No time for goodbyes: Leaving Bangui

After an assignment marked by violence, an MSF anaesthetist faces his next challenge: returning home.

Since my last post, the situation had remained mostly calm, but then the violence broke out again in Bangui just a few days before my departure.

A church full of people was attacked by gunmen, killing over 20 people and wounding many others. As victims were pouring into the hospitals, the cycle of violence was already spreading around the city, as one retaliation always led to another.

All I want to do is to stay here with my team and with the people in dire need of medical help

The violence and fighting also had its effect on our work in the hospital. And in the midst of rising tensions and frequent fighting there was no time for proper goodbyes, endless hugs and promises to meet again – there was just the fast departure.

It all left me more than a little discouraged and worried for the population of Bangui and the rest of the country.

Wanting to stay

Before the latest fighting, we had already witnessed an increased influx of patients to the hospital. The days had been busy, including some very difficult moments, but also some happy ones, when we were able to save mothers and babies.

But now, most women are too scared to come to the hospital for treatment, instead giving birth at home, just hoping everything would go well.

Talking only about the war doesn’t do any justice to this country

It feels especially hard to leave right now. Although it is the end of my assignment, all I want to do is to stay here with my team and with the people in dire need of medical help.

But it’s time for me to go and I know that they can manage without me very well. I’ve written my reports and given my handover notes to a new colleague who will take over. Now, I just have to hand over my phone and get myself to the airport.

This is my reality now

This is my second assignment with MSF. Like when I was in Yemen, I don’t really recognise my home country anymore. Finland seems almost fictional. And there’s a part of me that wants to keep it like that.

This is my reality now, here in the Central African Republic.

What can I tell people back home about this place? Talking only about the war doesn’t do any justice to it.

You will always be able to carry them with you in your heart

This part of the Central African Republic is a vibrant place with good people living under tragic conditions and the constant threat of violence.

But, when, hopefully, the fighting ceases, cars and motorbikes will fill the streets again, making one big, beautiful mess.

The shops will open early in the morning and the smell of fresh food will be everywhere.

The children will go to school every morning and in the afternoon run quickly back home for safety, finding shelter within their families and communities, just like you and me.

And if you take away all the armored vehicles and NGO Land Cruisers, Bangui seems just like many other African cities.

Slipping away

As I’m walking towards the plane that will fly me away, I take one last look around me: the red dirt roads in the middle of greenest of green, the city, the hectic traffic – and the people.

You’re already starting to slip away from this world – the Central African Republic – that should be the same as the one you’re going to – Europe and Finland.

Right now, both places seem surreal and you feel stuck in the middle. You feel like crying and running back, but then you remember the people again.

And you start to feel gratitude, knowing no matter what, you will always be able to carry them with you in your heart. And you know, you’ve received so much more than you could ever give back.

So much more.