Fieldset
Chapter Three: First Stage - Mbandaka

Ebola specialist Luis arrives at the heart of the current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he'll be joining the MSF team responding to the crisis...

At first the flight is announced for 7 am, and pick-up at the house is scheduled at 04:30. Flight cancelled, postponed to 13:00. We will have time to go to the Batiment Intelligent* to file the latest version of the protocol with the National Ethics Committee. 

Finally we take off, trying not to pay too much attention to the little quirks of the formalities at the national airport. The "protocol people" will take care of things.  

Time passes so slowly that I start a conversation with a Spanish nun who has been in the area for more than 30 years. She knows some things...

We’re heading directly northwards: to Mbandaka. We travel in a 20-seater plane that flies low enough to see the majesty of the Congo River below - King Kongo. 

Waiting for the formalities in Mbandaka, taking the temperature. Time passes so slowly that I start a conversation with a Spanish nun who has been in the area for more than 30 years. She knows some things. I listen and drink in every detail she gives me. 

(...) 

We arrive at the L’hôtel Equateur, and I find familiar faces there. It’s a strange sensation. The hotel has become our base, our office, and our living environment.  

Cars rented on the spot and motorcycles contribute to the chaos and fill our lungs with exhaust fumes. We try to find meeting rooms. I’ll be staying at the Hotel Gladys, which has glamour only in the name. On the second night there I make an unexpected animal friend – it’s a field thing I’ve been told. 

We organize ourselves. As much as a person can. Or as much as we can. 

The state of the kitchen here is pitiful. We decided to put some minimal hygiene rules in place, and especially to train the cooks. 

* This is the name of the building that includes government departments including the Ministry of Health