The small things visitors bring

"Like everywhere in the world, life becomes a routine, and you learn to cherish the small things."

Working for MSF in Afghanistan does not only mean that you have to start working in a new country and with new colleagues, but also you start sharing your home with several other people. The team lives and works together, we share meals, but thankfully we all have our own separate bedrooms. (Which is a luxury, not all MSF missions can offer that). Due to security measures we only go from the guesthouse to the hospital and back. Actually it’s not as bad as it sounds. It only takes two to three weeks to get used to and then it becomes a part of your normal daily life. Like everywhere in the world, life becomes a routine, and you learn to cherish the small things. For example, driving past the bread shop on the way home is always fun. Sometimes we get to see a different part of the neighborhood, and occasionally we stop at our local supermarket where everyone knows us by now.

MSF Afghanistan

Our driver jumping out to get bread. © Heru Sutanto Koerniawan

The team in Ahmad Shah Baba is actually the smallest one in the MSF Afghan mission. We like it because we are like a small family – yes, small, because usually families in Afghanistan live together with around 20 people. Visitors are frequent and the whole team welcomes guests. They are as unique as they are many, and they bring different elements to the team. Most of them just stay two or three nights. Sometimes they bring a little Belgian cheese or chocolate from Dubai, which is always appreciated, and we have no problems with eating it all in one day. For three weeks we had a visitor named Niamh doing a survey on access to health care. In the evening she would share stories from her day, as her job and staff were quite different from the usual. She also somehow got the whole team to get dressed up and have a ‘Rock and Roll’ theme night. We just grabbed what we had and went with it. I’m not sure if it would have been considered a proper rock and roll party in my home country, but it was fun, and the most important thing was that we all looked equally stupid.

MSF Afghanistan

Me (on the left) saying goodbye to Niamh © Lara Jonasdottir

  Our latest visitor was a midwife from Brussels named Ann who would be staying with us for two weeks. She has years of experince in MSF and has spent quite some time in Afghanistan. No one in our current team had met her before. We asked around before her arrival and the word of mouth was that she makes really good home made bread. It was enough to get us exited. Food is a very important thing for any human being, and living in Afghanistan, we all had to adjust to eating new kinds of food. Afghani food is okay, but often you start missing the small, simple things from home. Like cheese, good pasta, rice without oil, good meat... (I can go on and on). So when we heard Ann could make good bread we hoped she would make some for us. However, Ann exeded all our expectations by a million. Her first night here she whipped out a Lebanese feast, where she made everything from the bread to the juice. It was instant affection, she had taken all our hearts by storm, via our stomachs. For two weeks almost everyday she just casually made something amazing. I tried to learn from her but in the end I just sat and watched her do her thing, and then we washed the dishes. For a small team it’s not only important to enjoy each others company, but also to enjoy something together, like food. So like Niamh, Ann really did more than just her job, and brought some spice to our routine life.

MSF Afghanistan

Ann and our cook Shah Bubu © Lara Jonasdottir