Christmas 2006 and New Year 2007

Christmas in little Bentiu turned out to be a relatively quiet affair. We, the expats of MSF and ACF that had not somehow weaseled some leave or holiday to a more favorable location, gathered at the MSF compound on Christmas eve for a wonderful dinner cooked by the field coordinator Marieno. At midnight we proceeded to the stadium area in the main town but the open air church service was cold and boring, not the wonderful african drumming that we had been hoping for.

Christmas day started for me with the arrival of the water tanker from Heglig at 9am as per usual but with Gordon, the local Nuer staff member who normally takes care of this watsan exercise being off on holiday. I laughed away to myself as I sleepily found the workshop key and figured out the water pump and assorted tanks and piping.

The rest of the day was spent mostly across at the clinic, with a midday meal put on for both staff and patients, consisting of two unlucky sheep who spent their last night tethered beside the white Toyota land cruisers in the front yard. The speeches before the meal were unexpected and quite funny. A few words were demanded from me and so I joked to the assembled group of similar hot weather in New Zealand but of heading to the beach by the sea in the afternoon for a swim. I’m unsure of how many people in the room have even seen the ocean, and from what I gather summer back home wasn’t as summery as advertised.

New years was quite a different kettle of fish, with an invite up to the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) where a large group of Indian soldiers is stationed. I expected quite a crowd but in keeping with good British tradition only a few officers were present with all others safely tucked up in bed I suppose. To fill out the crowd a little were people from other NGO’s and UN. Also in keeping with the days of the British Raj was the vast quantity of rum on hand, all of it apparently standard issue rations to the Indian Army wherever they are in the world.

Everyone was very friendly and the food put on was excellent with large hunks of BBQ chicken to start with and then after midnight some good Indian curies. The music played and people danced and we welcomed in the new year. There were only a couple of the fairer sex present... Elodie, a young attractive friendly French doctor from MSF, and Paulina, a young attractive Colombian psychiatrist just arrived in town. The attention received by the women from a couple of slightly inebriated, lonely, over friendly guests was hilarious to observe. Musa (the other MSF doctor here and all round great guy) and I looked on and laughed our selves silly before being co-opted and used as human shields.

New year’s resolutions never really formed in my rum affected mind… maybe eat more fruit…?

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