Verbal Images: Bordeaux, London…and THANKS!

Hi Everyone —

A partly sunny afternoon in London now after a week that simply flew by. I’ll do my best to keep this post shorter since the last was so long. To start, some thanks are in order: I REALLY love reading the comments that folks are posting, so thank you very much to Beth (former colleague) and Pat (cousin), my most reliable posters so far. You should both know I’m committed to resolving the photo thing ASAP, so check back. (I need to figure out software and hardware and connections with computers that aren’t mine and don’t have my software loaded, etc.) Thanks also to all other posters so far: Steve (brother, though he hasn’t figured out how to post again — anyone who can help, let him know!), Dale (so good to hear from you and thanks for the kind words!), Kate (do I know you in person or only online now?), and Enigma America, whoever you may be. Hope I didn’t miss anyone.

Another brief moment of thanks for PETER, you ROCK — you have no idea how much I’m LOVING the ability to just hang around in your gorgeous apartment here in London while you are out of town, listening to Philip Glass’s Akhnaten on your stereo and doing my laundry! This is JUST what the doctor ordered, and I feel completely blessed in having these few days to unwind after the intense training. ( Not to mention being able to invite my dear friend Howard over for a very relaxed and civilized and smoke free breakfast this morning.)

Humble thanks to you all, as well as the readers who haven’t commented yet. You are my community and bring meaning to what I am doing.

Now just two verbal “snapshots,” if you will.

Image one: Wednesday night in the MSF Logistique (it’s what it sounds like) training center at Bordeaux, around 10:00. Delphine had already left (bye, Delphine; have a GREAT vacation in Tanzania with Michael, and good luck on the new mission at the orphanage in Khartoum!), so it was us five remaining students, plus Tierry (head of finance for MSF-France) and Frank from the MSF Logistique operations center…it’s been a long day that included our last financial policy classes, followed by a quick afternoon summary on the mechanics of disaster relief from a logistical standpoint — what to focus on, which questions to ask, etc.; followed by a film and discussion about cholera and cholera epidemic response and treatment. Now we’ve had dinner, all the while discussing (in French, of course) various policy and practical issues around disaster and humanitarian relief. Dinner’s been cleared, and over wine and cheese (GREAT double-cream chevre!) we’re talking the politics of malaria treatment in countries whose ministries of health have not yet approved a drug cocktail treatment protocol, which is generally known(as I understand it to be the currently most effective treatment). And there’s Paul, doing my best to stay completely in the moment: fewer than five months after I first conceived the idea that international nonprofit relief and humanitarian work was my goal, and that using my languages wanted to be a big part of it, and wanting to feel part of something bigger than just me in my apartment alone…here I am, in a community of people I hadn’t met 11 days earlier, yet with whom I now have bonds of shared time and common interest, using my French to express myself and understand them on matters that truly touch life and death for the 5,000 people worldwide who die EVERY DAY of malaria, for lack of drugs that are quite inexpensive compared to just about any developed-world national budget item. It was a very sweet moment: caught on the cusp, not yet working with MSF, but being carefully trained and prepared; savoring a great meal in great company in a just-right (not too expensive, nor too cheap)training center, and knowing I’ll shortly be off to do what I can to support our two projects in China: AIDS treatment in Guangxi, and all-round support (housing, nutritional, psychological, and medical) for street children in Shaanxi.

Second image, going to Paul’s use of his languages which lay dormant for the duration of my (fondly remembered and greatly appreciated) business career: yesterday, first full day in London (took the EuroStar train through the chunnel late Thursday — way cool). Still finishing the French translation of The Amber Spyglass, while sitting in the all-you-can eat Thai buffet off SoHo Square, noticing that the wait staff are all speaking Mandarin…so I shift from my French book to striking up a Chinese conversation with them about where they’re from (Liaoning) and so on…and then move on to the phone booth to call my German family and let them know when I expect to arrive at their home outside Hamburg on Tuesday. For someone who wanted to feel more engaged in the world at large again, and to be using my languages again, I count myself very lucky to be able have accomplished so much so fast. And I remind myself to keep living in the moment, and cherishing this remarkable gift of a life in which I can follow my own path with such support from friends and family. Was that too gooey? Sorry.

I may not write a lot more for the next couple weeks, until I’m in China. I’ll try to post some photos (me at the house in Bordeaux, my class on the train, etc.), but the next ten days will be London, Hamburg, perhaps Amsterdam (maybe Zurich, but I’ve a feeling I won’t make it, sorry, Carrie…next time)…then Paris to brief and get last shots and health checks before departure. I should be in Guangxi by about March 24 or 25, and the folks there have already started sending me e-mails and some reports, so I’ve got my train reading!

Thanks again. I know I say it a lot and I’m sorry if it’s too much, but knowing I have an audience that appreciates these means the world to me. And Beth, hang in there. When in doubt, go with your gut and remember to be who you really are, not who someone at work or outside you wants or needs you to be. 🙂

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