1 less landmine

Manica 1st mine blog

We found our first mine!

This is such exciting, relieving, motivating, daunting news…Exciting because it’s a mine to destroy and that’s what I’m here for! Relieving because we base our information of where these mines are from the locals so it’s always encouraging to know that (yet again) they got it spot on and we weren’t just ‘gardening’ someone’s backyard! Motivating because it means where there’s one there will be more. Daunting because it was really quite a big mine!

Needless to say as soon as I heard the news I flew out the office as fast as my legs would carry me, into Red Wing and off to the field.

My supervisor had followed procedure and stopped excavation as soon as he identified it was a mine but as it was our first mine we needed to know precisely what they had found so we excavated further. It was a Russian anti-tank mine…not uncommon here. The scary part is that it was just 5m from the locals path which runs right through the middle of our minefield.

It was the same in Cambodia and it still never ceases to amaze me just how accurately the locals know where the minefield starts and so where to stop their farming or where to create a track. The locals path here is safely used by Mozambicans & Zimbabweans crossing the border and here was a mine just metres from their daily ‘commute’. Incredible!

We left it where we found it, attached some explosive and blew it up.

One down…thousands more to go but it definitely helped us feel that all the hard work, training and 7 day working weeks was starting to pay off. Well done boys!

And for me – those days of Once I was afraid… seem like a distant memory.

p.s I think in good English I should say 1 ‘fewer’ landmine but ‘less’ sounds better!

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The Gods are against me

Donor visit

Last week was my first donor visit – an official visit from an Embassy representative of the country who are funding my whole operation up here. They want to see how and where I am spending all their cash.

Lots of planning goes into a donor visit and no stone is left unturned, nothing is left to chance…Supervisors are put through their paces practising their briefings, uniforms are scrubbed clean, boots are polished, routes are planned and timed, campsites tidies…the works!

There is one thing you just cannot control though – and that’s the weather.

Now bearing in mind I have had weeks on end of glorious sunshine however as I went to bed the night before the big day with my bed practically floating (my bedroom window frame  leaks whenever there is a downpour) and I could hear the rain lashing my window, I said a silent prayer for just a little help and understanding – the pressure was on , this HAD to go well.

Needless to say when I woke in the morning the rain was still lashing down, my kitchen had flooded (again!) and my visitor’s flight was delayed! Not a good start.

The flight eventually arrived and we set off to the minefield. When it rains in Mozambique the dirt tracks we travel on turn into mud baths – as we ventured further and further from town the track got worse and worse and the driving got slower and slower.

The late flight teamed with the terrible road conditions meant I was precariously balancing driving fast enough to reach the minefield before demining finished for the day but avoiding sliding my vehicle slide off the road into the ditch….not a good look with both a donor and my Programme Manager in the car with me. I clunked into diff lock 4 wheel drive and slowly skated us through the oily mud slick road.

As we eventually crawled into the minefield I noticed a ‘welcome’ sign had been erected since my prep visit the day before. A nice touch…except they had spelt the donor’s name wrong!

With the rain still pouring we had a quick briefing then went for a miserable walk round the minefield – not of much interest to the poor donor by this point who had rain dripping from the peak of her hat, her papers were soggy and the ink had run and there weren’t even any deminers working (your safety visor mists up so we stop demining when it rains).

By now I was practically holding my breath; we want more funding from these guys next year…after the compulsory ‘field lunch with our deminers’ of scrawny chicken and sticky spaghetti we slithered back to town to drop our donor off promising to pick her up again later for a tasty pizza in the town’s best restaurant.

Jumping in the car to go and pick her up I turned the key – nothing! No lights, no ignition… Nada, I mean absolutely not a peep! Abandoning the vehicle and racing round to the hotel by foot we headed to the restaurant – it was closed! It’s never closed this place…apart from tonight it would seem!

What was going on? I thought bad luck came in three’s? It would appear I was getting my whole year’s worth in one day. Anyhow, I found another restaurant, we had a bite to eat and I thankfully dropped our guest back at the hotel eventually sinking into bed exhausted and grateful the day was over.

So stressful!

path through minefield

This track running down in between the tall sticks is used all day every day by the locals – scarily it cuts right through the middle of the minefield. Need sadly supercedes safety for the local population.

Well done the girls

After singing the praises of Sir Ranulph Fiennes in one of my previous posts (Always be bothered) I heard from a friend that an expedition of her fellow country women had summitted on the same day as Fiennes. The first Singaporean women to stand on the top of the world…an incredible achievement – well done girls!!

Women on Everest

The brushes will be burned

I have developed a bit of an irrational aggression towards brushes lately…let me explain!

There is an obsession out here of sweeping.

Not a bad thing you might think, keeps the ground nice and tidy etc etc. And here, people like to sweep first thing in the morning. Again you’re thinking, what’s the big deal?

So I should point out people here generally get up when its light and go to bed when its dark. It gets light at 5am!

I have guards at my house who are meticulous in their efforts to keep my driveway well swept. Which is all very good and well but they also like to make sure i KNOW they are doing said sweeping. Therefore they sweep sweep sweep right under my bedroom window…at 5am!!

I had to have words! It was either stop the sweeping at first light or the brooms get burned! The sweeping stopped!

On a lighter note (!) I have taken to walking to and from work…its only a few kilometres…and what a difference it has made getting to know my new home town. Commuting by car I was cocooned from the sounds & smells of the outside world but now I see and hear everything.

Needless to say as I leave my house OBVIOUSLY the first noise I hear is sweeping. Literally walking down my street all I hear from behind closed gates is swoosh swoosh swoosh as driveways are swept within an inch of their lives. My walk to work also coincides with the school kids going to school. There are no Chelsea tractors here, all the kids walk.

It’s amusing to see that teenage girls are the same the world over – you know they way British school girls squeal and giggle in far too loud a manner in a way to attract the attention of their male peers…they do it here to!

Passing the banana selling ladies on the roadside and I get “sister, sister…” then come the construction workers (and yes girls, it seems builders are the same the world over too!) .

Just before my compound I pass the cantinas where the die-hard drinkers and the raucous local ‘lads’ hang out with their painfully bad sound systems and 80’s classics on full blast no matter what the time of day.

A quick hammer on my compound gates, the guards open up for me to slip inside…and another day of confusao begins!