Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Travel and Iodized Salt consumption

Today the first ever Sudan Household Health Survey report was officially launched - this is the first research study of its kind encompasing all of Sudan since 1983. While the statistics were staggeringly horrible (the only health indicator that is stronger in the South than in the North is iodized salt consumption), the launch event itself was absolutely hilarious. Keep in mind that this was a high-level, Ministry of Health/Government event which was attended by the Vice President of Southern Sudan, Ministries, consulates, UN officials, NGOs, etc.
In the echoey main hall of the Beijing Juba Hotel, the dissemination started with a reception where printouts of graphs showing the indicators by state with labels hand-drawn in red marker were taped to the walls . Local artist John Junub lip-synched songs he had written with themes drawn from the health indicators being presented while 5 men in work attire plus one kid in a torn t-shirt danced on the stage next to him.
The ceremony started with a procession by all the VIPs. The opening remarks were all "Your Excellency" this, and "Your Excellency" that, and then the MC asked all the VIPs, who up until this point were all sitting at a panelist table facing the audience, to move chairs into the audience so they could see the Power Point Presentation that was prepared. At which time 2 chinese men hastily hoised up a white bedsheet with lengths of blue wire, which then hung lopsidedly between two pillars. A Power Point Presentation graced with cheezy clip art projected on the sheet which awkwardly billowed from the air of the ceiling fans. Awesome.
But in all seriousness, it is fabulous that this report is out, because now we can base our program design on solid reseach and hopefully measure progress, i.e. whether or not the work we are doing is effective compared to the data in this baseline.
The normal questions that you get asked every day by every expat you meet here in Juba have recently changed! The famous list of 3, which you cannot have a conversation without either asking or being asked,
1. Where are you from?
2. Who do you work for?
3. How long are you going to be in Juba?
has been replaced with simply "When are you leaving for the holidays?"

And when am I leaving for the holdiays? TOMORROW!!!!! Booyah. Nairobi tomorrow where I get to see the boy (he's from Nairobi originally), flight to London Thursday, and back in NY on Friday. Where I will go almost immediately to see Stefan, the hairdresser extroardinaire (my Mom has been getting her hair done there since I was 10. It's a family legacy at this point). Can you tell that I'm excited?
For those of you who care, here is my schedule for the next few weeks so you can make your holiday plans. Because the world does revolve around me, after all (j/k!):

12/21-22: NYC
12/22-23: Reading, PA (holiday party with 80 of my closest relatives)
12/24-12/30: Pawling NY & NYC
12/30-1/1: Washington, DC
1/1-1/8: Santiago, Chile (for Katina and Renzo's wedding - can't wait!!!)
1/9-1/10: Nairobi
1/10: Juba
And with that, I will say bon voyage and leave you with some pictures. And the jealousy of realizing how many frequent flyer miles I will accumulate over the next 3 weeks.
1. Normal road conditions in Juba
2. Road between Juba and Torit Junction (notice the rusty vehicle on the right - landmine casualty)3. SPLA Soldier stationed in Juba
4. Barracks (village) where SPLA soldiers are stationed at Torit Junction.
5. Nuer man at Torit Junction


Thursday, December 13, 2007

mushroom farming

How mushrooms are farmed in Kisumu, Kenya was explained to me yesterday and I thought it was pretty darn cool:

1. Lay an empty pint-size whiskey bottle on its side. Cut a piece off of a mushroom, and rub it on or place it on a piece of agar (the substance that's inside petri dishes). Place the mushroom spore agar inside the bottle. After awhile, you will begin to see spores growing on the agar.

2. Once the spores cover the piece of agar, scoop it out of the bottle and mix several pieces of the mushroom-agar into a 5-kilo bag of millet that has been soaked in water. The spores will feed even more off of the millet, and you'll see them multiplying like crazy.

3. Take a 4-foot piece of plastic sheeting and roll it together, making a tube. Fill the bottom with banana leaves, cassava leaves, dirt, etc - basically compost or detritus. Pour several bags of the mushroom spore millet into the tube. Take a large sterilized knife and make cuts all over the plastic tube.

4. Mushrooms will begin growing out the sides of the tube where you made the cuts. Harvest and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

typhoid schmyphoid

So I flew to Nairobi on Saturday because I had been sick for a few days and it wasn't getting better with Amoxicilin.

I have been dating someone, and he took fabulous care of me while I was sick. Brought me food, brought me back to the clinic, stayed with me until my fever broke, drove me to the airport. There are good guys in the world after all!

Oh yeah, and I tested positive for typhoid on a rapid test kit. Whoopsies! But no worries, I went to a hospital here in Nairobi, they did tests on my blood and other bodily fluids which I will not mention here, and the typhoid was not enough for them to diagnose me, but it was a pretty nasty viral infection. So I'm souped up on Cipro and feeling fine now. And the moral of the story? Go to the clinic the FIRST time I get sick (remember, back in October?) instead of self-diagnosing and self-medicating and having the same thing come back a month later. Duh.

So I'm in Nairobi for the next week, until I fly back to the states on the 20th. I'm staying with a colleague of mine that works in our Nairobi office, and I have to say it was really nice to recuperate in a place with a down comforter and a bathtub.

OH and remember the guy twirling the 6-foot baton up the road in Juba from a couple weeks ago? I forgot to mention that I saw him again twirling his baton on World AIDS Day. Turns out he is the leader of a brass marching band that played that day. I almost fell over when I saw that. Sometimes there is order to the universe and things do make sense - they're just not revealed to us initially.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What are you going to name your teddy bear?

Personally, I prefer the name Petunia.

My favorite quote from the teacher's muslim colleague on naming a class teady bear Mohammed, a name chosen by the students: "I know Gillian and she would never have meant it as an insult. I was just impressed that she got them to vote."

In other news, for the past several weeks I have been working with the coordinating AIDS body to organize the World AIDS Day event in Juba, and it finally happened this past Saturday. Here's a couple pictures I took at the event - the man at the podium is Salva Kiir, the president of Southern Sudan, and to his right is Riek Machar, the Vice President of "Emma's War" fame.

Despite all the stress of event planning, the day went fine. Not as many people were there as we had hoped, but that was mostly due to the fact that security guards at the entrance to the stadium had closed the doors and were not letting anyone in or out because the president was there. They let me through because I'm a Kawaja, but even our own staff had problems getting in. So unless they came at the very beginning, members of the community, who the event was really for, were kept away. Gotta love Sudan.

Also, in commemoration of World AIDS Day, we had a special Hash on Saturday. For those of you who don't know, the Hash House Harriers is a drinking club with a running problem where you join the pack of hounds (runners) to chase down the trail set by the hares (other runners), then gather together for refreshment, humor, and song. If it sounds like a fraternity, it sometimes leans in that direction. But it's all good. Great fun and exercise too! So I helped set the trail this past week (which by the way was lovely - started in Juba Town, ran by the WFP compound through the field next to the airport and then looped around back through UNMIS) and then conducted a condom demonstration for the group afterwards. Expats need to know how to use condoms correctly too! It was a hit - funny, and people kept coming up to me all weekend long saying "I heard about your show and tell".

NB: we have all our wooden penis models made by woodworkers in the local market. It's all about supporting the local businesses baby.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Thankful list

My friend Meg has a tradition of writing a Thanksgiving list for that which she is most grateful from the past year. I love this idea and am going to start doing the same. So here goes.

1. My wonderful, loving family who supports me doing what I love in life
2. Nights when city power is on and the fan runs all night!
3. The little things which make me smile and get me through the day here in Juba (like right now, watching lizards chase each other around on the wall outside my window)
4. A fabulous job that challenges me and is hugely rewarding
5. Mint chocolate chip ice cream
6. Online card games and 3 hour long cat discussions with Biz
7. My two Beatrice who I miss terribly and can't wait to see next month and their men who make them feel like Reinitas
8. My brother Paul and his (former) mohawk and trebuchet
9. My brother Luke and his considerateness
10. Music. It makes life worth living.
11. Cipro. It's been a lifesaver twice now.
12. Kitchen dance parties with canned beats!!! Cafe Ontario must live on!!!
13. The hundred acre wood and for not merely living in the past but continuing to make memories in the present
14. Modern technology that lets me trapse around the globe but still be in touch with the people I love. Especially satelite phones so I can call my family on Thanksgiving from Sudan.
15. A world that lets me be idealistic while still being realistic
16. Mad Dog 20/20 and the people who send it to me in Sudan (RyRy I'm still waiting!!!)
17. Good advice. Meg, Tiff, Mom & Dad, KJ, Cyd, Julie, Melody, Lorea, I value your opinions more than you know.
18. Beaches and scuba diving
19. People who give good hugs - way too many to name
20. LC, JS, CH, DA, TM, AM, CC - I think about you guys often and can feel your warmth and support from afar :)
21. The support of family friends. Hettinger, Gaskin, Zinn, Dosio, it's great to know you're there.
22. Massages, manicures and pedicures
23. Kikoys and people who give them as gifts

Happy Thanksgiving everyone :)

Much love

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007

the lucky sudanese man from kentucky

Waiting on line in the airport coming back to Juba from my R&R I stood behind a group of men that were obviously Sudanese. One of them especially. Even in a long overcoat and tie he looked like he could step out of a plane in Rumbek and be right at home. I didn't expect to be able to so quickly and obviously identify Sudanese out of context. But I did with no hesitation. "You're traveling to Juba?" I asked them. They turned around, looked at me in surprise, and replied, "yes, and you?" I told them I was headed to the same place, that I worked in Juba. "Flying on Marsland?" "No, Jetlink." The tall Dinka in the overcoat put his hand on one of his companions' shoulder and proudly said, "My brother here is living in Kentucky." The lucky Sudanese man from Kentucky sporting a suit and Dallas Cowboy's cap added, "it's the first time I'm visiting Sudan in 23 years." All I could reply was, "Wow, that's a long time." "I know, I haven't seen my mama or my family, it's a long long time." I wanted to ask so much more: How old were you back in 1984? Did you stay in the camps in Kenya before moving to the US? What part of Sudan is your family from? What do you expect to find when you land? What is your name? But as airports often do, we were steered through the security and check-in points, and I didn't see him again. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to be in that situation. The man looked like he was in his early 30's, so he must have been very young when he left Sudan. This place would be virtually unrecognizable from what it was in the mid 1980's and I wonder how what he considers his identity to be will be changed by this trip.

As some background, Southern Sudan is starting over after years (21+) of devastating civil war. The war was over resources (control over oil and water), religion (Christian vs. Muslim), inter-tribal conflict (Dinka vs. Nuer), and slavery. I don't feel like re-writing what you can find on Wikipedia about the history of the conflict, so click here for more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Sudanese_Civil_War

Monday, November 12, 2007

lashings and nairobi

The other day I was driving down airport road near our office when I passed this dude marching up the middle of the street carrying a 6-foot baton like the leader of a marching band. He was marching, high knees, left hand on hip, twirling the thing around up the hill. Never a dull moment in Juba. An even less dull moment was last week when a certain member of our staff was driving on a motorbike, and got splashed by another vehicle. He proceeded to chase the vehicle all the way across town to the UN compound (the car realized they were being followed so started driving really fast) where he got out of the car and started yelling at the passengers telling them that they needed to come with him to the police station in order to be lashed. Yes, lashed. That is the law in Southern Sudan as the penalty for splashing someone. The other vehicle, I might add, was carrying expat women. Wouldn't you love to have someone yelling at you in broken English that you needed to be hit with a cane for accidently splashing them? Yeah. I know I would appreciate it.

I'm in Nairobi right now on R&R staying at a friend's flat getting a dose of city life before heading down to Mombasa (Diani beach) for a few days of sun. I never guessed Nairobi would be so, well, gorgeous. There are trees and flowers everywhere, things like hot water work, no crazy boda-bodas zipping around (although matatu drivers are just as bad), and the restaurants are fabulous. We went out on Saturday night to this place called Casablanca to dance and hang out, and it was sooooo nice - they have these divan-like beds with cushions where you can lounge on and have your drinks or hookah, and mini-bonfires outside on enormous metal dishes. So lovely. Yesterday one of my friends took me to get a facial - first one I've ever had, and it was fabulous. Going back today for a massage and a pedicure. Everyone needs a bit of pampering sometimes ;) I may have to make a ritual of spending a day at a spa whenever I come here on R&R from Juba.

I have to say, it took me a full 2 days to adjust to being out of Sudan - waking up on my own time and not to roosters or generators or kids crying, not having to grab onto the overhead handle when riding in the car in order to not get bounced around, receiving food in a restaurant that is actually what you ordered and what the menu describes, and ice cream. oh my god ice cream. I didn't fully realize how tired I was until this past week, because it kind of creeps up on you. Juba is hard. It's mentally and emotionally draining which if you're me takes itself out on the body - not getting proper rest and losing weight. The first night here I slept until 2pm the next day. I certainly can feel myself unwinding. Now that my ankle is better I can start playing touch rugby again when I get back to Juba, which will do wonders to relieve stress.

Much love

Saturday, November 3, 2007

My brother is awesome

And here's his halloween "costume." I'm lobbying for him to keep the hair, it's just so damn cool.

In other news, I was on TV in Juba the other day, talking about my organization's HIV activities in Central Equitoria State during a Southern Sudan AIDS Commission meeting. How cool is that!

Also, my ankle is getting better. The swelling went down a bunch and the bruising is almost gone. It's fine enough to walk on and dance on (not 100% like my normal dancing, but good enough), but not yet ok enough to play rugby. Maybe next Friday.

And finally, here is a picture from Tambura - the Sudanese version of a gas station.
The guy on the left is a policeman, and yes, he is wearing a fuzzy tiger print cowboy hat. There were several men wearing these, they must have gotten a shipment in from Uganda.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

my shitty week

Just so you don't think everything is idyllic and rose colored here in Juba, here's a rundown of my shitty week last week:

1. I got back from Tambura on Monday and immediately started feeling ill. I thought it was the beginning of a cold, but no. It turned into a high fever, aches all over, and a pounding headache. Could it be Malaria? No, I took a rapid test and it came back negative. Then the next day the stomach issues started. Thank the lord for Cipro, everything turned out fine. But that was about 36 hours not being able to sit or stand up and not being able to do work.

2. Wednesday I still wasn't feeling 100% but went to lunch with this guy I had sort of been seeing but he dumped me before I went to Tambura because "I really like you and it caught me off guard, and I decided I can't handle a relationship but I also can't pretend that I don't care about you and just date you casually" blah blah blah. He obviously wants to get laid with no strings attached, but still. Loser. So I basically called him a coward because seriously, I've never been dumped before in my life and he treated me like crap and he sucks. I left feeling worse about the whole thing for some reason. Not sure why.

3. Thursday NOTHING went well at work, I said something wrong at a meeting, got bad news about some procurement quotes, and I just felt like I could do nothing right. And I missed home with a vengence. My friends, my family, all I wanted was someone to vent to and a hug, but I don't have friends here yet that I can do that with, so no luck. I was basically on the verge of tears all day.

4. Friday was better, until I went to play touch rugby after work, which was fine until 2 minutes into playing when I badly sprained my ankle. They had mowed the pitch and in the process left huge ruts form the wheels of whatever machine they used. And I rolled my ankle in one of them. Heard it pop twice. It's still all swollen and purple as evidenced here:

5. Saturday I woke up to find I could not put any weight on my ankle so hobbled to the bathroom to take a shower. Afterwards, in the process of manoeuvering myself out of the shower so as not to put any weight on the ankle, I leaned on the toilet seat cover which promptly snapped right in half. Great.

6. Saturday night was the Halloween party at the USAID compound. Costumes, beer, a pool, and a party guaranteed to go til 6am. In theory this was a great idea, except I couldn't really dance because of my ankle. All in all it was fine, except when at 5am I turned around to see the stupid boy described above making out with one of his good friends who he swore nothing would ever happen with. Fun times! So, feeling slightly ill and almost freaking out, I left.

And that was that. Thank God this week is going better than the last. Life makes sense again and loser boy is out of the country so I don't have to deal with that for about 3 weeks. Yay!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ten Days in Tambura - Guinea Pie?

My colleague and I arrived in Tambura at around noon on a 10-seater WFP cesna. And oh my gosh it was as if we were stepping into a scene from a movie about Africa. We landed on a red dirt airstrip about 300m long flanked by high grass on either side, out from which small paths criss-crossed to the two parts of town (the airstrip splits the town into 2 halves). From the paths emerged people: dusty clothes, squinting in the sun. Some women carrying oversized golf umbrellas, some boys on bicycles 5 times too big for them, all come tosee the one plane that lands there every few weeks. And waiting at the end of the airstrip in a bright yellow and blue "break the silence" tshirt, leaning against his motorbike, was our Area Officer. As the engine shuddered off and the propeller slowly wound to a stop, we stepped off the plane and practically into the arms of my colleague's family and friends. It had been five months since he left Tambura with his family to work in PSI HQ in Juba. Many hands thrust forward to shake ours, as well as dozens of "you are welcome"'s. Our belongings were conveyed to the backs of motorbike and bicycle, and as I climbed onto the back of one of the motorbikes people laughed - "ah, like a soldier," because no way was I going to ride sitting with both legs across the seat like women do here. Everyone smiled to see the white woman riding on the back of a motorbike like a man. The whole time my heart swelled, I was so excited and a little anxious, because never did I imagine even 4 months ago that I would be landing in the middle of nowhere in Sudan. Am I really here? Am I really doing this?

My colleague asked me about what airport services are like in the US. From his questions I could get a sense of what he pictured in his mind - something much like the Juba airport, but with mostly white people, and maybe a bit cleaner. How could I explain the massive complexes of glass and steel and concrete that is the reality?

There is NOTHING in Tambura. There are only 2 NGOs currently working there - one completely runs the clinics, hospital, etc in the county as the dept of health has no money to pay anyone's salary. There are no doctors for a county of 120K people
and there aren't any in the neighboring county either which is another 100K people. Just 2 medical assistants and 6 certificate nurses and a bunch of community health workers. Even i was shocked. The HIV rate is 11.5% which is the highest in the country, but there hasn't been a census in south sudan since the 70's, so no one really knows what the health indicators look like. I stayed at the compound of an anti-leprosy organization that had an extra room. I mean, seriously, there is still leprosy there. They diagnosed 80 new cases last year.

Tambura is beautiful - it's still all green, as the rainy season isn't quite over yet, with mango trees and coconut palms and lots of ground cover. It is in Western Equitoria state, on the border with Central African Republic, and so there are a lot of returnees from there and you can hear people speaking french in the market. People's tukuls are both round and square - I never found out what the difference is.

Much love and peace

Saturday, October 6, 2007

If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

I always liked that bumper sticker. And is particularly appropriate when looking at Southern Sudan. Last week I attended a presentation of the findings of the first household survey for the south since the 1970's that was just completed and the statistics were just apalling in every possible way. So here are some of them for the 10 states in South Sudan just to put things in perspective:

-Primary school attendance: most states less than 10% with the lowest 4% and the highest 45%.
-Secondary school attendance: 5 states 0% (that means there are no highschools in half the states of this country) with the highest 12%. In one state, those with schools only male students attend.
-Female literacy: 4 states have 0% female literacy, with the highest at 7%.
-Infant mortality rate: 102 deaths for every 1000 live births (to put this in perspective, the US rate is 6/1000)
-Under-5 mortality rate: 135 per 1000 (US rate = 8/1000)
-Maternal mortality rate: 2037 maternal deaths out of 100,000 (this is the highest in the world. the US rate = 17/100,000)
-more than 60% of women have no ante-natal care
-Contraceptive prevalence rate: 5 states have 0% modern contraception
-Drinking water: 30% of households have access to "improved" drinking water; 87% households have no access to treated water

Seriously. How are you supposed to design education materials when no one can read? We pretested brand names/logos for packaging and had to completely redo the questionnaire because it was a lot about the visual association of the word and graphics and that point is completely moot here. It's just a completely different way of working and viewing the world and my role here. I realized this week that none of the work I produce here is going to measure up to my standards of quality, so I need to shift how I measure success and failure. Is success designing a perfect radio spot or brilliant creative brief? Probably not. Success will be training and building the capacity of the people who work with me to make their own new country better. And it will also be getting through the day and maybe eventually the week without becomeing depressed or overwhelmed. Don't get me wrong, I'm fine here, just trying to feel out what is going to work for me and what isn't when considering I'll be here for 2 years.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

My favorite picture so far

Seriously, can it get any better than this????

and here's some pics of New York because I'm feeling nostalgic...i heart my mommy :)

and a very special strawberry fields...

and some more cool pictures in central park...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sunrise on the Nile

Which was lovely, so here are some pictures:

And here's what was going on beforehand (and no, that's actually not me on the bar):

Friday, September 21, 2007

Babysitting was not part of the job description

The other day I helped one of my colleagues with the photo shoot of local families and kids for some of the packaging and print material for our new products. This involved driving a land cruiser to their neighborhood, collecting everyone, driving to the guesthouse, and keeping them occupied while we got the pictures we needed. Simple, right? Wrong. First of all, even though we only needed about 8 people total, half the neighborhood showed up clean, dressed up, ready to go to the photo shoot. This includes 16 kids, 4 mothers, and 4 babies. So we pile everyone in back of the land cruiser and head through the horrendously bumpy roads to the guest house. Here's what that looked like... and this...

Once we got to the house, we had to keep all these kids entertained. So what is the best babysitter on earth? The tv. So we sat the kids down in front of a Spiderman DVD and went to take the pictures. That captured their attention for about 30 minutes, since they don't speak English, at which time I took them all outside to play frisbee and ball. Holy crap, playing with 15 kids between the ages of 4 and 9 who can't speak English was TIRING. They are all adorable, but this isn't exactly my forte. I mean, I like kids and all, but I don't exactly babysit in my spare time, ya dig? I prefer to hold the babies - it doesn't involve any of this running around nonesense :) So the guesthouse was turned into a daycare center for the afternoon, complete with "schoolbus." Whew!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

UNMIS running, T-shirt mobs, and Kwacha

So I’ve officially been in Sudan a week now and it already feels as if I’ve been here a month. It’s amazing how quickly you adapt to a new environment when you’re carrying nothing but a few bags with you. It’s not like I have to think about arranging my living space, because I live in a container that holds a rather uncomfortable bed, plastic table and chair, and a dresser/bureau. The air conditioning unit, however, is quite new and runs silently – nary a purr – and because the room is so small (3 paces wide by 4 paces long) it cools off in no time.

Right now I’m sitting outside at the camp which is right on the Nile watching laundry dry on the fence and a little lizard is sunning herself along the wall watching the clothes dry with me. Here's a picture of the view:

The camp is right next to Juba’s port, which has no port-like qualities other than the fact that boats decide to dock there to unload their goods. The Japanese are building a tarmac road that will eventually go down to the port, but apparently they’ve been working on the same stretch of 200 meters for the past 3 months – everything must be perfect! When it is finished it will be Juba’s first tarmac road. There are a lot of met in hardhats walking around and flagging vehicles around the site, but not much work is going on. I don’t quite understand how the construction process goes, but there is a layer of tar, then they dump rocks on top of it, smooth it out, and then more tar? Maybe someone can enlighten me? Sunshine?

When I first got to Juba I wrote out an email with some thoughts about my first couple days – the text of which I am pasting below here:

“I arrived safe and sound in Juba yesterday - and all of my bags even arrived with me! It's a miracle! The trip was fairly stress free - except getting bumped from my flight from Nairobi to Juba and having to wait 4 hours in the airport. But I found a guy from Bolivia to chat with and even talked the airline out of charging me for my extra baggage, so all in all it was fine. I'm staying in a hotel-like compound for the first few weeks until my room in the guest house opens up. So it'll be living out of a suitcase for the first couple weeks. It is a nice place - there's wireless internet (because it's run by Indians), a/c, and it's right on the Nile river (which looks much like a tributary of the Amazon - fast current carrying plants along with it). All in all it's a lot like camp with WiFi - cold showers, bugs, brushing your teeth with water out of a water bottle, and eating in a canteen. Did I mention that it's awesome? I get to wear cargo pants and chacos to work. Needless to say, I'm sure the novelty of all this will fade away, and I'll soon be craving a hot shower and a place to wear cute shoes.

Juba is expensive. Going out to eat costs more than in the US - at least more than the places I eat at...not sure if that says more about me or about Juba... It rained last night and this morning, so everything is muddy. But not quite muddy enough to wear my blue-striped wellies. The potholes are less pot and more bathtub, which makes driving around in landrovers when you have to pee a very bad idea - it's hard to concentrate on holding more than one thing at a time, so you have to choose between steadying yourself with the handle above the window and, well, you know. I haven't seen the famed paved road yet, but I am assured it does indeed exist.

My favorite Juba quirk so far: a sign reading "Dry Cleaner" next to strings of laundry drying in the sun. Oh, and the Ethiopian food here rocks.”

Now a tugboat is bringing out one of the barges from the port. These things are so damn long they look like the spaceship at the beginning of Spaceballs – when it goes by it just keeps going and going and going carrying God knows what up and down the river. It looks like a pile of junk at one end – rusty cars, trucks and motorbikes, piles of bags and unidentified plastic, etc, and then on the other side there are containers.

I feel comfortable here. There’s no stress about looking presentable like there is in DC (cargo pants, a t-shirt and sandals do very nicely), and the little quirks about life here I take all in stride. Like having intermittent power (lanterns do have a certain charm), getting stuck in the mud, and having to deal with absolutely nothing going the way you planned it. I am the queen of last minute preparations and adapting under stress, so I think I’ll find a niche here and be happy.

I had to plan an event for several thousand people that took place this past Saturday. Up until Friday the preparations were going smoothly (except for the person bringing the t-shirts getting stuck in a town 4 hours away for 3 days) until it rained all morning on Saturday. When it rains here, everyone assumes that you don’t work. Everything just shuts down. This is mainly because there is only public transport on one road and it doesn’t run when it rains because the roads are so bad. But even if people live 2 blocks away they assume there is no work. So I had to call most of the staff to say that yes, the event was still on (it was supposed to stop raining in the afternoon) and yes, they need to be at the office as planned to help prepare. So we got started 3 hours late. The truck bringing the tables to the event got stuck in the mud on the way over, the audio system and generator couldn’t be picked up until it stopped raining, the office manager was nowhere to be found, the field where we were set up was all sorts of soggy, and less people showed up than would have otherwise. But everything worked out in the end, and my 7 hour event turned into a 4 hour event which was a blessing. Here's a picture:

and here's one of some cuties with one of our informational brochures on HIV prevention:

I was chatting with a few of the staff yesterday and their theory is that because of the war (which lasted over 20 years) everyone has gotten absolutely everything for free for so long whether from refugee camps, foreign aid, the army, or the government, that now the people who stayed in Sudan during the war don’t want to work. Because why should they? It’s not part of the culture anymore, and because they stayed in Sudan they didn’t learn English and can’t work in the NGO/UN world like the people who fled to Uganda or Kenya and then came back. The people who you see working in Juba are either Kenyans imported by businesses or returning Sudanese who have been living in Kenya or Uganda for a long time and have some education. So now we come to the t-shirt distribution at the event. Everyone expects free handouts and doesn’t understand why they shouldn’t just be able to have them. We had to keep them in a back office with police guards to keep away the mobs of people who would try to grab the t-shirts from whoever brought some out. Kids, adults, everyone. Craziness.

After the event we went to a party at another NGO compound and drank Carlsberg beer out of cans, waited for people to finish watching the Ireland vs. Georgia rugby match, and just hung out and did a bit of dancing. It is IMPOSSIBLE to have a conversation with anyone without one of you asking a) “who do you work for?” and b) “how long are you here for?” within the first two minutes. I had a bit of a freakout session when I realized that would be my social life for the next two years. Scary. I need to find other outlets…

I did, however, get some very good advice there from one of the guys that I played rugby with. He was asking how things were going so far and I was saying that my first week was super busy and that by the end of the event on Saturday I was just glad things ended without rioting or anything catching on fire. He replied that it may seem difficult, but that you should never lower your standards for work here because the lower your standards are the lower quality things will become. This may seem obvious to those of you who live in developed countries, but in a place where nothing works correctly it is important to keep in mind. People are smart, they are just not used to someone expecting a lot out of them.

Another tidbit from the party: the same guy as above who gave me advice asked me if I had worked in Africa before. I replied that I had, but in Southern Africa, not East Africa. He then asked, “Oh, so how are the Kwacha there?” Kwacha is the local word for foreigner or expat. At this point in time I didn’t know that yet. The only thing I knew as a Kwacha is the Zambian currency. So I then launch into a schpeal about how the Kwacha gained a lot of ground about a year ago due to the increase in the price of copper on the world markets which is mined in Zambia, which is all true. Then someone pulled me away. I didn’t find out what Kwacha meant here until the next day, at which point I felt like a total loser. Someone asks me how the expat community is in Southern Africa and I respond by giving a lecture on Zambian currency fluctuations. Serves me right. At least I wasn’t sober at that point plus was meeting everyone for the first time so I don’t remember who it was that asked me the question in the first place.

I went running on Sunday with a couple colleagues around the UNMIS complex, a loop that ends up being somewhere between 3 and 4 miles. It was absolutely lovely. I listened to Madonna’s confessions on a dance floor album while running (which was a bit of a mind bender –listening to the CafĂ© Ontario soundtrack that we used to have kitchen dance parties to (here’s a shout-out to Tiff, Ryan, Lisa, Amanda, Mukti and Alexis, I miss you guys so much!!!) while running through a swamp in Sudan. First we ran down a muddy stretch, then turned onto the old runway for the UN planes where there are a ton of HUGE helicopters still parked just chilling there along the whole stretch. The new runway is parallel to that “road” so small planes were landing nearby. After that we turned onto more dirt roads, where there were little yellow birds that looked like goldfinches, high grass, and relative calmness. Then we came to people guiding cattle across what looked like a river that had flooded the road. There was no way around, and the water was about 6 inches deep, so we had to take off our shoes and wade through. Twice. Where cattle had walked. Gross. I don’t even want to think about where that water had been. Eeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwww. After that we squeezed through the bars of the back gate to the UN complex, and finished up the run waving at Bangladeshi guards and running past containers. And saw a rainbow J. There was also something called “Oxidation Pond” on the way. I don’t know why it is called that, do they dump a bunch of copper there to be oxidized? I have no idea.

That’s all for now, more to follow.