Thursday, January 25, 2007

One of those days...

Have you ever had one of those days where you look up from your desk and think… ‘what am I doing here? Seriously. How did I get here?’ I’ve got three Word documents open at the moment. One is titled: Gunshot trauma kit instructions. One is titled: Humanitarian crisis looms in Sudan. And, one is titled: UNICEF Guidelines on soap requests. I have no desire to work on any of them.

I was walking back today from a meeting, uphill, through sand. Geneina is covered with this incredibly fine sand – the kind they fill hourglasses with. The kind that, if it’s piled up, you can’t ever get to the top of because it keeps giving way under your feet. To say it was a walk is an understatement. It was a slog and all I could think of was that this is how Darfur is. No one can get their footing and just when you start to think you’ve got somewhere – there’s a peace agreement, or a ceasefire, or just several days in a row without a crisis or evacuation – things give way and you slide back down to the bottom a bit dirtier and more tired than you were before.

I’m sure that everyone has those days – accountants, lawyers, everyone – maybe without the dirt and the gunshot trauma kit instructions but everyone must look up from their computers at some point and think, ‘is this what I was after?’

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

from the edge of the world...

Greetings from the back of beyond. I thought I'd seen all the places that comprise the 'middle of nowhere' but apparently not.

It’s about 10pm at night and it’s been a bad day. Day 2 in Geneina and we have a hostage situation in one of our field locations in which 2 staff were taken by some Janjaweed and held in ransom for compensation of some other killing. Mind you, they were taken accidentally - happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time - but that’s of little comfort when you realize that the people who took you couldn't care less and have every intention of killing you when they don't get their money and are being controlled by a very dangerous (read: evil) leader. I know there is much discussion about whether we can identify men/nations as evil but this man is unequivocably evil. I digress. They ended up being released and are now waiting for a helicopter to free up on the UN rota so that we can evacuate them.

Anyway, I’ve not had the best day and as I’m laying in bed watching Scrubs, listening to donkeys hold a ‘disgruntled donkey convention’ outside our compound – the shooting starts. Shooting in Geneina is not unusual – it sounds like someone cooking some popcorn all night. You can easily count around, at least, 150 rounds being popped off nightly. However, shooting outside my window is a different matter entirely and I quickly ran through the options in my head which were:

1) continue lying in bed as I am more likely to be hit standing up

2) roll off the bed and onto the ground and under the bed

3) stand up, cross the compound and go to the safe room

4) pretend I didn’t hear it and continue watching Scrubs and hope they go away

Let’s be honest. I should have employed options 1-3. But, I was not only tired and grumpy, but am inherently lazy, so I stayed in bed.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Self-Cleaning Underwear Goes Weeks Without Washing

My day has just been made. Seriously!

Having lived for most of the past year in a country where we don't have washing machines and it is culturally inappropriate to have our cleaners wash our underwear you have no idea how happy this has made me. I have spent far too many a Friday afternoon soaking and washing underwear. In fact, have gone so far as to buy more underwear so that I can get away with washing them as infrequently as possible. God bless the U.S. military. I knew we kept them around for a reason!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Things you don't tell your mother...

Well, after a rosy and lovely period of complete relaxation in the States I arrived back in Khartoum where all the talk is 'plan B'...meaning, are we going to get bombed? Probably not, but the one thing that I've learned about Darfur is that just when you think it can't get any worse, it does. Over the past three weeks this place has slid into (nearly) Somalia-like chaos. No, I take that back, there are pockets of Somalia-like chaos all over the place and then pockets of relative normalcy. Unfortunately, the pockets of relative normalcy are down to exactly: two.

Added to this I am being transferred for four weeks to Geneina. How do I explain Geneina? Geneina is a good time. It's close to being the most insecure place I can think of. It's on the border with Chad - where the rumour is that 2000 Chadian soldiers are lining up to take the town. NGOs lose about a car a day there and so we have a complete ban on our vehicles leaving the compound. Bullets came through our roof there right before Christmas. The curfew is 6pm...which is up from 4:30pm where it has been. And, it's always on the brink of an evacuation. The place is evacuation-happy. They might even all be evacuated before I even get there.

Now the strange thing is...I'm really looking forward to it. And I'm not. The saner half of me just wants to stay put and go back to my quasi-normal life where the curfew's 10pm and where I know people and where the evacuations are only about once a month. And the adventure-prone half of me can't wait to go. I think I'm becoming one of those adventure/adrenaline junkies.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A photo essay commemorating my 17 days in America...

I find it hard to write about what is going on while I am in the States - mostly because everything seems so darned normal. Despite this, I'll put up some pictures of what I've been up to over the past several weeks.

Left Darfur:
Arrived Jordan:

Left Jordan, arrive JFK. Tempted to kiss the flag. Five hours in JFK before leaving for DC. Three days in DC then to Cape Cod:

Leave Cape Cod for Christmas in Vermont:

Leave Vermont, return to Cape Cod, return to DC, fly to Chicago:

See Friends:


Return to DC for New Year:

Pack up all the fun goodies that can be acquired in the Western World and fly back to Darfur!

Hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas and will have a very blessed New Year!

P.S. Oh yeah! I bought an adorable 1973 British mini cooper with a little flag on top. Pictures will be forthcoming.