Part I – Arrival
Three years of waiting have come to an end. It was in november 2010 that I started my Red Cross training and I have been a delegate, ready to be deployed as a surgeon for two and a half years. I have completed online courses, have lived through seven days of a simulated mission in the woods of Eidene, Norway, where we built up a field hospital and trained the practical aspects of being on a mission (ERU course). I have done the IMPACT course, another seven days of learning about the Red Cross movement, its structures and its goals and purpose. I was ready! Very, very ready to be deployed. But then, instead, came the long void: Luckily for planet earth, major disasters which would warrant deployment of a field hospital, just didn’t seem to happen anymore. ‘Well, great!’ the humanitarian in me thought and started accommodating to this situation. What can be better! But then typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines, and what seemed like a remote possibility, namely being deployed to a disaster area as a surgeon, suddenly turned into a very real prospect. Ever since Norwegian Red Cross headquarters called me in the middle of december, I knew I was going to head for the Philippines on New Years day.
I have finally arrived in the country where my first mission will take place. I am headed for the Visayas, namely the island of Samar, where typhoon Yolanda, which is called Haiyan in the rest of the world,has left vast strips of coast devastated and in ruins. Unprecedented winds and a giant wave, that came in the wake of the storm, have left an impoverished population even poorer and more destitute than ever. Millions of people have lost everything in the storm. Millions of homes are destroyed.
I am restless, pacing my room at the rather posh Somerset Millenium Apartment Hotel in the rather posh Makati district of Manila. The setting is a bit unreal, nothing in this big and vibrant city even hints at the catastrophe which has beset the southern islands of the archipelago. Life in this metropolis, which tries desperately to be as American as possible, couldn’t be more normal.