While in Entebbe I had the wonderful opportunity of catching up with a friend who I had not seen for many, many years.
When I first met her more years ago than I care to remember she was a newbie in the field of AID work, arriving in Loki, Northern Kenya. Always positive and somewhat green she was a logistician with an organisation that did not give her the means to fully carry out her job. She had no transport to get her items to the airstrip, for airlifting to her team members inside Southern Sudan. In her naivety this was not a major problem to her as she promptly went about her job, regularly begging space from others on their vehicles, explaining her predicament to the flight coordinator, and giving reasons for her delays. All the while not being put out by any negative feedback directed her way.
Daily we would meet up for a morning tea break of coke, a lunch break which also included coke, an afternoon tea break which consisted of coke and then an after work drink which was also coke. Over these many cokes we shared a multitude of experiences about our lives, both past and present. We laughed at some of the ridiculous situations we found ourselves in, we cried at the waste and senseless loss confronting us, we blew off steam with the frustrations we faced, and we sympathised about the breaking in of our newest staff members. In short, we supported each other and kept each other sane in the crazy insane world of AID work.
At the time I was fortunate enough to be working for a great NGO which gave me the opportunity to become Head of Mission, and in doing so I left Loki and our comfortable coke life.
Eighteen years and many missions later, she is now the Head of Mission for that same well respected medical NGO. Our meeting here in Entebbe was as though the intervening years had not occurred, even though our lives have taken different paths. She has remained embroiled in the stresses of AID work, while I have taken on a new set of stresses as a stepmother.
No longer coke drinkers, we traded stories over Amarula and coffee.
No longer was I listening to a young naive AID worker. More confidence showed, more assurance of her place in the world, less tolerance of those wanting to assist who don’t meet the mark, and the integrity to stand by her assessment of such. We reminisced about Loki, and the people we had worked with. We caught up on each others lives on a personal level, we talked well into the night and continued the next day. And all too soon we were hugging each other goodbye.
After she had gone I realised that I had neglected to take her photo. So this is a verbal snap shot of Rhian, someone I am proud to call my friend.