I grew up abroad and have spent a large part of my life living and working in different cultures. Studying physics, working as software engineer, owning a bar in Paris and running a security company in the Middle East seem to make me a typical log with a wide range of experience in different environments. MSF is my chance to do something less selfish and blogging is my way of ordering what I see and dealing with the stresses of life.
Photo source: Nicky
Explaining to family and friends I’m going to be a logistician in Chad for 9 months is invariably met with either “Where’s that?” or “Who’s he?” About to start my first mission with MSF, I have no idea what to expect of the country or the job, the only clue being the word “flexible,” which I am told again and again is key to success. I have visions of sweltering heat, lack of electricity and flushing toilets and rubbish blowing down dirt tracks passing for roads. Am I going to be up to the demands of the environment and work? Will I be able to fulfill my commitment to MSF and the population which I am there to support? Will I enjoy it? All these questions, and many more, are floating round in my brain, making me wish for a speedy arrival to allay my fears and get on with the job in hand.
Landing at the international airport in the capital N’Djamena immediately underlines the remoteness of Chad off the world’s radar. The plane lands and turns around at the end of the runway to travel straight back up to the terminal – no taxiways available here. There are two small planes parked up – one UN and one WFP. Arrivals reminds me of a bus station in the middle of the desert, just a small room split into immigration and baggage collection. There’s nothing to buy and no advertisements visible. Someone in an MSF jacket comes up and introduces himself, leading us to a pink pickup complete with MSF logos. I remember being told why all the transport is pink – rebels were periodically stealing the white MSF Land Cruisers from NGOs to use for their own warring purposes. Someone came up with the simple idea of spraying all the MSF transport pink to deter them, which has apparently worked a treat. Genius! Although I’d go one further and decorate them with girly transfers and stick-on bling.
The road to the MSF compound is compacted sand with plenty of potholes, forcing a very slow and bumpy progress. Arrival anywhere in the dark provides a distorted view of your new world, but I can make out smouldering piles of rubbish on the side of the road and smell the tropical vegetation in the heat. The driver alerts the guards of our arrival by radio, prompting open the big metal gates for us to reverse in. A garden with lots of hot-weather-type plants lies in front of a large concrete house, a lit lamp on the veranda providing a warm, welcoming glow over the front porch and seating area. I am shown around and to my room where I collapse into bed with the heat and tiredness. Arranging the mosquito net takes me back to making a den as a child and I fall asleep feeling safe and content, the many crickets and toads singing me their bedtime lullaby.