Category Archives: South Sudan

Follow me as I journey through a six month deployment in one of Africa’s newest countries

10 May 2014 – Last Post


I woke up early this morning, ready to face the remainder of the time I have left here in South Sudan.

Ironically, the leaders of the warring factions here, will probably sign a peace deal. How long this will last, remains to be seen. This country has a long, hard road ahead of it.

This whole tour had made me rethink my career path. But upon closer reflection, I wonder what else I can do? Nothing comes to mind, so I will plod on through the rest of my years in service, doing the best that I can under whatever circumstances I am asked to do it under….regardless of how others view my performance.

Yesterday was a tearful one. I said good bye to Rose and Irene. I only wish the best for them.

Edward brought a roasted goat for supper and I had one last opportunity to find out about some of the culture in his country of Kenya…he was explaining the symbolism of the goat shoulder at a wedding…how once married, the woman slices the meat up and serves it to the husband and then symbolically cuts the shoulder joint as a severance to her home and family to which she can never go back. Kind of cool.

As I sit on the balcony drinking my coffee for the last time in Juba, I try to capture some of good things over this past six months that I will miss.

I find things that I have tired of, and some that I have not.
I have not yet tired of watching the kites gliding on the drafts, dog fighting over food and swooping across at eye level in front of me.

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I have not yet tired of the squeaky wheel shrikes and their antics as the flock of them land on wires and play leap frog, jockeying for position.

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I have not yet tired of the sweet little Red Cheeked Cordon Bleu finches and their whistling calls to one another across the compound.

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I have not yet tired of watching the ugliest bird in the world soaring high overhead with a majestic wingspan that rivals the albatross.

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I have not yet tired of watching the flocks of egrets flying by the house while the sun rises and peeks out above the horizon.

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I have not yet tired of cooing pigeons and doves, the complex calls of the weavers that have moved in, the crazy bulbuls or the pied crow that is looking for a mate in our windows.

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I certainly haven’t tired of the friends I have made here….Irene and Rose

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Rambo, Ibrahim, Goefrey…

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And finally, Edward and Philip (Rafiki)….they will always have a special place in my heart and my memory.

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And let’s not forget my new friends I  made just before leaving, Janelle and Anita!

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What I have tired of is being away from my loved ones.

For all that was good here, it was tempered with the not so good. I have experienced the full range of emotions that we expect to go through while on a deployment…and some that we do not.

I guess I have been a part of history once again by coming here. Although I won’t have articles written about me and my name won’t be in any history books as having existed in this part of the world, I would like to think that those who have expressed the fact that they wish I wasn’t going, will hold me in their thoughts long after I have left.

This day closes a door and a chapter in my life. As Tim posted this morning, I think I will nail this door shut but I wonder where the next chapter will take me?

That’s it for today

soldiermomma signing off from Juba for good

 

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29 April 2014 – Crazy


Sorry folks, it’s been a few days since I posted.
Since you last heard from me, my friend got through her surgery with flying colors and is on the mend. Whew.

People have been coming and going and for the time I’m here, this is the thrust of my job.
Saturday was lovely. I spent a few hours with Janelle, my Aussie counterpart. We had lunch, lounged in the sun, swam a little (this is the first time I’ve done that in a couple of months) and had a good long girl talk…something I’ve missed since Beth left.

Then Sunday the new crew came in and Ken and I have been running around like chickens with our heads cut off! Sunday evening we had some people over for a BBQ and I got to meet my Norwegian counterpart, Anita…so two new friends in just a couple of days…of course, this is right before I leave, so it kind of sucks.
Good news! I finally have my flight booked home! 10 days and a wakie and I will be on Canadian soil! Yeehaw!

I also found out my son is now driving, had his wisdom teeth out and is going to work for the summer in Gagetown. Wow, things change so fast!

I found out that both my first and last names are used here in Africa. I was kind of astonished at this, but in my usual crazy manner, I held out my arm to the guy and I told him that I had been working on my tan but I wasn’t quite there in color. He thought that was funny, laughed and shook my hand on that one. Oddly enough, he was the second person to tell me this about my last name…weird.

Today’s events make for a good story, so here it goes.

Fluffball has gotten a lot of his adult feathers and is really getting big..in just over 2 weeks since hatching, he is looking like a pigeon now. He is going to have the coloring of his father and it looks as if he may have his spats as well!

The netting that was being used as part of their nest turned against them today…which is what I was afraid of. I can always tell when dad is there feeding him…he cheeps like crazy and dad is just a ‘cooing while they are interacting.

Today’s noises didn’t sound right…fluffball sounded like he was in distress. I looked over to check on them, and sure enough, it looked as if he had gotten wrapped up in the netting. I looked at Ken and I said, “I can’t do this….” Once Ken looked and saw what was going on, he whipped out his multi-tool, said let’s open the window, and immediately started cutting the caulking around the window so we could get it open (we had it sealed against flooding).
It took some doing, but once he was able to open it, I gently reached down and disconnected the netting from one end….when I got a good look at junior there, he really was all rolled up and in the netting upside down…dad had been there trying to feed him and couldn’t. He took off when we started making a lot of noise. Anyway, I then very gently starting to pull the netting out of the area of the nest and while doing so, I was able to unroll him and get him out.
Then the little gaffer started to walk toward the open end and the ledge where I was afraid he would fall off! I didn’t realize he could walk yet!
Sooo, I then got a piece of cardboard which Ken put into place at the end to keep him from harm.
He settled back in nicely and seemed content.
I was then hoping I hadn’t completely scared dad away from the nest…but it was a calculated risk that paid off. Not 15 minutes later, dad was back, and baby got well needed meal. A beautiful happy ending!

Yes, I did try to take a pic…figured I couldn’t do much more harm at this point if my efforts didn’t work. We sealed the window up, but I failed to realize that I didn’t have a memory card in the camera when I was snapping away! Oi!

So I contented myself with snapping a few through the window. I think at some times of the day they can see me or they can sense when someone is there…dad doesn’t like to be disturbed, but junior hears my voice and starts jumping up and down peeping. It’s kind of cute.

Anyway, I figure if  I can’t do much good for the people here, but I can come home knowing that I helped preserve some of the wildlife that is so scarce….even if it is a dirty pigeon.

That’s it for today

soldiermomma signing off

21 April 2014 – Crow


Well vacation is over….not really a vacation but a couple of days out of the office anyway. Saturday I locked the door and played hermit….if I don’t lock the door, it becomes a revolving one and I just wouldn’t have had any peace and quiet.

The past couple of days have been spent in my room, chatting with people back home, watching movies and relaxing.

Update on Fluffball…I think I misnamed him….he is 4 times the size he was just a week after hatching. He has lost most of those soft downey feathers and now looks more like a porcupine with his adult feathers coming in. He has turned a dark color and has lost the white at the end of his beak that was present when he hatched. Mom and dad are spending more time together away from the nest….Junior is just too big to sit on anymore. I actually heard him “peep” for the first time yesterday!

I have tried getting pictures and have had no more luck with that netting that is in the way…although I must say, as much as I wish that netting wasn’t there, it almost wasn’t yesterday! This fellow decided that after he sat on my ledge and talked with himself for awhile, that he would fly over and land on the AC that the nest is behind.

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When I got there, he had the netting and was pulling on it, trying to get it out! Poor little Fluffball sits on that netting as part of the nest…not sure what would have happened had that crow been successful. Anyway, mom and dad weren’t there so I shooed the crow away and saved their little one from what might have been a nasty fall or worse! I hope that mom and dad appreciate what I do for them when babysitting!

Last night was spent at a house BBQ….chicken and lots of other really good side dishes were the fare…and some yummy coconut cake at the end!

Other than that, nothing much to write about today…I haven’t thought of any other good stories yet!

That’s it for today

soldiermomma signing off

19 April 2014 – Reality


So I’ve been going back in time putting pen to paper (what an irrelevant cliché in this age of keyboards and screens) in an effort to keep my posts from being too boring. 

At present, I am still counting down the days until I leave (which is only 21 as of today!!). Nothing really happened this week although I did get to see my Rafiki at the grocery store (for those who remember that Lion King story). He was very happy to see me and we made arrangements for me to go back and we will get a picture of us together with our Canadian flags on our shirts.  They call me “Sgt” when I go in and Philip (that’s Rafiki’s real name) even went so far as to do a little drill for me! Seems as though he spent some time in the military at some point in his life. Such wonderful people…I wish I had more time to spend with them.

We’ve had three huge storms here in the past week which translates into mud holes in the road so deep you can’t tell if it’s safe to drive through and not get stuck…the lightening here is incredible…I think it’s because you can see it so well since there aren’t any lights in the city itself at night. And the wind! Whew! I just wonder how long it will take for those that are in the UN camps being taken care to get to the point where they don’t want to live that way anymore…and I wonder what will happen when that decision is made.

When I say nothing really happened this week, I mean that nothing really happened to me….however, that’s not the case with one of our guys who has less than a week left before leaving. If you think I have a black cloud hanging over my head, I’ve got nothing on this guy.

He’s all packed up, only a couple hours from leaving, taking a walk around his UN camp with another guy who is getting ready to go, when all of a sudden the bullets started flying and they had to do the duck and cover dash for about 500 yrds to reach safety. Once the dust settled, he had to help with getting the dead and wounded ready for a Casualty Evacuation Flight (which he managed to get on so he could back here to finish getting ready to leave) and when he showed up here, he had blood on his combats and was telling us what happened. I won’t get into details…I’m not sure what’s been made public….but let’s just say, he went out with a bang. I’m not sure if I would be able to sleep at night with pictures like that in my head….especially since the casualties were mostly women and children. It breaks my heart.

Such is life  in South Sudan.

That’s it for today.

soldiermomma signing off

17 April 2014 – Still counting


Yup, I’m still counting the days until my departure. My replacement is getting his flight booked so it looks as if I will be able to book mine out and I won’t be delayed for any reason! WOOT!

Yesterday was hectic, picking people up, dropping them off…lots of comings and goings!

The baby pigeon (I shall name him Fluffball), is doing well from the looks of things. He seems to be shuffling around better on his own volition and before you know it, he will be flying! Still a little ball of nothingness right now, but I can see a difference, however slight, already.

I was sitting out on the balcony last night before bed. What a surprise I got when I heard a “screech” and looked front and center to see this ghostly spectre of a bird flying out of the dark toward me! It took me a few moments to realize what was happening (not something you see all the time, so it’s surprising). The owl flew up over the house and when I went to find where it landed, it was on the water tower. By the time I got the binos to look at him closer through the window, he was gone. I am holding to my ID from the first sighting of him as being a Barn Owl…medium sized, all white underneath in flight…it put me in mind of the Snowy Owl to see him. So cool! I haven’t laid eyes on him since early December I think it was.

It’s a long weekend back home coming up which means it will pretty quiet here due to nobody being at work. Not sure I will blog everyday unless there’s something cool to blog about or I think of another story to tell from my vault.

What I can’t get over is that UN shuts down on Easter weekend???? Really??

That’s it for today.

soldiermomma signing off.

 

13 April 2014 – Blah


Another uneventful day yesterday. Not even much to write home about really.

I worked, I played computer games, I worked some more, called home, watched the pigeons once in awhile and then at the end of the day, read my book and fell asleep…in fact, it was the best sleep I’ve had since getting back.

I am lost without my camera! I refuse to kick myself in the butt for not bringing it….but everyone here is very surprised I didn’t. I just didn’t want the hassle of toting it all around the world again…so home it stayed. I think Tim is getting use out of it though…he’s been trying to get pics of some of the birds in the yard for me when he can. Sweetheart! 🙂

I think today I will go out to AFEX (African Expedition Compound) for a change of scenery. It’s like another world in there…right by the Nile and beautiful, typical African setting. I just don’t want to see any new birds, or I WILL kick my butt for not bringing my camera!

I realized yesterday that some of the paperwork I need for next week’s influx of personnel needing tweaking so I got that done yesterday as well. I am working ahead to get it all prepped so that everything runs smoothly.

That’s it for today

soldiermomma signing off

12 April 2014 – Time is Short


I checked my count down timer yesterday and was delighted to see the number 29 pop up!! Woohoo…28 days left as of this post and I couldn’t be happier!

I hear the weather there cleared up nicely after I left…just as I predicted. You can all thank me later! LOL

I also saw that a couple of vagrant birds were found near the city…that’s twice now that just as I leave, something interesting pops up and I can’t get to see it.!

It was a nice reunion with Irene yesterday! She loved the T Shirt that I bought her and I gave her a couple of little summer dresses that I had brought with me…she was tickled and it’s less for me to pack now. 🙂

A pretty standard day was had by all yesterday…very quiet around here…not that’s it’s a bad thing.

Sadly, we couldn’t get a computer to work to set up the webcam. Ken has an idea so I hope it will work. I watched momma this morning, trying to get comfortable in her spot and got a really good look at her egg. It looks like that will be the only one. It’s a lot bigger than I imagined and she was trying her darndest to get it in a spot that would keep it warm….it’s cool here this morning. She was picking feathers up and tucking them under her, then she would try to turn around (no easy feat in that spot) and then she would tuck the egg under her. She didn’t like that position, so she would start over. So interesting to watch! Thank god that they chose there to nest…it’s going to be something that will give me a break and I hope it all ends well for the hatchling.

I finally figured out where all my developed pictures I had saved were and how to get them back up so I can go through them again…got a good laugh at some of them and with a different eye, re-composed a few, perhaps for inclusion in the new website. We’ll see…I’m my own worst critic…at least that’s what Tim says. But I don’t agree…when I have fab pic out of lots to choose from, I immediately say “That’s the one!” and I haven’t changed my mind on those. So I usually stick with my first impression…if I’m wishy washy about the way something looks, then usually it’s because I know I can do better…and I will do better this year!

Re-supply run today and some stocking up on groceries. Lots of people are due to arrive next week and then things will really start to pick up here…should provide some more stories for me to jot down!

That’s it for today

soldiermomma signing off

 

10 April 2014 – The Big Year


Well, welcome back! And what a great reception it was when I arrived. Three of my comrades at the airport to meet me and then the biggest hugs ever from the guards when we got back to the compound. It was a nice feeling. SOOO much going on though that I didn’t have time to turn around.

Beth is leaving today…so when I got back here, I dropped my luggage in the office and started working right away…I didn’t get a chance to unpack yet. But that’s okay, everything got done and I am confident that she will be on her way back home and won’t have to worry about anything. It’s nice to know I can do that for people…it takes the stress off them.

The trip over here was uneventful. I lucked out on the leg from Toronto to Addis and got a whole row of seats to myself, so I curled up and slept for most of the 14 hr flight trying to set my clock for when I got here. It seemed to work because I was able to stay awake and get things done and then got a fairly good night’s sleep…not even Bastard or Asshole could wake me this morning!

A noteworthy moment…while killing some time in the airport, I logged onto Facebook, and just as I did, I saw this image of a Pied Kingfisher pop up and I thought it looked familiar…I looked more closely, and it WAS my picture…Africa Geographic had used another one of mine on their timeline! Great way to start my trip.

It’s interesting the people you meet when you travel…of course, I have the Canadian flag displayed proudly on my luggage, so those fellow Canadians who notice it, usually say something. It happened during my 6 hr wait in the airport. There were 3 older folks there who latched onto me trying to pry information out of me after I said was in the military. Turns out they were on their way to tour Northern Uganda and South Sudan as part of some missionary trip. All I told them was “good luck with that” and gave them some sage advice about what areas to avoid. Good luck to them!

Later on, I met up with someone who was actually coming to Juba to fly the planes for the UN. Nice fellow who loaned me his converter so I could charge my tablet. We hung out together and I was able to fill him in on the situation here which he was grateful for. Once we got to the waiting area though, it was a different story. It didn’t look as if he was going to make the flight…his company didn’t provide him with a Visa and all he had was a letter from the UN for travel. Not a great idea, let me tell you! He finally did make the flight, but before I left to board, I had given him out contact number to get in touch in case he had to stay back…they hadn’t even given him any way to contact someone here. So, the helpful person that I am, I had promised to try to find the guy that would be waiting for him in Juba and let him know what was happening and then told him not to worry, to give us a call when he got in and we would take care of him. Turns out it he made the flight, but I would certainly want to know there was someone on the other side ready to help out if I was in his position.

After I finished getting some work done yesterday, the guys downstairs fed me (they had made a going away meal for Beth) and then Beth and I spent our last “estrogen” time together watching “The Big Year”….something we had been talking about for awhile. Thanks for the loaner Andy!

Tim also found out that in September, Aerosmith and Slash are headlining an 8 hr concert in Cape Breton…Beth and her hubby are in, so it looks like we are Cape Breton bound and maybe we can get a Cabot Trail tour in there (and some birding!!!) as well. Sounds promising.

It has been raining here, but WOOT, no more leaks therefore, no more floods! to deal with! The temperature has dropped considerably and it’s more comfortable here…but still hot and now a little more humid.

On a sadder note, I woke up this morning to find out that my cousin’s father passed away last night. I tried to get to see him while I was home, but it just didn’t work. My heart goes out to everyone in the family.

To Gordie….”Ready, Aye, Ready”! Go Navy!

You will be missed.

That’s it for today.

soldiermomma signing off

19 March 2014 – Tapping Foot


Laura- Lea, your packages came in!

Got my last boxes of feel good mail yesterday…and it was filled with feel good stuff! Thanks to my sister! Tonight, Beth and I will have a feel good evening…I will try to get someone to take pics…should be funny!

Still counting down…the excitement is building. If I’m like for a two week vacation from here, what will I be like when I am getting ready to leave for good? Guess I’ll have to wait to find out.

I was chatting with my replacement yesterday…turns out he’s an amateur chef…boy, will I be taking advantage of him for the time we are both together! 😉

I remember before I came over having so many questions on what to bring, what to leave, what to expect and he has the same ones but my list for him is a little different than the list I put together since we have different passions. He said he would show me how to cook plantains on the barbie with chili peppers and honey..OMG, something to look forward to for my last week here! Oddly enough, he’s also from the area where my Grandmother used to live and where we used to hang out. I have to find out if he went to school with me in Grade 12…what a small world!

I also heard from the guy that I replaced…he keeps emailing asking how things are going, getting updates…funny how this place gets under your skin and you form a bond with the mission. I really hope that I can stay in touch with the guards and the cleaners through email and the clerk that is here after I leave. 

When I first arrived, my gut instinct said that I would do this tour again and I verbalized that when asked. I said to wait six months and I would see if I changed my mind. Well, five months has passed now and I reflected on that statement yesterday. Would I do this tour again?

My answer is still yes. Will I get this tour again? Probably not. But who knows? 

That’s it for today.

soldiermomma signing off

18 March 2014 – WOW!


Almost two weeks gone by and not one sound of gunfire heard! That’s a record for here!

I am so excited about getting home…each day that goes by, it gets harder and harder to concentrate on what I should be doing…I can barely contain myself! I am so homesick and I miss Tim and Cameron so very much.  It’s easy to deal with when you’re here, immersed in the job and the lifestyle, to forget what is left behind. Then you realize that going back is looming just around the corner, and you’re mind is flooded with scenes of what it’s like to be back home…you start anticipating the plans you’ve made and you wonder how you will ever fit everything in that you want to do the short time you have. I’m very excited that Tim put up the feeders again..by the time I get back, there should be lots of activity!

There has been no more rain since last week either…thank god, because I was getting tired of doing mop up! The roof has been fixed and the windows will hopefully be done this week…if it all works as planned, then let it rain! Crossing fingers.

So today is going to be spent trying to get things ready for poor Ken to take over my job while I’m away. I don’t envy him being here alone at this particular time of the tour…lots going on in preparation for the new people to start arriving, and then there’s end of fiscal year financial stuff to deal with. He’ll be busy, that’s for sure.

So without further ado, I shall end this post and leave you with a shot I sniped out of the front window Sunday of a Kite wrestling with some sort of scrap he picked up.

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That’s it for today.

soldiermomma signing off