Amy's Adventures in Darfur

I started this blog when I left for Darfur in June 2006. I was working as a midwife with MSF aka "Medecins Sans Frontiers" aka "Doctors without Borders" but this blog contains my own opinions and stories- not those of MSF. It is less political than I want it to be and I have been unable to post stories about certain topics due to the fact that this is on the internet and accessible to anyone. I wish I could tell you all of the stories but since I can't, I will tell you the ones that I can...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Team Life

another old one that accidentally wasn't posted. it was written in the end of july.

one of the most important aspects of being overseas is your team. i have been insanely blessed in the past, making life-long kindred-spirit friends with the girls on my teams in the philippines and in afghanistan. it was often those friendships that kept me sane and that made the situations there bearable. it was those teams that made me fall in love with working overseas, and that made me expect to always have a team that was a port in the storm.
when i first arrived here i wasn't sure what to expect. steffan (who was going to kerenek) and i had been briefed together and each time it was the same "in kerenek the team is GREAT, everyone gets along, they're all good friends, etc etc. in habillah.... uh, not so much". i was told that the two girls got along with each other, but not with the one guy, and we had no fieldco yet, so it was just going to be the 4 of us to start. when i arrived here i found that i clicked with milena and carmenza, but clashed with andi on a regular basis. it was so weird for me to be on a team that wasn't totally close and loving. it definitely made it that much harder to be here, and i spent a lot of time with my ipod on. shortly before andi and carmenza left for their vacations we welcomed gustavo, our new fieldco (aka our boss), who was a breath of fresh air. his girlfriend, monica, is based in el geneina but she joined us for a week as she's in charge of the medical activities in the project and came to check things out. those days were heaven. gustavo and monica are so funny that it's exhausting to be around them for too long. every day we worked our insane, stressful jobs, and each night after work we would sit outside and they would smoke like chimneys and entertain us with stories from their previous missions- "and then they kidnapped us, but very politely" (somalia) and "there they don't involve civilians in their disputes. if they are going to fight they go out to an empty field and kill each other like gentlemen". eventually the vacationers returned and everything was different- andi was a new man. he was rested, he was relaxed, his face had filled in (he had lost so much weight here that he was actually gaunt) and his sense of humour was back. i was like "who are you and what have you done with andi?". the next two weeks were amazing. we all laughed so much that it hurt, which is the best therapy imaginable. as we got more and more comfortable with each other we all acquired nicknames- i'm 'the beast of beasts', which sounds a lot like the nickname my older sister calls me, which is 'monstergirl'. milena is shtroumpheta, which is smurfette in french, gustavo is 'moustaffa the palestinian' as everyone here is convinced that he is arab and/or palestinian, carmenza is 'carmencita', and gustavo calls the girls, collectively, 'the squirrels' (andi has no nickname but we tease him mercilessly for being 10 feet tall and hitting his head on everything. he does, however, have a stuffed bat who we named 'ignut the coolcool'). when we had guests arriving from the headquarters in geneva gustavo turned to carmenza, the calm one of the group, and said "try to control the beasts, will you?". whenever i would tackle someone (let's be honest, it was almost always milena- what can i say, i miss my sisters) gustavo would start chanting "fight, fight, fight", and then he would ask us to pause while he wet the sand. one day, after we had broken yet another piece of furniture, he laid down the law- "there will be no more fighting..... unless there is mud and i have my camera". milena, who is the weaker one in a set of identical twins, always just took it when i harrassed her, but by the end of her time here she was fighting back and starting to hold her own- i'm so proud :) we were all, also, given characters from the movie 'madagascar'- i'm the king of the creatures in the woods, who sings 'i like to move it move it' but i'm not sure why other than the fact that he's apparently crazy.
we got so close and so attached to each other, and i would have been completely happy to keep things that way until december, so i tried to forbid anyone to leave. alas, this last monday milena finished her mission and went home. it's strange how much it hurt to see her go, and what a huge hole she left in the team. it was also strange how jealous i was of her getting to leave, and how often i got caught up in the fact that someone was leaving, forgetting that it wasn't me. our new nurse is a girl from switzerland named corrine. she's nice and seems quite mellow but, as carmenza reminded me, "you were quite normal for your first week or two, and now you behave like a badly-educated boy", so maybe she'll turn out to be as fun and wacky as milena was :) andi and gustavo leave in early september, which means that we have to have a new logistician and a new fieldco, and those are the only other changes that will happen before i leave. i can't imagine life here without gustavo and monica- our next fieldco has some mighty big shoes to fill.

it occured to me as i was writing about how i tackle and harrass milena that several of you readers were probably thinking "thank GOD she's in sudan". then i started to try to think of everyone who has suffered from my boredom and, aside from my sisters (obviously), i made a list: jaana (who has a quote in my quotebook where she says to me "remind me to never marry anyone like you"), hil (who has a quote in my quotebook "if i was married to you i would divorce you"), em (who holds her own by subjecting me to the goblin, which scares the crap out of me every time), kate gem (who told me once that it was confusing to have someone who was so nice cause her the most pain), kate dubensk (who i have great footage of when i tied her up), sarah naiman (who i have so many quotes from i can't even list them here), kate van (whose skull i accidentally fractured), hannah (who has no siblings so i was just filling in), jill and allison (who made the mistake of sitting next to me in class), lina (who told me once "i love you more than cockroaches, but only just"), mandy (who looked shocked when i bit her the first time, but edwin explained by saying "it just means that she likes you"), lou (whose pregnant belly i used to jostle just before we fell asleep in the midwives quarters, so the baby would wake up and kick her all night)....and the rest of you who i'm sure have many, many stories to tell, which is why if i ever get married none of you are invited to my wedding :)

milena and adam

gustavo and monica

andi and corinne

mere moments before i started vomiting on the airstrip :)

carmenza and abdel-razid

milena after losing a pen-fight with me

amy giving milena "chest pains"... a beloved osborne-smulders family tradition

doctor monica

gustavo, whose most common expression was "i feel lazy..."

explaining the cast of madagascar to monica (who is the hippo)

ok, so occasionally we danced in the rain...


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