First Impressions

"After 7 flights and almost 6 days of travel, I have finally arrived in Agok."

Sarah is in Abyei Special Administrative Area, a disputed region between Sudan and South Sudan. She's evaluating the education and training needs of local nurses at Agok's MSF field hospital. This means organizing staff trainings, and supervising and mentoring our training team. 

I took a small, 8-10 seater World Food Program plane to get here and arrived on a dirt landing strip covered with children who barely made it out of the way before the wheels made contact with the earth.

Agok is essentially a disputed piece of land between Sudan and South Sudan. It is really a unique place to find oneself. As I sit here in my tukul reflecting upon my first week, I look up to see quite a large lizard who has made his way onto my window screen. He shakes his head back and forth; I think perhaps to take advantage of the cool air being blown his way by my makeshift fan. The temperature here is hot, meaning more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit every day; and this is ‘mild’ as I have arrived at the start of the rainy season.

Flies cover everything. I slept through my alarm during my first morning here and as such, found that there was very little left in the way of breakfast. I literally spooned out the bees which had made their home in what remained of the mashed potato-like consistency breakfast ‘cereal’. I tried letting the flies know who was boss but they returned as quickly as they were batted away. There was no milk left, so I dropped a few scoops of powdered milk onto my cereal, then tried reconstituting it with hot water. The end result was far from appetizing. I left my cereal bowl for two minutes to go in search of some coffee (A Seattle girl without her coffee is not a pretty sight.) and by the time I had returned, the bees had already reclaimed their territory in the bottom of my cereal bowl. I resigned myself to not eating and settled for a cup of Nescafé.

The insects here are enormous. You must always check your shoes to make sure that no native scorpion or other critter has taken up residence there. At night, hedgehogs can be seen dashing across the concrete footpaths before concealing their spikes in the shrubs surrounding the compound tukuls. Last night I nearly stepped on a huge butterfly larva as I entered my tukul. 

We use squat toilets, but we do have showers. Mars shines brightly in the night sky above the compound. There are two trees within the compound which are home to hundreds of rather loud birds. In the evening the birds begin to argue amongst themselves, bantering back and forth in a dissonant cacophony of noise. At night, they join the crickets and the toads to serenade me to sleep.

Here, everything is magnified. When it rains, one must shout to be heard against the explosion of noise as the drops make contact with the tin roofs. Life in general carries much more intensity. I have been here for six days and already it feels as if I have been here for much longer. The compound and the people inside become your world. Last night I climbed the water tower for the first time and was able to see life outside of the MSF walls. Green countryside, broken up by tukuls and cattle, children running through the streets and smoke rising from kitchens. We are a large compound, and yet also very small in the grand scheme of things.