Sunday, March 31, 2013

Killing Time

Byron Bay Bluesfest Stall
Reverse culture shock didnt seem to trouble me so much when I returned to Australia from Ethiopia this time. I stayed for a few days with Zoe in a lovely new apartment overlooking a marina in Melbourne, where we were visiting Rankine but I also wanted to visit the Melbourne Gaol and the State Library of Victoria to learn a little more about Ned Kelly - I had now read three books about him and was becoming a little bit obsessed with it all. His suit of armour is on display in the Library, along with his death mask, and one of the boots he was wearing when captured at Glenrowan in 1880. The boot is damaged by bullet holes. At the Gaol we watched a monolog from a woman dressed in period costume and speaking with an Irish accent, pretending to be Ellen Kelly, Neds mother. She passionately recounted from her perspective the story of his life, while 20 feet above her was the trapdoor and the very beam from which he was hanged on November 11th the same year.
Ned Kellys Helmet
The following week  I was at a course in Sydney with Medecins san Frontieres (MSF) - "Doctors withour Borders" I had been to an interview with this amazing international aid organisation some months before, hoping to do more voluntary medical work but this time with a large organisation as part of a team, and they had offered me a place. The course was in preparation for a mission they had offered me in Nothern Nigeria. There were 15 other participants and we all had different missions to prepare for, but much of the course content was about things common to all missions, things such as security, ethics, cultural awareness, our roles as members of MSF, crisis management, what to do if kidnapped! - and how to behave at checkpoints and under fire! - media relations, international humanitarian was a fascinating course. We had to fill out "Proof of Life" forms - a list of questions that no-one but ourselves - and now MSF - would know the answers to. In the very unlikely but not impossible event of our being abducted, to prove we had not been killed negotiators could seek from our captors answers to those questions. Being asked those questions would also be a signal to us that help was on the way! It was stressed to us that road accidents and malaria were much more likely than kidnapping!  At the end of the course I had my final briefings and was given my ticket to Nigeria. I was going to leave from Auckland in a weeks time, after visiting my family.
Team New Zealands 72ft Cat : One last NZ attempt at the Cup
About this time, the French decided to mount a military offensive against the Islamic insurgency in Mali, a country close to but not actually bordering Nigeria. A few days later local health workers giving vaccinations were murdered in Northern Nigeria, and a little later several foreign workers were abducted and murdered in the same region. Being  French, MSF became a target as well - I received an email telling me the entire MSF mission in northern Nigeria was to be closed down after several years of great work : my mission was cancelled! I was really disappointed. However they said a new mission would be found, and at the moment I am expecting to be sent to South Sudan, but not until mid June - and there was news yetserday of a major outbreak of fighting and killing in that regions as well so I will try not to get too excited about going there just yet!
In the meantime I had an extended stay in New Zealand and then managed to find some locum work in Australia which I hope will get me through to the beginning of the sailing season, when I will go sailing and wait for the call to the Sudan.

At the moment I am returning to Sydney from a Locum in Northern New South, on a sort of Easter Holiday Road Trip. I managed to get a ticket to the opening day- everything else was sold out - at the famous Byron Bay Bluesfest, an annual music festival with a line up this year that includes Carlos Santana, Paul Simon, Joan Armatrading, Ben Harper, Iggy Pop and Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin). I listened to Ben Harper and Joan Armatrading and Chris Isaak, and several other groups I had never heard of and had a great day that didnt end till midnight.