I’ll be an expat soon. Expat is MSF lingo for all “foreigners” that work for the organization in the mission country. An expat can be a nurse or doctor, a log (logistitian), a medco (medical coordinator), a PC (project coordinator), a finco (financial coordinator). The lingo has only started making sense to me, after this past week of 12-14 hour training days.
12 hour days. Here are some seconds from it…
We are filled with silence. No one fidgets. I stare at the ground. Andreas turns off the projector, glances at the room, and then leaves. I am relieved that he does not break the moment. But then someone next to me moves, and it sends ripples across the room. And the moment is gone. 30 seconds. 30 seconds of contemplation after watching a short docu-movie on the sexual violence in the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) against women. Horrendous. Too horrendous to tell you what it revealed.
I walk out of the midst of one of our training sessions to go to the washroom. I walk past one of the MSF expats. My pace slows to a halt. He is standing outside, inhaling a cigarette, pacing back and forth in staccato movements. His forehead muscles are scrunched up, betraying internal dialogue. Is his preoccupation transitory? Or is he dancing to the drumbeat of his internal turmoil? 30 seconds.
I realize, the last day of the training, that Marion speaks Spanish. Ordinarily that would not mean much, however since her English is unintelligible to me because of her thick French accent, the fact that she speaks Spanish makes her accessible to me. We talk. Music is blaring in the background. She opens up to me about being attacked in Darfur while on a humanitarian mission. I give her a hug. 30 seconds.
These were some snippets that stick out in my head. Not quite sure how some images stick and others don’t. But these have. I could also tell you about how each night I’d climb into my bunk-bed serenaded by the snores of one of my roommates. Or about hearing footsteps that never existed while hiding with my team members from “rebels” in the bushes. I could also tell you about buying beer at the gas station while our taxi driver calls our hostel to ask for directions because none of us remembered the name or location of our hostel. Or the green-table parties. Most importantly the laughter.
These seconds over the last week have been amazing. I have crossed paths with like-minded people from all over the world. They have been surprising and inspiring. Some are taking off, as I am, at the end of this week of training. Sri Lanka. Ivory Coast. Chad. Somalia. Ethiopia. Others don’t know where they will be posted. Some have given up their careers and jobs, together with the security that it provides, to ensue a career in humanitarianism. That takes balls.
I am taking a detour to Berlin tomorrow before I end up in Amsterdam for my pre-departure briefing.