It was September, 2005.
+John Thiel, and I had flown in a small plane to a place on the Sabot River, a tributary of the White Nile. Because of some recent rain, we landed on the opposite side of the river from where we would see patients, then took a canoe across. We had to wade through marsh grass for the last hundred meters or so.
The plane was so small we could only take about thirty pounds of materials for ourselves. I had only two shirts and one pair of shorts for the trip.
We saw patients all day long, then in the evenings, we went to the river to rinse and cool off. As we ate, we hung our wet clothes on a bamboo fence to dry.
Late one evening, the commander of the SPLA forces sent word to us that their was to be a celebration of the fortieth day of John Garang's life and that we should not fear the sounds of gun fire and mortars. He then asked if we wanted to attend.
Of course, we did.
We sat in a circle while the soldiers danced and sang praised to the SPLA and their fallen leader. My Arabic was barely sufficient to understand a few words. They fired guns and mortars and we all sang.
John used a night vision feature of his video camera to capture some of it.
An hour or so into the celebration, the commander stood and spoke. Toward the end of his speach he looked at us and stated:
"We would like to thank our American friends for coming to treat our sick. Please now, Dr. Deal. Stand and say a few words."
I started to rise. It was then that I realized that I had forgotten to put on my pants!
Yep. I am the one who actually lived that common nightmare. To make it worse, I kept having to wave of John as he tried to film the incident.
"No thank you," I replied while keeping my seat.
"Please, Dr. Deal," the commander replied. "Just a few words."
We bantered back and forth until he noticed my state of dress.
"It is just fine, Dr. Deal," keep your seat.
Needless to say, I was relieved.