November 2012 Team

A Final Post from Paul

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Paul here with some final thoughts. As was mentioned earlier today was a day of lasts.  Our last chance to accomplish tasks, our last meal of rice and beans, our last cool shower in the evening.

I must admit it's been a trip with its share of ups and downs.  There are frustrations and hardships here not encountered elsewhere.  But there are people here, generous and kind, full of good humor, introspective and wondering how to improve their country.  Dr. Gai is excellent example.  A surgeon in South Sudan is a rare thing and to have good Sudanese surgeon on our staff is a real blessing.  I assure you that he could do much better for himself financially if he wanted to.

I took a moment today to sit with him and learn more about his life and how he came to be with us.  I thought the result might be of general interest.

Dr Gai has been working at MCH since the first of June 2012.  Previous to that he was in Yeman for 11 years and then previous to that in Khartoum.  His father was the general director of health services in Jonglei state.  Because of the first civil war he left for the North to practice in the Blue Nile province as a medical inspector.

Dr Gai was born in Bor in 1962.  He primary schooling was in Upper Nile province and then Aljazera.  After the signing of the first cease fire his family moved back to Bor and he went to secondary school in Rumbeck.  Following that he attended college at Alexandria University in Egypt.  He starting studying in Gynecology but then moved to Yeman and finished his diploma work there as a surgeon.  After that he spent time working in the private sector and doing volunteer work in the state hospital in Dhamar.

He also worked in Khartoum serving the South Sudanese ethnic minority there.  In Khartoum South Sudanese are not allowed to live in the central areas and few physicians are willing to travel out to serve their needs.  Dr. Gai said that there was a great need for his services there.

With the end of the civil war he came back to Juba to do volunteer work in 2010 in an effort to do his part in helping South Sudan begin as a new nation.  He was living off of savings while living with his relatives in Juba.

Deng Jongkuch approached him through a relative about the possibility of coming to MCH.  He was initially very skeptical about the idea but changed his mind when he learned that it was a non-profit Christian hospital.  Dr. Gai talked to me several times about his faith and his conviction that he must walk in the path of Christ in all that he does.  Living his convictions and avoiding immorality are central to his walk.

Dr Gai has never traveled to the USA but feels he knows a lot about America based on the books he has read and movies he has seen.  He mentioned Arnold Schwarzenegger as a favorite actor.  When I asked him what in the USA he would like to visit he mentioned the Great Lakes because he does not know as much about them.

He was married in 1994 in Khartoum and separated in 2006.  He has a son, 13 years old living with his Aunt in Khartoum.  He considers his Aunt his second Mother as both his mother and father have passed away.  He hopes to move his son locally as soon as he can get him a South Sudanese passport.

Well folks, this will be the last of my posts from Werkok.  Firstly because we are leaving but also because the computer I am using will be remaining here.  Lord willing we will be in Nairobi tomorrow night and back in the USA on Monday.

Take care and thanks for your thoughts and prayers.

Paul Bixel

A Final Post from Shirlene

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Today is Thursday and it is already our last full day here in Werkok except for Thom who is staying on for a couple of weeks. It is hard to believe that 10 days have already gone by since we first came. Much has been accomplished but there is more that we had hoped to accomplish. Much to do and so little time! In the afternoons of this week I have been privileged to spend time with the women in Bible Study. On Tuesday Mary asked me if I would preach. I told her that I don't preach but I would be happy to share a Scripture with them and tell them what it meant to me. Having never done anything like this before I began praying and asking God to show me what He would have me share with them. Philippians 4:4-9 is what I read from and when I was finished reading, one of the women named Naomi, thanked me for reading that and said that God had told me to share that with them. As she said, they are a people with many difficulties and hardships but God is in control and we don't have to be anxious about anything. The women have taught me a lot! They are amazing and wonderful women of God!

The airfield has been cleared and there is no reason now for a plane not to land here! It looks entirely different than when we first started on it. It looked pretty overwhelming when we first started but with hard work of many and Thom on the bobcat it was finished. By the way, I now call Thom “catman”. We are hoping and planning on the fact that since the airstrip has been cleared our MAF flight will leave from here rather than us having to be driven to Bor and flying out of there to Juba. From Juba we will fly on Kenyan Air to Nairobi.

Yesterday afternoon we had a brief but welcome thundershower. We got a bit of rain and the air cooled down to give us a cooler night to sleep. Today it looks like another shower is possible again but it has often looked that way and nothing happens. The crops are already suffering here and every night buckets of water are carried to the gardens where a hose cannot reach. The dry season has just started so they have to wait again several months for sufficient rain. The problem is once it starts it just keeps raining.

Today's picture is of Dr. Gai treating a male patient. I have rambled on long enough and so I'll turn it over to Paul for the next post. Shirlene

Things that rage

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In Michigan the faint glow of grassfires on the horizon are not common in my experience. We have been observing them here for several nights running. We are told that this activity is for security. The thinking is that it would be harder for the bad guys to hide in the burnt grass than the original tall field grass. There is a lot of discussion about security issues here because over the last year a number of Dinka have turned up dead and their cattle gone. Last night things got more interesting because the fires raged up to the Hospital complex itself. This caused some excitement from the locals and panic from some Americans. The fire raged on three sides of our complex filling the air with smoke. Thankfully the fire did not enter inside of the fence due to the garden plots and generally greener grass we have inside. After an hour or so it became clear that we were not going to be engulfed in flames and nerves began to mend. Later we sat around in the evening and thought about events.

The Sudanese have a different sense of responsibility than Americans do when it comes to fires. Property damage that comes from fires is the responsibility of the property owner and not the person who set the fire. This means that property owners take care to situate their property to be immune from such fires and that they are always prepared to defend important property if necessary. Makes some sense when you think about it.

One of the features of Werkok is the brilliance of the night sky. Tonight was no exception and we were in position to watch the International Space Station pass overhead. Yes there is an app for that and it works here as well as it does in the SA. It's what passes for entertainment in the absence of much else to do at night.

Another thought that came to mind this week was about chickens. There are several dozen here in the compound doing what chickens do. I spent some time on a farm as a boy but I had forgotten how active the life of a chicken is and how important the pecking order is. They days here start off to a chorus of crowing around 5AM so little sleeping in can be done. There is always a dispute to be resolved, cruel act to be avenged or a some sort of domination to demonstrate. A particular fuss occurred when one of the neighborhood hawks took a dive on the flock. The intended target dove under the coop and avoided death but nerves were frayed and the roosters seemed particularly incensed. Reminds me of another species I am familiar with which is prone to making much ado about nothing.

Work on the airfield is complete. We have 830 meters of cleared runway which is 22 meters wide. All that remains is for the MAF pilot to agree. The final verdict will be on Friday morning 8:30AM. Hopefully all our hard work will pay off.

One disturbing development yesterday was the failure of the welder generator we just bought and brought with us from Nairobi. It's always a frustration when something new fails but even more so when the hopes for an effective warranted repair are dim. We will ponder on it over the next day, perhaps something simple will be found.

Solar system work continues. The interior work is complete and the remaining work will be outside in the hot sun. Hopefully all will be complete tomorrow and we can test the system. That is going to be tricky since the batteries I was planning to use for this system failed last month in the Hospital. New batteries are in the container but that is not expected here for some time. We are looking to get something flown in on Friday but prospects do not seem so good. Looks like serious improvement in the power situation here will have to wait until after the container comes.

A road less traveled

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I can report that there is no improvement in the road to Bor. David mentioned today that there is more up and down motion while driving than there is forward motion and I would agree with that assessment. Any person contemplating coming here as a volunteer must have a healthy back that can take the ride. Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing our “guest blogger” Shirlene. She will complete the day's entry and we shall see what is on her mind.

So it is me- the guest blogger. Somehow Paul convinced me that it would be a good idea. I will do my best but he is a tough act to follow!

As Paul said the ride to Bor yesterday was bumpy though bumpy is a very “kind” word for it. I really don't know how our vehicle stayed in one piece and got us back here. In addition to meeting with Pastor Stephen, Deng took us to the place where the first missionaries came to South Sudan in 1905 which is along the Nile River. We were able to take some pictures of some of us along the Nile. We were passing right by where Deng Jongkuch's mother and sister lived so we encouraged him to stop by and say hello to them. He found out that his sister had had a baby three weeks ago and this baby had died. In addition, her little boy who is about three had a large abscess on his jaw which needed to be treated so the two of them rode back to Werkok with us. Dr. Gai was able to drain it yet last night and today it already looks much better.

We arrived back on the compound about 5:30. It was an interesting but long, hot and tiring day for us who are trying to get used to the heat. Tom, Dave, and Paul went to the airfield to cut down more grass. It is going to take a lot of time and effort to get the airfield to where it needs to be for pilots to feel comfortable in landing. Gary spent time sharpening the tools to be used for cutting grass. It is hard enough to cut the grass so sharper tools might help a bit.

As I am writing today, our Sunday is already half over. We attended the Anglican Church here in Werkok this morning and had the wonderful opportunity to worship with our Dinka brothers and sisters. Though we could understand almost none of it, we were blessed to hear their singing, praying and reading the Scriptures. Many bring their own chairs to sit on or there are also several rows of earthen seats. Church was very full! We were made to feel very welcome by them. Our own David Bixel read from II Corinthians and made some remarks. Deng Jongkuch spoke to the congregation to ask for their help in clearing the airfield. He told them that we planned to be at the airstrip about 7 AM tomorrow morning and that he would like to see many come with their tools to help. He reminded them this is their airfield and if they want to see planes be able to land, it needed to be cleared.

Though there are so many things to be done yet and our time is quickly going by, we have decided that because this is Sunday we would make this a more restful day and do less work. We can also use a bit of rest I think! We spent some time in the afternoon discussing what we had accomplished and what we still hoped to accomplish.

Today is Monday and we all got up at the crack of dawn so we could be at the airstrip at 7. It was barely light when we loaded up all the grass cutting tools, rakes, and hoes that were on the compound along with water and headed out. At first it was our team and several of the MCH staff that began to work but gradually more and more began to come to help. It got hot very quickly but the people kept coming to work. When the work stopped around 10AM because of the heat, we had about 150 people that had come to help. It was so encouraging to us! It brought tears to my eyes to see so many of them and they just kept coming! In spite of the heat and hard physical labor they were laughing, having a good time with each other and singing songs in Dinka.

The Long Day

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This report covers events of Thursday and Friday.  Life has settled into a routine.  I spent the day mounting equipment for the Solar system on the walls of the generator building. Tomorrow  I hope to start wiring it all up. Deng has hired a local young man to dig the holes in the ground needed for mounting of the solar array. The days are hot and the ground hard so it’s tough going. He is using a large metal bar to beat the earth until soil can be removed. Hopefully he will be finishing the holes today. He's probably not going to be happy when he is informed a trench for the wires is also needed. Shirlene spent the day with Dr. Gai observing rounds and in the outpatient clinic. She reports that much is being accomplished with very little resources. Some notable cases include a fox bite, STD cases, a newborn baby with pneumonia, a hyena attack victim now abandoned by her family and a meningitis case. One woman had been to two other hospitals without a diagnosis. Dr. Gai was able to provide her one interview and abdominal examination. I attach a picture of Shirlene at work in Surgery two days ago.

Gary managed to complete the repair of a flat tire on a motorbike.

We spent two hours re-arranging the communications equipment here and have mounted a new external antenna on the main router here. The result is a stronger Wifi signal to the residential part of the compound including a reasonable signal inside the residence of Deng Jongkuch and Deng Alier.

I am pleased to report the bees have been evicted from the backhoe. The technique that worked in this case was to wait until night and then insert a hose into the cavity they were residing in and then pour in the water.

With the backhoe available for duty, Thom and Gary embarked on the monumental task of getting the burned out container evicted from the compound. Many of you may not be aware we had a very serious fire in a container adjacent to the Hospital last year. Bees were at the root of this issue because their presence caused our Hospital staff to attempt to evict them with smoke. This led to the entire container going up in flames very nearly taking the hospital with it. Looking at the side of the Hospital you can see damage caused by the intensity of the heat and it is frankly a miracle that fire did not spread farther than it did.

Shipping containers, even burned out ones are exceedingly heavy and the backhoe and both men struggled mightily to move it. But after sufficient sweat and diesel fuel I am pleased to report that the container has been moved away from the hospital. Now it remains to determine what exactly to do with it. Ideas we have discussed: making a billboard out of it, cutting it into pieces and using it to pave the compound and dragging parts of it over the runway in an attempt to make it usable. At the moment it is a burnt out rusting hulk of metal adorning the entrance to our compound.

Speaking of the runway brings us to the other big concern of the day. A runway should be at least 2400 feet long and 50 feet wide to be usable for a caravan. To put that in perspective that is ½ of a mile long. Now in South Sudan such spaces are covered in field grass, thorn bushes, trees, termite mounds and mud bogs all of which of course are present on our airfield. The idea that the runway should be cleared for use seems like a good one until you are the one standing at the end of it with a bent piece of metal in your hand. This is the position that I and around 10 other able bodied MCH staff members found ourselves in tonight. The field grass here is not like the grass in Michigan. Remember that people here are building their houses out of this grass. It is long and tough and extremely well connected to the ground. We toiled for around 2 hours in the evening making what seemed to me to be little headway. We headed back to the compound at dusk dirty and exhausted. After rice and beans I took a shower and headed off to my bed. This moment when I am worn out by the effort it seems hopeless that we can succeed.

There has been some violence in the area that has gotten the attention of the locals. This one involves young men, Merle vs Dinka animosity, guns and cattle. A familiar recipe for trouble here. We are told that around 8 are dead and 20 wounded. None of these showed up at our hospital and were reportedly treated in nearly Bor. While such things are always a concern the Sudanese we do not think it a serious matter.

Today a few of us ride to Bor town to meet with Stephen Mathiang in his compound. I predict the ride to be as bumpy as it was when we arrived.

Concerns

  • The condition of the airfield
  • Batteries for the hospital UPS

Dedication Day

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Today's post starts on a much better note than my previous.  First off, the main compound generator which tripped off-line the night we arrived has been found to only be low on oil.  With the addition of the oil the generator seems happy again.  This is important to hospital operations because the doctors cannot not perform surgery without power.  When the generator tripped they were performing surgeries but fortunately had just finished one and were only about to start the second so no patient was endangered. For us PCC volunteers it means we can continue two important luxuries.  Lights at night and showers.

Surgeries are being done here every day so that is an encouragement for us to see.  We have had a good chance to interact with both Dr. Rossi Shamir and Dr. Gai Abraham the surgeons.  We toured the hospital complex with them and last night Shirlene assisted in a surgery.  Despite the rugged conditions here medical care is being accomplished.  Shirlene had a lengthy interview with Dr. Rossi and I am sure will report his thoughts to the PCC board later.  Dr. Rossi is leaving today and we will miss him badly.  A hospital team meeting occurred last night in which I believe they discussed his thoughts on how they could improve.

The second bit of good news is that Thom's suitcase has been found in Juba and the other remaining missing parts for the solar system can be found locally.

In Werkok, when you see a bull tied up in the compound it is not good news for the bull.  Todays big event was the dedication of the newly constructed women's and children's ward and the preparations began the night before.  The Sudanese here have their own ways to slaughter and butcher such things which is admirable given that is must be done on the ground.  I was too tired to attend but I understand from those that did that the deed was done with quickly and efficiently.  There is no refrigeration here so it must be prepared immediately.  This task fell to the women in the area, assembled in our compound who proceeded to work through the night, on the ground, rainstorm not withstanding.  The meal was ready by 6AM and guests began to arrive around 10AM.

We were advised that the schedule would run on Africa time which meant that no one really knows when it would start and when it would end.  At around 2PM a delegation from Samaritans Purse arrived with some local dignitaries on tow.  Sufficient important people present the speeches began including one by my father Dave (pictured).  Things wrapped up and the meal consisted of the customary rice and beans but with the with the addition of the meat.  The first meat we have eaten since we arrived, very tasty.  After an hour or so the Samaritans Purse delegation departed and life returned to normal.  I would estimate around 100 people attended and enjoyed the meal afterwards.

As stated previously there was a rainstorm last night.  This caused excitement first of all because we were sleeping outdoors and needed to move quickly.  There are scorpions here and I had already seen one on the porch of the dining hall and been warned by Dr. Rossi that the species was a particular nasty one and to be avoided.  So when I saw a creature on the interior of my sleeping tent the words of the Dr. caused some panic on my part and a rather ungracious exit from my bedding twisting my knee in the process.  The Dr. and my father sleeping near came to my assistance only to discover the creature to be a praying mantis, which in the dark looked and moved like a scorpion.

Thom Day needs to get the backhoe operational, one reason being that new latrines are sorely needed here.  There were two issues, first it would not start and second a large colony of honey bees taken up residence in it.  New batteries and some cycling of the starter solenoid got the engine started and we managed to get it backed out of storage with only four bee stings between us.  Now we will have to figure out how to deal with the bees.  We sealed the apparent holes to their nest and will wait for the result in the morning.

Work on the solar system, my main objective, is progressing.  The land for the solar array got cleared and some obstructions moved in the power house.  I also fixed new connectors on many of the panels which had been removed, a rather tedious but necessary job.

There is a battery power supply in the hospital which is used for lighting when the generator is not running.  This system failed last month and the reason is that one of the large solar batteries has failed.  The system was heavily used and its repair a top priority for Deng.  The container just shipped has eight new batteries in it but since it will not be here for many months I was planning to use these batteries in the new solar system until it does.  So for lack of batteries, power when the generator is off is going to be limited here.

As mentioned previously Shirlene assisted in two surgeries last night, hernia on a female and appendectomy on a male.  Surgeries are done here at night since that is when the generator runs.  I heard from Dr. Rossi this morning that Shirlene was a big help and he requested me to ask her to attend the remaining surgeries with Dr. Gai Abraham since he is now alone and could use the help.

Praises -The heat seems more manageable, hopefully we are acclimating. -The generator is running -The backhoe is operational -Everyones health and spirits continue to hold.

Concerns -The airstrip is not use able and must be cleared. -Bees in the backhoe -Hawks that are swooping up the juvenile chickens here. -The loss of one of our two doctors. Paul Bixel

 

Touchdown Werkok!

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I am pleased to report that all have arrived safely in Werkok but I hope you will indulge some of the details of what it took to get here. On our flight from Nairobi to Juba Kenya Airlines treated us to a brand new Embier 190 aircraft. According the seat back magazine it had be put into service in Sept and was looking sharp. The service was good, departure only a little delayed and landing excellent. Ground temperature 33C. There was a high level delegation of some sort on board because a special ceremony awaited them and about 20 of our fellow passengers were whisked away. The rest of us were treated to the standard Sudanese processing which was something to behold. Its difficult to describe how disorganized it was because to make it so it seems they had to go out of their way. About 200 (two flights) of us crammed in a room such that we could not move and then after we were all in they started piling the checked bags on us as well. The process was to stand in one of three lines to get your VISA stamped. Once you got your VISA stamped you fought your way back through the throng to the baggage pile and find a way to fish out what was yours. Customs consisted of someone not in uniform looking you over and deciding if he liked you or not. Fortunately all our bags got through. The whole process took about an hour and with an outdoor temp as it was the indoor temperature was at least 40C. It was a relief to see Deng Jongkuch's smile and to have his help negotiating the situation.

J.J. And Victor of CMA met us a vehicle and a couple of car loads later we were in the Across compound. The compound provides overnight accommodations for the going Juba rate of around $75 per person per night. For this sum you get a mattress, pillow, mosquito netting, a sheet and a towel. You also get access to the communal toilet and shower. Finally, they have a generator that runs from 7PM to midnight so you can charge some electronics and enjoy the $20 fan that is in your room.

The next morning in Juba we spent at MAF resolving the baggage situation. In the end we where able to get the most critical items on board including Deng. Following a few hours of waiting we proceeded back to the Juba air terminal (yes the terminal we enjoyed the day before). I will mention that next to the present terminal is the future Juba airport. Juba is the capital of South Sudan so an appropriate terminal is in order. The new terminal will be very large and looks very modern and about 50% complete. It will be a happy day when it is up and running. We had a long wait in the Juba airport waiting for the MAF flight. Fortunately there was a little air conditioning, well at least until the power went out. We sat in the dark as the temperature rose.

After two hours our MAF flight was ready to receive us and we climbed aboard with a young female Kenyan pilot at the controls. After a prayer we were off for our1 hour flight to Werkok airport. The condition of the Werkok landing field has been a concern and after a simulated landing on the field our pilot decided that it was not suitable and that we would redirect to Bor airport. Deng summoned our one operating vehicle from MCH and negotiated a fee of around $160 for an additional vehicle to transport our baggage the remaining 5 miles. The below photo shows our party looking a little tired at the Bor airport as the MAF plane takes off leaving us behind.

The trip by road was a 1 hour bone jarring journey over a road that is difficult to appreciate without first hand experience. But just as complete darkness fell we arrived to a warm welcome by the MCH staff.

I could write much more but time and your patience are probably at an end.

Some praises:

-Safe arrival -Good health for all our party -The warm welcome from the MCH staff the lifted our spirits -Safe arrival of most of our cargo. -A cool night for sleeping

Some concerns:

-The cargo which did not arrive including some parts for the solar system. -Our MCH vehicles -No fuel for the backhoe -Hot days for working

Paul Bixel

Nairobi Exploits

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Since my last post we have spent our time in Nairobi in preparation for leaving for South Sudan on Sunday. Thursday was a shopping day for us in Nairobi. Kind of like black Friday but without the sales. Driving in Nairobi is best left to a professional which in our case was our Sammy. Sammy is the procurement specialist for AIM Air and just the man for the job at hand. Nairobi appears on various “most dangerous city” lists and traffic fatalities are a big part of why. So it is both comforting and unnerving when Sammy begins each trip with a prayer. This is something even our Mayfield drivers do. Being chosen to ride in the front seat adds an extra level of 'fun' to the experience. On this day that honor fell to Gary Meernik. But it turns out he catches on quickly and was soon requesting to be moved further back in the bus.

There are no WalMarts in Nairobi. Shopping is like a treasure hunt were you start at one point and gather clues from the people you meet along the way. Take for example our quest to have a functioning welder in Werkok. After some time Sammy was able to get us a welder generator which was shipped to Juba. We stopped by the vendor to get some technical details about what we purchased and discovered that the system did not include the required welding cables. These of course could not be procured at this vendor who sells only generators so a 10 minute ride later we are at the cable vendor. He had the cables but could not supply the proper terminals for the end of the cables. So another vendor later we had the treasure secured. It was a long day with many such stops. Turns out that many items commonly available in the USA are unheard of here. Canned fruit, window air conditioners and propane torches among them. Lessons learned.

We have also taken some time to refresh some relationships important to PCC. We had a nice dinner with Joy Phillips of WGM last night and AIM Pilot Jim Streit showed up for part of it. The table was abuzz with simulations conversations as everyone was eager to catch up on the latest news. Friday we lunched with Debbie Kitchel and learned the latest from CMA. The procedure situation for entering and leaving South Sudan has changed over the last year as the government asserts more control over the process. It's important to keep on top of things before attempting to visit and several horror stories were recounted. One thing of note here for others is that Debbie understands the yellow fever card is still a requirement to transit from Sudan to Kenya and this regardless of your age and what your Dr. told you back home. No other document will suffice. Interestingly Debbie does not take anti-malarial pills and has had malarial several times herself. Still she recommends that people visiting for brief periods do so.

Jim Streit and Thom Day seem to be birds of a feather. Some motorcycle riding is a result. They were out last night riding the streets of Nairobi past my bedtime and then this morning they headed into the hills. For the record, helmets and “high vis' outer wear is required here. You will have to be the judge about how cool Thom looks as he goes local by examining the attached photo.

I can report that our entire team is well and in good spirits in this lull before the storm. The storm begins in the morning when we commence the final push to Werkok. Things which are on our minds and could be in your prayers are the condition of the runway in Werkok and how we are going to get all our equipment to the site. The Caravan hired for the final leg cannot carry all the equipment and people we have. So a plan B is being developed. Finally there is an issue of diesel fuel at the hospital, the lack of which effects hospital operations and our ability to operate heavy equipment as we need to do.

Take care all, my next post will be from Werkok.

The Smell of America

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Since my last post I am happy to report that we have arrived at the Mayfield Guest house with all our equipment and bags in tow. We had to get regular Kenya visa on account of our 4 day stay here but customs was a breeze. Our band now consists of Gary & Shirlene Meernik, Thom Day, my father David and myself. The flights went mostly uneventful except for the part where David decided to start taking his Malarone treatment at the begging of the last leg. By the end of that flight he seemed to be suffering most of the side effects listed. It was a fright for everyone involved but thankful by the next morning he is recovered. Next time we will try taking the drug with food as recommended. The Mayfield is an interesting place, photo below. You immediately meet many folks engaged in various charitable endeavors and interesting discussions occur. One young woman announced that she knew we were Americans because she could smell America. Having just completed a 30 hour travel day I was concerned another aroma responsible. Sensing this she assured me it was a good smell and that she was about the depart for the US herself. I was left unconvinced but with a new title for this post.

I am up 3AM local time on account of the time change but also on the account of the mosquitoes buzzing around the room. This of course reminded me that I am late starting my coarse of meds. My med is different than my fathers for reasons unknown to me. The side effect listed also different and tend to the psychotic side things, not good. Also not so comforting to see the limited trials the drug has had and the fact the the US Army no longer uses it. I told Thom already that just because I go crazy does not mean he gets to leave me in Werkok. Someone has to bring me out straight jacket and all.

This morning Thom displayed for me his impressive arsenal of prophylactic medications, supplements and vitamins. Leaves me feeling under prepared. Life sure can be complicated.

To me the smell of America especially on this day is the smell of the Turkey in the oven. I thinking there is not much chance of that around here but I will still wish all my friends back in the USA a very happy thanksgiving.

PCC Team Leaves for Werkok

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Greetings friends of PCC, Paul Bixel here, son of PCC Assistant Director Dave Bixel and member of a team of volunteers heading to Werkok.  This will be a three week venture and  I hope to write about experience for the edification of the curious and the amusement of bored. I have to admit that I have some foreboding about this trip because it is not my first trip to Werkok South Sudan.  I went in January 2005 and got greeted by a heat wave with temperatures topping 100F everyday.   With little shade available the experience was enough to a dashing white male from the USA into that which you see at the bottom of this post.

It only took four days too.  Yeah, I had a Coke but it was hot, flat and $5.  That's my Dad next to me and don't ask me why he looks better than me.

While we accomplished some things on that trip it was more of an experiment in logistics than anything else.  In those days communications consisted of  "Wiskey Alpha" passing messages on the radio two times a day.  Since then a Hospital has been built, there are proper buildings, running water and electricity some of the time and of course a communications system.

Our goals this time are more ambitious in that we will improve infrastructure at the site bringing skills to bear on some rather intractable problems   If you check back regularly I will keep you updated on the daily life of our team and the people we encounter.   I promise an interesting and sometimes even humorous account of the day to day happenings.

We are packed and loaded to limit with supplies and equipment.  Total baggage for our team of 5 people weighs in at just under 1000lbs.  Something that will be on my mind as the plane struggles to get aloft.  Next stop Zurich and then on to Nairobi and a few nights at the Mayfield Guest house before moving on to South Sudan.

Stay tuned...