Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thank you

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who emailed me and sent me support after my post 2 weeks ago - it really meant a lot. I send you hugs from afar and virtual bags of Halloween candy :)

This Friday is a costume party on a "beach" bar on the banks of the Nile. They have sand and fake palm trees and everything. As Halloween is one of my favorite holidays (I never quite left my dress-up box behind...) this should be fantastic! Plus it was at the Halloween party last year (that one was an all-night pool party at USAID) when I agreed to go out with Simba, so I suppose it's technically our one year anniversary (holy CRAP!)!

I've been absolutely buried under work lately - we're quite behind on producing some communications materials which is my responsibility, so I'm trying to push those through, and we have a HUGE proposal due on Friday which would more than double my department's funding, so I'm glued to my computer with budgets and workplans and excel formulas dancing across my eyes.

To keep you entertained until I post again (hopefully on Saturday, depending on how wrecked I am after Friday night), here are a couple pictures of my friends jumping off the bank into the Nile we had from a sunday bbq on an island, and some links to read. The situation in eastern DRC is getting much worse, and here are a couple recent articles explaining the situation. How's that for a juxtaposition: expats acting like children in Sudan, people fleeing fighting in the DRC. The priorities in this life are, well, hypocritical sometimes, but everyone finds a way to justify it.

Ciao ciao,

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

pirates of the indian ocean

Naughty naughty, Southern Sudan and Kenya! It is looking more and more likely that the cargo of Ukrainian military equipment seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia headed for Mombasa, Kenya were ultimately bound for Southern Sudan. I mean, I don't blame Southern Sudan for trying to build up their defenses ahead of the 2011 referendum where the North may not let the South actually form its own country, at least not with the oil-producing regions in dispute, but it's just comical how the Gov't of Southern Sudan and the Kenyan Government have been handling the whole situation. They both are saying the cargo is just for Kenya's military, the Ukraine is keeping quiet, but the freight manifest has the initials GOSS (short for Government of Southern Sudan) on the contract number. President Bashir is not going to be happy about this one!

And how strange is it that pirates still exist? I mean, I'm sure they're not the "yo ho ho and a bottle of rum" kind of pirates, but more the "give me your money/cargo or i will launch a grenade at your ship" kind of pirates, but it still seems extremely odd to me that it is possible to take a ship hostage in this day and age. How are these guys not caught??? I just want a picture of a skull and crossbones hung above a RPG...

one step forward, 2 steps back

Remember the apparently "fluke" incident with women being arrested for wearing trousers in Yei? Well, the same has now come to Juba, even being picked up by Reuters and the New York Times. And what sparked this latest rampage? County Local Order No. 4/2008 issued by the Juba County Commissioner "Banning of 'Niggers' Behaviours & Activities in the Town." This Public Order motivated Police to mount an arretst campaign against women and girls wearing trousers in streets and public places. These women were collected from streets, outside worship centers/churches, and public markets, and hauled up into police trucks. Girls were humiliated and taken into custody. This included civilians, UN employees, etc. Luckily people intervened and everyone was released with no charge.


And WHAT in GOD'S NAME prompted this order labeling behavior "niggerly"? What is that? And who are these people who are "now known as 'Niggers' in Juba County"? It's not like they give examples in the circular. I have NEVER heard this term being used here, and neither has anyone else (expat or Sudanese) that I've spoken with - but now it's become a joke, especially among Sudanese. From what we can tell, in this context, "niggers" are the Kenyans/Ugandans or Sudanese who have returned from those places who frequent bars and prostitutes, and, apparently, wear trousers. What it looks like is the Commissioner wanted to crack down on the drinking and other "immoral" behavior that is adverseley influencing the citizens of Juba, and this was his solution. From my perspective, I have never in my life heard people using this horrible term so freely and it freaks me out every time. Incredulous.

After these incidents the Juba County Commissioner has been sacked, and replaced by the Central Equitoria State Minister of Health (who I LOVE). But seriously. This serves as a reminder that even though we are in the South, this is still Sudan with a government in its infancy and a society that is still trying to navigate the effects of opening up the country after being effectively cut off from the outside for half a century.

Monday, October 13, 2008

things that affect your brain

Has it really been a month since I've written? It's quite insane how time flies. My blog is suffering as a result of one of my personality traits - when all is well I am very social, call and write people often, and generally reach out quite a bit. When things go wrong, or I am upset or depressed, I retreat into my own shell and tend to disappear for a bit.

My freshman year in college I had a friend named Liz. She was one of the wonderful women I met in the phase in my life where I attended frat parties in my PJs and drank cokes without any rum (was on my university's varsity soccer team and decided not to drink during the season). These boys were fantastic - they loved me all the more for my PJs and stocked up on cokes for me in their minifridges. Liz was always the most "grown up" of all of us - she held dinner parties for her friends and looked like she belonged on the red carpet even at a semi-formal dance. Some broke up with their boyfriends, some went to study abroad, and some, like Liz, morphed into a completely different person, taking on the likes, dislikes, and all characteristics of her new boyfriend. Basically, many of us grew apart. Fast forward to 4 years later - Liz was diagnosed with brain cancer. She went through surgery and treatment, beat it once, it went into remission, but then came back stronger. Liz was fading fast and I was getting updates from friends. One of whom which was her former roomate, but they had a falling out, and never really patched things up. I listened to her agonize over whether or not to send her a letter, and what it should say. What do you write to an estranged friend who is dying? In the end, Liz passed away before the letter was sent. We were all devastated. She was 24 years old.

On September 23, 2008, my friend Jason died after his own 4 year fight with brain cancer. I've never seen anyone fight for his life like he did. You can read about his life and amazing character on his blog, Team Jason. Towards the end, Jason was still incredibly upbeat, very focused on beating the cancer, and through his blog I BELIEVED he would win. His last post was just days before he died, and while very honest about the setbacks in his treatment, his attitude didn't miss a beat. Jason was the definition of an inspiration to all who knew him, and I know his memory lives on. This is the last picture that was taken of Jason, days before he passed away (as appears on his blog). Still smiling and positive as always!

Please consider making donations in Jason’s honor to the Wellness Community of St. Louis at 1058 Old Des Peres Road St. Louis MO 63131. This organization helped Jason immensely during his 4 year battle.

This time, it was me who was left with an unsent letter. I had an unfinished email to Jason I started the week before but kept putting off saying "I'll send it when I have enough time to write a proper email." But, of course, that time never came and I am left with guilt. We were not estranged in any way, but it still hurt that I never got to say all the things I wanted. As time goes on I realize more and more that it is an extremely rare thing to be able to properly say goodbye to someone and to say everything that needs to be said. A very rare thing indeed. My mother never got to say goodbye to her father, who also died of cancer, and that is something I think about a lot, how painful that must have been. But what can you do except vow to seize the moment and tell people who matter to you that you love them? I am going to try, that's for sure.

Is it strange that I have had 2 of my friends, both under the age of 26, die from the same kind of brain cancer in the past 3 years? Last time I went to get my eyes checked the opthamologist offered me some sort of a test that looks at your eye and can somehow tell if you have a brain tumor (don't ask me how this works), albeit with the statement "you're young so you probably don't have to worry about this and the test is optional." You'd better believe I got that test right quick.

Which brings us back to Sudan. I came down with malaria this past week, and althought (thankfully) it was not cerebral malaria, one of the symptoms among many including high fevers, chills, joint pain, and achiness, are headaches. Mine have kept going even though I finished my medication on Saturday. All this means is that I need to drink more water, but with each nightly throb (usually when the headaches arrive) it reminds me of all the strange and incomprehensible things that go on up there, and how lucky I am.

Is that strange and morbid?

Sorry, it's been that kind of month.

Soon to come: happier posts about my new diggs, new friends, and some upcoming travel!