Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Things we see on bikes

I had to head out to deepest darkest Yei road the other day to go meet a government official who's office is slighlty off the beaten track. Things in the office being what they are, there was no car and I had already stood this, very important, man up twice, so I needed to get out there.

Hence, five minutes later I found myself in, from bottom to top, cowboy boots, a DKNY skirt, some tank top, a yellow helmet with pink and blue flames painted on it and my aviator sunglasses, astride a motorcycle being driven by our cleaner. Yup, I'm that cool.

As I said, it is a bit out, so I had plenty of time to look around and enjoy the scenery. Once we got a bit out of town I really started to notice something before I had overlooked - the rockbreakers. It is a major occupation here, rockbreaking. Streets are lined with plastic cans full of gravel. Just in case you want to start your own rock breaking operation here is what you need:

1. Get a tarp, put in on four sticks (or a tree will do)
2. Get a bunch of women and kids and put them under said tarp/tree
3. Give them a big rock and a medium sized rock and then a pile of smaller rocks
4. Have them sit there all day long using the medium size rock to pound the small rock into even smaller rocks on the big rock
5. Repeat


We stopped for a dead cow in the road and all I could hear was the sound of the wind and the chink chink chink of twenty dead-eyed people banging rocks in to each other. Over and over. Every day. Forever.

I'm not even sure I know what that level of boredom would be...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I heart GnR

Getting back in Juba yesterday was, as usual, a whirlwind of social activities. This place really is like high school. Why it is that when you take normal, rational, sometimes quite old adults and put them in a hot, sticky, foreign environment they turn in to drunken, randy, loud, flirty teenagers? Socially maladjusted teenagers.

There were three parties last night, and it will be boring for me to talk about me standing around in my tube top, drinking Bell Beer and having very stilted conversations with people I don't know about things I don't care about.

Anyway, the last party was packed and, being 1.30 in the morning, a bit...ya know. We were in a bar called Bedouin which is run by white Kenyans and looks like a safari lodge on the Masai Mara. Lots of soaring vaulted thatch ceilings and tile work in the bathrooms. Quite nice, obviously. For whatever reason, whenever I go to Bedouin there is lots of dancing, and last night it was like that scene in the third Matrix movie (or is it the second?), the one in Zion where all the zillions of people are smashed up against each other bouncing up and down in a slightly icky mass.

I, of course, who do not dance and particularly do not dance in Africa, was sitting on the wall mocking others and holding handbags when what should come on but Sweet Child O' Mine. Immediately, the flip flops were kicked off, the tube top was hitched up, the warm Bell Beer cast aside and around 10 friends and I played air guitar and screamed our heads off on the dirt dancefloor of the Kenyan owned bar in Juba at 2 am.

As you do.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Big ol' smile

One of the parts of my job is a home based care program for chronically ill people in the community. Today I took some guests from the States out to meet three of our clients to discuss, you know, fun things like opportunistic infections and malnutrition.

We get to the first group of tukuls and we're standing on the hardpacked, swept earth, under the mango tree, and this naked little girl, maybe a year and a half, draped in beaded necklaces, comes toddling up and sticks out her hand for me to shake. She was gorgeous, perfect little bow of a mouth and big huge eyes. Sadly, she was also covered in sores, head to foot, with a huge gaping wound by her mouth. Her mother was HIV positive and, though the mom had taken the medication before the birth that was supposed to prevent transmission, she had gone out to her village after the birth where there was no milk and so had breastfed until 9 months, infecting the little girl with HIV.

So now, at a year and a half, the poor little thing was a big, painful, weeping sore, but she was still tripping up to me to smile with the half her face that worked and shaking my hand.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Karmic disease vectors

So yesterday, the day of the walking, I was sure I had malaria. I didn't say because, well, I'm sick of worrying friends and family with my malarial outbreaks, but I had fevers, my legs were killing me, I was dizzy all day, every step through that mud was agony and I was so cold I could've been wearing a down parka and I would've been shivering. It was mis-er-a-ble. With a capital M. So I went to bed last night convinced I was going to wake up with the metallic feeling I get when I know I need to get tested.

Instead, nothing. I wake up feeling, if not great, at least good. No fever, legs a-ok, eyeballs no longer sore. I dodged the bullet!

And then, I'm sitting working on a budget with the Area Coordinator out here. I notice he's shaking and sweating at the same time. And looks a bit dazed. Sure enough, even though he was healthy as a horse yesterday, today, he tests totally positive for malaria. His first, poor little lamb.

I totally think I gave him mine. That's a power I didn't even know I had.

Frostbite in Yei

I'm in Yei right now, another field site for my program, which is lovely. It is at the bit of Sudan which borders Congo and Uganda, green green green green and lovely rolling hills and random rock outcroppings which are always fun. We like Yei.

Yesterday I had to go out to Kaya, a border town we work in. Kaya is actually the most perfect town in the world to do HIV and GBV work in. It is on a major trucking route from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia and Ethiopia, at all times wobbly dirt roads are packed with huge articulated lorries parked at random angles, stuck, trapped, being searched or rumbling through at a snails pace in low gear. The town appears to have nothing normal, it is all "lodges" and "pubs". It also appears to have no women except commercial sex workers who stay inside the lodges, talking to and doing other things with the perpetually drunk drivers and driver's assistants.

We had a lot of work to do in town, so we didn't get out until around 4.30 to head back to Yei, which was way too late. The rains have come now and from about 3.00 pm it starts to pour until maybe 5.00 am. This is not good for the roads, to say the least. So, anyway, at 4.30 we all pile in to the Land Cruiser to start heading back. Then, all of a sudden, there is a violent banging on the back door of the truck. We open it to find five drenched, angry day laborers. Apparently we hired them from Yei to come out to Kaya to do a food distribution and the truck driver abandoned them. There was nothing to it, we had to pile them in to the already crowded truck.

So, this takes us to 6.30. I've been sitting in the back of a truck full of sweaty, stinky, wet day laborers, crammed with one cheek on the seat, in agony because I've kinda been crouching, for two hours. I'm thinking this is unpleasant, but do-able. Then, THEN we see the line of lorries. On a remote dirt road, at dusk, in the rains, a line of lorries is never a good thing. It can only mean one thing, OTHER lorries are trapped up ahead in the mud. Sure enough, we pile out and see that the clay has been moistened into something like a slip'n'slide, leading to articulated lorries articulating in ways maybe they weren't meant to, truck sliding off the crown of the road and general chaos.

There's no way we're getting past.

We were about 19 miles out, which normally would've led us to just sleep in the car. But there were so many of us, there was no way. We couldn't even sit properly in the back, let alone try and get any kind of rest. So, I took my shoes off, hoiked up my trousers, balanced my bag on my head, and we started to walk. In the rain.

I'm trying to imagine what it looked like to the villages we walked past. Khawaja (whitey) in linen trousers and other nice things (I had meetings with hospital officials in Uganda that day), red mud up to mid-calf, tromping at the head of a column of Sudanese guys as we raced the dark to try and find a vehicle. In, I can't mention this enough, the rain. The cold rain.

We finally got a ride and got back. I arrived to the compound to find no hot water and no chance for any real food. So I just went to bed. Seemed the only rational solution.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I wish I was a luddite

Technology is definitely not the friend of the aid worker, I've decided. Think what it must've been like before. You were in a tukul in Nimule, say, the only contact with the outside world your wireless radio for BBC news and letters delivered by single prop planes from the office in Kampala whenever the airfield was dry enough for the plane to land. Work was what was immediately in front of you. Slightly isolating, sure, but, at the same time, I bet it was a zen-like state of being, nothing but you and the job.

NOW, on the other hand, we've got outlook, gmail, skype, VOIP phones, Thuraya satellite phones, Codan radios in the cars, DSTV straight out of South Africa or Dubai, on and on and on. Every thought, every opinion, every need of every boss, donor, partner and lady in Colorado who wants to save the starving heathens is transmitted to us in real time.

I got some messages yesterday from our headquarters that were... shall we say.... less than flattering about my work. All the criticism was totally justified and understandable and all that, no doubt. But it was just the way it all came at once and was so... much and abrupt and.... yeah. Anyway, being the delicate flower I am, I got all het up and was in an awful mood all day, a mood that never would've happened if there weren't so many durn ways to contact me.

On the other hand, I finally calmed down at, like, 10.30 at night when I chatted on skype with a friend in Cape Town for an hour. Which also couldn't've happened if I didn't have so many communication options. So there are trade offs, I suppose.

But still, I wouldn't mind getting to try the island living experience.

Evil cows...or the pesky 23 year civil war

Yet another reason why cows are evil – last week a young boy near one of our program sites was herding his families cows by throwing small stones at them (as kids do here, they’re clearly insane). One of the stones bounced off the cow, hit a landmine and blew, taking off his arm and, I believe, part of his leg.

Clearly all the cow's fault.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Elbow elbow wrist wrist... the classic wave

I returned from Nimule to Kajo Keji today, though it was a bit more harrowing than I initially intended. When I got down to the river landing (it is the Nile, by the way) on the Nimule side, the boat guy refused to take just me. There were around 30 men and women all sitting at the bank of the river, their baskets piled up haphazardly waiting to get over to Uganda where the markets actually had vegetables which could be brought back and sold at a premium in the empty South Sudanese souks. I wasn’t totally comfortable coming over and plopping down in to the canoe when all these people had been waiting for hours anyway, so I agreed they could bring everyone, on the condition I wasn’t charged any extra.

God, if I knew what I was getting into. 30 people crammed in to a canoe built, maybe, for 15, plus all those baskets and everything meant that we were tippy as all heck, taking on water to the point that I was up to my ankles when we landed and moving so low and slow that the normally 45 minute journey took about an hour and a half. I still didn’t see any elephants, either, but I did see lots of antelope grazing next to the river. Which was nice.

When we landed at the Ugandan side, my truck wasn’t there. I went through immigration, sat around a bit, read my book, chatted with the boat guy and, eventually, started to get nervous. I was a four hour trip, minimum, from Kajo Keji and at least two hours from a town that had a guest house. There was another NGO truck there, a pickup with two huge refrigerators in the back and a front crammed with women and babies and such. I walked up and asked the guy if he could take me as far as Kajo Keji if I rode in the back, on the refrigerators. He looked up at the thunderheads gathering behind us, looked at me with my jewelry and aviator sunglasses and eye makeup and shrugged, pointing out there would be no room for me in the front no matter what. I agreed and swung up on to the back of the truck, perching on the fridge boxes and gripping on to the metal roll bar, with my feet braced against the cab.

This, obviously, caused a bit of a stir as we cruised through the tukul villages that lined the river. I felt a bit like Miss America in some small town parade. Or Brittney Spears. I was so obvious, my white (well, at this point, pretty burnt red) skin, blond-ish hair, sunglasses and, in a genius bit of wardrobe, bright blue shirt perched above the cab of the pickup, sitting ramrod straight to keep my balance and waving to everyone like Queen Elizabeth. The adults fell about themselves laughing and the kids screamed mzungu until they were almost hysterical. Eventually I got bored so I started singing to myself, which meant not only did I look weird, I looked weird and crazy. They’ll be talking about this for months.

The huge storms, which whipped up massive winds, miraculously stayed just to the west of us the whole time. But, just as we crossed the border at Moyo (very very bemused border guards), I saw the biggest, most prefect rainbow I’ve ever seen. It stretched from the low mountains in the elephant reserve all the way across to land, perfectly, on a lone tukul in the middle of a plane below us in the valley.

Damn fine day.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The anxiety of the moo

I'm scared of cows. There, I've said it. I stand up proudly, without shame, and say that cows scare the ever loving bejeesus out of me.

I went jogging today, out on some bush trails on the Ugandan border near the Nile. It was a great run, watching the thunderstorms on the mountains all around me, huffing and puffing and waving at all the little tiny kids with babies strapped on their backs walking down the road. All very lovely, right?

Then I hit the cows. I swear to god, today must've been National South Sudanese Take Your Cow for a Walk Day or something. There were cows everywhere. I'm not kidding, everywhere. And not cute, decorative, Farmer MacDonald kinda cows. Evil, rebellious, scary Sudanese cows with huge HUGE horns that stick three feet up off their head. Every time I would come across a herd of them on the trail they would all turn at me and start mooing in dark, threatening tones and twitching their massive goring horns at me. I'd jog in place, in my bright pink track bottoms, a flag to their rage, I'm sure, hissing at them and trying to look as much like something that cows are scared of (a hamburger bun?) as possible.
They didn't ACTUALLY attack me and trample me while laughing and singing traditional songs of revenge, but it clearly was going to happen any minute. They're just lulling me in to a false sense of security...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

When your mom used to tell you "There are starving children in Africa"...

Dear god some people seriously suffer in life. I drove out to Magwi Center today, to go and assess some health facilities. I mean, where I am in Nimule is fairly isolated. But Magwi... middle of NOWHERE.

I was on the road for nine hours today, though road is a slight exaggeration. Perhaps track/river would be a better description. I have a huge knot on my head from getting thrown around the truck, we got stuck about 10 times and it was raining. All of which was making me feel pretty sorry for myself.

Until we started coming across the settlements. Repatriation is just starting in this area because these Ugandan rebels, the LRA, were based around here until about a year ago, which meant the Sudanese refugees weren't going to come back just to have their villages attacked by some cracked out child soldier. The LRA have now, apparently, moved to Congo, so they've been cleared to return. The UN refugee agency is running one, two even three convoys a day, huge white trucks full of people and iron sheets and goats running down these horrible roads, dropping people off in a clearing where their village used to be.

Now, imagine, for a second you are me. You're in the Landcruiser, you've been on the road for about four hours, nothing but very beautiful, very empty green scrubby hills on either side. It is pouring down rain, the road is basically a rushing river full of hidden potholes. Suddenly there is a long grove of tall thin trees. In the trees, on either side of the road, are little thatch domes with white plastic on top, basically floating in a sea of mud. Outside, in the cold pouring rain, are people hoeing the ground, moving muddy bricks or just standing there, staring at you as the water drips off them. They don't have anywhere to go, inside the huts is muddy, smokey and too short to stand in. This goes on for about ten minutes, miserable, wet, bewildered people on either side of the road who have just landed up in a damp, isolated country they haven't seen for 10 or 20 years, trying to figure out how to survive.

It puts the whole being uncomfortable in a car thing in a bit of perspective.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

On the road again

I am in a small town on the Ugandan border called Nimule for the next four days. Getting down here was freakin awesome. I flew on the WFP to another field site of mine, Kajo Keji, which I loved immediately. It is in the hills and quiet and green and lovely. To get to the office, you drive through a “neighborhood” of tukuls, the round, mud houses with thatch roofs, arranged in blocks, which I assume are family units. All the houses in each block would have a different design, one block would all be blue with white zig zags, one black with orange swirls, etc. They were quite fetching, I have to say.

When I was sitting in the office, meeting my staff who are based down there for the first time, I heard my name called out in a VERY familiar voice. I turn around and start screaming bloody murder, it was a friend of mine from Liberia that I thought was in graduate school in Maryland but it turns out he has been living in this TINY TINY town that nobody ever goes to and then here I am, showing up there. I can’t believe it. There were, like, 10 of us in Voinjama that were close. Kajo Keji is the back end of nowhere and I was only there to transit through. And we randomly ran in to each other. It would be like running in to your second grade teacher in a butcher’s shop in Turkmenistan. And you were both wearing polkadotted culottes.

After making an absolute spectacle of myself with AB and making lots of promises of catching up soon, I was bundled in to the truck and set off on the second leg of my journey, a long ride over bad dusty roads through stunning countryside. To get from Kajo Keji (which is in South Sudan) to Nimule (which is ALSO in South Sudan), I had to go via Uganda. Which meant four border crossing (go across one border, go through no man’s land, go across the other border, repeat). I am completely exhausted with having to be charming and playing dumb when the nice customs man is hinting around for a bribe, a job or a smoke. I do so love these overland checkpoints. But I made it through without any issues, without any bribes and, I think, with the affection of one heavily armed border guard somewhere near Moyo.

But, see, THIS is where the trip gets interesting. There is no reasonable road between Kajo Keji and Nimule that takes a reasonable amount of time. So you know what I did? I took a BOAT. Not even a boat, a CANOE. I am the happiest girl on the planet, I tell you. I got to ride down some very pretty river (could’ve been the Nile, couldn’t really say), through an elephant reserve (not that I saw any) in a leaky blue wooden canoe with two boys in bare feet and sack trousers and one guy with the fiercest head wound I’ve ever seen.


I’m now in Nimule which is, well, pretty yicky, actually. I’m staying in a tukul, which is hot (no windows). The Sudanese staff, who are all men, live with us, the latrines are very VERY whiffy long drops and the shower is a half a plastic can of water left outside my tukul.

This should be fun.

RIP Stan

Oh, and Stan the intestinal issue appears to have gone in to hiding. I'm not, shall we say, issue free, but thanks very much for all sympathy. And thanks to my mother for reminding 10 times in our 2 minute conversation to drink plenty of water.

Equal pay for equal work!

I would like to point out that it is 2.00 am in the morning and I am sitting at my computer working. Since I started at this job, a week and a half ago, I have worked every day (that's two Sundays, for those out there counting), have only left my desk before 8pm twice and regularly am working past midnight.

I know, all you investment bankers and lawyers out there are going "So What" but, please let us remember, I am making about as much as your average toilet seat cleaner at RFK Stadium (well, maybe a bit more, but not by much).

This is something I don't get, why people in my industry, or, more specifically, me, get paid so little. I have a masters degree. I have worked for a certain number of years. I have a skill set of sorts, or at least am very good at pretending like I do. I work very very long hours and produce copious amounts of e-mail and documents with long titles and inexplicable phrases.

Not to mention I work places that suck. They're dusty and hot and don't have power or Lady Grey tea.

I should be making more than some insurance adjuster in Newark, right?

I think it is because there is still some idea that aid workers, humanitarians, whatever, are sainted people doing this for a higher purpose. That we don't need money because we have the inestimable satisfaction of giving succor to others and being exposed to the best and worst of human nature in a way that lifts our souls more than mere, dirty money, ever could.

This is not true.

It is 2 am. I'm knackered. I don't particularly care about the people I'm supposed to be helping at the moment and I just want enough money to buy my house in Cape Town and put up a durn bookshelf.

My soul is firmly settled and I'm going to start agitating for appropriate compensation!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Ready for my close-up

Also, I had such a stereotypical “Beyond Borders” kinda moment last night. Very photogenic-aid-worker-life. A group of us needed to meet to discuss some boring technical things but, as it was a Sunday, we didn’t want to do it in our offices. So instead we found ourselves on the banks of the Nile, sitting in the dim light of the tented camp behind us, sweating profusely and swatting flies as we discussed tribal politics over warm African beer scattered accross the plastic table and smoked lots of cigarettes.

There wasn’t anything too unusual about it, it just seemed like a photo shoot for LL Bean’s new “Angelina Jolie sponsored Doctor’s Without Borders” clothing line or something. Five damp girls in tank tops in deepest darkest africa being serious and saving the world with beer and a fly swatter.

Seeking some sidearms

I decided that, in order to scare Stan, my intestinal bug, out of my system, I would go for a run on the street yesterday. Nothing like 100 degree heat, air which is 100% humidity and 100% dust, diesel fumes galore and my out of shape wheezing to make a parasite/amoeba/whatever realize there are greener pastures elsewhere.

As I was trucking down the road I realized something kinda shocking… I haven’t seen a man with a gun since I’ve been here.

See, in Darfur, guns were everywhere. I mean EVERYWHERE. AK-47s across the back of the scruffy police officer with no shoes ahead of me in the market, rocket propelled grenade launcher in the lap of the SLA rebel sipping tea on the side of the road where I buy my bread, 50mm canon mounted on the back of the converted technical pick-up truck overtaking me at the roundabout. They were such a fact of life that they stopped even being a Thing, they were just as expected as flies or sand or goat meat.

Even in Liberia, while not quite the armament factory that El Fasher was, tanks would rumble past on a regular basis as the UN Pakistani Battalion kept themselves entertained and police officers would unnervingly swing their rifles from hand to hand in ever widening arcs as they chatted to me, unaware, I think, that to someone brought up with gun safety, this was fingernails on a chalkboard.

Here, though, nuthin. I haven’t seen an AK, a rifle, a side arm, a launcher or even a shell casing. I suppose this is a good thing. It certainly makes running easier. That was a key reason for not jogging in Darfur, you don’t want to attract the attention of a technical full of armed Janjaweed by yourself on a back road. But still, it makes everything feel just so… different. I kinda miss my heavily armed, erratic fellow citizens.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Digestive Confidential

This is SUCH an unladylike thing to discuss, but I have a bad stomach right now. Which never, ever ever happens to me. I'm known for it. I drank water straight out of the well in Liberia and appreciated how chilled it was compared to the sticky rainforest climate. I drank with the water that came from sacks on the back of a donkey in Darfur and smiled at the way the sand would settle in the bottom of my glass. I drank the water from the river that the cows were wallowing in India and enjoyed the slightly sweet flavor from the hay.

Never had an issue.

Now, I've been in Juba for a week and a day and I feel like I've been kicked, repeatedly, in the stomach. Our water comes from the Nile and has both a color and an odor that is, shall we say, less than appealing. When you get finished with your shower you don't necessarily smell any nicer than you did when you started and your hair feels a bit.... yicky. Anyway, I'm not drinking the stuff or anything, honestly, just using it for brushing my teeth, and I'm sure the cook uses it when she makes our lunch, but that's it.

Stomach issues are a seriously common part of life for most people that do this and even people as puritanical as I am will have conversations over dinner about typhoid versus dysentery versus giardia and why they all suck. But I always felt so damned SUPERIOR to everyone else during these chats.

If it keeps on going for the rest of the week I'll have to go to the clinic I guess. Which is a bummer. But who knows, maybe I'll keep a low level illness going for JUST long enough to look great in my black tie dress.

Kidding, kidding.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Fodor's guide to strange African capitals

I’ve been waiting to describe Juba because a) I hadn’t seen much of it and b) I was all enamored of being back in field-world and I might’ve ended up writing something a skoosh over the top.

I am no longer enamoured of being in field world (work has a way of killing that), so, without further a-do: Juba!

I’m pretty sure most of you know this, but Juba is the capital of South Sudan. Not to be confused with Regular Sudan. Regular Sudan is the one which has a capital in Khartoum, is run by fundamentalist muslims and is defined mostly by sand and camels. When I was working in Darfur, that was Regular Sudan. South Sudan is mostly Christian, kind of green/scrub-brushy, has lots of oil and was at war with Regular Sudan for about 20 years. Technically South Sudan is still under the government in Khartoum but, as a part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), South Sudan has its own president, its own government ministries and operates fairly independently. Basically, Khartoum just wanted to keep the oil. Which they are.

So, you remember all those pictures a few years ago of Christian slaves who had been kidnapped and taken to evil muslim homes in the north? That was South Sudan.

You know all those pictures of “arab” men on horses in turbans with AKs shooting poor, innocent black muslim villagers? That’s Darfur, Regular Sudan.

I’m in South Sudan.

The great thing about SS is that it isn’t under Sharia law. As we speak I am wearing a sleeveless top and nursing a slight headache from drinking too much beer at a bar last night. God bless it.

Juba itself wasn’t too badly hit during the war. We are pretty far south and most of the fighting was further north, near the oilfields. There ARE, however, random fighter jets scattered around that the SPLA (the South Sudanese People’s Liberation Army) shot down during the war. All my male staff were in the SPLA and they inform me that they used something called Zoos, Russian missiles I think, to shoot the planes down. Just in case anyone was interested.

The town is on the Nile, which is nice, but it is also pretty ugly. There are few houses, which is why I live in my office, and most of the UN live in huge, expensive tent camps that are scattered everywhere around town. The cheap tents (and by cheap I mean $45 a night for UN, $80 for NGO) are hot and canvas and fairly yicky. The expensive tents (and by expensive I mean $250 a night) are air-conditioned and have ensuite baths and toilets.

There are TONS of bars and restaurants and things, though. Tons. All of which are so expensive I could probably have a big night out in Tokyo for less. A loaf of bread at Home and Away costs ten buck. I took two friends out for a couple beers last night and paid $100. Anything you want can be found here, but it is all at a very, VERY high price. This is totally cutting in to my plan of saving money for a house, I’m telling you.

There are a bunch of tribes in South Sudan and I can’t even pretend to know any of them. The most distinctive, though, have to be the Dinka. They are from around Wau, I think, in the West. And they are tall. Not, like, me tall. Not even like Masai tall. Not even like Dutch tall. I have a guy in my office, and I’d say he’s easily 7 feet tall. Easily. Probably weighs around 150 lbs tops. And that isn’t even unheard of tall for a Dinka. It is very cool.

Overall, I’m happy to be here. When I landed here I smelled that woodsmoke, rotting vegetation, animal smell that Cape Town certainly didn’t have, that really even Darfur didn’t have, but which I love. I instantly started glowing, because it IS pretty hot, and I dang near gave myself a concussion as we went over the atrocious, rutted roads. It was great.