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