17.10.2010 36 °C
I have a radio call sign?! This is still all a bit bizarre to me……
I have been working in DRC all year and moved from the capital Kinshasa to Northern Equateur 3 weeks ago. To people back home living in Kin is considered a hard-ship, in reality it’s a normal African city where you can find a tennis coach and an ice-cream parlour within a mile stretch of the brand new Boulevard de 30 Juin. Equateur, on the other hand, is a different story.
The province is largely thick forest sliced up by the Congo and Ubangi Rivers, and bordering the Central African Republic to the North and the Republic of Congo to the West. Ex-President Mobutu built 50km of tarmac road leaving his home-town Gbadolite, but this is the full extent of Equateur’s surfaced roads. I am based in Gemena; with a handful of front gardens with plastic furniture and selling 2 kinds of beer, 3 street stands selling goat meat, and an epic search to find Fanta my life has changed quite a lot since deploying!
It’s been an eventful 3 weeks; I have already visited villages in and around Dongo (almost entirely deserted after fighting erupted at the end of last year), survived the worst storm in 66 years (including a direct lightning hit to our sub-base), and within 10 days medevac’d a senior member of my team with cerebral malaria and a temperature of 41 degrees (the Egyptian MONUSCO Doctor called Equateur a ‘basin of disease’ – apparently he sees 3 or 4 cases a day so I am munching the doxycycline).
Last week I joined our technical teams on a demolition at a village 50km from the base – an 88mm USSR anti-tank mortar lying in the front-yard of the Chief’s house, a stone’s throw from the local school. Within 3 hours the team had held a meeting with the authorities, educated the local population, and identified, moved (!), and destroyed the mortar (even managing to protect the nearby rice crop). Great stuff……
During an evaluation of the airport this week (the same one I landed at incidentally), several unexploded ordinances were identified on land around the runway……but no need to worry about my flight out next month, they are now all in an explosives store in my front garden……….!