We had played volleyball for an hour. I had forgotten just how much fun it could be with a group who wanted to keep the volleys going as well as score points. Some of the ladies had brought and were playing in bikinis or sport bras and gym shorts like me.
I guess they had Googled the area and found out we were not that far from Lake Victoria. When things settled down I am sure they intended to check it out.
We had a good game going when I noticed I had guests; Ambassador Fauntroy, his wife and three daughters who were all in their teens.
Rick had brought them through the building with a bucket of bottled water covered with ice. We took a break for the cold water.
Agatha was 15, Casey was 16, and Caroline was 17.
“That looks like fun,” Caroline replied.
“It is. Would you like to try a game? I have extra gym shorts; I’m sure they will fit. I have enough for the three of you if you like,” I said.
With the three of them in shorts and the water break over, the girls taught them the game and rules while I sat off-side with Shaun and Camilla and watched.
Shaun had brought me a copy of the British daily paper that he received. They had a front page article on the Doctors without Borders and our emergency assistance flight. It was a good write-up and spread the praise around. The article was taken from the ZNN video and put to paper.
While his daughters played, I picked his brain and experiences related to the doctors. I found out that Nimule had grown from a thousand to five thousand refugees in a matter of weeks at the height of the fighting in South Sudan. The lull in fighting had encouraged some to go home and the camp was now down to three thousand.
Those three thousand were the weakest, unable to travel from starvation or sickness or they realized that the war was far from over and there was nothing to go back to.
I found out that the South African well company that put in the well at Nimule had been ambushed in Sudan, all the equipment destroyed and employees killed.
The warring parties were operating with the scorched earth mentality; it was the same as General Sherman with his march to Atlanta in the Civil War. Sherman took what he needed to maintain the march and burned everything left. Burning crops and even killing all the farm animals to deny food, shelter and mobility and the ability to survive for civilians and soldiers alike.
That meant that those who left the camp were returning home to nothing but starvation with what little they had and that would be stolen by fighters from both sides along the way.
Those who survived would try to return to the camp; a vicious cycle that was repeated often in the African civil wars. Civilians always ended up with the worst end of the deal. Rumors often fueled the exodus, sometimes started by residents of the camp thinking if people left, there would be more for them.
Other times the rumors were started by the warring parties to get a new group of gullible people traveling with food and water. All this was more information than I needed to know for staying here just six weeks.
The rest of the day was quiet; no more visitors, the men played volleyball while we ladies manned the security stations. Sunday was even more laid back. I spent three hours on VCATS with the girls wishing I was there to hold the boys.
On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I had more official visitors and I made official visits to the remaining embassies where I needed to present my credentials.
On Wednesday there was a joint news conference at Morton Field; the other two air freight companies made their big announcement. The county commissioners and the county new business agent made sure they had well prepared positive speeches this time.
They were patting each others back and high-fiving about more new jobs coming to the county, even though they had nothing to do with it.
I received an email from Frank, “I have been in conversations with my friends who you partied with, and I think you are mistaken about a previous statement that you made. Between them and the news reports from there, you are indeed a diplomat and a politician.”
True to his word Frank sent me folders – lots of folders – on everyone from every country that had an official representative here. They came over the secure communications link. All accept one.
The file on Anton Pavlenko came from Burt; I wondered how that came to be. It was Burt’s normal triple encryption; each page was triple encrypted with no two the same this time. It took hours to sort it out.
Anton Pavlenko was not a nice man; he always seemed to turn up before something bad happened or just after. Places like Poland, Croatia and Ukraine, Turkey and Syria with the Russian buildup. It made me wonder why he was here.
Over the next three days I studied every folder, every picture and every name and then started over with the first one.
Every day I sent the chopper out to fly over the city in a reconnaissance pattern; alternating in directions in the morning and afternoon. Andy flew on some of those flights. If they found anything interesting a second flight was flown from as high as the chopper would fly to keep from creating suspicion with a passenger looking with binoculars.
I was hoping to spot something that would give away where the truck being was being built or stored
On Thursday the city published the parade routes for the city celebration and holiday; there were two days of parades using the same route. The route was through the main part of the city traveling on South Main Street then one street from the US embassy, made a turn and then on North Main Street and finally back to the staging area.
The staging area for the floats and parade vehicles was in the industrial section in an old factory; that was why we had seen nothing from the air.
The parade was to bring all the diverse cultures in the city together, and there were hundreds. It was hard to believe anyone would try such a thing with so many areas around at war. It was even harder to think that in all this mixing pot of cultures they were going to put aside their differences for a celebration.
Robert and Burt were keeping us updated with all the information they could. Every day there was a data dump in my emails to decipher.
On Friday all the Ambassadors – including me – and all official delegates were to be with the President of Uganda at the Presidential Palace to kick off the three day celebration of their independence. Friday’s events were to be held on the Presidential grounds.
I put on another of the fancy dresses, different jewelry and watch with a light jacket to finish out the outfit. With Gordon at my side I played diplomat again at the presidential mansion.
There were introductions and pictures and then group pictures; speeches and finger food that lasted through the after noon. I avoided the booze, stuck with bottled water, made international friends and prayed that I would not be called upon to give a speech.
In my little purse I had a piece of paper and a pen just in case something important came up and needed to be written down. I wrote a short speech as best as I could remember from the study guide the department had given me; just in case I was called upon.
The speeches were winding down; the procession of speakers had dwindled down to official delegates of countries that I needed to find on the map just to know where they were.
Just when I thought they were at the end and ready start closing ceremonies, “The final dignitary to speak is also the newest Ambassador to our country; welcome Ambassador of the United States Roberta Jones.”
Gordon leaned over and said, “They saved the best for last,” as I stood to make my way to the podium. If eyes could kill he would have been dead. The little smirk he was trying to conceal did not help.
I tried not to give away that I was nervous as all hell, “Mr. President, Prime Minister, fellow Ambassador’s, Delegates, honored guest and citizens of Uganda. It is a great honor as the freshman Ambassador from the US to be asked to speak before such a distinguished body.”
I spoke for ten minutes and filling from my little sheet of paper, adding in more lines from memory. When I finished I wondered how many people I had offended or insulted and just how big a hole I had dug for myself with the Secretary and Victor.
At least the applause was as much for me as the rest of the speakers and the important row of people seemed pleased. They even stood as I walked the row and shook hands.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.