Fieldset
First Sunday

So it’s Sunday, “cleaning day” Yippee! I slept in till 7.30am! After trying to block out the rhythmic beating of drums reverberating across the river for two hours, I got up. The day is dark and stormy.

So it’s Sunday, “cleaning day” Yippee! I slept in till 7.30am! After trying to block out the rhythmic beating of drums reverberating across the river for two hours, I got up. The day is dark and stormy. Together we cleaned yesterday’s mud from the dining room and had a breakfast of thick doughy bread with peanut butter and strong coffee.

I don’t usually have breakfast other than a coffee and a smoke but I’m hungry.

There is very limited food here in the terms of variety. Every lunch is rice, tomato paste/sauce and either dhal or sometimes goat. Every dinner is pasta with tomato sauce.

Fruit is non-existent, and the only veggies available are potatoes, red onion, garlic, and if we are lucky a very sorry excuse for a carrot or tomato, which come from Gambella, as apart from some grains and goat there is nothing here. Divided by 5, soon to be 6, I find myself longing for a plate of meat and veggies. There is also no dairy apart from powdered milk. No butter, yoghurt or eggs.

I spent 50 bucks on cheese in Paris to bring to the field and forgot it in Gambella. I asked them to bring it with yesterday’s movement as Moctar the guy I’m replacing left. Would you believe they ate it in Gambella! I am soooo furious!

I’ve spent my first week trying to get my head around everything. There so much to do, to learn, to fix. I’ve been quite overwhelmed with everything, the condition of the kids, the little resources we have, the incomprehension of the mothers having no idea why their child’s malnourished or sick, the basic health care and hygiene that is missing.

I’ve seen a lot of things I haven’t really dealt with before. Apart from the malnutrition there’s quite a bit of tuberculosis, leprosy, polio, tetanus etc. We even had an epiglottitis*, a thing we’re lucky enough to have pretty well eradicated at home. So it’s a big learning curve with feelings of trepidation and inadequacy as I try to put the theory to the clinical without the support of a consultant. Moctar, the nurse I’m replacing, was from Niger and a nutrition expert. He was on his 8th MSF mission and had worked for many years with other NGOs so is very experienced. I’m not in his league and am living in my clinical guidelines!

Last Thursday we had a massive storm here. The hurricane-force winds ripped the roof and walls off our shower block and other buildings. Sheets of tin sliced through the roofs of tukuls and the room block. Everything was flooded and we were so lucky no one was killed by the flying sheets of iron and debris. Parts of the shower roof actually landed 30 meters away. There was a lot damage in town and people left without shelter. It’s weird to have so much severe rain and storms and it’s still hot!

The mud is absolutely bogstopolous! Thick, black, slippery, sucking mud everywhere. We sought out the rubber boot supply on Friday (after someone whom shan't be named, got both thong-encased feet bogged in calf deep mud, struggled madly, arms flaying wildly trying to keep her balance only to land with an inevitable Kkersplatttt in new cream 3/4 pants, much to the delighted amusement of many of the many villagers watching! But alas, we were not too surprised to find our supply of rubber boots were all right-footed. Good old MSF!!!

Well I’ve just spent the last two hours constructing a “girl’s toilet”!!!! Our dunnies are pits. You climb three large cement steps, two squats (hole in the floor) are side-by-side housed in a separated bamboo and tin shelter. The stench is foul and squatting in the dark, with large hairy spiders lurking, while holding your breath and rocking on untrust worthy pins between a bucket of used toilet paper and a bucket of charcoal, is just not for the faint hearted. Anyway I found an old crate-like construction and toilet seat, cleaned them up with chlorine and screwed them together and placed it over the hole. Now we can s(h)it in peace or at least in a less precarious position!

*Epiglottitis is inflammation of the tissue that covers the trachea (windpipe). It is a life-threatening disease.