Thursday, August 4, 2016

Update #1

  I flew here on a small 9 passenger prop plane. I'll say that its been an interesting ride so far. Am I having fun yet?  Sometimes, but for the most part it's been quite a challenge between the heat and the workload. The first week, the heat wasn''t bad but then it went up in the 40s and I got really nauseus  (some people had worse reactions so I guess I'm lucky). There is no air conditioning, there is no where to escape the heat.  On the plus side, it's dry heat which is easier to take then the humidity (which apparently will come in the rainy season). 

The other challenge is the lack of office supplies and decent technology.  We have wifi here, but there's no such thing as a file folder (I tried to order them but no luck).  We do have hanging file folders so all is not completely lost, but I"m having a hard time getting organized.  We only have one computer that can scan, we are not networked and an email with an attachment takes forever. It takes forever to complete simple tasks.  I work with an HR Assistant and a Finance Assistant.  I also supervise the cooks and cleaners of the expat compound - they are a wonderful group of ladies, most don't speak English so we have had some laughs as I try to explain something and end up having to find go find someone to interpret.

My expat colleagues - 18 of them-  are all very nice.  German, Italian, Belgian, American, British, Kenyan, Pakisani, Indian, Ugandan, Spanish.  We have to cook for ourselves Saturday night and Sunday, and fortunately, we have some really good cooks who like cooking!  Some are very sociable and some keep to themselves.  On Saturdays, they buy a goat from the market and BBQ it and we have a dance party or watch a movie.   All of our food is flown in, we get a ''fresh'' food order every week as well as bits and pieces of our monthly packaged food order.   The airstrip is about 200 yards from the compound, its arrival time varies so we just listen for it.  Of course, when I heard someone call out "the plane!"I thought of Fantasy Island, but no, I'm definitely not on Fantasy Island.

My office is right beside the expat compound so I don't see much of what is going in the hospital except when I'm walking through to post jobs or notices and I hear alot of conversation around the table at meals. We have an outpatient clinic, TB clinic, see alot of peopel with kala azar and malaria; there's an operating theatre, maternity ward/clinic, ICU, etc.  all in tents or really big tukuls.  We go out to the market on Saturdays  and then walk along the airstrip for exercise, this takes  an hour at the most.  If it's cool enough in the evenings we go watch the footbal games (we are the only women there).  The South Sudanese are smiling, gracious people surviving under the worst conditions.  They line up at water taps with their jerry cans twice a day. The kids are smiling and laughing, wanting to hold your hand as you walk, sometimes a little aggressive.  Some stare but once you say hello they answer right back. When some young women were following me, I heard them say ''kuwai'' which is Nuer for white.  I said ''yes, I'm kuwai"" and we had a laugh when they realized that I knew they were talking about me.   The  football league has 9 teams!


This is my tukul, I have to bend down to enter.  During the day, its cooler than outside but at night when the outside air cools down, it's like an oven.  So far, I've only had geckos, several birds, a bat and the odd bug (but rainy season hasn't started).  No mosquitos yet.  A few people have seen scorpions but not me.
This is the view from my bed.

This is the view from the door. The ceiling is covered in white sheeting so that nothing falls through. It actually looks much cleaner than it is.  Imagine a layer of dust everywhere.   The windows have chicken wire and screening and are pretty good at keeping stuff out except the dust.  Unfortunately, the curtains don't come off so I can't wash them, but one of my colleages said there's no point, they'll be just as dusty in two days.  Same goes for cleaning the fan.  It's true, it was windy this morning and I came back to leaves, sticks and a thick layer of dust everywhere.

This was the most pleasant surprise - it's clean and it doesn't smell. 

This is the shower tukul.  It doesn't have a door, just a round-about walkway and you hang a rope over so that someone knows you're in there.  There is a light too.  At night, the water is unpleasantly hot because it's stored in big drums but the mornings aren't bad.

This is my desk in our office after I cleaned up, still some work to do.  Note the filing cabinet is too close to the window so I can't open the top drawer very far.  To move it, I have to move the safe that's sitting beside it but if I do that, I lose it as a shelf. I'm thinking of stealing a table from a vacant tukul but think it might be too big, we'll see.  On the plus side, there's no glass in that window, I hear the birds chatter, the kids laughing, singing, crying, the odd donkey and goats. Big kites (birds) come and sit on the fence just outside the window when they are cutting up the goat. I've never been a bird watcher but here, they are amazing, lots of colour, everyone's favourite is the Cordon Bleu; also red breasted shrikes; red birds that look something like cordon bleu; huge Pied crows just to name a few. Also through the window comes dust, lots of it, if we know a cloud is coming we shut the windows.

That's all for now.

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