I’m at our weekly Friday meeting when the agenda moves to “any other business”. I bring forward a motion for an Easter egg hunt.
I’m met with looks of confusion before I attempt to explain the rules:
• I print off templates of eggs on to paper
• Each egg has a number and a tongue in cheek message relevant to MSF on it
• I buy gifts. Each gift has a number on it that matches a specific egg
• Each person hides one ‘egg’ around the compound
• When you find an egg, you help a friend who has yet to find one
• When all the eggs have been found, we return and open our gifts
Some of my colleagues still don’t understand, but are persuaded to join in when I promise they will have fun. We each pay a small amount of money for the gifts, and agree that the game will take place at 2pm Easter Sunday.
On Saturday morning, Anita our Australian epidemiologist bakes hot cross buns before joining me on my trip to the supermarket. We purchase toys, sweets, and a suspicious looking £2 bottle of whisky which the box promises will have a “thoroughly decent” taste.
We return to the compound and wrap the presents in left over Christmas paper. I number the gifts and write messages in their corresponding eggs.
The presents (wrapped in leftover Christmas paper). Photo: Chris Sweeney/MSF.
I hear a breeze outside my room, followed by the gentle rustling and soft thud that signals a ripe mango falling from the tree.
I run outside in order to find the bright yellow fruit before the ants do.
I eat the flesh and share the skin with Yoni, the blue duiker that lives in our compound having been rescued from the soup pot by a colleague.
Our friend Yoni, the blue duiker. Photo: Chris Sweeney/MSF.
Yoni chowing down on some mango skin. Photo: Chris Sweeney/MSF.
In the evening I make chocolate Easter nests with Hazel, our English Doctor. I couldn’t find chocolate, cake cases, or cornflakes in the supermarket so we use rice cereal, butter, cocoa, and sugar syrup.
We scoop the mixture in to coffee filters. Hazel brought miniature chocolate eggs to the field which she places in the centre of each “nest”. I make space in the luke warm fridge by re-arranging wilted lettuce and yesterday’s lasagne.
I return to the kitchen and come to an agreement with Hazel; she can lick the spoon whilst I scrape the bowl.
I message my colleagues on Sunday morning, reminding them to meet at 2pm. To my surprise, everyone is in the dining area at the time we agreed. We go over the rules, and each person takes a turn to go outside and hide their egg.
During my turn, I see Fathei our Sudanese Laboratory technician watching as I try to find a good hiding spot. When he realises that I can see him, he laughs so hard that he is unable to offer an excuse for this rather unsportsmanlike behavior.
I wait for him to return inside before taping my egg between two shipping containers containing supplies.
My egg (hidden between two shipping containers). Photo: Chris Sweeney/MSF.
We start the game. Half the team run outside, with the rest following. I become referee temporarily when I see Isaac our Nigerian technical logistician running around laughing loudly, having just snatched a second egg from under Anita’s nose. He is still laughing when he returns to hand her an egg.
Within 20 minutes we have found all but two.
Laurens, our supply log, admits he thought it would be amusing to climb a mango tree and hide his egg there.
The group make him climb back up to collect it; I laugh and take pictures as he realises the tree is covered in fire ants. He sustains a few bites to his hands before coming back down, scrunched egg in hand.
Laurens climbs up a tree (with fire ants) to retrieve the egg he stashed up there! Photo: Chris Sweeney/MSF.
Hazel has found the best hiding place, and offers hints to the team find the last egg.
We return inside and take turns to read our message, open our gift, and eat a chocolate nest. People swap gifts, but no one wants to exchange with Hazel, so she is stuck with the £2 whisky.
We wish each other a happy Easter, and arrange to meet at 7pm for dinner.