Friday, March 29, 2013

All caught much as that is possible! :)

March 29, 2013

It is Good Friday and I have some time in the air-conditioned hotel room to catch up on the blog
so that after this I can move on from today.

Palm Sunday, March 24, I attended a Presbyterian Church of South Sudan worship service and then ordination of many, many people who were becoming Elders, Deacons and Pastors in the church.  There apparently had not been an ordination service for several years and there were over one hundred who were ordained for the various offices in the church.  One of my colleagues, a female, became a Reverend on that day!  She is only the second or third female to be ordained as a pastor so this was a momentous occasion.

The worship and service for ordination lasted for about three and a half hours.  The worship service was a Unity service for all of the Presbyterians in Malakal.  There are many Presbyterian churches in town because each people group (tribe) has one due to each ethnic group having its own language.  The Unity service was primarily in Arabic with some English, an apology was given at the end of the service for not having translation for those whose first language is English (I may have been the only oneJ) and a promise to have translation next time.  The service was definitely unifying with each church being called upon, one right after the other, to present a gift of singing.  This is one reason why the worship was so long.

The ordination segment of the total time was lengthened by the number of Deacons being ordained as there were so many of them that the officiates had to ordain them in several small groups.  I was witness to quite the organic movement of the Holy Spirit in the church!

This past Wednesday the 27th I flew to Juba from Malakal in order to obtain a multi entry visa.  These can only be purchased in Juba and I had to obtain it in order to reenter the country after my return from the Gathering of African Mission Co-Workers in Cape Town, South Africa on April 10th.  One of the men from the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan spent quite a bit of time with me on Wednesday on the compound of the Office of Immigration going from office to office, the end result of which was a three-month multiple entry visa in my passport.  I had to come to Juba earlier than I had planned because, while I don’t fly out to Cape Town until this coming Monday April 1st, there was a strong likelihood that because this is Holy Week (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Saturday Vigil and Easter Sunday) that the Office of Immigration would close early on Thursday and I could not risk having to leave South Sudan without a way to reenter. 

I am learning that it is not good to travel in foreign countries on Christian holidays, nor probably the holidays of any other religion.  I was in Nairobi at Christmas and had challenges getting my South Sudan visa renewed there.  This time it was Holy Week in Juba and I had to adjust my schedule accordingly.  Now that I have obtained my first multiple entry visa this situation may become a little less urgent.  I hope

I realized on Wednesday as I was in a car with only two other people and not a public transport in Malakal with several people, driving down a paved road that I was driving down a paved road.  Then I realized that the culture shock going from Malakal into Juba is becoming somewhat less jarring.  I think this may be because it is happening more often.  However I then was taken to an actual grocery store, not just a pop and biscuit stand on the street, and I wanted to break out crying because we don’t have actual grocery stores in Malakal!  I was actually able to buy a Snickers bar, even though it cost me almost $2.00!!!!  I also got Diet Pepsi, even though my true love is Diet Coke it isn’t to be found in South Sudan, and that is cheaper than in Malakal.  So that was nice.

I have decided to call the car rides in South Sudan “Oh Lord, the potholes are so deep and wide and the car in which I am being driven is so small.”  Up and down, being thrown about, it hurts!  Someone told me that most women wear a strap and I was finally able to figure out that this is different than a seat belt.  It is something that supports the back and helps to keep us from being thrown about quite so violently.

I will tell you that Juba is a HUGE city.  Huge, huge, huge.  It  just keeps going.  And going.  Yesterday, Thursday, I got to see quite a bit of it because two men came from the church to help me run errands in the morning.  We were looking particularly for fuses for my solar battery for one of my two not functioning solar systems.  We could not find them.  But we certainly gave it a good try going from store to store in the heat with sweat running down our faces and backs.  I got to see many parts of Juba that I have not seen before.  I realize that is simply because Malakal really is a town and not a city that Juba seems so big to me, and yet I realize that my perspective has changed on what is little and what is big.  I fear that at this point New York City would totally overwhelm me. 

There is a shower in the bathroom here at the hotel.  It is one of the best things about staying here.  Having a shower where the water actually comes out of a showerhead that is on the wall and having HOT water if I want it is so delicious!  I could wash my hair under a stream of water coming from above and not bending down over a bucket.  I hope never to take such wonderful delights for granted again. 

There are so many other things that I could share with you.  Every time I am out and about I see and observe a lifetime of thoughts/differences/people/events/etc. that I forget if I don’t make notes to myself for the Blog!  I do keep in mind very often that I am the door for many of you into a world that you may never step foot in for yourself.  I want to share what is on the other side of that door, and I try to do that, with God’s help.

May your Easter be bright and revelatory for those of you who are Christians.  For the others, may you have a peaceful and restful remainder of the week, which is basically the weekend by now!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Catching up on posts from Malakal....

March 23, 2013

How does one begin to describe the differences between even housekeeping in Malakal and in the United States?  For one thing in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle, area we have glass windows and we do not have the kind of dust that this part of Africa has.  We have running water and carpets, generally.  This means vacuuming.  I am not aware of people feeling a particular need to wash walls frequently because they simply do not become so dirty, from dust blowing in through the mesh in the window frames….the floors here are covered in bat dung (poop) which I personally have never encountered in the states, although that of course does not mean it isn’t there.  Fortunately for the most part my two rooms here at the guesthouse are not so much the victims of the bat poop. 

I washed some dishes this morning and discovered a gravelly residue at the bottom of the metal bowls.  I realized it must be from the water I used to wash them.  Rarely find that situation in the states.  There is a piece of broken glass over the hall sink that shines up quite nicely with water and a piece of newspaper.  I am no longer accustomed to looking at myself in a full length mirror before leaving home….

March 20, 2013

Today, walking to the school in the morning, I had a Palm Sunday surprise.  There was an African man riding on a donkey.  People usually don’t ride the donkeys around here.  I found myself thinking, this is much more like Jesus on the donkey than the usual blond, blue eyed, missionary pictures of Jesus on a donkey!  It was liking seeing the Triumphal Entry in person!  It was quite an amazing way to begin the descent into Holy Week!

I found out tonight that people other than Americans can play the lottery, and that sometimes they win and it changes their lives!  This was news to me!

March 19, 2013

We have trees on the guesthouse compound that are growing what appear to be squashes.  I am puzzled by this as I thought that squashes grew on vines that grew near to the earth, hugging mother nature in their quest for survival and size. 

I don’t think I have mentioned before what I have learned about “mother universities” and offshoots.  This may happen in the United States and I was simply not aware of it….well established universities that lend their name to smaller institutions so that the smaller school does the educating but a student graduates in the name of the established school, thus having a more prestigious diploma, I suppose.  This has been fascinating to learn about.  

March 16, 2013

I think it bears repeating how time consuming life is in a country without running water or power 24/7.  While not trivial of course to those involved, a week without water and/or power is not the same as living without it day in and day out.  EVERYTHING takes more effort, time, and energy.  And I don’t even have to haul the water myself!  I can see why women and girl children who must bring water and fuel for cooking by hand and by carrying on their very strong neck and heads have so much time consumed each day that they are unable to participate in education.

Noted yesterday:  there do not appear to be pet dogs here, only snarling predators running in packs.  They are downright scary.  In contrast, the lines of sheep are always orderly and obedient.  One right after the other, like a congregation in its pews.  This is not an insult, Christians are often referred to as sheep.  Indeed I have heard before that sheep bite, but I feel much safer around the sheep than the dogs here in Malakal.

March 14, 2013

I forgot to mention in the March 13 post that another thing that varies from country to country is the quality of, say, construction.  Constructing houses can be quiet cheap relatively speaking if one cuts corners.  There are quality cement fixtures that are not going to crumble upon the slightest provocation and there are cement fixtures that use primarily plaster in order to save money, they can actually be dangerous.     

March 13, 2013

Back in Malakal and back teaching at the college today.  I had my first session with the juniors today teaching Apologetics.  Once again my American accent is a challenge….one of the seniors told them during the breakfast break that in about two weeks God will open their hearing so that they can understand meJ.

I suggested to someone today that glass in the windows of buildings in Malakal might help keep the dust out.  I was told that it is cheaper not to use glass and that is why folks changed to mesh wire….with metal security shutters over them.  These are in two forms, the first is a metal form that has a design and lets much of the mesh flow free in order to have air come into the building.  The second is a metal shutter that is solid and closes over the mesh and metal.  I just realized as I looked at my security frame here at the guest house in Malakal that even if a potential thief was to break through the mesh in this room the metal design is fitted over the mesh; at my former home near the college there were just wide expanses of mesh which meant that all a person had to do was cut through it to gain access to my veranda.  Hmmmmmmm.

When I was in the Philippines four years ago I learned that really only high rise office buildings use glass there.  Perhaps they have air conditioning available to them during the sweltering days of summer.  The other structures may have wooden shutters and mesh in order to control air flow and this seems to manage cooling the homes fairly well.  The disadvantage to glass windows is being stuck in a glass house when the power goes off, although I suppose in a house the windows would open whereas in many office buildings windows do not open and a person is at the mercy of climate control.

The issue for me is that the dust is a real problem.  It is everywhere and one cannot keep ahead of it.  I did bring two dustpans with each their own small broom back from Addis Ababa, and they should arrive soon. 

It was very good to be with all of my students again today.  My students that I have had for three years, and the ones that I have had now for one day.  Does anyone know of a child’s version of C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity?  That book is excellent in cutting down arguments against Christianity, and it is absolutely steeped in Western Civilization.  I don’t want to translate the whole darn thing into simpler terms and language…am hoping someone else has already done that!

I have learned another lesson, rather the hard way.  That is that dental care does vary from place to place (meaning country to country and continent to continent).  It seems that some of the dental work I had done in China may need to be replaced whereas the work that has been done in Africa appears to be fine.  As the dentist in Nairobi said, “sometimes going cheap isn’t the best.”  Yes well in my defense I didn’t know about all this in China….

Monday, March 11, 2013

Juba Juba Jubilate!


March 11, 2013

I flew out of Addis Ababa on Sunday afternoon, this is Monday in Juba and tomorrow morning I head for Malakal.

I am enjoying a second night with TV, wireless internet and air conditioning.  I am even having a vegetarian pizza brought to my room that also happens to have a frig!  I have it packed with 7-UP and water and soon it will have leftover pizza for midnight snack attacks!

My dilemma at this point is how much to sleep because I want to enjoy all of these luxuries while I can.  In the morning life will change dramatically for about three weeks.  Holy Week I fly back to Juba, probably on Easter Sunday, and Monday April 1st I will begin a journey to South Africa.  I have never been there before and anticipate being there two times this year!

The Africa Mission Co-Workers will be meeting for six days in Cape Town for a time of renewal and training.  I am sure this will also be a wonderful time of catching up with friends and acquaintances who none of us get to see very often because of our diverse working locations in Africa.

On one of my recent flights I realized that flying has something in common with hospital visits.  There is always someone interrupting my attempts at sleeping!   In a hospital it might be visitors or lab work or meals coming in.  In an airplane it is the flight attendant with a meal or asking what beverage a person wants. 

I continue to experience the culture shock of leaving Malakal even while preparing to return.  In Addis Ababa and in Juba there are paved roads…this continues to amaze me!  I did ask the church vehicle driver today if Juba also experiences pot holes and damaged roads during the rainy season, as does Malakal, and he said yes.  I imagine some of the distress to paved roads is normal wear and tear; I recall seeing road repair being done in the United States.  Again I remember being told that paved streets in Malakal would help both in the rainy season with making the roads more passable and with runoff and in the dry season with the dust. 

But perhaps first on my wish list for Malakal is power for everyone.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Waning days of Addis Ababa R & R

March 5, 2013

Big spider morning, yucko!  The thing jumped on my ear, I thought perhaps it was a mosquito and was very shocked to see a big spider when I brushed at it.  A very persistent big spider I might add, clung to my clothes until I finally managed to haul it off me and SQUISH it, with great delight I might add!

I think I forgot to mention many moons ago the God orchestrated happening of meeting an acquaintance on Facebook who told me, “I never go on FB!” which led to my having company through the ordeal of the plane back to Malakal from Juba in January.  The chance meeting also had a lot to do with my move to the new home in the two rooms at the Mission 21 Guest House.  It is so wonderful when I can actually SEE God’s hands in things, even though I know that they are always there.

As the friend with whom I am staying and I walked down the street this afternoon to find lunch somewhere I was again struck by how easily I come to take paved streets for granted here in Addis Ababa.  In my mind’s eye I could see the dusty and unpaved streets of Malakal, and all of the potholes.  In the 2 ½ years that I have lived there now always during the dry season there is talk of the roads being paved, and it has not yet happened.  The roads being paved would help with drainage during the rainy season and with the dust during the dry season. 

I also realized this morning as I gazed out of the glass windows in the house where I am staying that in Malakal I have only seen one glass window.  In the Guest House where I now live in Malakal I have two rooms.  One is an older room and one is a newer room.  In the older room the window is actually glass.  In fact it is so glass that it has a curtain hanging over it.  The window in the new room has the usual mosquito mesh over it with a metal piece over that for protection against break ins and then finally two metal shutters that close and shut to keep dust out.  Glass could be problematic in such a hot climate without having power and therefore access to fans; however I do wonder if the amount of dust would be diminished inside of the houses.

Here in Addis Ababa the weather is generally milder than in Malakal and therefore glass windows are helpful because an open air house would be awfully darn cold with the colder nights.  While this year the March weather is warmer than usual, in the past I have longed for a space heater to take some of the chill off.

March 8, 2013

Yesterday I literally watched a man on the sidewalk here in Addis Ababa carry a lamb over his shoulders.  I was seriously thinking about The Good Shepherd.  I realize that he was probably taking the lamb to slaughter but it gave me great pause to consider the lost sheep that Jesus carries every day.  It was a sweet thing to contemplate…..there are not herds of cattle here in Addis Ababa as there are in Malakal but as I go by car on the odd day I see markets where lambs or goats are kept to be sold….and the streets usually smell absolutely terrible as the animals are not kept clean or in sanitary conditions.  I feel very sorry for those who work with that all day every day.