Captain’s Log- 25 May 2012-The Hard Decisions

On the airstrip at Dingila after the help of the men of the community to load the heavy drums.

On what one might call a normal day at the office here, I took off at 8:00 after loading and preflighting and checking weather and all that good stuff.  Lots of stops were scheduled and the plane was full of tires and medicines and things to keep the people in the bush up and running.  I had one leg with drums of fuel, always a fun loading process, especially when there are only a few guys.  I asked some of the local men at Dingila if they would help and they rubbed there thumb, middle and index finger together in the universal sign that it would cost me.   I asked them if the people whose fuel it was and who are working here with the medicines were good for their community and if they got charged for every little thing when they were sick.  I told them that “We are men here, we don’t need to be paid to help for every little time we help our community!”  I walked back to the plane to begin loading and when I turned around, there was a group of about 10 men ready to help with smiles on their faces.  I like that about Africa.  A little reminder will often get things going. Even in the poorest of communities. Especially in the poorest of communities.  I think they are looking for a way to help and it is good to give them an opportunity.

Unloading at Ango is easier. Just push the drums out the door onto an old tire. Now the motorcycles can go for many kilometers.

Weather had been good all day but after picking up some Samaritans Purse men at Banda and turning back toward Ngilima, the Strike Finder was lit up like a Christmas tree with indications of electrical activity ahead.  I was meant to stop and pick up a man shot in the head by…LRA in Ngilima and there was a great thunderstorm right over the village as I approached.  Working my way around to the North and to the back side we saw the strip covered in water and the whole village drenched.  I had been in there on Tuesday and it had been so slick that I scared myself when turning the plane around to line up for the takeoff.  The Caravan skids very easily when braking in mud or loose dirt and it gets your attention when you are slipping toward the side of the runway into high grass.
I had to pass by Ngilima and the man in need of help.  You have to think of the safety of the people on board, and it would be no help at all if we slipped off the runway.  We could be unable to help people for months, maybe years to come.  It is an example of  the hard decisions we are constantly faced with here when lives hang in the balance.

My friend Sven Nielsen “helping me fly” on his way out of Congo after finishing his mission. He actually helped to fix up the Ngilima airstrip and clean up the approaches and it would have been good if we could have used it this day to help the injured man.  We were both disappointed.

I got back to Dungu and fueled up for Bunia as the thunder crashed to the south of the strip, the direction I was headed in.  Jonathan, one of our other pilots, was in Faradje and going to have to work with weather as well to get home to Bunia for the weekend.  We talked back and forth to each other and the flight follower, who could look at EUMETSAT and give us a bit of advice on which way to turn to maybe avoid the biggest stuff.  Nice to work with a great team here.  We all made it home safely.

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