Destination Darfur

I’m waiting for the signal for my deployment to Darfur for three months. If all goes to plan, I’ll be in Pretoria on the 2nd of August and in Sudan on the 5th until the beginning of November, working as a psychologist with the South African peacekeepers.

“How are you feeling about going?” my supervisor asked yesterday.

“Mixed feelings” was my response. There’s excitement about the opportunity to work in a place which I’ve heard of in the news but which I actually know very little about. Anxiety about my safety. Sadness at being separated from L and my family for three months. And then a lot of little anxieties about whether I will cope there. What if it’s unbearably hot? How will I cope with the dust storms? Will I remember to pack everything I need? What if I get sick or depressed? Will L be OK in my absence? What about my bills back home? What if I need to do lots of trauma debriefing? Who will debrief me? I’m guessing there won’t be good internet access, which gives me a headache just thinking about it.

I’ve started doing some research on Sudan and Darfur and I’m hoping that the more information I have, the easier it will be to manage. I probably don’t want to read too much about the genocide before I get there. But I’ve ordered The Devil Came on Horseback by Brian Steidle and Gretchen Steidle Wallace. And then I looked for some personal blogs on Darfur and found that there were almost none. Two interesting-looking blogs which have subsequently gone quiet (I was going to say dead but that’s an unfortunate word-choice in the circumstances) are Sudanese Knights and the Notorious Echo-Victor-Echo, which I realised spells Eve.

I’ll post more on this in the days to come. For now, you will understand if I don’t make my usual rounds of blog-reading and if I don’t post some reviews here for a while. Life happens, I tell myself, and I need to deal with it the best I can. I just hope this headache doesn’t last for the full 12 weeks.

I’ve also been looking at images to give myself a mental picture of what it might be like. The first is of South African peacekeepers attending a funeral for fallen colleagues in July 2008 (taken from the UN). The second is taken from Sudanese Knights. (I hope she doesn’t mind.)


7 Responses to Destination Darfur

  1. Wow – I’m not sure how to feel about this, and I’m not the one going! At the very least, you will be doing a whole lot of good in a place that desperately needs it, and very few will get to experience what you will. Perhaps by recognizing your anxieties in the first place, they won’t rear their heads during your trip? Godspeed.

  2. seachanges says:

    Oh my. That’s quite a step, and I understand your concern / hesitation / mixed feelings / etc etc. Then, from experience and over a lifetime, three months will pass very quickly when in such unknown territory and having to absorb so many new impressions. Keep a notebook of the day to day things – wonderful material for later! But I’m sure you know that. Good luck and we’ll be keeping track of you via the blog!

  3. natalian says:

    Change, regardless of the time frame, can cause anxiety and mental headaches. I fully understand as I have Platinum Membership to the “Anxious Annies and Worry Worts Association of Southern Africa” 😉
    I am sure you will work through your concerns and be in a good space when you leave for Darfur to embrace this amazing opportunity!

  4. I hope it all goes well, Pete, and I’ll look forward to you being back home and reporting your experiences to us.

  5. bookeywookey says:

    How exciting and what a spirited move. I can believe you are a little anxious with a big change such as this. I have a friend who works in regions that are forming new governments, constitutions, courts and so on for the Soros Foundation. She has found some of the resources on these travels challenging, there aren’t always the comforts she would like, but she is always so rewarded by her daily interactions in the field. I hope you have a similar experience to hers’!

  6. Fugitive Pieces says:

    Pete, it’s natural to be apprehensive – but whatever Darfur teaches you, I believe you’ll find the means to absorb it, and assimilate it into your practice and your life. (If you want to read anything else about Darfur, I’ve heard very good things about Lisa Blaker’s ‘Heart of Darfur’ and Daoud Hari’s ‘The Translator’…)
    Come home safe.

  7. verbivore says:

    Wow, good luck. Sounds like a challenging but potentially rewarding assignment. I will be very curious to read about your experience when you’ve finished. Take care, too!

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