And perhaps because of that, they are confident in their abilities, less desperate for input. A crowd comes to my newborn resuscitation workshop, and there is good interaction and teaching, laughter and interest as they practice with the model babies. But after the first hour, we take a break, and when I offer another topic (something eagerly requested in the other camps) the 30 or so nursses, CO's and doctors seem to drift away, busy with their own world. They used to have lots of MSF-employed temporary doctors, so perhaps they are more used to people coming in and out. In the last year this has changed, however, due to the insecurity of the borders and the camps. Now, like all the other camps, there is a small army of Kenyan workers employed by the NGO's, and the expatriates stay at the base in Dadaab and make brief escorted forays into the camp proper.
Today we have to finish by noon. There is the usual confusion of the returning convoy, the speeding along the rough road, the clouds of dust, the discussion in the vehicle about whether to wait for the police or not. We fly by fences and thorn scrubs, rounded huts, donkey carts stacked with firewood sticks, bright-scarved women, listless goats. The refugees themselves must stay in the camps, but there are ethnically related Kenyans who have lived in this border area for a generation or more who move back and forth. We are deposited safely back at our base camp just in time for lunch in the small screened "mess".
And just in time for the most surreal moment of the day. The "mess" is a rickety wooden building with screen windows, a stove and counter, a table and plastic chairs. And a TV, hooked up to satellite channels. There is a loud TV blaring wherever the NGO workers gather. This time as we're washing our hands, we become aware of the news story. "Attack in Dadaab" reads the title banner, beneath pictures of wounded police being loaded into an ambulance. What? There we are standing smack in the middle of Dadaab, hearing about a 2 hour gun battle via TV. It seems that Somali bandits crossed the border and attacked vehicles on the road 10 km outside of town, so the police responded, with numerous injuries on both sides.
A bizarre feeling. Life was going on as "normal" as it could, people eating lunch and chatting, while we learned of local insecurity via the media. Thankfully we were flying out.
And within an hour we were back at the airfield where we started, huddled under the only shade around with about 40 people all waiting for the plane. A few Norwegians and other Europeans, us, and MANY Kenyans, all young and casual and smart, checking their phone messages, planning their arrivals in Nairobi, interacting familiarly with one another.
And then the cool air of Nairobi, the traffic, the relief of being back in a more comfortable and recognizable place. I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to see the AID world, the refugee world, the remote NE Kenyan world. To have taught life-saving skills to almost a hundred health workers. To bear witness to the reality of this life. To contribute in a small way to the health capacity of the 2nd or 3rd largest population center in Kenya, and an area that represents 5% of the population of Somalia. To spend time with surgeons I respect and admire, and with my son.
But mostly I'm thankful to be home.