The best thing about finding the scorpion in his shower was the fact that it had already drowned in a little puddle of water.
Staff Sgt. Dave Carr of the Langley RCMP said the incident was a reminder that in his current posting, he should tap out his boots every morning.
Carr, who grew up in Surrey and has served in the RCMP in the Lower Mainland for 20 years, is currently on duty for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.
South Sudan is one of Africa's newest nations, carved out of the Sudan after a peace agreement following years of civil war.
The change of location for a Langley cop means a change in role. In Langley, he acts as a watch commander, and he's also worked everything from serious crimes to bike patrol to internal affairs.
But twice before, Carr has volunteered to go overseas with UN peacekeeping missions.
In his past deployments, he spent nine months in war-ravaged Kosovo in 2003, working with a team identifying the remains of people who had disappeared in the conflict.
In East Timor in 2008, he worked in a Vulnerable Person Unit, working to prevent sex offences, child abuse, human trafficking and domestic violence.
In South Sudan, he's setting up teams to stop cattle rustlers.
The Livestock Patrol Unit project is an attempt to create a specialized force that will deal with one of the most pernicious problems in South Sudan. It's a poor and primarily agrarian society, where in many regions cattle remain the most important source of wealth.
"Cattle raiding remains a major security threat in the eastern states, with some raids resulting in dozens of people injured or killed," Carr told the Langley Advance.
In a region with lots of weapons, and clashes between the remnants of rebel forces and the new government, a cattle theft can turn ugly quickly.
Simple mistakes can also cost lives.
"Just after Christmas last year the South Sudan army accidentally shot down a UN helicopter," Carr said.
Carr is spending time in two general areas while on his deployment to the South Sudan.
In the capital city of Juba, he works with the various groups setting up the Livestock Patrol unit.
He works with program donors, technicians, and does the necessary paperwork to get equipment.
At other times, he heads out about 200 kilometres to the north, to the region where the LPU is setting up its first posts.
"By the end of my mission there should be three LPU posts in operation," Carr said. "My successors will be able to continue on with the project when I leave in October."
Both enforcement efforts, and community policing techniques are being deployed to stop the thefts and the attendant violence.
It was on one of those field missions in the country's north that Carr found the scorpion in the shower.
Things in the Sudan work very different from back in Canada.
Part of that is dealing with the fact that the country's infrastructure is limited, largely due to years of war.
"Getting anything done takes two or three extra steps and two or three times longer," He said.
As far as the climate goes, it's a far cry from February in Canada.
"There are two seasons here, wet and dry," Carr said.
The dry season starts in October and runs through to March. By the afternoon, temperatures have usually hit 40 degrees Celsius or higher.
Yet it's a busy time of year.
"This is the time to get the most work done, as the roads are passable," Carr said. "Once the wet season comes the roads are often not navigable so getting around is a major challenge.
Culturally and economically, things are different from the schedule-driven western world. Deadlines may be guidelines or approximations, Carr said.
Things are exacerbated by ongoing tensions with the Sudan to the north.
"When a conflict arose late last year between the South Sudan and the Sudan, the result was the oil taps being turned off, as South Sudan must export their oil through pipelines through Sudan," Carr said. "This meant 98 per cent of this country's revenue stopped. We are now facing extreme austerity measures there which means the government often cannot even provide fuel, salaries, or rations to support our projects."
With the many difficulties, the 40 degree weather, and the scorpions, why volunteer for a months-long journey overseas?
Carr said that as one of the world's wealthiest nations, Canada has a responsibility to help out less developed nations wherever possible.
"We probably have the strongest rule of law of any developed nation, so we have a lot of expertise to lend in that area," Carr said.
"Fragile states are a breeding ground for criminality where it is easy for organized crime, terrorists, and smugglers to set up business," he added. "By investing in the security of these new or fragile states, Canada is a safer place."
While that's the ideal behind it, there are personal reasons, too, and Carr called them incredibly challenging, but rewarding.
"You encounter challenges in your daily work that do not happen anywhere else," he said. "It prepares you to deal with any challenge you may encounter back home."
You also get to have unusual experiences, like paddling a dugout canoe on the Nile, or hearing a spontaneous gospel concert from a group of 14 women riding in the back of a pickup truck during a traffic jam in downtown Juba.
Carr's one-year mission will end in October. Until then, he is keeping in touch with family back home by email, Skype, and phone, and getting in as many visits as possible. Over Christmas he met them in Kenya, and with government monetary assistance for deployed police, he'll see them again in France in a few weeks.
"This somewhat helps to make up for the long stretches apart," Carr said.
After October, he'll be back in Langley, where he'll likely be the local expert on cattle theft.
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