Overcoming Obstacles

In this remote area, there are few things available to purchase. That includes food and materials or supplies of any kind. When goats are plentiful, it might be possible to purchase one to slaughter, but there are times when no one will part with a single goat. Chickens are not commonly available, though occasionally a single chicken can be had for a price. It’s possible to buy onions at inflated prices, and sometimes you will see a child in the central village with a few recycled plastic water bottles filled with cooking oil for sale. The bottles standing on a small piece of square cloth, the eight or ten-year-old child, if lucky, is sitting on a plastic chair, and often holding a toddler. Occasionally you might find a man with a table set up in front of his tukul selling batteries and a pot or two, or some other random useful things. Perhaps some iron sheet left over from a finished or abandoned project, timbers, firewood. As the rainy season drags on, most of these entrepreneurs have closed shop, the inventory depleted.

We’ve had a problem getting firewood. We purchase it daily as it becomes available.There is no firewood shop with a large supply. The last two days there has been no morning tea until after the girls have left for school, and meals have been delayed because we haven’t found anyone with firewood to sell. There’s been a lot of water already this rainy season, and the water makes it more difficult to retrieve. It’s collected in the bush by women and carried to the village by women. Only women do this job. The grasses are often knee high, but some are taller than a man. Recent flooding makes it hard to navigate, and has turned the mosquitos into a plague. The malaria-carrying mosquitos in this area are the tiniest of insects – almost as small as “no-see-ums.” They don’t make an audible buzzing sound, and you can’t feel the bite, so they’re treacherous.

As we consider our building plans for our kitchen and dining complex, we are investigating alternative cooking methods that would reduce our reliance on the scarce supply of firewood, and which would give our cooks a way to cook without inhaling smoke all day long. The clinic has a new propane stove that they bought in Juba last February, but there was no propane in Juba, so the propane just arrived three days ago on an AIM Air flight from Nairobi.

We are growing some of our own vegetables and over time expect to grow more food on our compound and on land outside the compound – maize, groundnuts, kudra, kale, tomatoes, cabbage, onions and others. Our supplies, building materials, and bulk food – the rice, the maize and wheat flour, sugar, salt, cooking oil, beans, lentils, milk powder, powdered juices, tomato and chili sauce (believe me, chili sauce really improves a daily diet of beans and rice), and occasional pasta or other foods – all this comes from Bor, the capitol of Jonglei, which is a five-hour drive (about 90 miles) or from Juba, the capitol of South Sudan, which is a nine-hour drive from the village (about 125 miles). Prices are much cheaper in Juba, than in Bor, and much cheaper in Nairobi than in Juba, but we must pay the cost to transport in each of these cases – by air or by land.

For as much as six months of the year, (June through December) the nearby roads that serve Duk Payuel are flooded and impassable by trucks and four-wheel drives. Sometimes a tractor can make it through. There are a couple of tractors in Duk, but currently no one available to drive them.

Anything we don’t have we must fly in from Nairobi through AIM Air, the mission group that flies into this remote area. The JDF Lost Boys Clinic is in the same situation, so we often share cargo and passenger space and cost on those flights.

The logistics of getting a plane here for ASAH whether for passengers or for cargo requires tremendous coordination and cooperation between several groups. First I start with Tim or Caroline, the AIM Air schedulers, and Josh Gwinn, the JDF Clinic Manager. The first question if our cargo is light is – are there any AIM planes in the area between this date and that date that ASAH can join? Sometimes there is another group going to Juba or to Bor or some place in the vicinity, and they can make a trip to Duk Payuel to drop off or pick up a passenger. In that case, we pay for the seat and the weight of the cargo.

Now that the ASAH School for Orphan Girls is open with girls and staff living onsite, we have an increased need for regular service. Just now we are trying to lay in a basic supply of foodstuffs to last through December, but we will need to supplement with some fresh foods over the coming months.

Incoming on this trip ASAH chartered the AIM flight. We are generally allowed 1000 kg of passenger and cargo weights on the Caravan, and 400 kg on the C206. It turned out that JDF had some clinic staff that had been on leave who were ready to return, so ASAH hired the Caravan with JDF paying for their seats as we had to leave some cargo behind, though some of that cargo arrived on a JDF charter two weeks later.

I write this now from Lokichoggio, Kenya, at the Hotel California where our ASAH team stayed in 2007 on our stopover between Nairobi and Duk when we made the documentary. The AIM plane that picked me up was an ASAH charter filled with 1000 kg of cargo — the things left behind on my first flight plus timbers, iron sheet, and beds and mattresses for the four new girls who will be joining us from Patuenoi in mid-July.

On the plane with me was Lillian, the clinic midwife, returning to Kenya, and our two Kenyan mason/maintenance crew who flew as far as Juba. They are going to visit their families in Kenya for a couple of weeks, and then returning to Duk. Our AIM pilot, Brian, a third-generation missionary pilot, will be returning with his family to Sioux Falls, SD, his wife’s hometown in September for about four months to raise the money for his salary for the coming year.

Tomorrow morning we’re on to Nairobi.

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