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.