Tuesday, April 28, 2009


26 years ago today:

-Prince (actual Prince, not the Artist Formerly Known as Prince or that weird symbol thingy) was on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine

-The moon was one night past a full moon

-Ronald Reagan was president

-Two Frenchmen who served as mercenaries in the old Rhodesian army, Gervaise Boutanquoi and Simon Chemouth, turned to crime after the war that created Zimbabwe. They shot dead a café owner, were sentenced to death, and were hanged on Thursday, April 28th, 1983, at Harare Central Prison.

-The top songs were "Billie Jean," "Come On Eileen," and "Beat It"

-The UN General Assembly met to discuss "Strengthening the Role of the Organization," "Science and Technology," and "Implementation of Human Rights."

-The 7 World Trade Center in NYC was being built (check out this sweet video!!!)

-Alice Walker won the National Book Award for The Color Purple

-Petunia's mother gave birth to her after less than 2 hours of labor. I think I am the only child on the planet whose mother actually thanks them for their childbirth.

More tales on the birthday week to come!!!

p.s. it's Moosh in Indy's birthday too - go wish her a happy birthday as well!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Connecting with the Land

What is it about Juba that makes me numb everything beautiful? It sounds harsh, but is true.

Last weekend I was sitting outside at a table under a tree and realized that if I was anywhere else (my parent's backyard, or my former backyard in DC came to mind), I would think this simple act was relaxing and beautiful. But instead I noticed the breeze, looked up at the way the Acacia tree's thorns and leaves and small yellow flowers contrasted with the blue sky, heard the bird chirping and hopping around next to its nest, and felt...empty. These small things usually make an impact on me, make my heart swell, put me at peace. But here? I just cannot get there.

The next day Simba and I took a drive out past town and parked on a side road that ends at a broken bridge so the traffic would not disturb us. We sat on the spare tire on the roof of the landcruiser, watched the sun set over the hills, became part of the day turning into dusk and preparing for evening. Anywhere else this would be moving and calming. While it was wonderful, I still felt...almost nothing.

Why is it that as hard as I try, I cannot build a connection with this land? So many parts of our world speak to me - forests, mountains, beaches, deserts - but here? Not so much. I feel that I've failed in some way with that aspect of my life here.

My mom sent me a poem a while back about the need to say goodbye not only to the people but to the land. This is what I am trying to get to, but for some reason have fallen short. And I am not sure I will understand the reasons why until later, much later.


Be infinitesimal under that sky, a creature
even the sailing hawk misses, a wraith
among the rocks where the mist parts slowly.
Recall the way mere mortals are overwhelmed
by circumstance, how great reputations
dissolve with infirmity and how you,
in particular, live a hairsbreadth from losing
everyone you hold dear.

Then, look back down the path as if seeing
your past and then south over the hazy blue
coast as if present to a wide future.
Remember the way you are all possibilities
you can see and how you live best
as an appreciator of horizons,
whether you reach them or not.
Admit that once you have got up
from your chair and opened the door,
once you have walked out into the clean air
toward that edge and taken the path up high
beyond the ordinary, you have become
the privileged and the pilgrim,
the one who will tell the story
and the one, coming back
from the mountain,
who helped to make it.

~David Whyte

Sunday, April 5, 2009

No Day Like Today

I whine about lots of things about Southern Sudan on this blog. Injustice, poverty, goat meat, loneliness, war, etc. But then days like today come along. Today I was able to wake up depressed and then turn it all around. After getting news of a disappointing development (that is a huge understatement, but I don't know how else to explain it) about work yesterday, I could not stop thinking about it and breaking down into tears. So I wrote down how I felt. I immediately felt better. The day started to improve. I ate fantastically amazing cheese and salami brought back from NYC by a friend while lounging by the pool just outside my front door and listening to Ozomatli. Then we all played scrabble in the sun, with frequent swimming breaks. I did not win, and I got a sunburn on my face, but it was lovely.

Then I drove into town for Choir practice. I have not written about that particular activity here before, but I was part of a choir here in Juba that gave a concert for Christmas for the community- we sang mostly British, Catholic songs, and they were gorgeous. We have revived the group in time for Holy Week, and our second concert is on Tuesday. So we sang for about 2 1/2 hours which always lifts my mood.

Then I went to Afex Riverside to meet up with Simba and his work crew. My god what a gorgeous afternoon. People here love Kenny Rogers, and we sat at a table listening to country music, watching the Nile flow by, a storm in the distance, and ducking under the table's umbrella every time a stiff breeze picked up so the ripe mangoes would not drop on our heads. The 'thud' every time one hit the umbrella and the 'crash' every time one hit the corrugated iron roof next to us kept us on our toes. Local women and kids waded up the Nile to collect some of the falling mangoes, and because the bank was steep, we collected mangoes at the top to throw down to them. They were very excited because the guards at this particular camp do not allow them to climb up the bank. Someone spotted a rainbow, which from a different vantage point turned out to be the biggest rainbow I have ever seen on the Nile, and a double rainbow at that! The rainbow cradled all of the Nile and the people below washing their clothes and bodies. I took a picture on my phone's camera and if I ever figure out how to transfer those photos to my computer I will post it here.

Simba stood beside me, put his arm around me, said "I have never seen a double rainbow before, so you have to make a wish." I wished to always be able to stop and appreciate the feel of the cool breeze on my face, the serenity of resting my head on his shoulder, the small perfect moments of life.

Yeah, it was a good day.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Jungle Lamb

Does anyone else who has seen the movie Mama Mia have the affliction of immediately replaying a scene of the movie in your head when the associated ABBA song comes on the radio? It's seriously driving me nuts.

In other news, thanks to Katina for forwarding me this lovely article in which the author extols the virtue of goat meat. Yes, the smelly, tough, stringy staple of the Southern Sudanese diet has made its way into the great culinary houses of New York.


I don't like goat meat. Unless it is grilled and I can pretend it is beef. But the goat cubes that are most often boiled in a stew and served with rice I can live without. The fact that the author is basically explaining how he drools whenever he sees goat meat on the menu and proactively searches out the best dish prepared with goat meat he can find is more than I can handle.

My favorite part was this:

I’d partaken of the bearded ruminant before, most memorably in a Jamaican curry in Brooklyn. I’d liked the flavor of the meat, equidistant as it was from lamb and beef. But when my teeth wrangled a particularly tough piece of meat that was shield-shaped and curved and slightly rubbery, I had the distinct impression that I had bitten into the cup of a tiny bra.
Hahahaha shield-shaped and curved and slightly rubbery!!!! That is so true!!! However, then next paragraph in which the author tries to say that goats get a bad rap is horse sh*t:

Indeed, goats have long held a lowly reputation. Scavengers, they are falsely accused of eating tin cans. Their unappetizing visage is simultaneously dopey and satanic, like a Disney character with a terrible secret. Their chin hair is sometimes prodigious enough to carpet Montana. Chaucer said they “stinken.”
Falsely accused of eating tin cans? I think not. Those things definitely eat tin cans, plastic bags, used cell phone scratch cards, and whatever is on the garbage pile on the side of the street. I've seen them. And wondered the next time that I ate goat whether I was going to find remnants of that used cell phone scratch card somewhere in the meat.

Thanks Beatrice. Real nice of you.