We’ve not had a lot of flights recently. The last proper flight for us (as in not one that just came in to pick up Fiona and didn’t bring us anything) was a month and a half ago, so our pantry has started to look a bit bare.

We’re out of Yorkshire tea, which is always a concern, but we can’t do anything about that, unfortunately. We started the last bag of coffee, the oat shelf was empty and we were on our last bar of dairy milk. A resupply was much appreciated, and since this was the last flight before Christmas you never know what might come in!


Helicopter days are always busy days, especially if it’s been a while since the last one. Today we had about 100 people show up to come and see the helicopter and see what it had brought. I’d asked Tribal Supply to buy a ball pump and send that in, so the teenage and young men were all very excited that they might get to pump up their footballs, and start using the ball I brought in a month and a half ago!

Unfortunately, it didn’t come. Gerdine was juggling what kgs should go on the flight, and since the pump was in a box with tins of corned beef she decided that corned beef wasn’t a priority. She didn’t even think about the pump. A crowd of young men were gathered outside my house after we’d brought all the supplies in though, eagerly anticipating the ball pump… I had to disappoint them.

Likewise, we didn’t have space to bring in any more community soap, and now what we had was pretty much all sold out. We buy bars of soap for about 80t a piece and sell them here for 50t, paying the $2 per kg transport cost. It’s a gift to the community. Sales of soap are always busy on helicopter days with so many here.

She doesn’t look that happy about being in control

In a miscommunication, a mystery DHL package (exciting!) didn’t come, but one from the Hansens did instead, which is ok because it contained Christmas gifts from the Hansens for us 🙂

People were expecting solar lamps to come in too. Earlier this year we bought 50 at K130 each and sold them at K130. They are very popular and we sold out. Torches are much-valued, essential items to the Kovol people. We asked Tribal Supply to buy another 50 but were confused when the invoice came in and they were at K180 now. It took some time to figure out they are the right lamps. It was a price increase and we decided to sell them at K180. Unforuntaltey we didn’t settle all that in time for the flight and no torches came, much to everyone’s disappointment – but there wasn’t space anyway.

Just after we’d brought all the boxes inside Gerdine was summoned outside to check on a sick 1-year-old. I stayed inside unpacking boxes and keeping an eye on our children and then Gerdine asked me to go have a look. “I just want to drink a cup of coffee in peace” she said. Well no time for that, so I head out baby in one arm and coffee in the other to have a look to see if I think the kid has thrush or not.

At the bottom of my stairs, a local lady asks me for soap. On the way over someone else asks me for soap. Then Ilal stops me by my pineapple garden to inform me that he’s brought over about 20 pineapples for me to plant. This warrants a pause in my 10m trek to see the sick child to thank him and chat for a bit.
Coffee finished I start to head over. I get another request for soap in the 3m journey.

So the soap comes first then, not as important you know, but everyone is badgering me. Everyone crowds into Rhett’s office and fist-fulls of Kina notes are thrust at me from all directions as everyone tries to buy up the last of the soap. We run out before everyone gets theirs, but that’s how it is. I sell a few worm medicines too and then it’s on to check the sick child.

The child has mouth ulcers, maybe as a result of fighting off a sickness (there’s a cold/flu going around, and everyone gets it). Luckily it’s nothing to worry about and we tell them to come back if it doesn’t clear up in a week or two, the fever gets bigger, or the sores start bleeding.

With that done it’s back inside to take all the empty boxes outside to give away—more requests for soap. Then I start working on planting pineapples. Lunchtime.

After lunch, I go out to finish the pineapples but am interrupted again. Sibongi and Juli are here from a 2-hour hike away and Juli is probably 40 weeks pregnant. How she waded through the river and climbed the mountain to get here we don’t know. They’re concerned because it’s 9 months now and no baby. Juli is originally from town so she knows the 9-month idea — most ladies here are just surprised one day by a baby! We talk and I find out that her first 2 were miscarriages and the third was a C-section… so that makes me a little nervous. There’s really not much we can do though.

Juli, not pictured a belly ready to pop

Juli being from town and having delivered in a hospital previously is probably quite worried about conceiving in the bush. I tell them that it’d be best if they stuck around. If they hike home at the weekend as was their plan we wouldn’t be able to help them if there was a problem, whereas if they were here we might be able to help (might!). I told the dad to let me know when the waters broke and that I’d keep my eye on the flight schedule. If there’s an emergency and it just so happens that our helicopter is in the area heading home empty then we could get her on it… That’s a lot of if’s though! Mostly she’s on her own. Drinking water was my advice. Ladies here forget to eat or drink when labour starts and if it goes for a long time they can end up not drinking for a day or more! So we’re on alert now to send Gerdine as a midwife… We pray this ends well.

As I finish up I’m told there’s someone else sick. There’s a mum from Pusilai who had a baby a month ago and her breast has been swollen for 5 weeks. Sure enough, it looks like a nasty, oozing, enflamed breast infection. Gerdine shows her how to clean it with a hot compress and we give her some antibiotics. We’re a lot quicker to help out mothers with nursing infants. Earlier in the day, I saw a teenager whom I’d seen 2 weeks ago with a fist-sized sore of infected nasty eating away his shin. Antibiotics would certainly help, but we told him to wash it with soap. “How’s it going?” I ask. It’s slowly getting better he says, very slowly. Yep — keep washing it, no medicine for you. Mum breastfeeding a one-month-old though – let’s get on that!

Gerdine doing some diagnosing

So went our supply flight day. I feel pretty drained. I definitely would prefer people who need medical help to come a bit earlier rather than thinking”we’re going to see the helicopter anyway, so why not show off my massive sore”, but we’re glad to help. Our language learning is progressing so slowly it’s nice we can be useful to our community some days.

The most exciting box to open

Tomorrow it’s back to asking “what materials do you need to build a house?”, which I know, but I need to ask so that I can record it and use the recording as a source in our culture write-up.


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