Thursday 18th June 2009
So, as I believe I have mentioned several times in the past, I am a bit of a technophobe. I have a weird natural magnetism that seems to destroy anything electrical I touch or sometimes even just sit near.
I have so far killed several computers, often whole rooms of them at a time, numerous clocks and watches, my mum’s new electric mower, two microwaves, a handful of smaller electrical items such as phones, digital cameras, ipods, and many other items of technology.
And now, finally, the machines are striking back, with lethal force.
Allow me to tell you what happened to me last Saturday. I had a very scary near-death experience , and if I had in fact died, it would have been the most random and bizarre death EVER.
I was sitting up in bed, watching Scrubs on my laptop, (like you do) when there was this sudden, really loud BANG.
I instinctively flinched and threw my arms above my head to protect myself. I could feel things falling down on me, bouncing off me and the bed, and assumed that a bomb had gone off, and that the ceiling was caving in. When things stopped falling and it went silent, I slowly opened my eyes and looked up at the ceiling above me.
The ceiling was completely intact. No damage at all. I looked at the bed in confusion, at the chunks of shattered wood lying all over the sheets, and looked up again. The wooden frame around the bed, which holds up the mosquito net, was in pieces, big chunks of wood lying all over the bed, tangled up in the collapsed net, and a large splintered two-by-four hung at a crazy angle from the remaining upright post.
Then I looked down, and on the floor, a few inches from my head, was the crushed remains of my ceiling fan.
The fan had been on a full power, and had apparently very suddenly detached itself from the ceiling. This thing is fucking heavy (‘scuse my language) and has three solid steel blades that are frankly pretty sharp when moving at that speed and trajectory. The fan seems to have broken off, hit the bed-frame holding up the mosquito net, and shattered bits of wood everywhere, bounced, and then crash-landed inches from my head.
I looked at it in shock for a minute, and then started feeling my legs to make sure they were both still attached. My horrified brain registered that in order for the fan to get to that side of my bed after it it snapped off the ceiling at full speed and sheared through several sturdy planks of wood, it would have shot right across the bed where my legs should have been.
After reassuring myself that I had somehow come out of the incident completely unscathed, I realised that watching Scrubs had probably saved my legs, if not my life. Had I been lying down asleep, I have no doubt that heavy metal fan would have hit my legs at considerable speed, and most likely broken both of them, at the very least.
It was really very scary.
I sat there for a minute, absorbing the absurdity of it all. That I had spent months reassuring my family that South Sudan would be ok, and I would not be travelling anywhere too unsafe or insecure, only to have a near-death experience courtesy of a badly-installed ceiling fan.
I realised I’d better clean up all the mess. I got out of bed, and started picking up large pieces of wood, when it occurred to me that no-one would believe what had just happened. It was too surreal, and in my mildly shocked state I was convinced that if I cleared it all up before anyone saw it, they might just assume I had somehow trashed the room myself. The Director’s room.
I needed a witness, and rushed outside to find the security guard, or someone who could attest to this bizarre incident before I cleaned it all up. I was halfway across the compound when I bumped into our new logistician, just arrived from Kenya, on his way to the bathroom. “Oh thank God! Please could you come to my room? I just need you to see something, really quickly” I babbled, and rushed ahead back to the room, “You’ll never believe it, it’s mad! Honestly, totally bizarre!”…
To his credit he followed me, albeit hesitantly, all the while looking extremely uncomfortable and nervous. The fact that a mildly hysterical woman in her nightgown had just insisted he come to her bedroom at once, for an unspecified reason, in the middle of the night, must have seemed pretty peculiar.
I stood in the entrance of the room and gestured triumphantly to the chaotic mess strewn about the room. “There! Look! You see?”
He stood there for a second, confused, and then slowly the understanding dawned across his face. He shot me a concerned look, and said “Oh my god! Are you alright? Are you hurt?”
“No, no, don’t worry, I’m fine. But do you see what happened? It’s crazy!”
He surveyed the damage again, looked thoughtfully up at the ceiling where the fan used to be, then marched across the room, picked up the offending heap of metal off the floor, and carried it outside. As walked past me, he paused, and said “Don’t worry, ma’am, I’ll fetch you another fan.”
Also, how weird would it have been if it had hit me? Can you imagine? Maya’s in Sudan of all places, and dies in a freak ceiling-fan accident in her own bed. That WOULD be how I would die. Bloody typical.
Just thought you’d all like to know how close I came to death, or at least possible dismembering, and as you may be able to tell, I’m still more than a little freaked out. Facing your own mortality will do that to you.
Seriously, I’ve been trapped inside a car with drunk SPLA soldiers with machine guns, but this was way more terrifying.
Also, I’ve realised that after years of accidentally destroying technology, the machines are finally fighting back, and they’re out to get me. Just thought you should all know that, just in case I die in a bizarre George Forman lean, mean, fat-reducing grilling machine-related incident. At least then you’ll all know that IT WAS NO ACCIDENT. It could happen.
On a slightly different note, I’ve also just spent the most hilarious hour or so arguing with a corrupt police officer about a bribe he wanted! He caught our driver on his mobile phone (the car was BARELY moving) but fair enough. He wanted to charge us 60 pounds, which we said was fine but we’d need a receipt. He gave us a standard misdemeanor receipt, which was stamped 20 pounds and then refused to explain why he needed 60 pounds from us! So we said it was fine, we’d be happy to pay it, but we would need to go down to the station with him to get the correct receipt issued. He got all hot and bothered about how he was on duty and couldn’t leave his post, so I very politely leaned out of the window and asked if I could see his id card, so I could take his name, and said we’d go by ourselves to the station and explain the whole thing to his supervisor.
He was so pissed off! He definitely did not want us informing any of his superior officers that we caught him trying to get a bribe, and then backed himself into a corner he couldn’t get out of! He just started yelling incoherently at us “Do you know what my job is???? Are you arresting me now???” etc.
We sat there for about 40 minutes while he yelled and ranted, and then another officer came over, an several passers-by joined in the argument just for fun. (By this point we weren’t even involved at all – we were just sitting in the car waiting for them to finish their argument!). Eventually a HUGE man in jeans and a t-shirt wandered over, listened to all of the yelling for a minute, and then tapped on the window and calmly waved us on. We were pretty surprised, but at that point the police officer threw up his hands and yelled “Fine, just GO!” so we drove away!
Someone told me later that there are a number of “National Security Guards” who are undercover plainclothes officers that are supposed to keep an eye on their own police etc, and report any fraud or wrongdoing. Other people assert that these undercover guards are actually spies from the North keeping an eye on what’s happening, and trying to undermine the peace process.
We have no idea if our big giant hero was one of them or not, but it’s always possible.
There was recently an attack on a UN food shipment up in Upper Nile State near the border (don’t worry, it’s literally hundreds of miles away from where I am!) – out of 42 boats only 16 made it into the dock, and those ones had been looted. Something like 40 SPLA soldiers were killed, and a lot of speculation is going around about whether or not the North arranged the whole thing to derail the peace process before the 2011 referendum. Mind you I suspect that ANY unrest between now and the referendum will be blamed on the north, regardless of who does what!
Anyhoo, enough conspiracy theories and political speculation. The key thing here is to remember that the machines are out to get me. Those of you who laugh and find this funny will be eating your words when I’m found lying dead in a tangle of electrical cords, with weird stripey burns on my face that look suspiciously like the calling card of a George Forman grill. Or possibly a toaster with a grudge.
The best conspiracies are the ones that no-one believes.
Just remember that.
(and also, I want my headstone to read “I TOLD YOU SO! Don’t trust the machines – that’s just what they want you to do…”)
seriously hoping you never live in a house with a ceiling fan,
p.s. – Today is my last day in Sudan. I’m flying home via Ethiopia again, and will be around all of next week if anyone wants to see me before I head back up to Liverpool to write my beast of a dissertation!
p.p.s. – for those of you who think I’m being overly dramatic and exaggerating everything, I just unplugged my laptop and got a small electric shock. That’s their equivalent of firing a warning shot across my bows… God help me, I’m about to get on a plane….