How Will I Say Goodbye?

Saying an emotional goodbye to the team at the end of an exhausting and heartbreaking mission in Lashkar.

So, I am nearing the end of my mission. I’ve spent nine months in Afghanistan, and most of it has whizzed by. I can’t believe I am almost done, and at the same time, I am ready to go home. I miss my pets, my home, my kids, and my husband. Poor, long suffering Harry, who supports me no matter what crazy notion springs into my brain. Why he puts up with me and my bizarre life, I have no idea.

How will I say goodbye to these people? These crazy expats, with whom I fit so well. I’ve made so many friends here, and we’ve shared so much. Some things, I am sure, I will never be able to explain to anyone except them. We’ve shared stories, sung songs, laughed a lot, cried a lot, and sometimes just sat in silence, sharing our space together. I am forever grateful to Faiza, our National Staff Support Admin, who force fed me, and found something to make me laugh every day. How would I have made it through this mission without Ryan, who played the guitar for me constantly, and tolerated my incessant need to sing. Caro, whose laughter rang out whenever it was most needed, and filled our hearts with joy. Travis, who is one of the best doctors I have ever worked with, even if he does look like he is still twelve years old. How can I tell them how much they have meant to me?

MSF Afghanistan

The MSF team in Lashkar Gah © Georgann MacDonald

I’ve seen things here I have never seen before, and experienced a huge range of emotions. Of course there has been frustration, heartbreak, and exhaustion, but I’ve also witnessed great joy, miracles, and simple human kindness. I’ve learned so much, both from the expats, and also from the Afghan people. One of my favourite memories is a male ICU supervisor carrying a two-year-old girl around on his hip, as she was one of his patients, and didn’t want to be put down. She went all over the hospital with him, even into the administration offices, as he couldn’t bear to hear her cry. Quiet, simple human kindness.

Yes, I have seen some horrible things, and there is, unfortunately, much work left to be done. Poverty, malnutrition, disease, and all of the other problems that accompany war are rampant here in Afghanistan. It is one thing to see pictures of starving children on TV, and quite another thing to look that same child in the eyes. It is my great hope that Afghanistan finds peace soon. Until then, I hope that MSF will carry on trying their best to alleviate some of the suffering. I am leaving Afghanistan, but a piece of my heart will reside here forever.