The long way to holidays

It’s Wednesday and I am leaving on my break. Yippee! I was still up packing at 11.30pm the night before in my dark and wet tukul, as I still had so many things to organize for while I was gone.

It’s Wednesday and I am leaving on my break. Yippee! I was still up packing at 11.30pm the night before in my dark and wet tukul, as I still had so many things to organize for while I was gone. The clinic wasn’t as busy as I predicted, so I called the base and said to come when they were ready as I could leave early. While I was sitting in the car talking on the phone someone stole my shoes from beside the car. Bloody hell, I took them off because the driver had just cleaned the car and my shoes were muddy! No shit Sherlock, they’d steal your false teeth if you slept with your mouth open!

The Kebele leader was furious and took the kids' ball and skipping ropes off them telling them to go and find my shoes! Poor buggers, it would have been someone from away that had nicked them, not the kids! Anyway I bought some new thongs and we finally left for Gambella and my long awaited break!

Not far out of Ninenyang we stopped at the check point (for urination) and for the soilders’ to check who we had in the car and what the purpose was. An old lady came running at me and I recognized her to be the grandmother of the baby whose mum had died. The little girl who was so malnourished she was transparent, the one who weighed a meager 1.8 kg at three months old. Wow she looked fantastic! The grandmother proudly placed the baby on the road and unwrapped her for me to see. She looked like a new baby, brown and warm and smiling. That was soooo fantastic and made my day. In a place where death comes so freely, this little one was a miracle. I praised the grandmother’s care and left her on the side of the road, both of us beaming from ear to ear.

A little while later we came across a heard of white-eared kob on the road. We drove behind them slowly and they just ran along the road in front of us, with only a few breaking away to the scrub on the side of the road. One pack joined with another, and then another, and another and finally we were driving behind thousands of them. After an hour of this fantastic spectacle I voiced my concern if we were ever going to get to Gambella. One of the people in the back said “They don’t know what car is. They think it a big cow so maybe human should get out, they scared of human, human hunt them, then they run into bush.” As we had an impending baby delivery with waters broken and three other patients and their caretakers also squashed in the back, we stopped the car and I walked up the road shooing the herd of kob. They looked at me and just kept running up the road. After half a kilometer of whooping and waving I gave up and got back in the car saying “nope that didn’t work, they just thought I was a small white cow!” The same guy remarked “yes you are white, they don’t know what you are so they are not scared of you” So we followed the herd until it finally left the road and allowed us to travel on to Gambella.

Herd of kob on the road ©Kate Chapman

We arrived around 7.30pm and quickly went to the Baro Hotel for a St. George local beer. The waiter presented us with brand new menus with photos of the meals

“Wow, you have club sandwiches?”

"Yes madam"

“Wow do they look like this?”

“No, nothing like the picture”

ha ha ok “So what do you have tonight?" I asked him in mouthwatering anticipation

“We have everything”

“Everything? Everything on the menu?”

“Yes we have all.”

Wooohhoooo, yummy I’m starving! (I hadn’t eaten since the night before as I did clinic and then had long trip to Gambella where there was nothing in the fridge as usual)

"OK then I’ll have the steak burger."

"No, no burger”

"What? I thought you said you have everything!”

“No burger”

"Do you have chicken?"


I started laughing, “do you have steak?"


"and fries?"

“No, no fries”

"OK then I’ll have the steak."

I really couldn’t look at anymore pasta and tomato sauce! Anyway after an hour and a half of gastric acid burning my esophagus, not even cooled by the ice cold beer, my meal finally arrived. Bugger me there was a piece of steak, some cabbage and tomato and bread! So I had me a steak sandwich after all!

The next morning I got a very intrusive pat down/feel up/head massage from the security at the airport, had a really smooth flight without any anxiety and arrived in Addis in good time. The car was waiting and we went straight to the office to hand over medical data and information before our plan of shower, pizza and a night with the Olympics.

So I’d just finished briefing our medical coordinator, who did not approve the clinic in Pul-deng and had no idea I was working there, when the logistic coordinator came over and in hushed tones told me “The president has just died so we will take you to the residence where you will be in lock down with an emergency pack.” Hahaha “very funny” said I.

“No this is serious there could be big trouble, we are making emergency packs now” “You’re kidding, I’ve booked my accommodation” I said with a smirk, thinking they knew all the trouble it took to get my break so was just stirring me. “No we are making the packs you will leave shortly”

Lucky Me!!! I was taken to the house to await updates. I was alone at the house so enjoyed my first hot shower in over three months, made a hot pack as it was bloody freezing and went to bed WITHOUT mosquito net, in a real bed that was horizontal, in a real room with closing windows and doors!!! I fell into a blissful sleep, but awoke at 3am freezing! I went to the room next door and pinched the two blankets from the bed, snuggled back in and slept till 8am!

Later in the day I was finally cleared to go and arranged a driver for the next morning as I was forbidden to go on the much cheaper mini bus. I had a lovely dinner at the Italian club with two Italian colleagues and then slept till 7am in preparation of my long awaited for break!

Debre Zeyit, here I come!