Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A slipping economy.

May 19, 2015
Having just walked to three different stores I now have a new report to make. While clearly nothing like the lines that I have read about happening in places in Eastern Europe in the past (and I am sure are somewhere in the world right now), I did get a sense of how it could take a day to find food to feed a family; every day. Yogurt is gone even at the store that I had heard had some. Okay, they had two little tiny containers and then two of the larger containers of plain. However, the refrigerated compartments were not cold and there was no air, not even fans, in the store. This is because of a lack of fuel and/or the cost of fuel.  I decided not to take my chances with refrigerated items.   Oh yes, I saw two women buying the last of the big bottles of water in one store.
Both of the items that I did end up purchasing had jumped by ten South Sudanese pounds in the last week. I paid 12 SSP for a bar of soap. Having not bought it here before I can only assume that is expensive. I picked up rice and beans take home at the local outdoor eatery. The woman said business is not good because everything is so expensive. If it is bad here in Juba, with prices and empty shelves, how much worse in the rural areas?
Several days ago when on my way to the bus stop I saw, as usual, the women who carry the trays of practical toiletries on their heads.  Suddenly “give us this day our daily bread” from the Lord’s Prayer came to life for me.  Every day they must sell enough to be able to eat their daily bread.  God, please send them the people to buy their products so that they can eat.  Every day.

Last week after garbage day I saw something that once again gave me reason to rejoice that I am a vegetarian.  Just where the garbage had been, and where of course there were still traces, were now sheep; standing and gleefully ingesting any and all leftovers that they could find.

Finally for today, I have been trying to understand that economics of what is going on here in South Sudan that is causing prices to skyrocket.  One of the things that could be explored is the concept that even when goods like produce are brought into Juba and then shipped out or flown to other places, they are changed at dollar rates even if local money was used to purchase them.  They need to be charged at the rate that was used for purchase.  If an economist, or at least someone who knows more about this than I do, could explain this to me in more detail I would be grateful.
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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Painting Life.

May 6, 2015,
I’ve just been cooking my dinner.  In the past month that I’ve been here in Juba I’ve done more cooking than in the whole year before.  When I get off my bus on my return trip from the college I am able to buy my vegetables from the vendors lining the street on both sides.  I walk home with them in my backpack and put them to soak in faucet water with bleach.  After a fair amount of time I remove them and put them on a plate or a towel and they are ready for use. 
Thankfully I also pass a little outdoor restaurant that I have referenced before in this blog.  I often buy chapatti with egg or rice and beans from them and have that for lunch.  I found out today that they also have fried bananas (I was given a taste and it was good, although I thought it was more like potatoes!) and potatoes….so I may vary my purchases more. 
Today I have taken a carrot and tomatoes and onion and put that in a pot with clean water, oil and lentils that I rinsed in a very primitive manner.  I forgot to bring a colander with me, it is on my shopping list!  The pot is now on the stove for cooking.  I do hope that it will be better than my last attempt!  And unfortunately my cabbage went bad, I apparently should have refrigerated it and not left it out on the counter (covered of course).
I have been keeping a list of things (found below with comments) that I wanted to share with you, my readers, and I will tackle them now:
With the earthquake in Nepal I realized that so many times the countries that have earthquakes are poor and both desperately need international help and also have infrastructures that are often not able to deal with that help as it comes into the small airports.  Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier for the world to proactively update airports to make them more accessible ahead of disasters. 
Corruption (continuous loans)
Living in Africa I am getting a different vantage point on corruption.  If a country is almost broke there is a habit of reaching out to borrow money, again and again, to meet payroll for instance.  There is never money for education, medical upgrades, investment in infrastructure such as roads, etc.  And corruption often takes the money before it even hits the payroll.  Sometimes I think that by continuously feeding the cycle of loan taking if the world is not contributing to the problem.  I suspect that some of the fear is that we do not want to be responsible for famine and starvation.  On the other hand I am not at all sure that the money that the world gives in some countries translates into practical help with starving people. 
If it was just the leaders it would be easier to cut things off.  When it is innocent civilians that are suffering that is a totally other matter. 
Making coins for less than a pound
I read in a paper here in Juba that there is a call for minting coins once again.  Since the country was born almost four years ago there have only been bills in various denominations.  While this may be convenient for some it does mean that we can never purchase bread (for instance) at 2 pieces for one South Sudanese pound (as we did in Khartoum).  Now the bread is at least one pound per piece.  Everything is more expensive because of not having coins valued at less than one pound, and it is the poor that suffer because of this.
Teeming with life/different clothes
I still plan to obtain a cell phone with a camera.  I had one several phones ago and didn’t realize what a wonderful thing I had.  I also didn’t know at that point how to get the pictures off the phone!  It is the bus stop that I go to in the morning and return to after being at the college where I wish that I had either a cell phone with a camera, or better yet, a video camera!
The stop teems with life that does not stop….pun intended….it is where I buy my vegetables and where I talk with the young women that carry the beauty products for other women on their heads or in the hands in a basket or box.  There are selling areas on all sides of the road.  Many people use an umbrella to protect against the sun.  The sellers are primarily women, with a sprinkling of men.  The sellers put out piles of their goods, maybe five small tomatoes for five pounds, or scrubby looking onions for five and better looking ones for ten pounds.  “Beekum” is Arabic for “how much?”  After greeting the seller I will ask how much the piles cost.  When I’ve made my decision, the purchase goes into a small plastic bag and is handed to me.  After I have all my bags, I get them into my back pack.
There is a lot of color at the bus stop.  Many of the women continue to wear beautiful traditional African clothing.  It makes me miss my own African dresses.  Africa is nothing if not colorful.  Women wear bright color combinations with patterns that I have seen nowhere but in Africa.  Today at the bank I saw a woman with an orange skirt and a streak of orange in her hair!  I hope to get pictures for you, my readers,  once I have a cell phone camera.  For now I would be too obvious. 
South Africa schools demanding documentation that is not required by law.
In reading the local paper recently, in the days after the rioting in South Africa, I learned about some of the issues that face immigrants to South Africa.  It can be difficult for immigrants, many of whom are laborers, the poor of other African countries, to even enrol their children in the local schools.  The schools are demanding different documents that the government of South Africa does not require.  These documents make it impossible for immigrants to enrol their children in school and the schools will not listen to the protests of the parents.  It is a sad story and sounds like stories that I hear from around the world, including the United States.
Finding bananas
It is challenging to find bananas here.  One day I had already headed towards home from buying vegetables at the bus stop and I spotted a woman carrying bananas on a tray on her head.  Talk about shopping on the go!  We went to the side of the road and I was able to get bananas at long last! 
I have discovered here in Juba that why I may still be the only white person that I see for days, many more people here speak some amount of English than did in Malakal.  I will say a few words in Arabic and someone will look at me and speak in English! 
A couple of days ago there was a little girl at the college who began to cry when she saw a white person (me)….I am not around babies as much now as I was in Malakal where they often were frightened by me, sometimes touching my hand to see if their own hand would become white.  I’ve learned to just sit back and smile, not going to them, so that hopefully they will realize I am not going to hurt them!