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.

Monday 28 February 2011

Yet another Short Duration Patrol

Today was kinda strange, in it's own little way. I was Patrol Leader again, heading down to an area I've been before... In fact, I was heading back to the very same patch of land where I had my first experience as Patrol Leader.

Things have changed a bit since the beginning of November, for starters we're in the dry season. Secondly, by now I got a bit more of a clue of what I'm doing as Patrol Leader - at least a little bit. Thirdly, I take a lot more pictures these days!

 For being the dry season, some parts are awfully lush - just proof that there is water nearby, either above or underground.
 The local carpenters needs wood to make all sort of things - according to our Language Assistant, these woods can be harvested every five to eight years. 
 More shady road.. the 'feel' of this part of our Area of Responsibility is quite different than the other parts, due to the woodland.
 Stuff sometimes breaks - this is the mounting bracket for the HF antenna on one of the cars we used today. Looks like a textbook case of metal fatigue in a welded seam... the crack probably started closest to the camera and slowly worked it's way back until the remaining weld couldn't hold the load.  
 Believe it or not, that is the road. Now imagine that churned into sloppy mud, and then trying to drive over it... I rather not, to be honest.
 Lake, cows and a patch of land that saw a fire a month or two ago. It's amazing how quickly nature regains a foothold after a fire down here.
 No idea what sort of plant it is, but it looks cool!
 Here and there in the area the bones of the earth sticks out in the form of naked bedrock. Combine that with aggressive hack and burn agriculture, and you get some fairly surreal moonscapes.
 Looking at this photo, it's hard to believe that it's less than 15 km - that's less than ten miles for our non-metric friends - away from the first photo in this post... the one that is so lush and green.

Off course the day isn't finished just because we've parked the cars after a SDP - life goes on, paperwork to be done, debriefs to be held and so on. And in the middle of that two of the BanBat soldiers came to the office carrying a box and greetings from their commander... Since it is almost time for BanBat to rotate contingents, they are clearing out their stores, and sometimes a little of that falls on the others in camp. Today each and everyone got a bag of... something.
This something in fact. It's dried sardines, and a bit of googling reveals that it's used in many dishes in the Far East. Among other things, this is the stuff you use as a base when making Japanese miso soup. The recipe I found most interesting was for tazukuri ... fried and glazed, these tiny little fishes turns into the Japanese answer to potato chips.

Sunday 27 February 2011

Quiet Sunday

Even if we're supposed to be working 24/7 down here, it's usually more of a 10/6 for me... Sundays are days for resting and catching up on the housework. For me that means doing my laundry in the not-so-very-automatic washing machine, as well as doing whatever odds and ends I can to improve life in the container.

My latest "home improvement" was to create an outdoor enclosure for my USB Mobile "Broadband" dongle... if  cutting the top of a water bottle and mounting it outside my window with a piece of wire and some duct tape can be considered to be creating something. It works though - the quality of my connection and the speed has increased significantly, even if it is still basically pretty bad. Enough people have asked about this thing hanging on the outside of my window that I foresee future questions on help making more... that's okay, I got plenty of bottles.
Recycling, Yei style!
And just to make my day, a picture I sent from my cellphone when I was in Khartoum have finally made it to my email... just five days in transit - isn't modern technology wünderbar, ja? Still, the reason I snapped it was to share, so here goes:
I present: The Airport Cat and his new sidekick, the Airport Kitty!
Other than that, it's been a quiet Sunday.. watched a couple of TV shows, worked on a couple of private documents and simply recharging my batteries.

Saturday 26 February 2011

Wet season is coming up

Had high winds, dark clouds and thunder this afternoon... the lightning you get down here beats the pants of anything I've seen back home. No rain though... the rainy season is still two or three weeks away according to the locals.

Friday 25 February 2011

My, isn't that nice

I was out fetching water for making my dinner when something caught my eye over by Container #6:
Yes, someone is kind hearted enough to set out a bowl of fresh water for the camp cats - or at the very least the camp kittens. If I find the dust and heat oppressive, imagine how it must be to be tiny, in a fur coat and not be able to just grab a cold bottle from the fridge...

I have to keep my eyes peeled... I got a hunch this kitten have made a home under #6.

Thursday 24 February 2011

Slow afternoon

I was meaning to look at a movie, but ended up sitting on my bed and reading a book instead... I guess I'm still a little worn from the travel and a little knocked out from the muggy heat - rainy season will soon be upon us I think.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

In Yei again, thankfully

I have reached a staggering conclusion; traveling is at it's best a mind numbing experience. At least rushing between flights means I didn't have to hang around at the terminal in Juba... I did get to hang around the terminal in El Obeid while our CRJ-100 was refueled, and as usual we had to hang around the helipad in Torit  while the Mi-8TV was refueled, but at least I didn't hang around in Juba.
It is nice to be back in "my" team site... this is the corner of Sudan where I got my stuff and my bed, and people I can consider friends. Speaking of which - I hadn't been in the Team Site for more than an hour and a half before I was invited to dine with BanBat again along with the other Norwegian UNMO. Saves me from trying to make dinner today, and means I'll have a very full tummy when I go to bed later.
Just stopping over at Team Site Torit... in order to go to Yei we have to pass through Torit, a detour of about one and a half hour. It's logistics the UN way... and it's not entirely UNlogical either - neither Torit nor Yei usually sees enough traffic to warrant a flight on their own.
Just hanging out as the helicopter is refueled. Compared to Yei, Torit is very well equipped; a refueling station, fueling assistants, a large helipad with the possibility of keeping the rabble away... but Yei have better markets, actual restaurants with tasty foods and several bars.
Having fun yet? At this point it was two and a half days since I had gotten any real sleep... only reason I was standing up was due to stubbornness and large amounts of coffee, black, no sugar. Come to think of it, as I'm writing this those are still the only reasons I'm upright... along with the prospect of yummy food off course.
Sometimes I think you can only have so much of nothing before you have to put a farm down... just to have something.
Yet sometimes something has to give way to nothing again... I think this is the foundations of a tukul that have been reclaimed by nature. Or a UFO landing site - depends how far of in loony land you are I guess.
Dry season means that grass fires can spread fast and wide at times.. like here. From the helicopter we could see pillars of smoke here and there as we went from Torit to Yei.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Back at the Norwegian House

The worst part of travel is the waiting... and the waiting... and the waiting.

The flights themselves were pretty okay - the short jump from Oslo to Amsterdam was mostly lost in zoning out, while the longer trek from Amsterdam to Khartoum was spent watching movies on the tiny screen in the seat in front of me. First out was "Master and Commander", while the second was the horrible animated "Lord of the Rings"... you either have to be really tired or possible have smoked something illegal to enjoy that movie. Good thing I was that tired...

Due to the fact that the AdmOff was off on a farewell dinner, I and the other UNMO who arrived tonight had to grab a taxi to get to the Norwegian House... even if we up until today have been told to never do that. Lets just say someone is going to hear about that later...

Time to grab some sleep - have to get up way to early tomorrow to grab the flight to Juba and on towards Yei.

Sunday 20 February 2011

Getting ready to head back to Sudan

Even the best times must come to an end, and so must my leave. Tomorrow evening I will be heading to the airport, to catch a plane before dawn on Tuesday - which means today was the last "normal" day on leave.

Well, as normal as can be on a Sunday in February when you try to squeeze it dry. My better half and I first went shopping at the local garden store - picking up of all things a stevia plant - before heading down to Sweden on the combined mission of going on a trip and get the last odds and ends for the pantry. Tomorrow I'll do the last little things that needs doing; visiting the post office, grabbing a couple of rolls of films, grab one or two things in the grocery store and wash the car before parking it for the next couple of months.

 Snow, snow and more snow... I won't see this in Sudan, nor have to deal with temperatures around -16ºC (3ºF) either.
Today's haul - juice, instant tea, crackers and other odds and ends.

Tuesday 15 February 2011


One nice thing about being home instead of in Sudan is that I have my main computer here, loaded with goody software and handy utilities. Utilities for making things like panoramas, for instance... my camera has a "panorama assist mode", but I never tried it much... I guess I'll use that more frequently in the future, because these looks good even if they are huge (downsized to ¼ size to post):

 Behind the ECS Guesthouse in Morobo, where I was on LDP last month
 The front garden of Norwegian House, taken in September last year
The view from the roof of Norwegian House, also taken in September last year

Monday 7 February 2011

Snowy afternoon

After shopping today I noticed that it started to snow... and it's gotten more and more snowy since then. And while I know that February is supposed to be deep winter, the reasonable warm (+1°C) weather when I got back from sunny Sudan caught me off guard and lulled me into a false sense of security... oh well, tomorrow I must shovel snow by the looks of it.
 Not quite African weather - huge snowflakes coming down, covering everything in a thick, white blanket...

I'm sure y'all heard the news

The official word is out, the results are in and the voters wants secession.

It is way to early to say how this will affect the general situation in "my" corner of Sudan - at least we wont have to ask the locals if they expect any security related issues to crop up during the referendum process no more.

I'm hopeful for the future.

Friday 4 February 2011

Home again on leave

While KLM isn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, I think I prefer Lufthansa... they got better entertainment in Economy. Didn't get much rest on the plane either, the other passengers and the turbulence saw to that.

It is good to be home for a while, even more so since February is warmer than normal - well, so far at least. The downside of that is, off course, that everything is going to be wet and miserable... oh well, at least I am with the one who means the most to me; my wife.

My plans for the leave isn't great.. I'll putter around the house, order a few odds and ends for my fellow UNMOs in the Team Site, make sure the pantry is filled up and generally relax.

I'm going to get an early start on that last item; right away in fact.

Thursday 3 February 2011

Homeward bound

The first stage of my travel home on leave is done... was done yesterday, in fact. The flight out of Yei was okay... so okay in fact that I spent most of the flight zoned out and halfway sleeping.
It is interesting in it's own way; the first flight I had in one of the ruskie helicopters was exciting since it was so different from the helicopters I'm used to, the second and third was great since I could see the lay of the land properly... but now it's just an opportunity for a quick nap.
The flight from Juba to Khartoum I spent reading for the most part - when I didn't have to show off my ebook reader that is. And once in Khartoum my bag was on the belt almost before I was ready for it, so that part went smooth too. The AdmOff was there to pick me up, and take me to the oases that is the Norwegian House...
The BBQ was already heating up when I got there, with piles of food waiting along with three recently arrived Norwegian Staff Officers. Good food, lots of it, and good talk... I ate way to much, but the AdmOff likes to see his hospitality appreciated in such tangible ways so that worked out well.
My plans for my day i Khartoum is simple - first I'll go back to napping for a bit longer (the prayer calls woke me up early), then I'll do a couple of errands, and then I'll pack my bag and get to the airport.

Wednesday 2 February 2011

Helping others help

Due to the kindness of others - you know who you are - I was able to hand over two envelopes with money to the YWAM school in Yei. The gifts were most welcome, and while the total isn't gigantic it'll help them more than a litte. The principal also excitedly told me that the furniture our old Team Site Leader donated money to should be ready when the school starts up again in two weeks time - right now it's just the teachers and workers in the compound, getting everything ready for the hordes to arrive.
In other happy news, the school have been able to gather up enough money to put a roof on their second building. This means that even if there is no doors, windows, wallpaint or furniture the new classrooms will be useable - taking a lot of the strain of the single building they have been using up until now. After all, you cannot properly teach close to 200 children in four classrooms...
 Handing over the envelopes. 
 Talking over future plans and possibilities.
The new building with the roof supports in place.
All in a all a most plesant visit, and a great way to spend the time while I'm waitig for the helicopter to take me on leave.

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Another long Short Duration Patrol

They called it Short Duration on the program, but 91 km each way on mostly bad roads make for a very long day. After eight hours of shaking and rattling, I was pretty happy to get back to the team site - even if I still have to pack for my leave. Yes, tomorrow I get on the helicopter to go home on my leave... and I'm really looking forwards to it.