‘We have missed you in Malakal,’ I said. ‘Yes, I have missed you guys too,’ he said. He is the Finance Officer and he was well dressed on that day as he is always well dressed. Many will wear a full suit every day or randomly throughout the week because that is one of a half dozen outfits and all have their turn in the rotation. You will be in a t-shirt or a polo shirt and just the thought of a suit jacket will make you begin to feel the sweat. Today he wore a dress shirt and
He pours vegetable oil from a recycled plastic water bottle and the oil sizzles as it strikes the wrought iron pan. The pan is on a small grill filled with hot coals. The coals receive air from the open sides and he adds new coals and the ash of old coals he sweeps out so they scatter into the wind and upon the ground. There are others along this street that do as he does, tending the coals and squirting the cooking oil and frying the chapati in it until it is brown and hot.
When the date for independence was approaching they said the new terminal would be built in time. It was to be ready to receive the dignitaries that would come from many countries to celebrate the occasion. The workers were put in shifts around the clock and they worked harder and longer and later than they had ever worked before that. when I saw them on a dry day during the rainy season some weeks before the independence they had a chinese foreman. He paced the construction
The Major was leaving so he invited me for dinner and drinks and to introduce me to his replacement. Another American from another organization was on mission and staying at the guesthouse so I invited him to come along. We pulled to the gate of the compound and I sounded the horn. The guard came out and approached the window. ‘It is closed,’ he said ‘You must come during business hours.’ ‘We do not come for business. We were invited by the Major.’ ‘You are welcome but the ve
In the dry season the wind carries the dust and you get the dust on your skin and your clothes and in your hair so that you smell of the dust. The dust smells of the town so that you also smell of the town. It is a dry, powdery, sour smell so it is not a smell that you would want for yourself or from another. But for you and for the others - those that live in huts and burn sticks and carry water in jugs from the river, those that are unwashed and unlaundered and entirely acc
It was dry when Mike came to Malakal. The rains had ceased a few weeks before but the land was still tall and green with grasses and it was overgrown with bush. The bushfires would come soon but not yet. This would happen when the tall grasses were no longer green and had lost their resistance. Then the villagers would burn the grasses so that they would not burn when the cattle were grazing in the fields. Then, when there was the burning, the air would smell thickly of the s
In the evenings when the city power is on, the city pumps water through the underground pipes. You turn on the electric pump and pump the water into your water tank. The water tank sits atop a metal tower beside the house and about level with the roof. The water tank supplies the facets and toilets so that gravity gives the water pressure and maybe you’ll get a decent shower. Usually the pumping takes a half hour or so. In the evening I leave the compound to meet some friends
He cleaned the carburetor and then he changed the oil. He kick started the motorcycle and it wouldn’t start. He opened the choke and cranked it again but it wouldn’t start. He increased the idle speed and this time it started. Then he returned the idle speed to its proper setting and the motorcycle died. A second time he increased the idle speed and it started. Then, when he returned the idle speed to its proper setting, it died. A third time he increased the idle speed and i
It is Saturday morning. The two boys knock at the welded joints to remove the iron grating from the window frames. When the grating is off they unroll a section of the mosquito mesh and stretch it across the window frame. Then they weld the old grating to the window frame with the mosquito mesh spread in between. I am back from R&R yesterday and not ready to be back and I could sleep longer if they let me. I come out to check on their progress. There are large holes burned in
‘I had very much on my mind yesterday.’ ‘Oh?’ I said. I was busy and I did not looked up from the computer screen. ‘Yes,’ said the Finance Officer. ‘My uncle was taken yesterday.’ ‘Taken like kidnapped?’ ‘Yes, he was taken by the parents of the girl I am going to marry,’ he said. I looked up from the computer screen. ‘How’s that now?’ I said. ‘I am in a competition for her,’ he explained. ‘There are three of us. One lives in Australia or UK or America. The other is a student.