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.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Lessons learned - last post for now

It's been a while since I returned home, and I have had some time to think about a few of the things I learned while in southern Sudan and South Sudan, in no particular order:
  • First off, those of us living in modern nations with a working infrastructure simply don't get how well off we actually are. This applies for such things as roads, sanitation, healthcare, schools, security (police and military) and so on and so forth.
  • Speaking of roads; I will never say that Norwegians roads are bad ever again - there is something about getting stuck in bottomless mud on the "highway" in the middle of the biggest town in the area that drives home that fact. I will point out that Norwegians roads could certainly be better - we could afford that with all the money we are pumping out of the sea.
  • The Norwegian Military takes - overall - very good care of us while we're abroad, and the gear we have with us will cover pretty much any eventuality. Much of the gear I brought with me came home unused, some never made it down to Sudan. Compared to my friends from other nations, we're EXTREMELY well equipped - everything from socks and underwear to Class IV vests* and satellite phones.
  • Being away from home for so long is harder on the ones left at home - if you're out on duty you're busy, while they have plenty of time to think (and twice the workload to deal with at home too).
  • Arabic is very difficult to pick up if all your previous experiences are various Germanic languages.At the same time, stating that you're fluent in two (Norwegian and English), can understand and read two more (Danish and Swedish) as well as making heads and tails of one more if it's written down and I have time (German) looks pretty impressive on the UN CV...
  • Getting used to being home again takes longer than it took getting used to being away. Strange, but true.
  • Some people are on UN missions because of the pay check, some are not. Properly motivated and guided both can do excellent work.
  • The major challenge is the cultural difference - not between yourself and the locals, but between yourself and other UN personnel. In all fairness they told us this before we deployed, but it has to be experienced to drive the lesson home.

In retrospect, was it worth it? Yes... and how. It's been a long year, but a good one. Difficult at times, but rewarding. Lonely, but with many new friends. Slow at times, but passed quickly.
The Norwegian Defence Medal for International Operations
The UNMIS medal
And with that I'll close this blog for now - if I do go on a new mission I will revive it. If anyone have any questions, comments or remarks, leave a comment and I'll do my best to reply.
Thank you for reading!

*) To put our vests into perspective; the other officers opted to use the UN provided vests, which in theory is Class III. However, materials degrade over time, and personally I would not trust my life to the UN vests if there is a Norwegian vest areound. If the option is to do with no vest, then I would use the UN vest.