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.

Sunday 31 October 2010

Not excatly hills and valleys

I had the oportunity when I was going from Yei to Juba a week ago to take a few snaps out the helicopter window. Not exactly the terrain I'm used to: it's flat, with hills and mountains poking up more or less at random. I have no idea what geological forces that created this landscape, but I suspect weathering wore down the soft bits and leveled everything, leaving just the hard bits standing.

Saturday 30 October 2010

What a jam...

..in a can, no less. After stopping by the bakery today and getting a five pound bag of bread (25 small breads), I and the other 'wege stopped by the supermarket to pik up more juice and see what else he might have. And there, among canned peas and coconut milk, was jam. In a can.

There is probably something funny to be said about that - cans of jam.

It's a can - much like any other can - but full of jam. With a pull-top lid, no less.
 Mhmmm - sugary goodness. I don't even want to know what 'permitted food color and flavour' is, not why they mix US and the Queens Own spelling.
This picture really don't do it justice... it don't show off the eye-popping red that greeted me as I peeled the lid off.
A bit of jam, a piece of fresh bread... Looks like lunch to me.

Simple pleasures

It is something very satisfying to whip up your own lather before shaving... to see a tiny bit of shaving cream and a few drops of water turn into a nice, thick, rich and nice smelling lather. The slightly cool feel as the eucalyptus and menthol lather first touches, and then covers, most of the face - and then taking it off with long, controlled strokes with my old fashioned safety razor. A quick splash of water, and then the sting of the alum as it finds the small nicks and scratches that I couldn't see in the mirror.

It don't matter if the lather cup I use is a bright pink snack bow from Ikea. It don't matter if my brush is a reasonably cheap one from Body Shop. It don't even matter that my bathroom is a 'three toilets, three showers' shared ablution container that - frankly - is a bit run down. What matters is that it's five minutes of ManTime, and a link to my more or less daily routine at home. Try that with a spray can full of foam and plastic razors with five blades...

For those that are curious:

  • Parker 22R safety razor - considered to be a somewhat aggressive razor, but it suits my face just fine. Nice long handle, easy to change / clean blades.
  • Feather Light blade - claimed to be the sharpest blade there is. Might well be, todays blade have seen 10-12 shaves already and is still sharper than my gillete ever was.
  • Proraso shaving cream w/ eucalyptus oil and menthol. Large tube, long lasting, smells and feels good.
  • Piece of Alum on a string. Stings, but helps seal the nicks and cuts really good.

Friday 29 October 2010

Yei, I'm "home"!

It is interesting how quickly I grew to see my team site as a home away from home... as seen by how damn good it is to be "home" again and get cranking. I think I wouldn't have minded the trip so much if it hadn't been for the delays built in due to the flight schedule - to attend a three day class I have been gone from the team site for a week...

As a pleasant surprise, the team site leader had left some odds and ends with the other Norwegian for us to share when he went on leave; in addition to a nice, red little tub for carrying laundry in I got a couple of cans (coconut milk and green peas), some bullions, spices and a bit of flour and rice... and a bottle of tamarind sauce, which smells interesting but I have no idea what sort of food to put it in. Should be a nice taste with rice though.

Right now life is decent - if it hadn't been raining I would done laundry. Instead, I'm sitting here enjoying the one thing I found in Khartoum that I havn't found here: Real Coffee, brewed in my press can. Apart from being with my better half, there isn't much I would change right now.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Back in Juba, Juba...

I can't help it, the name of this city reminds me of this piece of child-pop I grew up with:

Silly, I know. It gets even more silly if you run the lyrics through Google Translate...

Anyhow, the flight down here was boring. I hope my flight to Yei tomorrow will be less so - I'll attempt to get a window seat and keep the camera handy.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Last day in Khartoum - again

And I'm not sad to leave. True enough, the Brrrsta Caramellos are good; but Khartoum compared to Yei is dusty, crowded, hot and expensive.

The training class covered - in theory - most needed subjects. However, the class suffered from the same faults as induction training: lack of facilities (25 students in a room 5m square, one barely working A/C), lack of instructor training for the instructors (the guys doing a particular job isn't always the best guy to teach a class in the subject) and lack of English skills (for both instructors and students). Still, I got my diploma and a few days in Khartoum - I'm not complaining too much.

Monday 25 October 2010

Land of riches - almost

In Khartoum you have the only real Mall in Sudan - the Afra Mall. If they is something no one else has in Sudan, chances are good that you can find it there.

Small bug zapper, not so much... just large ones. But I dont need a large one, just a camping model - my container is smaller than most RVs.

Far from a wasted trip though - I got away with a small stash of needed items, in addition to some bags of salted nuts. Not too much - a pair of bowls for preparing foods (beans needs soaking...), a knife for slicing vegetables and other stuff, and a thing of bullion.

Vijayadashami in Sudan - the videos

PS: If the videos wont load, you can find them at YouTube.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Back in Khartoum

The UN handles passengers on their flight much like any other cargo: in an ad-hoc fashion. Forget stuff like public announcements in the lounge, any facilities in said lounge and assigning seats in advance... then it wouldn't be chaotic enough. But, just like the other cargo, you will arrive at our designation, on time and with your luggage. Perhaps other airlines could learn a thing or two from the UN in that regard?

I got back to the Norwegian House, and walked straight into a welcome dinner. Apparently the AdmOff and the two others who live in the house permanently though it so nice to have visitors again that they pulled out all the stops - fresh salad, rice, chicken and beef on the barbie, the works. Makes me happy to be back here, just for a few days.

Training starts tomorrow at 0900, meaning I get to sleep in. And that means I can take advantage of the good internet at the Norwegian House to finally get the videos from the Hindu festival last Sunday uploaded - stay tuned!

Playing tourist

Layover havn't been that bad after all - for the first time since I gotten here I've played tourist.

One of the 'local' Norwegians, who works in the staff, was kind enough to show me the sights and sounds of Juba, including the local marked and a folk art shop partly sponsored by the Norwegian Department of Foreign Affairs. The last place was quite interesting - the women from different tribes makes their traditional crafts and sells them there, thus earning some extra money without having to go through their men... which means a lot, since in the culture down here it seems like men dont have the same priorities as women when it comes to supporting their families.

Hmmm.. that came out wrong.

Lets say that men and women in this part of the world has differing ideas on how to support a family. The men  may invest in more cattle, more land, a bike to get the cash crop to the market. The women may invest in a better stove to cook food faster, new jerry cans for water, a water filter, better seed for the non-cash crop and that style of things.

Also about Juba... I'm happy this is not my Team Site. The camp is too big, the UNMOs dont have enough to fill their days with, and the town is too expensive - more so than Khartoum, and Khartoum is twice as expensive as Yei.

Saturday 23 October 2010


Due to the UN flight schedule, I have a 2 day (!) lay-over in Juba on my way to Khartou to go to the ALO course... The way back to Yei will be slightly better, since I will only have a one day layover.

Off course, if the class had started on Tuesday and not Monday, I would have NO layovers.

Welcome to the UN.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Other things also happen

It occurred to me that the last few posts have been about big things... but many other things happens too:

  • On Monday another Norwegian arrived, doubling the number of 'weges down here and increasing the number of Scandinavians by 50%.
  • Monday was also the day I functioned as a Air Liaison Officer - which is good since I'm going to Khartoum next week to get the three day course I need to function as one...
  • Tuesday quite a few of the 'white' people in Yei meet to celebrate one of our numbers birthday at an Ethiopian restaurant - and ended up hanging around, drinking beer and shooting the shit for about two hours because it rained too much to even think about navigating the roads in town.
  • Today - Wednesday - some of us went out the gate and down the road to the left, because we realized none of us had ever gone on town patrol in that direction. We stopped at a place called IRIS Ministries Orphanage, and meet a handful of people trying to do the right thing on a limited budget without much in the way of evangelizing. If / when I see them again I'll look into what I can do to help them out.
  • After we had left the orphanage, we hit a patch of not good road - and had to enlist the locals to help dig us out, while most of the kids in the area was staring slack-jawed at the white man.
  • I have learned - first hand - that white UN vehicles turn a nice tan colour after hitting a patch of not good road.
  • Despite being sent to Khartoum on official training, I still don't know if there is room for me to stay in Juba on my way there - and I leave on Friday and have to be in Juba until Sunday.
  • And I found out that while my Eee is almost too underpowered to use the new internet donge under WinXP, PuppEee Linux not only detected me plugging it in but got me online in less time than it takes to boot into WinXP.
So yes, other stuff also happens in Yei.

Not so good road

It's amazing how quickly one adapts... I now categorize roads into "good roads" and "not good roads". A road is "good" if we can get the car past. A road is "not good" if we can't, or get stuck. And then there is the roads in between, where we really wonders if this is such a great idea...

Anyhow, yesterday we went on a Short Duration Patrol. The road we were taking is usually - I'm told - not good. And I'm not sure if it's dumb luck or my driving skills honed on ice and snow, but we did get past and reached our destination.
 Good road.
 Still good road.
 Maybe good road?
 Maybe not good road?
 Nah, good road...
The Joint Military Team and the headmen and chief of the area.

Vijayadashami festival with BanBat

Last sunday - the 17th - all the UNMOs and other staff in camp was invited to Bangladesh Battalion to celebrate Vijayadashami; a celebration of goods victory over evil. It was, in a word, awesome. Great entertainment, both from a local school for teachers and the members of BanBat, great food (who don't love the spicy food from the sub-continent?) and fun people to talk to.

The BanBat commander also took the opportunity to wish the five(!) UNMOs that have end of mission in a few weeks a safe trip home.
 Entertainment by BanBat.
 Entertainment by BanBat.
 Entertainment by BanBat and Yei Teacher Training College.
 Entertainment by BanBat.
 Entertainment byYTTC.
 Entertainment byYTTC.
BanBat Commander (w/ microphone) wishing the five UNMOs a safe trip home.

PS: There will be videos - once I get them uploaded. Stay tuned!

Sunday 17 October 2010

Container cooking

Lets face it; I do not have access to a fully fledged kitchen with all the bells and whistles. But I do have a stove top, a pot, one pan and some other odds and ends... in other words, everything I need.

Dinner - when made in the container - has so far been one of three things:
  • Combat rations
  • Rice and Lentils
  • Bean stew.
Combat rations I've done once, just to make sure they worked (I got like 30 or 35 bags of the stuff). Just rip the top of, pour hot water in, let sit for five to ten minutes and eat. About as exciting as freeze dried food always is... in other words, not very.

Rice and lentils are becoming my staple food - after all, the recipe is quick, simple and hard to foul up. ¾ dl rice, ¾ dl lentils, 4 dl water, spice to taste... cook on low heat until the water is gone.
All you need to make dinner.

The bean stew I did for the first time today. While in Khartoum I bought a handfull of tins of the stuff, all in different 'styles' - todays late lunch / early dinner was in the Saudi Arabian style... One tin of  bean stew, a dl or so of water, ½dl rice and some time on the stove top yielded tasty results. And, according to the label, a result that is full of whats good for me too. However, since I have a limited supply of this stuff, I wont have it too often - but it'll be a nice break from the rice and lentils now and then.
 Take one tin of bean stew.
 Put in pot, add water and rice. Let simmer for ten minutes or so
Serve while hot and tasty.

Laundry day!

Today was laundry day! Well, yesterday was actually the day set aside but yesterday it was raining a lot...

Back in Khartoum we were told that all - absolutely all - Team Sites now have functioning laundry containers with automatic laundry machines and dryers. For those unfamiliar with the operation of such high tech equipment, allow me to do a picture demonstration of the major phases of a modern, high end washer-dryer unit, as found in Yei TS:
 First the dirty clothes are put in the machine to soak. Please note the rock solid engineering that went into the machine, as well as the small number of moving parts that can fail after extensive use.

 After soaking, the laundry is vigorously agitated, resoaked and squeezed by the moving arms, guided by a stereoscopic vision system in conjunction with a heuristic organic computer.

 After the inbuilt sensors in the arms determines that the clothes are as clean as they are going to be, excessive detergent is rinsed out in clean water and the clothes are squezed to get rid of excess water. No spinning drum here, that would make the house shake!

 After the finished cycle, water is drained from the laundry machine without the need for pumps or other breakable parts. A pump needs spare parts, but gravity works forever!

Later, the now clean clothes are transfered to the dryer, for a gentle drying cycle that does not put any undue stress on delicate fabrics.

Well, lets face it: The people in Khartoum had gotten it wrong, yet again. But my clothes are clean, and almost dry, with just a little bit of elbow grease. And few things in Africa are better than a non-sweaty t-shirt!

Friday 15 October 2010

Short duration patrol and box to live in

Most team site in UNMIS do four kind of patrols; Town Patrols (the immediate neighborhood), Short Duration Patrols (back before nightfall most of the time), Long Duration Patrols (bring a sleeping bag), and Areal Patrols.

Yei Team Site tries to do two town patrols a day, as well as a SDP five days out of seven. LDPs and APs happens once to twice a month.

With a schedule that busy, and only a dozen UNMOs assigned to the TS, there is no time for new arrivals to laze about... today I was the designated driver in the lead vehicle of a two car patrol going into the back of the beyond. Most driving directions in this part of Sudan starts with "take off the hard road" - mostly because the only bit of somewhat hard road in the area is the parking lot of the team site. But when the driving directions states "take of the mud road and onto the cattle track"... well, welcome to Africa. To condense two hours drive into one sentence, lets just say that if the last rain had been a day or two later, we would not have reached the village we were heading for. Mud, soft ground, water, more water and lots of goats everywhere.

As often happens, the chief of the village was somewhere else when we arrived, but we had a good talk to a couple of the other headmen in the little community. They considered the area to be peaceful and quiet, with little crime or such problems. However, they wanted us to know (and let the proper people know) that they haven't had any medical facilities since long before the civil war, that the nearest school was more than 10 km away and that the road to their village was awful - we already knew the last bit a little too well.

Since I was the driver, and the Patrol Leader wisely decided to head back to base ASAP due to the threatening rain, I didn't get to snap any photos. I did however walk around camp later in the evening, taking a few shoots of my more or less furnished container and the camp itself.