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.

Thursday 31 March 2011

Back in Yei again

On the bright side, I got back here a day earlier than I would have with the helicopter. On the less bright side, I'm pretty battered and bruised after traveling the whole day with nothing but breakfast inside me.

167 km in 4 hours 17 minutes effective driving time... on roads that are anything but good. In cars which have seen better days. And with a humidity somewhere north of 100%... Yeah, it's really good to be back. And despite feeling less than great, I'm very happy that the Juba Team Site could take me half way "home".
 The joint JMT.. does that make it the JJMT, or the J2MT? At any rate, the guys from Juba is just as nice as the guys from Yei - if a little less talkative while driving.
 A view behind after I gotten over in "our" car - those mountains is between me and Juba. Notice how much greener everything is compared to pictures from last month.
 And that pile of ash and burnt out bed frame? Was someones home and furniture at one point... can't help to wonder what happened. It can't have been long ago, for if it happened during or before the last wet season you would not see anything but vegetation.
And this? The less than pleasant surprise that meet me once I got inside my box - frozen AC. Changes in humidity does that to these cheep units.

One thing is for sure...

...if I get the job in Juba I'll have to mount my internet dongle on a pole, above my container.

The meta boxes are packed much tighter in Juba than they are in Yei, so the tricks that work in Yei wont work here (like sitting next to a window. So there was no blogpost yesterday, and my email keeps timing out on me - and no office computer to use either.

Other than that gripe, yesterday was okayish. Boring, yes, but otherwise nothing special to report.

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Still, y'know, hanging out in Juba

The interview today went well... at least I think it went well, and others told me the same so I guess it at least didn't go bad.

The only problem left is this: I have done what I came for. I don't go back to Yei until the day after tomorrow. And apart from idly browsing the PX, there is very little to do.

Along with some of the Norwegians here I'll go out for dinner tonight. Tomorrow I have arranged to take a trip to a real SuperMarket, partly to price check a number of items for the Welfare Committee in Yei. In between those heavy and time consuming projects, there is little to do but read and think.

Such is life... it it' own way it's nice with a couple of quiet days.

Monday 28 March 2011

Just hanging out in Juba

Juba, largest city in South Sudan! Fastest growing city in Africa!  And nothing to do but wait!

Lets be frank - it don't matter where you are, without a car you go nowhere. And today at least I have no car and no one who has the time to take me anywhere. I have gotten accommodations, which by itself is pretty good going in Juba (but then again, I'm here on official business), and even if it's a shared room it looks like it'll be shared by me alone. Getting my Eee connected to the internet was a test of patience, but not due to any trouble with my Eee - the machine in the other end wasn't responding. The funny thing is that now I'm up and running it isn't any faster than then the 'net in Yei, despite this being a 3.5G network and Yei struggles to give me an EDGE connection. Off course, it could be due to me being inside a Faraday cage here, while I'm having my internet-dongle on the outside in Yei. I must speak to the local denizens to find out what speeds they are getting on average.

Other than getting my little 'puter online, the afternoon have been spent reading ("The Grand Design", by Stephen Hawkings) and trying to prepare for tomorrows interview with the Sector Commander. The later would off course be much easier if I knew what he would ask about.. or if he just want to have a chat to see if we're compatible. The UNMO-Coordinator works very closely with the Sector Commander and as such they must be able to work together. Luckily I seem able to work well with anyone who isn't an idiot, and you wouldn't be picked to be the SecCom if you ain't smart. Should work out just fine I think... I have come to the realization that even if I would like to stay in Yei, an opportunity like this don't come by too often and I really should try to grab it with both hands. Would look good in my CV later too...

It is about time for me to start thinking about getting ready for dinner. Apparently most of the Norwegians / Scandinavians meet for dinner in the big tukul most evenings. Convenient for me, since I have brought no food with me here. Breakfast and lunch can also be bought, and tomorrow afternoon I'll see about getting a ride to pick up some odds and ends in Juba town.

I can has visit?

Remember that pretty kitten who have been more or less adopted by us living in the MSA camp? She (her name is AC - Africa Cat) was sitting on my doorstep this morning when I got ready to go to the office, so I decided to put out a small saucer of water. Clearly this meant she should repay me with a visit... not that I mind one bit. She's a good kitty, and very friendly.

Sunday 27 March 2011

Just strolling around camp

Was just walking around the camp with my camera as I was waiting for the washing machine to be free...
 Ants they be busy - this nest wasn't there a few days ago when we had the big rain.
 Really busy.. wonder how deep their lair goes?
 And these isn't the big ants either, these are the tiny ones.
 Meanwhile, an anthill that was knocked over last week is rebuilding.
 Part of the old structure - the material in the anthills is not too different from cement, and the locals often use knocked down anthills to make durable fireplaces.
 It's a palm three of some sort.. a little stunted and a bit dry.
 Another clear sign that the wet season is upon us - fresh green grass where they used to be nothing but dust.
 No idea what sort of flower this is, but it was pretty as it were growing all by itself on the far end of the helipad.
 Stood about a half meter tall... and smelled of nothing much at all.
 This fellow was looking at me until I was just ready to snap a photo. Then he left...
 It was a hazy morning...
 Quite hazy in fact....
 So hazy I almost expected it to be cold...
 A map of Bangladesh made from cement, rocks and paint. As far as I know created by BanBat1 back in the early days of the mission.
It may be a little hard to spot, but some of the ants down here uses straws, branches and suchlike as guides for building tunnels above ground... probably evolved as a defense against predators.
Thats all the good snaps I got... time to rinse and hang the laundry before I start packing my bag for going to Juba tomorrow.

Saturday 26 March 2011

Country presentation

From time to time an UNMO (or two) takes it upon themselves to brighten the weekend for everybody and explain why just their homeland is the awesomest place on the planet. Today it was the turn of me and the other Norwegian. Desiring to do a bit more than just a powerpoint show, we decided to combine the presentation with  some coffee and something to bite... I handled the presentation - which including quite a few questions and a bit of discussion - for about an hour, while the other 'wege started up the waffle press and cranked out a nice stack of waffles.
 Got to make one thing clear from the first slide; Norway awesome. How awesome? So awesome that our national coat of arms have a frigging lion with a frigging axe, that's how awesome. Off course, this was just the first of thirty odd slides covering the basic facts about Norway, a quick history, a fair number of photos, Norwegian food, the Norwegian language and Norwegian winter sports.
 The bit about mapfolds is an internal joke - all our patrol briefs starts with the mapfolds, that is the limits of the area the patrol will operate in. The coastline I had to explain a couple of times before it really sunk in - but then it's counterintuitive that a small nation like Norway have a coastline that is more than twice the distance around the globe.
 Random picture of Norwegian nature. Looks pretty nice, but then a 218 meter tall waterfall is not something you see every day.
It also took a while to explain why there is so many different bunads in Norway... but no time flat to tell them that I own one myself (some disappointment that I had not brought it with me to Yei though).
 Part two - coffee and waffles!
 ..but no burnt waffles - got to keep an eye on them.
Properly served with strawberry jam and brown cheese, the stack of waffles disappeared rather quicker than we had expected. We could easily have made three times as much and still be cleaned out. The discussion started during the presentation carried on during snack-time, ranging from hydro-electrical power plants to tax rates in Norway.

Friday 25 March 2011

Fond farewells and tasty dinner

Today the last few remainders of BanBat5 took the helicopter to Juba. Off course we all went down there to say farewell and wish them a safe journey.
 Me on the left, then BanBat5 Commander in Yei, Civil Affairs and CITS.

For some reason I felt for a heavier and meatier dinner than usual today, so after dismissing the idea of hitting town I dug out a can of dead man, my spice jars and one of my little surprise finds from the supermarket; a tin of mushrooms 
 A minute or so with the can opener, and we're ready to turn this...
...into this. Full of good stuff, and fills you right up.
Other than that, it was an average day. Mostly I've been struggling trying to get the Leave Plan for May to come together... it's not as easy as it sounds, since we're pretty much hemorrhaging UNMOs that month.. and we have to keep at least 70% of our strength in the Team Site at any given time.

Thursday 24 March 2011

Godspeed and safe flight

Tomorrow the Commander of BanBat5 in Yei gets on a helicopter and heads to Juba, and on Monday he'll board a flight to go home to his family again. In honor of the occasion, the Commander of BanBat6 in Yei invited all the UNMOs and representatives from all the other pillars in the Team Site to a going-away-dinner.

It was a nice little party... a little subdued perhaps since our long term friend is going home, but also happy since he gets to be with the ones who means the most; his family. Speeches were made, which is something of a rarity here, and even I joined in and said what was on my heart. It's never fun to see friends leave, but as he said himself; who knows where and when we might meet again - be it on a UN-mission or elsewhere.

So farewell for this time my friend, safe flight and long life.

Should I feel flattered or slightly annoyed?

On Monday I'm traveling to Juba.

Let me clarify that; on Monday I'm traveling to Juba for a job interview - for the job as the Sector UNMO-Coordinator. A job, I might add, I technically have not applied for.

Let me back up a few steps; The current UNMO-Coordinator, who happens to be a Dane, has his end of mission in May. In early February the announcement of the vacant position went out, which resulted in an amazing number of applications. After all, zero is an amazing number...

As some of you may remember, the unpleasant task of coming up with nominations fell on the various Team Site Leaders. As far as I know, the "re-listing" of the job resulted in a few volunteers and some nonvolunteers, but in the end the current UNMO-Coordinator came up with four short-listed names, and my name was on that list. The Sector Commander looked at the list, discussed each UNMO listed with the UNMO-Coordinator and picked two persons he wanted to interview - a natural precaution seeing as how the UNMO-Coordinator and Sector Commander works closely together.

So there you are; On Monday I'm traveling to Juba for a job interview.

On one hand it is somewhat flattering that "several sources" points to me as having the right qualifications for what is a difficult and important job. On the other hand I had plans... I've positioned myself to become the next Team Site Leader in Yei, worked on the relations with the other UNMOs, the UNPOLs, the other pillars and the population outside the fence.

I'm a little torn as to what way to feel right now. I'll probably go with flattered - it's a much more pleasant feeling than being annoyed at any rate. New relations can be forged, I seem to be good at getting friendly with people, and if (and it is still a big if) I get the job it'll be like having a second mission while still being on my first mission!

At the very least I'll get a couple of days in Juba. I think a pizza sounds good...

Wednesday 23 March 2011

BanBat rotations and definitely rainy season

Today have been a reasonable busy day again. In addition to the regular paperwork, which there is a fair bit off, we had a special flight for BanBat rotations... yes, BanBat5 is leaving us, and BanBat6 is moving in. They have been really good companions all the time I've been down here, and I hope their replacements are as nice - no reason to expect otherwise, off course.
While the aircrew took care of some urgent business, the outgoing soldiers hung around the helipad.
Looking at how brown everything is, it's obvious the dry season has been going on for a while... not for much longer though:
Ominous clouds... just a few minutes after this photo was snapped, it started raining and just didn't stop...
That's not a river, it's the camp...
It's raining...
..raining a lot.
So yes, the wet season is most assuredly upon us. Which makes the planning of the Welfare Committee's first party in a week and a half that much more interesting... oh well, such is life in South Sudan - twists and turns everywhere, but not the ones you expect to find.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Morning has broken...

...and I don't have enough glue to put it back together. But it looks nice, ja?

Monday 21 March 2011

At least, a SDP again!

A major downside of being the Acting Team Site Leader is that I've had to stay reasonable close to the office, so no SDPs and certainly no LDPs for me. Today however I got to go on SDP as the 2C and driver of the second car. It wasn't a very long drive - about 50 km from start to finish - but on the roads we were on today... lets just say that we call them roads by default, tracks are not wide enough for cars.

 Out in the middle of no where, with no one around, a tree had fallen. Had it made a sound? Who knows...
From left: SPLA NM, me, Payam clerk, Payam Deputy Director, Patrol Leader, Driver first vehicle, SAF NM (his first day in Yei).
Sometimes when we're out driving, we have to make a technical stop. Or as civvies put it; pee break.

After we had returned to the Team Site all the UNMOs and representatives for the other pillars in camp made our way down to the Blue Tukul, where we had the Festival of Color yesterday. The purpose of the gathering was to kick start the welfare program in Yei Team Site... something everyone wants to happen but few are actually willing to do anything about. However after hammering out a couple of suggestions, the primary one being a camp wide party on April 2nd, people were willing not only to pony up a bit of cash but also to vote on a Welfare Comity. Knowing that I would be one of the one suggested to lead the whole thing, I quickly volunteered as the treasurer instead... not that I mind being on the comity, but I don't want to be the chairman - at least not in the beginning. Later on, well, we'll see.

Sunday 20 March 2011

Just another slow Sun... no, wait - not at all slow

Today was meant to be a typical, slow Sunday.. do my laundry, read a bit, recharge for the week ahead. So I went out and took a few photographs around camp, just to have a bit to write about on my blog:
Just behind the laundry area these two henny-pennys were hanging out... and by hanging out I mean waiting to end up in the soup pot. The Security Officer bought them in the market yesterday, but the cleaner who had offered to help pluck and gut them had gone home, so they got an extra night of saying alive.
Just a random three, growing in the middle of a bare patch behind the vehicle workshop.
And these is the fruits of said three - probably not edible, since the locals haven't stripped it bare. Or they might simply not be ripe yet.
Random corner of the camp - this is the hole all the dirt of our embankment came from, currently used for "storage" and parking of spare vehicles.
The makings of a new ablutions container - all the plumbing ready to go.
The waste tanks for the planned new ablution - all made locally by local contractors.
Looking down into the settling tank.
And this is the neighbourhood the ablutions is meant to serve - as mentioned before a fair bit of constructions is going on in Yei these days.

And just when I made my way back to my container, a couple of the guys from the Indian Signals knocked on my door ever so politely; inviting me down to the tukul for Holi - the festival of colours!
All in good fun - from the second you walk in and is joyfully smeared with colours.
good food, good fun, good company - life isn't too bad in Yei.
Our Camp Security Officer and someone else - hard to tell who under all the colours
Dancing, Indian style. Sense of rhythm not needed, just leave your dignity by the door and get out there and dance.
Happy, smiling faces - and mine was one of them.
The nice thing about being Acting TSL is that I can all but order the Duty Officer to join in - which he enjoyed quite a lot.
From the left: Indian signal, UNMO, Camp Manager, me, two more Indian Signals.
Forgot to rotate this one, so just twist the monitor a quarter turn counterclockwise.
From left again; UNMO, Signals, UNMO, me, Signals
The aftermath of a successful holi. From what I was told, I should be safe from evil until next year - and I'll happily take all the protection I can get to be on the safe side.

So have a very happy Festival of Colour!