Friday, September 30, 2011

Putting Two and Two Together

Dear Friends,
Greetings! Just this morning I have literally put two and two together and understand something I was told by a student a while ago.

He told me that during the civil wars between the north and the south in Sudan some of the boys were able to leave to go to refugee camps in order to receive education. I asked about girls being able to go. He said that girls could not go too far from their parents. Of course I immediately began wondering what in the world he meant by that. And he answered me. He said that boys, young men, men, are capable of doing physical work that is very hard in order to support themselves. And girls are not. His sister was not able to go to Nairobi with him because she could not do the kinds of work he could do. Later I thought, I should have asked why he did not take her with him anyhow and support her so that she also could have received an education.

Now, the reason this has become vividly clear for me today is because someone was using what I suppose to be a machete to keep paths clear here on the compound where I live. There are two homes, I live in one, this man and his wife live in the other and have an extra room for guests. The grass is definitely not the tame sort of stuff that we have in Seattle. I don't think even a seated lawn mower would touch it.

A couple of weeks ago a man had been paid what would be the equivalent of $100. USD to come in and chop the whole batch away. The grass has already re overtaken everything. I have just found out that snakes can hide out in that grass. I now have no desire to go anywhere...except that apparently there are also occasional sightings in houses as well.

Now, the work that this man did to chop the entire jungle down (calling it a lawn would be far too refined) took several days. Maybe a girl or young woman could do that work. I don't know. I did hear of a case in an email from Khartoum of a young mother/widow with a one year old daughter and no way to support her except by selling tea which is not a sufficient income.

Perhaps by now you get the gist of what I am getting at? It is a pity, a travesty of justice and an incorrect way of thinking that values the work of the muscles of a man more than the work of a mother struggling to keep her one year old daughter alive. We know that the muscles are valued more because of how much they are paid.

I see this as yet another stumbling block to women's ability to help change the world. The male and female bodies were created differently by the Creator. And the work that both genders do should be equally valued and equally compensated. How is the cycle ever going to be broken if this does not change? Who is going to pay $100 USD for a cup of tea? I don't think I've ever seen a man selling tea. I am sure that it is considered women's work and beneath the dignity of a man who has muscles that can earn much more money.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Keeping up with the Joneses.....

Dear Friends,
Greetings from Malakal! I have been here now for about three weeks. This week I have not been feeling well. Fortunately I was able to teach on my teaching days of Monday and Tuesday and then Wednesday I had a low fever and rested.

I am beginning to make some progress on my dissertation proposal for the Doctor of Theology in Missiology program at the University of South Africa (UNISA). This is a relief as it has been several months since I have been able to focus on it.

The mud here in Malakal apparently lasts from around May to the end of October, so essentially half a year. Please pray for the government to become more responsive and responsible to the needs of its people and develop a plan for paving the streets here in the town. I have been here for, as I said, about three weeks, and have hardly left the house except for going to the school. It is just too difficult to move about.

I did find out this week that there are people who think that all Americans have access to free skiing lessons. And I have decided in my own head that not only should all American children spend time abroad in another culture, all American children should learn the basics of camping.

As the electricity here has diminished I have found that I do not have the skills to know how to survive without electricity. I wish I had brought a Coleman camping stove for instance....well, at any rate the gas is hard to find as well because it comes from Khartoum and Khartoum is not letting goods through the North-South border. The situation here has deteriorated since Independence in July and what I have come into is different than what I knew and understood to prepare for earlier in the year.

This country does need more than prayer, it needs a great deal of practical help. Most of the people walk in the mud barefoot...I am quite certain they cannot afford shoes or boots. Walking in the mud barefoot means that they may encounter glass or other things that could hurt them.

The dogs continue to howl at night and I am finding I am not sleeping well because of this. Yesterday 7 dogs broke through a loose place in the metal wall surrounding the compound and were in the yard behind my house. That unnerved me. I told my newly returned compound mates that every night I have thanked God that I am a safe place where the dogs cannot get hold of me and tear me to shreds. Now I am not so sure that this is true!

Friday, September 23, 2011

An Earlier Entry that is now being put into the blog....

Dear Friends,
Greeings, at long last, from the new Republic of South Sudan in Africa!

Today is Thursday, the first of September, 2011. I arrived after a long journey in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, yesterday, Wednesday, the last day of August in 2011.

It was a long journey indeed. This statement of course has multiple meanings and multiple layers. The particular meaning I am addressing here is that the flight from Washington D.C., once safely on board the aircraft, lasts for 13 hours. That is long time to be stuck in a small space with very little wiggle room and no access to one's regular routine.

I had the extreme luxury of three seat sot myself! I put all of the armrests up and spent most of the 13 hours prone and covered with blankets. It made the passage of time more bearsble.

I had dreamt of shopping at the Ethiopian Airport upon arrival in Ethiopia, our first port of entry into Africa. Shopping and finding a Diet Coke. Instead we were ushered off of the plane and directed into a small space that had no water, let alone Diet Coke and no restroom in sight. The choice to leave for shopping, etc., would have meant going back through security and I declined that. So by the time I got to Juba I was overwhelmed by the heat and the crowding in the tiny airport there. The Danish woman whom I met in the airport in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) said that the hardest part of the return journey for her from Denmark is always the arriving at the Juba airport. I did feel better after knowing I was not alone in my emotions.

Thankfully I was able to get a six month extension for my Travel Permit issued on the spot. I am grateful for the friends who told me to have $100. US available for that purpose and two passport pictures as well. I got the passport photos taken on the way to the airport in Louisville on Sunday! All was in hand.

The pastor and his wife who picked me up at the airport helped with the permit process and then with gathering my eleven bags. This was no small feat. I believe that there were four men and at least three flatbed carts that hauled my moving-to-Malakal load out to their vehicle. I was so thankful to see that it was an SUV type and not a small car.

They managed to get everything in and we directly to the Mission Aviation Fellowship to drop the 11 bags off for transport to Malakal as space allows. While I did prioritze the bags you might well imagine that with each bag containing some books for teaching that in reality all of the books are actually equally important...I am praying for quick success in recieving my bags at my new home in Malakal.

The next stop was the Ethiopian Airlines office for my round trip ticket to return to Addis Ababa and pick up things like my two burner stovetop and my teaching materials for the coming semester which were left in Addis when I returned to the states in March. The office was so crowded that we left and I am hoping someone at the Episcopal Guest House where I am currently staying in Juba will be able to help me with that endeavor today.

The Guest House was the next and last stop. As I expected it is a far cry from the Embassy Suites or the Hilton in Arlington, Virginia. Too much of those hotels in the D.C. area can take the edge off of a person, and that edge is necessary for surviving in Afrtica. It is a fine line however. I discovered on my extra day in D.C. (due to a Hurricane Katrina related glitch as related to you in a previous blog) that I really am going to have to take vacations. I need to have time to not be stressed about anything. The only way to do that is to truly get away from my daily activities. Part of what doing that will mean is that some of the edge will soften and I have to be aware that my return to life in Africa will be more difficult in the beginning as a result.

The Guest House is clean and, as I have a room to myself, has plenty of room for sorting through my two carryons that I kept with me and regrouping myself in order to get organized for the days ahead. I must prepare myself for the preparations to finally leave for Malakal so that I can set up house and be ready to start teaching at the end of September. That is a rather interesting paradox I suppose. I have to get organized in order to get organized. But, there you have it....

Juba is a pleasant little city, at least so far. It reminds me of Nairobi more than it reminds me of Addis Ababa. And it does not remind me of Khartoum at all. Khartoum is definitely an Arab city and it is a major urban metropolis of several million people. Juba is definitely an African city as is Nairobi. I keep reminding myself not to get too accustomed to, for instance, the paved streets in Juba, becasue it will make Malakal all the more difficult if I do. I am so grateful for the fact that because South Sudan is considered a hardship post each of us who works and lives here is given a "time-out" every three months to leave South Sudan for a time of renewal and I think probably shopping for things that cannot be found here as well.

Praise God for power as well! Another multi-layered word, power. I had carried my African cell phone with me across the world and back (anything I needed immediately upon my return to Africa had to stay with me and thus to travel to the states and back) and last night was able to find someone here at the Guest House to help me get the SIM card in. I remembered the code, I made it easy, put it in and got it charged! I was able to call the Principle of the Nile Theological College to let him know that I am here at the Guest House and will be in Malakal next week, God willing. Not surprisingly, he already knew I was here and that my bags had gone to MAF.

I have learned that it is best for me to get my UBS modem for the internet on my computer once I am in Malakal. There is a chance that when I move around South Sudan that the modem will not work, that it will be finely tuned for Malakal. This does made working on line a challenge in this new country.

So, I have arrived. I had also traveled to the states and back with one of my African adaptors, being that my computer is dual voltage it is no plugged into the adaptor and is charging away....again, I am thankful for electricity here in Juba. It will not be as plentiful in Malakal. In caes you are curious, I am typing this blog into a Word Document. When I am able to get on-line with my own computer again, and this may not be until net week in Malakal, then I will cut and paste this document into the blog. This is assuming that the blog is not blocked. If it is then this will hopefully go into an email. Once has to be creative when technology is still developing in different parts of the world!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

waiting, waiting, here!

Dear Friends,
Greetings from Malakal in the Republic of South Sudan! I have another blog that is in a Word Document on a different computer and someday when I am able to do so I will put it in this blog so that you can read about my adventures as I left the United States late last month.

I have been in Malakal for over a week now, I am not sure of the exact date. I am experiencing things here that I have never experienced before. For one I now live in SubSaharan Africa vs the high dry desert of Saharan Africa in the north. I was struck by how green South Sudan is when I entered through Juba in August. Juba is the capital of the new country, at least for now.

I now know that the south is green because of the "rainy season". The rainy season means torrential rain that downpours, sometimes for hours at a time. Due to a particular kind of soil here in Malakal it turns into a deep, thick and incredibly slippery mud. I have not ventured too far out of the Sudanese Interior Ministry (SIM) Compound where I am living, I am waiting for the rains to subside next month. I have found a nearby, very nearby I might add, small store that sells the Sudanese bread which is something like American pita bread. I have learned from fellow sojourners along the way to carry peanut butter with me and in Khartoum I fell in love with different versions of Nutella. Therefore as long as I stay supplied with all three components I know that I will not go hungry. This is good because the roads do not look safe for pedestrians.

Outside of snow in Seattle I have never seen such driving conditions as I have witnessed here over the past week or so. When I am able at some point to get on to my own computer I will be able to share the photos that I have been able to take, this will I hope give you a better idea. A week ago I ventured to the Nile Theological College campus which, it turns out, is down the road from me and may end up being a good walk when it is dry on the main road. I am very lucky to live on the main road and across from highly identifiable entities such as World Vision International. This is good because SIM doesn't have a sign on its fence or gates and there are no addresses here that I am aware of.

So, I ventured to the college and then as I attempted to cross a mud fiord (correct word?) I had a close encounter of the muddy type. Suffice it to say that my friend and colleague Mistire got me cleaned up, found clean clothes for me to wear and washed my muddied dress. She also proclaimed that the $30. boots that I brought from the United States are too heavy for me in the mud. It is true that one of the boots stayed stuck in the mud as I continued to move forward and that was the beginning of the unfortunate tale. My daughter and I went to at least three or four stores when I was in Seattle in order to find those boots. I guess I should have taken someone with me who was familiar with Malakal mud. Ah well.

Outside of the rain the challenges in list of priorities which I am facing are:
1. I have no coach at the moment. I am praying that the furniture I had in Khartoum, a living room set which included a coach is awaiting drier weather at the college....drier in order to be able to move on the road which is a foot high in mud at the moment.
2. Probably a bigger challenge actually than the coach is the lack of electricity during the day. On a dark and rainy day like this one I am not able to read. This for me is very difficult. When the power came on at 7:00 p.m. I started crying folks. I think it was frustration and joy.

I hope to get in a regular pattern for blogging. I must say that true to my nature the two things I have missed the most (besides the coach and obviously family and friends) is being able to write and to read. I am on a borrowed typewriter and finally decided to heck with it, I will blog anyhow!