Archive for the ‘Mission Life’ Category

Save Our Souls…

Save Our Souls… SOS! These words are usually used by marines or soldiers when they were in emergency situation and needed some help by sending out SOS code. In Sudan, SOS means orphanage children’s village.

Welcome to SOS Children's Village Malakal

Last Thursday, my colleagues from United Nations Mission In Sudan (UNMIS) Welfare committee went to SOS Children’s Village in Malakal to donate some clothes and food. We wanted to share the Christmas happiness with them. We came to the Village in the afternoon, gathered the children, sang some songs together and of course we also distributed their favourite snack… candies!

UNMIS Welfare Committee with the kids of SOS Children's Village Malakal

Enjoying the candy...

SOS Kinderdorf International a.k.a. SOS Children’s Village was found in 1949. SOS Children’s Village International headquarters is in Vienna, Austria. There are two SOS Children’s Village in Sudan, they are in Khartoum and Malakal.

SOS Kinderdorf International a.k.a. SOS Children’s Village

SOS Children’s Village in Malakal opened in March 2002. It consists of 11 family houses. To date there are 108 children living there, their ages are from one day to 14 years old. SOS Children’s Village focuses on family-based, long-term care of children who can no longer grow up with their biological families. Each family house is usually occupied by eight to ten children with two social workers whom they call ‘Mother’ and ‘Aunt’ to take care of them everyday. They live together as if they were a family.

One of the family house

I admired the hard work that has been done by these mothers and aunts. Although they are not the children’s biological mother or aunt but they really dedicated themselves to take care of these children as if they were their own sons and daughters. These mothers and aunts will not sleep if one of their children is sick.

I posed with the 'mothers' and 'aunts' as well as other social workers of SOS

They really have strong family bond! I saw by myself a two-year old child was excited running toward his ‘mother’ to hug and kiss her as soon as he saw his ‘mother’ coming from far away.

Look at these kids... As if they were siblings!

I asked M, one of the social workers, about where they are sending the children after 14 years old. M explained that those who are older than 14 years old are sent to boys and girls dormitories, they will be taken care over there until they graduate from high school. After high school, they either went to college with some scholarships or went back to their relatives in their original village.

M & me after the UN Day celebration

Last October, we, UNMIS Malakal, also celebrated UN Day together with SOS Children’s Village. Those children were very happy that day! They were dancing, singing and really enjoying the celebration. I was very happy to know at least we could do something to make their day, even only one day!

The children were singing & dancing during the UN Day celebration

SOS Children's Village Malakal choir

Posed with the kids... The celebration was really fun!

This story was published at http://pralangga.orgOur Peacekeeping Journey under the same title.

Read Full Post »

You don’t have to go to fancy restaurant to get international cuisine in Malakal, please just come to our ‘Tukul’ (Tukul is Sudanese way to call their traditional house, we built one in our compound as our gathering place) and you will enjoy our international cuisine. They were all guaranteed to be authentic because the recipes were brought directly from the original countries.

We had Christmas dinner last weekend and I was amazed with the menu selection, it was very impressive! We consist of various nationalities such as Sri Lanka, Philippines, Indonesia, Holland, Canada, Peru, Honduras, and Uruguay. So that night every continent cooked their own food and brought them in to our Christmas dinner.

I’m not very good in identifying food but that night I was trying my best to observe what kind of food that was served on the table.

Let’s start with Asian continent! I saw my Philippino friend, NR, was preparing roasted chicken. He stuffed the chicken with sweet corn, garlic, onion, green paprika and seasoned it with fish sauce, olive oil and salt. When the chicken was well roasted and taken out from the oven he then cut the chicken into pieces. If you see the photo you can hardly see that it’s roasted chicken but trust me, the taste was incredibly delicious!

Our roasted chicken cut into pieces

Another Asian food served that night was chicken curry! Yes, my Sri Lankan friends made very tasty chicken curry and of course it was very spicy too… Whoa!!!

Sri Lankan chicken curry... Spicy one!

From European continent, my dear friend from Holland, JV, stirred vegetables (potatoes, carrots, green beans) together with chicken and rice. When JV brought the food in I knew right away that it would be one of the best foods served that night and I guess I was correct!

Stirred vegetables with chicken and rice

Last but not least, my American continent fellows made beef sirloin steak. They cut the steak into small pieces so we could enjoy it as a ‘finger food’… Yummy!

'Malakal-American' version beef sirloin steak

Apparently that night was not only for Christmas dinner… We continued with singing (luckily one of us knew very well how to play guitar) and salsa dancing (with authentic Latino DJ!). I really enjoyed that night and now I’m seriously thinking to join salsa class next year…

Malakal Idol

I’m living far away from my family and friends now but in Malakal, I have finally met many people from various countries to be my friends and family whom I can share the joy with… I’m truly grateful for that!

Despite different nationalities, we are one family!

This story was published at http://pralangga.orgOur Peacekeeping Journey under the same title.

Read Full Post »

“President Obama plans to send 30,000 soldiers to Afghanistan…”

Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan has been the hottest news for the last three days. Everytime I watch the news on TV, the above quote has always been the headline news of the day.

Speaking about Afghanistan… It reminds me to my experience living in Kabul back in 2003-2004.

I never thought that I would spend one year of my life in Afghanistan, one of the most dangerous countries in the world where bombs and rockets are exploded almost everyday with additional experience – being robbed in the first month of my stay. I went to Afghanistan to work with United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). When I received an appointment letter I was a little bit shocked because I never thought that I would be sent to Afghanistan. I still remember the first time I set my foot at Kabul airport on October 20, 2003. My first impression about Kabul city was ruined and cold. It was the first time in my life I could really feel how to be in the war zone area; from the airport on the way to town I saw so many buildings were collapse and ruined because of bombs and rockets explosions. Kabul is the largest city in Afghanistan with approximately three millions of population. It used to be very modern and popular as economic and cultural centre. Unfortunately the war which began in October 2001 between U.S. military operation and al-Qaeda, an Islamic extremist which is led by Osama bin Laden torn the city apart and left it ruined and wasted. After two years of war, people were trying to do their activities in town like normal but I could feel that they were still filed with fear and anxious. I could see people were walking on the street with eyes looking down it seemed they were afraid to look at the strangers and very reserved. Most women were still wearing burqa: it’s long blue veil to cover their face and body. This made Kabul seemed very cold and unwelcome. This impression was confirmed after I was being robbed at the Chinese restaurant three weeks later.

In the first two weeks I was put into a guest house in the middle of town. I recall the guest house was very modest such as the building was very old and the furniture was incomplete. I had to pay USD$35 per-night including breakfast and dinner but still I considered it was a little bit expensive. On the third week I decided to move out and rent a house together with five of my colleagues, three females and two males. It was nearly a week after my housemates & I moved into the new house when the robbery happened. It was seven o’clock in the evening when we, the female residents, came home and the electricity was off. We just moved into that house so we still tried to organize our house such as to bring in some furniture and to have proper kitchenette therefore we were unable to cook for our dinner. “Let’s have dinner in the nearest restaurant, I saw there is a Chinese restaurant just a cross the road,” my housemate, CS, suggested. Somehow we all just agreed with her idea without giving a second thought whether this restaurant was security cleared by the UN security. At that time security situation in Kabul was unpredictable and unsafe therefore we must not go to any restaurant which was not security cleared by the UN and there were only six restaurants allowed to be visited by UN staff. These six restaurants were cleared because they were within safe zone area; near UN office, so if something happened it is easy for security to evacuate us. We knew that this restaurant was not cleared by the UN security and we were also aware that this wasn’t a good idea but because we were very hungry so we thought that a quick dinner across the street would be fine. As soon as we came to the restaurant we ordered a big bowl of hot sour chicken soup as appetizer before we went for our main course. The restaurant seemed nice and quiet with Chinese decoration style such as a golden dragon was placed on top of the gate, a panda and bamboo painting and red lanterns were hung on the wall. The Chinese waitresses were also very friendly even though they could hardly speak English. They came to our table with big smile and tried to communicate with us as best as they could like they gave us the menu list and pointed out some numbers which I understood straight away that they wanted us to order the food by pointing out the menu numbers. Besides us I saw some Indian gentleman who also had dinner on the table next to ours.

When we were almost finished our soup we were shocked by screaming and yelling from outside restaurant. Suddenly there were eight Afghan gunmen came into the restaurant, they covered their faces with scarf but I noticed from their language they used which was Dari, a daily language which is used by locals. For a second I couldn’t believe what I just saw, “We are being robbed!” that was I whispered. I’m not that good in distinguishing any type of gun so what I can say is these robbers had long armed guns, one of my housemates said that it was AK-47. They wore light green military uniforms but I wasn’t sure whether they were really military. I was frozen like ice cube, I could not move myself. I was trying to make myself believe that this was just a bad dream but it was not… It was real! We were all pushed into the kitchen and one of the robbers yelled at us, “Dollar, dollar, dollar!!!” He took all of our money, I still remember I had USD$10 in my pocket and I took it out straight away and handed it to the robbers but my housemates got robbed USD$100, USD$150 and USD$900 each! The robbers also asked for our mobile phones but this time I didn’t surrender mine. I put my mobile phone into my inside pocket of my jacket and I insisted not to give it up voluntarily. Luckily none of the robbers touched me so they didn’t know that I had one. At that time my phone was on and I really wished no one called because it would have been disaster for me if it rang!

The robbers forced us to sit on the floor to watch them beating and looting the Indian gentleman. I was terrified to witness the Indian gentleman being beaten brutally. From the appearance I assumed that this Indian was a rich businessman: he had a lot of money in his wallet and he wore Rolex watch, big gold necklace and bracelet. The robbers just didn’t waste their time they took everything from the Indian, his money, watch, necklace, bracelet and mobile phone. Basically this Indian gentleman was left with nothing but wounded and injured especially his head. I held my breath when I saw one of the robbers hit the Indian’s forehead with his gun over and over. “Oh God, I just came to Afghanistan and I don’t want to die like this,” that was the only thought in my mind. I didn’t even dare to look at the robbers directly and all of us were silent not any single word came out from our mouths. Some of the robbers went to the restaurant bar and took all liquors, wines and beers. They also grabbed all the money in the cashier. Finally after they got everything they wanted, they locked us up in the kitchen, threw the key away and left. We didn’t make any single move or sound until we heard nothing outside. As soon as we were sure that the robbers already went away we broke the door and four of us ran away back to our house. I was in the deep shocked and so were my housemates. We thought that we were going to die there or at least shot or injured. “It was like an action movie but this one was real!,” that was my housemate, MA, recalled. I felt like just waking up from a nightmare. My other housemate, IV, couldn’t make any comment because she was the one who was robbed USD$900 and we couldn’t get our lost to be reimbursed by the insurance because that Chinese restaurant was not cleared by the UN security.

Indeed we were unfortunate: we came to the wrong place at the wrong time; we came to the restaurant which was not on the UN safe list which we should have been aware that we were not allowed to go there because anything bad could happen at anytime in Kabul. But this taught me something meaningful which I have valued it since. I learned how to appreciate life more especially if we are living in a tough country like Afghanistan: our lives are put at risk everyday. Today I’m alive but tomorrow I might die because of bomb, rocket or gun shot. Today the town where I live is peaceful but tomorrow there may be a fight between government soldiers and rebels. Maybe I’m just having dinner at home instead of restaurant but suddenly there is a rocket shot and blown my house. I have become wiser to live my life and I have also become more careful and precautions on surroundings. I never know when I’m going to die but when the time comes at least I know that I don’t waste my life for nothing like ignoring the security advisory and going to the place where I shouldn’t go.

Imee at Kabul Stadium

This story was published at http://dreamerchant.com & http://pralangga.orgOur Peacekeeping Journey under the same title.

Read Full Post »

Last night my friend AG and I had a very interesting conversation about Malakal (the capital town of Upper Nile state, Southern Sudan, where I’m currently living and working). We talked from tribal clashes that have been going on and on, cattle raiding, food, vegetables, and how expensive the chicken egg in Malakal is, to livelihood. Despite the difficulties and negativity, we praised the Malakal soil that is so fertile and not to mention it’s also vast, but empty.

Our conversation then moved to how Malakal people actually can utilize their vast land and fertile soil. Instead of letting this land empty and dry, it would be better if they start to learn how to work on their soil. So far, they only count on their cattle because the main livelihood in Sudan is to have hundreds or even thousands of livestock.

If you go to Malakal market, you can hardly find fresh vegetables. Also, the chicken egg in Malakal is very expensive, you have to pay one Sudanese pounds (equivalent to USD$0.50) for an egg! Vegetables, fruits, chicken meat and eggs are coming from Khartoum therefore the price is very expensive.

AG & I wondered whether Malakal people have interest in agriculture. If they are worry about irrigation, they shouldn’t be, because they live by the Nile River. They have plenty of water for their farm. They can also buy 100 or 200 chickens from Khartoum if they want to start a chicken and egg farm in town.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been supporting Malakal people in agriculture. They distributed seeds, crops and tools as well as held some training on how to start farming, use the tools, grow the crops and seeds and harvest them. But it seems a little bit difficult to encourage the people because apparently agriculture is not really popular in Malakal.

Today I went jogging and as usual I always passed through empty land near by the compound. I noticed there were only a couple of acacias standing and wild grass growing on it. I stared on it for a moment and started to wonder when these people are going to be hand in hand to grow something on their land. These people would fight and kill each other over the land unfortunately they ended up never utilizing it properly for their own good.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts