Word gets around

There’s tension in the air.

The Democratic Republic of Congo. April 2011. Masisi. Yasuyoshi Chiba and I are working for MSF. Films and photography.

The night we arrive at the staff camp one of the surgeons gets up at the team meeting and asks what the fuck we are doing there when what he really needs is medicinal drugs?

It’s a fair question so I stand and

  1. Thank everyone for their grace in accepting us
  2. Promise to do my best
  3. Pass over the bottle of Jameson whiskey and jar of Nutella I picked up at duty free

Later I lie under a mosquito net listening to the jungle breathe and the occasional sputter of gun fire.

After that the rain making out with the tin roof.

Preparing myself.

I don’t like hospitals. Blood. The stuff I’m made of, I hate to see.

Next day we’re having a tour of the hospital led by Sam, the amazing midwife we’ll be following for the next week. I get as far as the premature baby unit. So tiny. Like miniature wrinkled old men fighting for their lives. Their mothers swaddling them tightly skin to skin. Only their body warmth keeping them alive. As fragile as frost.

I excuse myself and step outside. The sun is bright. My hand reaches for the wall. I steady myself. And sob. It’s nothing for anyone to worry about. I’m not losing it. Just feeling. They are the last tears I’ll shed on this trip. And afterwards, maybe five minutes later, I’ve emptied it out and the tour continues.

Word gets around.

That night the surgeon opens the bottle of whiskey and pours me a glass.


All pictures (c) Yasuyoshi Chiba/duckrabbit/MSF

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