It can be incredibly invigorating to depart from an intense working environment for a while. Once you set out you feel immediately liberated, you stop shaving, you walk for hours and you can eat street food 6 times a day because set meal times no longer have any hold over you.  After 3 months of staying in one place, freedom is achieved in small gestures of this kind.  I carried my friend’s new baby through the Gambian bush, helped a hoteliers daughter with her history homework, and swam in the river before a dinner of barbecued fish and beer.

The return from holiday can conversely be tough. People express their pleasure at seeing you again by recounting all the problems and stresses that occurred during your absence, for which you (momentarily) feel culpable. But you also quickly realise that everything worked at least as well as normal when you were not there. So perhaps part of the benefit of being away is to help you contextualise the work you do, to realise that life goes on just fine without you, but somehow the people still want you to be there.

I’m back now in the swing of things. And perhaps something has changed – for yesterday, for the first time a child talked to me. (Admittedly, it’s not often that we have a child over the age of 3). He said good morning, said he was feeling better, and that he would like to eat some fish. I told his mother that all this was a good sign, but of course I refused his request for fish. I’m a doctor after all; it’s my job to deny people what they want (even if I’m in a magnanimous mood after my holiday). He can have a disposable glove blown up into a balloon, and will have to make do with that!


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