The Conspired Circumstance of the Downward Rise

06 November 2007

I had never really seen a dead body before. I’ve seen a few open caskets but at present I can’t remember any specifics save one and that image has been ceaselessly scorched where my soul and mind meet forever. Well forever just got company…

Last Sunday was supposed to be a reprieve from life in Pieri, which after only a few weeks has diminished beneath its already diminutive size. Pieri, for sake of reference, is located in the region of the Upper Eastern Nile, where if The Economist is correct war is likely to return first should it once again come to that. There is a lot of disputed oil in the Upper Nile regions of Sudan so I’ll let you do the math.

Pieri is large only in comparison to the outlying areas that surround it. Pieri is home to a durable albeit dirt landing strip, which performs double duty as the soccer pitch and goat pasture when not pressed into action by the roughly twenty planes that land in Pieri each week. Pieri is renowned in this neck of the woods for having the best strip going, which from what I understand is not saying much. The village is built around nongovernmental and governmental aid compounds. MSF, Tear Fund, the Carter Center, the WFP [World Food Program] and the WHO [World Health Organization] all represent.

Pieri is landlocked and for eight months of the year it is cut off from road access. On the east side there is a dusty market with perhaps ten stalls that sell mainly meat, sugar, cooking oil, some spices and an assortment of seemingly used clothing and trinkets presumably from Khartoum. Some chairs are set beneath one of the few trees brave enough to take on Sudan’s sun, and seem to serve as the village’s café. A small school and a Presbyterian church, both of which are housed in tukuls, are on the west side. At night and on Sunday mornings the most magnificent music and accompanying drumbeats can be heard coming from Pieri’s place of worship.

Throughout Pieri and its outskirts, cows, goats, and tukuls are scattered as far as the eye can see, which is pretty far because the local geography makes Saskatchewan look like the Himalayas. Her horizon, however, allows for the most breathtaking sunsets, and on moonless nights our village disappears into darkness, while I take comfort under Orion’s majestic belt.

I’ve digressed! Last Sunday was supposed to be a reprieve from Pieri. The plan of action was for the team to do a reconnaissance trip to Yuai. Yuai is one of our two outreach programs and it’s about 2.5 hours away by truck during the dry season. Our goal was to assess the road’s (and by road I mean 4x4 course) condition and our medical facility in Yuai after the rainy season. Long story short, the trips got cancelled and despite my hopes that work would not sequester this Sunday, it turned into a day that will remain with me until all others have passed!