Archive for the month “May, 2013”

I Just Don’t Believe It!

There was a storm last night.  Usual thing, the sky goes dark, the thunder starts, the lightning follows, the wind starts to blow like crazy and within a few minutes everyone is running for cover.  It usually happens towards the end of the afternoon, and earlier this week it caught me on the way home from work. I was less than a hundred yards from our accommodation.  By the time I got to the gate, I was drenched through to my unmentionables.

Last night was nothing out of the ordinary and only lasted for a short while, maybe an hour.  The scene moves to this morning.

I didn’t go into the Ministry first thing.  Both Linda and I are doing some teaching on an in-service Teachers’ training course at the university which is on the edge of town.  At the end of my lesson I received a call from my counterpart, the County Education Director who wanted to borrow my camera.

I told him that I had the camera with me but would not be in the County Office for about an hour.  No problem.

After finishing my class, (and my cup of tea), I cycled through the mid-morning sun into town and on to the County Office.  There are only two rooms in the County Office.  One for the County Director and the other for the Deputy, – and me, if I’m there. 

I cycled around to the front door and found it locked.  Nobody at home.  A couple of goats keeping guard.  Unfortunately, this is not an usual event, so I didn’t get off my bike.  I just kept on pedalling, rode round the building and off to the State Ministry building where Linda works.  Just a normal day at the office.

When I arrived at the State Ministry, who did I bump into but my County Director.  “Ah”, says I.  “I’ve just been to the County Office, but there is no-one there.  I’ve got the camera.  What did you need it for?”  He looked at me a bit strangely.

He wanted the camera to take a picture of the County Office roof that was lying some 50 yards away from where it should have been!

I had just ridden right around a roofless building and hadn’t noticed a thing!  Sometimes I despair!

In my defence, I should point out that there was absolutely no debris anywhere to be seen.  The wind had just lifted the roof up, carried it across a road and dumped it at the foot of a rather magnificent tree.  Amazing!


County Education Office, Rumbek Central County,

County Education Office, Rumbek Central County,

with goats, but without roof.

County Office, Sans Roof, Rear View

County Office, Sans Roof, Rear View

Meet the Roof of the County Office,

Meet the Roof of the County Office,

languishing in the shade of the Magnificent Tree.

The Magnificent Tree…

The Magnificent Tree...

… in the shade of which the County Office roof came to rest.

A Free Bug.

A Free Bug.

Isn’t nature just amazing?

Off On The Road To Morobo.

My apologies to all of you for whom Sunday isn’t complete without an update on the blog. (Do I hear cries of “As if…”? ).  I wasn’t able to post anything last week because I was in Morobo.

Morobo is a scruffy little town in the deep south of South Sudan about 10 miles from Uganda and one inch from the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Literally, one side of the dirt road is in South Sudan whilst the other is in the DRC. I made a point of crossing the road and standing on the other side, so now I can now say I have visited the Congo and tick another country off my world map.  I did have to suffer the abuse of my colleagues, one of whom said I was “pathetic”, but a tick on the map is a tick on the map, so I’ll put up with the abuse, thank you very much!

VSO normally tries to place volunteers in groups, so that they can give each other some sort of mutual support in times of crisis, but occasionally there are volunteers who are on their own in isolated placements. So we are encouraged to visit each other from time to time so that we can exchange ideas, cheer each other up, have a good whinge or cry on each other’s shoulders as appropriate.

And so I found myself on the road to Morobo.

For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, it’s just possible that I have mentioned that Rumbek is HOT!  The word “sweat” or “sweating” may have crept into the occasional blog entry from time to time. I may have mentioned waking up in the middle of the night with my sheet and pillow wet with sweat.  Amongst Rumbek’s other qualities is that it is also dry, completely flat and there is almost no agriculture.  People are pastoralists by tradition and so the know everything there is to know about looking after cows.  However, many of them wouldn’t know one end of a hoe from another. 

Morobo is quite different.  Everything is green.  There is cultivation everywhere.  Greenness as far as the eye can see.  The noise of the photosynthesis is enough to keep you awake at night! And it has hills! Yes, real hills. I haven’t seen a hill since we left the UK last year!

People still live in straw roofed “tukuls”, like they do in Rumbek, but the difference is that every spare square inch of land around the houses is planted with something, usually maize.  There are more banana trees, mango trees and paw-paw trees than you could shake a stick at.  Indeed, one of the problems of driving in Morobo County is the danger of skidding on the squashed mangoes on the road and ending up lost in a maize field.. 

You can buy mangoes in the market for 20p,(if you don’t bargain), but the local market is so small, and there are so many trees, that the mangoes are often just left to rot where they fall.  I saw a colleague at the Ministry of Education throwing a rock up into a tree to get a mango to have for his lunch.  Free food, even if only for a few weeks.  I am sure that in a few years someone will set up a juice processing plant or an export business, but the country is not yet at that point.

But the greatest joy of Morobo is the temperature.  In the morning it is like springtime in Britain, by the afternoon it is like a pleasant British summer’s day, just pleasantly hot and the evening is like a warm autumn.  And then, oh joy, oh rapture unforeseen, I needed a blanket at night!!!  Yes, a blanket.  Honestly!  Is there any greater pleasure known to man that sleeping under a blanket?  Bliss!

I first had to fly from Rumbek to Juba and then the journey to Morobo took seven hours being shaken around in a Land Cruiser.  The state of the road in many parts was pretty dire, as some of the following pictures will show, and there was more than one snort of derision when we came across the occasional road sign warning us that the road surface might not be entirely to our liking.

But, was it worth it?  You bet it was!

A Long and Winding Road.

A Long and Winding Road.

Combine a country with no money for road maintenance, with a climate that batters the roads with torrential rain for months on end and it’s no wonder that the journey from Juba to Morobo took seven hours being shaken around like peas in a drum. They call it an ‘African Massage’. On tarmac we would have done it in under two.

Excuse My Hollow Laugh!

Excuse My Hollow Laugh!

A Bunch of Bananas and a Free Hug

A Bunch of Bananas and a Free Hug

What more do you want?

You wouldn’t get that in a Little Chef.

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