the best way to get a hedgehog out of your room is to poke him with something blunt, like a shoe or a book. then, when he curls into a ball, you just roll him gently from behind your trunk and out the door. if you try to chase him out, it quickly becomes a game of corner-to-corner, one that he can play much better than you.
one week. likely less by the time you get this. i can't understand it. it seems not real. i am not sure if i have stopped looking for the end because i have fallen into step with the day to day cadence of this place, or because it is right in front of me. all i have for signposts are the disbelieving faces of those who have left before me as they throw their pack into the back of the landcruiser. noone believes it until they are on the way.
perhaps part of the reason is how isolated we really are. our air access routes change daily. some weeks we drive for two days to a tarmac landing strip, other days we are told that a plane might land an hour away. might. other times we drive all the way to khartoum. one of the last people to leave drove for two hours to a flooded landstrip and waited as the plane buzzed it once, twice, then banked away. desperate, he and the driver followed it in the landcruiser and watched it land on a drier piece of land a few kilometres away. they tried to reach it, but a river blocked their path. they drove along it, back and forth, but could find no place for the truck to cross. finally, the driver stopped the car, bernard hiked up his trousers, grabbed his bag from the back, and forded the river. he arrived just in time. the driver put the car in reverse to begin the drive back to abyei, but it was hopelessly stuck. it took him hours to get out.
so, who knows. maybe a week. maybe more. rain, cholera, fighting. all these strong reasons to not grow fond of a particular version of one's future.
part of the reason i work in places like this, with an organization like msf, is that i share important common ground with the people i share space with. for instance, few seem to confuse worth with what can be owned. also, few of us have a fixed idea of the future. most of us know where we will be find ourselves when the mission is done, but after that, who knows? i am not sure if it is a quality that leads us towards work like this, or if it is something we learn standing on the wrong side of the river or from patients whose plans often cannot extend past their next meal.
so, here i sit, less than one week to go, and it might as well be a year away. i thought this would be a time for summaries, for reflection, but for now this is the only place in the world that exists. yours seems make believe. i can't quite imagine this place without me, or me without it. quite a change from the beginning when that is all i could imagine.
the weather is bright today. tufts of harmless clouds and a scorching sun. the bird is ratatatating the mirror behind me. i am off to the hospital soon, taking a walk that i have now done more than any other. donkeys will pass me in either direction, one nearly bowling me over, carrying their payloads of water and young boys shouting "arrrraattt! aaarrrrraattt!" and slashing their backs with sticks. a young girl will peek at me from behind a grass fence and whisper "kywyja..... kywyja...". two soldiers will bike by in either direction, and one will say "morning", even though it is late in the afternoon. as i turn into the driveway, i will look up and see, high over the hospital, a dozen hawks drifting in wide, slow circles, up and up and up, hot air under their broad wings. soon they will be only small black points brushing the clouds, and then, too small to see.