Everything posted here is stricktly the opinion of the poster and shall not be taken to be the official position of UNMIS, UNMISS, UN, the Norwegian Armed Forces or any other organisation whatsoever.

Friday 31 December 2010

Happy New year!

Together with three other UNMOs and the Security Officer, I went out for dinner and drinks this evening at my usual haunt in Yei; the Ethiopian restaurant. Quiet, relaxing and lots of talk... ranging from discussing the breakup of the USSR to the cultural differences between our countries of origin.

I think the whole evening can be summarized by the old Norwegian toast I rounded off the evening with:
For a good year and peace!

And with that, I wish you all a very good 2011.

Thursday 30 December 2010

Upcoming leave

This just in: Unless the midden hits the windmill*, my next leave will be from February 4th to 22nd. This is what happens when there is an open slot on the leave plan, none of the ones with a higher priority wants it and one happens to be the G1.

Go me!

*) Like the sh-t hitting the fan, but larger and much messier.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

They do some things very differently down here

Sometimes, after being here for more than three months, something drives homes the fact that I am not in Kansas no more, to misquote a famous book.

Like today.

We we're heading over to the local SPLA barracks to liaison with their commanding officer, which we do once a month - life is easier if they know what we are up to and where we're going - but it was my first time since I'm now the Deputy Team Site Leader* in addition to being G1 and also Acting G3...

Anyhow, back to the barracks. Just a quick list of the top of my head; no fence around camp, no barracks as I know them but tukuls** instead, no straight lines, families living with the soldiers and - and this is what brought the message home - lots of goats and chickens running around.

The higher officers we interacted with on the other hand could been straight out of any European Armed forces though; polite, well spoken, obviously educated not just on the battle field... and much easier to gain access to than the higher ups back home. I would have to have a darn good reason just to knock on the door of the base commander back home, but here? "Let's say hello to him and introduce you."

Oh, and one other difference. Back home, when you're meeting someone in their office you'll get the option of coffee or tea. Here? A soft drink and a bottle of water.

After the meeting I went on a regular Town Patrol and took a few minutes to just enjoy nature down by the Yei River... photos will be forthcoming once I get it of the camera of the other UNMO who was with me.

Also, this is the 100th post to my blog. Go me!

*) More work and responsibilities for the same paycheck...
**) A tukul (spelling varies) is the traditional hut made of a wooden framework covered in mud with a thatch roof.

Tuesday 28 December 2010

The wonders of the internet

I'm in South Sudan and I'm in the process of ordering something to be delivered to my better half in Norway from a craftsman in Florida.

Internet, how did we manage without it? Just asking...

Sunday 26 December 2010

Life is short - dessert first!

I didn't bother making dinner today... I made dessert! Fried bananananas... just a shame I didnt have any orange juice today, but the experiment is worth repeating.
 You'll need: some tiny bananas, butter or margarine, sugar and off course a frying pan to fry the whole shebang in.
 Cut the bananas in two, cover in sugar. If you can only get regular 'naners, cut slices.
 Start frying, flip an add sugar as needed. Towards the end of the process (when the bananas are getting soft and the sugar is caramelizing), add orange juice to make sauce.
Slide onto a plate, serve hot. Yummy.

The things we have to do

The duties of an UNMO includes;
  • Paperwork - lots of paperwork
  • Traveling around, showing the flag
  • Interacting with the locals
  • Hauling fuel barrels and refueling the damn generators because the generator mechanic is only working mondays through fridays...

Saturday 25 December 2010

Why yes, we do know it's Christmas in Africa this year

For those of us who is old enough and haven't quite repressed the memories of the 80's yet, we all remember this song...

Despite the fact that there is no snow in Africa for Christmas (seriously people, we're straddling the equator here), the people certainly do know it's Christmas time. Most of the town is in idle mode, as shops are closed and people are home. While I didn't go to church myself since I can give praise and thanks just as well by myself - a very scandinavian view on religion - but I did help ferry those of the UNMOs who wanted to do so to the various churches... Catholic, Anglic and the generick Lutheran. The rest of the morning have been spent on a chair in the shade, with my laptop speakers hooked up to my old mp3-player playing Christmas tunes, reading a decent good and just enjoying what I do have.

I had meant to make a tour to the YWAM School I've mentioned before, since I have a little something for them. However I learned yesterday that they were closed for the holiday, and even the live-in staff had gone home to their families. I don't mind too much, it just means they get to enjoy the holiday as well. Instead I retreated to the air-conditioned interior of my container when it got too hot outside (+34ÂșC in the shade) and watched A Christmas Story on my new laptop.

So yeah, it's Christmas in Africa this year. No snow though, but I managed without it. Even managed to cook myself a tasty treat for lunch:
 Freshly washed plum tomatoes and a peeled sweet red onion is the starting point, along with three eggs - leaving me with just one egg. I guess I'll have a hard boiled egg for breakfast tomorrow.
 Slice the onion in tiny little bits while a bit of oil heats up in the frying pan. The onion was so fresh and tasty I considered eating it raw - but it was destined for the pan, so that's where it ended up.
 Next, slice and dice the tomatoes. Just see how firm, yet juicy they are. I just love the fresh produce on the local market - from the field to the marked in a few hours, not days and weeks like the supermarkets back home.
 In a fairly hot pan, give it all a fryup. The smell was just yummy, the sound of the sizzling brought me from South Sudan to my own kitchen...
 When I say "omelet", I mean "hash" down here... call me paranoid if you like, but I rather make sure every last bit of egg is cooked well. A bit of paprika and chilly pepper went in at this point of the process, along with a pinch or two of salt.
Pour onto a plate and enjoy while hot. The tenderness of the onions and the freshness of the tomatoes made this a very tasty treat for me today.

Friday 24 December 2010

Christmas shopping

I decided to do a bit of holiday shopping today, in order to fill up
the larder for the holiday (in other words, I was running low on a few

First a trip to the market, then a trip to the 'super market',
rounding off with a short stop at the bakery. Total cost; six Sudanese
pounds at the market (two each for the sweet onions, the bananas and
the tomatoes), twenty seven at the super market (fifteen for the
imported peanut butter, five for the very tasty tea and seven for the
juice) and two pounds for the bag'o'bread at the bakery.

All in all, 35 pounds. For me it's little more than pocket change
(just shy of 10USD with todays rate), but if you're local and making
an average of 25 pounds a day... yeah, I can see why peanut butter and
sterilized juice are luxuries only the Westerners buy down here.

I'm planning on using one of the onions and a well washed tomato in
todays dinner - if my eggs are still good (and they should be), I'll
be knocking together a quick omelet... fry up the onion, add a chopped
tomato and pour egg over the result.

Not the traditional Christmas dinner, but still something special
compared to the usual rice and lentils!

What am I listening to?

UN radio, off course!

Radio Miraya (meaning 'freedom') is funded by UNMIS, but since the UN value such western ideas as freedom and indepence of the press, UNMIS have no control over the broadcasts. They send news, documentaries as well as entertainment. And their website have the audio streams avilable for free, across the globe!

On occasion we have a couple of their journalists coming by our Team Site, and we do try to help them when we can with transport and such things. Makes it possible for them to go places they wouldn't otherwise be able to go, and we get a new face around for a few days.

Again, check out their website, listen to their show (top of the page, select "Listen to Juba" to get the same broadcast I listen) and enjoy the news, the debates and not at least the popular music of Sudan! You can find their schedule here - keep in mind that Sudan is at GMT+3.

It was Little Christmas Eve!

Christmas is celebrated during the darkest time of the year, at least if you're living on the northern hemisphere. Just to drive that point home, our one remaining generator decided to play dead yesterday... from half past six (when the sun sets) and for three hours, we got to experience just how dark it can be in deepest Africa.

Still, after pretty much anyone in the Team Site had poked, kicked and cursed the damn thing, we got it up and running again. After that, and a couple of beers shared with the security officer - we really deserved a beer, or at least so we told ourself - I got around to Decorate the Tree!

Back when I grew up, I used to look forward to decorating the tree almost as much as I did look forward to opening presents. These days... well, I think I enjoy it more than the presents! And while I did get to decorate the 'real' tree when I was on leave, it's still something special about doing it on the proper day for doing such things - in other words, on the day before Christmas Eve.

And yes, it's true even if the tree is 60 cm tall, made of genuine plastic and comes in a card board box...
 Just slightly beaten up after the airline's gentle handling...
 ...although it's hard to break plastic.
 A green bottle brush?
 Well, vaguely tree like green bottle brush.
 Lights are working.
 Not the largest pile of ornaments, but then again it's a tiny tree.
 There is a certain order to how to do a tree; after the lights, tinsel goes on.
 The tree got balls - tiny little balls.

Thursday 23 December 2010

Gearing up for the holidays

Today is the 23rd - what Norwegians tend to call "Little Christmas Eve" or "the day before the Day". Traditionally a day for decorating the Christmas Tree, eating rice porridge and the last panic over presents. And here I am in Yei, being Duty Officer and all...

Even if tomorrow is planned as a normal day in the Team Site, I have managed to arrange for me to have a day off... well, a day with no patrols and just as little office work I can get away with. I'll celebrate Christmas by calling family and friends I think... and playing Christmas tunes at full throttle. In the mean time, I'll be assembling my very own 60cm tall plastic tree.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Getting back in the rhythm of things

It's amazing how tired one can become from traveling for a day and a half... I'm starting to get over it though. I'm also starting to get over the small pile of work that was waiting for me - the fellow who was doing the G1 work while I was away did well enough, but the little extras I like to do was not done; things like the training program, the 'who gets to go on leave' list and suchlike. While I'm still not done doing them, at least I know excatly whats left to do - and knowing is half the battle.

THe few extra odds and ends I brought down here with me has improved things too - the extra hanging shelf went up quickly, and the tool kit and hooks allowed me to stop hanging things in the electrical conduit. And off course, the new laptop with the full sized keyboard not only lets me write faster, but also lets me surf faster. I guess my beloved Eee was just to weak to use the mobile internet dongle efficiently. Not that I'll stop using the Eee though - it's still an amazing little machine, and the only thing to use for watching movies in bed.

This week we're having a long duration patrol out, meaning the rest of us is pretty much restricted to patrolling in town and the immediate area. This is good for our two new UNMOs, and also good for me since that means I can really ease myself back into the rhythm of life in Yei.

Christmas Ewe is in two days... since celebrating that is mostly a Scandinavian thing, I suspect I'll be having a quiet evening for reflection. Christmas day on the other hand... rumors say that there will be a party. Don't know where yet, but it will be nice to mingle with other westerners for something like that.

Monday 20 December 2010

Back from leave

Traveling can be stressful... even more so when pretty much all of Europe features closed airports, delays, cancellations, unhelpful helpers and other yule tide fun.

In short, due to the weather Frankfurt decided to close down and cancel all flight. Anyone remember that disaster flick "Airport"? Where the snow just comes piling down, the airplanes keeps circling and no one gets the bright idea to reroute? That's probably what they wanted to avoid - along with London's airports, Paris, Amsterdam and so on and so forth.

Luckily, even if SAS was anything but helpful today, VIA Travel (who is on contract with the Norwegian Armed Forces) pulled an amazing stunt and managed to get me rerouted... via Milan and Cairo. Granted, I arrived in Khartoum just in time to have a quick shower and head over to the UN Airport, but still...

Flying to Milan was slightly surreal... I was the only passenger in Business Class (which means that I got food, unlike the 'cattle' in identical seat behind the curtain.). The stewardess simply could not do enough for me, and even less so when she heard that I would not be home for Christmas. Offers of drinks and more drinks, two sets of pillows (I gently declined her offer of more), leaving the coffee pot in the seat next to me... Where the SAS personnel at Gardemoen had failed miserably in their service, the SAS stewardess more than made up for it. She was also quite interested to hear about Sudan and the UN Mission there... from what I gathered the son of a friend of hers is currently in Afghanistan, so I guess she could relate and compare.

Apart from the stellar service aboard, the flight was uneventful. All of Europe as far as I could see was covered in clouds, with just the very tips of the Alps sticking up through the cloud cover. Once below the clouds, what I could spot of northern Italy is flat, have a dusting of snow, and isn't nowhere as cold as Norway was. As for the airport... meh. It's an airport, and I'm just passing through. The cappuccino was pretty darn awesome though - but that would been more of a surprise if it wasn't.

From Milan to Cairo was, well, less impressive than the first leg, even if the seat was wider. The food was decent enough (two course dinner - a salmon salad for starters and filled chicken for main course), but nothing more than that... for being business class it was less impressive than Lufthansa's Economy class. I guess Egyptair just isn't in quite the same class as the Big Boys... or, alternatively, they don't rely on their business class passengers to line their pockets. To top of the experience, we were an hour late in taking off from Milan, so naturally we arrived an hour late as well. Plain awesome - if I've been on vacation I might even become annoyed with it. Since I was traveling on duty, it was just a case of 'meh' - I can't really be bothered to care to much when I'm traveling on someone else dime.

As for Cairo Airport... it's probably a great place to go to or eave from, but if I can possible avoid it I won't use it for a transit ever again. The place is huge, sprawling and impossible to navigate - partly because the terminals are so far apart you need a car and driver to get between them! So I spent about one hour waiting at the first transit desk, then a half hour driving around the airport with an armed guard, and then... well, lets just say more waiting was involved. All in all my planned four hour, fifty minute layover was reduced to just shy of one hour once I was past the transit check in...

Oh well... such is life. At least I had time to give my better half a call and get a large cappuccino - no where as yummy as the cup I enjoyed in Milano, but after almost three hours of not knowing what was going on it was certainly welcome. Checking in was reasonable painless, but had it's pointless parts, like sending our carry on through an X-ray machine with no operator...

Once aboard the Kenya Airway flight my mood improved considerably - happy, smiling Africans greeting us (just like the Africans I know from Yei), good seats (even if I was behind the curtain), clean and inviting interior... I can see why the airline calls itself the Pride of Africa. One of the stewards offered me to switch uniforms, and I must admit that his bright red dress jacket and black pants was stylish. Had I been even more sleepy I might been tempted to take him up on it, despite the fact that he would have to serve the hot snack in fatigues.

The hot snack was pretty good too - better than the chicken I got from Milan to Cairo, but less good than the spread of Christmas specialties I got on the first leg of my flight - a pretty decent beef stew with rice. The bun was stale, off course, but I don't think it's humanly possible to serve a truly fresh bun in flight.

Arrving at Khartoum I blew through the airport in twenty minutes, quite probably setting a new record for Norwegian UNMOs. No hazzle with the passport, no hazzle with the luggage, no hazzle with customs - I actually had to wait for the car instead of the other way around. The Norwegian House is still an oasis for us, and it felt great to kick my shoes off, grab a soda and shoot the shit with the AdmOff for a little while. But only a little while, since with my plane leaving in the wee hours of the morning, I barely had time to shower, change clothes and repack my bag - grabbing a couple of things I left in Khartoum on my way out and putting some things away in the Norwegian House for safekeeping... things like my travel uniform and heavy fleece jacket. It was nice to have in Norway, but I dont think I'll need it in Yei.

The flights from Khartoum to Yei was almost routine compared to the mess that was my fights too Khartoum - simply meet up at the UN terminal, get my MOP form stamped, say hello to the airport-kitty and have a coffee... and then snooze on the flight to Juba. Rinse and repeat for the helicopter flight from Juba to Yei, only taking a break from snoozing while landing in Torrit so I could get some fresh air and a chat with a Norwegian UNPOL.

Off course once back, I barely had time to put my bags in my container before I had to dive into work... in addition to my duties as G1 and D/TSL, I'm also filling in as Acting G3 for a while since the G3 went to his leave with the very same helicopter I arrived on. There is no rest for the wicked, and apparently not for an UNMO either. So yeah, I'm back in Yei. I dearly wish I had managed a longer leave, but I enjoyed the days I did get very much.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

That thing in the chimey

Maybe not so strange that the chimney was blocked up... this is how it looks after it was bludgeoned to the bottom of the chimney by a 2by6 on a chain.

On the bright side, the chimney sweep was able to inspect the now very clean chimney with his camera on a stick, and while he thinks our chimney should be good for casual use it'll probably still need a new liner. But then, so might all the chimneys in the neighbourhood - he was somewhat surprised by the sloppy workmanship. Back when they built the houses in '75, they built them cheap - but at least we got a working fireplace again.

Monday 13 December 2010

Being home on leave

It is... strange, I think is the best word, to be home on leave.

I'm sure most people can relate - over the last few weeks I've gotten into the habit, as it were, of being posted to Sudan. Now I suddenly find myself in Norway... not only is the temperature significantly lower, but the mindset is turned around completely too.  On the other hand, the mental refill a visit home provides is most welcome. A return to normality - however brief - is a great way to reset the brain... to show me that not everything is dust and mud and borderline poverty.

Much in the same way the contrasts within Sudan always grabs my attention, the contrasts between Sudan and Norway is at the forefront of my mind when I'm not busy otherwise. Not just the obvious ones - like the weather - but also the ones that are less in your face. Like the fact that you can pay with plastic in Norway, while cash is the only game in town in Sudan. You can get what you need both places, even if there is more legwork while in Sudan. The difference is that in South Sudan I get what I need, while in Norway I can get what I want - a big, but not always obvious, difference. Another difference I much appreciate is the fact that I can do real cooking while at home, buying meat I can trust not to have been out in the sun for hours.

 Yei the day I left...
...home, the day I arrived. Can you spot the difference?

Off course, being home can be troublesome too - like having to call the chimney sweeper to help clear a blocked flue. Blocked, I might add, because the guy who swept the chimney last year managed to get his chimney brush stuck in our chimney and left it there - WITHOUT telling no one. The chimney sweep that came by today was looking forward to looking up in the system who did our chimney last, and leave the brush and ball on his desk...

Thursday 9 December 2010

Helicopter flight from Yei to Juba

Minutes after take off from Yei, showing the relative flatness of this part of Sudan. Also note the greenery - this was taken during the early stages of the dry season.

Halfway between Yei and Juba, showing the small mountain range that studs the plain in that area.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Home on leave

Norway is colder than it was when I left, and I don't recall there being several inches of snow on the ground either... but I'm home, and that is the important part.

My next mission, and I have already accepted it, is to not think about the issues of the Team Site, not think about the chaos that is UN bureaucracy, not think about the failing generators... at least not until the 20th, when I'll be back in Yei.

Going home on leave

The following was written about 35,000' above the ground, somewhere over the southern Europe:

There is something almost sinful about a business class seat; the way your foot room is measured in feet instead of inches, the infinite adjustable seat with built in massager, the little Christmas stocking with "useful things" like toothpaste, a little toothbrush and a fresh pair of socks... in a way it's nice to realize that the only difference between the bathroom in the front and the back is the fake flowers - it's just as cramped and have the same smell of plastic and disinfectant.

Yes, as the awake reader surely understands, I have been upgraded on my fight. Not that I feel particularly singled out, the aircraft in question had more than half the cabin space devoted to business class and was only about three quarters full. Still a very pleasant surprise and a nice start on my first leave.

Behind the curtain was the second surprise of my flight - twenty odd immigrants*, more or less well dressed for Norwegian climate, looking terrified and excited at the same time, each clutching a plastic bag from IMO (International Organization of Immigration) with their name and future address in Norway A quick talk to one of them revealed why they held the bags like if their life depended on it - in a strangely real way it does; it contains their official paperwork from various refugee organizations, the paperwork from UNHCR, their official travel documents from Norway and so on. Yes, behind the curtain separating business class from the cattle class was twenty odd new countrymen of mine - who had been refugees on their own continent for years, who had fought the odds and the bureaucracy of their own countries, the UN and Norwegian UDi, gotten their legal papers sorted out and finally were able to head to their new life. Judging by the size of the smiles of the couple I spent a few minutes talking with, it actually meant something that a "official" - ie me traveling in uniform - Norwegian was on the flight, wishing them the very best for their new future. Seeing them sitting there, by themselves, in couples and two families with children, with no room for their feet, six to a row, and most too excited to sleep and too worn out from their emotions to stay awake... well, there is something almost sinful about the seats in business class.

*) Immigrants, unlike asylum seekers, go through the entire process of applying with the UNHCR - often via a third party in the form of a NGO - for one of the few open slots open for 'refugee immigration' most civilized countries have. Often refereed to as "quota refugees" because of how the UN fills each country's 'quota' each year, these people mustn't be confused with asylum seekers. The later turns up in Norway - or any other country - asking asylum and the right to stay. Immigrants like the ones I shared my fight with are traveling to their destination with the knowledge that they can stay there, having been weighted as it were and found to be genuine refugees in need of a safe haven to rebuild shattered lifes.

Monday 6 December 2010

Observations along a luggage conveyor belt

First off... I'm back in Khartoum. No training course this time - I'm on my way home on my first leave!

Anyhow, the UN flight from Juba arrived in Khartoum just after a domestic flight - meaning off course that our luggage arrived on the conveyor belt late. After a while down here you get used to make a bit of observations, and I woud like to share the three tiers of luggage I spotted.

  • First there is the affluent style, which seemed to be picked up from the belt by well off people: Pile all your belongings on a carpet, fold and roll it up and wrap a belt around it.
  • One step down, and commonly picked up by what to me looked like the upper middle class: Take a huge shopping bag, cram everything into it and close it up with duct tape.
  • Lastly, and in large numbers: Scour the neighborhood for a cardboard box, preferable beaten up. Cram it so full the sides almost split, then wrap some twine around it and call it done.
Yeah... to quote Dorothy: We're not in Kansas no more.

Sunday 5 December 2010

We got the power... er... no, we don't

Welcome to the UN... where nothing works.
Sometime during the night, the generator quit on us. First thing I knew about it was when I got up around 0800 and realised my aircondition was strangly quiet. Didn't really register until I realised that the little light in the fridge didn't turn on when I reached in for my morning juice. Well, usually these things clears up in half an hour to an hour, depending on whats wrong... so I had some juice and settled down to wait. My shower just had to wait, since no power means no water. After a while I got boored of waiting, and decided to head down to the office and see what the problem this time around...
...good thing I did too. Pretty much everyone who lives in camp except BanBat were gathered, speaking loudly and being really, really unhappy. Turns out the driver of the fuel truck - who has been responsible for filling up the generator tanks - had transfered pretty much all the fuel in his truck to one of the other pillars in camp without informing us. And since that fuel was earmarked for the generators, no one figured something like that would happen.
End result? The generators had to be fueled by jerry cans carries from the vehicle fuel depot, no power until almost two in the afternoon and my morning coffee made on my portable boiler.


Or for the Americans, soccer!
BanBat challenged the combined team of UNPOLs and UNMOs to a friendly game, all for good fun. Never mind the fact that the BanBat team has been playing football at least once a week for almost a year, and most of us haven't seen a ball in ages.
BanBat are the well organised, well equipped team on the far side, with proper cleated shoes, shin protectors and uniforms. UNPOL/UNMO is the ragtag band closest, who have two pairs of cleated shoes between them.
 Despite having no qualifications what so ever, I volunteered to be the goal keeper... partly because I didn't feel for being at the bottom of a rough tackle later in the game
No training, no equipment, no brain... but lots of energy and a complete disregard for the fact that I don't know how to be a goal keeper. Skinned knees sting a fair bit, a lesson I learned as a kid but apparently never took to heart.

But it was great fun, despite a 4-1 loss. Would have been 8-1 if I hadn't managed a few decent saves.

What's that?

I was out walking from the office to my container when I spotted something by one of the ablution-containers...
 Can you spot what I saw? It's a little harder in a photo, since there is no movement.

Keep looking.

I'll just walk around so I can get to the ablution from the other side.

Spotted it?


Look harder...

...don't give up, I'l almost on the other side.
 I thought I saw a kitty cat... I did, I did see a kitty cat!
 He's a pretty kitty cat too...
 ...but not to thrilled to see me - I must have interupted his hunt for dinner... we'll just leave him too it, shall we?

Saturday 4 December 2010

A really short short duration patrol

Well, not that short, but on "good" roads even 60 km can go quickly - we were out and back again in two hours yesterday.

As usually, the map don't match the terrain - the village we were going to simply is unknown to all the locals, the village that was our secondary designation is the name of a clan and so on. But we stopped at one of the local health centres and got lots of good info... including a tip not to pick the mango from a particlary lush tree; the locals believe the area just under the tree to be either mined or contain an UXO. And getting that sort of information is why we talk to locals, and not just go to the various administration offices in our area.
The nice thing with the approaching dry season is that the roads are dry. The not so nice thing is that the roads are dusty. Give some, take some I guess.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

So what's this "container" I keep talking about?

It occoured to me the other day that perhaps some of you are not too familiar with the accomandation containers as used by the UN in Sudan... well, probably most of you. So in order to fix that, I've taken a few photos:
Our containers - like the best furniture from IKEA - arrives in a flat packet. Some assembly is required, and I wouldn't be too shocked if some parts are missing from the box... off course you wont know until after the store closes.
After unpacking, the frame is erected on level ground... more or less. For reasons unknown, this one sits abandoned in camp, and isn't all that level either. But it shows the framework quite well - and the flowers along the side is a nice touch too.
Once the framework have been assembled, walls and fixtures are put in place. The walls are made out of two sheets of rather thin mild steel on a foam core - in the best tradition of disposable buildings everywhere. A good whack will dent the wall, a knife will easily puncture it. And a firemans axe will make a new door in seconds, if needed.
Add a few decorative touches, a door and someone to live inside... and you got a container as I've gotten to know it. For being little more than a steel frame with insulated steel walls, it's not to bad a place to live.

Granted, it's a anything but soundproof, the damp comes in esily when it's raining, the aircondition is noisy and the place is a oven when the power dies and the aircondition isn't working... but it's home away from home.

Mess dinner at BanBat

In honour of the Force Commander visiting, BanBat invited pretty much everyone in Yei to a informal dinner. Needless to say, we were more than happy to attend - not only did we know that the food would be excellent, but the company is just as great.

As the acting deputy team site leader for the UNMOs, I ended up, along with the acting team site leader for the UNPOLs, sitting with the BanBat commander and Force commander almost by default. Nothing wrong with that though, they were all good comapny and we had a great conversation going.

As for the quailty and quantity of the food? Lets just say that todays breakfast was a cup of cocoa and a few crackers - and I'm full.

Sunday 28 November 2010

The Dinner Diaries

Over the last three weeks I've been keeping track of my dinners - just to give everyone a better idea of what passed for "normal" when you're cooking with very limited kitchen supplies.

Each entry have three subsections: What, How and Comment. Most have pictures, but some does not.

Sunday 07 November
  • Szechwan Hot & Sour soup with rice + one bread
  • Szechwan Hot & Sour cup soup, 4dl water, 1dl rice, cook until rice is tender. Use bread to clean pot and bowl.
  •  Reasonable hot and spicy. Not quite the Chinese I get at home, but not bad either. Worth doing again.
Monday 08 November
  • Three breads with honey, jam and “Tuna Lime & Pepper”
  • Slice in two, add spread, eat and repeat
  • Light dinner, since lunch was heavier than usual (dehydrated chicken in sweet and sour sauce, combat ration, 520 kcal) 
Tuesday 09 November
  • Rice and green lentils - African Curry style
  • ½ dl rice, ½ dl lentils, 4 dl water, a tablespoon of African Curry, a block of Lamb Stock, salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Planned as a light meal that should stay with me, since the Chief of Security asked if I wanted to hit a restaurant later. The place is a bit hit and miss as far as food goes, so better to eat a little first. Tasty, but go easier on the spice next time...Also, the restaurant had good food, but we opted for finger food so it worked out. Ethiopian is tasty.
Wednesday 10 November
  • Aromatic Thai Chicken & Lemon grass soup with rice + one bread
  • Aromatic Thai Chicken & Lemon grass cup soup, 4dl water, 1dl rice, cook until rice is tender. Use bread to clean pot and bowl
  • A variation on Sundays dinner, but with a different 'cup soup' as the main flavor. Smelled really, really good while simmering. Nice creamy consistency, good taste. Could be spicier, but that is true for most of my container cooking.
Thursday 11 November
  • Cod and Potato  Casserole
  • Prepare as follow:
    • Fold out bottom and tear off the top of the pouch
    • Add boiling water to the fill line (approx. 3.6dl) (water at a lower temperature can be used)
    • Stir thoroughly.
    • Close the pouch with the zipper. 
    • Wait min. 5 minutes (if using water at a lower temperature, the food must be allowed to rest for longer)
  • Yeah... it's dehydrated combat rations... I spent three hours talking to a fellow UNMO about everything from how to get fresh produce via learning English to the cost of housing, and then a bit more than an hour on the phone. It got late and I was hungry. Besides, it tastes pretty good.
Friday 12 November
  • Rice and Lentils a la Tamarind
  • ½ dl rice, ½ dl lentils, 4 dl water, one block of beef bullion, brought to a boil and let simmer until lentils are soft. Add tamarind to taste once on your plate.
  • Another variation on the staple food of rice and lentils. Pretty okay – would be interesting to combine the tamarind with meat of some description – probably goat, considering where I am.
Saturday 13 November
  • Southern Cajun Gumbo soup with rice and one bread.
  • Southern Cajun Gumbo cup soup, 4 dl water, 1 dl rice, cook until rice is tender. Use bread to clean pot and bowl.
  • Smells good, tastes good. Yet another variation on a theme I got going... but it's quick, easy and filling as well as tasty.
Sunday 14 November
  • Tex-mex rice and lentils.
  • ½ dl rice, ½ dl lentils, 4 dl water, one cube of lamb stock, plenty of tex-mex spice. 
  • Ye olde standby – but easy to make and very, very tasty. Now, where did I put the taco-meat, the home made salsa and the tortillas...
Monday 15 November
  • Ethiopian finger food
  • Eat out
  • Headed out to Addis Ababa restaurant (w/ pool table and bar) – TSL wanted to 'not have combat rations' for dinner, and invited me and the other 'wege out.
Tuesday 16 November
  • Lapskaus
  • Fold out bottom and tear of top of pouch etc
  • Yeah, it's combat rations again – except it ain't. It's the civilian version, which comes in more flavors and honestly tastes a little better (more spices). It feels like cheating, but I was on a SDP all day and had no lunch. Quick and easy and tasty too.
Wednesday 17 November
  • Medammes, Egyptian recipe, with rice.
  • One can of Egyptian style medammes (fava bean stew), 1 dl rice, 2 dl milk. Simmer for 45 minutes.
  • made with milk both because I had some milk left, and to create a milder flavour. Like most food I made, strangely tasty... probably a combination of being hungry, good raw materials, and home cooking.
Thursday 18 November
  • Ethiopian finger food.
  • Eat out.
  • Some of the other westerners in the area wanted to see the TSL before he headed out. I was more than happy to tag along – tasty food is tasty.
Friday 19 November
  • Chicken in Curry
  • Fold out bottom and...
  • Dehydrated dinner again – even if it feels like cheating. Trouble is, I was Duty Officer and all I had all day was two small breads, a bucket of coffee and two bottles of water. And it got late – dinner served at 2350.
Saturday 20 November
  • Rice and lentils, BBQ style.
  • 1 dl rice, ½ dl lentils, 5 dl water, beef stock and BBQ spice
  • Late lunch after a skimpy breakfast and little sleep. Made enough to leave a snack for breakfast. Different, but tasty.
  • "Real" dinner was buffet at New Tokyo - farewell party for our Danish TSL.
Sunday 21 November
  • Ethiopian finger food
  • Eat out
  • The TSLs last dinner in Yei. Planned (barely) partly due to a power outage in camp. Meet a couple of Dutch people at the restaurant and had a good time.
Monday 22 November
  • Hot and Spicy Rice and Lentils
  • ½ dl rice, ½ dl lentils,  5 dl water, chicken stock,  one (1) self picked tiny pepper
  • Yes, there is hot peppers growing in our compound.  I was warned by the Danish TSL just before he left that they were very hot, so just one made it into the pot this time

Tuesday 23 November
  • Lentil, beans and kidney beans stew
  • One can of beans and kidney beans stew, ½ dl lentils, ½ can water, simmer until lentils are soft. Paprika, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Not entirely sure where the can is from – most likely it was among the stuff I got from the departing TSL. And since everything is better with lentils and/or rice, I added lentils. Quite tasty, with a rich, creamy mouth feel to it.
Wednesday 24 November
  • Southern Cajun Gumbo soup with rice, lentils and one bread
  • Southern Cajun Gumbo cup soup, 4 dl water, ½ dl rice, ½ dl lentils, cook until rice is tender. Use bread to clean pot and bowl.
  • Slight variation on an earlier theme. simple, tasty, filling.
Thursday 25 November
  • Vegetable soup with rice.
  • Generic, no brand vegetable cup soup (UN rations), 1 dl rice, 4 dl water, spice to taste, boil until creamy.
  • Big lunch, since we're invited to a late dinner with the BanBat commander. Simple, tasty – but not as tasty as the cup soups I brought from Norway.
Friday 26 November
  • Pea and chilli "omelet"
  • One can peas (250gr drained), two tiny peppers, two eggs, dash of salt. Sweat the finely chopped peppers in a bit of olive oil, add the peas, whip the eggs in a cup and pour over, stir until all the egg is cooked through.
  • More scrambled eggs than omelet, this was a precursor to a more ambiguous dinner. If I'm going to get horrible sick eating eggs, I rather not spend an hour or more preparing a tasty dinner first... hence the idea of an omelet. Back home I would toss some ham or diced salami in, but down here the choices are more limited. Tasted quite all right, with a nice after burn. Just enough to make my lips and tongue tickle, but not to much.
Saturday 27 November
  • Various, including goat on the barbie.
  • Get invited to a birthday party at one of the local NGOs.
  • Omm nom nom. Got promoted to "the BBQ man", and had a good time too.
Sunday 28 November
  • Rice and lentils in chilli sauce
  • ½ dl rice, ½ dl lentils, 5 dl water, lamb stock, chilli/garlic spice, a dash of chilli sauce, let simmer until thick and creamy.
  • Yet another variation. One thing I like about rice and lentils is the versatility of it. This one was nice and spicy, with a real tingle to it.
 And that's it - three weeks of dinners from my kitchenette.