March 17, 2014

Six Months In Sudan by James Maskalyk

Have you ever heard of Abyei?  Probably not.  I sure didn't before I read this book.  It's in Sudan, and it's where the author spent six months as part of the Doctors Without Borders program (MSF). 

After completing residency, Maskalyk signs up for a stint in the MSF.  He is taken to Sudan, to the village of Abyei which houses many soldiers and civilians and plenty of people needing medical attention.  The hospital is small, but large enough to take traumas and between the diseases that run rampant in the area and the skirmishes with grenades, there is always someone to be healed.

Maskalyk is pretty rough on himself.  And others at times, although it seems he has nothing but respect for his colleagues.  In fact, he speaks better of them than he does himself.  He seems to acknowledge that he has a detachment from his work and the pain and suffering around him.  That he can't help but think of logical things even if a person has died.  And it does seem cold.  But it can also be a coping mechanism for everything that he has to see.  I did find his honesty refreshing though and I wouldn't paint him a hero because of his thoughts, but do think that he did some good work while in Sudan.

This is a hard book to read because of the descriptions of suffering and illness and poverty.  Because it's real life it shakes you to find out how people are living when sometimes the worse thing in your day is spilling your drink on yourself.  It does offer perspective.  And I like how he focused on being a new aid worker as most of the books I've read are from people who have been in a long time.  The writing itself was good, although I found the epilogue disorienting.  I understand he was showing his confusion at being home through that writing style, but I just found it hard to read.  Otherwise the format was good and the rest of the book flowed easy enough.

Do I want to go to Sudan?  Probably not.  But I'm still thinking that this line of work is appealing and I'll continue to read about it.  I'm glad I found this book to offer another perspective.

Six Months in Sudan
Copyright 2009
320 pages

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