I reach down and give the 20 months old girl a kiss on the cheek while she looks at me with a shy but warm smile. She’s sitting on her favorite mini-scooter and in her hand she’s holding a white and red flag. Her dad is instructing her on how to wave goodbye with it while the cars drive off. She’s not mine – obviously. I wouldn’t be leaving for Africa for six months if she were.
The essence of what I've been doing the last ten days
In the car with the girl’s mom I can’t help but tear up. I’ve been living with my friend and her little family for the past ten days because my departure date got delayed and if you’re not made of stone you can’t help but get attached, I’m going to miss my little adoptive family! I've simply had an amazing time staying with them.
At the airport stress takes over, as my bag is about ten kilos over the weight limit. It’s insane – I’ve hardly anything that is of very big importance in it, and up until a couple of days before leaving my apartment I was sure I wasn’t even going to be able to fill the bag. How wrong I was! But as I said, it’s just filled with “junk” so it’s actually not that hard to start pulling things out. I take it down 8kg and then the man in the counter takes pity on me and lets me get the last 4kg of overweight for free. I guess the MSF T-shirt and my friends talking loudly about how I’m going to Africa to “save little children” helps.
The essentials for a first time missioner
Suddenly it’s time to go thru security and my three best friends who’ve come to send me off all give me hugs and words of encouragement, and I’m reminded why it’s been so long since anyone has accompanied me to the airport; I can’t handle it. All the nerves and scary feelings bubble up and I can’t imagine how I’m supposed to manage the (probably) hardest six months of my life without them. Just before I go to the gate I take a couple of minutes in the washroom to splash some water on my face and try some deep breaths. Still the image of Aarhus getting smaller and smaller seen from the airplane window is completely blurry with tears.
One last day in civilization as my sister calls it - touristing in Brussels
In Brussels I sleep amazingly well at the hotel that MSF has booked for me. The next day I have my HQ briefing – a long and a somewhat frustrating day, as expected. I find out that I’m not leaving for the field the same night as I’d been told, as there were no flights available, instead I’ll be leaving the day after in the evening. This means I get another night in a hotel and a day to explore Brussels, since it’s my first time here – it's fine by me! Though it would have been good to know before checking out of the hotel the same morning and having dragged around my heavy carry on all day, or having left my big luggage in a 24 hour box at the airport. But anyways...
A nice lunch and a stroll in the sun, just what I needed before my 9,5 hour flight
Today has been good. I’ve slept in and had a long and calm breakfast. I’ve ridden the tourist bus all through the city; I’ve seen the Atomium, eaten chocolate covered strawberries and had a nice lunch in the sun. Now I’m at the airport way before I’m actually flying. I don’t think I’ve ever been this early for a flight before! Then again I’ve never had a whole organisation involved in my trips before, and if I have one motto for this trip it’s better safe than sorry. So here I am, at the airport, four hours before take-off – and even before the check-in counter is opened! I’m doing a lot of new things this year, I’m guessing being early for a flight is going to be one of the smallest ones.
All changed and ready to go - and the last bit of luxury, a chocolate eclair while sitting on the floor of the airport
Well, I wrote that yesterday in the airport but turns out Brussels Airport doesn't have free wifi - cheap much...? Luckily the hotel here in Addis does - so here it comes, but pretend you're reading it yesterday ;-