Sunday, August 13, 2006

Getting to the Field

My trip from Barcelona to Puerto Barrios was painful. I left the Hostel Opera at 4am on July 27th. The Air France flight from Barcelona to Paris was delayed. On arrival to Paris, I sprinted through four terminals in order to catch my connection to Miami. I arrived at the gate dripping with sweat, just as the gate attendant slammed the airplane door shut in my face. I argued with her for about 20 minutes while the plane sat still at the gate. If that shrew had a heart, I could have easily jumped on in about 15 seconds. Instead, Air France treated me to an airport shuttle and depressing airport motel, where I sat and moped for 24 hours. If anybody else wants to register a complaint with Air France, click here.

Twenty four hours later, I took the shuttle back to Terminal 2 of the Charles De Gualle International Airport. The flight from Paris to Miami flight was also delayed. I arrived in Miami with less than an hour to get through customs and immigration. I had to run clear across Miami International Airport to get from Air France arrivals to TACA departures.

I had no idea who would meet me at Guatemala City airport the evening of July 28th. My luggage, of course, did not make it to the baggage claim belt with all the other suitcases. After filing my lost baggage complaint, I was the last person out of the terminal. I stood outside the airport exit for a few minutes, worrying that I had been forgotten. I looked around for somebody who might be looking for me. After five long minutes I spotted a MSF pick-up. I waited outside the truck until a man in a MSF t-shirt came back to the vehicle.

Giovanni is a driver for the MSF Guatemala City team. He told me that I would be staying with Olivier, the finance/administrative coordinator for the MSF capital team. I later learned that there are three separate MSF apartments in the same building. Patricia (the Head of Mission) lives in one apartment, Regina (MedCo) lives in the second, and Olivier lives in the third. Members of the capital team are allowed to live in their own apartments with their families, as long as they keep open rooms for staff members who need to stay in the capital en route to and from the Field.

Olivier greeted me at the door of his apartment. He is French by birth, but speaks fluent English and Spanish. He arrived in Guatemala city just two weeks before I did. His wife (who is Spanish) and 8 month old son are joining him in Guatemala City later this month.

Olivier told me that I would spend Friday and Saturday in Guatemala city. I was supposed to “be briefed” by the Head of Mission, MedCo, and Logistics Coordinator (LogCo) before I left for the field. But because Patricia and Regina were on vacation, I would only meet with Guillermo (the LogCo) before leaving for Puerto Barrios via bus on Sunday morning.

No comments: