Being far away from home isn’t easy. While life on mission has many rewards – not least the chance to go places and see things that few others will experience – it implies time away from family and friends.
This means missing things like birthdays, important gatherings, births and, sometimes, even deaths amongst those close to us.
The support we would usually have is absent and so, to help us get through the difficult days, it is the team of MSF colleagues which becomes a surrogate family.
This doesn’t mean that team dynamics are always easy. After a tough day there is no doubt that we can sometimes get on each other’s nerves. Most often though, after similarly tough days, it is the support of the other expats that has helped me get by.
This doesn’t usually come through in the form of grand gestures. Although, when one of the others returns from a weekend off in the capital with real cheese or similar rare delicacies it does A LOT to lift the spirits.
Instead, it is the simple things like having someone to talk with about a difficult case or being surprised with freshly baked cookies to enjoy at teatime, that make all the difference.
Specifically, I want to thank my team for making my recent birthday an unexpectedly enjoyable one.
I woke up on the morning I turned 32 feeling very nauseous – not a good start! What would later turn out to be a bout of dysentery, got progressively worse and I spent most of the day feeling pretty rotten. But in the evening I was surprised with a proper party including balloons (one of which was fashioned into a spectacular headdress just for me), cake and even birthday presents!
The dysentery has thankfully been resolved and time has moved on, but I will always remember my Pakistani birthday – for the place where I celebrated it, but more importantly for the people with whom I spent it.
MSF is an organisation made great by the great people who make it tick. I feel very privileged to share my time here with some of them. THANKS TEAM, YOU GUYS ROCK!