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Archive for the ‘Motot (aka home sweet home)’ Category

A few tukuls masquerading as a market. People’s homes. Nothing else.

Here is Motot in all its glory:

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Last Sunday a trio of us embarked upon a rather English Sunday morning stroll through the bush to the Motot drinking pool. The imagination-defyingly unvaried topography in this area makes the pool the one and only tourist attraction. Although tourists are a little thin on the ground in these parts, admittedly.

It’s an unexpectedly pretty walk. Now that the waters have receded, the once-swamps have metamorphosed into sandy bush land, littered with seashells (a wonderful mystery to me). Here and there, a flower supplies an astonishing splash of magenta along the way. The pool itself is vast and lily-topped, though it is not big or full enough to sustain Motot’s cattle; already the young boys have led their cows away in search of greener pastures.

The pool is a momentary lapse in an otherwise homogenous landscape. Oh, but it is beautiful, this strange and arid place.

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As the rainy season recedes, life in Nuer-land hots up. Less available water, more movement, more fighting.

It’s been a busy, volatile and challenging week – a testament to the change in both season and temperament, perhaps. Yesterday morning I was awoken at 5.30am by one of the irritating roosters we purchased recently, crowing extremely loudly, right outside my tukul. I finally managed to get back to sleep only to be awoken again by a barrage of heavy gunfire in the nearby village. At least the gunmen chose a more sociable hour than the cock. My temperament has changed too, it seems: I ate the chicken prepared for lunch with an unusual degree of relish.

At the beginning of the week, our nutrition and health teams journeyed to one of our more distant feeding centres to carry out routine activities. Not long after arrival, the community rushed to them with a gunshot victim and a severely ill old man and the team soon found themselves on an emergency dash through the bush, transporting the patients to a health facility. On the way back, the gears on the larger of the two vehicles failed in spectacular fashion. Somehow, they managed to persuade the land cruiser all the way back to the compound in fifth gear. No mean feat considering there are no real roads and the grass is as tall as the windows in places.

Late the following evening, as we savoured our rice and goat (for a change) in the dark of the mess-area, one of our nurses rushed in. After an arduous labour, a local woman giving birth in our health facilty nearby had produced a healthy baby but had failed to deliver the placenta.  It was late, completely dark and staff were exhausted after a gruelling day, but left until the morning she’d surely die. The decision was made to transport her to Médecins Sans Frontières’ health unit in Pieri where the doctors were standing by. They made it there in time, saving the woman’s life, despite the lights on the vehicle giving up the ghost mid-journey. They battled their way through bush-land to Pieri in pitch-black darkness, guided by nothing more than the light of a torch and the stars in the sky.

Security is heightened due to talk of forthcoming disarmament and our activities are persistently hindered by logistical challenges, but donor reports do not wait. So amidst all the to-ing and fro-ing we’ve been immersed in reports and proposals for which the deadlines are – conveniently – all at the same time.

So I thank God for small mercies: growing friendships; the one and only fan on the compound; the discovery of a tin of tuna in the store; emails from much-loved friends at home and Bombay Sapphire in the evenings under an inconceivably large expanse of sky.

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Pictures of the Tearfund compound in Motot.

If you thought that the delectable-looking item roasting in the oven was a goat’s scrotal sack, you were right.

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Fighting has broken out in Motot, a couple of kilometres from our compound. Over the past few days – fearing for their lives if they stay in the area – some of our local male staff have been requesting leave from work. It’s an inter-clan dispute: people were killed, revenge is sought, and so it goes on.

As I type, war cries sound from the village next door. The women are beating their hands against their mouths; horns are being sounded; there is singing and the beating of drums. Soon there will be gunshots. Yesterday one gun-shot victim was brought to our clinic; tomorrow perhaps there will be more. An army vehicle drove past our front gates today, soldiers hanging off the back of the pick-up truck. But the response, indeed the capacity for response, is inadequate, even for this comparatively small-scale violent episode. With a heavily armed civilian population, even the smallest of disputes turns bloody.

We are safe here: the threat is not directed at us and almost never is, but the same cannot be said for many of our local staff who live in Motot and are involved in the conflict. Or perhaps the families they have left behind. I pray that it is safe for them to return soon, but it’s hard not to feel frustrated and a little desperate when in all likelihood, it will happen all over again next week or next month.

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So here’s what my days look like in Motot:

  1. Awake to singing and the smell of wood smoke.
  2. Respond to the radio operator, “Mike Zulu Yankee base, this is …. “, to confirm I have not been eaten by a snake during the night.
  3. Walk through sand and dust/ankle-deep mud to the bucket shower. Evict any unwanted creatures. Shower.
  4. Emerge from shower to find goat being slaughtered immediately outside.
  5. Put on clean clothes, go outside, immediately become dirty.
  6. Spurn the sweet potato prepared for breakfast in favour of expired Fruit and Fibre (picking out the weevils).
  7. Go on monitoring visit to one of our project sites (emergency feeding, immunisations or community health education training).
  8. Attempt to stem feelings of anguish/anger.
  9. Return to the compound dripping with sweat, now covered with extra dirt donated by small children.
  10. Eat rice and goat.
  11. Return to office to assist in editing proposal requesting funding for humanitarian activities.
  12. Type with one hand using the other hand to flick away flies.
  13. Languish in the 39 degree heat.
  14. Team devotions. Participate in horrendously out of tune singing.
  15. Eat rice and goat.
  16. Watch poorly dubbed Kenyan/Mexican soap opera which may or may not include references to kidnap, murder, and bestiality in the space of one episode.
  17. Walk to mud hut with the assistance of stylish head torch.
  18. Read book on my Sony e-reader. Whoop.
  19. Take copious number of vitamin supplements to give the rice and goat a helping hand.
  20. Listen to the occasional gun shot.
  21. Get into bed and spend half an hour fastidiously tucking mosquito net into the mattress.
  22. Realise I need the toilet.

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Some Lou Nuer boys herding their cattle in Motot.

nuer boys and their cattle

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