I struggled with myself for years, trying to convince myself that applying for MSF was exactly what most people would say: insane! I had a great job, was doing nicely in my private practice and with two colleagues owned a company that was in a fine moment. What else would I like in a professional life? The thing is, for me, life must be a lot more than just being professionally stable. I wanted much more than that!
I waited for over a year to finally be in one of the MSF’s projects. A long wait… It’s not hard to imagine the social pressure I had to face before accepting the mission. Running against a crowd isn’t easy. You’re given a heavy load since most of the people prefer to stick to the comfort zone and don’t quite understand other choices. But giving voice to a dream that was held in silence compensates it all!
It was in the plane, on my way to the Kabul, that I felt I was in Afghanistan. I was impressed; its landscape is just alluring! Nevertheless, the scenario is so different from the one I was used to seeing, that I had to learn how to look at it. My eyes kept on searching for the green colors, while the brown were right there, quietly showing their outstanding beauty all along the endless mountains.
Well, honestly, it was not just the landscape that impressed me. I was freaking out! How would I manage being feminine without disrespecting the culture or myself? How would it be living confined for six months? How hard would it be working in mental health with a translator? How would I feel having to be covered, not being able to show my arms, nor my neck, nor my hair…?
It will be difficult to forget the look of a supposedly Afghan adolescent when, arriving in the airport, I put the scarf on. She kept staring at me, frowning and talking to an older woman. I felt so embarrassed and thoughts of what was I doing wrong just spread in my mind… Having part of the team with me in the plane made it easier to handle all the insecure thoughts. Hearing those magical words “It’s ok, you should be fine!” got me back on track.
I was not (and will never be!) an Afghan, I had never been to Kunduz nor Kabul, I’d never worn a scarf with that purpose… and yes, I am a first time MSF expat !