the last week has been a tense one.

the last week has been a tense one. after I sent my last post, sent it through the air (somehow) to a satellite orbiting in the thin atmosphere above Africa that then bounced it to a server (somewhere) that deposited the correct words in the correct order in the MSF office in Canada and from there to a computer screen, after this series of small miracles, I hoped for another: to sleep through the night. it was clear, at 3 in the morning, that I had used my daily miracle quota, and I was called to the hospital. I didn’t sleep until the next evening.

I will not, because I cannot, go into details, but there was a recent spate of violence this week, and it has the whole town on edge. as the dust clears, it is apparent that it will not spill into a larger conflict, that the incidents were isolated and non-partisan, but it made for some tense times. an area wide curfew was enforced from dusk until dawn, no movements allowed. those of us who were on call slept in the hospital in case we needed to receive several patients in the middle of the night, and because we could not move freely from hospital to compound. twice, we suspended activities in the hospital, and gathered in our respective compounds waiting for clearance that it was safe to return. on the first night, a violent storm blew in, first covering us with sand, and then pelting us with rain. the first night, after my sleepless one, we huddled in the centre of our compound, silent, listening for shots above the ratatatat of the rain.

the violence, like the storm, has blown over. the town is slowly returning to normal. the market is again bright with flowered bicycles weaving through puddles, the nights loud with tinny music. but that first night, everyone was sitting, awake and quiet, training their ears above the rain, time stretching like in a dentist’s chair. and for many of us, we realized more deeply the work we had signed up for, that we had anticipated, even excitedly. now that it was closer, as we sat silently wondering if we were going to be in the middle of a chaos well beyond our control, the gravity of this place became heavier, and the reason for our presence more clear. it is, after all, what médecins sans frontières does.

I never did hear about the woman we sent for surgery that night until the next morning. after being refused, the surgeon changed his mind, and operated. after a c-section, her and abyei’s newest baby girl are ready to return home. a home that for the time being, and hopefully forever more, remains sudan’s best place for peace.