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...