My first week in Bangui: A warm welcome!

Holger Hornauf is a trained auto mechanic and in 2016 he went on his first assignment with MSF / Doctors Without Borders in the Central African Republic. One year later he’s back in Bangui as our workshop manager and is blogging about his experiences...

ärzte ohne grenzen blog einsatz holger hornauf zentralafrikanische republikPhoto: Privat
Sunday, 26th November 2017: Here we go. I’m already nervous on my train ride to Paris – not, because I don’t know what to expect, but because I have those beautiful memories from my first assignment. From Paris I fly via Casablanca to Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. Just like the first time, I'm hit by a heatwave as I step out of the plane (it's about 35°C with humidity), but I get used to it fast and actually leave the plane with a big smile on my face.
What follows is the usual annoying paperwork: Even before passport control, they check your vaccination record, then the passport controls and in the end, you have to fill out an entry document. Outside the airport, I wait for my driver, as it is often too dangerous to go by foot due to the continuing conflicts. I actually put on my MSF shirt to make it easier for him to find me. And it works: He immediately walks towards me and says: “Listen, wasn’t it you who gave us English lessons last year? Can we continue now?” – What a nice way to start!

They are all super-nice people from all kinds of countries and professional fields

At the accommodation, I get a really warm welcome and a structured briefing. The first evening I make myself at home in my nice room, that I've got all to myself, which doesn’t always happen on MSF assignments. Also I get to know my new neighbours, all of them super nice people from all kinds of countries and professional fields.
After two days of briefings, on Wednesday I finally see my new workplace: a small mechanical workshop with three other mechanics. It’s a nice surprise to see how well equipped the storage room is and how well trained the employees are. I’m really looking forward to working there. And then we get started: we do a small tour around the city to look at the emergency generators of every building. Those are important in Bangui, as the electricity gets cut off from time to time - there is actually not enough electricity supply for the whole city.

Funny, how small the world is!

The first of December is approaching, a national holiday in the Central African Republic. It’s nice to just sit down and chat with a colleague, something that isn’t done as frequently as it used to be I guess. In the afternoon, I try to send some mails and it takes me hours due to the bad Wi-Fi. However, knowingly I brought a big book for this mission.
On the weekend, I have time to relax: on Saturday, I go brunching in the ‚Grand Café’ with one of our midwives and on Sunday, I go to the swimming pool. There I bump into an old friend who I got to know on an MSF preparatory course before my first assignment – funny, how small the world is!