I took the subway down to 7th avenue and 29th street at 10 am on July 19th. The first part of my briefing was with Kristen, Kath´s assistant. Kristen handed me an e-ticket for my flight from NYC to Spain on July 23rd. Barcelona would take care of my ticket from Spain to Guatemala.
More instructions: I was only permitted to bring 20 kg of luggage; MSF would pay for public transportation to the airport and hotels; they would not pay for taxis. She gave me the address for the Hostal Opera, just off theRambles in Central Barcelona. She said I should take the airport bus to the last stop, walk to the hotel from there, drop off my luggage, then stop by the Barcelona MSF office and ask for Carmen.
After we finished travel logistics, Kristen checked a table of required vaccinations for Guatemala. She told me I needed to go back to the TravelerÂs Medical Clinic on Madison and 57th to get two out of a series of three rabies shots. Barcelona would arrange the Âcold chainÂ to deliver my third vaccination to the field. [It is called cold chain because the vaccine needs to be refrigerated.] She handed me notarized copies of my medical school diploma and New York State license. That completed her part of the briefing.
I had many questions: Will I have email access? What kind of clothing should I bring? What kind of medical equipment should I bring? Who will tell me what to do when I get there? Kristen did not seem to know.
The briefing with communications was short. The jist of it: I could take pictures of my field work, but I should avoid face shots unless I had permission. I should refer any calls from journalists to the press department. I could volunteer to give talks when I returned from my mission.
I came back at 5pm to meet with Kath. Kath is Australian by birth, but has lived all around the world. She has many years of field experience with MSF. She started on a administrative/finance post in Ethiopia, where she met her husband.
I hoped that Kath would finally tell me more details of the project and my work responsibilities. Unfortunately, she did not have all the specifics I was looking for. She reviewed a lot of the information from the general orientation I attended in April. She reminded me that MSF has a chain of command that should be respected. My project is with MSF-Spain. The Field Coordinator in Puerto Barrios will be my direct supervisor for general matters. If I have an issue with the Field Coordinator, I should contact the Head of Mission, who runs all the MSF-Spain projects from Guatemala City. The Head of Mission reports to the Operations center in Barcelona. For technical questions or issues, I report to the Medical Coordinator (MedCo), who supervises all Field Doctors in Guatemala. The MedCo is supervised by the TESACO, a doctor stationed in Barcelona, who runs the medical
side of many projects all over the world.
After a discussion of a few more general matters (learn the names of the National staff, make sure you get your security briefing when you arrive in the Capital, learn how to use the satalite phone in case of emergency, take care of yourself if you get sick, etc etc). Kath said goodbye and I left. See you in 9 months.