Monday, April 27, 2015

Life.


April 27, 2017
One week ago today I went to the college by bus and my stomach lurched strangely as I got off the bus at an awkward angle.  I had not been feeling well since the Friday before but things were to get worse.
As I went home by bus I had stories in my head that I wanted to share on this blog.  I got home, made a lovely vegetarian soup, had some of that, refrigerated the rest of it, and a couple of hours later my stomach virus made its move.
By Thursday of this past week I was so hungry that I finally gave in and took immodium.  I have learned that apparently once everything is out of my system it is okay to take the immodium.  I just don’t want to prevent the problems from getting out.
Saturday I was able to go out briefly and buy a few supplies at the very close, local stores.  Today I went by bus into the college, came back by bus to the bus stop that has vegetable and fruit vendors and was able to get the ingredients so I can replace my good soup that had to be thrown out.  Not because it was what made me sick but that it took too long for me to be well enough to eat it and by then I was nervous about how fresh it was or was not.
I did more “grocery shopping” as I left the fruit and vegetable area and headed back to Hai Cinema where the apartment building is that I live in.  I stopped for Diet Coke which turned out to be Diet Pepsi, sigh.  Then yogurt.  Then I bought a chapatis and egg for lunch at a local vendor….the food is cooked so it should be okay.  Then bread from the local bread lady who sits by the side of the road next to the informal restaurant where I buy the egg and chapatis.  Then home.
As I have been riding the bus and walking I have had some time to put together cohesive thoughts of how I can begin to paint for you what life is like here, and some of the ways I see the differences between Juba and the United States.
The first thing that I want to share if how much easier the transition has been this time to being in this culture.  Granted this is Juba and not Malakal and this has definitely made things easier.  My living conditions are making an enormous difference in my ability to cope here, even when sick.  I have running water and power.  I have a flush toilet of my own here in an en-suite bathroom of my own.  Every time I flushed the toilet I thought of the times I was sick in very different conditions. 
The buses here are for the most part low roofed and tightly crammed with people.  It can be difficult to step up into or down out of the buses, although today both going and coming I was blessed to get buses that were not so far off the ground and it was simpler.  The thing that makes the buses easier here than in the states is that there are not schedules that are strictly adhered to, and most of the population is using the buses.  What does this look like?  I walk down the dirt road to the bus stop and there the buses are in a line.  Once a person knows which line has the buses that are going to where I want to go, then I know exactly where to go to get to my destination. 
In the morning I head to Gudele.  Going home I go to Hai Juba bus stop and from make my way to the apartment in Hai Cinema.  When I leave Hai Juba headed for Gudele, as the buses fill up and depart, the next bus in line pulls up to the point of departure and when it is full it departs,  Etc.  Sometimes, especially perhaps on Sundays, it can take a long time to fill a bus and therefore a person can be late to where one is going.  On busy days, like week days, it usually isn’t a very long wait.  
Coming home from Gudele I have to cross a street and keep a watch out for buses that are coming, as they have already gone from Hai Juba to their final destination (probably the airport) and are going the opposite way now, back to Hai Juba.  I have to flag a bus down and hope that there are seats available.  As today, several buses passed me by as I waited because they were full.  Eventually one came along that let people off and then had room.It is just much simpler in my way of thinking than having to deal with bus schedules and if I miss a bus, I may be out of luck for several hours.   And most everyone else in Juba is going by the same transport, so it doesn’t feel isolating.
The second thing that I observed that struck me so much because I’ve been sick and because it is different from what I myself usually see in the states has to do with food.  Garbage is dumped on streets, sometimes in a central pile, but always plastic bags and other things litter the streets in spite of the main area.  While I was buying cabbage and tomatoes from one woman and then potatoes from another, I was aware of how many flies were swarming around me and around the food.  I thought to myself, this is why I must so carefully wash all of the produce in diluted bleach. 
Pictures in my head flashed of the sanitary, almost sterile, supermarkets in the United States where so many millions of people buy produce in nice packages, far away from flies and garbage piles.  But ya know, I do not really know what that produce goes through before it ends up in those nice sanitary packages.  What kind of pesticides are used in the field, how many hands handle the produce as it goes from harvest to warehouse to supermarket shelf?  Perhaps I should be paying more attention to what I eat and how I care for it on the way to my stomach when I am home in the states.
It did remind me of one of the multitude of reasons that I am a vegetarian.  Believe me you, when I travel in Africa or the Middle East or Asia I am so thankful for being a vegetarian!  Meat is cut up on tables in the streets and hung up on outside hooks….but in the states most of us don’t see that part of things.  There are the sterile cellophane wrapped packages at the meat counter in the stores.  There is really no connection with the animals whose lives have been given for a person to eat their flesh.  It is so clean.  So neat.  Not in other parts of the world.  It is real.  The connection is very real.
At the college we are having morning devotionals, the four of us who are here at this point.  I am finding this a very encouraging time.  Hearing a reading of the Scripture, a short interpretation, a short song, prayer requests and then prayer.  As long as it needs to be.  God is patient.
Blessings,
Debbie



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wednesday (April 15, 2015).

I am in a much bigger city now and I am so very grateful for that.  Malakal was quite small.  I have heard that the weather in Malakal was more pleasant than Juba so I know that I am in for some real heat.

The walk that I have to the bus stop to go into the college, and then back to the apartment when I return from the college is long enough that I feel I have had some serious exercise.  I did have a woman tell me today as we got off the bus (this word is used loosely) at Juba (the name of the bus stop) that there was another bus I could take up to Hai Cinema where I live.  I chose to hoof it. 

The buses are small and densely packed.  On the way to the college I am trying to sit in the front of the buses so that I can see where I need to get off.  This morning that meant getting into an empty bus and waiting for it to fill up.  Getting in is like getting into a truck.  I realize that I need to work on my arm muscles. 

Getting out of the buses is another matter.  In the front it isn't as bad, somewhere I slide off of the side of the bus.  Getting out of the side is a nightmare.  I told the young man who was opening the door as I got back to bus stop Juba today that the buses aren't made for older people.  I usually find someone willing to literally lend me a hand.  Actually jumping brings to mind the thoughts of broken bones....

I am able to do my "grocery shopping" on the way home.  I'm having trouble getting onions this week as I keep missing the vendors that sell them when I get off the bus at the home stretch.  When traffic is errratic and I am dodging motorcycles, cars and buses of different sizes as well as the motorized rickshaws, I can't always get to where I would like.  Although the skill of dodging traffic as I cross streets is coming back to me!  At any rate, I am learning where the stores are that have the yogurt (yes!  there is yogurt, albeit probably whole milk based v nonfat), where there is Halva, margarine, jam, etc.  I stopped at a particular store today for yogurt and asked the male clerk if he could tell if they lady across the street was selling bread.  I told him I like to support her....and then I explained that I think it is nice to give my business to different stores and not put all of it in one place.  He may have caught what I was saying....

She gave me my three rolls for two South Sudanese pounds....in South Sudan people still scoop food with their hands, I am working on "training" the young girls (as are some of the other Mission Co-Workers), the grown ups are a little more difficult. 

Further on the dirt road there were three young girls dancing....they were very cute....if my camera had been handy I would have tried to get a picture.

Speaking of pictures...I am going to try and get a phone here in Juba that has a camera.  I have come to feel the need to take pictures without people seeing that this is what I am doing.  There are so many pictures that I see everyday and feel unable to snap because this is not the safest place in the world.  The garbage piles in the middle of the streets is one of those pictures.

More later....


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Juba. April 2015.


 Sunday the 12th:

This past Sunday, the Sunday after Easter, I went with three other Mission Co-Workers to a Presbyterian Church of South Sudan worship service.  It turns out that the church was/is an IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp. 

The church itself is a solid canvas tent with floor, sides and ceiling in one piece and it is double thick.  There is no power, thus no fans, and so the flap doors must stay open for air.  What was very noticeable were the flies. 

There were open piles of garbage in many places, and the disease carrying flies were infesting them.  All through the service people were shooing them away and the little children had them on their eyelids and faces.  While mosquitoes bring the malaria, the flies bring intestinal problems that will result in diarrhea and vomiting. Apparently people have been taking garbage in plastic bags and emptying the bags on the piles instead of putting a closed bag on the pile.

To make matters worse someone (government perhaps?) is trying to get the people to leave the camp and the water has been shut off.  The smell of open and raw sewage permeated the air as we walked to and from the church tent. 

I learned from this experience that this is an "open" camp.  This means that there is no curfew and residents don't have to register so they are free to come and go as they please, or to move if they find something better. 

Monday and Tuesday:

I was reunited with two of my teaching colleagues and other staff at the new location for the Nile Theological College in Juba.  The new building that has been worked on is quite nice and such a vast change from the previous one that I am very happy.  It is going to make teaching much easier.  There is even electricity!

Today, Tuesday, God sent an angel to help me get back to the apartment.  Monday I was assisted in getting to and from the college by a fellow co-worker.  Today I was on my own.  Going there the bus driver remembered me from yesterday and stopped where I needed to go even before I asked!

Upon leaving the college I found the place to stand and wait for the bus.  There was a young South Sudanese man also waiting.  People kept sneaking on the bus in front of me.  It is so difficult here sometimes as I do not want to be rude, and the politeness can make a very long wait.

The young man asked if I wanted to walk to "Juba", the bus stop near the apartment.  I laughed and said no.  So then he hailed what is essentially a motorized rickshaw, I am not remembering the correct name.  Khartoum had many, many of them and I used them often going home from NTC in Khartoum.  The rickshaw brought us back to the bus stop and the young man refused to let me help pay for the ride.  Pure kindness. 

I am so aware of how often God has sent people to light my path.  In Malakal the few times that I actually had to walk in the dreadful and dreaded mud, people came alongside me and held my hand.  In Khartoum when I took buses people would pay my fare because I was a foreigner or would get the bus stopped when I was supposed to get off.  And here in Juba God is still lighting my way through the kindness of strangers, as well as friends.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Wrapping up UN CSW59 from NYC March, 2015.



Finishing up notes from the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in NYC.  March, 2015:

Issues that came up in the workshops (parallel events) that I attended during the course of the week I was there:

*Economic disasters such as crop failures and climate change are eradicating some of the industries in which women have traditionally participated in order to earn a living.  Climate changing is having a devastating impact on industries such as fishing.  In some places there are no longer enough fish to sustain communities, many people are having to migrate to new communities, which in turn has impacts on the host communities. 

These economic realities have a negative impact on women’s abilities to support themselves and their families.  Yet in disaster planning women’s voices are not sought out and included in this very thing that will have long term consequences in their lives.  Often the priority for resources after disasters is given to boys.

*Lack of access to reproductive health services.  There is an enormous need for comprehensive sex education. 

*There is a need for more women to be active in politics in order to advocate for women and women’s involvement in the world processes that impact women.

*Women 20-30 do not know their rights, including their reproductive rights.  There is a need to improve the lives of women living with HIV/AIDS.

*Wives of migrants, prisoners, etc., have HIV/AIDS.  There is stigma and yet educated religious leadership can become a part of the solution by educating the public.

*In Pakistan with religious fundamentalism, because of early marriage young girls are more unprotected (and having sex with much older, experienced husbands), have less economic ability and less rights of land inheritance.  The younger a girl is the less likely to know her sexual and reproductive rights, she is easier to control.

*The United Nations in now calling women’s rights “human rights.”  Everyone benefits when human beings are treated equally and have equal access to education and the decision making levels of government.  This brings us again to the addressing of the issue of having women in politics, especially women who desire to change the lives of other women.  This includes addressing the vital issue of how to prevent violence against women.

*I personally reflected on the mechanisms of power in the United States.  I used to naively believe that anyone born on United States soil could become President.  As I am increasingly exposed to new perspectives on power and life I realize that there are mechanisms in place for creating leaders in the United States and presumably all countries, all systems.

There are, for instance, Ivy League Universities where people are shaped and mentored and learn about power, developing important relationships.  I personally believe that this may be the (or at least a) level where a great deal of decision making and foreign and domestic policy takes place.

*Corruption is a huge factor worldwide.  Where does the money go that is meant to empower and enable women and bring change to the lives of millions, village by village?

*Issues that need to be/and continue to be addressed include:
early marriage
unregistered customary marriages that give no rights to the wife
economic justice structure
reproductive rights of women
breast cancer
violence against women – particularly in rural areas
the stigma of HIV/AIDS, the stigma faced by grandmothers raising the   children of their daughters who have died of HIV/AIDS, the       financial issues faced by these grandmothers

These things (listed above) are hidden and are not publicly discussed. 

*Men find ways to hold onto power – violence can take the form of the militarization of society.  When war ends there is trauma and HIV in women.

Results:
Challenging the status quo
Meeting as women to convene power
Building leadership around peace and security
Trying to rebuild women’s bodies

A beautiful truth that I heard:
Women may have no office, no CV, they can use themselves as a role model to give others hope.  They and their lives become their CV.  Women’s narratives become resources. 

HIV is better than Ebola.  HIV gives time, Ebola takes it.

Colonialization took power from women and gave it to men.  I think this is something that Americans, as a colonial power, need to really look at.  This is a legacy.  Not a good legacy, but it is one.

CEDAW, the people who are against it don’t like the portions dealing with women’s reproductive rights.  They don’t want women to have control of their own bodies.  Monitoring and accountability are the teeth that are missing from the CEDAW document.  This reminds me of the current issue with Iran and the nuclear power treaties that in progress.  Men really do not like being held accountable, or to trust others with power.

Finally:  The United States is not good about ratifying international treaties. 

My impressions today, April 11, 2015, as I wrap up this summary of what I heard and learned at the UN CSW in March, 2015:  Women are treading water.  We have a long way to go and just as with many issues in the world, change is very slow.  We can hold hope in knowing that slavery is now illegal, women in many countries have the right to vote and in many Christian denominations women are ordained as clergy and are in leadership positions as heads of church bodies.  We know that change can and will take place.  I grieve for the women that need the change right now, or needed it yesterday. 

At the moment the three issues that seem most urgent to me are:
1.  Women’s participation in the political arena of the world.  This is not merely a woman/women suddenly walking into a board room.  This is girl children being educated through primary and secondary school and going on to University.  This is girl children learning to think critically and understanding their worth as daughters of God.
2.  Addressing violence against women.  This is not merely women being hit or beaten.  This includes child marriage and other ways of violating women and girl children.
3.  Women’s access to knowledge of reproductive rights and services and the ability to obtain those services.

Amen?
AMEN!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A picture hanging on a wall.  A poem comes to life...
contemplation
unsung women
  fetching water
      washing clothes (by hand mind you)
hair, bodies, baby bottoms

making bread
laying table
water running -- or not, as the case may be....
dishes
being
washed.

time for thinking
passing wisdom --
weary feet, patting hands.

Rev. Debbie Blane

A musician in the bowels of the NYC subway system....I found myself thinking, "we all have our dreams, don't we?"


He played Bach's Canon 9 for me.

Framework.


CSW59:

Much of the CSW was framed around CEDAW.  CEDAW is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.  From a postcard addressed to U.S. Senate Leaders:  “CEDAW is a landmark international agreement that affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world. 

Ratifying CEDAW will strengthen the United States as a global leader in standing up for women and girls.  The US. Senate leadership should continue our country’s proud bipartisan tradition of promoting and protecting human rights by making CEDAW a priority and ratifying it now.”

The three highlighted objectives of CEDAW essentially match two of the three critical global issues for World Mission as defined by our International Partners in conjunction with World Mission personnel.  The World Mission critical global issues are:  Education (particularly females), stopping violence against women and girl children (reconciliation) and Evangelism .  The CEDAW goals are:  Stopping violence against women, ensuring educational opportunities and increasing political participation. 

Increasing political participation involves a number of things.  One must be educated in order to access to halls of power.  There must be in a process of reconciliation in order to recognize that there are different ways of leading and that the contributions of 50% of humanity (female) are just as important as the contributions of the other 50% of humanity (male).  

On to the UN CSW59 itself....


CSW59  Preliminary:

Notes that I have from the three orientations that I participated in before the official start of the CSW59 include:
In terms of the slow progress of things like the eradication of violence against women, of educating equal amounts of girl children with boy children, etc., someone made the statement, “maybe we are working on changing the wrong things.” 

Someone else suggested that for me it is just normal to have 88% men and 12% women in parliament.  The world is affirmative action for men; men are competent until proven otherwise.  Women are incompetent until they prove otherwise.

Giving birth should not limit and define a woman’s life.   Patriarchy divides women and leaves some women behind. 

Trying to change within the existing patriarchal paradigm is not permanent change.  Instead we must change the paradigm.  The world must change, not the women.  Change begins at the bottom and transforms the top.

A statement that was very eye opening for me was:  There are thousands of women’s NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organizations).  What we lack is being in politics where economic power can be challenged and also accessed. 

I, Debbie, would personally also argue that interpretation of Holy Scripture has a huge influence on the lack of forward momentum for women.  Christian Scripture, the Muslim Quran, etc., can hold human beings in cultural prisons.  Women and men who see Holy Scriptures through a liberating lens need to become scholars that can help leadership and grassroots re-interpret and free the Holy Scriptures, whatever the religion.  Scriptures were written by men in specific cultural contexts and are treated as though they are written in stone.  I believe that the stone of culture needs to be shattered so that the life giving revelation of Scripture can be brought forth and renew humankind.  As a Christian I clearly focus on the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament.  I include the Muslim Quran and other literature considered holy by other religions because the United Nations is made up of the global community and this includes other faiths as well as Christianity.