Jordan: Moving house, making friends… and the mosquitoes

Mike is a family doctor from the UK who is currently working with Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on a project in Jordan, treating Syrian refugees suffering from chronic diseases. Here, he blogs about a change in living arrangements...

From the start of this project, MSF’s international staff have been living in apartments.

Initially, there were two apartments, then three. Although two were adjacent, there was little contact between the residents after eating together.

I understand that from relatively early on it was thought that it would be better to be all in one place, but nothing had ever been found that was suitable.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, we all moved into one house.

The process of moving was delayed as the building was wired to a correct safety standard, so there were no electrical or other risks to us. But now, we are all in one place… both during the day at work and in the evenings too!

A new atmosphere

Moving in together has changed things, though so far, I’ve not seen any change in work pattern. I’d wondered in jest if people might start staying longer at work to get a bit of space from the same people at home! But this has not happened. In fact, the most obvious change for me has been that instead of coming home to the apartment and rapidly progressing through eating and then going to my room to get on with things, I’ve found myself stopping and chatting on the porch for quite a while.

View from roof in Jordan. Photo: Mike Tomson

Sunset from the roof of the team's new apartment in Jordan. Photo: Mike Tomson

Though going up onto the roof and watching the sunset over the city is a great alternative, getting to my room is happening later and later unless there is a planned phone call. I’ve not done more than a token one or two mindfulness sessions, whereas before I’d been meditating consistently for months. I’ve also been looking away from the exercise bike which has been reproachfully sitting there, getting used less and less.

Though the weather is changing and it’s hotter, I am sure the real reason for the reduced exercise is that there is just so much more to do – so many more interesting conversations to have in a house with six people!

New colleagues

One of the changes that has happened with the house move is having a new colleague for two weeks before she had to go to the other half of her job at another project.

There is always an interesting phase with new colleagues, as the group dynamics alter – especially as she had shared her MSF introductory course (which we all undertake before assignment) with my wonderful mental health colleague. They already had a common language and a strong bond.

Having our new colleague here as the house was set-up contributed even more to the new sociability. Though, I was made to suffer for failing to notice the bright zebra pants (trousers, to English people) that she wore!


Now, we have a garden outside with fruit trees, which makes us feel happier. Though a garden and the recent rains mean more mosquitos… and less sleep as a result.

I’m reminded of the famous saying, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

The team's new garden, full of fruit trees and mosquitoes. Photo: Mike Tomson

The team's new garden, full of fruit trees... and mosquitoes. Photo: Mike Tomson

We wondered about trying to grow things in the garden in addition to what’s already there, but looking at the fields outside, my colleague reminded me that the corn here is already brown and only a few weeks from harvest - any new crops are going to need a lot of watering.


Of course, a new house was also an excuse for a party to warm it up.

Nicolas, our logistician, did lots of the organisation (of course) but there were initially concerns about finding a BBQ and who would be willing to do it.

However, the reality was that our male Jordanian colleagues all congregated around the BBQ either doing the work (very expertly, Jordanian men have great pride in their BBQ skills) or eating the produce.

The rest of the party was a great mixture of fellow MSF people from other projects – mostly local staff, although I was spoilt by having two friends from my own MSF introductory course visit from their projects in Lebanon and Baluchistan.

The house has been properly warmed up!

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