It’s 0450 am here in Dubai International and I find myself, after a long time, compelled to write. Part of me is tired after spending 17 hours inside a flying tube, lost in an entertainment portal of the Avengers, Chernobyl and Tolkien. The other part of me, half way around the world, is wondering what bravery possessed me to apply to work on a hospital ship in a country I’d hardly ever heard of. Perhaps it was my father’s West African roots that pulled me there, or some love of adventure I am finding hard to channel right now, or some fantastical idea that this is what we all should be doing – whatever it was, perhaps I’m crazy. The next leg of the journey is new to me, a side of the world I have never seen with my own eyes, only read about and watched unfold on the television, or through my imagination from my father’s timeless stories. It’s the middle of the night here, and it’s like its own wonderful world – moving and buzzing as if the world never sleeps. The pharmacy sells make up in brown and browner, the books are in Arabic, the currency foreign to me and I’m about to board a flight I’d be happy to disguise in, except I’m the only white girl. What a wonderful, diverse world we have.
So fatigue, jetlag and Dubai International is a recipe for extensive reflection, and I’ve found myself asking, ‘Why?’. Why are you flying all the way around the world to work on a ship that serves the people of West Africa – the poorest region in the world. Why are you giving up your time and your money and your energy to serve a place that you’ll get no recognition for and to be honest, will hardly make an impact on the real poverty? For months I’ve asked myself this question. The whole time it has been a blur – but fundamentally serving just made sense. I was born into a nation and a family I had no control over. I have been given everything so freely, because of the fate that determined whereI was to be born. The same twist of fate, meant that people were born into extreme poverty, war, corruption and greed. I have had access to all the education I needed, all the healthcare I needed and everything I have needed to succeed, and my gender had no influence on my ability. How can I continue to live in my own sphere, with my own problems, that really in comparison aren’t significant problems at all? That’s not to say that they aren’t important, or hard, or life altering, but very rarely do I have to make decisions that will alter the outcome of my life and I have never had to make a decision that may cost my life. There are plenty of 20 years old in the world who have had to make that decision. So I go because it is my responsibility to not forget the rest of the world, because I have become comfortable in my own.
I believe in a world that is connected. And I believe that if the world was better at sharing her knowledge and resources, then there would be much less suffering. I guess that’s also why I’m going. I love medical ships, because you get to take the hospital to the people. I love that people come together to share knowledge and experience and trade things to learn together. I believe that it is a human right to look out for each other, and I believe there is a danger in forgetting that we rely on one another to survive. It should never be about the cost to you, when you have plenty. The way I see it? I have more than enough to survive, simply because my birth certificate reads ‘Australian’. If in going I am able to help 1, or 5, or 10 people walk into more freedom, how can I put a cost on that? The value of a human life and the hope that coming together brings, is worth far more to me that a couple months wages.
Ahh I’m sure you’ve heard enough ranting from me. I am half expecting for someone to walk around the corner who knows me, but I know that is pretty unlikely. But for the moment there is a real strength that can be found in solitude. In a couple hours I will begin the final leg that will take me to the ship. I guess it’s too late to turn back now, and I know I don’t want to. Sometimes our greatest achievements are found at the edge of what we thought we were capable of. Pushing through the fear, holding onto courage and a passion that you believe in, might mean a life changing experience for one person, and it will probably mean a life changing experience for you. Don’t be afraid to go after something you believe in, even if the going doesn’t always make sense. Heck, I’m still sitting here in Dubai texting my best friend thinking ‘What the heck have I got myself into?’. But I’ll still get on that plane, put aside any anxiety of the unknown and go because I have been blessed to go. The next time you hear from me, I’ll be on board.
Until then, À Bientôt.