Natural hazards

Well it’s Sunday again and another week has passed. We are still cut off but the water is reducing fairly rapidly. We are able to do a kiss to Gambella but have to walk an hour or so through the water so we can’t send any patients or kids.

Well it’s Sunday again and another week has passed. We are still cut off but the water is reducing fairly rapidly. We are able to do a kiss to Gambella but have to walk an hour or so through the water so we can’t send any patients or kids.

I had to give up Latte this week as the pressure and threats from Woreda have been so intense we can’t give them any reason to pick on us. It was really sad as like I said previously, he wouldn’t eat for anyone and followed me around like a dog. He was a good friend, but he’s gone to one of our nurses, and has the company of goats. Apparently he’s OK and eating, but they wouldn’t tell me if he wasn’t anyway. Funny how a little thing like him could make such a big difference to life but he did.

Yesterday I was sitting outside talking to our American nurse as she got her hair platted when she gasped “snake”. About six foot away was a (small ?) three-foot-long greenish viper heading for the pharmacy. Without much thought I picked up a big rock, threw it and got it! Crushed him in half! Quite exhilarating actually, I felt like a true Nuer woman. The people here are deadly with a rock at 20 paces! Even the kids use pebbles and sticks to herd their cattle, goats and sheep in the direction they want them to travel in. So yes, even the guards were impressed!

One of the nurses had found two snakes under her mattresses early in the morning, and was so shaken she couldn’t work. She just kept crying, poor girl. That was in the staff compound across the way from us, but they are averaging two to five a week with plenty in the health center too. We also average five snake bites a week out in the clinics. Mostly vipers as the mambas, puff adders and cobras don’t make it that far.

The day before yesterday, “snake” was yelled just at our back door in the washing-up area. There was a five-foot black, shiny snake. It had its head up, tongue flicking as it smelt the air for prey or whatever. It had bright yellow bands on its throat and when the guard came running, stick in hand, he took one look, cried “ah very dangerous” and backed off. Anyway after a time it slithered around our pots and pans and finally disappeared into the pipe that catches the water from the sink (very basic plumbing) so I poured some boiling water down there, with the help of the kettle on the end of a broom stick! So I don’t actually know if we got it or what as the pipe goes out to the river.

Since then the logistician has sealed the pipe with netting so it won’t be coming back in that way at least. If I had the internet I’d Google it, maybe it was a mamba, but won’t know till I reach the other world. All the locals say it's “fatal” but they would only have a Nuer name for it.

The local authorities came and asked us for help the other day. Apparently there is a “huge snake” that is living in a hole by the cattle selling tree. They say at night it climbs up the tree and makes a noise like a goat! We asked what they want us to do with it, we are medical not pest control!  Don’t know why they don’t just shoot it, but anyway I’d like to see it. Must be a buffalo eating python, to be that big and make a bleating noise of a goat! Guess it’s calling out its prey! But as it’s near their precious cattle, it is a problem!

The river is still only 15cm from the top of the bank but I think it’s peaked. It’s practically clear now and you can see at least a few feet down. The fish are prolific! Last night I was sitting in the boat watching thousands of tiger fish swarming in the water like piranhas on a picnic. I think they may also have the same result of piranhas if you fell in, judging by their teeth, but these were only baby’s between 10- 30 cm long, red tails flashing, water literally bubbling in their frenzy.

Last Monday when we went to Pul-deng, we were driving in the middle of nowhere and there right in the middle of the road was a fish, maybe 10 pound! We stopped and picked it up. One of the health education workers had to throw it on the ground to stop its powerful flapping before bring it along for a midday meal at the clinic! It was in a very small puddle so I don’t know if it was dropped by an eagle or just flapped its way from the flooded side of the road??? Amazing, the staff took it as a gift from God. I said I hope he throws down some spuds and carrots too!

Speaking of which, we finally got some supplies from Gambella, not much but there were tomatoes and LETTUCE! Woohhhhoooo, it was so good. We’ve been back on the rice and pasta with tomato sauce for a while now as no supplies could get through.

The weather has been gradually heating back up and is in the 40s most days, cools down a little as the sun goes down and then for some crazy unexplained reason, heats back up about 7-8pm and that makes for a difficult night’s sleep!  With the heat or at least the lack of rain, comes the bugs! Furious, frenzied, stupendously-swarming bugs: locusts, crickets, cockroaches, flying lice and tick-like bugs. Biting, stinging, sucking, making the daily activities such as eating a meal, taking a shower or going to the loo a hazard!

We have removed a light bulb in the dining room but still all retreat to our rooms within an hour or so of meeting for dinner as the dreaded bugs creep into your clothes, hair, drink and food, making it impossible to stay sane and remove them from within your clothes with any sense of decorum! Very inappropriate for the dinner table!

In the morning there is literally a carpet of bugs, several centimeters thick, covering the table, the ground, everything, especially around a light source. They smell like rotting fish! The birds and frogs in their thousands however are having a ball! But even they can’t make a dent in the numbers!

The spiders are growing at an alarming rate and I’m not sure how but we all seem to be getting bites while in bed under the mosquito net. Before going to bed, I strip off, rub myself with a towel to get the bugs off, brush my hair and then dive in under the net, but still a few manage to get in! I have a new hole in my tukul, looks like a snake hole but it’s pretty big. It’s got a piece of wood jammed in there to block it so I hope it’s a good deterrent!