Dear Friends, Greetings! Good news today....the walk down to the main street is getting shorter, aka I am getting more used to it....I found the "ful" place that had been closed without a trace the other day when I went looking with someone from the college. Ful if you remember is the bean dish that is eaten here in Sudan for breakfast and many other meals as well. It is quite good. I am now warming it up on the stove with tomatoes, oil, salt and Sudanese cheese. I used the green peppers I got at the suk the other day the first time I made it and unfortunately they were not sweet they were the spicy kind. So now I have a bag of peppers to find a new home for.
Having found the "ful" I ventured along the row of shops nearby. I found again my date bars. Having got them home now I see why I like them so much -- there are oil stains on the box they were put in. Sigh. Oh well. Nobody had large tubs of strawberry yogurt -- must have been a run on it earlier today. I was fortunate enough to find fresh milk however. Now I can have my somewhat foul coffee -- I still have to get the person who has volunteered to show me where the good coffee is to show me.
I was very pleasantly surprised to find a good quality lotion made in the states in one of the stores and the same store had Pert Shampoo! This is very good. Sometimes the water pressure here is just not good enough to do a shampoo and conditioner, I've been looking for a 2 in 1 and Pert is one of my favorites.
Quite a few of the shopkeepers speak decent English here. It is quite helpful. My numbers are getting better as well and I was able to tell someone today, "Arabic schway, schway," my Arabic is very little. The word for water, schway, in Chinese is the same sounding word in Arabic for very small, very little. Go figure! I can now ask how much something is, beekum. I need to start working on the names of groceries like milk and yogurt. A ful sandwich is exactly that, sandwich is the same as in English! Blessings, Debbie
Dear Friends, Greetings! I had a very lovely Christmas Day. I worshipped at the Pentecostal service first and then spent the day and evening with a fellow teacher from the college, his family and another family from the compound where they live. It was a wonderful time of fellowship. I so enjoyed talking with four other adults about all sorts of topics, staying at the table after an awesome banquet and relaxing.
People do seem to have trouble imagining what to cook for me as I am a vegetarian. Magda made me macaroni and cheese. Little did she know that this is one of my most favorite dishes in the whole world! She was worried about how it would turn out but it was absolutely wonderful! And the vegetable dish was raw tomatoes, cucumbers, onions mixed with oil, lemon juice and salt. It is very interesting not to have cooked vegetables as a dish -- and I just realized that is a lovely contrast to the vegetables in China which were always cooked. Even salads.
The family had gone all out for special treats for Christmas. We were treated to beautifully colored and frosted cookies and sweets that I cannot describe adequately because they are not like we have in the United States. They had a tree up and the house was very cozy in spite of the weather outside not being cold.
The conversation was quite interesting to me. I have now found out that when I ask an African or an Arab where they are from they will tell me about their ancestral home. Unlike in the United States when I am asked where I am from I will say Seattle and not England, Scotland and Ireland. Or sometimes people will say they were born in Portland, Oregon but grew up in Seattle. It seems to be that in the US we think of where I am from as the same thing as where I live. This is not so in African cultures. So I learned that there is a distinct difference between "where I live" and "where I am from".
Other things which came up and which I am still sorting through trying to reach a semblance of understanding is that of refugee status. It seems to me that in the states people do not remain refugees. They seem to become citizens. Here in Sudan there are people who were born here but are still considered citizens of another country because that is where their parents came from. I believe that this is also the case in Palestinian refugee camps in places like Jordan. In that case I believe that the refugees will not give up their refugee status because they do not want to abdicate their right of return to Palestine. In Sudan it is somewhat a different situation. There seem to be some countries where people do not become citizens. It appears that a Sudanese is someone whose family has always been here. People that come here from the outside are not Sudanese. I may have an incorrect understanding of this, if I found out that I do, I will be sure to update you, my readers!
There are people here with refugee status who have never left Sudan in their lives because to do that they could not return unless they become citizens of another country (like the US) and came back under the protection of that country. Then they are no longer refugees but that might affect their own right of return to their original ancestral lands. I need to check further into this...
Yesterday I rested. I was so worn out from Christmas that it took a day to recover! The woman who cleans the flat every couple of weeks showed up at last and cleaned it. Very nice to have the floors swept. I had to explain to her that if she is unable to come on a day that I am expecting her I need her to call and let me know. Otherwise I am stuck at home all day waiting for her. And if that happens more than twice I will need to find someone else to clean the house!
I have discovered an interesting and very nice thing here. When someone comes to the house/apartment and I ask for a ride to town (really about two long blocks away to shopping), people always want to take me around for the shopping and then bring me back to the apartment. It is so interesting! In the states I would ask for a ride somewhere and then be dropped off and that of course was what I expected here. But not so!
So this morning someone came by and I asked for a ride to the shopping. He ended up taking me to all the places and bringing me back, very nice. I am growing accustomed now to buying ful, the bean dish. It is very cheap and very good and I think very healthy. I bought ful and falafel so I will have plenty to eat for today and maybe tomorrow too. I also finally went into a sweet shop near a grocer where I can get yogurt. I found a lovely pastry with a date filling and bought half a kilo of those (I have absolutely no idea what a half a kilo actually is) and they are utterly delicious! After all the treats on Christmas I couldn't just go cold turkey!
I am currently reading a book called African Women: Three Generations about a granny, a mom and a daughter in South Africa during apartheid. It is grim. These are true stories about the family of the author. It helps me in understanding about African culture more and that is important for me right now. Blessings, Debbie
Dear Friends, Greetings. Today I was in a car with colleagues going along a street in Khartoum. I was able to ask questions about some of the people I saw.
There are always a lot of people, mostly men, hanging out near the women who make tea for a penny or two. They are unemployed and hang there hoping for something to change. Apparently however the job listings, say for the government, are not printed but are word of mouth. So probably nothing will ever change for these people and they will remain unemployed.
We saw several people who I guess I would call crippled. I've never seen quite anything like the arms and legs at the angles that they have them at so I'm actually not sure if it is crippled or maybe arthritis as well. I know that in Nairobi there were a lot of people suffering with polio. Some of these people have parents who bring them from home by bus every day to sit and beg and then pick them up at night. Some of them live on the streets begging for enough money to buy some food and then sleeping on the street until they eventually die.
There are always hordes of people, particularly men but some women and often young children, who are selling things as cars drive by. This is a form of self-employment and is somehow based out of micro-loans. There are a lot of children begging and a lot of women with children begging. This morning I saw a woman with what appeared to be a baby covered by a shawl and it occurred to me that she could be pretending to have a baby. I have been severely reminded of Jesus saying to the disciples, "the poor will always be with us." Sometimes I have to remind myself that I have been called to Sudan for a particular task and I cannot change the entire Sudanese economy and way of life.
The dust will be with us always as well. Every time I walk to the bus station I remember this. I usually wear my Birkenstocks and I remember that Jesus washed only the feet of the disciples because that was all that was dirty. And yes, they were definitely dirty!
I continue to marvel that the women with burqas and covered faces can navigate through the dust and the dirt roads. There are of course many paved roads but the back roads not so much. Maybe it is because I have not been walking them my whole life that I have a harder time negotiating rocks and ruts. I do admire their ability.
Language acquisition is slow but I think that it is better for me when I take the long road look. Over a period of time much will be gained, in the short term it feels like very little. I got a passing grade for my "final exam" today after five tutoring lessons. I think the teacher was very generous:)
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. This past three months or so in Sudan has gone very quickly. I have accomplished much of my task of preparation for classes that I will be teaching in about two weeks and am looking forward to my working with my students! I'm also looking forward to finding ways to get more clothing in the African style, each country has a unique fashion and they are all quite beautiful! Blessings, Debbie
Dear Friends, Greetings! A full day today! It began with my ordering "ful" at the local restaurant on the way to my language tutoring. The man in the restaurant recognized me and knew what I wanted! Then on to tutoring. I am working on vocabulary, numbers and grammar.
I am doing so-so with numbers one through ten. They float in my head just like the Chinese numbers did. My assignment is to have them down pat with no errors by Wednesday. Sigh.
After class a friend from the language school and I went to one of the suks (marketplace) together. It was a big help having someone point out to me where to get scarves and then she took me to the woman's section where the traditional Sudanese household articles are. My vocabulary grew. I am not doing complete sentences at this point but I do know that beekum is "how much?" and "maja" is that. In China I was able to get along pretty well by saying "tigger" which met "that" and pointing. So I should be able to do some of that with "maja".
We looked for incense at the suk. I cannot for the life of me figure out why every country has a different form of incense and a different way of burning it. I have to start over every time! In China there were sticks, cones and spirals. Here there are piles and what look like crystals. At least this is what we found so far. There were also thick sticks. Apparently I have to find coal which is lit first and then the incense is put upon the coal. This concerns me. I thought that coal kills people -- or maybe I am thinking of charcoal briquets. If anyone knows about this please let me know. As I was wilting in the heat I wished out loud that everything could be in the same darn place instead of going from one place to the other in the suk. My friend said that this is why the pace of life is so slow in Sudan, because everything takes so long....
We went to the little grocer near my house (forget the Arabic for grocer!) and what I bought was 7.5. It reminded me of how it was in China when I finally understood 1-10 and then got totally confused when 1/2 got thrown into the mix! It will take time.
I have discovered that while ancient Greek is a language based in verbs modern Arabic is a language where the Arabic can be spoken without verbs and they are simply assumed. This does explain why many people for whom Arabic their mother tongue speak what sounds like broken English. I think that, for instance, "beekum maja" could be a complete sentence Arabically speaking. However in English it would be "what price that?" So I would need to supply the "what price is that?" and often people for whom English is a second or third tongue do not do that, therefore sounding odd in the translation.
Greek is a nifty language whereby a single word, a noun, can contain an entire sentence consisting of subject and verb. So I must accept that grammatically Arabic is different. I have learned today also about the definite article "al" which turns restaurant into the restaurant. Also I have learned more about both interrogatives which create questions and so many of the little words such as "in" and "from" that must simply be memorized.
I found out some very interesting things today. I now understand why in this particular Arabic culture the left hand is considered the "potty" hand and only the right hand should be used to shake someone else's hand, or hand money or food. Except in a foreigner's home there usually is not toilet paper in the bathroom. The toilets are either of the squat variety or holes in the ground. And often there is a pitcher that looks like it is for watering plants. I thought all along that the pitcher was for cleaning the toilet after use. Noooo. I found out today that the water in the pitcher is to use for clean-up with one's left hand after using the toilet and this is why the left hand is considered the potty hand. Sometimes there are hoses attached to buckets of water. My goodness I felt ignorant when I found this out.
I also found out that in traditional Sudanese homes there is a plot of land and the rooms are separate structures on the land. There is usually a central outdoor room which is where people basically live. Then there is the kitchen and the bedrooms and an outdoor bathroom. The bathrooms have half walls constructed around them. I would assume that a shower would be in a separate structure. So I have been in some traditional homes. I do not live in one of them and many of the foreigners who I have visited do not live in a traditional type of home.
I also had an answer to a question about the beds I have seen in houses. The Sudanese do not use couches in their living rooms. They have beds unless it is a more affluent home and then maybe there is one coach and the rest are beds. Guests lounge on the beds and may be told it is fine to take a nap. They make the house pretty by having nicely made beds with pretty materials.
I got more help with the hand signal for the bus system today. Hopefully Wednesday after my tutoring session I will be able to get a bus for myself this time. Inshallah! (God willing.) Blessings, Debbie
Dear Friends, Greetings! Yesterday I worshipped at the Pentecostal church and then spent the day and evening with friends. A. is a teacher at Nile Theological College and M. is his wife. There two daughters were off visiting friends. They took me to their house for lunch and other friends of theirs joined me. It was a good day and evening.
I am feeling like I am learning more about Sudan at a wee bit deeper level now. The title of this blog, "A More Traditional Culture" can be taken in many ways. Tradition has many dimensions in this land of sand and blue, blue sky. Today I walked to the little grocer just down the road for yogurt, bread and eggs and I was struck by the fact that the sky is today as blue as the ocean.
Tradition means, in one sense of the word, a culture and society that is not materialistic in the same was as the West. I do not get the feeling here that keeping up with the Joneses or having the latest technological advances in one's home or pocket are important -- at least not yet. I don't know what will happen in Sudan or other parts of Arabian culture in the future. And I have not yet been to the African part of Sudan in the South. Because I know that it is less developed than Northern Sudan I imagine that it too is less materialistic than the West.
There seems to be a more expansive openness to God here than I ever experienced in China, for instance. Maybe with less materialism there are not as many distractions to pull people away from the roots of life. While many of the young Muslim women do make fashion plate statements with the head scarves and modest dress, the reality that I am aware of every place that I go are the tobes, the full cover cloth that women put over their dresses, the long white tobes that the men wear, often with beards -- and the ever present donkeys with their carts.
Yesterday my friend M. said that things are improving here for women. Some women are now wearing jeans and women do not have to wear burkas if they do not want to. She also said that Khartoum is a good place to raise children. This is the second time that I have heard that sentiment. I thought about it and I realized -- no drugs, no alcohol, maybe less peer pressure. The thing of it is that for instance even the young men in their 20's seem to still live at home until they are married. Who is perpetuating this conservative society? The people who grow up and become adults in it. I think that there may be a higher value put on things like respect and honor than what I have seen in the West. Something that I realized in this conservation was that there is a difference between respecting culture and being held captive by it.
Now, traditional of course can mean other things as well. Even among Christians the cultural traditions often hold more weight than Biblical principles. Marriages are still often arranged. Women are essentially "sold" to the highest bidder. Marriages within families are not unusal. There was an interesting article on the internet a couple of days ago -- actually more like heartbreaking. The article focused on two 16 year old male Palestinian cousins. Until they hit puberty they had been believed to be girls. They attended girl's school and were socialized as females in their society. With the onset of puberty came facial hair and male characteristics, both physically and hormonally. They have had to cut their hair, begin to attend a boy's school and begin the difficult adjustment of being male in a society where previously they had been female. A medical authority has stated that this problem, which is not uncommon in Arabic cultures, is caused by inbreeding. Cousins marry cousins, families do not want to go out of the family for marriages. I have also heard this about some of the African tribes.
Here in Sudan, and probably other countries as well, there is a high bride price. The perspective son-in-law will collect money from his uncles to help pay the price so that after the marriage the bride is expected to wait on the husband and the extended family as well because they all own a piece of her so to speak.
It was an overwhelming day yesterday learning so many things that seem like they would be in the distant past but are instead life today. What an amazing thing though to live in a place in the world that is so incredibly different than where I grew up. Because I am still who I am here it can be hard to remember that outside of some of the ex-pats, the people who I come into contact with every day see the world very differently than I do. They experience life from a different car. At the table yesterday we discussed how when people from different cultures marry one another it is so important that they would have learned how to talk to one another. Some of the women here may marry a Westerner to show off that a light skinned person desired them. Many women bleach their skin because they believe the lighter they are the more refined they are. I was told that there are some light skinned Arabs who will not intermarry with others because they do not want to lose their original light skin. The light skin issue also appears to have to do with the racism that is directed towards the Africans by the Arabs. The lighter a person is the further from being African they appear. Blessings, Debbie
Greetings! Today was my third tutoring session. I am not tutoring, I am being tutored. I need to make that clear. The words are becoming a little bit less tortuous. I have two more lessons in December, both next week. We will see after that....
I managed to find the right bus going to Khartoum 2 today, and I got my breakfast sandwich ordered as well! Again it was delicious and at one pound (about 40 cents) it is definitely the right price. After the lesson I wasn't able to flag down a Bahri bus and after waiting in the sun for over half an hour I finally gave in and hired a mini van. The driver was a young African (not Arab) man and he must have been impressed by my being an American as he wanted to take my phone number when he dropped me off. Fortunately I don't remember my phones numbers and he assumed that this meant I don't have a phone. I didn't lie, I just didn't volunteer the truth. I had him drop me off at a tiny grocer down the road from me where I frequently go for yogurt, bread, eggs and my poison, Diet Pepsi (although I prefer Diet Coke this store doesn't have it). I had to get yogurt and Diet Pepsi and I figured that way he doesn't actually know where I live. He was nice and had really good English -- I suspect he may have come from Southern Sudan where the language that is spoken is English.
Yesterday I had written quite a bit in the blog and then I must have made an error in saving it because most of what I wrote was no longer there when I posted it. So today I will re-tell some of the content. The residential areas in Khartoum, Bahri, Khartoum 2 and Odurman are streets that have long metal fences with gates in them where the houses are. The gates of course then are opened and lead to the houses, often with some kind of a courtyard surrounding the actual house. I don't think that I have seen any front or back yards per se like those that we have in the states. I have seen one garage. Sometimes the bathrooms are a separate room in the courtyard, sometimes they are a room in the house. In my own apartment I have a bathroom off of the living room in the main body of the house. I have been in several homes where the bathroom is a separate room in the courtyard with a shower and squat toilet, occasionally also a Western type seated toilet.
The stores have the kinds of "doors" that I saw in Jerusalem, Palestine and I believe Kosovo. They are like very heavy metal blinds that move up and down to open and close. They are kind of like old fashioned rolling desktops if any of you, my readers, remember those, except in metal and not wood.
While I waited on the street hoping to catch a bus with the Bahri hand signal there was a man who tried to sell to me and anyone else in sight two adorable twin baby goats. Oh my gosh they were cute! I was praying that they were not headed into someone's soup pot for tonight because I know that goat meat is quite popular here. I don't know if people eat baby or grown up goat meat.
I can tell it is winter here in Khartoum not so much by the temperature, because really this is right now like a really nice Seattle summer, but by the shadows. The shadows are more like fall at home than winter at home, but it is definitely the light that is giving me the clues. So far the whole two months I have been here it gets light around 7:00 a.m. and gets dark around 7:00 p.m. It will be interesting to see what happens in the months to come. Today on the bus at one corner we had quite a bit of a wait and I enjoyed the show of the shadows of leaves on one of the walls which surrounds a house on a street corner. It made me think of Hebrews in the Bible talking of how we are the shadow of the reality.
Again there were many women in burkas and men in the long white garments. One of the men was walking in such a way today with the sun just so that I realized he really needed a slip underneath his! The donkey carts are everywhere, with the little donkeys in the front. At one point today I saw a donkey cart being loaded up with bricks. A few days ago at another location in town I saw bricks being made.
Greetings! Sometimes there is so much going on, or so little outwardly but a great deal inwardly, that it is hard to put things into a coherent pattern of thought. I realized yesterday, for instance, that it makes total sense for the Sudanese to eat dinner at 11 or 12 or 1 at night and breakfast at 10 in the morning. Okay, I might be starting to think like a Sudanese, should that have me worried? Well, the reason it makes sense is that the weather cools down somewhat in the late afternoon and evening. I had written on Facebook recently that if I could switch nights and days temperature wise I would be better off. Essentially by not doing meals according to US standards the Sudanese are switching parts of the day to their weather advantage. Now this does not explain why the Europeans do the same thing....
I had my second language class yesterday. I found someone who helped me get "ful", the incredibly wonderful vegetarian bean dish that the Sudanese have for breakfast, and apparently for dinner as well if they can find it. It is cheap, healthy and I don't have to make it although I could. Tomorrow morning I will be purchasing it again on the way to my third Arabic lesson. I need to find the shops closer to my apartment where I can buy it freshly made. Apparently many people buy it, take it home and fix it as we in the states might fix tacos. It can have salad or cheese, etc., put into it. Basically it is ful beans and tomatoes cut up and cooked together.
So the same new friend helped me find the bus back to Bahry where I live. Before I had been taking the more expensive mini buses, the bus is under one Sudanese pound, or less than 50 US cents. Once I have mastered the bus system it will be ever so much cheaper for me to get around. In China the buses were often so overcrowded that people were hanging out the windows and doors -- I kid you not. Here it is not possible because each bus is fitted with seats on each side of the aisle and there is not enough space in the aisle for people to stand. There are also no bars to hold on to for standing. I much prefer this way of doing buses! It is similar to Palestine because one does not put money into a machine on getting in the bus -- instead it is handed person by person up to a man (I've only seen men doing this) who takes payment, makes change, helps people get off at the right stop and announces what the bus is at each stop to help people find the correct bus.
Every time I go out I re-enter a form of culture shock. I have decided though that even though the culture is very conservative by American standards I like the fact that there are moral values that seem to be deeply rooted and not driven by the latest fads. I have more to explore in regard to this because I of course am only seeing things as an outsider. If by any chance I ever feel that maybe it isn't sooo different all it takes is to see one more woman in a burqua (which I do frequently), one more man in a full-length white outer garment (which I do everywhere) or a donkey cart with a donkey attached and I realize I am truly in a different world. However, smiles and kindness are universal languages. I have had plenty of people do their best to help me as I navigate in this new universe. Blessings, Debbie
Greetings! I've just arrived home from another day of firsts around the neighborhood and city. I went by bus to Khartoum 2 today, recognizing landmarks and managing to get off at the absolutely correct place to find the Language School where I had gone yesterday to inquire about their programs. This morning I went back and had my very first private tutor lesson in Arabic! I am excited that I got a better handle on the gender endings of words and also learned a basic formula for questions and answers where I can figure out how to answer the question from the question itself. Then I found my own way home by mini-van. I was able to use Arabic numbers to negotiate the price and to direct him to my home once we got over the Khartoum 2 to Bahri bridge. Eureka! Success!
An old woman approached me as I was getting into the mini van to come home, she put her hand to her mouth to indicate food. I simply do not comprehend how someone with no teeth manages to eat. I have been told not to give money because the next time the same person will seek me out and a cycle will begin that is never ending. It is difficult because there is so much need here.
I am utterly amazed every time I venture out at how many many wear the full burka treatment including the veil over their faces. I've noticed now that the veils hook on to another head covering on the back of the head and then fall over the face. I also see many many women with gloves on as well. Even some of the women who wear head coverings without covering their faces wear the gloves. The gloves are black and some of them are intricately decorated, others are just plain. It truly reminds me that this is a radically different culture when I see so many covered women at one time. In the states it is an occasional thing to see a woman in a burka. Here it is almost the norm.
If there were no burkas to remind me of the difference in culture the donkey carts would. I had today a sense of beginning to enjoy the Arabic culture more. Yes it is conservative past my comfort level. But it is also earthy and in touch with reality in a way that more modern and consumer oriented societies are not. This culture has its moral values and they define it. The heat, the dust, the clothing that is suited for the desert and the modesty of Islam all contribute to having a different pace and rhythm. I am trying to reason out what is the difference between a different pace and irresponsibility. In Palestine because of the many checkpoints that people must pass through to go from Point A to Point B and because of the arbitrary decisions that are made of who is allowed to go and who not to go people cease to make firm plans. But if I remember correctly people would call to convey what was going on and how long it might take them to come. Here in Khartoum mostly people just don't show up. To me that is irresponsible. On the other hand I can understand where time moves differently.
Courtesy. That is the word that comes to me. Is it a Western thing to believe that it is courteous to let someone know when plans have changed? Blessings, Debbie
I have been trying to figure out some of the differences between the US and Sudan and I realized that it might be easier to show pictures. The first picture here is of a neighborhood in Chicago. Independent structures with architectural variety. The second picture shows some of the agrarian nature of Sudan, with housing structures in the background. I am not sure that I have seen independently standing houses here. Instead there are usually long walls and gates in the walls leading into a kind of courtyard where each house is. It is a very different concept in neighborhood design than what we find in the US.
Greetings! For a while things had ground to a halt around here but they are now picking up. Today I took a public bus for the first time. The design of the bus means that they are much less crowded than the buses in China -- to be honest, that I was very thankful for. Waiting for the buses reminded me a lot of being in Jerusalem, lining up and hoping for an empty one. The buses here do not have numbers so I had to learn at one station that there are three lines and each line has a different destination. On the very first bus going into town God sent an Arabic angel and her little boy and she helped me and paid for my fare. Very kind.
So the purpose of my going into town today was to venture to the Arabic Language School. This particular school is run by a married couple from Korea, they were very nice folks. We decided after much discussion and my sitting in on the tail end of a group class that I am better off with a personal tutor because I will have the time to myself and be to ask as many questions as I need to. I start tomorrow...gulp. So tomorrow I have to find my way back to the school bus again. The Korean lady took me out to help me find a way home today - I may have to do that alone tomorrow, but on the other hand that may be what I request my first lesson to be on! I asked for a patient teacher and the co-owner said the man who will be my teacher is very good at working with children. Perfect!
For the ten minutes that I sat with three other students and their teacher today I realized for the first time how learning one language may make it easier to learn others. I know understand the functions of nouns, verbs and adjectives. I understand gender usage which of course we don't have in English but Greek certainly does and so does Arabic. So we will see how this goes.
Every time I am out and about in Khartoum I am struck by just how different it is here. The best adjective right now is simply dusty. There is dust everywhere. In fact for tomorrow when I have to deal with running after buses on the way home I am going to wear my tennis shoes for the first time since I have been here so I will have better traction than in my Birkenstocks. It is almost like being on a sandy beach - all the time. But then there are the people and the African and Arabic clothes which I love and also which is such an obvious signal -- this isn't the states.
On the way back today I ended up taking a kind of mini-van. Smaller and more expensive than a bus. Not as big as a big van nor as little as the motorized rickshaws. It was kind of nice to get a taste of freedom as the driver got me through the traffic and back across the bridge towards Bahri, my general neck of the woods. When we got to the crossroads that I now recognize he asked me which way to go. I had him turn away from home and then I knew when to say "Hallas", finish, when we were near the store I needed to shop at. I did my shopping at the store, loaded up my backpack and proceeded down the street. At the next corner I knew where to go to get my falafel and then I went into the store where I bought my wonderful soft pillows hoping to find pillowcases, alas there were none. Lastly I finished at the store two blocks up from my apartment where they sell the best quality large bottles of water that I use in the machine here at the house. I phones the college for help and they found a rickshaw and driver to bring me to the apartment, he came in with me and changed the water. He then took the empty water container back to the store for me. So I am learning now how to navigate.
At the same time last night I was reading in the living room on my very comfortable coach realizing how nice it is to have a room that I feel at home in. It was not that way in China where the most comfortable furniture was the bed.
By the way, the new bed that I now have is wonderful! I have taken a picture and will get it on here soon. Blessings, Debbie
Dear Friends, Greetings once again! This week has been a quiet one. I have been reading and making notes and learning a great deal about both the History of Missions and the New Testament Background. I am discovering that in order to prepare to teach I almost need to write a paper -- which is fine by me because I love information gathering and organizing. This is one of the most effective ways for me to learn and to integrate in order to pass the information on to my students.
On Facebook this week at one point I had the following status update: "...The kitchen had been quiet for a couple of days, no sightings of wandering reptiles....then as I sat to relax on the covered porch just now I saw them! TWO lizards at once running across the floor towards me until I SCREAMED! ....and then they ran away!
I've since spotted one of them in the living room. It took shelter behind a book case when I went after it. Not that I would have done anything to it because I certainly don't want to touch one of them!
I have asked several of the ex-pat women here where they get their hair cut. Every one of them has said that another woman from the ex-pat community has done that for them -- my New Zealand friend who is gone now said that she cut her husband's hair and he cut hers. Some of them have said that they have it cut once a year when they return home. I have become very grateful for not having a high-maintenance hairdo of any kind. I have seen the male counterparts to a woman's hair salon here in town. It was quite fascinating and certainly would cut down on overhead. In an alley there were men seated in chairs with a mirror in front of them hanging on a fence and the barber behind them -- cutting!
I apparently live in a part of town that has relatively stable power. Even so I have noticed that several times a week the electricity cuts out for a few hours during the day. Praise God so far it has not happened at night. Which reminds me...being from the Pacific Northwest in the states it is a real shock to be paying less for electricity right now in the winter here in Sudan. I am not having to pay to heat the house -- nor to cool it, I am simply running fans. It is good that I am saving money now because I am sure I will need that money come the summer months to help pay for the cost in double electric bills to cool the apartment!
One of the subjects which has come up fairly frequently in conversations here in Khartoum is that of polygamy. I had read in The Will to Arise, and in some other books as well, that in many ways Africa as a continent is living in Old Testament times; that the culture is like that of the OT. It has been interesting and fascinating for me to hear about the ways that this seems to be true. Polygamy appears to be a cultural issue. It is practiced by both Muslims and Christians. Christians will argue that polygamy was practiced in the Old Testament and therefore is appropriate for Christians to practice. When a man's first wife is unable to become pregnant then a man who can afford to do so will marry a second wife in order to have children. I came here to Africa knowing that one of the issues I was/am wrestling with is that of what is Scriptural and what is my Western culture? The practice of polygamy is one of the areas where I must continue this wrestling. Of course polygamy then draws one into many other issues, including the authority that men gives themselves over the lives of women. These are issues I will be asking my students and colleagues about. I will be listening to their answers and reflections. I will continue to learn to sit with another culture's way of being.
Another issue which I have both read about and also am seeing in practice first hand is the educational situation here in Africa. Most institutions of higher learning require teachers to have at least a Master's degree. Most of the colleges educate at the Bachelor's level. Until the educational system has matured and is able to offer Master's degrees either 1. students need financial assistance to study for a Master's outside of Africa or 2. the faculties will consist of primarily foreign teachers. I suppose that since the goal seems to be for teachers to have a higher degree than their students that teaching with a BA won't be encouraged. I believe that there is one faculty member here at Nile Theological College who graduated with a BA from this college and then studied elsewhere for his Master's degree, returning to teach at the college.
I am hopeful that today I may be able to finish the preliminary work on the New Testament Background class for January and move on to designing the actual course. I also have to go grocery shopping which is a bit of a challenge. I don't of course as of yet have a car and I don't know how to explain in Arabic to a taxi how to get to my house -- and if I have a heavy backpack full of groceries my back hurts for two days. I may resort to a rolling suitcase as I did in Nanjing, even though the roads here are not as smooth as they were there. I also may have to begin teaching myself Arabic as it does not look too likely at this point that I will have a way to get to formal lessons in the Khartoum across the Nile. Please keep me in prayers for solutions to my transportation issues. I am sure that over time things will be work out. They did in Nanjing so I have no reason to believe that they won't do so here as well. It takes time to assimilate and integrate.
Time seems to slow down here in the heat of the desert and in the Arabic culture. Maybe it is just hard to be too rushed in a tobe and in the dust. Blessings, Debbie
Dear Friends, Greetings! This has been such a nice day. I was collected this morning by the family of a colleague and friend from the college and taken to the KCC, Khartoum Community Church. This is a Pentecostal service. It was very multi-ethnic and multi-cultural and reminded me of the International Fellowship in Nanjing China. The advantage to this particular church (vs the church in Nanjing) is that the local people can attend it as well. Both this service and the service at the Khartoum International Church are in English.
It appears that basically what is available here is Baptist or Pentecostal. This is not to say that there are not other options, it just means that I haven't come across them so much yet.
I need prayer as to the transportation issue. It appears that many people here in Khartoum started out living near where I live (Bahri in Khartoum North) but they have migrated across the bridge over the Nile River to other parts of Khartoum such as Odurman. The friends who brought me today will be moving to another part of town tomorrow and as such will not be able to help me out again. Ideally there would be a neighborhood church to which I could walk every week -- be it Friday or Sunday -- but where I am living now this is not the case. I trust that something consistent will appear on the horizon to one of the English speaking services in town, either the KCC or the KIC (see names above and match initials), or that I will be led to worship in an Arabic speaking service closer to home.
After service we joined with friends of my friends and went to a Syrian restaurant for lunch....I was so very excited to see humus for the second time in Sudan! Again, it may be here all over the place, but I haven't seen it! I was able to order tabouleh salad, a great favorite of mine and lentil soup that was vegetarian. It was great fun to sit with others for a meal again.
I am slowly realizing that religion and culture are intricately intertwined here in Sudan. This may be true all over the world, but since this is the place where I find myself residing for now it is the place that I am analyzing. I have learned things from The Will to Arise, a book on African theology from a feminist perspective; discussions with colleagues and others; from The Princess, the book I recently read on Saudi Arabia, and also from the Madeline Albright book which I am currently reading. The way that I am beginning to tell if something is cultural is if it is practiced by both Muslim and Christian Sudanese, although this is certainly up for correction.
Tomorrow should be laundry day. Yesterday would have been but the electricity was out for several hours and today might have been but I didn't return from worship and fellowship until late afternoon and a nap was in order. Blessings, Debbie
Greetings! I made a fun discovering yesterday. I've had some long top/skirt sets made for me here in Khartoum. Looking at the length of the long top I was wearing yesterday decided to try it on as a dress -- it made an adorable short dress! I can't wear it like that here in Sudan but the next time I leave the country I will all have sorts of cute short dresses to take along with me!
By the way, at church last Sunday someone told me that there is an exercise gym on the second floor of the Alba (may not be the correct name) shopping mall near the airport here in Khartoum. She said it has stationary bikes and the like. She is interested in looking into it in mid-December when she returns from her home country and invited me to consider joining her. I don't know how I would deal with the transportation issue but I am quite thrilled about the idea of having a possibility -- and someone to be accountable to as well. Several people have told me that there is just no way to get exercise here in Khartoum. It is too hot to walk and I have not seen one single piece of exercise equipment in any of the stores that I've been in or walked by or gone by in a car. So this is hopeful!
A friend who is also on Facebook said today that he heard his first Christmas commercial. He is in the states. I remember my first Christmas in China in 2007. I went into the Walmart store in Nanjing and there was a whole section of the store devoted to artificial trees and decorations and Christmas music being played that could be heard through the entire store. I was in shock. It bothered me a great deal because I realized that in Communist China Christmas certainly is not a holy Christian holiday. China had found a way to milk a Western tradition as a money making venture. It was worst for me to have this in China than even in the United States because at least in the states there is still a vestige of understanding of the true meaning behind Christmas. This is not to say that there are not Chinese Christians, because there are. But even my Chinese students at China Pharmaceutical University who were not Christians and had no idea what the meaning of Christmas was, were excited about Christmas trees and presents and a festival.
In Sudan it is going to be another matter altogether. I was in Israel and Palestine in December of 1996. I remember how subdued Bethlehem and the West Bank were. And in Israel proper it was eerie for me knowing that I was there in Advent and there were no Christmas decorations, no Christmas music and no glitterama. Of course Israel is Jewish and Northern Sudan is Muslim, but the point is that same. There will probably be no Christmas decorations, no Christmas music and no glitterama here in Khartoum. This coming Sunday, November 29th, 2009 marks the beginnning of Advent. The International Church here in Khartoum is not liturgical per se. The college has ended chapel services for fall semester as it is almost finished now. Tomorrow I will accompany another teacher to a Friday morning Pentecostal service which will likely be non-liturgical. I do not miss the commercialized aspects of Advent and Christmas in the United States. I DO miss the markers that we are in a set apart season, a time for awe and anticipation. Instead I will need to do this setting apart for myself.
Today was my first American Thanksgiving in another new country. From my experience so far in traveling and living abroad I would say that the first year in a new country is the most difficult. There is the adjustment to the new culture. It takes time to learn where to grocery shop and the proper ways of dressing. And it just plain takes time for friendships to form and become a vessel for nurture and joy. I spent today alone although someone from the college did accompany me to purchase a large container of water for my water machine and vegetarian pizza. The power went out this afternoon and into the first of the darkness. I was planning to sleep in the living room with the doors open so as not to be locked into an airless darkness. And then, praise God!, the power came back on. I may still watch a movie. I trust that Thanksgiving next year will be different. By then I should be sufficiently connected with an ex-pat community of Americans somewhere that I will have fellowship on this American day.
I was asked today to teach English to some of the students at the college, along with History of Missions and New Testament Background. I was assured that this was more of an Oral English than a grammatical English. I've realized that I can do with these students so much of what I wanted to do in China and was not able to do because of the limits put on Christians in that country. I can hand out readings from all sorts of literature that are based on Scripture or on thinking from around the world and have the student's discuss those readings. There is potential for this being a rich time of learning for both my students and for me.
I am currently reading The Mighty and The Almight by Madeleine Albright, the first female Secretary of State in the United States. I would recommend this read to anyone who is interested in learning more about the United States and our relationships with countries in the Middle East. It is a fascinating and informative book. Blessings, Debbie
I've just finished listening to the haunting Call to Prayer of the mosque closest to my apartment. Khartoum has a lot of mosques and each one of them has distinct architecture and colors. I am discovering that I enjoy sitting in my covered porch area with a lit candle listening to the morning call. It brings me into prayer as a Christian.
Yesterday the college sent a man to change lightbulbs, hang pictures and fix a broken chair. I was sitting on the chair at the computer when the leg fell off -- fortunately nothing on me broke! It was pretty amazing watching him nail the chair back together...I would have thrown it out.
Thanksgiving is of course tomorrow in the states. I've decided to celebrate by going to one of the two local pizza joints here in Khartoum North and getting a vegetarian take-out pizza. They also have sweets that I have admired at the pizza place and I am going to treat myself to some of those as well. I am grateful to have a new home and thankful for a place to buy familiar foods.
Sunday and Monday I was included in dinner plans with one of the other teachers at the college and his family. We went out for Egyptian food as the family is from Egypt on Sunday, then went on to church and afterwards went shoe shopping! I came home with a lovely pair of purple shoes from Egypt that are designed to be worn with henna tattooes. My henna is fading fast -- but once I understood how the shoes were worn (they have pointy toes and human toes don't go all the way to the end of the point!) I could see how they would show the henna to best advantage. It was great fun shopping with the family!
Monday we went to an Indian restauraunt for "lunch." Now I must explain that in Sudan breakfast is eaten around 10:00 a.m., lunch around 4:00 p.m. and dinner at 8 or 9:00 at night. Needlesstosay I am going to have to do some balancing when I am teaching because I need to eat breakfast in the early morning and lunch around noon! At any rate, a friend of the family joined us for lunch on Monday and we had a blast! I love spending time with women friends, we have the mutal language of laughter in common and it is a beautiful language!
I was told that there are places where I can go and have a coffee and nice pastry for a fix when I need one. I explained that when I was in Nanjing I found some Western places for a fix when I got too homesick....and after seeing the shoe stores on Sunday I realize that there are more modern in stores in Khartoum than the ones that I have hitherto been exposed to.
One of the questions that will face me at some point is: will I try to get a car or not? Another question has to do with language study. The colleague whose family I ate with took me to the Arabic school on Monday and it had already closed by 2:30. I am not having much luck getting hold of the people who teach there. Maybe I need to be content with December as the month for preparation for teaching in January. Blessings, Debbie
Yesterday afternoon I was one of several guests at the home of the Principal of Nile Theological College, and his wife. We were invited for lunch, which in the states would be an early dinner. The food was wonderful, I am quite certain that his wife spent the day cleaning house and preparing food. They do have a grown daughter and her children staying with them at the moment, so there were probably extra hands pitching in as well.
We were shown the house which, in the African manner, has a bedroom for the girls and a bedroom for the boys as well as one for the parents. I believe that if this had been an Arab home the parents would have slept separately in the men's and women's quarters. It felt like a loving home, attention to details such as bedspreads, which were quite lovely, added to that feeling that the people who live there are important.
We then went to the "company" living room which had a traditional African set-up for furniture as well as the dining room table. The table had the food which was served buffet style and then we returned to our seats where there were small tables (nicer than American TV trays) to put our plates on. Esther, Rev. Thomas' wife, had kindly made special vegetarian dishes for me. It was so good to eat homemade food, since of course I am as yet not producing much of my own!
After dinner we sat and talked. I asked questions about African tribes and found that the tribal relations and inter-relations are at least as complicated as what I know about American Indians tribal history. It is clear to me that for me to thoroughly understand the situation would take a great deal of concentrated study. Suffice it to say that there are many, many tribes in the totality of Africa, and each of them appears to have particular traits. This is similar to American tribes which were, say, warriors or nomads. There was a feeling of true generosity and hospitality in the evening. I was very grateful.
It is a marked difference, and a very gracious one, to be invited into the fellowship, the life of the community in the college. I am being included and people are helping to care for my needs. Today one of my colleagues/friends from the college negotiated at a mattress making shop for a cotton mattress to replace my twin mattresses which I continue to wrestle with at night. I ask you, have you ever had a mattress made to your specifications? Frankly I did not know that such a thing was possible. It will be a firm cotton mattress of sufficient quality to be long-lasting.
Today was the final chapel for the fall quarter. Once again there was beautiful singing by the men in the choir -- there are no women, I don't know why. For this final chapel we had communion; in Southern Sudan the church celebrates communion but twice a year.
So today I celebrated my first African communion with my sisters and brothers in my new community in Sudan. The Principal presided wearing his black robe and stole. He received his Master of Divinity degree at the Johnson Theological Seminary in the states, it is one of our Presbyterian Seminaries. I was excited to learn that! Communion was received not by intinction but with each element served one at a time pew by pew. And it was good. Blessings, Debbie
I got a lousy picture, although it IS a picture, of the lizard just now. I was outside of the kitchen looking in and he/she is sprawled out (the only position a lizard has) on one of the burners on the gas stove. Fortunately for said lizard the stove was not turned on for I am STILL avoiding cooking:)
I will get the picture to you at a later moment/day/year/century -- it just depends on my mood....
I was accompanied to the suq (sook) again today by Christine, the woman whose family will be returning to New Zealand next Monday. I will sorely miss her sense of humor which, by chance, happens to be like my own...witty, sarcastic, kind of cynical. Anyhow, I was passed on to her vegetable person which is fine with me because in China I always tried to go to the same person. It can be very nice to build a relationship with one person vs going to a different place each time for one's food.
The water cooler has been acting up again and two of the men from the college came today to haul it to the company for repair. They looked inside it first and lo and behold there was a huge hunk of ice that was preventing the cold water from moving! I had inadvertently turned the temperature too cool. They were so kind and defrosted and drained it, reassembled and cleaned it for me.
I found out today more about the schedule for the classes beginning in January. This is good as it will make it a measure less challenging to do my planning. Tomorrow people will be at the school dealing with the accreditation process that NTC is in the midst of. Always a hard thing for schools/colleges/universities from what I have observed. Blessings, Debbie
The two families with whom I shared Friday morning and early afternoon.
One of my new African outfits, me in the green, center.
I was invited by two of the other teachers at NTC, and their families, to join them for fellowship on Friday. As Friday is the Muslim day of prayer it is a "day off" in Sudan. Hanna, in the red striped shirt, his wife Eva and their daughters Phoebe and Joyce, drove me to Christoph and Tina's home. We talked, prayed, and shared a wonderful cake that Tina and their children had made for us!
I am thankful for new friends to share life with in Sudan. On the way home I learned that Egypt has a large middle class and that Sudan has practically none, just as in many other countries where the gap between rich and poor is growing as the middle class disappears.
By the way, I found switches on the back of the water cooler and have figured out why there was not hot and cold water. It is now working correctly. The next project is to get a new queen size matress. I had hauled a down comforter with me from the states which, while a bit too warm, has proved to be a great thing to have here. The tailor made a cover for it, at first with no opening through which to get the comforter out, it has now been altered. Okay, so in other countries the cover is known as a duvet. I now have a nicely made bed and will look forward to having other duvet covers made so that I can inexpensively change the look of the room -- and having a queen size bed to put it on!
I will be teaching New Testament Background as a concentrated course for three weeks in January and then in February will begin 24 classes of the History of Mission. Today I have been starting the work of reading through books to see which ones will be of most value. Cecelia the house helper came as well. It is absolutely amazing to me to see how much dirt and dust she sweeps out of each room. I am thankful for her availability to me because I don't know that I would put enough care into the housework on my own. It is terribly nice to have her come and clean it well each week.
Tomorrow Wahiba will come and if traffic is not so bad in the morning we will go to the Catholic church and then to the tailor again. There may have been plans for tea as well later, but it all begins to melt into one long line at some point. Perhaps I will be able to go to the International Church tomorrow evening a last time with the neighbors who will move soon. I still need to sort out the church issue, finding out for instance what time the Reformed church service is in the church near the college.
The Henna artist creating a henna pattern on my foot. She learned the art from her mother.
I like this metaphor...transparent veil in the land of veiling.
We had Arabic coffee made from the scratch -- Wahiba's cousin roasted the coffee beans on her oven. She used real coals (glowing in the middle of the picture) to keep things warm and to put incense in.
Ta da! Henna'd feet!
Today I realized that no matter how good an education a person receives, unless there are opportunities to put that education to good use, one is faced with dead ends. It is very difficult for a Sudanese person to get a visa to certain countries where the opportunities might be more plentiful, on the other hand "brain drain" is a real issue for many African countries whose educated people must leave their homelands in order to find employment.
Wahiba and I went to the tailor's today. I was again impressed by the skills of this man who taught himself to sew. A small crowded shop and he cut into material with such smooth movements and confidence, it made me think of surgery. No patterns. No pins. Nothing to clutter the process.
After the tailor we went to Wahiba's cousin's home. There we had Arabic coffee made from scratch -- ah so delicious!! And I had henna painted on my feet and my hands. I realized why we don't do this in the West -- no one would want to take the time to relax and sit long enough to be painted and have it dry. Maybe a woman's group retreat would be a good setting for it. It was definitely a pampering day. Nice. The henna is painted on, the drying is longer on the feet as the paint will remain on the feet longer than on the hands. At the appropriate time in the drying process I was taken outside and the paint was washed. The water turned quite brown, or perhaps black. A beautiful process.
Wahiba seemed quite surprised that I not only knew about squat toilets -- she called them Sudanese, I called them Chinese -- but I also knew how to use one! Took me back to the bathrooms at the China Pharmaceutical University in Nanjing!
Last week we drove through an impoverished section of Khartoum. This week we drove through a middle class section. The home of her cousin where we had coffee and henna was in the middle class section. The ceiling was of a natural material that appeared to be something like what I would have seen in the Philippines -- it keeps the home cooler. There was a fan but no swamp cooler. The home had beds for coaches, and from what I could see in another home this is the norm. Makes sense -- it is very practical, either extra beds for company or a place as a family grows larger. The T.V. was on at Wahiba's cousins home -- it has been a while since I've seen T.V. We turned for a minute to BBC World News -- it is different than internet. After I buy a new bed maybe a small T.V. will come. Who knows?
I am sleeping on two twin beds pushed together to be one large bed. The problem is that I keep ending up in the crack between the two. This morning I must have been sleeping on one bed to try and avoid the crack and I ended up falling out -- oops! there comes the floor!
Peeking into the Nile Theological College Compound
I have wanted for a while to share pictures that are of similar themes from different countries with you. This is my beginning. In Khartoum I rarely see a man dressed in a business suit, although the Principal of my college does so. The picture from China is that of a man in a remote Western village participating in a play -- while this was not typical attire for China, his joy in what he was doing was so clear that I am sharing this picture anyhow. In Japan what struck me was that just about every man that I saw WAS in a business suit. A great contrast to China and Khartoum.
Today was the weekly chapel at the college. I will tell you that I am totally impressed by the musical gifts and dedication of the all-male choir at this college. There are seven men, they put on royal blues robes and sit at the front. It doesn't matter if they sing in English or Arabic, they harmonize beautifully and give such pleasure to all of us -- and I am sure to God as well!
I went to the library at the college today to scope out some help for my NT Background and Mission History classes and was pleased to find Raymond Brown and the Open Secret. I'll have some good help and some good company on this journey!
Please keep me in prayer as I continue to adjust to the difference in the meaning of time here. People come early or late or not at all. Please pray also for those issues which remain unspoken and yet which need prayer and lifting up. We know that God knows what they are. Blessings, Debbie
I am definitely feeling more settled here in my little apartment/house in Khartoum. I can't remember if I mentioned it before but my quarters would be like a mother-in-law or grandma apartment in the states. The house is really set up in a rather ingenious way, something like a compound. Through the back of my area is the rather huge, long garage where the landlord and his wife (the landlady) keep their cars. Their kitchen is in a room off of the garage opposite their main rooms. Maybe originally they had planned to house one of their children and family here but have been able to use the area to earn some income instead.
I attended the faculty meeting this morning where we received our teaching assignments. Far cry from China. I was included and was clearly a part of the faculty. I was originally assigned NT Background in the concentrated three weeks before the regular semester begins in February and Music in the Church for the regular semester. Needless to say I let the Academic Dean know quite quickly that I am not a musician and am not qualified to teach the Music class! No one else was or is either.... I was able to replace that class with The History of Mission. Oh how I wish had my class notebook for the Long Distance Learning class I took from Fuller on the Biblical Theology of Mission! That course was excellent and I could really use its wisdom right now....thankfully I have had a Facebook friend offer to help me out with some other materials via internet.
I now have NT Background and History of Mission and I feel good about those two classes. This afternoon I have begun looking through the resources that I DO have and this week I will have to start reading them so I can begin planning the class outline and looking towards the syllabus.
I wore a jumper (not a sweater for anyone from the UK who might be reading this) with a t-shirt under it for the meeting. This was fine for teaching in China but I felt really under dressed here. Thank goodness for the top and skirt sets I had made in China, and for the African clothes that are getting sorted out here. I tell you, it is so nice not to feel like a freak wearing long skirts...I am quite the fashionable one here!
Speaking of fashion, on the way home today I was struck by two men who walked in front of the car crossing the street. One of them was wearing a tucked in shirt and the other had his shirt untucked. Here they are both perfectly acceptable. And then on the same street there were the men with one long white garment. Then there were two women, one with a head scarf and the other with the full body tobe. The material of the tobes is so lovely, I would want to have it made into a dress or skirt and not worn to cover the rest of my clothing up.
My water machine is back and it works. The landlady's picture has been hung up, albeit a bit crooked, in the living room. The apartment is beginning to feel much cozier. I was picked up to go into the college today and brought home by car.
Yesterday I ran out of electricity and the college sent someone to buy me more. This was a first time adventure for me! The landlord came the night before last to tell me I was down to 17 kilowats (I believe that is correct) and that I would need the next day (yesterday) to get more. He suggested that I buy 600 this time. He said that the reason I, and they, are going through so much electricity is because of the coolers. That would be the swamp coolers. It is so hot out that the only way to keep somewhat cool is to have the water running all of the time, the fans alone are simply not effective. I called the college yesterday morning to let them know I needed more and sure enough about three hours later everything stopped. I went out to check the meter and it said "0". So, it was out. I called the college back to let them know it was out and someone came to get my old receipt for the meter number and purchased more. The numbers of the new receipt are then punched into the meter and the meter shows the new amount of how much electricity is now available. It is a whole new world!
The water is on a flat rate, the phone is prepaid with scratch cards and the internet appears to be something along the lines of a flat rate. I am beginning to get an idea of what my monthly expenses will be.
Tomorrow is chapel so I will back at the college and then I believe that Wahiba and I will go back to the African tailor's shop to get the clothes finally straightened out. One outfit in particular I really like and I am hoping that I can have some others made just like it! Blessings, Debbie
I've posted pictures today of my Aviary, the place where I can enjoy some of the bird life here in Sudan. And also pictures of the Family Half Day with the Khartoum International Church which took place this past Friday.
I am still waiting for my water machine to be repaired, it has been a week since it was picked up by the store. I am back to buying water by the smaller bottles. I have found a place now to buy fresh pita bread and falafel -- so it doesn't matter quite so much right now that I don't feel I can cook as yet. I need to water machine to have the water for washing vegetables for cooking and eating. Apparently the tap water can have things in it that are not good for consumption.
Wahida picked me up today and we went to an Ethipoian Market in Khartoum. I think that this is related to a church and it reminded me something of the flea market that was described in Kite Runner. The flea market in the book was a place where a certain amount of courtship could take place under the watchful eyes of parents.
I realize today that a new car would not be a good idea here. Not that I can afford one! But it would be so obviously different that I think it would not be good. In my very first call to a small rural church in Southern Oregon new cars were not a good idea -- they were simply too far above the purchasing ability of anyone in town. It is that way here. Living beyond the normal means sets one up to be a target I think.
I am realizing that just as in Jerusalem and in Nanjing I need to find a Western style place, if possible, where I can and hang out when I need a fix. This is not undoable. I am just recognizing that the differences are so great between Khartoum and Seattle that occasionally I am going to need a cool and green place to be an American.
After the family half day on Friday I realized that I am going to need to explore some other churches in the area besides just the International Church. I may need a church with tradition, deeper roots and a sense of context in the culture. I would rather be the change than having everything in the church being the change. Blessings, Debbie
My own private Aviary. There is the main room in the apartment with a bathroom off of one side of it, on the other side are two bedrooms. This is the main compartment of the house/apartment. There are double (Dutch?) metal doors which I bolt with a lock at night...the doors lead to a room that has a double metal door bolted kitchen off of it and the next outdoor wall is mesh with a screen door on it. This leads to the outdoor courtyard type area, where my Aviary is. The courtyard area is surrounded by a tall metal fence/barrier with a bolted entryway. The kitchen is nice and big.
Family half day for the Khartoum International Church. It was nice getting fed things like MASHED POTATOES (my children know how much I love those!) and cinnamon rolls! It was also nice getting to meet some locals and other foreigners. Apparently there are only two other Americans in the church, I've been told that Americans aren't well liked here.
Okay, something has become clear to me tonight, thanks to a friend of mine in Seattle. I Facebooked that some people are early and some people are late. She pointed out to me that this has to do with kairos time and not chronos (chronological) time. Kairos is more God time.
Living in a new way, a different way, different, different, different. The housecleaner woman came an hour and a half early this morning. I was in bed. The water people have not brought back the brand new water machine that broke the second day I had it. They picked it up on Sunday and this is Thursday, tomorrow is their Holy Day and they aren't going to bring it then. The woman who I was supposed to call after the housecleaning woman left so we could go do something had her cell phone off the hook all afternoon.
Oh Lord, I am trying to be a good sport about it all. People keep wanting me to be settled into the apartment. Having water I can wash vegetables with so I can cook is part of that settled in -- I need the water machine to get organized. I can't use the tap water even for washing the food because it might have guardia (is that the correct spelling for the little micro beasties?).
So I am praying tonight to come to love kairotic time and not demand to live on chronos time. Grrrr. Blessings, Debbie
The traffic is mad and crazy here and people are always walking about, on their way to and fro, from somewhere going to somewhere. On the other hand, there is a sense of timelessness here and a different sense of movement. I am sure this is in part why it is taking almost a week for my brand new water machine to be repaired. There is not a Western sense of urgency here. Things will be done when they are done.
In chapel this morning at the college I was aware of what a privilege it is that this is the place to which God has called me. The men and women here are solid and they are on a path. I am at the margins of life, and this for me is where life is the most vibrant and full of color. By the time the margins reach the center there is too much to lose. The center has become the status quo and is invested in remaining the same. Here is Sudan there is hope for change. At this little college in Khartoum the students ARE the change.
I don't know how different the poverty would be in the country if the British had not colonized Sudan. My understanding is that colonized countries often struggle with the realities of independence for a long time after the occupying country has left their lands. Would it have been a different story if Great Britain had not come here in the first place? Of course the reality is that GB did come so that there is no way to know what things would have been like otherwise.
Wahiba drove me to some remote, dusty and impoverished areas of greater Khartoum today. In its own way in the dust, the brownness, and the occasional burst of green growth in the form of a tree, this place is beautiful. It is so different from the West that there is simply no way to describe it adequately. I am hopeful that some of the pictures which I took today will aid the descriptions. It is a land of donkeys, goats and cows. It is a land of women in tobes. It is a land of men in the long white gowns and coverings on their heads. It is a land of extreme poverty. It is also a land of hope.
I realized today with a chuckle that if I do not feel called to serve the wealthy it means that I am not going to be wealthy. I am going to be on the margins. But, I have known before that the margins have been for me where life is. And beauty. Brokenness and healing. Hospitality and love.
The African dresses that I will soon be wearing are in a sense the reflection of all that this continent is for me so far, and I believe that my awareness and oneness will only deepen and grow. The dresses are colorful, comfortable, not form fitting but still attractive, made for the hot weather that is here. A hot climate produces both dust and color. Blessings, Debbie
This is a picture from the Khartoum International Church. Anybody can attend the church, including locals. If you look closely behind the pulpit at the back (which is considered the front) there is an awesome cross cut-out in the wall!
I found out that I have to have a license for photographing so my Swiss friend took this picture of me in the souk. The man to my left is one of her friends that she buys produce from. The fruits and veggies are both available in the same place, unlike in China.
I took this picture just as the lizard bolted behind the kettle and out of view of the camera.
If you look down in the picture at the dark area which is the stovetop, the little beast scurried between that stovetop and the wall. I really don't understand how it could have become so small....