the speaker above me clicked on.

“ladies and gentlemen, we have started our descent towards

Khartoum.  we ask you to ensure that your seats and table trays

are returned to their upright position and that your luggage is stowed

the speaker above me clicked on.

“ladies and gentlemen, we have started our descent towards

Khartoum.  we ask you to ensure that your seats and table trays

are returned to their upright position and that your luggage is stowed

in the overhead bins or safely under the seat in front of you.

the weather in Khartoum is …um…blowing sand.   the

temperature is 32 degrees celcius.  Local time is 150 am.”

I am once again in the land of blowing sand.  I am sitting in the

msf office, five minutes away from the guest house where I stay, just

past the garbage mound, and down the road.   there is a small

desk near the entrance.  it is surrounded by boxes of drugs and

equipment destined for the field, but there is just room enough for

me.  I can hear the squeal of the HF radio as it picks up signals

from abyei or darfur.  I wonder what they are saying.

addis ababa is behind me.  it was, as I hoped, a welcome

respite.  I spent a week learning about tuberculosis from some of

the most experienced people in the world and sitting beside colleagues

from all over the world.  some, like me, were visiting from the

field.  others were waiting for missions, or on their way

home.  each had their own story and their own reasons why it met

ours at this point in it.

on our last night in addis, some of us went dancing.  there were

about ten of us who became fast friends.   we shared a

similar enthusiasm for what we were learning about TB, but also about

what there was to learn about addis.  after the long days, we

discovered Yemeni restaurants, king meliniks old castle, got lost in

africa’s biggest market, found traditional music, and little holes in

the wall just down the road.  we were dubbed “the addis ababa

explo mission”.

the last thing we found was the dancefloor late on Saturday

night.  I was surrounded by people I had come to know, respect,

and like.  every hour our number would dwindle as someone left for

the hotel to pack for rural Ethiopia, or Mozambique, or

Geneva.    I was talking with my friend, maria, an

Argentinean doctor who had last seen me throwing my backpack on top of

a crowded bus in Zimbabwe the day I finished with msf last time.

she said she often wondered what happened to me.

“james, answer me something.  this life, where you get to meet

people and know them, and become friends, and then in a few days or a

few weeks, either they leave or you do…we say ‘well, that’s msf’, but I

don’t know.  is it worth it?”

I am not sure.  I think so.  maybe having your heart broken a little bit like that is what keeps it open.

now maria is back in Buenos aires.  mohammed ali (the great) is in

mozambique.  Anthony in Uganda.  all blown like sand.

I am looking at the departure and arrivals board.  on it names,

destinations, and dates are scrawled in felt pen.  mine is


James  KRT ?  AB  28/03/07

but there are others.   my field coordinator is returning to

Khartoum on the day I arrive in abyei.   she is exhausted and

needs a break from the field.  on the same plane is the other

abyei MD, ali.  who is also taking a break.  when I left from

abyei, I shared the plane with one of the two Sudanese medical

technicians that work in the hospital and who, with ali and me, make up

our four person medical team.  I learned today she is not

returning to the project. the doctor who I replaced left after three


my field coordinator is leaving in two weeks, and there may be someone

to relieve her.  our logistician is leaving at the same time, but

as of yet, there is noone to take his place.  in Khartoum, there

are similar problems.  we have been without a medical coordinator

for several weeks.  I saw our logistical coordinator in Ethiopia

and he told me he resigned.  our head of mission wants to be gone

by the middle of april.  no news on their replacements.

I mentioned earlier that the mission in sudan is the most expensive in

the world, for both the UN and for MSF.  talking with my colleague

about their different projects and countries, it seems that it is also

one of the most difficult.    the departures board

speaks to this truth.

I hope for the people of abyei and darfur that we find a way to work as

long as possible in the country.  i will contribute as much

resolve as I can.  i think i will need it all.

I will send word from abyei.  love the spring for me.

p.s. for each of you that posts comments, my gratitude.  I get

them forwarded to me by msf every now and again, and they are a source

of comfort.  thank you for them.