Sinking under paper mountain

Sometimes my job is just like any other office job anywhere in the world!

Today has been spent slowly trawling our way through an absolute beast of a mountain of paperwork. We are currently going through monster expansion in Kilinochchi….from 200 to nearly 800 staff.

I have pretty much moved down from Jaffna full time now to help with the expansion. My jobs – training and logistics.

The logistics side I rather enjoy.

Remember my brief stint in construction in Mozambique? Well I’m reusing all those useful skills as I juggle office construction along with how and where to store our 100’s of metal detectors, tool kits, spare tyres and other minefield paraphernalia!

The car parking is no easier – more deminers means more vehicles. Maneuvering 4 ton trucks in an already bursting at the seams compound is no mean feat!

As for our 1970’s ambulances – thank goodness for the wonder who is our senior mechanic. How he keeps these things on the road is beyond me (these ones are older than me!)…


I have decided I am definitely an organised person though – aided 100% by my newly purchased clipboard! All I need now is a hardhat and I wouldn’t look too out of place on a construction site (or maybe I would just look like I was about to break into a rendition of YMCA?)

The training of new folk has been an absolute mission. Not helped by the fact the monsoon has arrived so I have spent many a soggy day sheltering under dripping tarpualin, nipping out the second there is a break in the downpour to test the nervous new recruits, only to find myself racing back to my little plastic shelter 5 minutes later.


We’ve had lots of ladies training with us this time round and it’s been lovely seeing these brightly dressed gorgeous girls donning their body armour and visors each morning.

Personally I would find their salwar kameez outfits very impractical kneeling down all day digging at the soil, but they are so graceful and comfortable in their traditional dress they could probably demine in a sari!

Our medics are good to go.

After several weeks of painfully jabbing one another in the arms with needles and finding my veiny white arms quite an oddity compared to their brown ones as I explain the concepts of torniquets and pressure points to them.

The training and testing has taken weeks and weeks so today really was a momentous occasion as we we finished testing the last of the deminers and the medics packed their trauma kits and counted out paracetamol!

Instead of soggy fields and building sites, we now launch ourselves into our mountain of paperwork to make sure everyone gets insured, gets nice new shiny boots and signs their contract.

It’s a big day for them all tomorrow – their first day in a real minefield.

I remember my first day in a minefield like it was yesterday….!

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Sierra Tango, over & out

2 new things to report…I can now fit and successfully use a high frequency radio…I can also dismantle, change and re assemble a brake disc protector plate on a TD5 Landrover – without the wheel subsequently falling off during its first test drive out the garage

(until a few days ago that bit about brake discs, TD5’s etc wuld have made no sense to me either for those of you reading this and feeling a little lost!).

I was also allowed – in fact encouraged –  to drive a rather large clunky truck they use to ferry all the workers around in. I was being ‘supervised’ by a reluctant Cambodian who not surprisingly sweated profously throughout the entire experience!

He told me I was a ‘strong lady’ however I fear a little was lost in translation  and what he actually meant was “if you don’t mind lady, can you please attempt to FIND rather than grind the gears of my precious vehicle”.

Taking a test tomorrow – name and describe the inner workings of 20 landmines…I am scared! I know I know them (kind of) but never one to perform particularly well under test conditions (unlike big sister Saz) I will unfailingly stutter and splutter my way through this.

p.s I am acutely aware words without photos can be an extremely dull experience however i am experiencing some fairly significant ‘technical problems’ at the moment uploading pictures. I promise to fix this as soon as Bill Gates gets back to me.

Trust me, I’m a doctor

Before we were allowed to set foot inside our minefield we all received full first aid training (and had to pass the test at the end!). Even with my first aid qualification there was alot of new learning, the slightly scary part being that we all had to be able to cannulate – basically putting an IV drip into someones arm.

Our classroom was on a huge tarpaulin under the trees outside so when they said first aid training ‘for the field’, they really did mean learning in real field conditions.

Our 2 Cambodian teachers were incredibly patient but also incredibly good fun. The guy I felt most sorry for was their willing (!) assistant (in the blue shirt above) who had several days of 5 foreigners poking, prodding, bandaging and sticking needles into him. He had the patience of a saint – although I’m sure this part of his job probably wasn’t mentioned in his interview!

On our final day we were let loose to test our skills on real people and real arms. This time the willing victims…oops, I mean patients, were each other.

I am pleased to say I passed and can now successfully administer an IV drip…so if you ever find yourself in need of one feel free to give me a shout!

p.s Big congrats to my scuba buddy Drose who just passed his instructor exam and can now go and teach the world to dive…well done my friend!!