Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How not to take things for granted.....

February 27, 2013

Dear Friends,
Greetings from Addis Ababa!
It is the little things that can make such a difference in life….
Bread and butter.

We don’t have bread or butter in Malakal.  There is a flat bread similar to a pita in Malakal, and that is it.  Even if there was butter I would have no way to store it as the frig only works when the power is on and that is only at night and that is only if I am lucky.  It would not stay cold all of the time as is required for such dairy products.  I eat an essentially vegan diet in Malakal except for powdered milk in my coffee.  And the coffee is instant coffee.  I think I have forgotten the taste of brewed coffee.

I had strawberry yogurt tonight.  And I also had tomatoes and avocado with salt.  Yum, yum.  I had bread and butter for dessert.  There are so many things that I used to take for granted because I didn’t know that they were not normal everywhere.  Now I do know that and I have a heightened gratitude for them because the place where I live most of the time does not have so many of the things that I used to take for granted.

It is true that I do not necessarily miss traffic.  There is not one traffic light in Malakal.  On the other hand I do not spend much time in motor vehicles there.  My walking is limited because of the heat.  I realized today in Addis Ababa that my feet are much smoother here, this must mean that the heat dries things up terribly even in terms of the skin on the bottoms of feet.  The heat rashes I had in several places are gone here in Addis Ababa as well.  It is such irony to have cold water here where the weather is cooler, in scorching Malakal most of the time I drink warm water. 

Pizza, Diet Coke, strawberry yogurt, leek quiches, vegetarian spring rolls, bread and butter, pasta dishes, so many things I can feast on when I am out of South Sudan.  I am happy for losing weight and yet I know that this will not be a sustainable loss once I have constant access to favorite foods that I can’t find in Malakal.  For instance, the only chocolate I can have there is Nutella because it is already melted.  Otherwise any chocolate that is not kept refrigerated melts.  When one lives in a place without 24/7 power there is no way to have refrigeration and therefore one’s diet is necessarily limited.  Can you imagine life with no chocolate but Nutella? 

No refrigeration also presents problems in terms of medication.  It was actually in Khartoum, Sudan that I realized how hard it would be to be diabetic and have no way to keep insulin refrigerated.  Rabies shots had to be paid in advance and folks would go to a clinic that had a generator that operated a refrigerator to get the shots on a schedule determined by the pharmacist.  There were many satellite dishes dotting the rural areas, and I was told that when the generators were running television was available.  I haven’t seen so many satellite dishes in Malakal.

When I was last there, in Malakal, I did hear the drone of generators with increasing regularity.  I know because it reminded me of the sound of lawn mowers in the United States.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for R & R.

February 24, 2013

Dear Friends,
Greetings from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia!  I am back with electric power 24/7, water running in the pipes of homes and actual grocery store/supermarkets.  This also means I am back where the internet is fast enough to upload my blogging.

I left Malakal, South Sudan this last Wednesday for a time of R & R in Addis Ababa.  I was fortunate to arrive in Juba, South Sudan at about 11:30 a.m. and by 12:00 p.m. I was in the office of Ethiopian Airline buying a ticket for Addis Ababa for the 1:00 p.m. flight.  Rushing back to the Juba airport I was able to catch that 1:00 p.m. flight and to come to Addis the same day that I left Malakal without having to spend a night in Juba.  J

I have made my third move in Malakal.  In January I moved into two rooms in the Mission 21 Guest House on the compound of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan.  This has been a good move for me as I no longer felt isolated from the community around me as I did in my second home in an area of town where none of my neighbors spoke English. 

When I first moved in it had been two days since the guesthouse had had electricity and there had been no running water for two weeks.  We were without power for many weeks after this but had been connected to the power of the Governor’s (Upper Nile State) house shortly before I left for Juba and Ethiopia.  We still did not have running water in the house.  I am hopeful that this issue will be addressed before I return to Malakal after March 10th.

I am learning many things from living in Africa.  Life is very time consuming without running water.  Brushing my teeth takes much more time for instance, so does washing hands and dishes.  Thankfully my daughter and son-in-law had given me a solar shower when I was home in the United States last summer.  It is a plastic container that holds water and has a hose and I can use this to shower with when the shower head in the shower room is not functioning because the water tank is not filling up.  I have learned now to wash my hair putting my head forward in a bucket and pouring water from a cup that I fill in a container on the floor.  I’m doing pretty good with this method, taught to me by a missionary friend in Malakal.  Not the kind of thing I can do before I leave for teaching in the morning though.

I am also getting pretty good at using the solar cooker that I purchased in the United States and brought with me to Malakal.  I’ve learned how to cook pasta and quinoa.  I am also doing much better with lentils than I was doing when I was at my first home in Malakal back in 2011. 

The second house, the one from which I moved into the guesthouse, was like a camping experience.  The new house is more like a beach house.  Sometimes I can almost imagine that I am near the water, with the wind blowing through the yard it has that kind of waves sound that comes at the beach sometimes.  The house tends to be noisy as there are, apparently, youth groups that practice music every single night of the week.  One becomes somewhat numb to the sound.  It makes it hard to concentrate on reading for my own studies and on grading or planning for my teaching. 

I practice gratitude for the times of R & R in which my sanity is renewed for another stretch in Malakal.  It is a difficult place to live not only for the ex-pats, mostly missionaries and NGO workers, but also for the local South Sudanese people.  Many of the men both at the school but also in the church and in the town in general have sent their wives and children to live in other countries while they continue to work and live in Malakal.  This way the men have employment and can support their families while their families are able to live safer and more comfortable lives.

I trust that I will be able to blog again soon.