Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Thought I would give some updates on my most recent blog posts. In no particular order:

1. After all the tension over the ICC announcement, it is back to business as usual here in Juba. The UN and US Embassy have restored pre-announcement security levels (although Darfur is still level IV), and everyone acknowledges that the news of whether or not Bashir is actually indicted will not come for some months. So you can all stop worrying :)

2. In response to the whole ban on women wearing pants fiasco in Yei, the issue was taken up by a UN Agency at the higher level with the Government and found to be a local order initiated by the County Councillors in Yei. Police have been asked by Higher Government Authorities to withdraw that order immediately. And here is a picture of me with the same County Commissioner (far left in the brown suit) who gave the order. This was taken at the event presenting certificates to our trainees marking the beginning of services to people living with HIV. So he wants to be seen as supportive of PLWHA, as long as women don't wear pants. I would like to point out that I am wearing pants in this picture. Ha! The following are some more pics from Nimule and Tambura including: me trying to get satelite phone reception standing on the back of one of our vehicles, and my FAVORITE picture of the trip of this woman eating an apple.

3. Simba is doing better, although is still sick. But his wanker boss tried to get him to come back to Juba for a week to train his fill-in because his boss felt like taking an impromptu holiday in the UK. Simba refused, because, um, HE'S STILL SICK, but agreed to come for one day (in Friday, out Saturday) as long as the company paid for my plane ticket to come back with him to Nairobi for 2 days. Booyah! Civilization, here I come! It is completely the opposite of cost effective for them, but whatever. I'm not complaining.

4. My face is doing much better - the burns have gone down significantly, and now it just looks like I am recovering from a rather unfortunate bout of post-pubescent acne. Not that I ever had any during that time. Seriously! I was pretty lucky.

5. A few weeks ago, I had a gchat conversation with Beatrice and Beatrice, and happened to casually mention that I had eaten flying ants for lunch. Since it was the start of the rainy season it was the time
when the flying termites/ants come out. These are also considered a delicacy. Beatrice proceeded to flip out, with comments like "Petunia. We have EVOLVED. You don't need to eat INSECTS." I was highly amused by this whole conversation (unfortunately I didn't have the program set to save the conversations, so I can't post it in its entirety here). But here is a picture of a plate of these tasty creatures (which happen to taste like duck pate, by the way).

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Petunia's Sudan Sickness #4462

Just when I thought I had escaped further sickness for a long while, I have a run in with a a seasonal bug called the Nairobi Fly, also known as the Acid Fly. If this red and black fly lands on your skin and you squash it to kill it, an acid-like substance secretes from its body and causes severe burns in that location. If it stays on your hands and you touch another part of your body it spreads. Here's the Wikipedia post for more info along with pics of the Nairobi Fly and an example of what it does to you:

"The name Nairobi fly is applied to two species of beetle which live in East Africa, Paederus crebinpunctatus and Paederus sabaeus [1]. They are species of the rove beetle genus Paederus, and are black and red in colour, and about 6–10 mm long [2]. They live in rotting leaves where they lay their eggs. The beetles neither sting nor bite, but their haemolymph contains pederin, a potent toxin which causes blistering. The toxin is released when the beetle is crushed against the skin. People are advised to brush or blow the insect off their skin to prevent irritation [1]. Heavy rains, sometimes brought on by El Niño events, provide the conditions for the Nairobi fly to thrive.Outbreaks have occurred in 1998 [1] and 2007 [3]."

And where has this wonderful little creature chosen to land on me? ON MY FACE!!!!!!!!!!! So I have these patches of swelling, blistering burns on my face, one right next to my left eye, a bigger one on my chin just below the right side of my mouth, and a few smaller ones on my left cheek. It hurts to open my mouth really wide or to smile (because it causes the skin around my eyes to crinkle). There's nothing I can treat this with because if you put ointment or anything on it it spreads. But they tell me to put "bicarbonate" (aka baking soda) on it to neutralize the acid. But a friend just told me to use toothpaste instead because I don't know where I would even start looking for baking soda. So I'm sitting here in my tent writing this blog post with toothpaste on my face. Just thought I'd give you all that mental image :)

Speaking of sicknesses, Simba was also sick once again (couldn't keep down any food for a week) and they made him fly to Nairobi to get it checked out. Turns out he has Malaria AND Hepatitis A. There seems to be never-ending concoctions of nasty things to get here. So Simba will be in Nairobi for a whole month. Hep A is the one that is transmitted through contaminated food/water, and it affects your liver. His eyes were a bit yellow when he left. He has to drink 5 litres of water a day, and not eat any fatty foods or drink alcohol for 3 months. Talk about a weight loss plan. I thought my India weight loss plan was pretty good, but this one is going to be nuts!

In order to stay well and healthy you need to drink lots of water, eat lots of fruits and veggies, take your multi vitami daily, and DON'T MOVE TO SUDAN :)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Do goats shed their hooves?

My friends are SO supportive. As one said in a chat with me the other day in response to a conversation about the implications of the potential ICC indictment: "get your crazy international-development ass out of the heart of darkness!" Can't you just feel the love? However, what is ironic about the statement is that this particular friend happens to be not in a place that is rebuilding from war, but a place that is actually STILL AT war, and instead of being able to run towards the airport at the first sign of trouble like the good little NGO employee that I am, he is one of the people that would be sent INTO the situation at the first sign of trouble. But I'm not going to say exactly where he is...(kough, kough, KABUL) Sorry starcaviar, I had to call you out on that one :)

This morning I walked outside my tent and lo and behold, what do I see but a goat hoof. Not attached to a leg or anything, but it was just the hoof lying there by itself. Were goats having a midnight frolic on my porch and one of their hooves fall/tear off? Or did the dogs find the hoof somewhere in some field and leave it on my doorstep as a present? Either way i didn't even know that goats could lose their hoofs. So strange. I completely forgot to take a picture of it, otherwise I could display it here for all to see. Instead, I have some other pictures taken over the past couple weeks:

1. All those gray mounds are gravel. People, usually women, children and the disabled, sit by the side of the road all day, every day, using medium-sized rocks to break other medium-sized rocks into smaller pieces of rock to be sold as gravel. All day. Every day. Forever. "What do you do for a living?" "I break rocks."

2. The outside of my tent!

3. View of the Gudele neighborhood and Jebel Kujur (Witch Mountain) from my back porch

4. The sink in the office - notice all the dirt? That's just from the water that comes out of the tap. It's so dirty because it comes straight from the Nile. Sometimes it's unclear if by washing your hands you are making them cleaner or dirtier.

5. A common sight in Juba - goats eating garbage on the side of the road. There is no waste disposal of any kind in Juba. Except for the goats. And chickens. And sometimes donkeys.

6. The Juba fire station. Not that there's any way to call the Fire Brigade if there's actually a fire, but that's not the point. The point is that they have shiny new trucks.

7. A rain storm coming into Juba - taken from my tent.

Monday, July 14, 2008


In case you haven't seen it on the news yet, the International Criminal Court (ICC), announced that they are going to present evidence to indict President Bashir and other senior gov't officials in Khartoum for War Crimes in Darfur. Nevermind that the Sudanese gov't refuses to hand over the two officials indicted by the ICC last year. Also, on July 8th, a group of UN peackeepers in Darfur were attacked - 7 were killed and 22 seriously injured. Nobody has claimed responsibility for it but the rumors are that even thoughthe government blames the rebel groups, the gov't themselves very well may have planned or at least known about the attack to warn the UN in response to the threats by the ICC.

In the end, although the ICC has good intentions and indicting a head of state has never been done historically, is a good outcome possible or even realistic? The answer to that is complicated, and is something that many of us struggle with. It is clear that the situation will not improve unless something changes, but if the choice is between a) taking international legal action against a despotic, fanatic, criminal head of state (who will most likely try to run) which risks the lives of tens of thousands of people who depend on the humanitarian aid provided by the UN, not to mention destabilizing the peace process, and c) continuing the long, slow, painful and dubiously successful peace process, what do you do?

Right now it seems that there there is no way things are going to turn out well, unless the ICC retracts their statement. The cynics here are saying that there's nothing interesting going on right now, so the UN has to justify their salaries by doing something, because they can't concentrate on China and for some reason won't concentrate on Zimbabwe/South Africa. It's hard to see connections and correlations and see the UN as one body when its policies/implementation is soooo scattered. As a result of recent events, the US Embassy has started pulling people out, UN is at security level III here so may start pulling out people soon too, and Darfur isat level IV in Darfur. However, none of the UN personnel in Juba are actually following level III protocol (they're still going to work, driving around in marked UN vehicles, etc) because no one has any clue what they're doing. There are more UN forces in the south than Khartoum, but the ones that are in Khartoum have a higher intel capacity. Yes, people are rioting in Khartoum, but the demographic of people that are the ones rioting don't exist here in Juba, so there's no problem.

Basically, because news of the ICC list leaked out, it destabilizes the whole UN presence in Darfur and the South. If the UN goes, so does all the humanitarian aid and many, many more people will die before peace comes again. Also, if Bashir throws the UN out of Sudan, that includes the South, since he is still technically President over the whole territory of Sudan. If he tells Salva Kiir, "I hope you got the memo about the UN being thrown out of the country" and Salva Kiir hesitates in complying, Bashir could be justified in making that an excuse to claim the South is engaging the North, and there goes the CPA and the peace process. Plus the SPLM (main political party in the South) is weak internally right now, so that doesn't help things one bit.

For some more background, this article by Alex de Waal (FABULOUS writer/reporter on all things Sudan) talks a bit more about the implications of the UN presence in Sudan.

Basically, it is a bit of a depressing time right now. Things are a bit of a mish mash at the moment and everyone is waiting to hear what will happen by Wednesday.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Honorable Deng

This weekend has started out like all weekends should - wine and friends Friday night and sleeping in Saturday morning. Luckily Sweet Simba was there to rescue me this morning with scrambled eggs. Now we're both in my tent and I'm explaining to him what a blog is, how it works and who it is for. His conclusion is that I just have too much time on my hands. As if. He keeps saying he is going to write one and I think he should, because with his imagination it would be fantastic. And he's cranky because there are no pictures of the two of us up here - so here you go.

One of the drawbacks of living in my particular tented camp is that the guys that run the place (well not run it, but own it) have business "meetings" in the main mess area. These visits generally include one way conversations where we sit there and get lectured, and TONS of wine/scotch/beer. Doesn't matter what time of day.The people that come run the gambit from South African investors who speak with such a strong Afrikaans accent that it is virtually impossible to understand them, to English business men looking for a piece of the action here in Southern Sudan, to SPLA Generals.

So one day I was eating dinner, which is at the mess area where everyone sits at one long table. A rather large Sudanese gentlemen sitting diagonally across from me was here for a "meeting" and working his way through the second half of a bottle of gin with a woman who looks to be around 17 or 18 sitting by his side. He introduced himself to me by saying, "Everyone knows me as Commander Deng. But you can call me...Honorable Deng." Turns out Honorable/Commander Deng was one of the senior rebel commanders during the war and is now a General, an MP in the Legislative Assembly, chair of the Security Committee, head of the SPLM caucus, basically a seriously powerful man.

After that he proceeded to lecture my friend and I on the fact that in his view, the thing that is seriously contributing to the downfall of Sudan is the fact that women don't ask permission when they go out and men are not as much in control as before/during the war. Nevermind all the horrible things happening in the country. This is obviously cause for alarm and action.

Therefore it is not surprising that a couple weeks ago the Commissioner of Yei County made a proclamation that women were no longer allowed to wear pants in public and supported its "enforcement." So bands of men, including civilians, policemen and soldiers were roaming around Yei in vigilante groups beating the ever loving bejeezus out of women found wearing pants. They even forced some of the ones found "disobeying the law" (although even if there was a law it would be diffult to verify because they don't have a way of publishing laws here) to sweep Freedom Square (the main square in Yei) in their knickers.

So back to our Honorable/Commander Deng. On another occasion when he was here for another "meeting" but not drinking this time, he proceeds to call my other friend a "Sudanese Queen" and me a "Khawaja Queen" and state, "Do you know how many wives I have? 6 and a half." AND A HALF! Turns out him, all his wives, and his 18 children live together in ONE HOUSE in Rumbek, and he is trying to get his young plaything who was with him the night we met to marry him. This guy is probably in his late 50's now. Gross.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Love in the Time of Cholera

Besides being a fantastic book by my favorite author (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), I feel like I am living out the title. I'm in love, and there is a Cholera outbreak in Juba where a couple dozen people died. So our Community Outreach Officers are working overtime to educate people about water/sanitation, and how to treat their water. Cholera is SO easily preventable, and yet the majority of the world's population do not have access to clean water. In the region of Sudan I work in, 60% of people do not have access to clean water. Keeping in mind that definition of "clean water" used in surveys could still be from rainwater or boreholes.

Happily enough, my July 4th weekend was fantastic - my boss and I discovered that the American Independence Day and Thanksgiving were actually written into the employee manual, so I had most of the day off - just spent a couple hours delivering letters to get some face time with people, and then I read and took a nap. Huge party on Friday night including free bbq and dancing on bars, and then Sunday we hung out at the USAID compound to use a friend's kitchen (they have a REAL kitchen with a real stove and oven and AIR CONDITIONING IN THEIR KITCHEN!!!), watched Animal House, and then went swimming in the pool late at night while drinking some Tuskers and taking lots of inappropriate pictures to mark the occasion. Made me happy :)

This week we have one of the Regional Advisers here to build capacity of the program staff on communications - something that I could technically do, but can't find the time because I'm too busy trying to (teach people how to) manage programs. Should also help immensely on tightening up some materials we've been working on but haven't been able to move forward. Sometimes it's nice to step back and take the time to let an objective observer lend a fresh perspective. Yet another reminder that I don't have to do everything myself.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Parking on Graves

I would just like to say that I woke up this morning to one of the guys staying on my site saying "Dude, we parked on somebody's grave last night." After the initial obvious reaction of being slightly taken aback at the disrespect, my response was, "And then afterwards did you take a piss on it? Because that would be appropriate." At which point I remembered that that graveyard is also the garbage dump and the public toilet. There aren't actually any toilets, people just squat down and do their business wherever they fancy. So, in fact, all things considered, adding "parking lot" to the list of services offered at that site really isn't that far out of the question.

By the way, did anyone in DC (besides Cedric) see the Male Circumcision protest near the Capitol at the Cherry Blossom festival a couple months ago? Seriously. Out of all the issues to protest and the millions of things that are wrong with this world, that's what these people picked? Who on a lovely spring day would rather spend their time waving life sized placards that say "My foreskin is not a WMD" instead of enjoying the cherry blossoms? Insane.

Since this post is turning out to be about strange things, here is another: my family came to Africa! We went on a 2 week vacation to Tanzania: Dar es Salaam, Klein's Camp (a private concession sitting between the Serengeti and Masai Mara), a tented camp in the Serengeti that moves around to follow the wildebeest migration, Ngorongoro Crater, and Zanzibar. It was an AMAZING trip. Highlights include:

1. The most incredible bath I have ever taken in my life with a view to die for
2. The wildebeest migration going literally right next to our camp (as seen from a sunrise hot air balloon ride!)
3. Seeing lions, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes and serval cats up close and identifying 113 species of birds (no I'm not joking)
4. Going scuba diving twice in Zanzibar and seeing truly spectacular coral and marine life

5. Sundowners with Simba's aunt and cousins after randomly staying in the same hotel in Zanzibar
6. Talking to the organizer of the Obama Campaign in Zanzibar (weird, right???) - he gets signatures, raises awareness, etc, for Obama. In Zanzibar. "I pray every day for Obama to win. I love Obama. If you open up my heart you will see a picture of Obama."

7. Seeing my family!

Here are some more pictures:

Women selling fish at the market in Dar es Salaam

Stereotypical (but beautiful!) safari sunset
The next 2 photos are taken from Cesna flying between camps. looking at the Grumeti river North towards Kenya. Klein's Camp is in the bottom left-hand corner of the first pic.
Bush walk in the hills between the Serengeti and Masai Mara
Bar at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge