One of the first questions I’ve been asked while waiting for my imminent departure to DR Congo with MSF has been, ‘What are you going to take for nine months?!’. After spending an afternoon packing my bag I’m hoping I found the right answer.
I’ve foolishly bragged to a few people that I managed three months in West Africa with eight kilos, so now with a 20 kilo limit I should have no worries at all. How wrong I was. It turns out that books and chocolate are really heavy. Who knew?
Nine months is a long time to be away without really knowing how easy it will be to re-stock toiletries, or replace clothing that gets ripped or eaten by bugs. I’ve tried to pack enough whilst still travelling on the light side; from past experience carting a giant rucksack round in 30 degree heat is no fun.
Nearly there with packing ©Owen Wood
Whilst packing, I took some time out to reflect on the whirlwind six weeks I’ve had since applying to work for MSF. A week after the interview I was off to Germany for a course, then on to Belgium for a week of intensive French. On returning home it was a mad rush to catch up on vaccinations and try to tie up loose ends before I disappear. Things have slowed down now as I wait for my visa to come through. As soon as it gets cleared I’m off. It’s been a frustrating wait; I feel ready and raring to go after all the preparation and build up so having to hang around has been tiring.
As excited as I am, I’m also incredibly nervous. It’s a momentous change in lifestyle, both on a personal and professional level.
The support I’ve had from friends and family, and my new friends within MSF has helped drive me on. Any self-doubt has quickly dissipated. I’m very lucky in that regard, and I know the support will continue while I’m away. Once I’m on mission, seeing the impact MSF has on people’s lives will continue to spur me on and provide the reassurance that I’m in the right place.
Packing done. Hopefully I’ll find unpacking a bit easier.