I have just had my first support visit from our operational centre in Amsterdam, in the form of two Field Support Supervisors. After an amazing first leave, I came back to analysis and discussion of efficiency and effectiveness. This was followed by a short training at our Field HQ in Loki, where all the Logisticians in the field met for the first time. At first I thought that a day on a bumpy plane would be a rubbish way to spend what was, as it happened, my birthday. All the logisticians know each others’ voices from the daily radio contact, but it is coded, and so strangely we had never actually spoken to each other in English, let-alone met face to face!
My birthday, one which I will never forget, was spent in a rather unusual way. The plane picked us up from Lankien first, and my skepticism about spending all day on a bumpy plane was quickly usurped by high excitement as we landed at first one, then another MSF project, picking up people on the way. Andy and Ken, the Kenyan pilots shared their packed lunch with us as we took a long and unique tour all around South Sudan by air. It was amazing to get a sense of where we were in the grand scheme of things, and it made me very proud to be carving-out some sense of order in Lankien, where we are easily the most isolated MSF mission here. It was really something to see these places and meet these people who were just voices talking code on the radio for so many months.
First stop was Nassir, where we picked-up Katherine from the riverside airstrip. I was in awe of the Sobat river, only THREE HOURS from Ethiopia and the outside world!!! Nassir is a thriving place, full of NGOs and business, it seems. Then, on we went to Malakal, like a city and again by the river, and including a TARMAC RUNWAY! Leer was next, where the hospital is build of CEMENT and BRICKS, then Bentiu, again a very civilized and well-serviced runway, with many other planes visible and organisations in evidence. I had a fantastic day, partly because until three weeks ago, I had not set foot outside the very limited environs of our compound for nearly four months.
It was a good meeting. I realised how much I had learnt from being ‘thrown in at the deep end’ and I also realised how much I had, indeed, been ‘thrown in at the deep end’.