Very Happy New Year News

Hello everybody, and happy new years. 2008 is going to be really great for me, I have some news to share here to get all those who are interested in my travels back up to date with my life and my plans.

First, the most important thing in my whole life… I’ve finally found the perfect girl for me. Her name is Marina, and we’ve been together over a year now. She and I weren’t ready to talk so publicly about our relationship until now, but now the time has come, so that’s the first really great piece of news for the blog in 2008.

I met Marina in Liberia (and astute readers of my blog from back then will find some references to her). She was a coworker, and we were living in a small compound with 7 other MSFers, so we started off with a great deal of discretion. We have some funny stories about how each of our coworkers found out about our little “thing”. The important part is that the boss, who liked to play the part of the mother to us all, didn’t find out until the very end… that means we “won” the game. 🙂

When we both got back from Liberia, we really had to adjust. Was it just something that happened to us inside of the MSF bubble, or would our relationship work in real life too? It took all year, and some hard times, to find the answer to that question. But the answer now is clear: YES! We are together now in Switzerland, and planning how to stay together.

And that leads me to the second piece of news: we have found a posting with MSF where we can live and work together. We will be in Adré, Chad for 6 months. I leave January 10th, and she follows 2 weeks afterwards. I have been studying French during the last 5 months here in Switzerland to give me a reason to stay close to Marina and develop our relationship. Furthermore, I chose to study French to help my career with MSF and to help us have more possibilities to be together — now that both of us are bilingual (at least for some types of jobs) that makes many more possibilities where we can live and work together, all around the world. After Chad, who knows… but perhaps we will live in Geneva while Marina studies, and after that we can continue working around the world.

I will be working as a logistician in Adré, where MSF operates a hospital. It was a government hospital before the hostilities in western Sudan boiled over the border and destabilized the eastern frontier region of Chad. Now, there are 240,000 refugees from Sudan in the area, and demand for services like healthcare, water, and feeding have overwhelmed the Government of Chad’s ability (and willingness) to provide. Thus, eastern Chad has become the humanitarian aid industry’s second front in the war in Darfour (the western state of Sudan).

My work will concentrate on construction and water systems, because MSF has the goal to rehabilitate a series of health posts and put them back into service during 2008. But in fact because the situation there is so volatile, I might end up working on other things instead… like the evacuation plan. 🙁

Marina will be a nurse in the hospital. She will be responsible for the normal things an MSF nurse does in a post like that. She will be responsible for the pharmacy, the sterilization, the management of the nurses and the nurse aides, for ongoing training to improve the standard of care. This is actually quite a boring post, like her first one with MSF several years ago in Laos. To her credit, she’s decided to take it to come with me to Chad. I suppose I will owe her big time when she finds something interesting to do somewhere else in the world and I have to find a way to come along with her!

The context where we will be working, eastern Chad, is really much more the traditional MSF posting than Liberia was. Compared to Chad, Liberia is a vacation paradise. We will have a tough time sometimes, but we’ll be together and that seems to give us more courage. That’s how it should be with your partner, but it’s perhaps not such a good idea to give each other courage when you are talking about a war zone! But, we’ll be back inside the MSF bubble, where there are enough security rules, enough resources to keep us safe, and a healthy aversion to taking stupid risks. It’s going to be a big adventure, and hopefully we’ll really learn a lot from it.

Finally, some administrative details… I am going to purge my huge list of people and only send updates from Chad to those who really want them. If you have gotten this far in my message, you clearly are interested. So please reply to me via e-mail and I will keep you on the list. If you have not read this far, don’t send me e-mail. 🙂

I will not be posting messages from Adré on the website publicly until after I get back next July. If you want to keep up with me, it has to be by e-mail. If you are reading this on the web, you need to send me e-mail to get on the list.