travel in mind (or the perils of potties)

Think travel is romantic? So did Julia, until she joined MSF...

between june 4 and june 28... i managed to make three trips - the first to teknaf for 5 days (2 of which traveling), the second to bangkok to renew my visa (a hardship i know :) - and that was 4 days with 2 being travel - and then another trip to teknaf (2 1/2 days of travel, 1 day in the office).

i was a little tired when i got back from that last one.  2 1/2 days of travelling to get a day in the field was a bit rough - and that was the easy route!  originally i thought i'd have to stay overnight in chittagong on the way back because there was no space on the flight that left in the evening - just one on the 8 am flight (ugh).  but i went to the airport anyway, and made really big puppy dog eyes and pointed to my two colleagues who already had tickets and basically begged the counter staff to put me anywhere on the flight (i could huddle in the lavatory for 45 minutes no prob).  i offered that i wouldn't need to eat any snacks, and i could even pass on the mango juice box they always hand out.

and 5 mins before the flight was scheduled to leave they gave me a boarding pass!!!! huzzah i cannot describe how happy i was about this.  (they didn't make me sit in the bathroom and i got 2 mango juice boxes and a chocolate wafer bar...)  to know i could sleep in my bed (i didn't care at this point that my bed at home was a foam mattress while the hotel likely had a real box spring), to know that i'd eat at home with my husband - ahhhh what joy.  this was thursday evening and i'd spent tuesday morning at an airport, tuesday afternoon picking up oxygen tanks in chittagong for our hospitals, tuesday afternoon/early evening driving (4 hours weeeee) and tuesday evening in a hotel near teknaf since due to getting the oxygen tanks, we were running late and we can't drive after dark - so fun hotel night.  then wednesday morning Abu (he's been driving for MSF for more than 10 years!) and i set off at 6 am, stopped to get about 15 boxes of medical forms we had printed up (we print up our own forms for prescriptions and lab tests at the hospitals) and off we went for 2 more hours on the road.

after all that i made it to the office in teknaf pretty much on time for work!  but everyone was quick to tell me i looked like crap.  'whiter than an englishwoman' was one of the comments.  i get kinda car sick when travelling, and one consequence apparently is that all the blood leaves my face and settles in my butt (this is an assumption of where the blood goes but i like the explanation for excusing why my pants are getting tighter).

i used to think lots of travel was romantic.  i'd read job ads that said 'travel required' and get all giddy and excited.  now... not so much.  i love the idea and i still get excited.  but well, the harsh reality of exhaust fumes and delayed flights has taught me better.  i know, i know, i work for msf so i should really get to a good place with travel... and i have mostly.  i mean, the fear of flying i developed while in sudan seems to have gone away (huzzah huzzah!) so i no longer think i'm going to die at least 8 times per flight.  and i like going to new places.  but yeah, sometimes it's just not as exciting as one would hope.  most of the not fun parts consists of trying to find potties and food.  it's a lot like road trips at home actually - have to plan where to eat, where to pee.  but here it's a tad more complicated.

like, i try really hard to make sure i don't drink too much water before a long drive (even though it'll be dehydrating) because the look of stress that crosses a driver's face when i lean over and say 'um... could we find a bathroom' is a look of stress i don't like to cause. and it's so densly populated here, that there isn't even an option of hiding behind a tree.

on the trip to khagrachari in april, it took 30 mins before the driver pulled over to a big fancy gas station and went in and negotiated with the manager to let me use his personal privy.  and the last hour of the drive to chittagong last week consisted of me trying to find the best position to sit in that wouldn't remind me of all the coffee i had drunk before we left.  (eventually we also had to grab the half full water bottles that had been making sploching noises and stash them under luggage so i didn't have to listen). and it's not that i mind too much the state of the loo - it's that other people really mind me using them!  and, well, as far as i can tell, most public facilities here are designed for men and i don't think i could quite get away with trying to sneak into one.  so i get princess treatment which means i've probably done myself permanent nerve damage around my bladder, but i do get to use some of the poshest potties in bangladesh.

ta ta