Before long journeys I always have the nagging sensation that something must go wrong. Despite knowing everything has been organised and being generally laid back it seems impossible that all the many interlocking segments will click together and I will arrive at my destination. But I sit here at Heathrow airport it seems the impossible will happen and I will be departing on the first leg of a journey that will take me into the mountains of southern Sudan.
It’s already been a long old journey already. I am not sure exactly when it started. I remember sitting in a filled lecture hall on evening in medical school; listening to the stories of transporting medications by canoe and amateurly preparing landing fields for aircraft delivery and knowing at that point that I would be doing that job at some point.
Fast forward 10 years, after working as a emergency department doctor and undertaking shorter volunteer jobs in refugee camps and in cape town, and almost a year after being accepted onto the MSF register I am here; nervously contemplating the challenges ahead.
The application process is still slightly opaque to me even after going through it. I am not quiet sure how I was deemed to be worth the extreme amount of expense and logistics of flying me from my comfortable life in Brighton to Southern Sudan. But surely only the pathologically arrogant are exempt from imposter syndrome?
The process has been slow; after an interview last year, when I was accepted on the register. The matching of my availability to missions that would have me as a newbie took a while. It is hard to know when and how to pause your life. When to take a new job in the U.K or when to remain unemployed in readiness to leave. So, for a while, it remains an idea, something that I mention as an afterthought to colleges who ask about my life plans.
Then suddenly, on an ordinary workday, you received an email. Do you want to go to Sudan? A vague job description is read; an answer is needed. I tried to objectively weight the facts, but I had already said yes many years ago.
Then you are in, for real this time; the machinations of administration whirl. Documents get signed and checked. Forms regarding health status, evacuations and kidnappings get vetted. A world new world of acronyms (MSF-OCA anyone?) and jargon open up. Words that sounded silly before like “mission” become common parlance. I struggle to keep up with all this as the inevitably, the people inside this club use it all so casually.
But it does all come together, well mostly. I wait here in quarantine in Khartoum. The strangeness of just seeing the tops of buildings for the rooftop but not being able to go explore. I am half in a new country, half still in transit. So I read guidelines to try and prepare me for what’s ahead; knowing that most of what I read won’t be much use. But it does something to dampen the nervous excitement that I don’t think I will fully dissipate for a few weeks. And I wait.