Fieldset
Good things, bad things

So it’s Sunday again. I was woken at dawn to the rhythmic beating of drums and singing. Try as I might to go back to sleep, the endless pounding on their hide skin drums wouldn’t allow it.

So it’s Sunday again. I was woken at dawn to the rhythmic beating of drums and singing. Try as I might to go back to sleep, the endless pounding on their hide skin drums wouldn’t allow it.

Another week has passed with plenty of new sights, sounds and adventures. The mobile clinic was very busy this week as the people are back to their daily cultivation of maize. Everywhere we walk or drive, every step you take, you must be mindful of stepping on the crop. The fact that there appears to be no system to where they plant doesn’t help. Patches 5x5 meters in the middle of huge plains are spread higgledy-piggledy without rhyme or reason. Most tukuls are surrounded.

The ground is cultivated simply. The soil is chipped with a spatula on the end of a stick, turned, a piece of ripe corn directly taken off the cob is placed into the soil then covered. Men were cultivating naked, saving their clothes for after their bath in the river at the end of the day. Bright green, luscious leaves can be seen sprouting everywhere, making walking anywhere a precarious task. They sure aren’t backward in coming forward if you step in the wrong spot and will soon tell you off.

For some reason the river level has dropped significantly and is nearly back to the level it was when I got here. Our boats are tethered to the bank: two 14 foot and one huge 50-60 foot cargo boat. Plainly there won’t be much shelter from the sun and rain when we go to the mobile clinic. I’ve ordered gumboots and hopefully ponchos for the staff so they can at least be covered in the rain. It really is a challenging job and I’m battling to stay awake after 9.30pm, a record for me. But I really am exhausted.

One of the team went to the project coordinator and told him it’s much too hard a job for a girl! Well when he came and told me I laughed! Obviously he hasn’t met an Aussie girl before! Plus I think they are quite lazy in themselves. Last Tuesday at Jikow it started raining and all the staff jumped in the car saying we had to go only half an hour after arriving. Well after two and a half hours travel be buggered! The poor patients had come a long way and were huddled under trees so I got them cracking. We borrowed a tukul and set up the pharmacy in that and ran the consultations out of the back of the car until it had stopped raining. Too tough for a girl!!!! Bloody woosies! Anyway we have all our tents and supplies packed now in case we get stuck. The roads are pretty bad after rain, which comes down in torrents and makes driving a slip-sliding adventure, like crossing a frozen lake in thongs [flip-flops], going nowhere fast.

Some bad things happened this week:

  • Some small kids drowned due to the river rising.
  • With the cultivation in full swing, many of my malnutrition kids haven’t come to the clinic, as their mother is too busy cultivating.
  • The truck still hasn’t arrived from Addis with our medical supplies. Lastest news is it was bogged with nine other trucks on the road to Mattar.
  • The walls of my tukul are collapsing, as is the roof. The door has swelled and won’t close properly so “bigger things” can get in! The tukul man who is re-roofing has been pretty slack on the turning up after being paid for the last one he finished. Not a good idea until the jobs done. The one I was planning on moving into has totally fallen apart in the last rains so I may have to move near the toilet! YUCKO!!!
  • I have a rat living in my Tukle and each night it’s eating my things. This week it hass eaten my thongs, my headphones and my knickers! They are all wrecked!

So some good things that have happened this week:

  • One of my first very sick SAM (Severe Acute Malnutrition) cases, a twin, stabilized and gained enough weight to be discharged back to the ambulatory program, so we took him back home this week.
  • We got a supply of medication for our leprosy patients that had come over from South Sudan four times to no avail. Finally we could give them a month supply!
  • Suzanna found blood all over her room and called for help, when we arrived the genet was there and I have photos. It was beautiful! A very sleek long bodied cat with a long tail. Its coat is spotted like a leopard and its tail is stripped and as long as its body. Very beautiful and welcome in my tukul anytime!
  • The chooks are laying well with five eggs a day and now come when I call them or come and get me when they are hungry! Yesterday two of them came inside and cackled at me. I got up and got some corn in a cup and they ran off straight to their cage! Good chooks!
  • I met a guy with a spear who told and showed me how he hunted impala and another guy who had a spear for fishing and demonstrated how he used it to spear fish.
  • I brought a soccer ball and gave it to some kids in Moun in exchange for carrying all our equipment from the previous base to the new one (too muddy to get through) and watched them have an absolute ball in the mud.
  • I went fishing just by the compound and got swamped by kids who asked for a net after no luck with the rod. We gave them an old mosquito net, which they dragged back and forth in the river and within no time at all had half a bucket of fish, which I cooked with chips for tea!
  • The team has started getting the Yahtzee bug and we are having a game or two after tea. Yahtzee champion of Ethiopia is written on the wall and the name and score of top player is written
  • Last night we had a movie through the projector onto a big screen tacked to the side of the pharmacy, for all the staff. We watched “I am Legend” and when the dog was barking in the film it started all the dogs off in the village and a hell of a racket occurred. It was fun sitting out under the stars with bats flying into the screen. We are going to watch Bridesmaids tonight. It’s good to have some fun time with the national staff and for some of the Nuer's it would have been the first movie they’ve ever seen.

All in all a pretty good week, until next time!