Dr. Geelhoed journal entry 24 Feb 2011 (part 1)

Series: 11-FEB-D-5


February 24, 2011

It is fairly far into the week of what we had hoped to be two sites of work in CAR as we left PiBor on Monday and it is already thursday as we have migrated slowly toward the CAR which has been our target for the patients with whom our CO-trainee Ambroise is waiting in Obo. I heard that a colleague was making the phone call to the UDPF command in Kampala which ordered us to be taken on the MER-8 Soviet era chopper to Obo as soon as it flies, which I now learn will be this afternoon. That still leaves unresolved the matter of the airplane, with Jon Hildebrant on the ground with the aircraft, which is both secure and also without fees since it is in a military base at Nzara, where the UDPF has now an even greater reason to cooperate with us, beyond Isaac Mwira’s personal inclination. If orders from HQ were not enough, we had also invited them to come to us at the Naivasha Hotel last night. I was not out and about when they did so, since I was struggling with the laptop that had caused the entire product of my evening to go poof, which was then re-done in its entirety if not a cheerful repetition. They took full advantage of the open bar we had invited them to so that the amounts of Bell’s lager comes up to almost the same as our hotel stay in several rooms. But, they will be picking us up in the same military pickup trucks later toward noon, for the same high speed rush down the wash board roads.

I wandered about before anyone got out of bed and saw the usual scene of African women bending over at more than 90 degrees from the waist, sweeping to the dust the compound with a short broom made of a bundle of twigs. I just thought that it most closely resembles the broom that is the ‘motorbike equivalent” for Harry Potter as the twin grandsons are riding it around the house in their “stupefying” contests they have absorbed from the Harry Potter DVD. As I watch them in their classic African boy form—e. g. our waitress Remy has the steatopygia and breast accumulations of body fat leaving the rest of her lean frame free of any insulating body fat so that they can tolerate the high temperature baking that occurs each day at this time in the tropical dry season. The people here are adapted to this environment. And in Yambio at 686 meters elevation, there is also a bit of relief despite the 4 degree North latitude making us as close to Equatorial as we can get in a state named West Equatoria. We will not have the advantage of that bit of altitude when we arrive in Obo where it will be beastly hot from the moment of our arrival at a lower altitude in the same Equatorial climate. There are big trees in an amazing variety around me including very big and impressive mangoes. The mangoes are seen to be in two halves, since this is a “monecious” tree—that is, both sexes are living “in the same house.” The female side of the tree may be in full flower as the male side of the tree is dormant, since they are out of phase so as not to self-fertilize. So the big trees are abundant in their species and varieties, but even the common mangoes are in different phases of their reproductive cycle, a perpetual harvest time of fruit bearing on the Equator.

We “broke bread with the Governors” this morning. THE only other guests in the Naivashu Hotel are the “Big Men” I had referred to in Feb-D-4—i. e. the corpulent elders who are wearing suits and ties in his tropical heat who came in with their white SUV’s and A/C. This morning, they are again dressed in a full business suit as we are a ragtag team already hot in the tropical weight shorts and tee shirts. They are coming to breakfast as the only other ones to have bread and jam and “chai” with a hard boiled egg which is our breakfast. It turns out that these are the two Governors of the two adjacent Equatoria states. I congratulated their Exellencies on a peaceful Referendum. I also did not envy their further progress through their day in full suit and tie as we are going to wait for our transport to Obo in CAR on the Soviet era MER-8, flown by our hosts, the Ugandan Air Force, to take us from Nzara, a conjoint military base inside the sovereign new state of GOSS funded by PAI, a State Department front for the US Army Africom to carry us into the sovereign state of CAR at Obo, no one’s idea of an international airport. In the sentence above, you may have detected that about six different transnational violations of norms of sovereignty have occurred in our plans for the day, while our aircraft the Kenyan registered Caravan 5-Y PAP is sitting in a military air base at Nzara since it does not have the official written invitation to make the short flight from here to Zemio—an eastern town in CAR which is not supposed to be the International entry point except for the AIM Air usual flights as a courtesy to Wendy Atkins for the development work she has been doing there. So, in one example, our team is being forwarded across ALL barriers of red tape and sovereignty since a common enemy has been identified –Joseph Kony and the LRA. It is the marauding of that group which has created all the refugees from the Congo (the sovereign state of the DRC—Democratic Republic of the Congo) that has brought us here in a civilian NGO aircraft which must adhere to all the more usual restrictions on sovereign state boundaries, so that Jon Hildebrant must hold off until the last meeting of the cabinet in the CAR capital, has released the usual clearance for him to land the Caravan that should be carrying us in Zemio, into which he might arrive just I time to pick us up after finishing whatever truncated work load we can manage in Obo. Got all that?

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