I’ve been in my little home in the field (Savannah? Wilderness? Bush?) for almost a week now. I’m unpacked, as much as can be when there’s no storage space and my go bag must be kept ready at all times in case of evacuation. I’m beginning to get used to my immediate surroundings, the climate and general rhythms of life. Here are some snippets of first impressions:
– Arrival: We had a little single propeller, 9 seater charter plane bring us here. It took an hour and 30 mins of flying over scrub land to reach the little village of Yuai: miles and miles of nothingness. The ends of the earth is right here. It’s strangely isolating but strangely freeing at the same time. We came down to land in the middle of the tiny village of Yuai, which is made up of a few tukuls (mud huts) of local villagers and IDPs, as well as the compound of Tearfund, CRS, CARE and a small UNMISS base. It’s a small place. The airstrip cuts right through the middle of the village so we skim the grass rooftops of tukuls as we touch down, and villagers line the airstrip to greet us. It’s like something from a film.
– The compound: Our compound is an area of land fenced off by corrugated iron. Within the compound the only concrete building is the small office. The other buildings are made from mud walls and corrugated iron roofing. There’s a small kitchen where mama Mary prepares our meals over a fire stove, a small dining room, a TV tukul, a couple of storage containers and our accommodation. There are a few vegetables trying to grow in the harsh climate conditions.
– Accommodation: Accommodation is…basic? I think that’s the best way of putting it! My room has an earthen floor and mud walls with corrugated iron roof from which I get woken up each morning my crows landing on it and scratching their claws with ear-splitting noise. It’s a painful way to be woken! Within my room I have…a bed. That’s all, but that’s enough. We have long-drop toilets and showers which were constructed earlier this year. So grateful for showers!!
– The ‘wildlife’: This place is like a tourist attraction for insects. Seriously, they love it here – and I’ve never seen such variety. Praying mantis, ants, beetles, fireflies, grasshoppers and crickets, stick insects of all varieties. At night you literally have to fight your way through them, there are so many. It took me all of about 5 minutes to get over my fear of creepy-crawlies: you have no choice but to get on with it and face them. There’s no other option. The insects attract larger animals: frogs, bats and hedgehogs. Which unfortunately attract even larger animals, and the ones I have a justifiable reason to fear: snakes. Two black mambas have been killed in the compound this week, including one which was found in my neighbour’s room. They creep me out. But the guys are good at killing them and responding quickly to screams…
– The food: Food is repetitive! Mandazi, chapatti or boiled sweet potato for breakfast. Rice and beans for lunch. Chicken or goat and ugali or rice for dinner. 7 days a week. So far I’m enjoying, but I think it won’t be long before I’m having to force the food down. Grateful for food, however, when all week we’ve been programme planning for a project tackling malnutrition within the area. Locals currently live off a diet of ugali and milk. Day in, day out.
– Work: this week has been busy. Workshops all day constructing problem trees that examine the challenges locals face with regards to malnutrition in the area. Then exploring potential solutions to these challenges and coming up with activities to address them. This is all in the process of being put into a project proposal to try and secure funding from major donors. The days are long and tiring, but I’m learning so so much, and so grateful for the opportunity to be part of things from the very beginning.
– The team: The team out here are great. Very knowledgeable in all they do, hard-working and passionate. It’s good to be with people who have the same heart.
On Friday I’ll fly back to Juba for a couple of weeks to get a bit more orientation in head office. This will bring me to December when I’ll fly back to Yuai for a few weeks before my first R&R break over Christmas, which I’ll spend in Nairobi.
Hope this gives you a small taster of how my life here might be. There’s so much to learn and so much to take in, from learning aspects of the project through to learning people’s names, through to remembering to check my shoes for scorpions and frogs before putting them on. It’s a whole new world a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of my Nairobi life. But I think I could learn to love it here.