Why Do We Need an Entire Isle of Cereal?! – Belen in Tchad

Today I was finally able to go running outside the house. I’ve been running around the compound every day since I came to Tchad, well, almost every day. On the last 2 days I’ve been waking up at 4 am with intestinal cramps. Let’s just say 2 months of X-Fit helped me prepare for latrines (Squatting takes a whole other sense!!). So, on the last 2 days, I was out of energy by 6 am, the time to start working out. I managed to at least go out for walks with the team.

Today, on a beautifully chilly (for the locals) Sunday morning, I ran outside the house. Just around the compound, and asked the guard to be outside so I could say Hi, every 2 minutes or so. By the second lap, my neighbors were running with me, at first it was only this one kid, around 10 years old. He said, “I’ll run with you” and he joined me. Then others started running and we ended up having at least 8 people. I love running on the field, kids get so happy to see a woman running; it’s so different for them!! And I have my cheering squat. I would think of them on my Triathlons and my next goal in life, an Ironman.

Running with these kids reminds me why I’m here. Yes, I love being a doctor; I love the work we do with MSF. But the humanitarian world allows me to see the world in a way I couldn’t see it as a world traveler. I don’t like to go to the touristic places. Yeah sure, I have my picture with the Eiffel Tower, but that’s not France! I like to see the real people in their real environments.

The kids were running with flip flops or barefoot, without a care in the world of what they were wearing. So, I didn’t care I was not matching my outfit either. In my real world I would NEVER run with a T-shirt almost to my knee and not “Sport-brands shorts”. Especially if I’m running with friends, pictures will be involved and they will be in social media in no time!!

That’s one of the reasons I’m here, I NEED TO REMEMBER there is this other world, of happy kids running barefoot (not because it’s cool or trendy but because they have no option!). I need to remember that people don’t only use bikes for fun, they use them because it can be the difference between life and death (I’m not exaggerating, bikes are used as Ambulances).

It used to be tough for me to go to my real world. Why do we need a whole aisle of cereal??!!! – Just to give an example. But I’m used to it now, and I decided one of my missions in life would be to share the world; to all my different worlds. Then Erin came into my life and I couldn’t believe when she told me about this dream of hers, Project Bike Love!!

I’m in Tchad now, and when I’m not working at the hospital I go around the neighborhood. I play with the kids and I always have pictures of my family and friends with me. The most difficult part is having to explain that I use my bikes for the fun of it. Then I decided I would say I only have one bike!

I will be sharing stories from here, maybe bikes are not the best tool to give them, but I started today by telling my new friend that by the end of my mission I would give him my running shoes, as long as he runs with me every day. His big white smile was amazing and he kept telling everyone I would give him my running shoes! I couldn’t help to feel bad inside, I was going to buy a new pair anyhow and put these ones on the donation box. But you don’t need to do huge things, and that’s what I want to share with you today. You can volunteer your time and help, or you can make donations to different organizations. With Project Bike Love you can rely on the fact that you will know who’s getting the bike and how you’re helping her improve the quality of her life. And if you want to push a little on the limits of going out of your comfort zone, you can join us on an amazing trip to the heart of South America and Paraguay at the end of the year!

I can promise you a lot of fun and an eye-opening experiences from the hand of a local girl!

Belen from Tchad