After months of waiting, I have finally received my assignment from MSF. On February 1st I will be flying from Canada to…Myanmar!
If Myanmar doesn’t sound familiar to you, you might recognize its former name, Burma. If Myanmar is familiar to you, that’s probably because friends of yours went on their honeymoon there and you’re wondering why I’m heading there with MSF.
This is where my blogging will get complicated. After reading everything that I could get my hands on about Myanmar, I’ve realized that it is a country that takes its public relations very seriously and would rather not have foreigners writing about perceived shortcomings and problems. I think, however, it is safe to say that just like the rest of the world, there are places in Myanmar where it is virtually impossible for certain people to access health care. And that’s where I’ll come in – helping to run 10 mobile health clinics in a remote area of the country. Since I usually work in remote areas of Canada and Australia, this job sounds like a pretty good fit for me!
The question I’ve been asked the most is: “is it safe?” I am relieved to report that, for foreigners, Myanmar is very safe. Of course, the creepy crawlies are a little more exotic than I’m used to in Canada. There are snakes, big bugs, and venomous spiders – all things I learned to deal with while working in Australia. I doubt I’ll ever be comfortable with the knowledge that there are cobras and black mambas outside my door (hopefully not inside!), but I don’t think I’ll be paralyzed with fear. Of course, if I actually see one of these snakes, I may temporarily lose my mind (in a safe and culturally appropriate manner, of course!)
I’ve come to realize that the world is increasingly a very small place. It turns out that I have friends already working with MSF in Myanmar. A doctor with whom I studied during my Diploma in Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is working one project over and a nurse who worked at the hospital where I did much of my residency training just left the project I will be joining. Finally, a Canadian logistician I met during my MSF training will be in the closest major city (5 hours away).
So, Rakhine State, Myanmar, will be my home for the next nine months. The next channel: packing!
Top image shows a 12-year-old girl in Rakhine State, Myanmar, photographed in 2013.