Fieldset
On saying goodbye

The last day in the field is a blur: some final handover of reports and evaluations and lessons learned the hard way before I forget; a sumptuous lunch followed by a grand afternoon tea organised respectively by the wonderful staff in my two departments; pictures and hand-shakes and exchanging co

The last day in the field is a blur: some final handover of reports and evaluations and lessons learned the hard way before I forget; a sumptuous lunch followed by a grand afternoon tea organised respectively by the wonderful staff in my two departments; pictures and hand-shakes and exchanging contact details…

I do not like saying goodbye. I would prefer to slip away quietly in the night, but to do so would not allow me the chance to say thank you to all the people who have worked so hard during my time here: the drivers and watchmen who have helped to keep me safe, the office and support teams for making so many things happen in the background so that I didn’t have to worry, our chef and house staff for taking such good care of us and the excellent clinical team for delivering the true purpose of our project: high quality patient care. Thank you to all of you, without your ongoing efforts, my presence in North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan would have been without value or result.

I spend my last evening in the field quietly: warm and watching a movie – a simple and unexpectedly special end to what has been at times an incredibly challenging period in my life. The next day I am up far too early for my liking. It is cold and all I want to do is stay in bed, but my transport to the capital is leaving. I say some final goodbyes to my expat team (my family away from home) and suddenly after weeks of being ready, I no longer want to leave…but all in a moment and a cloud of dust, Dargai is behind me.

My last days in Pakistan are spent debriefing and writing reports in Islamabad. On my last night, two of my expat team arrive unexpectedly from the field and I am treated to an impromptu farewell party including home made sushi, beautiful decorations and entertainment by a local musical duo. The packing I had planned to do is postponed and I enjoy another very special evening. On the final morning it takes all my will power to leave the warmth of my bed. The distinctive smell of 4am greets my nose as the driver and I shift through the deserted streets on the way to the airport. Silent for most of the way he eventually turns to me and asks: “Is your mission complete?” and, despite some reports to finish, despite the never-ending work that I leave behind, I am able to say “Yes”.  I have done what I came here to do.

We go through one last security check-point on the road: one last slalom between concrete barriers; one last pass in the firing line of the machine-gunner in his sand-bagged bunker; and I am reminded that I have just spent six months in Pakistan and it is the end of what has been a very long and difficult year for that country and myself.

The firm fleshy hand of the driver is my final farewell and then, I am gone.

I want to thank those of you who have followed this blog. The work of MSF relies on the support of people all around the world who recognise the need for what we do and agree to help us, whether through a period of work with the organisation or financially. Please spread the word about MSF to everyone you know. The more people who know about us and the efforts we make to bring healthcare and other services to populations in need, the greater the impact we will be able to have and the more projects (like our current ones in Pakistan) we will be able to operate.

And finally, whoever and wherever you may be, take time to appreciate the good things, the special things that you have in your life. If the last six months has taught me anything, it is that to be here (in this life) is an amazing opportunity, don’t waste it!