Where's Allie?

Lend me your eyes, I can change what you see


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On to the next big adventure!

Big changes are happening in my life this year, and I’m so excited to be able to share my news with you!

I had this vision of writing the perfect blog post, to eloquently describe what’s happening in my life right now and what changes are happening. The thing is though, my head is just too full of plans and lists and nerves to write anything coherent, so here’s the quick rundown for now:

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I first heard about Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF) when I was in high school. One of our social directors took a group of us to a Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City, where we got to learn about life in camps, as well as how food rations and health work. I remember that I kept my ration card for years afterwards. (The Australian side of MSF developed this really cool interactive experience, as well!)

The notion of MSF kind of always floated inside my head after that. I went on to take various international trips, and I studied development at university, thinking that I wanted to eventually work in refugee camps but not quite sure how to get to that point, or how to work for MSF since I’m not a doctor. A few years ago, I read 6 Months in Sudan, an amazing book that just blew my mind wide open, about a doctor who spent 6 months working for MSF in Sudan. That’s when I looked more closely at who can work for MSF, and realised that there are non-medical positions in the field as well, for logisticians and administrators. I set my sights on one of these positions, and began a certificate in Disaster and Emergency Management.

In the meantime, I’ve had some pretty amazing jobs that have allowed me to develop skills in HR, administration and management – all things that MSF looks for in their field administrator. MSF holds recruitment sessions a few times a year, where you get to hear more about what they look for when they’re recruiting field staff. I went to one last November, and was heartened when they said that anyone can apply, and then you get feedback from an HR manager, telling you what’s missing from your application so that you can better prepare for next time.

So, I applied in February, with little expectations, but hoping that they would point me in the right direction in terms of what experience I still needed to gain. To my immense surprise, they got back to me pretty quickly with an interview request!

Now, after two interviews, some tests, some references, and two days of pre-training, I just got my official welcome e-mail 🙂

 

There still isn’t anything set in stone, but I have an HR manager who is looking for a contract for me, likely for a 9 month posting. I’ll most likely be going to one of their projects in central or eastern Africa, at some point in September. There’s a lot to do between now and then: wrap up the program that I’m currently working on, get a variety of shots and medical tests, drive my things across the country, and a million other little things that are involved in going overseas for a 9 month contract!

So, as you can imagine, my head is pretty full. I’ll write more soon, about the preparation process, but now that I’ve officially told my employers that I’m leaving, I’m finally free to share my exciting news with the rest of the world!

 

 

 

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Wheresalex… been?

 

 

 

Turnipseed travel has just posted a link about Hilary Clinton, showing a picture of her in every country that she’s visited while in her role as secretary of state. Which got me thinking: if I can’t be travelling right now (Well, I went to Regina recently. But I don’t think that counts.), I can at least think about all the awesome adventures that I’ve had.

The other day, I was at dinner with friends, and there was a sort of name dropping happening, only they weren’t talking about people, they were talking about countries that they’ve been to. I don’t know if I’m the same – sometimes, I feel awkward mentioning that I’ve been places. I don’t want to sound braggy, or annoying. But not today! Today, I’m going to do exactly what Hillz did – I’m going to post a picture of myself in each country that I’ve visited. Because this is my blog, and if I can’t get braggy on here, where can I?!

**Note: to my past self, you, and your potential future children:

1. Smile more in your photos. Until I was about 17, I looked grumpy in most pictures. I want to reach back and slap my 11-year-old self. 

2. Make sure you take pictures of yourself. Selfies, or ask a stranger (make a friend!) I’m usually the one taking pictures, which means that I’m rarely in them.

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Bamako is…

Bamako is the prevalent smell of garbage, the clouds of dust, the halo of flies over my food. Bamako is a village that got too big too soon, and still hasn’t caught up to it’s new body. It’s exhaust fumes, harried drivers, impatient honking. It’s not waiting your turn, it’s pushing ahead, it’s taking what you want and what you need, before you lose sight of it. Bamako is weaving a path between small rivers in the road, formed of human and animal waste. It’s stepping over open gutters and dead animals on the sidewalk. It’s catcalls on the side of the road and leering looks at every corner. Bamako is not knowing which smile or which handshake to trust.

Bamako is exhausting. It’s trying to speak Bambara, it’s trying to be friendly, it’s trying to fit in, it’s trying to make friends. It’s figuring out a place, trying to grasp customs that aren’t quite clear. It’s memorising landmarks and strange sounds, understanding age old traditions mingling with new technology. Bamako is trusting that everything will turn out ok.

Despite all of this, Bamako is the chatter of women and the laughter of children. It’s the smell of wood chips burning in stoves in front of every home, surrounded by men playing cards. Bamako is toddlers running after older siblings, women looking out for every child, strangers looking out for strangers. Bamako is the prayer call five times a day, the rooster crowing and the donkey braying. It’s side-stepping chickens and puddles, it’s staying out of the way of motorcycles and sotramas, it’s the constant beep of traffic. Bamako is sweet tea and sweet smiles, happy children and laughing mothers. Bamako is the smell of my bedroom after the nightly round of incense, and the quiet hum of my fan as I lie in my princess bed.


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What does one pack for 6 months in a developing country?

 

 – Mosquito repellant (x2)
– Sunscreen (x3 – face, body, lips)
– Salt Spring Island Dream Cream (never travel anywhere without it!)
– Polysporin
– Aveno anti-itch cream (heard the mosquitos are nasty out there!)
– Dry shampoo
– Regular shampoo
– Hairspray (yes, I’ve become that girl…)
– First aid kit(s)
– Hair flowers (Hi, Marissa!)
– Six months worth of contacts lenses + solution
– Six months worth of Malarone
– Immodium
– Cipro
– Tums
– Deodorant (x3)
– Hair colour stuff (‘that girl’ x2)
– Makeup (‘that girl’ x3) (it’s only a little bit!!)
– Toothbrush/paste
– Water purification tablets
– Razors
– Activated charcoal tablets
– Advil
– Hand sanitizer
– Sunglasses (x3)

 

As a list, it doesn’t look too ridiculous. As a pile of stuff on my bed, it’s terrifying, I promise.
Wait till I start posting about what clothes I’m bringing!

 

 

 

 

 


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Live for the moment

Those of you who know me know that this has always been a struggle for me. Don’t get ahead of yourself, try to focus on what’s going on right now, enjoy what you’re living/doing/eating in the present moment… and yet, my mind is always, always in the future. And right now, how can it not be? I leave for Mali in 26 days!

The challenge, right now, is to really try to be as present as possible in everything I do until then, but the even greater challenge will be to actually live each day to the fullest once I’m in Africa – I’m already planning post-Africa!