Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Nostalgically…I am back!
“I deserve to just break down and cry now”! Those were my thoughts on Friday morning, 16th March 2013 as anxiety finally crept on me as I prepared to go to the airport. My friend Rahma actually validated this “I would have been worried if you are not a bit anxious” She knows how to say the right thing always. Why I have been so calm about this? I wondered. Somehow only one tear fell! I was okay and happy, as I prepared to go back to South Sudan. I recalled the last time I had been in this country in 2007. I could recall with nostalgia the time I flew out of Juba and looking from the sky thought “I am not coming back here”. My experience in Juba had been an interesting one that I still remember with a smile. I had been ignorant of what to expect but somehow got over the culture shock quite fast. The language barrier did not help matters especially when there was a public announcement and we could not comprehend. The scariest had been a curfew, where Justa my colleague and I had no idea what was happening and had been prepared to go to work as usual. For many that was nothing but the two of us having not experienced that before it was scary. We had coined a phrase “but then” as we made fun that any person would not have believed our experiences since they would have to be punctuated by “but then” hence removing the positivity. We were not just melancholic, for real life had a way of just putting some twists every now and then. It was more of what Kenyans would currently say “ni kama drama ni kama video”. The first mishap was that the office we were going to establish in Juba was to get most of the office stuff, computers, stationery, and furniture from the Nairobi office which had been in operation for some time. The network we were going to work for was to closing most of the operations in Nairobi and have Juba office fully operational. However the person contracted to transport the furniture to Juba decided to do some shady deals and use another organization’s transport space. The short of it was that he was to get away paying the costs and ‘hide’ under the other organization’s cargo. Things did not work as the person who was to receive our organizations’ equipment was not accessible by the time the transporter reached Juba. This started a long tussle with the person who had legally hired the transporter that lasted a while hence we had an office space without equipment. Some of the equipment had been purchased afresh hence were transported by air, but then the day my colleague landed in Juba with the equipment was the day the government introduced tax for NGOs equipment so this was again held at the airport. Eventually after a month we managed to retrieve the equipment from the transport saga, but then a good number of pieces were broken or spoilt, and small parts missing. So we could barely fix the computers, a cable missing here and there, board room table had leg broken…etc. A Kenyan friend helped us once in a while to mitigate some of these experiences…friends are friends forever! He came in handy when we were stranded. Another interesting experience was trying to get a mwiko (specific wooden spoon used in Kenya for cooking ugali which was our favorite meal). We tried without success and we could not manage to use the kind of cooking spoon that was used locally. Eventually after more than a month, someone brought us mwiko from Kenya, but then by then the maize flour had gone bad having warms due to the heat and the fact that we had not made arrangements to store it well to avoid heat and humidity. I don’t remember how we sorted our craving for ugali! Of course our Sudanese colleagues never understood the fuss over this small wooden stick. As part of making life more comfortable we had plumber repair the piping system in the house so that when we purchased water we could have it in the pipes! And voila we could finally use tapped water, I remember how that evening felt when we could eventually take a shower and have the 1,000l tank full! Shock on us (but then) on waking up the following morning to find not even one drop of water in the taps! We thought something had happened to the piping system but on checking the tank it was completely empty! Apparently there was something in the piping where the system could be open to go to public pipes. I must say this was one of the most interesting experiences I have had. Not forgetting how frogs seemed to time when I want to go to the bathroom to jump in…the door had some opening but I can almost swear the frogs waited for my turn! I also recall the day, when I was coming from work thoroughly exhausted, and with my colleague having proceeded from R and R break hence I was not feeling quite happy. And guess who meets me at the gate? Some very excited kittens welcoming me! I hate cats! Some cat had hidden and given birth in the compound without our knowledge. I felt like crying. I got the night guard to get rid of them. As I write this, seated outside the house in a new environment of Yei, I can only smile. I am not very good at working with the unknown hence this is an interesting experience for me. For once I had experience of using the kind of planes I dread most…15 seater! I dread using small flights but there I was in Entebbe looking at what looked exactly like an overgrown eagle! To make it worse, the luggage was piled outside with “chose one, leave one”. It doesn’t help that I had carried luggage like I was going to the moon. When we finally boarded I learnt we were to have a stopover in some place in northern Uganda. The advantage of this kind of craft is that it is so noisy that even if the captains wished to tell you “we are out of control” you will barely hear! However I can swear I felt the windows crack…and could see some small cracks after that when I checked the window! I heard the noises and tried checking what was happening and noted some tiny fresh cracks. I started imagining the window cracking completely and consoled myself that it was the outside part of the window. Of course the captain felt it was some old scratches when I alerted him at the stop over (he would not admit it though, right?); but he went ahead to check (and never gave me a report). I look forward to the experience in a different climate; meet new people, new challenges, and more so to the work I will engage with working with women! And yes… I am back…and hoping my luggage will get here today!