even in times of struggle. “How can such kind, warm-hearted people be so violent to each other?” I have always wondered, and still do. The emotional turmoil in Tari is exceptional, probably more so than anywhere else.

And in the middle of this was I. When working for MSF in the field, you cannot observe things from a distance. You cannot leave yourself emotionally on the outside. You must go in to it with your whole being, take a deep dive into the culture, understand people’s history, and listen to their stories. For me in Tari this has meant crying in my room at night from exhaustion and frustration. It has meant feeling anger and rage over witnessed injustice and it has meant laughing my heart out with joy with my wonderful local friends. This little, complex, ignored place on the other side of the world has forever changed my life, and I will carry the memory of it with me for as long as I live.

Thank you Tari.

This entry was posted in mental health, Papua New Guinea, psychologist and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to A farewell

  1. Cristina Psi says:

    Hello Minja,
    I’ve just read the post; you’ve done an amazing job out there, your blog proves this and you are such an inspiration to psychologists-to-be like me!
    I had commented on the “about minja” section months ago. Now that you’re back, I would be glad if we could talk a bit so that you can give me your opinion on matters about studies and perspectives connected to your job in general and with msf in particular.
    My email is: cristinapsych@hotmail.com
    Thank you very much:)

  2. Sihua says:

    Hi Minja,
    Your smile is so sweet as well as u. I love your smile which can bring people hope, strength and comforts when you saw warriors, you saw people injure each other with bush knives, you saw mothers beating their children, you saw limbs being cut off, you saw extreme emotional suffering, you saw people die. ..
    This can be a meaningful experience for you. Keep it, and make it a wonderful memory.
    And Good Job!
    Best Wishes

  3. Elle says:

    Hi Minja,

    I just found your incredibly moving blog while researching MSF work in PNG. I will be applying to medical school next year with the goal of eventually working for MSF, and I was wondering if you know anything about the possibility of volunteering or shadowing at the hospital in Tari for a week or a couple days. I’m in West Papua right now, and will cross the border in about two weeks to PNG. I’m sure there are all sorts of legal and practical restrictions, but I have been traveling on a fellowship to study nomads and pastoralists for the past year so I have a lot of travel experience behind me, and would love to finish with a look at medicine (especially emergency medicine, which is what I plan to specialize in) in the highlands.

    If you could put me in touch with the right people to organize a stay, I would really appreciate it. And even if it’s not possible for me to visit, I would love to hear more about your work.

    Thanks, and best wishes wherever you are!

  4. Valarie Cormier says:

    Thank you for sharing from your experience in Tari. The violence you describe is horrible, and it is difficult to look past the devastating hurt to understand the culture and people in a non-judgmental way. I am always amazed at the resilience of people. How can people walk away from these events with a hope to the future? I work as a Mental Health RN in Canada where I see hopelessness take the lives of those who are seemingly blessed with so much more to live for. In another post, “Those who smile again despite the odds”, you refer to the hope coming from being loved in the past and therefore not losing faith altogether.
    Thanks again for sharing from your heart. This is valuable insight for those of us who have not had these experiences. What will you be doing now that you are back home. Will you be doing any speaking to educate others?

  5. Paul Anderson says:

    Thank you for serving the people of Papua New Guinea and for sharing your story. All the best to you! There was a rumour going around Lae last week that MSF are pulling out of PNG altogether. Is that true?

  6. denyse macnamara says:

    we are with you in spirit, because this experience will stay with you all your life … thank you !

  7. gloria garcia says:

    Just saw this farewell post. Very moving and enlightening. I am so glad to know you were doing this hard work representing the good guys. What an experience for you and thanks for letting us know about it.

  8. Kareem Hamimy says:

    Great job :) , I wish I can have an MSF experience too.., and plz write more about your experience..

  9. Maura Dunnigan says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. It’s impossible to even imagine what you’ve witnessed, but you’ve written from your heart and speaking Tari’s truth from the brutal; to the beautiful helps us feel connected. The world is so fortunate to have the people of Tari, you and MSF in it!