I don’t really know how to start this entry because I am aware that I have been terribly absent from my blog and I’m also aware that I am in a terribly melancholy mood. This week started well on Sunday, when the increase in temperature was accompanied by a rare glimpse of bright blue skies above Dhaka. Usually the sky is overcast, sometimes with a grey tinge to reflect the smog. But Sunday, it was blue and I was so happy. I had a week in the office to catch up with things I’d neglected during two weeks of traveling to the field, and then there was even an extra bonus when I discovered that May 1st was a holiday here, so I would have a nice day at home on Tuesday.
And the first part of Tuesday was quite nice. Jason and I wrote thank you cards for wedding gifts (apparently wedding etiquette gives you 6 months from receiving the gifts to reply and we were coming in about 3 weeks before deadline). We had bought some nice cards from the craft shop down the road, and writing notes to everyone prompted a bit of homesickness, but I was handling it ok.
Then the phone started ringing and the logistics coordinator was on the other end asking me why I hadn’t answered my mobile. I slapped my forehead and ran into my room where I had left my phone by my bed. I’ll admit that I’m not as vigilant here as I was in Sudan where I practically glued my phone to the side of my head. But here it was, the first time I’d left my phone aside, and everyone had been trying to reach me. That morning, some group here had decided to set off three explosions in train stations across the country and they included a message that was anti-NGO (non-governmental organisations).
And we did the things we do at MSF when something like this happens. And that part I’m fine with. But beyond the practicalities, I find it really hard to not get upset when people target NGOs and the work that they do. I realized this in Sudan, and I remember it here. There is a 5-year-old child inside my head who starts stamping her feet and saying, "This is not fair!" I have an overwhelming embedded belief that intention should count for so much, and when all you are trying to do is help and you get slammed – well, this just seems wrong! Perhaps my indignation seems naïve, but I can tell you I’m not the only one who feels like they’ve been kicked in the gut when this type of thing happens.
It reminds me of when things were really tense in Khartoum last spring, and there was a lot of anti-NGO sentiment in the press and in speeches. These emotions came up for me then too. But I was able to do what I always have to do and think about what we are doing, who we are helping, and how there are people who support us. This can sometimes be hard when you don’t see the patients and beneficiaries every day, since in the capital we don't. But in Khartoum this remembrance was actually prompted by something that happened while I walked to the office. A car was passing me with an older man inside. As he drove by he slowed down and shouted with a smile "Khawadja, Tamam!" Which very loosely interpreted meant, "I like that you’re here." It meant the world to me.