BOOK: The Dierctor by David Ignatius. This is just a perfect spy CIA read that transports me to a world so completely apart from my reality. It needs nothing from me…it is a story.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Sometimes, what you have is not enough.
SONG: Ordinary Love by U2…because it is the root of everything
I was sitting at the desk in my room the other night, trying to get some last little things into the computer and I was grumbling about how the lamps in the room look really cool and all, but the are not helping me much from where they are. In these rooms everything is either riveted to the walls (artwork) or to the floor. Nothing will be stolen. I tried moving my desk but it is big and heavy and not riveted down but it would splinter in a heartbeat if it was torqued the wrong way…in that Walmart sort of construction way. I am not sure what prompted me, but I jostled the lamp at the end of the desk and realized it was NOT bolted down. Aha! I moved the damned thing and shifted my world view and the light in my world. Who knew? How very simple. Only took 4 weeks to get to it. I wish I could impress myself once with finding the simple solution within that first window of distress. But I guess that would have made my life so completely different I would not even know myself!
It is Saturday morning and we had to be at the base by 8am this morning to meet with all of our national staff to tell them that the project would be making big cuts and these would mean cutting significant numbers – more than 50% in fact. They have realized the inevitability of this but have hustled mightily to look busy to keep themselves from losing their jobs. This aspect of the MSF initial intervention was the emergency response to ebola in the critical need period. The goal was to set up of the Ebola Treatment Center to assist the government that had no capacity to manage. While Sierra Leone is reducing its numbers, it has not arrived at “0” cases but the ability to manage is in place in huge number of other NGO’s who have arrived on the scene with dollars and flags and declarations of full support and investment in Sierra Leone. In actuality, at this point NGO $$$ is the newest industry. I think it beats diamond mining at the moment.
In this period since the first week in March when our ETC was closed and the last patient discharged, several other ETCs were set up and have been function more or less well. We needed to begin then with heading thing over. We had asked the world for help and it was here and working. The government was regaining ground, and renewing itself and wanted to move back to center stage. They still needed some assistance and wanted MSF to help. So we did. Gradually our hospital turned back into the playing field for the high school that had agreed to let us use their setting for our work. No school was permitted and we did not use the student facilities for anything other than admin. We built the hospital and all its components on the grounds and in the tear down, disinfected everything with standard chlorine care and fire…we burned a lot of shit.
Transition has become the mandate for MSF. It is not, however, as simple as it should be (of course.) First we linger over the questions like “Have we put enough in place?” “Are they ready to do it right?” “Should we do just one more thing?” My first image was the nest and the baby birds…we are so fearful that even though they have wings and the softest of feathers, are they really ready to fly? The government wants only the moneyed folks on the team and MSF is not a money proposition, but a medical service provider…and only under emergency need. We are now at the point where the Government has told us, by never returning or initiating calls for “next step” activities and other very not-subtle messaging that they don’t want us any more. There is a touch of MSF hurt feelings, but just a touch. We are trying (some more than others) to recognize that this “partner” wants to break up with us. We are verging on denial and maybe a bit of stalking. It is not so good.
At a 50% reduction of my staff, that will happen Monday morning, I have proposed a survey /evaluation HP activity that I wrote up 3 weeks ago. It somehow stalled in Geneva because someone was on vacation. I am doing it anyway and have figured out how I will apologize and come up clean in the end. I purposefully designed it for completing the work and finally getting the written data evaluated and prepared for distribution to other social mobilization actors who will probably use it as a jumping in point. They are floundering and duplicating many needs and leaving other needs completely unaddressed. To describe it as low-ebb chaos is probably the best. The best effort to coordinate services started back around the 20th of Mar and they are still trying to develop the terms or reference that will describe the actions for the 5 governing actors. They will then have to develop common evaluation tools and reporting formats. Then the will have to train the teams. That latter would be after they figured which sections of the Freetown sectors the other ngo’s want to work in. Then, the rainy season comes along soon and all this other stuff will be made much more complicated. And they will certainly not be ready before I am in flight back to TX. So we will work on our own bull and we have him by the horns for moment. My half team will critique my tools and projections and rework the whole thing into reality this coming week. We will see. Even if I am not here to finish it and wrap it up, my local staff will be in the perfect place to do it.
Today I took advantage of being able to come back and work from home. The morning meeting was to tell the staff that cuts would be done on Monday. Sort of mean really, since now everyone has to wait through the weekend to see which side of the list they will be on. I meet with my full 40 person team and will keep 20.
I also got my driver to stop at the supermarket in Krootown, which is not too far from our hotel. It was just before the markets all opened…once that happens, there is no hope for getting through the traffic jams. I got the staples that support what makes the day belong a bit more to me. The 3 meal deal is great, but there are no cookies and my real coffee store is running low. I got a bottle of wine, but usually go for the beer at the end of the sweaty day and someone else manages to make that appear at the hotel. The wine becomes the treat at the end of a particularly crappy or wonderful day. Beer is the average day item. And I got some Mentos…the food group that became basic for me in Sumatra.
This particular project wrap up was something I consciously accepted when MSF called. Just as when they called for Liberia, I had no idea what they needed, but I wanted a part of it. And I got that. The incredible nature of starting Foya made me greedy for what I hoped was going to be the completion of the MSF circle. I have been surprised and amazed at how diametrically opposed two activities can be. I mean I do recognize that opening and closing are opposites. But the the work here is like whittling a Sequoia into a single toothpick without your glasses when you are pretty close to being blind. And it is done with such a confusion of who thinks it is right and how it needs to be done. At least when we started inLiberia it was simple. The disease needed action and it was clear what the action was. We moved through it. Here we are not quite in that mode!
I am stunned to look at my calendar and realize that I am about 3.5 weeks from coming back home. I will still have my 21 days of isolation but I will be in TX and will be counting the days to going east to see my grandaughter and grandog and their handlers, in July.
I am still working on the needlepoint from Cambodia. Most centering thing I do in the middle of the crazies. Daily Yoga stretches keep me in motion…meditation for a dedicated time each day brings me back to earth and keeps me grounded. The Malarone I have to take daily for malaria prevention is my countdown marker. It is effective. I take it every day and will do it for a week after I get home and I have just that amount in my stock. The staff personalities are interestingly mixed and I am able to move in and out with some level of control. BUT every day does include a meeting at the start, a couple in the middle and one between arrival home and supper at 8:30 pm…too late!!!!! Sometimes, I have to drive to meetings that are outside MSF but I have knocked most of them out by them not wanting my opinion or me not really being able to play with them any more. Sad? Actually not sad at all.
We did have 3 new cases this week in the poorest and most crowded zone. It might change a few things, but hopefully the controls that are in place will just kick in. On the plus side, the kids started school again. Everyone is very watchful and hopefully that NOTHING will mar this most normalizing of events to come up in the past year. The safety structures are in place and the parental caution comes from knowledge and awareness.
I love you all.