operation boredom.



it didn't take very long. one day. in an attempt to liven things up, I have unsuccessfully tried to find trouble in paradise. there is no conflict, no disease, no problems to solve, no situations to talk yourself out of. I have looked for seediness, for shady characters, and have found none. I have even begged the hotel staff to hunt me for sport. they have politely refused. I figure if I continue to insist, they will do it for pleasure.

and, for the first time in months, my every thought is not of abyei. distance affords me perspective. the difference between circling a storm, and being at its centre. I am able to gather glimpses of a larger world.

again, I am astounded at the ephemerality of time, and how we experience it. each day in abyei is a complete event. nothing is certain. it stretches for a month. I left home years ago. each minute is so bursting with seconds, that the sixtieth is wedged somewhere in the middle. in sudan, my traditional account of time has lost meaning. here, in kenya, in paradise, the day happens before I even notice it. by the time I have breakfast, and walked in the rain, it is afternoon.

i was thinking about my thoughts as I walked into the kitchen in abyei, about how many we have as we carry out the most straightforward tasks. pouring a glass of water, for instance. for an observer, it takes us ten seconds, but inside, it is an infinity. but of course it must be. our concept of the universe, its largeness, it's distant stars and the black, cold vacuum between, our outer space, is exactly proportionate to the largeness of our inner space. I remember running in the toronto winter and stopping at the tracks in the swirling snow as a train whipped by. I saw the faces of people deep in their own imagination, and thought, "now that is infinite." a godel's set.

distance provides perspective. I can see myself two weeks ago, exhausted, how my writing was becoming as thin as I was. I forced it the same way I forced myself through the day. I can also see the project better. I can see the work that I am doing as part of a larger thing.

msf projects trend towards improvement. everyone is committed to pushing in one direction. in abyei, in Khartoum, in Geneva. in fact, from a distance, the progression is remarkable. the project I leave will be better, and stronger, than the one I found. not from my efforts, but the constant inertia of everyone working in concert.

I am glad for whoever replaces me that he or she will have a clearer idea of what we are there to do, and how to accomplish it. they will better see the goals, and how to achieve them, just as I did because of the work of the person that I followed. they will not make the mistakes that I did. they will not take call as often. they will spend more time out of the project. they will work more closely with the community, and understand them and enjoy them more. their sleep will be easier, the food will be better, the communications more consistent, the team larger, the support from Khartoum greater. all of these things are already being made real by the dozens of people piling effort on top of effort consistently on one side of the scale, tipping the balance of the project, and even abyei, towards an easier future.

it is one of the ways that I make sense of the world, to believe that it hangs in a grand balance. but no matter the distance, no matter how much I travel, no matter how much I read, no matter how carefully I look, can I determine which way it tips. good, or bad. success, or failure. hope or despair. I can't say, and it doesn't matter. all one can do, if he cares about it tilting one way or the other, is to pile as many efforts as possible, no matter how small, on the side he hopes for most.

I am envious of the person who will follow me. they will accomplish important things that I was never even able to see, and perhaps their tiny successes will push the balance even further. and, I suspect that when they are allowed the appropriate perspective, they will agree that this experience has been one of their most valuable, one they would not change with all the hindsight in the world.

it is raining. I see the gardener peeking through a shrub. oh, there is the concierge, trying to sneak up behind me. it appears my entreaties have worked. the game is on. finally.