Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Of sleepless nights

So far(until a few days ago) it has been happy in Somalia no fear after all the village I live in is controlled by the Ethiopian forces and the brave guys as I have learnt the AS are called here are scared of them as the Ethiopians can do bad things to you this must be true because so many people have said this to me on different occasions and that if you are on the wrong and you try to bribe them they might even shoot you(Our armed forces should go to the same training school as these guys)

I have also learnt how to spot an AS..............characteristics include trouser length that is above the ankle,certain style of tying the imama (headgear for men-arafats) and always have a beard.If you are ever in the bush and you see someone like this run for it,the down side of this I always look at people to see the length of their trouser.

A while ago there was an explosion in town and people talk about it like its no big deal(me kinda scared and starting to wonder why did I come here), a few nights later as I sit and do my random things the guys come and tell me that you know tonight things are really bad and the AS are planning to attack the town at night and their first target is usually agency offices/guest houses.You'll never know how much fear these words can actually elicit unless they are being told to you and they are true.

So what do we do? There is no way we are sleeping here,they call their friends in town and a colleague is kind enough to let me sleep at her place.Since the place is really hot she asks if I want to sleep outside........seriously?? there is no way that is happening but I simply say no.

All the night I kept on thinking is this worth it,why didn't I ask more questions on accessibility and the security of the place before I came.Longest night ever.I was expecting to hear these war stories in the morning but no,apparently the Ethiopian forces kept them out yaaaaaaay.

I call the security focal point and relocate to Dollow for a week.Dollow feels like home I wish I could explain this but its a huge relief being there.I'm the kinda of person who can sleep at 7PM and in Dollow I can if I wanted because there is some sense of security and you don't feel the need to listen to hear if there is someone forcefully entering the gate in the middle of the night.

Slowly getting used to this and learning to differentiate between AS rumours and actual AS stories.Weird enough I listen out at night to hear if the neighbours are talking and their children crying/making noise if they are I know there is no fear but if everything is quite I start calling people to ask what is happening tonight and yes they attack at night only(I have to confirm if this is true or just another rumour)

Friday, January 10, 2014

First impressions-Somalia

The office closed on the 20th and everyone is on leave up to the 5th and I have to go to the field on 24 how unfair.The  'misfortune' of being new and therefore on probation you can't argue/negotiate.......... like please can I just stay and go on the 6th.Well substantial amount of work has been covered in the past few days so all is not so bad.

The Adan Abdulle airport in Mogadishu is really nice and by the sea :-) you will be surprised at how beautiful the sea is here. Its controlled by AMISOM and me being me, think all the AMISOM are KDF and  decide to say habari zenu blank stares???????(thinking to myself sometimes I speak too quickly so probably they haven't heard me)  then I inquire and find out that they are Ugandan but Museveni speaks Kiswahili how come they don't?

The travel to Luuq is somehow long because there is no direct way, you have to travel to Mogadishu then Baidoa then Dollow and finally Luuq.I reach Dollow at around 11.30 am and everyone else is picked expect me what to do I can't call anyone, so I ask for a ride from one of the cars there and I go to the office and the guys go like no one told us you are coming but no worries atleast I got the lift. The admin guy here is really nice and gets me a hormuud line and airtime as a way of saying sorry for not showing up to pick me :-).

Dollow looks like Takaba without the hills the houses are very colourful and they even accept KES in the town so maybe an extension of Mandera............There is an IDP camp on the outskirts of the town and as expected WFP has this huge tents to store food.The IDPs here do not live in tents but they have houses made out of iron sheets :-)

The travel from Dollow to Luuq is 3 hours and its the usual field travel bad dusty roads although now I'm pretty scared thinking the AS are somewhere on the road.

Luuq town is like some small island that is surrounded by the river Juba, its controlled by the Ethiopian forces and has only one entrance(this is what I'm told) at the bridge.There you'll have to get off for inspection by the soldiers manning the bridge.They inspect the car and conduct physical searches for men since they cannot conduct physical searches for women you have to like shake your clothes(like shaking water/dust out of them) its called Arguf :-D.Inside the town so many outside tea places and road side vendors which also includes money vendors who keep their cash in metal boxes..............So I exchange my upkeep in the field into Somali money and now I'm officially a Somali Millionaire(to put this in perspective a cup of tea is 30,000 so this Somali millionaire  has just enough money to cover a lot of tea :-) and Somalia(Rural Somalia) so far apart from the ocean is just another Mandera/Wajir.